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!

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.

Living in an Expat Bubble

Life as a trailing spouse can be hard.  I get sympathy from my friends, family and fellow bloggers on the homesick days, the visa frustration days, the powercut days, the house-maintenance-argument days, the language-barrier days, the culture-shock days, the “help, there’s a snake in my garden!” days, and the days when everything goes wrong and you just sigh and say resignedly, “TIC” (This is China) or “Incredible India”.  So now I’m about to throw away all the sympathy.  I’m having one of those days when life in the Expat Bubble is good.

I woke to sunshine in India, instead of a dark November morning in the UK.

PM Palm trees

Our home in Bangalore is bigger than our home in London, and today our water, electricity and internet have all been pretty reliable.

PM villaI am in India because of my husband’s job, so I am prevented from working, by both laziness and the rules of my visa.  The only thing in my diary was an 0830 meeting on the tennis court, and that only took a couple of minutes free-wheeling down the hill on my bike.  The tennis group is relaxed and welcoming, and pretty international.  It is rare to have more than one or two players from the same country on court at the same time.

PM tennis court

I can stay in this expat bubble all day.  No need to go to work; no need to shop for groceries (I sent my driver off to the shops with a list); no need to water the plants or cut the lawn (we employ a gardener).

gardener with hose

I do usually cook my own meals, but today’s tennis was followed by an impromptu birthday brunch for an American friend at the sports club.

PM table

In the afternoon I went back to the club for a swim.

PM pool

Now I’m ready for some tea in the garden.  Funny how my “comfort drink” has changed in my expat years – now it’s Japanese tea in a Chinese teacup with an Indian jug on a Japanese tray on a Thai tablecloth.

chinese teacup

When my husband gets home, we may open a bottle of wine (Australian chardonnay bought at the airport leaving London) and sit out on our terrace.  Where’s your sympathy now?

Dussehra – At Home

Our driver, Dayalan, celebrated the Hindu festival of Dussehra this week by performing a ritual for the vehicles and tools in our household, i.e. our car, my bicycle, the driver’s own motorcycle, and – for the first time – my camera.

Here are two photos of Dayalan performing the ritual. In the first he is holding a pumpkin. At the end of the ceremony he threw the pumpkin to the ground to break it in half, and then placed the two halves at the entrance to our driveway.

puja with pumpkin

In the second photo he is holding a coconut, which smashed beautifully at the end, more easily than the pumpkin. Can you see the banana leaves on the front of the car?  This year we used leaves from our own garden, instead of buying them.

puja with coconut

We have a beautiful garland of roses on the car now.

rose garland

Performing the ritual on Friday afternoon at 4.30pm served two purposes – it was an auspicious time, and it was late in the week, so the prices of flowers had dropped by 40 per cent.

flowers on front of car
We placed lemons under the wheels of the vehicles.  The final part of the ritual was driving over the lemons to smash them.  Almost impossible with my bicycle; tricky with the Suzuki motorbike; but dead easy with the big Toyota Fortuner.  Now we are ready for anything on the roads of Bangalore.

Related posts from 2012 and 2013:
2012 Dussehra – part 1 – the car

2012 Dussehra – part 2 my bike

2012 Dussehra – part 3 the offerings

2013 Dussehra – the Prequel

2013 Dussehra – On the Streets

Banana Flowers

We have bananas in the garden again.  One banana tree gave us fruit in January, as reported here and here.  A second tree is now holding green bananas and a banana flower. This is how they looked on Wednesday.

Bananas in garden with flower

These bananas look smaller than January’s crop.

Bananas closeup

For the first time in my life, I have paid attention to the banana flower.

Banana flower in our garden

Banana flowers are edible – here are some on sale in Bangalore’s Hypercity supermarket.

Hypercity banana flowers

They cost 20 rupees per kilo. At least they did two months ago. I took this photo before our own banana flower appeared, and food prices have been rising in India.

Hypercity banana flower price

P.S. For anyone interested in ladybirds, I updated my post “Is there any country that doesn’t have ladybirds” this week, after spotting something spotty in the garden.

Visible and Invisible Cricketers

It’s great to see children in Bangalore playing cricket.

Exide village boys with bat

Even when there isn’t much grass around, boys in Bangalore will find somewhere to play.

cricket in ramagondanahalli

This was true in Palm Meadows too, but then the players were called up suddenly to join teams in next month’s Champions League T20. Or maybe they just went home for tea.



Indian Bullfrog

Am I safe on my evening walks inside Palm Meadows? We have good security, so the biggest danger is stepping on an unsuspecting frog. I narrowly avoided this one, and then scared him again by taking a photograph with my phone, which is why he is trying to climb up the lamp post.

There are lots of frogs around on rainy days. They make a surprising amount of noise for such small creatures, just not enough to alert me to their presence on the path in front of me. This is my public apology to the frogs for nearly stamping on them. I just can’t hear you through my headphones when I’m listening to my Three Dog Night playlist.

Jeremiah? Or Hypnotoad from Futurama?

I think this was an Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus) but am happy to be corrected by any frog experts. I got my information from this article by Vikram Nanjappa at I also learned that I really shouldn’t trample on bullfrogs because their tadpoles eat mosquito larvae. Any creature that attacks mosquitoes is worth keeping.