Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Today is both my eldest son's and my youngest son's birthday. There is a twenty-five year difference in age. I love them totally and they both speak to me so I am an exceptionally fortunate dad.
I am also a fortunate writer. The Times travel editor asked for a piece on why and how I travel. The piece will be in The Times for November 21.


The Resident ex-Teenager has three friends staying. They were out in Worcester last night. Nearly noon and they should surface soon - meanwhile I have the radio turned low.
Jed asked whether I would mind collecting them from the car park at 3.45 am.
The piece I have in the latest Lonely Planet anthology, BEST OF LONELY PLANET TRAVEL WRITING, ends on this exact topic - that it is an honour to be asked, part and parcel of the joy in being a Dad.
As was telephoning my daughter on her wedding anniversary the day before yesterday. I am a very very very lucky and privileged old man.

Monday, November 09, 2009


My writing of William Dalrymple's books may lead readers to question my preparations for India. Why do I read a Brit - a Catholic Brit educated at a Benedictine boarding school. I attended the same school and recognised in Dalrymple's writing a similar views of history - though mine were of Hispanic America.
And my recent reading has been broader. Pavan K. Varma strikes me as a Must while Mark Tully's years as the BBC's India expert has led, for me, to irritating presumption of all knowing infallibility.


I wrote a piece a while back for a Lonely Planet anthology, FLIGHTLESS.
Now Lonely Planet has included the piece in a new anthology, BEST OF LONELY PLANET TRAVEL WRITING.
I am in there with some of those I believe truly great. One is William Dalrymple. In preparation for my journey through India, I have read, enjoyed and learned from four of Dalrymple's books:

FROM THE HOLY MOUNTAIN is equally brilliant,


Tomorrow is Jed's twentieth birthday. Goodbye to the Resident Teenager - though Jed has always been mature for his age. He gave a party Friday night. Bernadette and I stayed the night at my brother's. We came home yesterday afternoon. The house was immaculate.


Sending a new m/s or article to an editor is similar to presenting an exam paper for marking. Believeing or feeling this makes me a septuagenarian schoolboy and both Bernadette and the Resident teenager are irritated by my lack of confidence. I argue that I am gaining confidence - ok, so a little late in life. Writing articles for the first time in fifty years helps. Send the m/s of a book to your agent and you wait months. Send a piece to a broadsheet editor and you get an immediate response. Bliss...


Seventy-six and off to rediscover India, fantastic (even if I am nervous).
So why are the recent posts depressing?
Mostly because the past months has been waiting for answers to Emails and waiting for telephone calls. Having no control over one's life makes one (me) feel helpless, powerless. Which is depressing!
Are writers manic depressives by nature or does being a writer lead to manic depression?
Only fellow writers should reply.


I haven't described last month's car crash. I had been feeling dopey for two days and was booked to drive a neighbour's granddaughter to the train station in Cheltenham and collect our resident teenager. Dopey as in falling backward into the bath and not making too much sense - only in the mornings, Afternoons I was fine. Nights I wasn't sleeping. To continue the saga: having collected the granddaughter and luggage, I reversed the car into the neighbour's wood-frame house. The car was OK. The front of the house has had to be rebuilt - so much for wood-frame construction!
The resident teenager claimed I drove through two red lights on the way home.
Bernadette put me to bed.
It was only then that we discovered that the pharmacist at the clinic had accidentally added a very strong sleeping pill to my monthly sack of cardiac medication. The sleeping pills were the same size as a blood pressure pill I take in the mornings!


The Indian journey is fact. I fly out from Heathrow to Delhi on December 7.
How do I feel?
Yes, and a little scared.
Am I recovered from the accident in Tierra del Fuego - not the physical damage but the fear of getting run down.
Will Indian traffic be totally terrifying?


Weird...I sought commisions from various editors before traveling the Americas. None of them gave me the time of day, I presume, because the odds were against a septuagenarian surviving such a ride. I'm a couple of years older now. The odds are worse. Yet I turned down an offer from the Guardian and have been signed for both High Life and MCN. MCN want a fortnightly video plus a couple of articles...


I will be covering my journey through India in the British Airways in-flight magazine, High Life. and writing a monthly diary for the High Life web site.


The Victoria and Albert museum in London is hosting an exhibition of the Maharajas' treasures. The Taj Hotel Group are co sponsors of the exhibition and kindly invited me to a reception at the museum. I have been reading history for the past months. The history cast a thick veil over the exhibits, often of blood, and made the exhibits difficult to see simply as works of art.


I was greeted with enthusiasm in my first approach to ROYAL ENFIELD. The use of a bike for my tour of India seemed assured. I warned Enfield in my Presentation that I wouldn't lie. Now I am back to Honda. Why? Perhaps there is a question of reliability? And, to be truthful, I was unhappy at changing steeds. My Brazilian built Honda 125 carried me 40,000 miles through the Americas without mechanical failure or problem. We reached an altitude of 4,700 meters, not fast, but without a splutter. I expect the same reliability from an Indian built Honda. All that I would change is the seat...


Where have I been? Malvern Spa most days attempting to get fit for India. Also traipsing to London, visiting and having family visit. And wondering whether the India trip is fantasy or reality...and wondering whether I can cope if it does happen. And feeling fat and ugly and old old old...