New Friends: November 22nd

Nanowrimo word count 2385 running total 34,731

At the start of the lockdown in March, my neighbour bought six hens. They were for her eleven-year-old son to give him a new interest. She hoped it would help him cope with the Covid-19 restrictions. He loved them, and they are gorgeous. We told him we didn’t mind them being in our garden. Now, they come to the patio door and peck at the glass! My husband feeds them Aldi Multigrain bread, and they adore him (and the food). When he comes in from his golf game, they run to the car clucking. He loves the attention and says, ‘Is Palo not feeding you?’ They race back to the patio where they know he will appear. Are hens that clever?
We were in Kashmir last year, and the hens awaiting slaughter in the shops were in such a poor state. We didn’t want to walk down the street for fear of seeing another cage with straggly, starving hens waiting to be put out of their misery.
It is an unfair world.


Crime Writing: November 21st

Nanowrimo word count 2144 running total 32346

Crime Writer, Claire Askew led a workshop on Zoom today. There were thirteen participants, and we had useful discussions. I wanted to know if my next novel could be considered crime. It can.

Most readers of the crime genre are women which surprised me. James Patterson is the most prosperous crime writer. I was on his online Masterclass, a few years ago, and there were eighteen hundred of us at £100.00 each. It ran every six months. That’s a lot of money!

He was on the series of programmes about Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier because James was a neighbour of his in Palm Beach, Florida.

My favourite James Patterson book is ‘When the Wind Blows’. It’s about genetically engineered children with wings. I can’t remember any others of his that I’ve read.

Binmen and Radio DJs: November 20th

Nanowrimo word count 2237 30,202

In these times of coronavirus, people have been making strenuous efforts to boost each other’s morale. There are a team of binmen in Wolverhampton playing music and dancing while emptying the bins on their rounds. They have brought out a record called, ‘Boogie Around the Bins at Christmas’. I’m sure they brought a smile to people’s faces this morning. They did mine; some lovely people about.

My writing group, Bearsden Writers, was prepared to meet up with a radio DJ yesterday at an online event. It didn’t work out, but I had prepared a short bio. Here it is.

My first foray into writing was attending an Arvon course near Inverness in 1998. At the time it was a bargain at half price for teachers. 

I was brought up in Glasgow, and that trip was my furthest north. As I drove, the scenery at times seemed out of Lord of the Rings. I could imagine Frodo Baggins walking there. 

I didn’t write anything until 2005 when I enrolled on an Open University course called Writing Family History. After that, I returned to Strathclyde University to work on the idea for my first book. Finding Takri is the story of my grandmother’s life during the struggle for Independence in India and my parents’ migration to Glasgow. 

In 2018, I published my second novel, Alana, which is about a white Scots girl who sails to Turkey and makes a new life there. Moving and re-settling is a recurring theme in my work.

In 2019 I published a collection of shorter works which I’ve completed over ten years called Playing on the Mountain: Ten Years of Writing.

And now, I’ve returned to family history. I’ve been writing down my own memories in chronological order. I’ve managed to post on my blog every day of this month.

Making Yoghurt: November 19th

Nanowrimo word count 739 running total 27865

Home-made Yoghurt.
We should feed the good bacteria in our guts as it helps to keep Covid-19 at bay. Fermented foods like yoghurt are especially good. That was the advice of a specialist on television yesterday. I decided to make my own yoghurt which is not new to me, I learned in the 60s. The recommendation is to eat full-fat yoghurt, but I only have half-fat milk in my fridge so I thought I would use it. This is the method.
1 cup of milk, boiled and cooled until lukewarm.
Add I heaped teaspoon of yoghurt (I have Greek-style natural that I buy every week) and mix thoroughly.
Put in a warm place for about eight hours or overnight. I used a flask, wrapped it in a small throw and put it into a cupboard I don’t open much. The yoghurt was a bit stretchy but delicious.
I was reminded of my aunt, a lovely lady, making yoghurt in my maternal grandmother’s house. She sat on a low stool under the slatted steps that led to the flat roof. She had boiled the three litres of milk and was stirring it to cool it to the right temperature which she gauged with her finger. Once it was at the right temperature, she poured in the starter, mixed it and moved the pot into the corner, covering it for the night with an old blanket—home-made yoghurt for breakfast.
Looking from where my aunt sat, on her left-hand side, the front door was about twelve feet away. On the right side of it was a manger for the cow. I remember my aunt placing a massive piece of rock salt in front of the cow. I had come from the centre of Glasgow. Keeping your cow in your house seemed strange to me. Every day the cow was taken to my uncles’ new property where there was open air and grass under her feet. Every evening the cow was walked back to the house in the village. My aunt was called Slinder Kaur, the full name was a term of courtesy. No-one called her Slinder. To me, she was Mamiji (the younger), the title for your mother’s brother’s wife. She is dead now, but I can see her in my mind stirring the pot of milk to make yoghurt.

Caste 2: November 18th

Nanowrimo word count 911 running total 27,126

Caste 2: My family caste is carpenters and iron-workers. Traditionally, the job was making furniture and working alongside farmers keeping tools and carts fit for purpose.
When a family celebrated a wedding in the village, the brahmin would set an auspicious date, the nai family would help with organising, the jheer would wash the dishes, the cleaner would keep the house clean, new pots and jars would be made by the potter, the marassi would play music. After the ceremony, members of the LGBTQ community would come to dance and give blessings. A role for everyone.
When I was in India, a collection was made from all the houses around the square where we lived. Everyone said we are going to celebrate Lord Shiva’s wedding by inviting a group of singers and storytellers. We slept on rope beds on the flat roof from where we had a good view of the square where the actors performed. The storytelling (it went on for three nights) was in Sanskrit. I only remember the beginning, I always fell asleep before the end of the evening.

Lord Shiva sent the go-between (the nai) to the parents of his bride-to-be to start off the proceedings for the wedding. When the nai arrived at the King’s palace, he was told, ‘We are honoured by Lord Shiva’s message, but we do not have a daughter.’ The nai was puzzled, but he returned to the Lord, who said, ‘Yes, they have a daughter, and she will be my wife. Repeat my request to them.’ This happened a few times until the King called for his son. The prince agreed that he was a woman and had even fooled his/her (their?) parents.
I have always wondered at this story. In these times of gender fluidity, it seems very modern to accept that the King’s son was a woman. Or perhaps, over thousands of years we lost that empathy with difference.