These Fleeting Days of Summer

Midday. I was standing on Broadway, the stretch on Bayonne where a row of ramshackle storefronts stands shoulder to shoulder. Old-timers from the look of it. Dry cleaners, pizza joints, a dental center or two, a bank… humdrum life passed by me. Then an old geezer flashed by on a Harley. One of those muscular, red breeds. Not the man, the bike, broad, low-slung and stylish. Its rider’s blond white moustache defied gravity in the face of momentum. It was all over his face not unlike bleached cotton candy (if it could glide in the air). Now I have seen all kinds of moustaches – the narrow, pointy and long Dali one, the broader Chevron, the spaghetti variety…but this was the stuff that legends are made of. I suppose if doormen of old hotels, with their plush Victorian whiskers, were asked to take over the roads on superbikes, they would look just so. Of course they would have to swap their livery for leather. You’ve got to respect tradition.

The humidity levels are abating and my hair feels better already. On early evenings, I find myself savouring sprints in the park. They are no longer a painful chore. Is autumn knocking on our doors already? It certainly feels like it as I jog down to the waterfront, the heart and feet pounding at tandem along the length of the wooden path that trails through marshy green acres by the mighty Hudson, long reeds swishing in the cool breeze of the evening. A solitary gull steps nimbly through tiny pools of water, peering intently into the shallow bed. It is a great stretch for birdwatchers, for warblers, herons, yellowlegs and egrets like to swoop in once in a while for their inspection of the scabby marshes. The turnpike bridge over the bay brings in a spot of the city in the backdrop but otherwise you might as well be in the boondocks. Nearby in wooden sheds, people have scribbled odd somethings.

I wonder if it is true – what they say about the park. At one point it had been a boat-building factory where PT boats (Patrol Torpedo boats which were torpedo-armed fast attack crafts used by the US Navy during WWII) were manufactured. There was supposed to have been an accident at the factory. A boat fell off its railings crushing two men. The daughter, of one of those unfortunate men, is said to roam the area calling out for daddy. It is a good thing that I wrap up my run before dusk falls.

It would be even better if I could manage to take Adi running there and he could encounter the young girl. He is such a braveheart. But no, that is not to be because my husband shall not be budged from his seat on the couch. Nowadays he is working from home, and in between work, sneaking in sessions of solving puzzles. We have been incredibly indolent this summer. Apart from the occasional jaunts into the city, we have been sitting at home, doing it up slowly, binging on TV shows, reading, tucking into popcorn and pizza, attending rooftop barbecues and meeting neighbours, guzzling bottles of wine and hunching over jigsaw puzzles apart from demolishing home-made cakes quite readily. A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips. Who cares? Not Adi. He will have you know, if not through words, that he Shall Not Run because my man is a man of action, if I may say so.

I have been ripe for a disjointed summer ramble for some time now and this is my bit towards the end of summer musings along with some photos from Bayonne.

Toodle-oo.

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Good Morning World

It is 4 in the morning and I am wide awake. Exams, nope. Work, nope. Stress of any darned sort, nope. If I string together any more ‘nopes’, you shall bop me, I get it. Plus I should not be blathering at 4 bloody o’ clock. It is plain unhealthy.

We went to bed with the music of a duo of Croatian cellists in our ears, rather late. Just about three hours ago.

So when the fire alarm went off in the apartment, we leapt up bewildered. I managed to slip on my glasses sleepily and stumbled out of the bedroom only to catch my husband fanning the fire alarm detector in the apartment. Hmm an innate response given the fact that every other noon he does it – when it goes off as I cook. Yes, despite the might of the extractor in the kitchen.

In our apartment in Northampton, the fire alarm would go off in a trice. We would just stay in. Stupid, I know. Especially bearing in mind Grenfell Towers. But it had never gone off in the middle of the night – or early morning as it turns out. Today the alarm must have gone off around 3-ish. And it was dire. Imagine the loudest level you can put your alarm clock on. Now multiply that about roughly 50 times or so. That would be it. We rushed down the stairs and it was not too long before we were out with a fair number of the residents on the pavements outside. An odd sort of get-together, meet-your-neighbour kinda affair. In your pyjamas, hair dishevelled, wonderful morning breath in place – someone was even bare-chested in the chilly morning air. Good time to show off tattoos.

The dogs were going berserk. My legs were shaking from the sound. They must have been scared witless. One by one they streamed out of the building, the black Great Dane like a silent creature of the night, big and mournful, the tiny cute Corgi who wanted reassurance from all of us around him, the white poodle who sat shivering in his master’s arms, the golden retriever sitting between his master’s legs with his ears perked up and looking suspiciously calm. There were others too.

A window was flung open on the first floor, and a male voice informed us, ‘I called 911. They said we could stay in.’ Right. Never mind the sound in yours ears, intense enough to give you palpitations.

The morning air was chilly, and in about 10 minutes, three red fire trucks arrived. Is it an odd moment to slip it in that American fire trucks are glitzy? Four beefy firemen strapped up in their protective bulky gear and self-contained breathing apparatus trooped in. Then it took an eternity while they went around the building.

Meanwhile we chatted with a couple we know from a rooftop barbecue party. Then a woman with her little one. Her husband, a doctor, had refused to follow them out because he had to get up in an hour anyway to get to work. Heavens. I was genuinely impressed by his powers of endurance.

After their survey, the firemen finally shut the alarm 20 minutes before we were allowed back into the building. But I did manage to see an odd sight, a woman doing make-up in a pick-up truck right opposite the building. At 4 in the morning. What are the odds of that, eh?

P.S.: There are no photos. I had left my phone, wallet and fob inside because I had just about managed to take myself out.

 

Sandwiching Two Awards with Love and Nutella

Jen, a Canadian blogger who lives in Japan and is kicking her way towards a double black belt, thought of me when she was nominated for One Lovely Blog Award . She likes to whizz up dinosaur avatars of herself and tempts you to do the same. So, I shall get on with the job. But before I start waffling, I have got to thank Lori, a blogger multi-tasking in the creative arts – playing the piano, writing, indulging in photography, sewing and spreading her talent through coaching. She thought of me for the Versatile Blogger Award. It runs along the same lines as One Lovely Blog Award, so I thought, why not put them together? One can take only that much of narcissism in a day, plus 7 different facts about myself twice over might bring out more skeletons out of the closet than I can let go at one point of time. Once again, thank you, Jen and Lori.

The rules for this award are as follows

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link.
  2. Post about the award
  3. Write 7 facts about yourself
  4. Nominate bloggers and notify them

Seven Facts about Myself

 1. Eternal goof. Just the other Saturday we were on the way to Ludlow, a vibrant market town in Shropshire when we made our quintessential stop. Services. Adi waited in the car and I sashayed off. In a few minutes, I came out strutting with the wind in my hair and feeling quite very happy as you always do after a services break. Erm, why on earth was the door locked? I grappled with it and bent to peer through the window, righteous indignation writ large on my face. Only the face inside was not my husband’s. Mortified I turned around and tottered off towards the other black car a little ahead – this time I peered and saw the husband’s teeth on full display.

During such momentous (and frequent) occasions, individuals like me should have a motto. Never leave witnesses. I had one shaven headed witness. Laughing at me as he sat outside the services with a cup of coffee. The world is big. I am a wuss. And I hope never to lay eyes on him again.

2. Devilish blackmailer. During my growing up years my father set off a trend of bringing me cheese puffs and cream rolls – during exams – because why, a child need nourishment. Much to the annoyance of my mother who looked down upon such unhealthy, fatty indulgences. On days when he would fall short of delivering on the goodies, I would lay my hand on his heart, and say solemnly, “Baba, I shall die unless you bring me a pack of Lays and a cream roll.” Never underestimate the manipulative power that a child possesses.

My brother refused to fall for the same line. His standard retort was,”Please go ahead and die.” Ruthless fellow.

3. Detective; Star Baker; Ballet Dancer; Black Belt Ninja. I am none of those but they are my alter-egos. What are yours?

4.Goggle-eyed witness to life. There are many strange things in life that you experience, right? The most vivid one in my life took place when I was in journalism school in Delhi. We were taken on a field trip to Tihar Jail (the largest complex of prisons in South Asia which was once notorious as home to serial killers but has been developed since into a correctional institution). As the warden showed a group of us around, along with him for a fairly long time was a fellow in spotless white clothes with shaven head and glasses. I assumed he was one of the officers till I overheard the warden say that he was a prisoner. I scampered up to him and asked him what exactly was it that he was serving time for. “Murder,” he said. “I stabbed a friend more than a dozen times in a fit of rage.” To say that I was gobsmacked is understating it. But he had this air of sincerity about him, so I wonder what happened to him. He was supposed to have gone to the States in a year or so, after I met him, to live with his sister and complete his studies.

5. Sous chef to my husband. He cooks on weekends. By the end of the afternoon, I flop down and make him promise not to cook for at least the next couple of weeks. But he makes good on what he puts on the plate.

6. Fitness fanatic

7. If I was a dinosaur, my names would range from Brachiobasu, Allobasusaurus, Diplodobasucus to Styrabasucosaurus, Troobasudon and Gallimibasumus.

Nominees:

If you like these awards and want to reply to those questions, feel free to tag yourself.

Peace out.

Mystery Blogger Award

Hello my lovely people,

How is your Saturday going? I am off to the former Roman town of Cirencester in Gloucestershire. It is a middling day and sauntering in a town sounds like a better idea than walk upon moorlands which we had been looking forward to, but then the blasted weather always keeps changing and the plans do too.

I have been tagged by Cheila on the Mystery Blogger Award. Cheila is a Portuguese girl who lives with her partner and 2-year-old Rosa on the outskirts of Lisbon. Her blog is called Pink For Days. Don’t let the title mislead you. She is candid, humorous and she will get you thinking. Oh wait, I forgot to mention who Rosa is. But why don’t I let you figure it out for yourself, eh?

The mystery blogger award has been created by a blogger called Okoto Enigma.

Rules:

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog post
  • List the rules
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link
  • Tell readers 3 things about yourself
  • Answer the questions the blogger gave to you
  • Nominate 10-20 people
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  • Ask nominees 5 questions of your choice (one weird/funny question)
  • Share a link to your best post(s)

Three Things About Myself:

  • I am a rambler by nature. I like to ramble in the countryside and then I also ramble on a fair bit when someone encourages me to let my tongue loose.
  • I have the personality of a dog. My nose leads me places. Into eateries, into bakeries, coffeeshops (the Dutch kind too) and chocolateries, and into second-hand book shops where I sniff up pages of old books like my life depends on it.
  • I am a popcorn maniac. I have it for dinner on certain days. It is like a vicious cycle of not being able to stop. If I do not let my will step in on Day 2, it could very well be a Popcorn Week. A tub of popcorn and a crime thriller on my lap is my idea of bliss.

Cheila’s Questions and My Answers:

  • Do you know where Portugal is? Do you know anything else about my country?

Oh yes, Portugal is one of my favourite destinations in Europe. It lives in a pocket of my mind so it would be difficult not to know where it is. What else I do know about your country? It is that it is a place for the soul, where the strains of Fado just make their way into the heart and leave it aching with melancholia couched in those powerful notes. And the food – the bacalhau, grilled seafood, cherry liqueur shots – is succulent and delightful. Then there are the streets of Lisbon and Sintra which have left me besotted with Portugal as much as writers Fernando Pessoa and Cesario Verde. I would live in Portugal in a heartbeat.

  • What’s your favourite snack?

Phuchka. It is a rustic street food in Calcutta, India. A crisp hollow ball stuffed with a filling of boiled potato, red chilli powder, fried spices, chopped green chillies and tamarind water. You pop it whole into the mouth and when it breaks it releases a spicy and sour goodness. Then giggle a bit because you know you look a tad bit silly as juices often dribble down the sides of the mouth. But then once you have it you know there is no turning back from more.

  • Are you saving to buy something?

The next travel destination.

  • What was the last movie you watched?

Four Lions

  • What is the name of your first love?

Garfield

Thank you Cheila, I did enjoy it.

My Questions to You:

  • What is the most adventurous thing you have done in life so far?
  • Your way of unwinding after a long day of work/being outside/travelling?
  • The most valuable lesson you have learnt so far in life?
  • What kind of music do you have on your playlist?
  • What would the title to your autobiography be?

My Nominees:

As before, I shall leave the choosing to do the tag bit to you. If you like the sound of it, do it…if not, carry on with the business of life. Cheers.

My Rain-Soaked Northampton Days

And that is not how dawn today looked. It is a shot from a couple of days before, taken by the husband before he set out for London for his daily commute to work. I do not get to see many sunrises because I am one of those people who can sleep so much that you would think that I am dead.

The sky is uniformly drab and colourless and there are tiny drops of water speckling our bay windows as it drizzles away at a constant rate. I switch on all the fairy lights in the room, put on the cosy lamp at the corner of my round table and settle down to a large mug of cold coffee (because there is nothing that starts my day better than coffee). Hygge, hygge my friend. Did you know that people nowadays do coffee detoxes? Lordy lord, I do feel sorry for their caffeine-deprived souls.

I want to pep up my mind with some random thoughts on this dull, dull day (before I get cracking with my other writing).

  • I do not mind rainy Fridays as long as I am inside, tucked in with lots of books and a blanket.

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  • I am currently into making dark chocolate barks. I have realised this kinda goodness is easy to put together in the kitchen. Really, try it out. Melt some dark chocolate cooking bar, sprinkle it with your preferred things. Chilli, dried blueberries and pecans, cranberries and hazelnuts, sea salt, orange zest. Not all together in one bark, please, however.
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You see what I mean?
  • I cannot wait for the skies to turn a glorious hue of blue again. Even if a smoky one will do. So that I can get back to my beloved park nearby and get going with clearing the cobwebs in my mind while running. Apart from the fact that I am a glutton, I also am a thinker. Nothing gives my mind more free reign than when I am surrounded by the idleness of people loitering around with their dogs, dogs meeting other dogs, toddlers playing in the park with their parents, school children passing through, old men and women out for vigorous walks with their hands intertwined, other joggers sharing benign smiles as they pass me by. The joy of life are simple, no?
  • I hate being pitied. Much as I hate the expression, ‘Poor you’. I can abide with empathy but not pity. Also, I hate it when women emphasise the fact that they are helpless beings. It destroys the very tenet of why women all those years ago fought for the likes of us who came thereafter.
  • I am re-reading Three Men in a Boat. Jerome K Jerome is a hoot. I am inclined to think that Bill Bryson (who I love reading because he makes me shake with mirth) is quite inspired by Jerome K Jerome. I find a similar tone of humour in his travel books. Try this from Three Men in a Boat: “I can’t sit still and see another man slaving and working. I want to get up and superintend, and walk round with my hands in my pockets, and tell him what to do. It is my energetic nature. I can’t help it.”
  • Where shall we head out tomorrow? We love our English countryside wanderings. There is nothing like the sight of a field full of busy sheep and a curious horse or two, followed by rummaging in vintage stores and a cup of tea and cake to make my day. Fortunately it seems that the rain gods will take a break tomorrow before they start with their job on Sunday afresh.
  • Should I make pizza for the husband today (with a cauliflower crust)? Psst: This is just to alarm him. Once I did make him one and it turned out that I had not drained the cauliflower rice well enough. That is okay, right? We live and learn.
  • I am into Nordic noir. It is like biting deep into a delicious piece of crime fiction and there is no looking back. My obsession started with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series. Now I cannot put down the likes of Henning Mankell, Hakan Nesser, Jo Nesbo, Asa Larsson, Leif GW Persson, Samuel Bjork. So I have these two books on my bedside table to be picked up soon and I am loving the deliciousness of the wait. Are you a reader of the genre too?

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  • I cannot stand whinging. Yes, I know, we are all human and we like to complain, but not all the time, okay? We all have our share of problems and worries but it does not overtake the essential goodness of the fact that we are alive to feel all of the above emotions.
  • I hate gossip mongers. Period.
  • I used to blog once upon a time. It was an anonymous one till it was not anon no longer one day. It also landed me in hot water (which I do not regret however because I am trying to work on myself. Ref: the point below)
  • I was born with the disease to please. It will take the rest of my life trying to shake it off.
  • I can see the spires of two churches from our window. They make me happy when I look out on any day, however crappy the weather might be. One is the steeple of a 12th century round church (there are only four such churches in England). The other is the turquoise domed spire of the 17th century church that was rebuilt after a great fire ravaged Northampton in 1675.
  • I cannot wait for our satellite dish to be set back alright (Doris came visiting, you see) and get back to watch The Kettering Incident, an Australian drama series which is quite intriguing. Plus it has Elizabeth Debicki and she is my new favourite.

How is it going for you in your part of the world? Is it cold, warm, sunny…? I would love to hear your thoughts on this Friday too. Once in a while it is nice to pen down these completely random thoughts and look back at it from another time and place. Do you know what I mean?