Indian Magic

Taj Mahal

I have just returned from India, a seven day trip on the Indian Maharaja Train from Mumbai to Delhi with stops at, Aurangabad, Udaipur, Ranthambore National Park, Jaipur, Agra and finally Delhi.

It was the fulfilment of a thirty year dream and it turned out to be
everything and more than I had imagined. Quite simply it was love at first sight!

There is not enough space and, almost not enough words, to do justice to the experience, so over the next few blogs I am breaking the holiday into sections to try to convey some of the magic.

It is hard to capture the essence of the country. There are so many India’s. The beauty, the food, the colour, the people, the palaces and forts, the poverty, the excitement. I suppose the thing that surprised me most was the cheerfulness of the people wherever we went, whether it was a slum, a village, a vibrant local town or a city.

India is on the up – the sixth largest economy in the world – and growing. And you can feel it. They are excited, proud, they want to tell you about their achievements and their lives.

In the next blog I will tell you about the train – all 22 carriages of it – each furnished in a manner inspired by the trains that used to carry royalty around the country! I also plan to put together a picture gallery.

A brush with art

Roofs of the Cobb Barn after Hopper by Mke Fredman
I have just been accepted as a member of the Society of Fulham Artists & Potters so to celebrate I thought I’d put up one of my recent pictures.

I’ve only been painting for a couple of years, and am very much self taught. I’m not sure how it has all happened, since I have always believed that I couldn’t even draw stick men. But some how, by copying pictures I like – and think I can cope with, no figures – I have managed to get pleasure and some satisfactory results. Other people’s words – not mine.

The picture shown is an interpretation of a painting by the great Edward Hopper titled, ‘Roofs of the Cobb Barn’. I’m pretty sure he would turn in his grave if he saw it, but I hope would appreciate the effort that went into it.

I paint in oils and watercolours and strongly recommend the process to anyone. It is wonderfully absorbing – and soothing, even when it goes wrong. You are always learning, and it makes you more observant – which in turn helps the poetry. And the appreciation of the world we live in. I wish I could take the paints on the forthcoming trip to India, but I think a sketch book will have to do.

Books of the Year


I can hardly remember what I read at the start of 2011, but I suppose that means a lot of it wasn’t very impactful. However that can’t be said of ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoot’ by David Mitchell possibly my book of the year. I am looking forward to reading his first, ‘Clouds’.

I was very late discovering Steig Larsen, but when I did, unsurprisingly, I couldn’t put the trilogy down. There are many imitators but he is still the best for me.

Two of my favourite writers are Joseph Kanon and Robert Harris, not surprising therefore that ‘Stardust’ and ‘Ghost’ the latest offerings from them both figure high on my top ten list. One last piece of fiction, read late in the year. “The Forty Rules of Love” by Elif Shafak, beautifully written covering two different time spans that are cleverly brought together as the book progresses.

On the poetry front, Andrew Motion’s biography of Philip Larkin left me feeling I really knew Larkin, and in much the same way Martin Gayford’s, ‘Man in a Blue Scarf’ left me feeling as if I had actually sat for Lucien Freud.

My non-fiction book of the year is, Russia Against Napoleon by Dominic Lieven. I agree with Orlando Figes it is ‘A monumental work. The story of Napoleon’s ill-fated march into Russia.

The last two books were read initially as research for my new book (in progress), ‘Casablanca Kiss’. They were, ‘Mendelssohn’s On The Roof’ by Juri Weil and, ‘Alone in Berlin’ by Hans Falla both underline the awfulness of life under the Nazis, but with tenderness and humour.