58 years and what do i get…?

Yesterday, I fulfilled my promise to spend my birthday in Mumbai.  Wore the Nehru suit Jay gave me and went to the Taj Palace Hotel for the shameless all you can eat buffet lunch, which was Amigo’s birthday treat.  Copious and delicious.  Took the opportunity to revisit dishes from my World travels,/including empanadas from Latin America and chicken yakitori from Japan.  And presaged next year’s travels with hummus.  Who knows where I’ll be spending my birthday next year, but perhaps I will have Turkey for Christmas.

Have spent about a week in Mumbai and think I am getting to know the centre around Chatrapati Victoria Terminus (as I think it should be renamed) pretty well.  Now a connoisseur of the cheaper restaurants.  Mumbai is becoming, like Auckland, something of a second home now.

The trip has been overshadowed by worries over my fathers’s health.  He recently spent a while in hospital with his recurring lung problem.  He has left now, but when I phoned him yesterday he had had a bad day beforehand.  This time he refused to go to hospital.  Hoping that he will be well when I arrive in NZ on 15 November.

On Tuesday, we travel on the non stop train to Cochin in Kerala.  As a concession to Amigo’s infirmity, we will spend the 24 hour journey in First Class airconditioning.  Or at least two of us will.  The third ticket is still on the waiting list so travel is not yet guaranteed.  Hope it works out.

Diwala, Mumbai.  (at CST Mumbai (VT))

Diwala, Mumbai. (at CST Mumbai (VT))

Shared a bottle of wine with 2 t-totallers @ Café Leopold  (at The Leopold Cafe, Colaba)

Shared a bottle of wine with 2 t-totallers @ Café Leopold (at The Leopold Cafe, Colaba)

Birthday at the Taj yesterday. All you can eat buffet lunch. The next best thing to fois gras to the sound of trumpets.  (at Taj Palace Colaba Bombay)

Birthday at the Taj yesterday. All you can eat buffet lunch. The next best thing to fois gras to the sound of trumpets. (at Taj Palace Colaba Bombay)

Phew!  My Indian suit fits after all!

Phew! My Indian suit fits after all!

Always a problem getting my size.

Always a problem getting my size.

The view from my room. Mumbai.

The view from my room. Mumbai.

Goodbye to England.

It has been a long time since i wrote a proper blog article. I’m not going to try to write about everything that happened since my last entry in Peru. I will just make some key points now, and promise to try to do better in future. I had planned for a long time to spend a couple of months in England, not least because my passport was full of stamps and visas and I needed a new one. And I certainly needed to return when the passport, cards and money were stolen in Peru 

So I Amigo and I left Lima on 18 July (or thereabout) and came to Heathrow via the wonderfully well-equipped airport at Toronto. My first impressions were how modern and convenient Heathrow seemed compared with when I left two and a half years ago, and shock at being asked for over 90 UKP for two coach tickets from the airport to Sheffield. I had read that England had experienced a heat wave, but it had gone by the time we arrived. Dreary rain greeted us the coach slowed through the Midlands, and gave up the ghost in Nottingham where we hijacked and diverted a coach bound for Newcastle. I

 had rented a house in Walkley (which I used to represent on Sheffield City Council) from a former councillor colleague. I had been promised that I could crash in my flat in London, but I didn’t want to be a burden on my excellent tenant Matt) so we kept our couchsurfing there to what I hoped were reasonable levels. It did, however, mean that we spent a lot of time commuting across the North/South divide. I was struck how little Walkley and most of Sheffield had changed since I had last visited and lived there (1981-2001). The characterful Victorian terraces and vistas were still there to charm, and the Heart of the City modern development was still there to impress. Nostalgia was complete when I met up with former Liberal Democrat council colleagues who were around when I served from 1994 to 2000. 

 A week later I was in London to apply for a new passport, and back again to get a visa to fulfil my promise to spend my birthday in India. Rather more had changed than in Sheffield, but the footprint was much the same, as were the historic buildings. And I explored parts of West London which I had never visited when we found couchsurfing hosts in Barnes and Northwood, and stayed with my wonderfully hospitable cousin Kate in Dagenham. Among her other acts of generosity, I am typing this on the wireless keyboard she gave me. Again, it was good to meet former Liberal Democrat, Green and Conservative councillors from my time on Lewisham Council (2004-2010).

 I have mostly enjoyed my two months in England, visiting old friends and places. Highlights included taking Amigo to the opera at Glyndebourne and a garden party and lecture at New College, Oxford. The only downside was that towards the end of this period my father was taken seriously ill and I was worried that this might be his last visit to hospital. But he has confounded us yet again, and is up and about walking the hospital wards and looking forward to his daily gin and tonic at home. I am feeling a little sad to be leaving England, but new adventures await soon in India and New Zealand. Flying to Mumbai on 20 September.
A load of Hanoverians.

A load of Hanoverians.

On the fifth plinth.

On the fifth plinth.