Top Trunks

No birds today – just trees.

If you move from India to the UK, don’t move in December.  You condemn yourself to weeks of dark mornings and grey afternoons.  But when the sun does shine in London in winter, it shines low in the sky and gives a beautiful light, showing off this tree in Regent’s Park in February.

Shadow of tree in Regent's Park

The winter sun also gave me this great shadow in London’s Tavistock Square in January, of a drainpipe trying to be a tree.

Tree shadow Tavistock Sq

Like the first photo, this was taken around 11am, so the low angle of the sun isn’t coming from the sunrise or the “golden hour”. It’s just the effect of winter at a latitude of 51 degrees north.  I don’t remember light like this in Bangalore, which lies much closer to the equator at 13 degrees north.

But I do remember one tree from India.  A banyan tree that sticks in my mind, because I spent two years hating it.

banyan 13

It lurks on the 13th hole of Clovergreens golf course.  And I would love to know how it causes every golf ball hit down that fairway to veer sharply to the right and lodge beside, behind, or inside the tree.

International Shipping of Statues and Toast

What would you ship home from your life overseas?
Crown label
We packed up our stuff in India on 5 December – remember this picture? Twelve weeks later everything has been unpacked on the distant drumlin.

The packers from Crown Relocations did a great job at both ends of the move, from wrapping each item in plenty of paper, numbering and (creatively) labelling the cardboard boxes, and carrying the heavy furniture out of an Indian villa and into an Irish farmhouse.

What happened between Palm Meadows and the distant drumlin? After our shipment was cleared by Customs authorities in India, a wooden crate was built around the boxes, and the crate was loaded inside a container for shipping.  The ship was delayed at least once by port congestion in Sri Lanka, but it finally arrived in the port of Felixstowe in England, ready to face UK Customs.

Crown Relocations dismantled the wooden crate in the south of England, and waited for the wind and rain to stop. When they spotted a gap in the weather, they sent the boxes in a van by road to Scotland, by ferry across the Irish Sea to Belfast, and by road again up to the top of the drumlin.

We had one heavy item in its own crate – everything else was just in cardboard.


Here are some packing lessons, from the collective wisdom (from our foolish past experiences) of my expat friends and me.

1.  If the waste-paper baskets around your home are full of rubbish on moving day, don’t pack the trash and cart it halfway round the world.

2.  If you are eating breakfast when the packers come, don’t let them pack the toast inside the toaster.

3.  If your serviced apartment is full of items thoughtfully provided by the letting company, don’t steal them!  (This is the only one that actually happened to us. We were leaving Shanghai, and opened the boxes back in London to find coat-hangers, hairdryers and umbrellas all labelled with the landlord’s name).

4.  Don’t let the movers pack your passport just before your international move.

5.  Do clean the BBQ.  If insects have crawled in there to explore the crumbs of meat, you may end up fumigating your new house.

6.  Do bring the beautiful statue that you bought in India.  Will it still look good without the backdrop of sunshine and bougainvillea? Yes of course it will.


Twelve Days of Christmas

Happy New Year!

Can you hear me blogging above the noise of the wind?  The New Year rode into the UK and Ireland on the wings of a storm.  We get a few calm days, then another gale hits us from the North Atlantic, bringing rain, wind, floods and, today, very high tides.

Here on the drumlin we are safe from high tides, but not from high winds. This tree didn’t do any damage and will serve as firewood now.

Tree stump

Here is my weather report, set to the tune of “Twelve Days of Christmas”.  If you don’t know the traditional words or tune, click here.

“On the 12th Day on the drumlin, I woke up to the sound…of…

…12 gales a-blowing,
11 branches snapping,
10 roof-tiles rattling,
9 waves a-surging,
8 hours of rainfall,
7 swans a-swimming,
6 geese beside them,
In a Field that’s Now a Lake;
4 bedraggled cows,
3 wet sheep,
2 muddy dogs,
And a road blocked by fallen pear trees.”

Tree stump closeup

This is my second attempt at adapting “The Twelve Days of Christmas” after a verse about India written in December 2012.

Here is last year’s song, with some links to photos of the stars of the song. It helps to know that a silly, unfounded rumour had recently spread around my gated community of Palm Meadows, claiming that a leopard had been spotted inside the compound.  The other thing that might trip you up is the Innova – it is a Toyota car, strangely popular with expat families in Bangalore.

“On the 12th Day of Whitefield I woke up to the sound…of…
…12 snakes a-sleeping,
11 lizards looking,
10 squirrels cheeping,
9 cows in trash heaps,
8 mosquitoes biting,
7 street dogs barking,
6 stray cats prowling,
5 Expat Wives,
4 wheeler Innovas,
3 wheeler autos,
2 wheeler Hondas,
And a leopard in a palm tree.”

Before I move on completely from India, I would like to find a winner for my photo poll. Which of the pictures in my post of 9th December 2013 is your favourite?  As of today (3 January 2014) 31 people have voted, and three photos are tied for first place – the tumbling flowers, the smiling girl and the dog on the bus.  We need someone to vote for a winner!

Top Ten Photos of India

I am in London now, looking back over my life in India. What did I enjoy most? The sunshine and the mangoes. What did Distant Drumlin’s readers enjoy most? Well, according to the statistics, you are fascinated by my post about red custard apples. Really? Why?

I want to try something new – a poll to see which photo of India is the most popular. It’s easy to take part; just look at the ten photos below, choose your favourite, then click on the poll at the end of the post.

I am including links to the original posts, but you don’t need to go back to them to vote – the photos are right here.

[UPDATE: Keep Voting! It’s New Year’s Day – 1 January 2014, and three photos are tied for first place: the tumbling flowers, the smiling girl, and the dog on the bus.  We need someone to vote for a winner!]

Let’s start with those mangoes.

mango and scales

Do you like the sunshine on these baskets?


Or do you prefer this photo, from the day in August 2013 that I finally admitted that Palm squirrels are cute?

Peeling the yellow skin off
Peeling the yellow skin off

I did get a little obsessed with bananas, so I am hoping at least some readers liked this photo of the gardener harvesting our bananas in January 2013.

cutting bananas

Or do you prefer the photos taken on my trips out of the city, like this farmer ploughing with oxen?

Oxen turning crop

Or did you enjoy the moment that I captured in March when I saw a man splashing water over a cow?

Water splash on cow

I took several photos of bullock carts– is this your favourite?

Bullock cart and driver

Maybe you prefer portraits of people, like this one?

Smiles at fruit stall

Or do you prefer the Dussehra flowers tumbling out of the sack?

flowers pouring out of sack

Or was this dog really the star of the blog?

Dog steps down from bus

I would love to have your comments as well. Let me know why you like a photo….or just tell me that the custard apple genuinely is the most interesting thing about the blog.

Filling a Drumlin-Sized Gap

This is almost the last post from my home in Bangalore. The packers were here yesterday.
removal van

And there are gods and flowers on the car dashboard to protect travellers.
gods and jasmine
If you are still keen to hear about life in Bangalore, and you need something to fill the drumlin-sized gap, I recommend clicking through to these blogs.

Bangalore Blogs

The author of Kittie’s Vindaloo moved to Bangalore recently. Read on to see if the city lives up to her expectations, somewhere between the sublime and the ridiculous.

All kinds of Bangalore subjects are covered by Bangalore – Nature and Life, not least the local birds, bugs, wild boars and squirrels.

For more birds, go to Residual Thoughts.

And I must plug the blog written by my friend Helen, who moved from England to California, and then to Bangalore. She writes about the exotic and the school bus on Towers Take a Trip.   Get there quick, before she too leaves Bangalore.

Other Blogs on WordPress with Indian Connections

Read about Mumbai as seen through the eyes of a longterm expat: Everyday Adventures in Asia.

If I can’t sleep on the distant drumlin because it’s too quiet, I may replay the recordings of Bangalore sounds on World Listener.

Random Recommendation of another Blog

Nothing to do with India, just high-quality photos of Canadian wildlife presented with a high-quality sense of humour: Krahnpix.

Last Look at Indian Cattle

Only one more week to go before I leave India, so I’m taking a last look at the cattle of Bangalore. First, a close-up of a bullock looking tired after pulling a cart.

bullock eyes down
Then a calf, well-looked after by a family in a small village, petted by the village children, and protected by this cow house. Its only problem appears to be flies, but in the same village a cow was stolen recently, carried off in an autorickshaw.


Cow house

Back in the city, this is what the well dressed bullock is wearing.

bullock dressed

At least he had time to say goodbye to Distant Drumlin readers.

goodbye bullock

Bulbuls, Coucals and Doves

This is my last month in India. My husband’s job in Bangalore finishes soon, and we are moving back to the UK. I need to squeeze in a few more posts before we leave. Let’s start with one of my favourite places in Bangalore – my own garden.

The garden has palm trees, bananas, mangoes, bamboo, bougainvillea, hibiscus, jasmine and plumeria. There are butterflies, bats, ants, lizards, at least one snake, stick insects, giant snails and, of course, birds, like koels, purple-rumpled sunbirds, bulbuls, and shikras, with kites hovering overhead, too high for my camera, and parakeets flying past at dusk. Here is a round-up of the recent bird activity.

This pair of spotted doves spend a lot of time perched on the roof of our house, but they often come down to ground-level, and peck at the dirt.

spotted doves x 2

I don’t know if this is a seasonal thing, but the local bulbuls are getting boisterous.  They fly in to the garden, land heavily on a branch, making it bounce up and down, then fly off again. They do sing, and they do eat, but everything happens too fast for me to capture it.  One bird paused for a moment on the corner of the house, just long enough for me to show you why it is called a “red-whiskered” bulbul.

bulbul on wall

And yes, there are red whiskers on the other side of its face too.

bulbul on wall 2

The next bird is the Greater Coucal.  I never see it flying gracefully.  I just hear its booming “cooop-cooop-cooop” call and see it crash-landing in the garden.  After parading once around the lawn, it then jumps up into the trees, and clatters around in the branches.

Greater Coucal

There is a good detailed description of the Greater Coucal on Krishna Mohan’s photography website.