Wet, Wet, Wet

There is one big negative which is going to stick in my memory of this whole trip, and that is RAIN. In Nepal it never stopped. On the first day I dressed appropriately in my new lightweight Berghaus jacket and trainers, and soon concluded that this wholly appropriate attire was a total waste of time. Within minutes I realised that the jacket’s label stating ‘waterproof’ did not apply to Nepalese rain, and my shirt underneath was clinging to me like a wet frog. I also decided that the Nike ‘Tick’ on my trainers should have been a ‘Cross’ if considered in such conditions. The next day I did as the locals do, and just sported flip flops. They were far more effective for wading through road rivers, and required no drying time.

Nepalese rain

When I got to Goa we had a perfect few days of sunshine and stunning sunsets, then the deep depression followed me, and I spent most of my time drenched to the skin, with frizzy hair like a grown-out perm. Not only that, this rain was the wettest rain I have ever known. It didn’t just soak you, it drowned you. Within minutes I looked like the worst contestant in a wet T-shirt competition. In the end I just resigned myself to a semi-aquatic existence. Unfortunately last week, just as I was about to leave, my deep depression turned into a cyclone over the entire west coast of India. I had decided to stay in a beach shack, in a little resort only 15 minutes from the airport, as I had an early flight the next morning. The one hour journey there took 21/2 hours, as the battered old taxi tried to swim through floods and avoid fallen branches. When we arrived in the little village of Bogmalo I immediately shortened the name to ‘Bog.’ My idyllic beach shack had been partially washed away, and the sea was littered with floating sun loungers and parasols. I hastily found a rather nice hotel up the road which was open, and checked-in. As I left reception the assistant said, ‘Do take an umbrella.’ I said it was pointless in such windy conditions, to which she replied ‘Oh no madam, this is to protect you from falling coconuts, they can kill, you know.’ I grabbed the umbrella and spent the next 5 minutes trying not to do a Mary Poppins whilst musing on another interesting obituary for me. I had a very sleepless night partly due to the thunder, lighting and thud of coconuts falling on my roof, but also because I was constantly checking to see if IndiGo flight 267 to Bengaluru was actually going to take off. As there was no upto date information I headed to the airport anyway at 5am, skirting fallen palm trees and disassembled wooden houses en route. The taxi driver was an old boy, and he said that this was the worst cyclone in his lifetime. Oh Jayne, what perfect timing! Apparently, the beach road I had travelled along just hours before, had been washed away overnight. I am pleased to say that my flight did get blown off the runway in vaguely the right direction but Christ! It was a bumpy ride. If this had been an EasyJet flight there would have been a chorus of screams and shouts of ‘Bugger’ as we repeatedly plummeted a few thousand feet then climbed again. Here, as I was the only non-Hindu on the flight, I had to blaspheme under my breath. The rest of the passengers had handed themselves over to the will of the numerous Hindu gods, and just sat in their seatbelts peacefully.

Goan rain

Two flights later I did finally reach the Maldives and the tiny runway, which is a thin strip of tarmac on a short, skinny island, was bathed in sunshine. ‘This is going to fab’ I thought. It was… for one day. Then the rain started and didn’t stop. Yesterday I changed hotels and one of the highlights of my whole adventure was to be the transfer by seaplane to the second hotel. I headed back to the airport by speedboat where I was told that, due to the weather, my plane might not be taking off, and I might have to take a 6 hour vomit-inducing ferry ride instead. I wasn’t going to jump at that alternative. After a 3 hour wait the storm subsided and up I went in my seaplane to witness the most amazing view of the tiny atolls below, surrounded by coral reefs and the breaking waves of the turquoise sea. I was so happy when I landed that, for a second, I didn’t realise that it had started raining again. It is still raining.

Seaplane Jayne

Hard lives

My beautiful pupils

Well I am halfway through my Midlife Crisis (trip), and I am celebrating this milestone with 5 days in fab hotels in the Maldives, before I start my next project here. This downtime gives me the opportunity to reflect on the past 6 weeks, and particularly my time in Goa.

In the afternoons I worked on a new initiative to teach basic English to the women living in the Salgado slums. The hope is that this skill will help them to get work as cleaners and maids. The first day that I arrived I was shocked, and I had known it was going to be bad. Large families live in breeze block cells measuring 2m x 2m with no windows and leaking corrugated roofs. At night they simply lie down to sleep on the earth floor, without blankets or mattresses. All aspects of everyday life take place in this tiny space; eating, cooking, relaxing, sleeping and dressing. These families are migrants from other states who have come to Goa in search of work. The men do manual labour, moving rocks or clearing vegetation, and the women stay at home. The household income is around £2000 per year. The men are paid on Saturdays, and sadly they spend a large chunk of their wages getting drunk on cheap spirits on Sundays, and many then become violent towards their wives. The women can do nothing, they simply have no choices. If they tried to leave, their husbands would kill them, and no one would bat an eyelid, as they have no birth certificates or ID. In the eyes of the law they do not exist. As many got married aged 12 they know no other life. Learning English will give them an opportunity to earn some money, and also something to break the endless monotony of washing, cooking and child minding in these filthy condition. What struck me most was the beauty of these women. No facials or expensive creams had ever graced their faces, yet they had the most perfect skin and white teeth. Their clothes were always clean, earrings dangled and hair was arranged neatly. This seemed an incredible achievement, given their living conditions. I quickly realized how bright they were, they picked up phrases so fast. Some knew how to write the English alphabet from looking at their childrens’ homework books. There was also a huge sense of comraderie between the ladies. They all looked after each others’ kids and encouraged each other in the lessons. One afternoon I discovered that the Hindi words ‘khana banana’ mean ‘I am cooking.’ I thought this was hysterical, and said it over and over again, accompanied by a little dance. The group thought this was very amusing. I felt honoured the next day when I was invited into one of their homes to learn how to make roti bread on a single Calor gas hob, with someone holding a lantern as there was no power that afternoon. The women did this with such dexterity, whereas my effort was definitely more chunky naan than roti. We ate the bread with some tooth-descaling pickle made from a tree root (I didn’t dare to ask which tree). This was a little interlude, but such a memorable one, and an experience I will never forget. I said my final ‘khana banana’ to the ladies on Friday. They hugged me and said ‘goodbye ticher.’ I actually left feeling frustrated that I had so little time to make any meaningful difference to their incredibly tough lives. But if I had stayed longer I might have tried to change their worlds, which would have gone horribly wrong.

Making roti

There are many similarities between Nepal and Goa. Both countries are vastly under developed by western standards, buildings are crumbling and there is little investment in infrastructure. Environmental awareness is poor and the roads are full of cars and lorries belching out exhaust fumes. Litter and squalor abounds. The majority of people live in abject poverty and their governments misuse funds, abuse their power, and do little to improve the living standards of those they govern. Interestingly these people are very accepting of this injustice, it is just the way it is. Religion also plays a far greater part in life than in the UK. Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity co-exist with mutual respect and this Faith gives people comfort, hope and direction. I think this softens the reality of their impoverished existences, but perhaps it stops them questioning it. Is that a good thing?

Before I sign off I must say that, at the request of some of my mates, I did get a sari. A delightful lady from the old people’s home dressed me in it. A process which took 30 minutes and 7m of fabric being wound and strategically folded around my torso. At the end I gasped at the incongruity of ‘white woman does sari’ but all the lady residents loved it. I then went to see my special gentleman, Sandeep. When he saw me his eyes lit up and he adopted a huge grin. I think he was so flattered that I had actually gone to all the trouble. Sadly whilst his face was a picture, he refused a photo with me. He doesn’t trust mobile phones. A very wise man indeed!

Me with my sari dresser Roshni

Older and Wiser

Visiting the elderly gentlemen

Since arriving in Goa I have been working on community projects. In the mornings I visit 2 old people’s homes. I would like to write something amusing and superficial about my experiences, but it would not be appropriate. The homes are run by Franciscan nuns, one is for men and one for women. Many of the residents are highly educated and have led fascinating lives. In Indian it goes without saying that elderly parents are looked after by their children. Inhabitants have usually ended up in these homes as they did not marry, hence did not have children, or their children have emigrated. So many young people leave Goa to find work abroad in Australia or the USA, particularly in the fields of IT and medicine. The result is that the parents become destitute unless they are fortunate enough to get a place in a Catholic or state-run home. These places are terribly basic. The elderly sleep in dormitories, with no space for personal possessions, and no fans. During the day they sit on plastic chairs in a room with nothing more than a tiled floor and peeling paintwork, or out on the veranda. There is no TV and one newspaper for 40-50 residents. Another problem is that they speak a variety of languages; Konkani, Marathi, Hindu, Portuguese, English etc so many cannot communicate with each other and the staff. Obviously I can only chat with the ones who speak English, but they all wave or hold my hand when I arrive and just sit and watch me. I am the novelty factor in the endless monotony of their existence. We talk about Brexit (oh dear) and how Goa was a much better place when it was ruled by the Portuguese, who left in 1961. Interestingly, one of the hot topics at the moment is how the liquidation of Thomas Cook will cripple the Goan economy. 30,000 room bookings have been lost and cafes, restaurants, shops and hotels are all closing. One old man said his daughter had worked for the agency for years, and had now lost her job, and could not feed her children. It is easy to focus on what happens in the UK, and forget the global impact of such a demise.

Most of these old people have wonderful stories to tell. One was the private secretary to Indira Gandhi, one ran a school for 100 orphans in Africa and another was very senior in the Indian army. They speak so fondly of the lives they once had, with glinting eyes as they recollect their tales. A 96 year-old lady told me how an 9’ long python had slithered into her house one evening, watched by the pet cat, and simply curled up under the dining table. I asked her what she did and she replied ‘I left it there until it decided to leave. We don’t hurt animals, we are all God’s children.’ I didn’t volunteer what I would have done… After every visit I am struck by the serenity of these elders and their huge faith in God. They pray together for 3 hours a day. I think that is what saves them from the realities of their mundane lives and unifies them. After each visit they ask ‘You will come tomorrow won’t you?’ So perhaps they need a lot more companionship as well. I am actually going to feel terribly guilty when I leave here, and I can’t promise to ‘come again tomorrow.’ Every day I give so little but learn so much. One man asked me if I would come wearing a sari, as I would look so nice in one with my blonde hair. You know what? If it makes a lovely old boy happy, I might just do that…

Some of the wonderful ladies with their amazing lives

Fit Bit

I am getting used to life in Goa, it has a really laid back vibe. On Thursday I was asked to go along to a yoga class. As I do Pilates I thought it would be the same, only with a bit more heavy breathing. When we arrived I spotted an older white lady with big gold earrings and pink flip flops who had assumed a prune-like appearance from excessive sun worshiping. She was chatting outside, smoking a fag, and I was thrilled to hear she was a fellow Brummy, with the broadest Brummy accent. I got talking to her, and learnt she had done a Shirley Valentine. She came here on holiday 20 years ago, met an Indian guy, and never went home. Her love for the guy soon faded, but her love of Goa remained. As we chatted she lit one cigarette from another, and I could just imagine her propping up the local beach bar with a pint. I was late going into the class and the only free space was right at the front. I grabbed a mat and sat there eagerly awaiting some taught and toned young Indian yoga guru, in a vest top, to put me through my paces. When the double doors finally swung open imagine my disappointment to see Father Christmas appear. The yoga guru was 120 years old with a long white beard, a long white coat and a vast assortment of ethnic necklaces. He calmly sat down, crossed his legs, put his hands together and starting chanting ‘Ohmmmmmmm.’ It became apparent that were were all meant to ‘Ohmmmmmmm,’ so I joined in as best as I could. This certainly wasn’t Pilates. We were expected to adopt some very weird positions, some of which required the use of a wooden brick, and in between we ‘Oommmmmmmed.’ At one point we had to lie on our backs with our legs up against the wall at a right angle. The only way to get into this position was to sit sideways with your bottom cheeks hard against the wall and then swing your legs up vertically. Unfortunately when I did this my legs swung like a rocket-fuelled pendulum through 180 degrees and landed on a pile of wooden blocks, which tragically toppled over with a loud clatter. I heard ‘tuts’ and gasps from the other class members and I felt mortified as I tried to regain my composure. Then I heard a deep Brummy voice from the back shout ‘Noice one Ja-in!’ Regrettably this made me burst into a fit of giggles. I won’t be attending the Ashtanga Yoga class next week, but I am meeting my new mate Sheila for a pint on Tuesday.

Goodbye yoga…

When I arrived at the hostel here I thought that the most immediate threat to my welfare would be the snakes. Wrong! On the first evening I set up my mosquito net over my bed as best I could. As there was no hook on the ceiling to attach it to, I improvised with an elastic band I found in my suitcase, which I tied to the bracket of a rusty wall light. I must say I have got a lot better at all this technical stuff since I left home. It is amazing what I can do when I can’t rustle up Husband to sort such matters. Anyway, after only one night, I was covered in insect bites, which increased in number steadily every night. This meant I spent most of my waking hours scratching myself to death. At 2.00am on Friday morning I realised that I had even more bites than I went to bed with, despite the absence of mosquitos, and I had an awful thought… I Googled the large red lumps now covering my entire face and body and my suspicions were confirmed. My bed was crawling with bed bugs! This was not conducive to getting any further sleep that night, so I spent the next 5 hours lying on a towel on the floor whilst trying not to think about the millions of bugs inches from my torso. The next morning I complained bitterly to the manager who said ‘Oh don’t worry we will change your sheet tomorrow!’ I have to admit I did rather lose it and said I wanted the whole bug infested building fumigating not just a clean sheet!

Poor me! ☹️

Thanks to me the hostel has been shut for the weekend, while pest control moves in. This seemed like the perfect excuse to run off to a 5* hotel for the night totally guilt-free. Goodbye sleeping bag, hello Egyptian Cotton bed linen and air conditioning…

Poor me! 😀

Plane Jayne

So sad to leave my new friends…

It was with a very heavy heart that I said goodbye to the children in Kathmandu kindergarten on Friday. They were a very special bunch, who had so little in terms of material possessions, and appeared in the same filthy clothes day after day, yet they were so appreciative of the little I could give them. What they wanted, as much as knowledge, was love and attention, and I was far better at giving that than teaching the English alphabet. In return they gave me heaps of cuddles and a real sense of purpose. I do wonder what will become of them as adults. I desperately hope they will be able to elevate themselves from the poverty they were born into, and have more secure and comfortable lives.

On Saturday morning I set off on my epic journey from Nepal to Goa via Delhi. I kept telling myself that this was all going to work like clockwork, but I guessed there would be some drama along the way. Kathmandu airport is so dated that it could have been built in the Victorian times, if there were planes then. Acres of brown carpet and brown wood are only interrupted by a vast array of large gold Buddhas. My first problem was an unexpected one. Nepalese security spotted that I was carrying a large consignment of E cigarettes. Those who know me personally will confirm that E cigs are my drug of choice, and they are as much a part of me as my blonde mop. I had enough to keep me going for 10 weeks so yes, I did look like a smuggler. Anyway the actual issue was that the officers had never seen an E cig before and just kept repeating the word ‘battery.’ I was not going to lose my drugs, so I quickly assembled 2 cigarettes and gave them to the rather stern guards and said ‘You try, you try.’ I then watched with amusement as they coughed and spluttered through the E cig initiation process, but it paid off. They waved me through and I laughed all the way to the departure lounge. There I stopped laughing, as I heard my plane was delayed due to ‘technical difficulties.’ These are words which you never want to hear before boarding, particularly in Nepal, where every vehicle that moves has an exhaust or a wheel hanging off. I was even more alarmed when 15 minutes later they announced this fault has been ‘fixed’ and we were ready to board. I suspected that some Nepalese mechanic, desperate for his lentil curry, had said ‘Yeah this one can go,’ without actually checking whether the left engine was now working. I am pleased to say we did take off with full power, but we were late, which meant that when we landed in Delhi I had only 2 1/2 hours before my next plane departed. I literally sprinted the length of the airport, which also had 15 miles of dire brown carpet, and then I had to negotiate Indian Border Control. The officer looked at my passport photo, then my visa photo, then my passport photo, and so on. I felt like saying ‘For Christ’s sake go to Specsavers, it is the same b-l-o-o-d-y photo!’ But I didn’t … Once he had taken my finger prints (yes really) I grabbed my luggage and dashed outside to wait for the shuttle bus to the next terminal. In the queue in front of me was an Indian family. I was slightly alarmed when the wife stared at me, then whispered to her husband, who in turn whispered to grandma, and so on. It was like Chinese (or should I say Indian) whispers. They then all turned round and stared at me. I did a quick check of my flies (zipped) blouse (buttoned) and could only assume I had wildly smeared lipstick, which I could do little about. Then to my surprise the little son came up and said ‘Excuse me Miss, are you Meryl Streep?’ I just smiled and said that sadly I wasn’t. What I actually felt like saying was ‘Do you think Meryl Streep would be standing in a crumpled linen shirt, waiting for a sodding shuttle bus, in this heat, with a 30 kg rucksack?’

Soon after the rusty old bus arrived and we spent 30 minutes driving round in circles. By the time I got off I had only 1 hour 40 minutes to catch my next plane so I went straight to the front of the mile long sari-ed check-in queue and waved my ticket. Unfortunately Indigo Air had just installed a new computer system, and there was a glitch they hadn’t thought of. As I had already had one baggage label for the first leg of my journey the computer could not generate another. 40 minutes later I was still standing there, whilst supervisor after supervisor, and the whole of the IT department, huddled round the computer screen trying to sort it out. To start with I was quite patient, and politely pointed out that I was going to miss my flight, the second time my observation had an irate edge to it and when I only had 50 minutes before take off I shouted ‘I AM GOING TO MISS MY BLOODY FLIGHT!’ That time they all agreed and told me to go to the boarding gate where my baggage receipt would be waiting. As I dashed through security I had as much hope of seeing my bag again as getting steak and chips for dinner. Anyway I got to the gate just 5 minutes before it closed and there was my baggage receipt.

On arrival in Goa I was extremely relieved when my bag actually appeared on the carousel and I headed out into the sultry evening to meet my driver. I noticed that Goa has a lot of new roads, unfortunately none of them are finished, and after an hour of juddering along in a clapped-out Toyota, I was in severe need of a neck brace. This requirement was exacerbated when, just outside my hostel, the driver slammed on the brakes, resulting in me being partially ejected into the front seat. ‘Sorry Miss’ he said, ‘there is a snake in the road.’ My first thought was ‘Well why stop then, why not flatten it?’ My second thought was ‘Christ! How many snakes ARE there in Goa??’

My new home in Goa and it is not a Compound…

East Meets West, West Meets Beast

Sunset over the city from my roof

I have really got into a routine now in Nepal. Every night at 6pm I go up onto the roof of the Compound and do ‘Pilates with Press-ups’ for 30 minutes, whilst listening to Spotify. This serves several purposes; firstly, the sight of Kathmandu twinkling in the sunset is breathtaking, secondly, I find it enormously therapeutic and thirdly, my next stop is Goa. Goa means the opportunity to wear one of my new (or should I say five new) bikinis. I do not want to spend all my time there trying to reposition a sarong to hide the Wobble, so press-ups and crunches it is. At this point I do have to say thank you to Nicky, my ever-patient Pilates teacher in East Grinstead who, in 3 years, has turned me from looking a Plank to doing the Plank, beautifully.

On Sunday evening I was working out as usual, when a very rotund Chinese inmate appeared, to hang out her washing. ‘Aaaw Yoga’ she said. I explained it wasn’t exactly Yoga, to which she replied ‘Yooo tich me?’ I forgot all about this oriental encounter until last night. At exactly 6pm Wang Fang waddled up onto the roof waving, and wearing a pair of leggings she had clearly borrowed from a Swedish Gap Year Girl. They were 10” too long and 10” too narrow. How she had managed to squeeze herself into them, and still walk, was a total mystery. She looked like an untied ring of black pudding. I was actually really irritated that she had interrupted my ‘Me Time,’ but graciously got her a mat and started off with a few gentle stretches. Some positions she did manage to hold, whilst muttering what sounded like ‘Eeyore’ under her breath. I was going to suggest press-ups, just for the sheer amusement factor, but fortunately the nicer side of my nature won. At one point I only asked her to get onto her hands and knees and she toppled over sideways and… bounced. Trying to get her back onto all fours was a challenge. I soon realized I was personally doing a full body work out, rather than a gentle core programme. The glute stretch was an equal flop, as she got stuck, whilst horizontal, with her elbow wedged behind her knee, and I had to prize her apart, like a pack of frozen pork sausages. After 15 minutes I said that the 30 minutes was up and thanked Wang Fang for coming. ‘Aaaw so good Jay!’ She exclaimed. ‘Same time to-mo-row?’ I know that the Chinese Market might be important to us after Brexit, but I am not going to help the cause. My Pilates session will be held at 5pm tonight.

As well as getting a structure to my days I feel that I have got a lot more independent and resourceful in my time here. This morning I went into the bathroom (I use that term loosely) and noticed a bloody great spider sitting on the bristles of my electric tooth brush. This beast was huge, and black and yellow. It looked like a bumble bee on steroids, with 8 bony legs, wearing a Wolverhampton Wanderers football strip. I cannot repeat the first word I uttered, but it did end in ‘ck’. If such a creature had appeared at home (which I know is unlikely) I would have screamed the place down, summoned Husband, or, failing that, called the Emergency Services. Here I was on my own. I knew it would take too long to run up 4 flights of stairs to the WiFi zone, to Google if this bugger was going to kill me, so I had to be brave…. I grabbed the tooth brush handle with a hand wrapped in a towel and flicked the angry arachnoid onto the floor, where I dispatched it to another life with a Fitflop. In order to dispose of the body I picked it up, with half a box of tissues, and lobbed the whole lot out of the window. I am quite sure that a poor street dog below was delighted when breakfast appeared from the heavens, complete with a white tissue parachute. I then replaced the head on my tooth brush, and lay on my bed for half an hour to recover, before heading off to school. This is probably the bravest thing I have ever done, so a round of applause, or at least a Facebook ‘Like’ would be appreciated…

Actually, make it a Gold Medal…

Finger Food

Nepali dinner

I know I haven’t mentioned the food since I have been in Nepal and there is a good reason for this…. There isn’t any. If any lady readers are considering shedding a few pounds in time for Christmas, sod the 5:2 diet, come to Nepal for instant and dramatic weight loss. So swift has been my shrinkage that some of the ‘Glamorous Granny’ linen clothes I bought only 4 weeks ago are way too big. Yesterday I was bending over the table in the classroom when 3 little gnomes starting tugging on the backs of my trousers legs to get my attention. They got more than they bargained for, as my black tie-waisted peg leg chinos gravitated south with alarming speed, and I revealed my knickers to Kathmandu Kindergarten. Thank God for Bucket Pants.

On the night I arrived, I went down for dinner and queued up to be given what looked like two skimpy side orders from the Lingfield Tandoori; one rice and the other curried potatoes, served on a metal plate (well this is a Compound with a capital ‘C’). I sat down and realized that I had forgotten to get a knife and fork, only to be told by a fellow inmate that there weren’t any! I looked around in disbelief and noticed people squashing the rice and slop into golf ball shapes and stuffing it messily into their mouths, leaving trails down their chins and T-shirts. This was an utterly shocking and gross spectacle, and one I did not want to be a part of, so I came up with a solution. I mixed the two baby portions together and scooped the mess onto my solitary poppadom, like a Nepalese open sandwich. ‘Just brilliant’, I thought, but then it all went horribly wrong. Halfway between table and mouth my precious poppadom collapsed, and I ended up with a curry car crash on my plate. I took one look at the wreckage, and sought comfort in my room, with the rest of my tin of travel sweets. Lunch and dinner are pretty much the same every day, just a different poor and unsuspecting vegetable has been chopped, stewed and chillied. I have now actually got used to eating with my hand. I do try to do it as elegantly as possible, then spend the rest of the day picking spinach from behind my painted finger nails. Yes, painted! I haven’t gone totally native yet…

There has been one saving grace in this food fiasco, and that is that the local shop sells a vast selection of Cadbury’s and McVities products, amongst the spices and weirdly shaped vegetables. I buy at least 2 bars of Dairy Milk a day, at £2 a go, and convince myself that I could easily do that on Lattes in Lingfield. The other fantastic find is Instant Cappuccino. It bears no resemblance to the real thing, but it contains caffeine and saves all the faff of trying to locate sugar and cow’s milk. Amazing! When I was packing to come here I realized that the box of 240 PG Tips was just not going to fit into my rucksack, no matter how hard I stamped on the box. Friends did comment that it did seem a little strange taking tea to India, but as far as I am concerned it is not TEA unless the leaves have been through a factory in Manchester. I am pleased to say that I have now located Twinings Breakfast Tea at a vastly inflated price which, when mixed with Coffeemate, makes a half decent cuppa. I could almost be back on a building site with my guys at home…

Another issue with meals which makes them even more unpalatable is the Gap Year Girls. Outside shoulders and knees must be covered at all times, as a sign of respect, but in the Compound anything (or should I say nothing) goes. I have to sit with my plate of mush looking at young, tanned beauties in cropped tops and micro shorts. Unsurprisingly, the young, male Nepali project coordinators appear with the same punctuality as the flies at meal times. Last night I was chuffed when Bhumi, a cute Nepali, started to chatting to me instead. ‘Hey, Miz Jayne, do you have a photo on your phone of you in your twenties?’ He asked. I pointed out that mobiles had barely been invented then. To which he replied ‘Oh that’s a shame, I bet you were pretty then.’ I reacted like any woman my age would. I went upstairs and ate a whole packet of Chocolate Hobnobs…

English dinner