Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It's worth it! (groan)

My family has a long and happy association with the village of Worth Matravers in Dorset, and its fantastic pub The Square and Compass. Which is why it gave me great pleasure to see that it was the only pub in Dorset to be listed in the Guardian's top 200 pubs nationwide.

Now get down there for a pint of Tanglefoot before everyone else finds out about it.

(Photo courtesy of www.southwestseakayaking.co.uk who obviously rate the area - and the pub - highly.)

Friday, June 12, 2009


I have quit Facebook. I never have time to go to the site, don't really see the point as I email my friends anyway, and quite often can't even access it without crashing my computer.

So why do I feel like I've done something wrong?


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Boom, shake shake shake the room

This morning as we had breakfast what felt like a huge explosion shook our house and vibrated in our chests, leaving us shaken in more ways than one. We looked at each other astonished, and for the first time in my life I realised to some extent just how horrific it must be to experience a true bombardment. Gaza, Afghanistan, Iraq, my God, the Blitz. No wonder my grandmother used to hide in the downstairs loo during thunder storms.

Happily, it turns out it was the army on training exercises nearby and not some undiscovered ordinance accidentally dug up at the building site down the road.



Monday, June 08, 2009

World environment day: a late contribution.

On the evening we spent in the Himlayan Homestay houses the four of us in our house had a long discussion with our hosts and translator/guide from the Snow Leopard Conservancy. Somewhat unexpectedly we found ourselves discussing global environmental problems and climate change. The Ladakhi people in rural areas live on the whole in very small villages, largely dependent on their livestock for wool, dairy products and fuel, plus the small amount of barley and potatoes that they cultivate during the short summer, apples, apricots and a few other goods traditionally traded for but now mostly bought in Leh town. They remain self-sufficient to an impressive level, and an unusual one in this globalised era, which I suppose is an essential survival technique if you live in a place cut off by snow for 6 months of the year.

Or at least it was. Now, in Ulley village at least, the roads open a full 2 months earlier than previously. Good on the one front, as it allows them better access to town and the facilities therein, but bad - very bad in fact - in that it represents a much smaller annual snowfall. The snow is their only source of water; as it melts it irrigates their fields and feeds the grass that feeds their livestock. The glacier above the village, a fail-safe source of water for time immemorial, is visibly shrinking. Our guide, Jigmet, was seriously concerned.

Do I have to spell out why the glacier is melting? Do I have to point out that it has very little to do with the way of life of the people to whom it represents their entire livelihood? Do I have to add that it has everything to do with our lifestyle? Do I have to remind us that there is no emergency exit on this particular spacecraft and that sooner or later this is going to catch up with us when we find we can no longer buy our way out of trouble?

I acknowledge my part in this problem. Our summer holiday involves a trans-continental flight from which our share of carbon emissions are over 6 tonnes. For our trip to Portugal, I have checked out ferries and trains as an alternative to flying: they are so much more expensive that I cannot justify the extra expense. It was the same last summer. Please, I would like an alternative.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Technical incompetence

Hmmm, will I ever work out how to format my text and photos? It looked OK on the preview. Oh well. Here's the one that is covered up by me at the Taj, it's of Thiksey monastery. And as for how the text relates to the rest, I'm sure you can work it out for yourselves.


Land of contrasts

As I believe I have mentioned, I have just spent 10 days in India, my first visit to that most dazzling and description-defying land of contrasts in 12 years. I was lucky enough to have been invited on an exchange visit courtesy of the African Safari Lodge Foundation, a South African organisation working to secure benefits for local communities from tourism. Our hosts were Equations, an Indian research and advocacy group with much the same aims. An interesting two-day workshop in hot and hectic Delhi was followed by a trip up into the high and chilly Himalayas, around Leh town, where the highlight for all of us was a night in a local home, participating in a homestay project facilitated by the Snow Leopard Conservancy Trust. (I'm giving you all these names because I really feel they deserve a plug!)

The SLC have been doing great work to protect the endangered snow leopard - and other rare wildlife - through working with local communities to develop alternative livelihood options like the homestays and ways of protecting their livestock from predator attacks. They have been so successful that livestock losses have been reduced to near zero, and retaliatory attacks on snow leopards have ceased completely. Once-resented predators are now described as the "ornaments of our mountains". And their homestays, with an amazing cultural richness and true warmth and hospitality, put mine to shame!

Rather than waffle on any longer, I'll let the pictures do the talking.

First it was all a bit:

But then off we flew and it was all...

Once we arrived it started looking like this:

We visited some beautiful and spiritual places...

...and met some interesting people.

But there was still time for some sight-seeing at the end.

And last but not least, if you are ever in Delhi, I highly recommend the absolutely awesome Cocoberry frozen yoghurt place in Defence Colony market. Without a doubt the best way to beat the heat! (Headline during our stay: "Summer Cool: storm drops Delhi temperatures to 39C".)

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