Look away now

I promise this is my last Indian inspired post, I thought I was all done and ready to move onto writing about vintage tat etc again but really can't miss the opportunity to share Bangalore Palace with you.

 We are so spoilt these days in Australia with the advanced cultural industries around us, overspilling with arts graduates desperate to show us how sophisticated and and clever and subversive they are.  Indians might be pushing the boundaries with their software industries but they are in the stone age when it comes to sharing their incredible art and history with the world.  Which is fantastic, because you get to see real stuff in its natural state, rather than through the lens of curators and a shitload of wasted money.

Bangalore Palace was built in Victorian times by an Indian King and inspired by his visit to Windsor Palace and tudor achitecture, so it's a glorious dog's breakfast of a place.  The current Maharaja still lives there, I think this might be him.  Dude!  Who knows, there's no labels on anything.

Visitors amble through the palace rooms careful not to knock any wonky pictures off the walls, which are all peeling with paint and scuffed by decades of shuffling staff with trolleys.   When I came across these elephant and giraffe stools I nearly choked on my chai, surpassed only by the elephant trunk vase.  If anyone put these on display here there would be demonstrators with placards out the front gates, yet they say so much about the attitudes and lives the were lived in this place for so many years.

There is just something so beautiful about the faded grandeur of places like this.  And it made me think about how vastly superior an experience of something unmanufactured is, over the highly fabricated and controlled visitor pathway in historic buildings we visit in developed countries. 

The whole place was gold.


Pottery Barn

The last thing I did in India was go on a heritage walk in the Nandi Valley just out of Bangalore. We saw British graves from 1800 and an incredible Hindu temple from 800... both fascinating.  But in between getting to those things we dropped in on a 'barn' where there were a team producing big pottery urns. 

Bangalore might be the software capital of the world (according to Indians) but here may as well been in the 8th century.  Such is the ever-present contrast of modernity meets medieval in India.  This guy spun his wheel with a big stick on the foot circle below.  When it slowed down he got the stick out and spun it again. And again.

These chaps were making their pots using the coil method (yes actually I do know a small amount about pottery I'll have you know).   I think they are used as clay ovens for cooking tandoori, I missed that bit as I was so distracted watching the guy with the stick.


Music to my eyes

When it comes to buildings India is probably best known for its grand structures that were whacked up when the Raj were here telling everyone what to do.  Bangalore has its share of those, although not that many, which is probably one reason why I've seen but a handful of tourists here. 

Last night was the inauguration ceremony for the conference I'm here attending.  I piled into a taxi with four fellow delegates from the Chech Republic and we spent an hour nosing through traffic, normal for getting anywhere here.  The event was held at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall which was built to commemorate a violin maestro called... Chowdiah.  The structure resembles a giant violin and is apparently the only building in the world that does.  Fair enough.  Construction started in 1973 and finished in 1980 and given how slowly wheels clearly turn in India, the design is circa early 1960's which is probably when the architect started drawing.  

Anyway, I loved it, such an elegant period of modernist design.  Hope you like it too.

We stood under this for high tea, who would have thought, a violin!

The auditorium is surrounded by a circular foyer, see the music notes on the ceiling.

How gorgeous are these seats!

Time to sit down, the chairs did a funny recline when sat in, quite comfy tho.

This was an Indian version of an Aussie Welcome to Country smoking ceremony, with incense.


Help Yourself

It's not often I get to post tales from travels in my life these days, but here I am in India having a welcome solo break from the grinding routine of domestic life to attend an oral history conference next week.  The joy of joys of being able to eat when I'm hungry, linger where I want and generally please myself, heaven.   I got off a plane in Bangalore, cranked up my phone and absorbed the Brexit news.  Thankfully I have no TV in my yoga-centre AirBnB (Yogi-stahn) so don't have to suffer the pain of watching the Barmy Army and their generals celebrating the victory of their nationaistic ignorance.

India, for those who have not been here is a shock to the senses: pollution, traffic, poverty etc.  But the colour, food and culture are incredible; which on balance makes it a worthwhile travel experience.  I love the everyday clothes that women wear here, leggings and a tunic; so flattering, so practical, so stylish.   You can get delicious cheap food everywhere, I could get seriously fat in India.  Here is some pretty instragram-ready pictures from Russel Market where I went to yesterday:

What you can't see here are the piles of rubbish and rubble that make walking anywhere a tactical challenge.  Or the people, most of whom are trying, in some way or another to earn a living.  There is no welfare here; if you are unemployed, disabled or old with no family, tough titties.  For the first group that means putting any shred of time or energy they have into earning a rupee. Most of them are travelling around on the road trying to earn those few rupee so the roads are solid, all the time.

I feel like I'm surrounded by people working - in one way or another everyone is on the job.  That might mean pushing a mop around the shop floor, if that's all you can do, that's what you do.  Otherwise you and your children starve.


Got no legs?  Got no money for a wheelchair/minibus with lift/home with ramps?  No problem!  Make a DIY transport device with roadside salvage... or if you are lucky, another disabled person's family might pass on their hand-operated bicycle.

Anyway, trying to draw comparisons with our privileged lives in Australia or England is a predictable and pointless pursuit.  You know where I'm coming from.    But in a week like this, it's a sage reminder of how much we have to be grateful for.  Ultimately our life experience is largely predetermined by the nation in which we are born; a life determinator in which we have no control.  All we can do as global citizen is aim to level that experience; something migration, welfare and good governments aim to achieve.  Namaste. 


Old time blues

My kids think I'm joking when I tell them they should consider a career working with geriatrics.  But seriously, the way the job market is shaping up in this town at the moment, it is the one safe bet for a solid future of employment, if you ask me.   Admittedly I have no personal experience of wiping sagging bottoms and clipping old thick toenails, but how bad can it be?   A small price to pay for a life of employment which will never buy you a house but but at least get  you out of bed each morning.

I'm also possibly motivated by the fact that I really love hearing retrospective stories of peoples' lives.  When you ask someone in their 80s to tell you their life story there is so much to hear.  Not that they have necessarily done anything incredible or newsworthy, but when you get the whole picture from beginning to end, it can speak volumes about life choices and opportunities seized (or not).  The retrospective prism of time delivers all you need to know about the impact of decisions and circumstance, for better or worse.   The more years you've got up your sleeve as the listener, the more valuable this experience can be.  Which is probably quite a selfish motivation, but there it is.

Recently I completed an oral history project based on a group of RSL members (Returned Servicemens' League, which is now mainly made up of WWII and Korean War veterans) in a nearby suburb.  There's not many of them left, and in fact one lovely chap (pictured left) shuffled on not long after I interviewed him.  Another, who was 99, started each sentence with "and then the next day" which given how many days he'd clocked up, made me seriously worry if I was ever going to get home.    None of them were war heroes, but they all spoke with the benefit of experience, lots of experience, and had lived quiet but fulfilling lives, in one way or another.

I might be not far off senior classification myself these days, but until I get there, I plan to milk the oldies around me for all they are worth.   My son is here marching on Anzac Day.  He might have given a fleeting thought to old people that day, but I'll bet that didn't include their bottoms.



Swanning about

I thought I was coming out of my vintage tat phase, but alas possibly not.  Concrete garden ornaments were genuinely fashionable in Australia for about five minutes in the 1950s and then by the 70s, certainly, they were more likely to bring joy to lovers of kitsch, people from Mediterranean countries and old people who hadn't moved on, in more ways than one.  Thank goodness.  They are always a delight to find tucked away in a garden.   Usually still there because they weigh as much as a small car and Granny's just worked around it since the 60s. 

This episode of ABC's blueprint for living (available to those in Australia) deconstructs the fetish for concrete garden ornaments beautifully.  I couldn't have said it better.   Tyre swans.  I'd forgotten they ever existed until I heard this and then had a sudden urge to consider making one.  Maybe not.

However, yesterday I was poking about in a second had shop (I know! I know I said I never would again!) and came across this. 

I'm struggling to think of much else, and how wonderful it would look in my front patch with a bit of old-lady-plant of some description cooking away inside.  Hmm...


Uptown Fairbridge

We've just been to a music festival.  Getting teenagers to do anything that their parents think will be 'fun and cool' is generally a lost cause but somehow we managed to pull this one off. 

Fairbridge Festival is held just out of Perth every year.  It's a kind of folk / world / indi type of event which they sum up by calling a festival of 'inspired music'.   It cleverly attracts people of all ages, except maybe if you are between 20-30 with quite mainstream tastes and would rather stick hot pins in your eyes than listen to anything involving a fiddle.   That's not us.  Kids endured most of it and enjoyed odd moments which is on balance a pretty good outcome.  

I won't prattle endlessly about all the incredible acts.  There were many,  but there's nothing more boring than someone talking about something you have not seen or heard.  Teen faves were Bullhorn, a seven piece brass outfit from Brisbane with rapper MC;  hard not to like them.  Chris Matthews who grew up in Kununurra (WA's godforsaken back of beyond) who has never had music lesson in his life played guitar like, well, I can't even begin to describe how good he was.  Canadian group Opposite of Everything who looked utterly missable on the programme were mesmorising and super clever musos. 

But most amazing was a guy wandering around the festival, a one man band, if you like.  Uptown Brown pipes music straight out of the 20's from a contraption on his back involving a synthesizer, and assorted instruments.   The sound coming from him was like a gramophone. He was extraordinary and sweet and appealed to absolutely everyone.  

Unlike the morris dancers who had me cringing along with the kids, at least we could agree on something.  Old people desperately trying to be to be wacky and out there, please don't let me ever be one of those.   I love morris dancing but this was way too messed around with.  Some things are best left old school!