From The Tower of London

Yet another set of photos that never got blogged at the time of taking them back in January (don’t ask, it’s been a very strange year) which is a shame as I was, and am, very proud of these London beauties. Many were taken from the top of Tower Bridge; I paid my tenner AND got to see some Martin Parr prints that were exhibiting there at the time.

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Tower Bridge opens its upper floor to the general public – well worth a tenner.
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How small the Tower of London now looks against all these modern constructions.
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HMS Belfast sitting tight
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The Walkie-Talkie building – twice
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City Hall and The Shard
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Lads on a bridge.
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The Sea Containers building all lit up.
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The London Eye still dressed from Christmas
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City pedestrians – they all walk so quickly.
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A long weekend in Dorset, England

The Purbeck railway line transports the nostalgic voyager along the 12mile track through English countryside and past the magnificent Corfe Castle sitting high on its hill above its quaint village to the seaside town of Swanage. There, we took a tall ship out along the coast to witness, from the sea, Harry Rock and the white chalk cliffs that are so typical of the south coast. Returning, on the train, to the car park, the other half was thrilled to find a car park full of vintage racing Bugatti cars. An excellent first day.

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Purbeck railway train guards smartly dressed in their traditional uniforms
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Steam Train
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Tall ship in Swanage Harbour
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Sailing the high seas.

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White Chalk Cliffs
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Swanage from the sea.
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Memorial plates on Swanage pier.
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A whole car park full of Bugatti racing cars.

We stayed in a little farmhouse just up the road from Lulworth Cove from which, cliff top footpaths offered beautiful coastal panoramas to include the famous arched peninsula of Durdle Door.

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Durdle Door
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Lulworth Cove
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Sea Thrift
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East side of the Durdle Door peninsula

Of all the drama of this stretch of coast, one of the most bizarre things we saw in that small area was the grey stone beach, and therefore foreboding grey waters, but yet the multi-coloured seaweeds of Kimmeridge Bay.

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Grey stones made this bay feel very hostile.

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Yet, the multicoloured seaweeds were mesmerizing.
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Known as the Jurassic Coast, people love to collect fossils from this stretch of coastland.

Tyneham village, commandeered by the military as a strategic location during the war is still in the hands of the military and therefore the village and Worbarrow Bay are only accessible on certain designated days. We were lucky to see them.

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A whole village commandeered for military purposes during WWII
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Has become a tourist attraction

 

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Tyneham village remains
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Nice to see natural history was much more important in those days.
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Worbarrow Bay
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Incredible translucent colour which must be the chalk sea floor reflecting light.

We spend a pleasing day on the National Trust Brownsea Island. Pleasing firstly because it required 2 ferry rides to get there and secondly because there were no vehicles and few people about but mostly, because we saw a rare red squirrel. Red squirrels are indigenous however, they were virtually wiped out when the larger, more aggressive grey squirrel got introduced from Nth America in C19.

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The coastguard cottages at the entrance to the island
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Whole flocks of peacocks roaming free.
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My first red squirrel – and I should never have seen it if it hadn’t thrown an acorn at my head – haha.

The bridge at Wareham was very pretty

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Swan in bridge shadows
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Duck leaving bridge shadows
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Kayaks for hire.

And, after a thorough lovely few days, for the grand finale, which happens to be my favourite place ever, and happened to fall on my birthday… we visited Monkey World. We had been once before when the boys were young and I do try to catch the daily dramas on the TV series but there is nothing like spending time watching these apes and monkeys that have had such difficult lives – many rescued from the pet trade and some from the tourist trade. This place does a great job in giving them back some dignity and allowing as natural a life as they would ever be able to enjoy. They have an excellent breeding program with some of the rarest of species whose young can end up getting transported back to the wild. I think it’s a great cause.

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Gordon, born at the centre, has grown into a fine young man.
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Golden Cheek Gibbons mate for life. I love to hear their morning song.
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Many come to this sanctuary with psychological scars that will stay with them forever.

 

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Strategies to make feeding more stimulating
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One of the orang-utans from the nursery
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She has mothered 3 young and contributed to the breeding program for this species.
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Oshine was rescued from being a household pet where she was feed a diet of burgers and sweets. She has done much better than me on her healthy eating regime.

Hastings Pier Wins the 2017 RIBA Stirling Architecture Prize for the Best Building in the UK

Wow, that’s quite an accolade for the structure that locals either love or hate, and regardless of opinion, colloquially call ‘the plank’. The 2017 RIBA Stirling architecture prize for best building is, according to some, excessive for a space in which there is ‘nothing to do’ and well deserved for others who love to promenade to the end and enjoy the huge void above the waves. Hopefully, these photos on, off and of the pier, taken over a period of time in the past couple of years, may prove this open space, that is adaptable for a range of events such as music, yoga and…. a car show room…., is well worthy of the prize.

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In extreme weather
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Hastings and Ore Photographic Club stall out at the Health and Hobbies fair
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These heraldic, colourful flags went up again this summer.
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Choir practice
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Car Sales Room. Really?
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The Plank
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I managed to get a photo in the camera obscura before it was blown across the pier and broken during Storm Brian
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Accessible for most.
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Sunsets from here
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Storm weather
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From the beach at low tide
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With sunset behind me.
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Simon Robert’s Pierdom exhibition
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reflections in glazing panels
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The community space
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Moon rising
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A cafe with a sunset
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Zombie Walk
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Yoga
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Yarn bomb decor
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Eating space on upper deck.
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Where the sun sets
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In the rain
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Dramatic location

 

 

 

 

 

Whitstable Bay

It’s always interesting to go to Whitstable for the day. Not only because the seafood lunches are fabulous but also because the north facing coast is enjoyably disorientating, putting a different view on the sunset. And, my oh my, have the sunsets been glorious this autumn.

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Groynes
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Oyster shell debris
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Oyster beds at low tide
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Victoriana elegance
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Boats
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Beach huts
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Seaside home
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Boats at sunset

 

 

Bodium

It wasn’t quite the same walking the orchard this week without the little white thing but the weather was fine and the cider brewery didn’t clear all the apples so the colours were resplendent in the autumn sun. It was such a fine day, we extended our walk up to the castle and engaged with the ducks who are always extremely outrageous but highly comical.

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Autumn windfalls.
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Cider apples that are normally collected by the brewery.
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A hardy few cling on for dear life.
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Sunshine and cobwebs.
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Bodium castle in the sun.
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A formidable construction.
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The moat ducks are audacious
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They always cheer me up.
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Lots of new vineyards in the area producing new local wines.
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Rushes by the river.
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Silhouettes.
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The Bodian steam railway soon to me linked in to the national network.

London South Bank

Despite the cold and the catastrophe that is the British Rail network at the moment, I braved the odds and took myself off to London for the day this week.

Amazingly, the trip was an absolute success both because I got to see 3 of the 4 exhibitions I had on my list for this winter and, I didn’t have to stand, bemused and confused, on any train platforms due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’. The grande finale was getting a few night shots on the way back to Charing Cross station along South Bank.

So, totally out of keeping with any of the photography I saw at the Magnum gallery, at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition or at the wonderful exhibition of Elton John’s fine, eclectic collection of photographs, here are some of my efforts of the day:

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To do list – climb The Shard
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St Paul’s – gone are the Mary Poppins days of grandeur – now over-shadowed with lots of modern glass structures
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Photo Story: he saw, he came, he conquered.
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No skaters tonight – bbrrhhhhhh!!!
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Down the River Thames to Blackfriars Bridge
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Twinkle
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Twinkle to the Savoy Hotel
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St Stephens town shining bright.
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Competition for the London Eye
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Trying to take a night shot from a suspension bridge
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Charing Cross station building looking rather retro.

 

Alleppey, Kerala, India

We took ourselves down to Alleppey (or Alappuzha) with a view to spending a couple of nights on a rice boat in the back waters. Little did we realise that it was a national holiday in India and the place would be heaving. After elbowing our way through the other tourists along the quayside where the houseboats were moored and speaking to a couple of captains, we agreed that it may not be quite the unique, romantic, enlightening experience the guide books would have us believe and therefore, opted out.

The host at our homestay had said he could organise a day with a backwater village guide and so we arranged that instead. And, what a pleasurable experience it was. My only regret is to not have spent more evening and morning time on the water when the villagers are going about their daily chores on the rivers.

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Taking his human for a walk
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Lucky goat
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Going about their business
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Local
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Converted canoes for the tourists
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Waiting to be hired.
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Houseboats converted from traditional rice boats – Kettuvallams
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Choose your houseboat.
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The pollution from boat motors is a little disquieting.
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Footpaths and waterways through the villages – away from the tourist trails
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So many butterflies but mostly too quick for me.
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Our guide and his canoe
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Traditional Keralean banana leaf meal at the home of our guide.
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The grandchildren of our backwaters village host and his wife.
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The grandson having his lunch
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canoes in all shapes and sizes
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Bathroom accessories
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Sheltering from the midday sun.
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Family of water buffalo
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Local wildlife – kingfisher
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All life happens here – quietly.
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Serene and calm
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Local transport
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Washing up.
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But I feel they are playing.
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Should be bathing…
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Daily chores at the riverside for villagers
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Bathing for all
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Loads of river traffic on this national holiday.
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Traditional house boats in a queue.
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A big responsibility for a small boy.
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Late afternoon on the canal in town.
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Boats to service the tourist trade
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In town, the bustle is intense.
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Retro cast advertising figurines.
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Recycled rice bags.
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Retro shop mannequins.
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The electricity system frightening.

Fort Kochi, Kerala, India

Fort Kochi, Kochi or otherwise Cochin; a lot of the towns we visited had two names such as Alleppey and/or Alappuzha but I never did find out why. So, to differentiate, I choose to use Kochi for the fort area and Cochin for the district.

Kerala, like many places in the world, is a melting pot of genes and mores left behind by invading societies and no where is this more evident than in and around Fort Kochi where the Arabs left Islam, the Chinese left their nets, the Portuguese left Catholicism, the Dutch left a cemetery, the Jews left trade and the British left Willingdon Island and everyone took boat loads of wonderful spices away.

It feels cosmopolitan; not like London or New York might feel cosmopolitan with their stylish business people and modern architecture but in a gritty, pragmatic, impoverished way, Fort Kochi with its varieties of peoples engaged in varieties of activities feels bustling and cosmopolitan but without the first world sparkles.

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Not your usual backpacker.
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Street vendor
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Loving that camera
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Pretty with pink
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In the town centre
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Lifestyles juxtaposed
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More lifestyles juxtaposed
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Which is the way forward?
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Man-child, what are you thinking?
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A country that now has a ‘lower-middle income economy’ – for some.
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Bringing home the day’s catch.
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King fish were the catch of the day.
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Fish auction on the quayside
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Some ice might help – for a while
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Similar to our ‘boys ashore’ who get a cut of the catch.
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Litter of feral dogs harbouring under fishing boat.
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Day of strike following electoral murders – play on.
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Schools shut for strike – on to the serious business of cricket
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Football on the other side of town.
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Street shot.
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It sure does.
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Bazaar Road for spices and rices.
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Varieties of rice
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Grain merchant
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Building on Bazaar Road
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A visit to the Dhobi Khan
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Community laundry
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Not so used nowadays and under threat of extinction
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How do they get those whites so white?
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In one of the many antique and salvage shops in Jew Town
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The spice market – also with a variety of ingredients for ayurvedic medicines
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The Dutch cemetery – not that you can get in here
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Thought I’d left him behind in Cuba… The Socialist Party headquarters.
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Huummmmmmm?
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When it rains, it rains.
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Lovely to watch.

 

 

 

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Fickle Autumn in Rye

We left the house under a glorious autumnal sun and by the time we’d got to the harbour in the Cinque Ports town of Rye (20 mins up the coast) already the clouds had started gathering.

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Gibbet’s Marsh Windmill
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Why are white picket fences so compelling?
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Glorious autumnal weather
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Rye Quayside
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Salty old sea dog – cute ears.
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And, just look at that weather the tide brought in.

 

 

 

Lakshadweep Islands, Indian Territories

WARNING – LONG POST!!!

For the second main stage of our travels to India, we found ourselves heading out into the Arabian Sea with a boat load of middle-aged, middle-class domestic tourists. And I make this distinction because I feel it impacted greatly on the impressions we were left with – still the same kindness and friendliness yet totally different to the fishing community at Cherai Beach.

Leaving from Willingdon Island near Fort Kocki in Kerala, we were embarking on a five night adventure which would include a day visit to 3 of the 39 islands of this archipelago located to the north of, and a geographical extension of the Maldives. The ship that would take us out was, primarily, the ferry and service boat for the locals of the island. And, to help finance the running costs, 200 berths have been made available to tourists. The islanders, generally, are not wealthy people and many of their young depend on jobs on the mainland. Using tourism to help finance this facility that keeps the islands in touch with the mainland seems good business.

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Luckily, there were only 200 tourist class passengers
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Many of the initiatives are still a work in progress.
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Please do not spit here & on to the lifeboat – wonderful curly, friendly font of the characters in the Malayalam alphabet
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Off into the night in the rain.
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The Kavaratti ship seen from Kalpeni Island

On this trip, our first stop was Kalpeni Island – I believe the itinerary may change depending on weather, tides and the needs of the islanders. Here, I had a very brief conversation with a man about how more tourism could help improve the lives of these people. I was quite surprised, from a gender perspective, to be approached; it seems still a very patriarchal society where men talk to men. I’m not sure of the motivations of the SPORT people and their promotion of tourism on the islands; it was quite complicated to make this booking  and spaces are limited; it would seem that, rightfully so, access to the islands is being kept in check.

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Local fishing boats were used for transfers from ship to island.
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All tourists were required to wear life jackets… The locals fended for themselves.
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Just because I liked the colours.
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Morning water activities.
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Beautiful corals and sea life
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Snorkelling was very easy in these shallow waters.
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Off to experience scuba diving
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Barely above sea level
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Pre-dinner activities – hermit crab racing.
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Chickens on the beach
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Goats on nests
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Local folk dance
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Not so different from our Morris Men
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The coconut industry
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There is no shortage.
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Disused textiles factory – no longer viable
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Tourists checking out the textiles for sale

After a comfortable nights sleep in our bunks on the ship, we awoke on the second day to find the ship had already moored off Minicoy island. After a basic but nutritious breakfast, we were again loaded into the local fishing boats and ferried ashore.

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A visit to one of the many lighthouses left behind by the British – Hari and Christine were the only other Europeans that had found their way to this trip.

 

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A handsome devil
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Salt water lover.
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Entertainment laid on.
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We preferred to spend our morning snorkelling – there was so much to see.
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I cannot do the vibrancy justice.
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Shy.
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Magnificent corals
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Nature’s washing line.
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Traditional racing boat.
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The very little exclusive tourist accommodation that was on the islands was way beyond our budget.
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Cliches are cliches for a reason – someone said that to me recently.
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The locals on the top deck.
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Getting the land-lubber tourists aboard – there was a bit of a swell this evening which meant the leap had to be well timed.
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Watching the loading process. Love how their boats are shaped like fish.

The final island we had the good fortune to visit, Karavatti like the name of the ship, is the capital of the Lakshadweep Islands and therefore a little more populated, but not visibly any wealthier. I should have liked to talk more with the locals but they seemed quite shy, keeping away from the hoards of tourists. And, I was surprised the Indian tourists didn’t try to engage with them – again it made me think about the class system in this country and wonder how things work.

We did get a little insight into the psyche of our upwardly mobile travelling companions on this day. Having had a drink in a paper cup, my other half wandered towards the rubbish bin, on his way collecting a few cups, as you do, that had been dropped on the beach and, having placed them all in the bin, thought no more of it…. until. After lunch, a woman came up and said how she had noticed him collecting some of the litter and explained how it ‘almost’ made her consider doing the same. Later that evening, on the boat, after dinner, a couple of the men came over and there ensued a huge discussion on why they could never be seen to be picking up litter. And it was that conversation that, for us, clarified a little the class system in the country and how closely linked it is to the huge litter problem they have.

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The population of Kavaratti swells for a few hours.
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Firstly, a swim to look at the sea life.
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Just as great a selection here as on the other two islands.
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An option for non-swimmers – lazy us.
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Cows on the beach.
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Lakshadweep
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Goats and boats
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Washed away.
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Dried fish industry
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Luckily, they don’t have the seagulls we do.
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Older local lads making their own amusement on the beach
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I’m of more interest than the lesson
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School children
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The same the world over.
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Smart phones and shark tanks
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A very good display of preserved sea creatures – not supposed to take photos
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Selling it by the chunk
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Beach combing at low tide.
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A quick selfie whilst waiting for something to happen – Bollywood style.
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Locals leaving the island
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To make sure we go or make sure they stay?
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Alone on the dock
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The farewell committee
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Another lighthouse
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Locals on the top deck – again, mostly male.