Travels with the Beard – Nepal and Beyond

Our travels, chickens and surviving life

A Welcome Return to Kathmandu

We forget, don’t we?
The brain has a crafty mechanism designed to obliterate those most difficult or uninspiring memories – memories that you don’t want to revisit, whether you know it or not.
Things you swore you’d never do again; situations you prayed you’d never have to face again.
So, here we are again, back in Kathmandu!
The trip was, well, tiring. I swear I will never do it again. If only there was an easier way to get here from the UK. But if there was, maybe Nepal wouldn’t hold the attraction that it does, and wouldn’t reach out and drag us back here again and again.
We saw within 5 minutes of settling into the micro bus outside the airport, and setting off towards Thamel, that things in Kathmandu had changed during our 2 year absence. Not for the better.
The roads were in a worse state of repair than 2 years ago, and God knows they’d been bad enough then. We crashed, bumped and crawled along, avoiding the moving mass of humanity that thronged the route, and peering through the clouds of grimy dust at the all too many shades of humanity that sat or lay at the side of the roads.
Sad eyed women with tiny babies wrapped in filthy cloths; elderly men seeming abandoned, and staring into space; unwashed children chasing each other through piles of rubble and old bricks that seemed to be scattered everywhere.
Somehow, there seemed to be more people, more rubble, more decay than we remembered.
We arrived at the hotel in somber mood.
But we cheered up when the staff recognised us and made a fuss! Well, they made a fuss of Tod and his beard. We laughed.
We spent our first full day wandering round, renewing our aquaintance with various shopkeepers & drinking Nepali tea as if it was going out of fashion.
The worsening economic situation in Kathmandu has forced several of them to relocate over the last 2 years to smaller, cheaper premises off the tourist track. They bemoaned their fate, and the fate of their country.
It seems that the Nepali parliament is still in uproar, making any semblance of governing the nation unrealistic.
And, what do you know, there is a general strike today and tomorrow.
4 years and 2 years ago we sat through several general strikes, unable to travel, unable to do anything at all – all shops and offices were closed.
One shopkeeper who had the temerity to open up was rewarded by having his shop burned down.
This time however, maybe 25% of shops in the tourist area are open for business, in defiance of the strike. They have had enough.
But there is little electricity in Kathmandu – certainly not during the day. 2 years ago the noise of generators struggling to provide light to the shops and offices was a constant background roar. But now they are all but silent, having fallen victim to the worsening financial situation. Petrol comes in from India, and it is expensive.
Now here’s an odd thing:
Nepal is usually 5 hours ahead of the UK. I say ‘usually’ because believe it or not, some fiendish quirk of fate has provided Nepal with an extra 15 minutes. Yes. I kid you not. It is now 5 hours and 15 minutes ahead of the UK. What on earth has happened? Where have they nicked it from? Has Nepal somehow moved through space faster than us? Have we in the West stumbled and lost a quarter of an hour somewhere? Is our 15 minutes floating around in the ether, discarded and lost?
Will an astronomer spot it one day heading in our direction?
Or is there someone amongst us who should have been famous?

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We Love Chickens!

“Hey, look Tod! The Girls are out! Yippee!” I yelled, and we both pressed our noses against the bedroom window and stared down at the garden below.

One by one, beak to tail, our beautiful chickens were making their dignified way out onto the lawn, where they spread out and began to graze the winter grass in a perfectly straight  line, two chicken sized spaces between each one.  We giggled. They looked like the chicken police in the middle of a beak tip search.

But seriously, it was just great to see them back. They had spent the last two months unwilling to leave the large greenhouse that serves as their bedroom and their shelter from inclement weather. Mother Nature seems to have mislaid the tap that switches off the rain in this part of the world, so we have been unmercilessly drenched for weeks on end. Try as we might, we hadn’t been able to coax the Girls outside, even during the occasional gap in the bad weather.

They remained in the greenhouse week after week, sitting dejectedly on their bales of straw, beaks against the panes of glass, staring outside at the rain hammering down on the house and garden. Our normally lively, inquisitive, nay downright nosey Girls had become chicken zombies. I was frantic, “What’s wrong with them?” I squeaked half a dozen times a day, “They must be so bored!”

So I had another look at my list of   ‘ The 100 Best Chicken Treats’  and  ‘Fun & Games for Chickens’ , and we went over to the mill and bought another bale of straw, some yummy organic chicken pellets, and a hanging seed thing that you’re supposed to peck at. Tod said they wouldn’t like it, but I ignored him. Well, you can’t exactly provide them with the latest chick flic, or a pile of  ‘Fashionable Chicken about Town’  magazines, can you? or even a DVD of the ‘Chickendales’…. huuum.

I had the idea that tempting them with a series of chicken- favorite treats might perk them up & instill some life into them, and actually it did. Well, for a short time anyway.

But of course what they really wanted was an end to the rain so they could rampage round on Tod’s newly laid lawn, and dig in his neat borders – that’s fun! You never know what you may find there. Worms top the list of goodies.

Our Girls are certainly not wimps, but they don’t like getting their feathers wet. The longer they spend out in the rain, the smaller they become as their feathers start to weigh them down. Have you ever tried drying a chicken with a towel? Don’t.

So when finally the deluge stopped, out they came in a pecking order row, onto the lawn. How good to see them back.

So remember, my fellow chicken loving bloggites, pray for dry weather and an updated list of the  ‘100 Favourite Chicken Treats’.



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So, am I eccentric?

I’d never given it a moment’s thought.  The word  ‘eccentric’  had hardly ever crossed my horizon, and I’d certainly never imagined that it could apply to me.  But there you are;  we don’t usually see ourselves as others see us, and therein, my fellow bloggites, lies the whole point.

So when my friend Carolyn suggested that I write a blog, I said, “Why? Why on earth would anyone be interested in the ramblings of my life?” and I shook my head. Now that’s something I’ve caught myself doing recently; and I suppose it’s another of these ‘age’ things that float around in the ether, waiting until you reach a certain number of years on this planet and then they zero in and stick to you.  It’s on my list of things to stop myself doing, along with the small grunt when I bend down to pick something up; and saying “phone” whenever the phone rings.  Personally I blame Pavlov.

It wasn’t until I’d filled my mouth again with an over generous helping of heavenly ice cream, the sort you get at a certain pizza restaurant, that I noticed Carolyn was staring hard at me across the table. I smiled and dribbled. That’s another thing on my list, “People may well enjoy your blog because of your…. well, your….lifestyle,” she said.

“Huhh?” I said. Now Carolyn and I have eaten together at this restaurant many times over the years and she is well aware of my, shall we say penchant for their ice cream. She is also well aware that if she wants answers to any questions, or indeed any intelligible conversation after I have begun shovelling in the ice cream, she must work fast. Her time is limited. That is because this heavenly dessert has the ability to remove the faculty of speech from me, and freeze my facial muscles into a series of grotesque twitches,

“Well, you are eccentric,” she said sweetly.

“Shllowh?” I said, “Hosshhway?” and we both knew that the window of opportunity had closed, at least until I defrosted again.

“Look,” she said, “there’s your writing; the chickens; your trips to Nepal; the ‘spooky’ work you do; and then there’s Tod. He’s eccentric too, isn’t he?”

“Whooshy? Shubbell?” I said,

“Well, his beard isn’t exactly an everyday occurrence, and that hat is great, but maybe a bit unusual….” Carolyn said.

“Hummbloo!” I said.

Back home and waiting for the return of speech, I thought about the only memorable occasion I had heard anyone referred to as ‘eccentric’.  I was in the green room at the James Whale TV show (ha!) and Sir Patrick Moore was waiting to go on. He was wearing a dark green jacket and as he stood up he turned to me and asked me very politely if I would mind smoothing it down at the back.  I did so, and wished him luck for his interview. As he left the green room someone with a loud voice said, “Now he’s a true eccentric.” I have never forgotten that.

So we come back to the original question, am I eccentric? Is Tod eccentric? Having given it some thought I feel that eccentricity must be in the eye of the beholder. It’s how others see us. And as we left the restaurant that day Carolyn reached out and removed a piece of straw from the back of my pullover, “I know,” she said, “chickens!” and I swear she shook her head. I must have a word with her about that.

(Please have a look at the ‘About’ button, which may shed some more light on our way of life.)

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