Home from the Himalayas

I have never been so pleased to return home from India. Not a nice admission to have to make after my twelfth trip to the sub-Continent but I’m afraid I broke my own rules about eating meat when I couldn’t see what was going on in the kitchen and came back with the most dreadful bellyache. Also, the fact that the most disappointing part of the trip was the last few days did nothing to decrease our eagerness to get back to the cooler temperatures and cleaner streets of Albion. Overall, I’m sure that the trip was a success but it may have been one of those experiences that are best reflected upon from the comfort of one’s own home. Once the intestinal discomfort has subsided.

However, this latest trip worked out a great deal cheaper than our recent excursions to the North East and that must count for something when I chastise myself for some of the discomforts that I put Grahame through with my less than perfect itinerary. This is the ideal time of year to visit the mountainous states of India’s North West but it does involve having to come back down to the boiling hot plains in between. No wonder the Maharajas indulged themselves with multiple palaces and the British organised their lives around periodic migrations up to picturesque hill stations at the hottest times of the year.

I don’t think we did too badly really when you consider that we had to cope with an unstable political situation as well. During the course of our trip, several natives of Kashmir that we met told us that we would have been perfectly safe in Srinagar provided we stayed away from the villages. All the same, when even our organiser on the ground suggested that it would be wiser not to come, I think we made the right decision to skip that part of the trip. Even in quieter times there are an awful lot of uniforms on the streets of Kashmir and, being pretty well the only Europeans in the whole region, we would certainly have been a highly visible addition to an already volatile mix.

Back in the UK we split up so that Grahame could head back to his overgrown garden in Worcestershire and I could go be re-united with my dog, my fish and my grandchildren in Kent. There was only one day to prepare for the Charles Dickens Festival parade and I’m sorry to have to admit that the gastronomic delights of our Indian trip (notwithstanding my final unpleasant miscalculation with the simmering bacterial contents of the airport cafeteria kitchen) meant that my crinoline was not going to do up around my middle. Oh, the indignity of having to slip discretely into Marks and Spencer underwear department for a bit of firm tummy control!

However, I turned out to be quite correct in the assumption that (provided I didn’t actually burst my fastenings) everyone’s attention would be focused on my beautiful, littlest granddaughter anyway. We had a wonderful time and the photographs were absolutely splendid, especially since we were joined by a party of exquisitely turned out visitors from Germany who obviously took their re-enactment ensembles extremely seriously. My daughter Grace even commented that it was the casually-clad holidaymakers that looked wildly out of place on the seafront promenade that afternoon. Now I am beginning to understand why so many of the senior residents of Broadstairs get dressed up in their Victorian costumes every year: as vain as it might seem to outsiders, it’s a great fun and a very good way of keeping the extra pounds from creeping on.

Having grandchildren can be so much fun I sometimes find my plans and ideas running away with themselves and so to I though it might be a good idea to discuss my designs for a shared Interrail trip to the Continent next year with my eldest granddaughter, Lilah. A few days after the parade, I took the opportunity of a little detour via Wimbledon to Peterborough (burial place of Katherine of Aragon) to have a chat with her. She pronounced herself game for the adventure, provided we take in as many countries of Central Europe as possible and allow for a detour into Romania to visit the family of a school-friend. It sounds as if she’s already getting the idea although, I note with caution, that both she and her cousin Lily have already arranged to spend part of the school holidays in North Norfolk with my sister Miranda. And without me!

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