Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A foggy day in North Norfolk

We decided to have a day out on the North Norfolk coast - unfortunately the day we chose turned out to be less than ideal as it was cold and foggy.  As we had been on holiday to Cromer as children, we decided we'd take mum back there to see if she could remember any of it.  On the way there we stopped at the run of Baconsthorpe Castle.


The weather had improved slightly by the time we got to Cromer.  We had a short walk down the pier and then went for fish and chips.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

On the trail of Duleep Singh

The search for the story behind the Koh-i-Noor diamond continues. One afternoon we went in search of more facts from local history about Duleep Singh, the last Maharajah of the Punjab. We started at Elveden church, where Duleep Singh is buried.

Basically the story is that the British forced Duleep Singh to resign his throne and exiled him to England.  The Koh-i-Noor diamond was "passed" to Queen Victoria and ended up in the Crown Jewels.  Duleep Singh settled at Elveden Hall (up the road from mum's).

Duleep Singh wanted to be buried in India, but the British refused to honour his request and brought his body back to Elveden where he is buried in a Christian graveyard, despite the fact that he had re-embraced the Sikh religion. Duleep Singh is buried next to his wife, the Maharani Bamba, and his son.

There's a statue of Duleep Singh on Butten Island, Thetford, so we went there next. Duleep Singh wanted to return to the Punjab but was not allowed as the British feared it would cause unrest.  He tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade the Czar of Russia to invade India from the north and reinstate him as the ruler of the Punjab. Until his death, he struggled to reclaim his throne.

"To this day the Sikh nation aspires to regain its sovereignty."

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Ice-skating at Hampton Court

A bit of a foggy day at Hampton Court Palace, but a wonderful backdrop for ice skating.

This year for our Christmas holidays we flew overnight to London from Mumbai, arriving on the Saturday morning early.  We picked up our hired car and drove to Rachel's where we were joined by Joal and Jenny.  Our plan was to go ice-skating for the afternoon.  Hampton Court is not far from where Rachel lives, and they were all keen to go there.  I didn't actually go on the ice myself, however I went and investigated the story of Sophia Duleep Singh, who was the daughter of Duleep Singh (of the Koh-i-noor diamond fame). 

Duleep Singh's daughter, Sophia, was a suffragette and a revolutionary. She lived in a grace and favour apartment outside the gates of Hampton Court Palace (unfortunately it's not open to the public - I checked when I was there . There has recently been a new book published about her life. My research into this amazing family continues.  My aim is to go back to Hampton Court with Rachel in the summer when we have time to explore it fully.  However this was a good activity to do on a winter's day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A BIG Indian Wedding

One of my colleagues got married this month. The wedding was absolutely huge! Almost an entire Rajasthani palace was built (for just one night!) and it seemed as if thousands of people were invited and attended. Even my Indian friends said this was the largest wedding they had ever been to. The wedding took place over 3 days and I attended 2 of them, but all these photos are from the second day.

We started at school, and then were bussed a short distance to the grounds. We sat around in a sort of "holding area" for a while until the bridegroom was ready to leave. The idea is that the bridegroom's party go along with him to meet the bride - there is a lot of noise (drums and music) and dancing on the way and the bridegroom traditionally goes on a white horse or in a horse-drawn carriage.

Here comes the bridegroom!

As there was quite a lot of waiting around in the "holding area", a couple of us decided to walk straight to the wedding grounds when the bridegroom set off.  These grounds and the constructions in them were absolutely magical.  

Walking up to the entrance of the wedding venue

Walking to the wedding grounds.

Inside the grounds itself it was also amazing - for example at one end there was an entire orchestra on a stage.  All around the edge were food stalls serving very delicious Indian food.  

A red wedding with millions of rose petals everywhere.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Autumn in the Himalayas - Shimla

We had a 4-day long weekend for Thanksgiving in November and Lex and I decided to go to Shimla for this.  Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh, in the Himalayan foothills.  Apparently at one point it was part of Nepal, and later it was also the summer capital of British India.  We took the whole day to drive up there, arriving around late afternoon.  We settled into our room, watched the sun set behind the mountains and then set out to explore the town.

The view from our hotel room

Shimla is home to a number of buildings that are styled in the Tudorbethan and neo-Gothic architectures dating from the colonial era, as well as multiple temples and churches. The colonial architecture and churches, the temples and the natural beauty of the city attract a large number of tourists. The major attractions include the Viceroy Lodge, the Christ Church, the Jakhoo Temple, the Mall Road and the Ridge.

Christ Church as seen from The Mall
The following day we decided to go to the Viceregal Lodge.  On the way we stopped at the Kali Bari Mandir.  There were great views from here and the walk was lovely along Mall Road and The Ridge.

The walk to the Viceregal Lodge took several hours.  We then stopped for lunch before going on a tour.  This beautiful building was the official summer residence of the British viceroys from 1888 until Independence after the Second World War.  The entire Indian subcontinent was ruled from here for just over half of every year (usually early April to late October).


Today the lodge houses a postdoctoral humanities research centre (now called the Indian Institute for Advanced Studies), but you can visit parts of it on a tour. The entrance hall is beautiful and lined in Burmese teak, though it wasn't possible to take any photos inside.


It's incredible to think that the British ruled 1/5th of the world's population from this summer residence for over 100 years!

The following day we walked around Shimla.  We visited the Christ Church and looked out at the views from Mall Road and The Ridge.  In the afternoon we took a taxi up the hill to the Hanuman Temple on Jakhoo Peak.  The photo below was taken from The Mall looking up to Christ Church on The Ridge.

View from Mall Road


The highest point of the city is Jakhoo Hill. At the top of the flat hill is the colourful Jakhoo Temple and the Hanuman statue. On the walk up to the temple you have to watch out for monkeys that are waiting to rob tourists of food and shiny objects!  One ran off with my sunglasses - luckily the locals helped and I got them back.  It is very appropriate that Jakhoo Temple is dedicated to Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, as the monkeys rule Jakhoo hill. From the summit there are great views to the north over the Shivalik mountain range of the Himalayan foothills and west over Shimla.

The Temple itself is colourfully painted.  On the outer wall of the temple is a lucky religious bell, if a visitor to the temple rings the bell the ringer will have good luck for the following 3 days. The statue of Lord Hanuman is next to the temple. The Hanuman statue has been painted a vivid orange colour and when viewed from Shimla this large statue can be seen towering above the natural greens of the pine tree canopy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Gorgeous Goa

We had a long weekend off for Diwali, and it seemed like the perfect time to go back to Goa - to the same place I've been twice before on Palolem beach.  Almost the whole 4 days was spent on the beach - breakfast, lunch, sundowners and dinner.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Noble Silence

Today I went on the Health and Wellness retreat where we observed a day of Noble Silence.  We did some lying down meditation, breathing exercises, some walking in nature, yoga, sitting meditation and individual meditation.  Noble Silence comes from Buddhist teachings - it is simply keeping silent for a specific period of time - in our case the day.  It's a rest for all the senses and really needs to be done totally away from technology such as phones, TV, radio and so on.  It's all about turning off the thoughts in your head and experiencing the inner calm and peace of a quiet mind.  Out in the park today we could just listen to the sounds around us, open our eyes to nature and open our hearts.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Coaching and catching up with friends - Hong Kong

Right after getting back from Denver, and with just one day in school, I set off for Hong Kong for more Cognitive Coaching.  As I arrived in the morning, I was able to spend some time on the first day looking around a part of Hong Kong that I'd not been to before.  I decided to visit the Nan Lian Gardens and the Chi Lin Nunnery.

Pavilion of Absolute Perfection and the Zi-Wu Bridge

Song Cha Xie on the Blue Pond

Across the road from the gardens was the Chi Lin Nunnery - a beautiful and tranquil place with many statues of Buddha.

One night after the coaching was over I decided to take a ride up to Victoria Peak.  It was easy to get there on public transport with amazing views both on the way up and from the top.  I then took the bus down and took the Star Ferry across to Kowloon.  What a great experience to see the sound and light show from the water.

On my last day in Hong Kong I went down to Stanley to visit Priyanka - what a lovely time this was and how special to see her new life here in Hong Kong.  I will have many happy memories of this trip for a long time to come!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Coaching and catching up with friends - Denver

For the September break I went to Denver to the Presenter's Forum - this is one more step towards becoming a Cognitive Coaching Trainer.  It was also really nice to catch up with Emily, who I worked with in Switzerland.

I was busy most of the time in a fairly out of town part of Denver (and I was also horribly jet-lagged for much of it), but one evening I did take a drive out of Lookout Mountain, near Golden, on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, where Buffalo Bill is buried.

Buffalo Bill was one of the most colourful figures of the American West.  He performed in shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Amritsar in August: Morning chanting at the Durgiana Temple

This 16th century Hindu temple in Amritsar has been rebuilt in the style of the Golden Temple. It's much more peaceful and serene than the Golden Temple, especially early in the morning when I visited.

The Durgiana Mandir is dedicated to Goddess Durga, one of the many Hindu Goddesses. Bhajans (devotional songs) are sung here just after the temple opens and just before it closes.

The main temple is comprised of the Durga mandir that is set amidst a tank of holy water. Around the tank there is a walking path called the ‘parikrama’. This temple is also famous for smaller temples of Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu, Hanuman and Goddess Sita.