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I’m sharing this: Hotel California: TIJP — Pointless & Prosaic

This is one of the better things that happened during the lock-down. The Indian Jam Project dropped another video. This time, it is the Indian rendition of the famous Eagles’ song, Hotel California. I can officially declare myself a fan-boy of The Indian Jam Project. They are super talented, humble and just the missing piece […]

via Hotel California: TIJP — Pointless & Prosaic

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Look At The Bright Side — Pointless & Prosaic

The world is going bonkers over Covid-19. The lock-downs across the world to prevent the spreading reminds me of Zombie Apocalypse. Thankfully, we have to stay indoors and don’t have to do a parkour run with a baseball bat. Truth is that the fatality rate of Covid-19 is low but the scale of spread is […]

via Look At The Bright Side — Pointless & Prosaic

Plus….

Staying in drinking tea and eating hot cross buns is the new going out

Younger people setting up networks to help older people

The Government talking about a universal wage

People thinking about living differently?

 

India 2020: Part 4

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20200207_143725Ganesh at the hotel arranged the taxi to the train station. At five am it was still dark and quiet. When I booked my tickets there were no AC chair class and no two or three tier AC sleepers available. So I booked sleeper class, which is cheaper and can be a little more lively and crowded. You aren’t shut off like in AC, the windows are open, more people come through the train selling food or asking for money, and people from other carriages can come and sit down if there is space.

I checked with three separate people that this was the right train and got on. The bunks were three high, I had a lower bunk. Most people were men and were either asleep or had ear phones in. I lay down and covered myself completely with a blanket and tried to sleep but it was cold. I was anxious but after a while I calmed a bit, and also I heard the voices of kids, a woman; a family nearby.

I woke up around eight or nine am and sat up, hair everywhere, dishevelled. An older man with a kind face and a Rajasthani moustache was looking at me. ‘Ram Ram,’ he said, smiling. Two people, a man and a woman, were sitting at the end of my seat, I sat up and greeted them and apologised for taking up so much room. During the day the lower seats are for all three people to sit on.

From here more women and family groups got on. As there was a charging point I thought to top up the phone; the charging point wasn’t working and an older man sitting opposite me tried to get it going for me. A young man who was on the top bunk opposite and had been there the whole time, said, ‘Excuse me Ma’am, you can charge your phone,’ and offered me the use of his power pack. I didn’t need it as the phone still had plenty of battery and I had a power pack too, but I was very touched that he had offered.

I felt sorry that I’d got onto that train with the compartment full of men and felt anxious, when just as before, people were only too ready to help. On the lower seat opposite were four people, on mine were three. Someone got off mine and the woman opposite, who had seen me falling asleep sitting up, gestured to me to lie down. I was grateful, my hips were aching and my legs felt stiff.

Two young Australians I had met in Pushkar had described finding their sleeper class journey from Delhi to Pushkar quite challenging. It was their first time in India, they were both young, blonde and good looking. The man had said men had come to stare at the woman, his girlfriend, and that there had been loads of people coming through asking for money. They had found it all a bit overwhelming and said that Indian people in the carriages had had to help get rid of them. I was grateful for the warning, and started accumulating ten rupee notes to give- also good for drinks etc- whilst being aware that I might say no if I didn’t want look conspicuous e.g. if there were lots of people asking at once.

I may have missed money requests from being asleep and covered up, because the only ones were a very dignified man in white with a metal tray; a man shuffling on the floor who had no use of his legs; and, to my delight, a Hijra. The Australians said the Hijras were rude but reading online afterwards I understand this may be part of their persona. Anyway this person was not rude at all. They came in, asked everyone, at least one man gave money straight away, another when asked again. I gave without being asked. She touched the top of my head (this was a blessing I found out later) and invited me to take her photograph. She was the first Hijra I have met. I read an Indian woman online who said that her mother told her to always give as they have no other way of getting money as no one will employ them. The Indian man who had hesitated then given when asked again looked at me. I was happy, smiling. ‘India experience,’ I said, he smiled.

On the way into Delhi outside the window there was a long pile, like a raised stream, of rubbish, plastic bottles and all kinds of rubbish, not far from and running parallel with the train track. I saw huge pigs with big piglets walking in the rubbish, and an eagle swoop down and up. Just on the other side of the rubbish were a row of tiny dwellings, hovels really. Some were one room and made of concrete, some were makeshift looking shelters built from sheets of plastic. Some were one row only, some a few rows deep, and some on top of each other.

Between the hovels and the rubbish, there were children, and a woman with a baby sitting while a small group of official looking people talked to her. Behind it all were tens of apartments, or hotels maybe, under construction. It would be nice to think they were being built new homes. As well as the trains, the rubbish, the living conditions, there was all that construction dust too. A little further along there were groups of women and teenage boys moving shingle amongst the opposite train tracks. No one was wearing any masks.

Past houses, some falling down, some okay. In the nook of a blue faded building, a teenage girl dressed all in black, knees bent up, side on in profile, a little centre of peace. The scene was just like the opening lines of ‘I capture the castle,’ by Dodie Smith.

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The train arrived in Old Delhi, near The Red Fort. I couldn’t get a train to New Delhi, walking distance from Main Bazar, as they all arrived very late at night. I thought there was a prepay for taxis, there wasn’t, it was only for auto rickshaws, but the man in the booth told me which ones were the official taxis, which I was grateful for. I got a good view of The Red Fort, but I didn’t feel like stopping. I could see crowds of tourists in the grounds, and the air outside the taxi was awful.

I was happy to be back at same guesthouse, feeling happy to see them and more confident returning a second time after my trip. They booked me a taxi for the morning, free of charge! I ate at the same place as last time, Gobi Manchurian, an only in India ‘Chinese’ dish of cauliflower either ‘dry’ deep fried or wet ‘with gravy.’ I had the gravy version, with veg fried rice and lemon tea.20200205_105728Above: the sweet little cheeping birds- at my local shop in Pushkar- you can see they’ve put food out for them on the ground 💜
20200110_141713In the taxi to the airport a flock of the little cheeping birds swooped and landed on the road and amongst the cars; more than I had ever seen close up like that, it felt like a farewell gift. Then a man came wandering amongst the traffic selling the lemon and green ‘bean’ evil eye talismans I love, lots of them hung in a neat carousel. I had first seen them in Varanasi in the doorway of a house with pink walls and a red stairway, and then everywhere in Pushkar this time.
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I had run out of hand cream, John who was picking me up from the airport in London was bringing me some from home, along with my big coat. I went to look for a Body Shop anyway. The big store was closed, but a sign directed me to a concession near the gates not far from mine. I didn’t see it at first then asked the man, they had little tubes. He made a big thing of trying to sell me the special offer, three tubes for ten percent off. I asked if could pay in sterling, he said no, only rupees. Or by card, he suggested, but I didn’t want to do that because of the charges. I said okay I’ll just take one then. He said, ‘Sorry not now we are in handover, come back in fifteen to twenty minutes.’ I did come back, they were still not serving. ‘What if I gave you cash?’ ‘No, boarding card and passport,’ ‘Okay, when?’ ‘Fifteen to twenty minutes.’

I gave up and gave my rupees to the two women who were cleaning the toilets. Earlier I had debated getting coffee and a pastry but decided not to. I had just over five hundred rupees left, enough for one small hand cream or coffee and pastry and not much else. It probably felt like a good tip for the two women attendants though. All in all it was a lovely India ending.

Thank you very much for reading

The Island Child by Molly Aitken

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Book review

At its heart is the mother daughter relationship, the experience of being  mothered and of mothering.
The book vividly describes a tough rural childhood, the feeling of being confined within the home and to home activities, and the physical experience of childbirth and periods.
As well as this vivid physicality there is a kind of underwater feel to some of the book which matches the obliqueness of memory and the numbing effect of trauma.
The book explores the effects of unresolved trauma on relationships and shows how it’s very difficult to parent in an open and honest way if you haven’t been parented that way yourself.
But ultimately it shows how you don’t have to know what to say or have everything dealt with, you can just tell your story, as honestly as you can, and that can be healing both for yourself and those who have been affected by you.
‘Back to the beginning, with illumination,’ is one of my favourite sayings, and is kind of how the story of the book felt to me.
I thought the scenes involving sex were well done. I liked the way every day things (feet when sleeping) or things which have been covered in stories many times (the peak of a relationship crisis) were described in a new and original way:
‘Sometimes I woke in strange places: at the top of the stairs, my toes caressing the abyss;’
‘…I wished for him to stop driving this long dark road, turn on the light and remake me with his gaze.’
Molly’s Instagram @molly.aitken is a good account to follow if you are interested in reading and writing, she shares details of the writing and publishing process in a very generous way.
Thank you for reading

India 2020: Part 3

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Now and again I would suddenly feel, Oh wow, I’m here by myself, scary. Other times, I would feel, wow, make the most of it, appreciate it, soak up as much as possible. Still other times, it felt natural to be there, like a second home.

But like my month alone on the boat, two weeks was enough. I looked forward to the next adventure we could do together. I did go out one evening and have a mojito and a pizza, recreating an experience from last time, but in general it is my husband who provides the fun; I can be overly serious and work- ish.

Compared to the worst moments of our year of travel, I didn’t get super low or terribly panicky; maybe being alone I just had to keep myself together, five and a half weeks, almost six, was quite a long time. If I felt funny sometimes I still made myself get up, wash myself, wash my clothes, the bare minimum. I had a couple of minor slumps in the middle but in general I kept my mood up by having my mission, writing, and having a daily list and an overall to do list.

Often I would give myself something to do, e.g. go to a new cafe someone had recommended, go to the ATM, or a job such as get my train ticket printed. Because things in India tend to take longer and be more complicated, completing a relatively small task results in a burst of satisfaction seemingly out of all proportion to the task itself. I also rode the dialectic between being content to not do much, as always, and the fact that does anxiety stop me doing more.

Wedding season commenced, with music playing every night, and very loud brass band processions. One of the owners of the guesthouse invited us all to his daughter’s wedding (see pictures above.) I went with my Italian neighbours. As you can see, it was a beautiful experience.

I maintained good boundaries and I didn’t have any issues. But I was also aware of not saying no to everything. I did let a man, a Brahmin, take my hand and give me a very accurate mental and physical assessment. And one evening a man at a street stall stopped me, he asked me the usual questions about where I was from etc. We talked about Aloo Baba, then he said, ‘Actually I stopped you because I was going to flirt with you, but then I saw your face and that you have such good energy, you are a good person.’
‘You know what Aloo Baba says,’ I said, ‘Control looking, Every woman my mother my sister.’
‘They Aloo Baba rules,’ he said, ‘I have my own rules, ‘Beauty is for looking not for touching.’’
‘Well that works just as well,’ I said.

Late morning one day I was just getting up, I heard the sound of bins being moved and assumed it was the cleaning staff. Then I heard the sound of monkeys running about outside the rooms and a scream from my neighbour. I went out, she was standing outside her door with her skirt ripped all the way down the front, but luckily no injuries to her skin. She had come down the stairs and probably startled them and inadvertently blocked their escape route.

As before, there were always cows at the rubbish dump near the guesthouse. Towards the end of my stay cows always seemed to be licking each other, getting the bits they couldn’t reach themselves. It looked cute and I would stand there watching them. One day I was at the rubbish dump staring at the cows when one of the staff from the guesthouse came up behind me. ‘That is cow,’ he said, laughing. I never minded the way that being a foreigner meant sometimes being a source of amusement for locals.

There were always people around to chat to if I felt like it; at the rooftop restaurant at the guesthouse, at the coffee place, at the chai stall, or just out and about. Just as before, it felt like a place where people of all nationalities meet and connect with each other. I met people from Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, Argentina, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Holland, USA, UK, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, Jordan, Georgia, and from India I met, as well as lots of people from Pushkar, a lovely family from near Hampi, and a Baba from Rishikesh, we swapped phone numbers.

One morning I was sitting in a cafe, a woman came in, there were no empty tables so I invited her to sit with me. We connected and had a good chat. She was my age, married but travelling by herself like me, from Australia. ‘It’s so good to talk,’ she said. She was going to Varanasi next so I shared some information about it. ‘See, you’re never alone, not really,’ she said.

Thank you very much for reading

More about Pushkar with photos: Pushkar blogs: Babasgorgeous looking cows, and fun monkeys. Pushkar draft chapter extracts start here

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About the author
I am forty nine years old, married to John Hill, we live on a narrowboat in rural Northamptonshire, UK.
In March 2018 after selling our house and giving away 95% of our possessions we embarked on a year of slow travel in India and South East Asia.
I’m writing a personal/spiritual/travel memoir of that year. This is my personal blog.
Thank you for visiting
Follow me on Instagram thisisrachelhill

Goodbye BoJack Horseman

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Practising non attachment doesn’t mean you don’t love people or things. It means holding everything with an open hand and letting it/them go with as much serenity as I can.

I haven’t started watching the final half of the final series of BoJack Horseman, so no spoilers in the comments please.

If you haven’t watched BoJack yet, I envy you for the long hours of pleasure ahead. While my husband was away I rewatched everything from the very first episode through to the end of the first half of the final season. Then I watched one of those last episodes again, twice. And listened to the end credits songs on youtube. And cried.

Please don’t shy away from the show for reasons which may mean you miss out on something you might grow to love. Like how I refused to entertain the idea of watching Battlestar Gallactica because it was Sci Fi but it turned out to be one of the key enlightening media experiences of my life.

I might have assumed I would not like BoJack as it was a cartoon and the concept might have sounded silly at first. But I overheard it whilst my husband was watching it and my interest was piqued.

I watched it, started again from the beginning, and fell deeply in love. The opening credits, with their warm yet bright pastel colours and languid music which sounds kind of like bubbles popping, have brought me into the present moment many times:

Ill in bed in my peaceful white room, alone in the house, the beautiful colours on my tablet the only colours in the room. On a train in India, the emotions of this thing from home being with me everywhere bringing tears to my eyes.

What about the content? Depression, fame, Hollywood, consumerism, addiction, guilt, loneliness and despair…

It is also very funny.

Created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, feminist, vegan, and all round good guy.

Wasn’t this post about non attachment? I haven’t yet started that final final part. I am re watching the first part of the final season again with my husband first. (I think he’s indulging me) But I’ve already un-followed all BoJack related accounts and hashtags in preparation for when it’s over.

Fall in love, fall deeply in love, but when it’s over it’s over. Cut the cord and float up and off untethered and unbound, ready for whatever it is that you are going to do or be next. (Also works for clutter, clothes, hobbies, routines, ideas and beliefs.)

Thank you for reading

India 2020: Part 2

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The solitude felt exhilarating at first. Five weeks alone, no work, no responsibilities. I couldn’t sleep until the early hours and stayed up reading The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. Not only had I had my synchronicity on the train, the book contains a lot of magic. Also, I got my period just after arriving, The veil is thin, I said to myself (re magic, emotions, intuition and so on.) I’m in one of the holiest places in the world. I’m reading a magic book. I thought about all kinds of spells or rituals I could do, then realised of course, all I need to do is write the book.

At night there was the usual noise of dogs, a cacophony of howling which began around midnight. Temple chanting and bells began in the very early morning, and during the daytime there were sometimes loudspeakers outside the temple which felt deafening. A few nights there was the sound of different people being sick, or coughing badly. Once there were monkeys crashing about up and down the stairs and outside the room late at night; I got up and checked that my door was locked properly.

There were lots of monkeys around in the late afternoon, looking for food. I saw Ganesh from the hotel standing outside with his phone held up and wondered what he was doing; he was playing trance music to get them away. There seemed to be a lot more monkeys and they seemed bolder, Ganesh said they seemed extra hungry. Once one grabbed my food off my plate and grabbed at my clothes.
At first the evenings were long and cold, sometimes I put on music and did yoga, exercises and a bit of dancing in my room to warm up.

The guesthouse rooftop was just the same but at first I wasn’t very sociable, feeling shy probably, and I kept myself to myself writing. There were a lot of people in a group, drinking and getting stoned and another man alone playing guitar. But later when I spoke the people were really nice, and one came over and gave everyone Oreos, and after that we used to chat regularly.

One day I was working on the Nepal chapter, and re reading my blog about meditation and about how we heard some of our favourite music coming through from the room next door, Nick Cave, put on by Harrison, a twenty one year old Australian. At the same moment, The Pixies Where is my mind, one of my favourite songs, was playing in the rooftop restaurant, the music belonged to and had been put on by Lochie, an Australian, days away from his twenty-first birthday.

Everyday, get up, wash, dress, go out for breakfast. A full on experience just going out to get breakfast. I could chicken out and just go to the rooftop but the coffee wasn’t as good and I needed to walk before sitting and writing. I retreated there afterwards though to write and use the WiFi, which didn’t work in the rooms.

I mainly used the same shop nearby the guesthouse. There was another in the main street where I regularly bought bananas (for cows and monkeys.) One day they saw I had bought tissues from somewhere else. ‘Where from, how much, we have those here!’ ‘Next time,’ I said, feeling chastised. The other man said, ‘It’s okay.’ I remembered to take a bag out after that, fierce loyalty seemed to be expected.

As well as Ganesh and the rest of team at the guesthouse, there was also Shiva in the market to talk to. The staff at Raju restaurant remembered me from last time, we had spent Diwali there, and told me that if I needed any help, I could come to them. Sonu at the juice bar gave me advice about what to do about gifts for a wedding I had been invited to.

On holiday days especially there were lots of Indian tourists, many were dressed in jeans, and wearing clothes that were more Westernised than mine. But in general Rajasthan is a traditional area and there were many people in traditional dress, the women in colourful sarees and beautiful scarves.

People often asked what I was doing there, it was good to say I’m writing a book, even though it did seem a little extravagant.

I felt conscious of behaving correctly, both etiquette and decorum wise and ethically. I liked it when people said, Good Karma, etc, when I fed the animals, but I can’t really claim to believe properly in Karma.
The idea is appealing, of course and I couldn’t help building a hope around giving my book a good chance by maybe creating some good luck, but just being in Pushkar with the Pushkar energy and writing the book each day felt like magic and fortune enough.

Feeding the pigeons or cows or monkeys or giving a person some money was immediately and intrinsically rewarding; it gave me a warm glow, whether or not anyone was watching or whether I really thought it did anything else as well.

And Pushkar Lake provided some magical moments. One day I bought food from the little stall by the steps (Ghats) down to the lake. I fed some cows. I fed the pigeons, who swoop up and down in great clouds. I felt the wind of them. I looked at the water. From the steps two women walked down to the lake. Over their sarees they wore the traditional scarf like a veil which covered their heads and flowed over them to the ground. One woman’s veil was peachy orange, the other one’s a deep reddish pink. The shapes made by the beautiful gauze like fabric, the colours against the backdrop of the stone Ghats and the blue grey lake, it was almost too beautiful.

Later Shiva told me that he fed the animals every day, including throwing tiny pieces of chapati into the lake for the fish. ‘If I don’t do it I feel something not right inside, something missing here,’ he said, holding his chest. He told me that the wind from the pigeons flying was good. I’d felt that.

I met the poor nomadic man who lived in the desert and sold homemade instruments and CDs of his music in the street. Jonathan from Israel had bought him a goat last time we were there. He told me the goat was doing well and was now pregnant. We walked along beside the lake together, picking up string from the previous day’s kite festival as it harms birds and animals, he told me that earlier he’d picked out string from the lake using a long stick.

At the garden of a small temple near the lake I saw what looked like a monkey crèche in full swing, with baby monkeys swinging across the wires. Two trees nearby were often full of monkeys, including mothers with what looked like newborn babies.

I usually walked back the same way, and coming back to where I had started there was usually the sight of tens of pigeons sitting on a steep bank of steps as if they were at the theatre.

Opposite the steps on the other side of the street was a restaurant which served the best masala dosas in Pushkar. From the tables inside I could look out to the street and watch little birds raiding the fruit stalls and monkeys playing at the archway and steps of the Ghat. One day the restaurant was very busy and I had to sit right at the front. A very big cow came to the entrance, came right up the steps and nudged me for food. One of the staff came with a small dinner for the cow in a tin tray, made up properly with a neatly folded chapati on the top, and set it on the ground away from the entrance.

I ate at the falafel stall in the main street a few times. The meals were too big so I didn’t eat the chapatis and took them with me and gave them to cows. The second time the staff gave me a paper napkin to wrap them in. Walking away back towards the guesthouse I fed them to the first cow I saw and scrunched the napkin in my hand. I’m just too British to chuck rubbish on the floor, and the cow thought I was holding out on them and had more food. The cow was very big and wouldn’t leave me alone, determined to get the napkin which was scrunched in my hand. One of the stall holders told me, ‘Go inside,’ I went into the entrance to the temple, and they shooed the cow away with a stick. I’d tried to do a good deed and created a scene, but no one seemed to mind.

I managed to go to the Brahmin Temple without anyone speaking to me or offering to be my guide. Maybe it was because I arrived at the same time as a big group of European tourists and the guides all thought I was with them. I like to think it was because I was all prepared and strode through the crowds confidently. I’d asked Ganesh at the hotel what visitors need to do to be respectful, and arrived with flowers and sweets bought from a little stall, to hand to the Brahmin. There was a crowd of people and after waiting politely as people went in front of me eventually someone pushed me forwards. The Brahmin who was saying blessings, presumably, took people’s offerings, took some, handed some back, over and over as the people passed. His phone rang. I was surprised to see him pull out a smart phone and answer it and carry on with doing the offerings until I thought, This is India.

In the evenings many people go to the lake to watch the sunset. There were always lots of monkeys jossling around and getting ready to go to sleep. I watched baby monkeys swinging on wires outside guesthouses and thought, So that’s why the WiFi is often bad. Pigeons on the ledges of a tower flying off and on, fighting a little, sorting out where everyone was going to sleep. I met a few Indian families; lots of introductions and family photos.

Afterwards I sat at the top of the steps, near the big bell which Hindus ring as they come down towards the lake. The walls, faded colours with plaster peeling, were beautiful in the light. The monkeys were settling down to sleep. I watched a pale orange cat going about the eaves. It all looked and felt magical, and I welled up a little. A black and white dog, friendly with a smooth soft coat, came and put its nose under my arm and I stroked its head.

Thank you very much for reading!

More about Pushkar with photos: Pushkar blogs: Babasgorgeous looking cows, and fun monkeys. Pushkar draft chapter extracts start here

20200122_171432

About the author
I am forty nine years old, married to John Hill, we live on a narrowboat in rural Northamptonshire, UK.
In March 2018 after selling our house and giving away 95% of our possessions we embarked on a year of slow travel in India and South East Asia.
I’m writing a personal/spiritual/travel memoir of that year. This is my personal blog.
Thank you for visiting
Follow me on Instagram thisisrachelhill

 

My husband is a pirate?

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‘So apparently these are the top five types of men women fantasise about,’ my husband said. We were in a Travelodge in London, where we stayed the night after I flew in from India.

‘That list doesn’t make sense,’ I said, ‘It’s a mixture of fictional and real.’ It was like when it was reported on mainstream news about the discovery of a new animal that was like half cat, half teddy bear. I remember my cousin commenting on social media, ‘Half cat, half teddy bear, you can’t mix fictional and real animals together, WTF!’

My husband is used to me being particular about how words are used and so he looked up the source and played me the original clip. It was Jordan Peterson, explaining how it was fairly straightforward to know what men liked when it came to pornography as they tend to be more visual, whereas women tend to like stories.

Apparently there had been some kind of an audit of search terms used by women accessing porn and this had led to the The List.
‘Women, cover your faces, this is so embarrassing,’ JP said, ‘The top five types of male entities women fantasise about are:

1 Vampire
2 Werewolf
3 Billionaire
4 Surgeon
5 Pirate

An analysis of Internet searches, now it made sense why it was such a strange list… Maybe it was the jet lag but I thought it would be funny to analyse my husband against the five types and see how ‘typical’ I was.

1. Definitely he has some qualities of the vampire about him, his kind of timeless nature; when I first met him I had the strong feeling that he had a very intact personality and would be exactly the same were he a homeless person or a millionaire. Also he is an observer of the world, he doesn’t really get caught up in all the things people get caught up in.
2. No
3. No
4. No
5. When we met he was living on a boat complete with pirate flag, and had no intention of settling down with a woman again. And yes, I did act like a cliché from a Harlequin romance and pursue him. But aside from all that, from childhood he has always been fascinated by outlaws such as the Hells Angels, not the violence, but the idea of living outside of normal society. So because of all that I have to say that yes, dear reader, I married a pirate!

Postscript: I used to write women’s erotica, and my old creative writing teacher brought me in to teach his class for one session, ‘How to write sex.’ Most of them were too shy to attend, but those that did were given a glass of red wine and a cream cake and asked to describe the experience using all the senses. We read a beautiful sex scene from The Road Home, by Rose Tremain (possibly she is the best writer I know of, I also recommend Music and Silence. Her descriptions are unforgettable.)

Lastly, I gave them a passage from Frenchman’s Creek (about a pirate) by Daphne Du Maurier, where the Lady goes off with the pirate and into his cabin… The scene, full of sexual tension, ends when he leans over and removes her ruby earring. I asked the class to continue writing where Daphne Du Maurier had stopped. So I guess it’s always been pirates!

Photo: the actual pirate flag from my husband’s boat

Thank you very much for reading

About the author
I am forty nine years old, married to John Hill, we live on a narrowboat in rural Northamptonshire, UK.
In March 2018 after selling our house and giving away 95% of our possessions we embarked on a year of slow travel in India and South East Asia.
I’m writing a personal/spiritual/travel memoir of that year. This is my personal blog.
Thank you for visiting
Follow me on Instagram thisisrachelhill

India 2020: Part One

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I just spent five and a half weeks by myself in India. Depending on your perspective you may say, ‘No big deal,’ ‘How brave,’ or something in between. And that’s how I felt about it too. In the run up to the trip I got a bit anxious about the journey and about the whole trip. The news certainly didn’t help, and that’s probably what made my mum extra anxious about me going on my own. Anyway, I did it!

I spoke to two Indian people on the plane who said they thought I was a writer, ‘Ah we thought so, when you said you stayed in one place for a long time!’ I was pleased. I watched two films on the plane. Diane, an interesting portrayal of older women and difficult aspects of motherhood, and Richard says goodbye: ‘You’re unusual, the world is dying for you. Don’t give into mediocrity like the rest.’ The prospect of death helps to realise the feeling of being alive…

Arriving at Delhi airport felt familiar, but even inside the airport the poor air quality, which we’d seen from the plane as a smog enveloping the high rise buildings, made people cough and made my eyes sting. There was a long queue at immigration and I got tired but I made sure I concentrated hard on what I needed to do, get my bag, change money. John had booked my place to stay, choosing a place with good reviews and popular with backpackers, and arranged for them to pick me up. It was very nice to step out and see a sign held up with my name on.

The driver was nice, we chatted about his family- he had five daughters- and he slowed down so I could get a good look at the monkeys which hang out near Parliament Gardens, and which I remember seeing on our first journey from the airport to Paharganj (Main Bazar), on arrival for me for the first time, in March 2018. My guesthouse was slightly off Main Bazar and down an alley, I was slightly disorientated, and the driver had to show me where the entrance was.

Walking in it looked a little shabby and there were lots of men standing around. I was shown up to my room which was three floors up. I shut the door behind me and wobbled for a moment, then reminded myself that John had thoroughly researched this place. I went back downstairs, they were able to sell me an Indian Sim there and set it up for me straight away, and I went out to complete the rest of my mission namely to buy a fast charger, I got one which had two USB ports which was great as often there’ll only be one point in a room. I got crisps, coca cola and nuts, just like usual (only it wasn’t hot like usual), and water, and shampoo, and managed to accumulate an impressive amount of change, always an ongoing mission in India.

I slept and then went out for dinner, I walked the length of Main Bazar and felt unable to decide on anywhere, went back to the guesthouse and the staff advised me where to eat, just around the corner. I felt comfortable in the restaurant and had tea and more tea, and again, as usual, things felt much better with a belly full of warm food. And I didn’t get sick, a first for staying in Paharganj.

In the morning I had to wake the staff to let me out, I walked down Main Bazar to the end where the train station is. It was early and dark, but there were quite a few people about, including tourists with wheely suitcases, and I didn’t feel unsafe. My driver from the airport had said to me, ‘Don’t be too friendly to people in Main Bazar.’ The hotel staff had said, ‘Don’t listen to anyone at the train station unless they are wearing a black hat and black jacket,’ i.e. the official station staff, because scammers can tell you your train is cancelled (and I suppose then try to sell you hotel rooms, drivers and so on.)

I got to the train station and was about to go to the counter to ask which platform when a man told me it was platform 2. I thought it won’t hurt to believe him, so I went in, and when I checked on the board, he was right. Then I couldn’t work out how to get to it as one stairway was closed, again a man told me the way, and it was correct. So again, although there are scammers, of course, there are also tons of people who are just helping you.

It was five am and dark. You have to get to the station an hour before in India. Because we’ve taken trains before I knew that there are letters and numbers on small displays on the platform which correspond with the carriages, so I waited in the correct area, later making sure by checking with a staff member on the platform. I waited near a family group and messaged John to let him know I was okay.

I was in chair class, in the middle, next to a man Indian born, raised in the UAE and living in the USA, we chatted a lot. On my other side was a British man, who it turned out was listening to exactly the same book I was reading, Haruki Murakami’s The Windup Bird Chronicle. I wondered if we had a message for each other or something, but in the end we ended up chatting and then getting a taxi together to Pushkar, where he was also staying.

The train stops at Ajmer, there was full on hassle re taxis and auto rickshaws, and no pre pay stand there. I hadn’t been able to arrange a pick up from the guesthouse, and potentially that was the most dangerous part of the journey, getting in to an un pre paid taxi, or at least the part I would have been most anxious about. So if that’s all that book synchronicity did, made sure I shared a taxi, felt safe and was safe, that was plenty enough. The taxi dropped me at the bottom of the guesthouse steps, I texted John to say I had arrived and went in to what felt like a home from home, I even had the same room we had in 2018!

Photos: Sunrise on New Year’s Day somewhere between Dubai and Delhi. Supplies and change in my room in Delhi.

Pushkar from previous trip with photos: Pushkar blogs: Babasgorgeous looking cows, and fun monkeys.  Pushkar draft chapter extracts start here

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About the author
I am forty nine years old, married to John Hill, we live on a narrowboat in rural Northamptonshire, UK.
In March 2018 after selling our house and giving away 95% of our possessions we embarked on a year of slow travel in South East Asia, mainly India.
I’m writing a personal/spiritual/travel memoir of that year. This is my personal blog.
Thank you for visiting
Follow me on Instagram thisisrachelhill

Throwback Thursday: The story so far

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A book should be an ice-axe to break the frozen sea within us

Franz Kafka   

For Book, you can substitute Love.  This is my story:

In 2009 I drove to work in the morning and watched the pink and gold sky split open.  Driving home in the evening I passed outrageously lit up lorries that looked like fun fair rides.  Somehow I managed to keep one foot in the visible and one foot in the invisible.  For the next six years, I followed the trail.  I always joke that it was like Eat Pray Love but without the travel.

I meditated and felt as if my skin was being bathed in soap and soft water.  I saw situations worked out from behind my closed eyelids.  I had the most amazing physical sensations.  I took up Yoga.  I had deep tissue massage and experienced profound physical and emotional release as she worked my knots out until her fingers got down to my bones.

I practiced Paganism and Wicca, I went for walks and stared at leaves, gathered foliage, wrote spells and held rituals every full moon for almost a year.  I was invited to a women and Islam open day.  I bought books and began praying five times a day.  For a few weeks my life was illuminated.

I chanted the Hare Krishna Mantra every morning for three months.  Things led on from each other.  I felt purified, and wanted to feel even better.  I had trouble with someone at work.  In meditation I said, I have no protection against this person.  The answer came: oh yes you do, you have this.

I did an evening class in Buddhism.  Stepping out onto the top floor of the car park after class, the sky filled with birds, the breeze cool and warm at the same time.  Listening to The Stone Roses on the way home:  This is the one, this is the one she’s waited for, yes, I thought, yes, this is it.  But no sooner had I filled the house with Buddhas than I woke up one day and realised I had burned through that as well.  Or it had burned through me, whatever.

I read The Secret and practiced The Law of Attraction.  Not to get cheques in the post or to get parking spaces, but just because it made life easy and more beautiful.  Simple things like walking up to a crossing and it turns green just as I get there.  To the sublime:  Arriving home one night I pulled into the car park, and in the second before I turned into the parking space the headlights lit up the hedge in front of me and I saw a mouse on a branch.   A mouse on a branch!  Almost immediately, the thought came into my head:  I hope you enjoyed that, because it won’t happen again.  I thought straight back, yeah, I did enjoy it, and no, I don’t expect it to happen again, who would.  And I don’t need it to happen again, because I saw it the first time.

As well as experiencing anything and everything I was also searching for a spiritual or scientific explanation that made sense to me.  A unifying theory, if you like.  After about six years of searching it arrived in my mind fully realised in a dream:  We’re all green mist, we created these bodies because without bodies we can’t pick up a pen and write poetry or kiss each other.  But the kissing and the poetry are so distracting that we forgot that we’re green mist come down for a human experience…  but maybe that’s the point.  You can’t enjoy a party if you stand at the door with your coat on and maybe spiritual beings can’t enjoy a human experience on earth unless they fall in feet first and forget their previous incarnation….

I woke up on the massage table as if I had just arrived there and looked at this new person in the mirror:  hair everywhere, skin glowing, mind wiped clean of all previous concerns.  But you wake up again every moment, and in this moment I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be than right here.

Thank you very much for reading