Sunday, 27 May 2018

And then there was Egg

So, after all the anticipation, all that’s left is a few twigs and one egg. It was hard, that moment when the birds flew off.

I was lucky, in a way, that I was watching. I’d glanced across and noticed there was no bird on the nest - but that happened from time to time, for a minute or few, so I wasn’t particularly worried. 

But then both birds returned together. They perched beside their little egg and did a lot of head-cocking and bobbing, cooed a lot, and then flew off towards the distant hills. I’ve seen one of them since, come back just to check on the egg once or twice, but within hours it was clear that this nest has been abandoned. 

Who knows why? There are a thousand reasons why this egg didn’t hatch - and it’s far from uncommon. Collared doves (I now know) lay just a couple of eggs but have several clutches through the year. Unlike birds that lay many more eggs, they are quick to fly off and try again rather than persist with an egg that hangs around a bit. What this couple haven’t done is relay eggs in this nest.

Which is sensible. For this nest is in full sun for much of the day - and so has been fryingly hot over the past couple of weeks. The bird on the nest has sat with her beak open and a wobble in her throat, presumably the equivalent of a dog panting to keep itself cool. A chick exposed to that sun would risk serious dehydration. And when it rained, there was no protection at all.

I was saddened, of course. After the delight of the nest being built in the first place, I settled into life with Bird and looked forward to a chick. But I also knew that it was a stupid place for a bird to raise a brood.

And so I wish them well with a second clutch, wherever it is.

And I need to clear this gutter (not, of course, on my own - that would involve dangling over my balcony) - and, regrettably, put some sort of spiky thing in the balcony to deter any other birds nesting here. 

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Brief Bird update.

A brief Bird update.

She’s still sitting on her nest - she has coped with teeming rain and frying sun. But hasn’t given up.

I was determined not to give her a name. She is a wild creature, and I won’t treat her like a pet. 

But somehow she has become ‘Bird’. So each morning, as I glance across at her, I find myself saying, ‘Hello, Bird.’ A week ago her little head would pop up, eyes a-sparkle, and watch my every move. Now she barely stirs. We rub along together, she in her wild way and me in the shelter of man-made home. It feels like progress that she isn’t frightened of me.

But no chick yet. The internet tells me it should hatch in the next week or ten days. So what will I name the chick?

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Me and my lodger

As some of you know, I have a lodger. And, while I’m not one to just by appearances, this is what she looks like (she’s a collared dove):

This gutter is at my eye-line when I stand on my balcony. I can watch her from my sitting room. When she first moved in she seemed very aware if I moved around - her little head bobbed up and her eyes seemed more alert. But now she takes very little notice - and I don’t get closer than about eight feet.  
And she’s not alone:

As you can see, this is not the best-constructed nest. Not much more than a haphazard collection of twigs. And I watch as the male arrives with a long twig to add to the collection. There is much grateful head-bobbing as he hands it over. And off he goes.

Leaving her with a twig far to long for her to even turn it round easily so it can sit on top of the others. She shuffles, tries bashing on the wall beside her to break it up, and eventually bits of if fall off. If she had words, she’d be muttering to herself: ‘Bloody bird. Can’t even manage to find a twig the right length. Might has well have gone to IKEA and come home with the box, not opened it to find out which bits were missing ...’

And when he brought her another, she waited until he had flown away and dropped it over the side!

She doesn’t have words, of course. And I’ve watched Springwatch often enough to know that the chances of her clutch surviving is less than fifty per cent. She’s already down to one egg: one has rolled off the end of her gutter onto one below.

But that doesn’t stop me feeling fiercely protective of this little family. I can spend hours watching her, rearranging twigs, shifting on her nest and then poking beneath her chest to make sure the remaining egg is snug beneath her. So if I’m late posting blogs over the nest week or few, I’m probably on bird-duty!

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Once a travel writer, always a travel writer?

You know me as a travel writer. Which is not unreasonable, given that most of my books are about my travels.

Will there be a book about my last trip to Nepal - no. Because it wasn’t a travelly sort of trip. It was a recuperative trip, a trip to take the space I needed to fill my head with something other than my house-move (and failed house-selling efforts) last year. It was the trip I needed. 

And because I don’t have to write a book about a trip if I don’t want to.

But ... surely I’m a travel writer. I travel and write about it - that’s what I do ...

I don’t see it like that - though I’m not sure I’ve challenged it before. I love travelling, and I love writing, and the two have melted together very happily. But that doesn’t mean the reason to travel is to write, nor is writing an excuse to travel. The two activities are independent of each other. If they overlap, that’s fine. And if they don’t, that’s fine too.

I’ve become know for the overlapping - when the writing and travelling come together. And yet the book I’m most proud of, the book that cost the most angst, the book that gave me most pleasure to write - is my novel, The Planter’s Daughter .

Why? Because I had to make it up. I had to do hours of research first, to make sure I got the factual bits right. But the rest of it I made up. (Well, I had the sketchiest outline, as it grew out of a vignette I came across in New Zealand. That gave me about four sentences. The rest I made up.)

Why am I telling you all this? Because my writing focus, at the moment, is firmly turned to fiction. That doesn’t mean I shall stop travelling, nor that I’ll stop blogging about travelling while I’m away. It simply means that I won’t travel with a view to writing a little book about it - unless, of course, something extraordinary happens (like a close encounter with a tiger ...)

So what is this novel I’m writing .. it’s such early days, I’ll keep that to myself for now.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Shall I Compare Thee to Theresa May?

Shall I compare thee to Theresa May?
She is a ship of self deception, littering
Her promises of wealth and health and no delay
With no more substance than a winter’s glitter.
As winds blow frozen thoughts from Arctic shores,
She’ll force her cheeks into a rictus grin
And wait, assume a pose for rapt applause
From party faithfuls. 
                                 She cannot win
While mothers have no money left for food,
Teachers work until they cannot think
Doctors give their final pints of blood,
Frail and disabled hide, all hope extinct.
You, in this filthy corner, wrapped in rags
With nothing in your life but plastic bags.

With apologies to Shakespeare

Sunday, 22 April 2018

An apology to the young. We have let them down.

It is, surely, part of the human condition for each generation to aim to leave the world in a better shape than they were born into. We want peace, prosperity, and joy for our children and grandchildren.

I was born not long after the War. There was still rationing. Times were tight. But it was also just after the birth of the NHS and the Welfare State. No longer would the poor and the sick need to struggle by themselves. National insurance payments would provide a safety net for everyone.

It was an idealistic response to the deprivation of the 1930s and then the horrors of War. But it was also built on a belief that we can, and should, create a world in which peace, mutual respect and care for the frail and vulnerable is possible without judgement. 

The 1960s built on that. We were the generation who could, and would, make it all happen.

But now I am ashamed of us.

My education was subsidised until I was 24. I emerged without debts, and a qualification that led to a job. I could save for the deposit on a house. I was healthy, and I was educated. Of course, there was still a long way to go - there was still hardship and deprivation. Racism was rife. But we had made a start and pressed on optimistically.

Thatcher did her best to scupper our efforts. Her cult of individualism bred selfishness that hasn’t helped. Blair made a start on turning that tide, and then wrecked it by invading Iraq. 

And from then on ... we have seen all we believed in and fought for eroded. Education is precious - and yet now only the wealthy can take it for granted. Those working in the NHS find their efforts to keep us healthy and care for the sick undermined by a government who can offer nothing but glib, meaningless statements. We had forged peaceful links with Europe, found a way to end the fighting in Ireland - and that’s all being dismantled. We recognised the scourge that is racism and have challenged it in every corner - but only an outcry in the press has made the government pause in its efforts to deport brown people. There is more poverty, more homelessness ... I could go on.

How can we look at our children and grandchildren in the eye? I hope they rise up in a rage and protest. We have let them down.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Petition, Petitions, Petitions.

This blogpost isn’t about the bombing of Syria. Or maybe it is.

Petitions have been with us for decades. But they’ve taken on a life of their own in recent years. The internet has made it easy for anyone to set one up, and to reach thousands (if not millions) of people. The government has promised to discuss a matter in parliament if a petition attracts more than 100,000 signatures. (They haven’t, of course, promised that more than two people will be present in parliament for that discussion.)

At first glance, surely this is a wonderful thing? It means more people will think about and engage with matters that affect us all. It widens democracy, keeps people involved. Given past concerns that most people were disengaged we should, surely, be encouraged that so many are willing to express their opinions.

Or, we could argue, the sheer proliferation of petitions effectively weakens them all. I’ve lost count of the different petitions I’ve seen demanding parliament has a vote before Brexit terms are agreed - all phrased slightly differently. There are petitions to ban plastic straws, restore hunting (I’m trying to be balanced here - personally I’d keep the ban), provide sanitary products for girls in schools ... the list is endless. And yes, they all matter. But are all these petitions really an effective way of promoting change?

Speaking personally, I’ve stopped signing any. 

I have two reasons. For a start, I can’t sign a petition without giving my email address, and that results in a bombardment of spam. There is no way I can sign and insist that my contact details remain private. Who else are they selling my details too? And what use are they put to?

Secondly, I have yet to see one petition that actually made a difference. While I’m delighted to see so many people feel strongly about Brexit or badgers or milk bottles, there is no evidence that those in power give a monkey’s toss what we think. Which is deeply depressing, given the mess the world is in at the moment.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Oh Facebook ...

Ah ... Facebook! Love it or hate it. Maybe a bit of both? 

It’s had a rough time recently, what with the Cambridge Analytica hoo-ha and then Mark Zuckerberg’s reluctance to talk to politicians. And then some plonker suggesting that it didn’t really matter if a Facebook post prompted someone to take a life (their own or someone else’s) as long as they continued to connect more people.

Does all this matter? I suppose it depends on your perspective. I can’t say I enjoy pottering about on Facebook, but I have books to sell and it’s part of being a public person (and that’s essential to the whole marketing process, were told). But it’s a great way to keep up with friends who are now far away - I can’t see us picking up the phone as often as we cross Facebook paths. And, when I’m away, it’s how I keep in touch with everyone back home.

So useful. So innocuous. Except while I’m there I might like a post or two, click on a link that takes me somewhere unexpected - and instantly I’ve given away information about myself, my interests, my political leanings, to someone who might, months down the line, tease me with propaganda or advertising. 

Harmless? If we are kept informed about what they are doing, possibly. So if I get message that reads something along the lines of ‘we noticed you like that, have you thought about this ...’ the origin of their information is clear and I can accept or reject it, depending on my whims at the time. But they don’t do that - rather they weasel ideas into my timeline and I’ve no idea where they’ve come from.

Does it matter - yes it does. Local elections loom, and the propaganda machine will be gearing up to bombard us with guff in the last few days. So much guff that some undecideds will lose the will to think for themselves and vote like automata. So yes, it matters. Whoever wins, it matters. It matters because we live in a democracy that is predicated on voters thinking for themselves and not being manipulated by social media.

And if Facebook is doing it, I’ll be astonished it Twitter isn’t. And all those other platforms that we love and hate. 

Sunday, 1 April 2018

It’s not fair!

As some of you know, I’m into cricket - and so I’ve read every word about the Australian cheating shenanigans. But this post is not about who did what and whose idea it was and who else knew. (In the absence of evidence it’s not for me to speculate.)

Instead I want to think about the reactions - here in the UK, and in Australia (I’ve no idea what the papers are saying in South Africa, where this happened, or in India, which holds so many of cricket’s purse-strings). 

The hot air and column-inches that have been devoted to this episode is extraordinary - and, in my opinion, encouraging. The outcry has reflected a united - appalled - reaction. A few years ago there was anger when some players were charged with spot-fixing, even match-fixing, but I don’t recall seeing such unequivocal outrage at behaviour on a cricket pitch. I’ve read no one who even whispers a suggestion that cheating might be, somehow, ok.

I know, there have been reminders that the line between this outright cheating and attempts to change the condition of the ball can be blurred. But this episode falls so far wide of that line it cannot be defended.

It reminds me of the cry of every child - ‘It’s not fair!’ It’s not fair that other children are better at football or spelling or just allowed to go to bed later. As they grow older it’s the tenet that underpins some adolescent angst - it’s not fair that everyone else has perfect skin or parents who can afford driving lessons the second they turn seventeen. Children and young people have to wrestle with the basic unfairness of living. 

Yet their parents and teachers persist a telling them that there are some level playing fields that give everyone an equal opportunity. We know it’s complicated, but we still want our children and young people to believe that ‘fair play’ benefits everyone. It’s a tenet that underpins so much of our moral thinking.

Cricket isn’t the only sport to tackle the issue, of course. But there is something about the blatant rule-breaking of this episode that prompts childish outrage. We still long for life to be fair - for all of us. 

And not only on the cricket pitch.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

To believe, or not to believe (and I’m not talking about God)

To believe, or not to believe - no I’m not talking about God.

But I am talking about the News - with a capital N because it seems to be shouted at us from all corners of social media at the moment. But how much is actually true?

Some, of course, is verifiable. If England, say (just supposing), were to win a football match 1-0 there can be no dispute about the score. But the meaning of that score depends on who you believe - they might have played wonderfully and only the referee deprived them of another five goals, or they might have been lucky to scrape a win. 

And there are many times when even the facts can’t speak for themselves. Those of in the UK know that the promise to put £350,000,000 a week into the NHS after we leave the EU was a lie - but that didn’t stop politicians quoting it. This last week, some health service workers have been promised what looks, at first sight, like a generous pay rise. But when you work out their loss of real income over the last ten years this comes nowhere near making up for it.

Ideas ... facts ... the two become jumbled on social media. I’ve seen demands that supermarkets stop using single-use plastic - all very laudable, given the rubbish in our seas (verifiable) but without reminding us that significantly more energy is used to make glass bottles than plastic. I’ve seen a petition that demands the government does not sign a trade deal with the US as it will jeopardise the NHS - but without any evidence that is the case. Instinct tells me that such a deal is a Bad Idea, but that isn’t enough - I want to be presented with enough information to make an informed decision and not just sound-bites and petitions.

Does it matter? I think it does. In this instant-information world few of us have the time or inclination to research anything with enough vigour to develop informed opinions. We are dependent on the media to keep us informed - but the media simply feeds us snippets of largely unverifiable facts and great tracts of opinion. 

Which means politicians can talk about listening to the electorate safe in the knowledge that we have no idea what is true and what isn’t.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Moving on

As some of you know, I moved last year; and had to tackle the challenge of finding my feet in a town where I knew no one. Time after time I had to be the ‘new girl’. 

I travel. I’m used to meeting new people - fellow travellers take little encouragement to talk about the places they’ve visited and where they might go next. There’s even a standard introductory phrase: ‘Where are you from?’ It’s a phrase that invites someone to talk about him or herself, and it’s easy to develop a conversation from there.

There is no such standard introduction when meeting new people who are already established in their own social groups. I’ve tried: ‘How long have you lived in ...’ and received polite answers but it’s hard to move on from there, even when I try to pick up on something in their reply that I can ask about. It’s a salutary lesson.

For most people already have established friendship groups. Unlike travellers, they aren’t looking for new people to chat to. And so I have needed to be, if you like, pushier. I’ve made a point of giving people my phone number, asking for their’s, ringing and inviting them for coffee. I’ve knocked on doors of the flats where I live and offered tea. I’ve joined - what haven’t I joined! And it has paid off.

It’s not been easy - and it will take time to develop the sort of friendships that sustained me over the years I lived in my old house.

But ... or maybe that should be ‘and’ ... it takes effort, and sometimes more than a little bravado. I don’t always enjoy it, but I can do it. What is it like for someone with less confidence than I have? Someone with a disability who can’t get out there and edge into conversations? Working parents who have no time to chatter at the school gates? Working parents who spend ridiculous hours commuting and barely have energy for the children, let alone getting to know their neighbours?

I can do this - but many people find it difficult. Maybe that’s the lesson for us all - to make more space to welcome strangers, wherever they come from.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Dear Spring

Dear Spring,

Winter has had its time - really, it’s done its worst. We’ve had the complete repertoire - dark, wind, rain, snow, frost, blizzards, storms - and many of us have come out the other side a little chastened. Sometimes, here in the comfortable western economies, we assume we can control more or less everything. This winter was a brutal reminder that we can’t. People were stuck for hours in their cars. Pipes burst and left families without water. Electricity failed and the vulnerable were freezing. 

We’ve learned our lesson, honestly we have. Weather is a serious issue and we will respect it in the future. Promise. 

And so, Spring, don’t you think it’s time you turned up and cheered us all up a bit? I know you’ve provided a few carpets of snowdrops, but they’re looking a bit sorry for themselves after being deluged with snow. Surely it’s time for a daffodil or two? A splash of yellow to remind us what sunshine looks like? Fresh green leaves on the beech trees? Birds a-twittering and gathering bits of stuff to build nests? Enough warmth in the sun for us to take some of our woollies off?

In a couple of weeks the clocks will go forward. It is a structured reminder that longer days are coming - a device dreamed up by men and women to trick us into believing winter is behind us. We need the Weather to catch up.

Please, Spring, do the decent thing and bring us some sunny days. With daffodils.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Life in the open air.

Hopefully, by the time you read this, it will be a bit warmer. But goodness, hasn’t it been cold! Like almost everyone else, I’ve stayed indoors. Not only because that is the official advice (I’m not one for official advice, but not putting my life and the lives of those who might have to rescue me at risk seems common sense to me.). There was an eerie hush outside. Even the birds stopped twittering. My lovely town seemed to be holding its breath waiting for warmer weather. 

We in the UK make a fuss about weather. I’ve just come back from Nepal (as many of you know) where people respond more pragmatically. It’s hot ... wear something light and flimsy that keeps your skin covered from the burning fire. It’s chilly ... wear more clothes (I learned to wear a blanket while I was there), and join your neighbours round a fire.

And maybe it’s the neighbours that make such a difference. For most of life in rural Nepal is lived outside. Rooms are for cooking or sleeping in. Everything else happens in the open air. Lives are lived in public. Women sit in their doorways to pick over the rice to find stones.  Children flit from family to family. Young people do their homework on the kerbside. 

Which means that if anyone has a problem the street or the village knows - not via any gossipy grapevine, but simply by concerned word of mouth. The ups and downs of family life spill out into the street and become everyone’s concern. And everyone chips in to help find a solution.

The Nepali don’t need official advice when the weather is challenging. They don’t need a government to remind them to look in on vulnerable neighbours to make sure they are warm enough and haven’t run out of bread. It is simply second nature to take care of each other.

I know our climate, in the UK, makes outdoor living impossible for much of the year. But, as we hide behind our locked doors, or even grow huge hedges to ensure the privacy of our gardens, we also shut ourselves off from the possibility of communal nurturing that keeps the show on the road in so many developing countries. It is, I think, our loss.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

In praise of small charities.

There’s been a lot of less-than-charitable hoo-ha in the press recently, much of it justified. The behaviour of some aid workers and their managers is indefensible. It is hardly surprising that their donors are withdrawing support. It will raise huge questions next time there is a disaster - we need the organisational know-how of the big agencies to deal with floods and earthquakes.

But I’ve observed, in my travels in some of the world’s most impoverished countries, that many of the big changes in people’s lives are made by the tiny charities. 

For instance, the Chitepani Trust, begun about twenty years ago to help the residents of a small village in the Himalayas, has - in that time - given every home a toilet and biogas for cooking, made sure the small health centre is stocked with basic medications and provided additional support for villagers with special health needs, and supported students and teachers in the village school. It is a small project - and has changed lives.

The Mandala Trust, slightly bigger, seeks out small projects that have grown from local efforts to meet local needs: it helps with funds and occasionally with expertise, but its basic tenet is to enable people to manage their own project.

In Malawi I came across a school, reliant on tourist money, but it has grown from a ‘classroom’ under a tree to an institution with buildings and a uniform and children who can learn to read and count who might otherwise be illiterate.

But we don’t need to look to the developing world to find small projects that make a significant contribution to people’s lives. With councils unable to meet even their basic obligations it is now down to the likes of you and me to keep the social show on the road.

Is there a community centre near you? Who runs it? And how is it funded? My guess - it’s a small charity, and is run by a small group of overworked volunteers who manage to provide everything from yoga-for-young-mums to support groups for the elderly. 

What about an environmental group, cleaning up local waste ground or keeping the footpaths clear? 

Do your children play football? Go swimming? Go to Woodcraft? Attend a project for children with specific needs? None of them are free, but almost all are run by volunteers - and many of them are charities and rely on donations.

And so - while the behaviour is a few in the big charities is abhorrent (and I don’t suppose the small ones are all whiter than white) - it’s essential that we don’t let that colour our view of the charitable world in general. The vast majority are run by committed, hard-working people and they need our support. It’s the least we can do, given the lives that they change.

And if you help run a small charity, please feel free to put all possible links in a comment.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The House that Buddhi Built

This is the house that Buddhi built.

 As some of you know, I went to Nepal soon after the earthquake in 2015 - invited by friends who wanted me to see that the country was still up and running and open for business. And it was - hotels were still open; guides were ready with their kit to take trekkers up the mountains; restaurant kitchens still smelled of oil and chillies. There was damage - and an urgent need to get on with the rebuilding - but more than anything the country needed its economy to get back on its feet. And that meant the return of tourism.

But I couldn’t avoid seeing the damage, the families living in tents in Kathmandu, the homes propped up by poles or bits of corrugated tin. And among these damaged home was Buddhi’s.

Let me tell you a bit about him. Some years ago he took me into the mountains. I hufffed and puffed up the slightest incline and he was beside me for every step. He phoned ahead to find me the best rooms in the tea houses. And when I flagged he took my rucksack and carried it. He is funny and kind and he kept me safe.

And he has a hearing problem. He was born with only one ear, and his hearing in that ear is beginning to fade. Life as a guide is becoming impossible. He cannot take a big group (and get the big tips), and has to rely on single trekkers or couples. It is barely enough to keep his family - and certainly not enough to rebuild his broken house. It would cost £1500.00 to replace it.

And so I wrote After the Earthquake and all proceeds went towards a new house for him, and appealed to anyone who had a penny or two spare, and we raised the money. I thank you all. 

But really, we did the easy bit. We didn’t carry bricks up the mountain. We didn’t work in the blazing sun, nor in the monsoon, to build the walls and put on a roof to keep the family dry. We didn’t wield a paintbrush go make this new home look beautiful. Buddhi did all that himself.

I won’t show you a picture of Buddhi’s old house, nor the drawn look on his face when I saw him just after the earthquake. But this is how happy he is now.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

A walk by the lake

Nepal, as you know, is home to the Himalaya. I can gaze at their snow-capped enormity from the rooftop in my apartment in Pokhara. It is also home to tigers, rhinos and leopards, to drongos and vultures and soaring golden eagles.

And it has beautiful lakes and rivers. It is an easy drive from Pokhara to visit Begnas or Rupa lakes, to sit by the still waters with a plate of mo-mos and watch men fishing from low-lying canoes. But, closer to home, Pokhara has a lake of its own - Fewa Lake - and I’ve spent many happy hours wandering beside it. 
I take the dusty path into the park, pause to watch an indeterminate number of young men playing cricket on the football pitch, and then turn to stroll beside the lake. The water is murky - and I know there are problems with weed and falling water levels, but from the path it looks unruffled and peaceful. I reach for my camera ... making sure that the picture doesn’t include the young woman who must wash her hair in this lake. 


I stroll on, with an detour round an army base, to rejoin the lakeside path beside the ghat where pilgrims gather to take boats across to the little temple on an island.    

Buses turn round here; hawkers sit beside white clothes filled with trinkets: necklaces, earrrings. Women sell oranges (it is the orange season here and they are wonderful); a man offered fresh-cut coconut. One man, his limbs grossly distorted, begs beneath a holy tree. There is even a public toilet, 5 rupees for a ‘short stay’ and 10 if you need longer, and a little whiffy, so I’ve not investigated.

I leave the general mayhem behind and wander on north. When I first visited Nepal this was nothing but a narrow path. Now it is paved, with plenty of garden cafes to sit with a lemon soda or mango juice (and maybe cake) and watch the world go by. Local families walk here, stopping to buy juice or nuts or water from the Tibetan women who trade beside the water. 

There is a fish farm - the water in the concrete pools is stagnant and surely unused, but there are nets in the lake and local restaurants offer ‘Fewa Lake’ fish. I shudder to think what else might be in this water. For, looking closely, there are still makeshift shacks here where people live. Women do their laundry in the lake, and drape shirts and trousers and blankets over fences and hedges to dry. What water must they use for washing themselves? And for cooking? I pass a couple of outflows but don’t investigate them.

It is a conundrum. I love this lake, and walk beside it almost  every day. I love its ripples and its green reflections and the crowds heading for the temple. But, although I will not photograph them, I cannot ignore those who eek out an existence on its shores.

But I do love its little boats. Shall I go boating? ... maybe not today.