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ON OUR WAY TO DELHI

The train left at 6.45pm, precisely on schedule. The great steam engine heaved laboriously as it began to pull the long overloaded carriages out of the station. It was dark so we settled the little ones in bed with Richard on the top bunk and Anthony lying in his pushchair. Peter was to share the adjoining compartment with an Indian business man
The office provided us with a hamper of food and train caterers supplied tea and coffee. In the morning we opened the blind to bright sunshine and barren and arid scenery.
This scrubland lasted for several hours. We passed the occasional settlement consisting of a few mud huts with countrymen and women working on the land with primitive tools or with the aid of bullocks.
Here and there were muddy, slimy pools or a small river. Around these hovered lean cattle and bony buffalo. Goats were fairly numerous and flocks of ragged sheep tended mostly by children.
Suddenly without pre-warning the train jolted and stopped. Cows on the line were always a hazard. From time to time we came across a wayside station, no platform and only one hut which served a small community
Mostly these stops were by request for the locals or anyone on the train wishing to leave
Eventually a small range of distant hills relieved the monotony. The train chugged along at varying speeds. Trackside workmen frequently caused delay and a single track between two stations gave us a long wait for an oncoming train.
Although everything was interesting to us as first-timers abroad, excitement mounted every time we reached a large station consisting of beautiful buildings covered in great confusion with exotic red-flowered creeper. The buildings varied from small stone or wooden huts to great architectural and ornamental houses.
At such a stop we could leave the train while the engine was re-filled with water and most of the passengers could buy food and drink. Vendors swarmed along the platform pushing glass showcases on three large antiquated wheels. Others were carrying overfull paniers.
Hundreds of passengers jostled and pushed for service, knowing time was limited. I mused on how those carrying cups of tea would ever make it back to their families still on board with any drink at all.
Peter went outside with his 35mm camera capturing the atmosphere. He took Richard to see the massive steam engine leaving an anxious mother fretting on whether the pair would return to our compartment in the mad scramble to get aboard.
I was .fascinated by everything we saw on the journey. Unfortunately my new cine camera was in the trunk so I had to wait until the return journey two years later to make a film in reverse which could be edited as the outward sequence




ABOARD THE TRAIN

Our hosts in Bombay drove us to the station at 5 pm. Our train stretched endlessly down the platform. The seething mass of people pushed and jostled for space as we wove our way with baby in an old-fashioned pushchair and a toddler, while trying to keep contact with our party. A turbaned porter carrying our overnight luggage on his head followed us.
At the rear of the train carriages appeared no better than cattle trucks with open barred windows and no doors. The wooden bench seats were filled to capacity. The quality of the carriages improved through rising classes until finally we were guided to one of the two air-conditioned coaches behind the front closed guard’s van. We were given tickets to our reserved compartments and the porter piled our cases in an overnight small luggage area at the entrance to the coach.
After the humid atmosphere of Bombay, the coldness of the air conditioning and smell of fresh air was most welcome. Our roomy compartment was surprisingly clean. The back of the seat pulled down to form a three foot wide bed, and similarly another lowered from the wall above to form a bunk bed. We were provided with clean bedding rolls.
The furniture consisted of a collapsible table under the double glazed window and on the dividing wall, a wash basin with rubbish bin beneath and a wardrobe.
We sat back and relaxed. The constant noise rose to a crescendo as late passengers rushed back and forth. Night had fallen, the horn blew and we were on our way as the giant steam engine pulled its heavy load slowly out of the station. This was to be our home for the next twenty four hours.

INDIAN TRAFFIC

When we arrived in India in 1960 the UK office staff met us at the Bombay docks. That was my first experience of the chaotic Indian traffic. Coming from England, it came as a terrifying shock. Any vehicle whether motorised, man-hauled or horse or bullock driven with one, two, three, four or more wheels vied for supremacy. This included also avoiding stray cows.
I sat on the edge of the car seat, gripping the edge and praying we would arrive safely at our guest’s house. As the mother of a baby and toddler I was frantic.
The noise was unbelievable. Horns, hooters, bells, screeching brakes and the high pitched babble of voices shattered the ears. The yellow taxis were by far the most vociferous and dangerous with a thumb on the horn and foot on the brake. Surprisingly we never saw a single traffic accident in the whole two years.
That evening we boarded the train for the 24 hour’ journey to Delhi, but that’s another story.
India had no highway code other than to drive on the left. Road signs were in English and Hindi which didn’t cater for the multitude of languages or for the unfortunate illiterate. Left round the roundabout could also mean right if the driver wanted to take the nearest exit. I once directed my taxi driver to go over the roundabout, meaning of course, take that road opposite. He literally gave us a bumpy ride over the weed infested roundabout.
Police traffic controllers were rare but at junctions with several exits the policeman stood on a podium with an umbrella strapped to a harness to protect him from the searing heat and monsoon rains. He swiveled round and round waving his arms just like a mechanical music box.
One countryside placard read IT IS BETTER TO BE LATE MISTER, THAN THE LATE MISTER.

DEHLI – TWO HALVES OF A GREAT CITY

Filming in India had one great advantage – the sun always shone even in winter, except in the monsoon season. I made the most of every opportunity to capture the essence of life in India. Having never been abroad or even had a TV, India came as a culture shock but we soon adapted.
Old Delhi with its one wide road displayed open fronted shanty shops with shimmering silks and saris and dazzling brass pots and pans. Vendors squatted on the pavement filling the air with the aroma of colourful spices while others cooked corn cobs or chapattis. One decrepit tram trundled along on rails with riders crammed inside and free-riders precariously hanging on outside.
The narrow side roads clogged with cycle rickshaws and taxis weaving through mobs of people and stray cows. Silver Street, the home for intricate creations on silver.
By contrast, New Delhi’s shopping centre consisted of a circle of fine pillared white buildings – shops for the discerning customer inside with vendors squatting on the edge of the walkway. During the heat of the summer rattan blinds soaked in water hung between the pillars.
The centre of the Circle was a green oasis where the poor could bathe or wash clothing at standpipes. Under the trees a barber plied his trade while a shoe-shiner polished a gent’s footwear. Even a goat-herdsman found shelter here for his flock.
We never could get used to the chaotic traffic with no rules, if any, obeyed. That another story for next week.

First impressions

In 1959 my family and I arrived in Delhi late at night.
Next morning we woke to the start of Peter’s two year tour of duty. The UK diplomatic compound consisted of three slim blocks of flats with sixteen dwellings in each. Each had a twelve foot wide window and a balcony. The walls between were pale blue stucco which glittered in the sunlight. The UK office was a large block with the same rendering. Also in the compound there was a shop, social centre, swimming pool and a single story fully equipped hospital. The whole walled area was set in a colourful landscaped garden. Residents didn’t need to go out as trade was delivered.
On that first morning the servants arrived. We had been allocated a Muslim cook, a Hindu bearer, a low caste sweeper and a Christian ayah. The dhobe took care of our washing. Peter went over to the office while I unpacked and attended to the little ones until after breakfast when the ayah came to take the children out.
I stood on the balcony and surveyed my surroundings. At this height I could see over the wall to the main road which showed life in the raw. No one rushed except the taxi drivers weaving in and out of plodding oxen pulling a large container crate, a family of five on a Lambretta scooter, another four on a pedal bicycle. Women carried large urns or huge bundles of hay on their heads. One cyclist carried his whole stock of basket ware. With a large lounge, chairs, baskets and sundry items piled around him so he had barely room to see ahead and pedal his feet.
Opposite the compound rose the prestigious Ashoka hotel and alongside in a hollow was the shanty village of rough shacks where servants lived. A land of opposites and a life far removed from England.
That was the moment when I had the urge to capture the essence of India and take it home as a memory. I unpacked my new cine camera, loaded a cassette of film and tentatively took my first few shots to becoming a serious film maker.

That’s Life

Troubles come in threes, so the saying goes. When it reaches 35+ in a year it needs a sense of humour. It started with the boiler and the replacements or repairs have been continuous.
It isn’t the facts things break down, it’s the researching for new, grasping modern technology, finding service men, dealing with insurance. In the spring we had a major house interior reconstruction when Peter and I were both ill in bed.
Talktalk has been a nightmare so at last we’ve changed our email and I am free to answer all my good friends who followed me over the years.
This is not one big moan but recording an unbelievable situation. We have just celebrated 63 years of marriage. I’m still smiling and writing on anything that inspires me. I shall be now reviving my blog. every Friday.

IF ONLY…

If only I could write a famous novel
My life would be complete.
If only I could find a market
It would be a major fete

If only I could live longer
To see into the future.
What will happen to our world?
Watch grandchildren grow and mature.

If only I could live my life again
I’d know which wrong to right.
I would leave this world quite happy,
Peace would come with eternal light.

THE IMPORTANCE OF STAR RATINGS

I have just closed my contract with Matador. The sales of ‘Beyond the Shadows’ were disappointing. I did interviews, book signing, demos and talks but even sold at a low price it didn’t take off. I sold more personally than did the publisher and those readers gave me enthusiastic feedback and asked for the next saga in the series.
I have five individual novels on Kindle, well researched and professionally written and popular with my readers, yet no one writes a review. Why? Unless books receive numerous star ratings they remain on the obscure list.
Authors spend months or years creating a novel to give readers pleasure and yet few can be bothered to show their appreciation.
I’m busily writing the fourth and last in my family saga series in the hope that one day readers will help me to rise up in the ratings to give my books the success they deserve.

COMPUTER PROBLEMS

A computer is a writer’s most important tool. When it persistently goes wrong it is a catastrophe. We have been with Talktalk for a long time but this year it has failed me so many times, sometimes for several days.
Yesterday we finally changed to a new server. This has been a traumatic experience over several weeks, not the change-over which went smoothly, but notifying everyone of our change of email. And I still keep thinking of contacts I have missed!
Plusnet has been recommended by many friends so here’s hoping I can have no problems from today.

CHOOSING A TITLE

Titles are not copyright. You can give your book any title you wish even if it is identical to that of a famous author. Look down any published book list and you will find many with the same title or mere variations on the words. I’ve debated on whether it is good publicity to copy another or try to be original.
I discovered the duplication when my first book was published. “Where Shadows Fall” had another novel with the same title that came on the market at the same time. I was too late to change it especially as my book was a best seller.
The sequel “Beyond the Shadows” was a title on its own, but sales have been low. Is this because the title could give the impression of a religious theme? The story is set in New Zealand during WW2 and the shadows refer to the consequences of a family tragedy in an earlier generation.
“Burning Shadows,” had several variations on the wording but stood alone. It’s too early to judge on the sales.
Now I’m writing the fourth and last of my NZ sagas, but my chosen title, “Yesterday’s Shadows,” has a long list of books by the same title. I think I will have to change it but I’m finding it hard to find a substitute when the original fits the story.
The debate goes on – to keep or change? – I’ll decide when I’ve written the last word and the book is edited and ready for downloading on Kindle.