Saturday, 28 July 2012


Chris was just back from Tokyo and I just back from Delhi, bleary eyed we rose early and met up with Skipper Tom for a couple of days aboard his boat, the good ship Ragdoll; a 47 year old, 28-foot masterpiece of yacht building is widely acknowledged to be the prettiest boat on the Solent.

Noon on Thursday we were just about off the mooring out of Emsworth (Chichester Harbour). Even with two reefs in the sails we seemed to skim across the Solent towards Isle of Wight. A couple of rain showers and a good wind and we put Bembridge by late afternoon and enjoyed a later lunch.

Bembridge and St Helens on the northeast tip of the island are very pretty.  Skipper Tom route-marched us up and cross the to far tip of Bembridge to the Crab and Lobster for a pint and some delicious crab. A local cab with chatty driver ensured a quicker journey back to the boat and supper.

A pale blue purple sunrise with broadened out into deepest heat-promising blue. Skipper Tom, in another parade of local knowledge proposed a walk along the beach at St Helens, as we could not leave until 10’ish due to tide.  We enjoyed excellent coffee at the Baywatch on the Beach Café.

Out of Bembridge and moving west with the tide, past posh Cowes with its permanent spectacle of massively expensive boats. We turned on the smelly and motored most of the way to Newtown Creek. The weather then set fair which within a few days was to become the heat wave.

Newtown used to be the most important place in the Isle of White. In 1584, Queen Elizabeth gave parliamentary representation to the borough, perhaps in an attempt to revitalise it. In this she did not succeed, but nevertheless Newtown continued to elect two members of parliament during the next 250 years.

To be continued.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


One week since our return; why should the memories of the days in India not be still so potent:

Monday evening July 16 and late into Delhi on the train. Nothing could have prepared us for the people on the platform. Six trains, from across India each carrying about 1000 people arrive at the same time! The ‘press’! Our driver was right outside our carriage and led us through the throng! Up the stairs and we were pushed and shoved and we reciprocated, to just get to the top of the stairs. Relief, we were back, 30 minutes later, at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi!

Tuesday, the last day, and chilling by the pool. I caught up with Taran in a coffee shop in Khan Market just down the road!

India? Oh India.
The grand Mughal monuments of Delhi and green streets and impossibly large crowds on each railway platform.
The romance of Jaipur, its fort high on hilltops, music and dancing and dress – THE land of Princes.
Green coastal Goa, with tall palm trees, Portuguese heritage and seas crashing on the beach.
And before Delhi there was Agra: this earlier seat of Mughal power; with its most precious flower -  the Taj Mahal.

Taj Hotels
We will leave this world-class hotel group, just for now. The evening before we depart, it sit in the lobby, make one final drawing in the lobby -  dedicated to Lakshay Nirula, Manager of the Concierge team.

Farewell - विदाई  vidaai

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


Nothing can prepare you for the vision of the Taj Mahal when you walk through the arch of the northern gate.  It shimmers like an apparition and appears to be floating over the ground. This vision has a profound effect; truly it is a Wonder of the World.

We had risen well before sun rise and with our guide, Imran, toured the lovely marble mausoleum with its precisions inlays of Jasper, Jade, Coral, Lapis Lazuli, Cornelian, Malachite, Mother of Pearl and Onyx.

Twenty two years in the making by 20,000 people and architects for Persia and Turkey it was truly a super-human achievement which resulting in a piece of ethereal architecture which is a fresh today as the day it was build.

It was the idea of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, in memory of his third wife Mumtaz. The Taj is a perfectly and integrated complex of structures. He work began around 1632 and the Taj was completed around 1653 to house the tomb of Mumtaz.


High in a marble tower, in Agra Fort, with the finest view of the Taj, Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son.The building of the Taj had all but bankrupted the State! 

Agra Fort  is a dichotomy: Its exterior is a classic Mughal red sandstone stronghold, walls a high to crick your neck! Its interior parts are delicate marble rooms, passageways as courtyards. It has been here since the 11th century. Mughal fort in the 16th century and then taken by the British in 1857 until 1947.   

We walked around the fort and I made some detailed drawings and comparisons with my last visit in 2007 and discovered that some of the earlier parts of fort, albeit in red sandstone are quick delicate in their decoration

After four hours of sightseeing before 10 am it was time for breakfast, we were as hungry as hunters. 

Monday, 16 July 2012


Sunday: We only stayed on night at the wonderful Taj Mahal Delhi and we rose very early to get the 07:10 train to Agra, which is 124 miles south of Delhi.

We deftly made our way to Coach C2 of the Taj Express and entered the icy air conditioning.  It was a jolly carriage and one family settled an impressive five people on just two seats. Once we were safely on the move we opened up the breakfast box the hotel had kindly provided and tucked in.

By mid morning we arrived at Agra and the heat hit us like a slammed door. 

Agra was in the 1500 and 1600’s the centre of power in the region before the Mughals moved up to Delhi. It was again a conflagration for trade, academics and religions – Jesuits from the Portuguese settlements in Goa would journey here to engage in religious debates with the Muslim counterparts.

We engaged in some relaxation and reading before heading out through the town and across the Yamuna River to the Itimad-ud-Daulah, often referred to as the ‘baby Taj’. In fact the decoration rivals that of the Taj Mahal. It is a jewel box of marble and inlaid stone in a very delicate floral style that made much of local craftsmanship, for which the region is known.

Saturday, 14 July 2012



Saturday reporting Friday and Saturday.

As mentioned earlier, on Friday afternoon, I left the reservation and ventured a kilometre or so up the road with my driver, Raman. First off we drove and parked up close to the Aguada Lighthouse a massive fortification that offers great views of the Zuari and Mandovi estuaries that snake inland. Underneath the lighthouse was a massive goal that until very recently keep wrong-doers bang to rights. The actual lighthouse was only de-commissioned in 1976.

Super-friend Derek (Guest Services Supremo) at the Vivanta Holiday Village Goa had also recommended visiting the Church of St Lawrence a little way down the road.  Again Raman parked up and I wandered up to the church.

It closed and a forced my way through a sort of turnstile. All the gates (delightful Art-Deco wrought-ironwork) were chained and locked. So I sat down on a concrete bench close by and made a creditable drawing of this lovely church.  The Church of St Lawrence was built in 1630 and has that delightfully over-the-top architecture that we love about the Church of Rome.  See illustration.

Least we forget Goa was a trading centre, originally established by Portugal’s seafarers, following in the footsteps of Vasco da Gama. By the middle part of Cl16 Estado da India was one of the great centres of the entire world - a rich trading post between West and East.

Saturday: Packing, discovered passports missing and caused a fuss, which later became acute embarrassment when the CCTV footage (Tuesday afternoon 16:00) revealed that I had stuffed them into my jacket pocket after they had been copied for the security purposes, prerequisite during check-in in any hotel in India.

We move on back to Delhi as a pair of Spice-Jetters.

[I interrupt this story to report that we are back in Delhi, at The Taj Mahal Hotel (a paradise in Delhi), and Sian has just been offered two different types of Kingfisher beers! For which she has to offer an opinion - a new  definition of female emancipation].


Another day in Paradise.

I thought, given the abundance of flowers and foliage I would tray my hand at botanical illustration; Following in the footsteps of Marion North 1830 - 1890 who's work is on display at Kew Gardens.
Results featured here: a triumph of charm over accuracy.

Had a lovely meeting with Guest Services Manager Derek Monteiro. I learnt a great deal about the Taj Hotel Group's enviable obsession with supporting local resources and culture.

He drew my attention to the number-plaques on each house: Of course, in that distinctive blue and white Portuguese pottery style that was prevalent until recent times and rescued by Taj when they commission all manner of pottery plaques before the last place of local manufacture disappeared.  This explains the Taj (Jaipur's) displays of Rajasthan music and dance on their front terrace every night. A way of putting back.

My putting back was a small water colour study in Derek's own Keepsake Book and another study in the Hotel's Guest Book. Two more thinly veiled attempts as self-aggrandisement.

This evening is our last as tomorrow we pack and head out on the 11am coach to the airport.

 Details of my trip off the reservation this afternoon. up the hill to the Fort today and the lovely church of St Lawrence, the Patron Saint of Sailors will keep a little longer. 

Friday, 13 July 2012


A totally lazy day punctuated by occasional storms. I broke the monotony of relaxation by wandering down the the village. Little happening down there either.

I returned to the corner store and purchased four cans of their finest Kingfisher beer in the hope that would last us the evening.

Made several drawings to capture lushness of this wonderful place.

Little else to report, the crows who flit from palm to palm and pool-side guests continue to vie for who can make the most noise. Otherwise all is very peaceful with a remarkable number of different bird calls  every moment of the day.

Thursday, 12 July 2012


As we touched down the monsoon came to greet us and has it has several times over last day. Everything is super shiny green.  An hour from the airport we travelled through rice fields, palms, past churches and lorries, which had come off the road in the floods. Onwards further, past billboards offering casino experiences and holiday homes, to our holiday home for the next four days.

Five minutes down the road, on the opposite side, to Mother Mary Haven Home for Senior Ladies is  the Vivanta Holiday Village Goa for people with a few bob

Vivanta Holiday Village is a collection of about 40 separate dwellings, large and smaller (likes ours) secreted away amongst every imaginable green plant likely to grow in the part of world.  Above this manicured jungle tower palm trees that bend and rattle in the monsoon rains. At the edge of the property the sea throws itself onto the beach with a huge sound, a grey heaving mass of water occasionally slashed with shafts of white sunlight.

The place has a delightful end-of-season, low season, no-season feel to it, which is far from wasted on us. There were people swaggering round the pool, teenagers playing ball and the faint sound of Ibiza drifting across the water from the Pool Bar.  Wonderful. 

Today is a lazy day partly because I was ‘under the weather’ and am having to steady myself for the hotel’s cocktail party later this evening.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012



“Attention all Spicejetters! We are ready to board passengers for Flight SG 137 to Ahmedabad and Goa, please have your boarding cards and papers ready”

New to Spice Jet I thought this might be the Virgin Atlantic of Asia as I skipped down the skyway to the waiting Boeing 737; the cabin crew, were dressed in red, like Virgin. However those on the Jaipur-Ahmedabad leg bore a very severe demeanour possibly cause by their impossibly tight-fitting uniforms.

However my being a ‘Spicejetter’ was confirmed by the Welcome article in the inflight penned by Kalanithi Maran, Chairman, who opened his upbeat missive with ‘Dear Spicejetters’

After more security checks at Ahmedabad, conducted in the comfort of seats 4E and F and a change of cabin crew we on the way to Goa, India’s smallest state and billed by many as Paradise.


Monday morning and my memsahib had set her heart on an Elephant ride up to Amber Fort. 

For me this gut-wrenching experience was equivalent to aircraft turbulence without the aircraft for protection. The slightly build elderly Japanese couple in the elephant immediately in front of our elephant seemed to be slipping of their seat and a horrific angle to the elephant’s back! This did little to allay my terror. Memsahib had a whale of a time and willing parted with 100 rupees for the photograph on us on the elephant, my temporary mortification captured so well on film.

The Amber Fort is a ochre citadel established in the 1600’s on the remains of something much earlier. This bastion massive in scale and opulence – the Shila Devi Temple has gates of silver.  There is layer upon layer of apartments, corridors and stairways for private living or public audiences. 
Watching over the Amber Fort is Jaigarh Fort. This fort was for housing the military. Inside and on proud display is the Jai Van canon cast in 1726. This canon fired only once, the noise of this great weapon allegedly cost lives and endangered pregnancies.  

Onwards and higher to hill top fort of
Nahargarth. The Tiger Fort.  Inside the is the jewel-like Madhavendra Palace. It was build by Sawai Ram Singh II 1835- 1880.  The Madhavendra is a small palace smaller than any we’d seen thus far. Lavish inside, parts of it are being lovingly restored. The location affords amazing views down onto the city of Jaipur. Very quite and pleasingly bereft of guides and tourists.

Our tour des fort (sorry) complete we returned to the city, camera and sketchbook replete.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


We rose late, the consequence of Saturday’s early start. 

I spent the morning making drawings of the hotel and discovered that the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture is really a soufflé of Gothic, Mughal, Hindu-Gothic favoured by British architects in late C19 in British India. They drew on Indo-Islamic, (as we witnessed a day or so back in Delhi) Indian styles and Gothic revival and Neo-Classical styles favoured at home in Britain.  This a wonderful pastiche, mouthful to describe but very easy on the eye.

Erratum: In my last outpouring, I stated that our hotel, the Jai Mahal, was originally built in 1974 it was in fact built in 1745.

I penned love-note (illustrated) to the hotel management extolling virtues of hotel’s architecture and staff.

Later we had two helpings of fine tea with biscuits on the terrace whilst the monsoon played out in front of us, a fine mist almost coming to the end of table.

We went into the city and saw the Hawa Mahal a pink-painted flight of fancy built in 1799. The building's five stories have a curiously Baroque feel with projecting windows and balconies. These allowed the ladies of the harem to watch the colourful street activity below unobserved.

There was colour on the street on this Sunday, as we were observed and as a consequence tugged this way and that by shopkeepers foisting carpets, rugs, jewellery all manner of precious stones, shoes, belts, fabrics and clothing:
(Merchant)“Sir, where you from?”
(Me) “England, very poor”
(Merchant) “Sir, I make you best Tesco-price for your lovely wife!”
It was a narrow escape with two 25 rupee printing blocks (elephant and camel) and a fine white cotton runner, which might double up for a shawl for £10.50 

Sunday, 8 July 2012


Saturday: Rose too early to catch the 06:05 to Jaipur the capital city of Rajasthan some 160 miles south east of Delhi.  It was a fractious four and a half hour journey evenly punctuated by a nice cup of tea and my right thigh being occasionally pummelled by the four year old on the lap of the passenger on my right; a end of the journey, Jaipur Junction, we were scooped up by a driver from the Jai Mahal Palace. This is another is another property in the Taj Hotel group.

Jai Mahal Palace is a former palace, built in 1974 and is a ‘masterpiece of the Indo Sacracenic style of architecture. Once I have looked up Indo Sacracenic style I will write more. In 18 acres of gardens the place is quite lovely!

City Palace Museum is the heart of Jai Sing II’s Jaipur, his City Palace. The gorgeous garments in the Textile Museum, which was formerly the Palace of Welcomes, Mubarak Mahal, enchanted me. I made some drawings and asked the guard to stamp my book.

We wandered through into the Diwan-i-Khas a marble one-storey receiving room, which houses two silver urns (largest silver objects in the world) which the Maharajah has made to carry water from the Ganges, he did not want to travel to England aboard his specially hired Ocean Liner in 1901; fair enough we all carry bottled water.

From the Courtyard of the Beloved, Pritam Chowk, and the four exquisite doorways, enhanced further by colour Japanese tourists, you can look up to the seven story Chandra Mahal where the Royal Family live today.

Jantar Mantar
There are six observatories in India Jantar Mantar is perhaps the finest build 1728 – 1734 reflecting the Maharajah’s passion for Astronomy and Astrology, 16 giant instruments turning the area into a sculpture park
Tuk-Tuk Travel: Confident in our survival blessings, we again enjoyed another theme park-like ride in a Tuk-Tuk to and from the hotel to the City Palace. On the way back the Tuk-Tuk's engine stopped with a scream and our driver quickly replaced in the clutch cable and we sped forward again towards iced tea at the Jai Mahal.

Friday, 6 July 2012


Decided to forego the hotel car service and thus enjoyed several transportation experiences. Took a regular taxi which with a bench seat in front and no head rests means passengers can get a good view!  Then we graduated to  a bicycle rickshaw around the Silver, Spice and Shoe markets and finally a tuk-tuk back to the hotel.
The Red Fort is another flight of Mughal architectural fancy on the grand scale. It has six gateways its own covered bazaar and more royal apartments than mansions in Essex. 

Illustrated here the Diawan-i-Kas, the pavilion that once housed the peacock throne, where the emperor would meet his most trusted nobles all in marble and once covered in jewels, another thing in common with the bling-bling of Essex. Boasting sixty pillars the Diwan-i-Aam is where he met everyone else all of it straight out of Disney’s Aladdin.

After the Bazaar to the Jami Masjid mosque, the largest in India capacity of prayers of 35,000 people so said our unsolicited and self-appointed guide. It was Friday so even after Prayers the place was busy with people asking for things.

This evening we met up with good local friend Aparna and excellent part of town close to the hotel called Khan Market, to which we will return. Tonight the monsoon arrived; tomorrow we rise at 04:30 for the train to Jaipur.


Comfortable flight to Delhi on Wednesday afternoon, arriving 06:40 local time Thursday; excellent Indian vegetarian meal on the plane to get us in the mood.
Sleep difficult because of screaming baby in seat B13.
Arrived Taj Mahal Hotel and feted by a platoon of managers and associated hotel staff. Quite the most wonderful hotel on the planet and a great favourite as they appreciate the obsequious nature of my feedback from previous visits.

In spite of lack of sleep we did a whole four hours of sightseeing;

Huaz Khas is the site of a wonderful red sandstone complex (circa1325) comprising a Madrasa build by the side of a tank (reservoir) by Feroze Shar Tughlaq when this part of Delhi was a separate city call Siri.  In the interior of the Madrasa it was lovely and cool with young people sitting around or with their heads in books.

Onwards to Humayun’s Tomb another red sandstone jewel box. A classic of Mughal architecture – we know ‘mughal’ better as Moghul or Mogul as in Genghis Khan.   This wonderful garden tomb was a pattern for the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Very hot today, 39 degrees with sweat drops on my page as I draw. The speak of monsoons soon.

Thursday, 5 July 2012


I cycle past this building site every day - corner of Charlotte Street and Howland Street in London
The cranes and other towering robots are all part of what is called in construction ‘enabling works’. 
Here the enabling works are currently being carried-out by McGee and will run until the end of this month. I did a search on the project and found this link which featured an impression of the proposed development building which is quite horrid. 


Stand outside Warren Street Underground
Look to your left, westwards down the Euston Road,
Into the sun,
Gaze at the wall of glass buildings each nestled up to the other
Glass reflects the sky
Glazed weathercocks?

At ground level people scurry out onto the street.
It is Friday,
Time for the weekend.