Apples and Plums

I’ve already told you how keen I am on India’s tropical fruits, like mangoes and bananas.  But my trip to Northern Ireland has not been fruitless.  Here are some photos of apples and plums in my brother’s garden.


That photo was taken on 3 September. One week later, on 10 September, the autumn sun had conspired with John Keats “To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core”.


I haven’t eaten any of the apples, but the plums are delicious.


DSC_0530My cousins also have plum trees, and are equally generous with their fruit.  So it has been a plum-filled September for the whole family, well, except for one over-enthusiastic springer spaniel. Steve would eat all the plums if we’d let him, but they are terrible for his digestion, so we try to distract him with the throwing ring.


Digging, and Blackberry Picking

Blackberries are ripening in the hedgerows on our farm, so I picked some.
This gives me an excuse to remember the late, great, Irish poet Seamus Heaney, who died on 30 August 2013.  Seamus Heaney was born in Northern Ireland, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.”

In honour of Seamus Heaney, here is a link to his poem entitled “Blackberry Picking”, and another photo showing “the glossy purple clot among others, red, green, hard as a knot”.


Another popular Heaney poem is “Digging”.   My family is a good example of the generational shift between working the land and working with words, as described in that poem.

“But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.   Between my finger and my thumb the squat pen rests.  I’ll dig with it.”


I know – it’s a fork (or, in the local dialect, a grape) not a spade.  But I liked the sunlight on the grass behind it.


By the way, do you see how different the dark Irish soil is from the red soil of South India in the next photo of Clovergreens Golf Club?

Clovergreen 9th tee

I Admit It: Palm Squirrels are Cute

After an hour or so sitting on the same branch, the Asian Koel from last week’s photos flew off, leaving all the food for the palm squirrel.

Peeling the yellow skin off

For a few days the squirrel re-appeared in the same tree every morning.  Then one day I looked out of my kitchen window and realised that all the yellow nuts were gone.  Between them, the Asian Koel and the Indian Palm Squirrel, with his long red tongue, had eaten the lot.

Is that a red tongue?

The palm squirrel has three stripes on its back (as you can see in the next photo) and there is an Indian legend about the origin of the stripes.  The version that I have heard is that Lord Rama was building a bridge between India and Sri Lanka in order to rescue his wife Sita, and the squirrel helped by adding some twigs and sand (shaken from his fur) to the bridge-building materials.  Lord Rama thanked the squirrel, leaving three stripes where his fingers stroked the squirrel’s back.

Showing off his three stripes
Showing off his three stripes

So I will admit that the squirrel is cute – but don’t forget my first comment on Indian palm squirrels – complete with “Wanted” poster: 2 May 2013.

Asian Koel

A bird was sitting outside my kitchen window for a long time last week.

Asian Koel

I’m pretty sure it’s an Asian Koel, and I wonder if it is the offspring of the bird I photographed in March.  The Koel is a kind of cuckoo, so (without any evidence at all) I imagine that that female laid her egg in a crow’s nest in one of the trees near my house; that the egg hatched; that the chick fledged; and that the juvenile bird flew back into my garden for a photo opportunity.

Tentatively identified as a  juvenile Asian Koel
Tentatively identified as a juvenile Asian Koel

It was breakfasting on the yellow palm nuts , but had to share a few with a palm squirrel (who is just a scurrying furry blur in the final photo, but gets a starring role in my next blog entry).

Yellow berries for breakfast
Yellow palm nuts for breakfast
Plenty of berries for bird and squirrel
Bright-eyed bird and bushy-tailed palm squirrel

I Didn’t Miss the Mango Season

After my trip to the UK, I returned to Bangalore hoping that there would still be mangoes in the shops.  The good news is that I didn’t miss the whole of the mango season.  Namdhari’s Fresh is still selling mangoes, so I was able to satisfy my craving on the first day back here.

Then I bought 5 kg of local, home-grown, organic mangoes from my friend Poonam – and these mangoes taste just as good as last year.


And even better news, I didn’t miss all the mangoes in my own garden, even though most of the small fruit which I spotted in March had been lost to the wind and rain, squirrels and crows (and a few sneaky humans).


Mangoes from garden

Sitting in a mango-scented kitchen, with juice dripping down my chin, I realised that I couldn’t eat all of this fruit this week, so I’m packing the freezer full of mango chunks.

frozen mango

These mangoes are brightening up the grey, rainy, monsoon, jetlagged days.  And when they are not free from my own garden, they are less than a quarter of the price of mangoes in UK supermarkets.

Happy Summer Solstice and Happy Birthday!

Today is the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere.  To mark the occasion, I am sending a friendly wave and a bunch of flowers from the flower and vegetable gardens of Siddapura, Bangalore to all the readers of Distant Drumlin…..and most especially to my sister-in-law Karen on her birthday!

market gardeners

Here are the flowers…


Shampoo or Tobacco?

Bangalore is full of small shops and kiosks. A curtain of small packs and sachets frames the shopkeepers.

Pan shop

What is for sale in these small shops? On the one hand, you can buy everything to keep you clean and healthy. If you can’t afford to spend a hundred rupees on a bottle of shampoo in a supermarket, you can buy a single sachet here for a couple of rupees.

On the other hand, you can also buy various products containing chewing tobacco, such as “gutkha” or “pan masala”. Sale of these products is legal in Karnataka, but has been banned in some Indian states, including the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh. I haven’t tried any of them!

packets of shampoo

Packets of coffee


There is an interesting article on The Hindu website, published on 5 April 2013, about the ban on gutkha sales in Andhra. The Hindu reports that the strings of sachets have disappeared from the front of Hyderabad’s shops, but the products are still available behind the scenes, at higher prices, smuggled into the city on trains from other states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.