This afternoon, two of the Clavering’ old faithful’s’, Barton and Judith William-Powlett came round to tea.. Judith came bearing her beautiful Christmas cake which she has made for me for at least the last 25 years, knowing my penchant for a good moist fruit cake – she is a great cook and her cakes are the best. We shall miss the WP’s at Christmas as, being located near the church, we traditionally dropped in for a glass of champagne after the morning service Â before returning home Â Christmas lunch (or is it Christmas Dinner on this particular day?).
Judith and Barton had just returned from India and regaled us with stories about their two weeks there ending up in Kerala, on the south-western coast. Cochin, Kerala was the location of my triumphal first game of team cricket at the ripe old age of 70 in October 2003. (See Anecdotes- The Cricket Match). It really is an extraordinary part of India quite different from the rest of it. A sort of Eastern Norfolk Broads. Like me the WP’s spent one night on one of the straw boats, that ply the waters there, having selected a menu, taken food with them and their own chef. A must if you go to that part of the world.
My first experience of India was in 1959. I had travelled back from Australia to Columbo – to what was then Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) -j first-class on the P & O Oriana (or was it the Canberra?). Those were the days when they had two (or was even three? ) Classes of passenger, First, Second and Steerage – Shades of the Titanic. It was a great way to travel and very luxurious. I seem to recall we dressed (black tie) for dinner every evening.
You imagine my shock, on the first night on shore, having met a very distinguished academic who was also alighting at Columbo who offered me a bed for the night, when I found myself sleeping in the YMCA, behind a curtain on a camp bed with grey greasy sheets and no air conditioning. What a tremendous contrast to the luxury I had enjoyed over the previous three weeks.
My reason for disembarking in Ceylon was that I intended to travel through India to Baghdad where I had been offered a partnership. This despite it not being the most auspicious time to go to Iraq as the dictator Kassem had only recently murdered the Royal family. But then the story of this Indian trip and my time in Baghdad is already well documented in my autobiographical notes and this is not the right place to reproducible it all.
Other than perhaps to say that when I arrived in Baghdad I was immediately incarcerated, with a number of other tourists, as there had been a typhoid epidemic in India and we had to be quarantined for three weeks.