Shopping Locally

Chennai is a bustling, modern city in many ways, with many well dressed locals walking with cellphones attached to their ears like any other urban scene. But there are also many locals who cannot hope to afford the western lifestyle and for whom the local stalls and stores are an essential part of life. It is quite odd to see bill boards advertising a new shopping mall that will contain GAP, and other corporate retail outlets alongside the more modest stores, many of them on carts or in the front of people’s houses. These stores have been giving service to the locals for generations and forming an essential part of the community – something that is lost by the corporate giants with their never-ending quest for growth.



Waiting for a bus, paradoxically

As I was being driven back my hotel through the crowded streets of Chennai in the evening rush hour, I couldn’t help but think of the paradoxes that seem to surround India. People wait for crowded, dented buses on tired, broken streets to enter the erratic, noisy traffic whilst many others (locals and foreigners)  can indulge in opulent gestures.

‘Twas ever thus.

This composite image captures some of my thoughts from today’s journey.



On the Pale Ale Route

India Pale Ale, or IPA, is a strongly hopped beer developed in the late 18th century specifically for the East India Company by Allsop brewery from the existing pale ales. The extra hoppiness made it particularly suitable for the long sea voyage to India and it was quickly followed by many other brewers and found f(l)avor with the expats stationed in the subcontinent.  Charrington’s first shipment of their India Ale to Madras (modern day Chennai) in 1827 was so successful that a regular trade was soon established.

The original term pale ale comes from the lighter colored beer that was produced by warm fermentation of pale malts that had been predominantly dried coke. Apparently the world’s first pale ale was produced by Bass, which was the best selling beer in the UK and exported throughout the Empire with its distinctive red triangle branding (and Britain’s first trademark!).

How ironic (or simply coincidental) then that the only British beer available to me in the BA lounge on my trip to Chennai tonight is Bass Pale Ale!


Of course my journey, though starting 3000+ miles further west, will be completed in under 24 hours, something those 18th century British merchant sailors would have thought as impossible as they crossed the treacherous ocean to deliver their happy hoppy cargo.


But is it an Agrarian Vacation Schedule?

As we near the end of the school year I was prompted, whilst listening to NPR on the way to work, to compose a rant about the American obsession with not letting go of the old agrarian school calendar and the ludicrously lengthy summer vacation.

As someone who comes from a different educational culture I have always found the extended break to be problematic. In the UK we are used to having a schedule of six-weeks at school followed by a week or two off school, with a longer 5-6 week break covering the end of July through to early September.  This allows kids to “let off steam” throughout the year.

In the US system I have struggled with my children having to continue through the school year with very few breaks* so that they can all be stacked up in the summer. This relentless routine doesn’t seem to allow them any respite time during the year and the summer is a lengthy period which, I am convinced, serves as an opportunity to forget what has been learned.

However, in researching what I considered to be an obsession with a throwback to an agrarian lifestyle, I found that my preconceptions and acceptance of this generally held belief are incorrect. It is oft quoted that we have the whole summer off because of the historical need for children to help on the farms during the times of harvest, however this is apparently not the case. For example, logically the busiest times of the year are the Spring (for crop planting) and the Fall (for harvesting) so letting students out of school during the height of growing season doesn’t really make a lot of sense from a labor-source perspective.  In fact, at one point older rural American school systems used to take the students from school during these times and send them back to school during the summer! It is a touch ironic that one reason quoted for the long summer vacation is actually due to increasing American urbanization during the late 19th century and early 20th century rather than the rural lifestyle –  the direct opposite of our well-held belief!

Hot summers and lack of air-conditioning made the new cities uncomfortable to remain in and therefore the more prosperous wanted to retreat to the coast or country to escape this situation. Similarly, the urban schools were just too hot for the students to concentrate on their lessons.

There does seem to be more discourse on this subject recently, although a search on the web indicates it has certainly been discussed for decades and, like anything that impacts our “tradition” there will always be staunch supporters to counter any thoughts of reform.

All this being said of course, I still think that US school year needs to be altered so that the students get more, shorter breaks that allow them to recoup their energy and mental faculties. But then, my children are going to be out of the school system in the blink of an eye, so I guess I’ll just grit my teeth for a few more years…


* Our Spring Break is now just 3 days in our school district and Christmas break starts on Dec 23rd

I am Iron Man

~ I am Iron Man ~


On the Seventh Day

I descend to my subterranean sanctuary

And, encircled by mysterious machinery

In my windowless room

I become Iron Man

Starting with the yoke

I smooth out the material.

I check the front and back for marks

And move onto the arms

That will encase my torso.

As I press ahead

Ensuring my garb is in top condition

I try not to think of the week ahead

Finally, my  task is over

And I place the five shirts onto hangers for my closet


The Perils of Free Ranging

Today we fell ‘victim’ to the circle of nature in our quiet little semi-rural home. We have three chickens that we let range freely during the day over the property in exchange for their delivery of their daily egg, and three more youngsters who should soon be ready to join the growing flock.

As mentioned in a previous post, we also have a local fox, with which we have already had one close call. So, we have been very careful of late in only letting “the girls” out when we’re in and around the garden.

Then today happened.

It was a dark, wet day and I naively thought that there wouldn’t be a problem with the usual routine. I was wrong and the seemingly inevitable happened, with one of the hens being taken by her nemesis. We spent a good hour hunting around the yard and adjoining properties, but all we could find were a few clumps of feathers. We are all pretty upset about it, unlike her two “sister” hens who now seem to just be annoyed that we’re keeping them in their (large) pen.

Ain’t nature strange…?

The Gift


What’s your magic twitter number?

I am not a big twitter user, but I do use this platform to post once a day on average in order to maintain a light presence there. Although I had an account for years I only really started using it relatively recently as a promotion tool for my photography/art website but I do also post other things that pique my interest.

Twitter_logo_blueAt least that’s how it started. These days my postings are really only back to this blog rather than to my website, so I know I am doing it all wrong from a marketing perspective but, to be honest, it’s probably saying more about
me and how I have developed “on the web” over the last few years. All that being said, for the last 5 months or so I have been keeping an eye on the number of followers that I have accrued, and there’s a pattern. I seem to hover around the same number, only once going above it to my recollection. I drop by up to a dozen followers over the week and then pick up again in a sort of “revolving door” of community.

When I started on this tweeting malarkey I, like many others I suspect, used to follow and unfollow rigorously in a sort of “tit-for-tat” fashion and I suspect that may be what is happening to me – someone follows me and I don’t follow back so they drop me. I do try to follow people back but I have become more discerning these days as I only really want to see tweets that are likely to interest me.

So, I can reveal that my magic twitter number seems to be 1190.


Does anyone else experience the same phenomenon, and if so would you like to share your magic number?


The Empire State Building

At 1454 feet (443m) tall, the Empire State Building (ESB) is a very impressive art deco skyscraper that was the tallest building in New York City from 1931 until 1970 and then again from September 2001 until April 2012. Globally, it is as iconic as the Statue of Liberty, Big Ben and The Eiffel Tower in being able to instantly identify with a country and city.

There have probably been millions of photographs taken of the ESB in just the last few years so I was pleased to be able to get an unusual angle with the cross atop The Guardian Angel Church juxtaposed against this behemoth of a building.

Philosophically deep and meaningful? Maybe, you tell me!  Interesting composition? I like to think so 😉



The Other Art of(f) the High Line

As intimated in my earlier postings yesterday and Monday the New York High Line features several worthy art installations along its 1.4 mile length. However, there are also other artistic perspectives to be seen in the local environment too. In addition to the “Young Veezy” art I showed yesterday  particularly liked a few other other graffiti works that are easily seen on the walk.



This is definitely going to become a place I try to visit more, and in different seasons too.


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