Three hundred years of print and thought.

The sunlight filters through the panes
of book-shop windows, pockmarked grey
By years of grimy city rains,
And falls in mild, dust-laden ray
Across the stock, in shelf and stack,
Of this old bookshop-man who brought,
To a shabby shop in a cul-de-sac,
Three hundred years of print and thought.

Like a cloak hangs the bookshop smell,
soothing, unique and reminding:
The book-collector knows its spell,
Subtle hints of books and binding—
In the fine, black bookshop dust paper,
printer’s-ink and leather,
Binder’s-glue and paper-rust.
And time, all mixed together.

‘Blake’s Poems, Sir—ah, yes, I know,
Bohn did it in the old black binding,
In ’83.’ Then shuffles slow
To scan his shelves, intent on finding
This book of songs he has not heard,
With that deaf searcher’s hopeful frown
Who knows the nightingale,
a bird With feathers grey and reddish-brown.

John Arlott.

The British cricket commentator – I can remember him on the radio (in the UK) as a child, but not being a cricket tragic I never knew that he wrote poetry, until years later.

As I looked at the books stacked on the pavement near Churchgate in Bombay (Mumbai now), his poem came to mind. Must admit I couldn’t remember it all, and had to look it up.
He originally wrote it for a friend, after seeing more than fifty book shops in Hay on Wye, on the boarder between England and Wales.

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Pavement book sellers Mumbai – blue tint due to the bus windows.

Book seller

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The above book seller in Hay on Wye was not happy with Kindle, he calls himself Prince Derek Fitz-Pitt Booth Addyman – the self proclaimed King of Hey on Wye – he proclaimed his title in 1977.
In the mid 60’s he visited the US to collect books from libraries that were closing,  and he shipped the old books back to Hey on Wye to help create what we know today.

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Hay on Wye sellers could be a standard shop or just an open stall in the grounds of the old castle.

Each year they hold a festival of books , which President Clinton refereed to in 2001, as the ‘Woodstock of the mind’.

Hey on Wye is in Wales, but the Royal Mail considers it is still in Herefordshire  –

DSC00278c As we walked in to the town we ‘crossed’ the border . . .

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There was no misunderstanding for this home owner as to which country he lived in – the house was right on the border. The Welsh Dragon said it all . . . .

A few hours in Bombay.

I know it is now called Mumbai, but for me it will always be Bombay, and our guide spoke of the city using both names. We were told that many people living in Bombay still referred to their home city as Bombay.

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As we sailed closer to the harbour we overtook an Indian naval vessel.

DSC05933rThe skyline that I remember from fifty years ago.
Gateway to India and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel on the left of the Gateway.

DSC05938rWe saw many war ships alongside, including an aircraft carrier and these torpedo boats.

DSC05943rA touch of the old days with a double decker bus.

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A street full of second hand books – they are never packed away just covered with sheets at night.
There must have been thousands of books. The blue tint is due to the windows of our bus.

DSC05958r  Victoria terminus built by the British.

DSC05959rHousing being refurbished.

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Health and safety – scaffolding held together with string and rope.
We also saw men on the roof, and of course they didn’t have safety harnesses or hard hats.
Basically they worked as the older members of my readers worked in the late 50’s & 60’s.

DSC05969rGateway to India, it hasn’t changed since the 1920’s.
It was the gate that the last British troops symbolically marched through as they left India in 1947.DSC05971rThis is the hotel that suffered a terrorist attack some years ago, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The hotel is located across the road from the Gateway to India.DSC05975rAn interesting day out on a boat ride for the locals – all full of colour.

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                             Next stop was the ‘Lunch Box’, near Church Gate railway station.
The lunch box delivery system is unique – a business man’s wife produces a hot mid-day meal, which is collected by dedicated people and then ‘trained’ to the city centre. Outside the railway station others co-ordinate the final delivery to the office of the business man.
Late in the afternoon the meal ‘box’ is returned via the same system to the lady of the house, and the whole thing is repeated the following work day.
There is a very good commercial film called ‘The Lunch Box’, which is part in English and part in Hindi (with sub titles) that explains the whole process much better than me and is quite funny in parts.
The above picture shows the ‘lunch boxes’ being coordinated for various delivery people.

DSC05994rSome are delivered via trolly.

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Most are delivered via bicycle.

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Packing ones bike and maneuvering with so many tourists can be a pain,

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and it can be hard work.

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Next stop is the laundry, also called Dohbi ghats, where the laundry of Bombay is cleaned.
But first we have to catch a train.DSC06009rThe Indian lady is our guide and we were warned to disembark the train quickly at our destination, because the train only stopped for about 30 seconds.

DSC06010rOur window – without glass.

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Air conditioning

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Dohbi Ghat from the road.

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Each of the stone areas, within Dohbi Ghat, is passed down through the family generation after generation.

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Drying clothes – they do say that less than 0.1% of the laundry is lost, because each Dhobi walla has his own mark, which is placed in an unseen area of the clothing.

DSC06025rI wonder what happens to a person’s feet when they are in water all their working life.

DSC06029rOf course we have the crowds and the hawkers.

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We did see the occasional horse and cart.

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and the cows in the street are common.

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Never short of traffic.

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Our last visit was to Gandhi’s house – the above is the room where he worked and slept.

DSC06037rDSC06039rThe outside of his house.

Back to the ship and two days at sea before Muscat in Oman.

Onions and Bombay Beer

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My first visit to Bombay (as it was then) as a cadet opened my eyes to India with its teaming millions, garri wallhas (motorised rickshaw now commonly called tuk tuks), honking horns, the ringing of bicycle bells, and the ever mouth watering smell of spiced food.

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I’d grown to love curries, because at lunchtime on the Company’s vessels, the officers would be offered curry (as well as European food). The curries were different every day, from beef through to fish or vegetables. We had two galleys on the ship (sometimes more if we had Muslim & Hindu crews), one for the European officers and the other for the crew. The deck crew might have all been hired from one village in India or Pakistan, and the engine room crew from another village. The cooks and stewards for the Europeans were Goanese, which was a colony of Portugal until 1961. The Indian cooks might have been Muslim or Hindu, which meant that the officers would not be able to eat their bacon (Muslims will not touch pig meat) and eggs, or their roast beef (Hindu will not touch cow meat), so the solution was to hire people from Goa to attend to the officers, because they were generally Catholics, due to the influence of Portugal, so everyone was happy! The Goanese Company cooks produce great curries.

Bombay was a major location for the Company, having traded around the Indian coast for over a hundred years. This port had a Company Officers’ Club, which was part hotel, and part social club i.e snooker, cards etc and a small bar. The hotel part would be used by officers waiting for their ship to arrive in port.

On my first visit to the Club I entered the bar to see people drinking beer, so I asked the barman for a cold beer.
‘Chitty, Sahib’
On the ship one didn’t use money, but signed a chit for a case of beer or a carton of cigarettes, the books were balanced at the end of the voyage.
‘Chitty?’ I asked.
‘From the police, Sahib’
At this point a fellow cadet took pity on the new boy and explained the system. I had to report to the police and fill in a form stating that I was an alcoholic, and I would be given a chit allowing me to buy a limited number of beers at the Officers’ Club.

Maharashtra State, in which Bombay was located, was a ‘dry’ State! (It isn’t now). So it was pure panic to get to the police station before the senior officer went home for the night. I managed it! I wonder if I am still listed as an alcoholic in this part of India.

Outside, in the city away from the Raj like atmosphere of the Officers’ Club, one could get a large beer (650 ml) in the brothels (none of us wanted the ladies), for about ten shillings, which was very expensive, but better than nothing in the humidity of Bombay, after we’d finished our small beer allowance sanctioned by the police.
After ordering the beer we always wanted to see the un-opened bottle so that we could inspect the cap and make sure it had not been tampered with in anyway. I must admit the establishment made sure that they didn’t offend anyone (very PC for those days). Around the walls of the ‘ladies waiting room’ were pictures and photographs of most of the world leaders from,

Queen
HM Queen Elizabeth UK

 

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Archbishop Makarios of Cyprus
JFK
JFK of the US
De Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle – of France
Khrushchev
Khrushchev – USSR as it was then
Franco
General Franco of Spain
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Pope John XXIII

the above pictures are of those that I can remember, but there were many others, few leaders were left out. To me it was an eye opener to another world. The ports visited by my previous ship, which was a tanker, were very restricted for going ashore, compared to my current tramp ship.

I did hear it say that the Bombay beer, at that time, was brewed from onions, but I am unable to confirm this as fact, but after seeing people drink a few bottles of the local Bombay brew, many would often start crying, so the theory might be true!