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Madurai is the third largest city in Tamil Nadu. 

This is a real Indian city and the contrast with Goa and Cochin was rather a shock. No Café Coffee Day anywhere here – no local customers to afford it.




Here we encountered our first numerous and insistent beggars; many of whom were school age.  But on looking it up I discovered it is actually listed as among the less needy cities in India.




A really noticeable difference to Goa and Cochin is the lack of schools. In the previous regions schools are a major industry but here, the few we have seen in Madurai proper, seem to be abandoned or in very poor shape. In contrast, on leaving the city, there were several large technical colleges and a variety of substantial industrial sites in the countryside.


Despite the general poor condition of many buildings, again our hotel was very good.


We went to the old palace. This has been a wonder since the 17th century. Only a section is still standing but it is very impressive. A lot of restoration has been done to give a sense out its former glory.


That is Wendy beside the column -  showing the scale


The other big thing in town is a massive Hindu temple on the scale of Anchor Watt but without the moat. Apparently it once had a moat but this was filled in to make more space in the city that surrounds it; the streets in concentric rectangles.




There was a festival on. Many of the Tuk-Tuks had banana leaves tied to their sides like elephant ears.




There were vast queues to get in to the Golden Temple so instead we accepted a local shopkeeper’s invitation to see over the wall from a viewing platform on his roof. There was an Englishman painting the temple from up there. I took photos – quicker.




We also tried to get to the Gandhi museum that contains his blood stained dhoti, from the assassination, but it was unexpectedly closed due to the holiday.


After a day we left for Pondicherry by car. Not far out of town we encountered a huge rock about half the height of Uluru.  I said it must have a name like sacred cow or elephant - our driver who did not speak English suddenly confirmed - elephant rock.  




In Pondicherry I did a search on line.  Apparently it is sacred to Jains (a minority religion) but local interests want to carve into it; or cut it up for granite. Read more…




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Or coming down to earth...


When I was a boy, Turkey was mysterious and exotic place to me. They were not Christians there; they ate strange food; and wore strange clothes. There was something called a ‘bazaar’ where white women were kidnapped and sold into white slavery. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, or was it Errol Flynn, got into all sorts of trouble there with blood thirsty men with curved swords. There was a song on the radio that reminded me over and over again that ‘It’s Istanbul not Constantinople Now’, sung by The Four Lads, possibly the first ‘boy band’.


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Fiction, Recollections & News

Merry Christmas




2020 was a terrible year. Last Christmas I wished you a better 2021. But, alas, it was not all beer and skittles.

On the bright side, there were no bushfires and the floods were less damaging. The drought has certainly broken. The bush is recovering well.

But in July Covid-19 reasserted itself and cases grew rapidly so the death-rate also began to rise steeply in NSW. 

A total 641 are now dead due to Covid-19 (to date). Yet, as NSW has a population 8.2 million, this still translates to one of the lowest Covid-related death rates in the world.

Victoria has been slightly worse hit with 1,436 deaths to date. Still exceptionally low by world standards. And the smaller states have remained largely Covid-free. Thus 2,072 dead in eighteen months, due to Covid-19, in Australia, has added negligibly to the expected annual death-rate from all causes (around 165,000 a year). Unless things go horribly wrong next year, the historical impact of Covid-19 will be mainly economic.

That economic impact, due to border closures, both overseas and interstate, and to the cost of assistance to businesses and individuals has been significant. While our children's generation learnt to work from home and the State kept essential services and construction running safely, tourism and entertainment businesses were badly hit.

The lock-downs also caused a lot of stress to our children with school-age kids. So, Wendy spent many days supervising the on-line-home-schooling of our grandchildren, Vivienne and Billy. I helped for a single day. I'm still dining out on that one!

The scare in this State was well-timed. Almost everyone rushed to get their 'two shots' of whichever vaccine was available. So, a country leading: 94.82% of the NSW population over 16, is now vaccinated - with the rollout to younger children well underway.

So far, this has borne fruit and, despite rising case numbers, we currently have less than 200 Covid-cases in hospital in NSW and just eight of those are on a ventilator. So, the borders are opening; masks are voluntary; QR check-in is no longer required in shops; and proof of vaccination is no longer mandatory in bars, gyms and sporting venues. Come and get it!

Predictably, case numbers are rising hourly, so the unvaccinated will soon be infected. This brave minority have opted to rely on natural immunity - nature's way.

The 'natural' case fatality rate (CFR) for Covid-delta is around 2% but could be lower, we hope, for Covid-omicron. It's more deadly with age. So, I'm guessing that only about one in a hundred of the unvaccinated are in the running for a (posthumous) Darwin Award.

Both Wendy and I have had our boosters in preparation.

We hope to travel again in 2022. The last time we saw our German grandchildren in the flesh was in 2019. 

Thanks to WhatsApp we can still get together face-to-face and I can report that both Tilda (4) and Leander (7) understand and speak English, in addition, of course, to their native German. Leander's English is now excellent. Yet it's not quite like us being there or them being here.

Those of you who read last year's message will find what follows familiar. I've barely changed a word.

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Opinions and Philosophy

A new political dawn



The State election on 26th March saw a crushing political defeat for the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales. Both sides of politics are still coming to terms with the magnitude of this change.  On the Labor side internal recriminations seem to have spread beyond NSW.  The Coalition now seem to have an assured eight and probably twelve years, or more, to carry out their agenda.

On April 3, following the advice of the Executive Council, the Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales, gave effect to an Order to restructure the NSW Public Service. Read more...

It remains to be seen how the restructured agencies will go about the business of rebuilding the State.


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