Mr Gabriel’s Midnight Adventure, and other stories

My very latest batch of photos can be viewed here. If you have any trouble, then try again while logged out of Facebook.

And I bet his mum's really proud!

Chapter I: Mr Gabriel’s Midnight Adventure

So just before 1am, I was woken by the sound of someone trying my door-handle, and then by the jangling of keys. This stopped after a minute, so I guessed it was a dream or a cockroach or something. Then it started up again, a few minutes later. I stumbled over to the door, and opened it to reveal a security guard with a screwdriver, plus two miscellaneous workmen. They didn’t seem to have enough English between them to explain what they were playing at, but took a quick glance inside, nodded at me and then walked away.

About fifteen minutes later, I heard the same baboonery at the door, and when I again faced the workmen, they seemed to be gesturing that they needed to borrow my bathroom lightbulb for some urgent purpose and woudl would replace it in the morning. I let them in, and they proceeded to unscrew the small plastic shampoo shelf, nodded to me, then took their leave.

After waking up at the proper time, I was staggered to find that the batroom shelf was indeed gone and that my midnight adventure had actually taken place in the real world. Plausible explanations on a postcard please…?

Chapter II: Food for Fort

On Thursday, I completely by accident found the legendary Dindigul Rock Fort: this stronghold is sited on a large rock which allegedly looks like a pillow, dindigul in Tamil! It cost 5 Rupees for Indians and 100 for foreigners. The bored-looking attendant asked for my passport, not in order to check that I wasn’t a local trying to get away with paying a higher price, but rather out of a casual interest. He sat and slowly read every single page, occasionally pausing to report snippets to his colleague: “6 month stay in India visa… Gabriel Sam… United Kingdom…”

He also questioned me on my educational background, again, purely for leisure purposes. I assumed that his query about my swimming ability was similarly relaxed, but it was actually to reassure him that I would be OK if I slipped into any of the few, shallow, tiny pools of water dotted around the monument. He was duly reassured.

There was a long, hot climb up a narrow staircase chipped into the rock, and a telephone line also wound its way up to the top though there seemed to be no ‘phones there. Hardly any signs of civilisation at all, in fact. No cafes or gift-shops or interactive history displays. English Heritage would have been bitterly disappointed.

The fort itself was medieval and Indian and quite pleasant, but the wonderful breeze, the remarkable quiet (broken only by the occasional loud ‘vehicle reversing’ jingle from below) and the incredible views were the main attractions. Among other things, the trip revealed how ridiculously large and sprawling Dindigul is. After a bit of a rest, set off on the steep downward journey. Finally reached the bottom so hot and thirsty that a chilled bottle of mango juice from the nearest shop was utter bliss!

Chapter III: The Lost Jews of Kodaikanal?

All the volunteers from the local area go on a weekend trip at… erm… weekends. This time, we were off to Kodaikanal, a four-and-a-half hour bus ride away. The journey cost 46p. It was all OK until we began to drive along the outside edge of a terrifyingly narrow mountain road, at which point I realised that I still have no idea which side of the road Indians officially drive on. I’ve gone down both!

As we got higher, the sweltering heat started to die down, and the othe rpassengers started to don fleeces, scarves and woolly hats. Wholly excessive.

Arrived at the youth hostel, checked in, and found the range of books in the common room to include The Woman in White and The Complete Yes Prime Minister. Also met a german wanderer, apparently a former journalist and coffee-shop owner, who told us how he was asked to be anextra in a French film shot in Pondicherry, alongside 900 other white faces, all in colonial dress and wigs.

The rest of Projects Abroad then arrived, and after checking in (a long process including passports, home addresses and the hospitably-titled “Foreigner Registration Form”) went for a stroll in the town. Nadia, our leader, claimed to be freezing and pulled on a huge woolly jumper with a picture of a snowman over her sari!

In the morning, we arrived at the start of our first trek, and I was astonished to find that all the signs were in Hebrew, one claiming ot offer falafel and other “Isreli food”. Hopefully it was not the Israelis who littered every inch of the rural ramble with so many crisp packets that a determined observer could do a survey of popular flavours, but despite this, it was an incredible walk, with views off ledges sometimes being completely concealed by clouds, as if they were the end of the world.

On the drive back to the hostel, we passed monkey after monkey, of all sizes and ages, some of whom were on car roofs and none of whom seemed remotely afraid of the oncoming coach. The Indian crew didn’t even slow down for them, considering them thieving pests, but stopped more than once so that the driver could jump down and photograph wild bison, apparently a much better attraction.

The weekend ended with dinner at the slightly over-the-top-named Hotel Eden Paradise Inn, which was OK but hopefully not representative of paradise’s actual standards…

Indiaballs: my regular quotes update


  • Sign: The Amazing Institute of Management (AIM)
  • Bank account being advertised: A boon for middle class!
  • History master: So which do you prefer, Dindigul or London?
  • Many, many children: Are you married?
  • Secretary: Your father is what? / Me: I’m sorry? / Secretary: Oh, yes, I am sorry… I mean, what is your father?

That’s your lot then.

So that’s more or less what’s been happening at my end. As usual, say nice things, and I’m sure there’ll be more to report soon! Well, actually there already is, but I’ll have to pay 10 more Rupees of I type on this rubbish keyboard any longer, so until next time then!

3 Responses to Mr Gabriel’s Midnight Adventure, and other stories

  1. Sandra Webber says:

    Lovely nature photos but please don’t stand on the edge of precipices.

  2. Janet Darley says:

    Regardless of which is the official side on which to dirve, people drive anywhere they want. I always found it best to not think too much about which side the car should actually be on. Women have an advantage though–usually a woman has a dupatta which I aways found useful for stifling my screams of terror while riding in a car!

  3. vince says:

    Dear Sir, I recently donated half a shekel to a charity established to remove your inferior plastic bathroom shelf and replace it with one more appropriate to your status in the community. I am interested to know whether the project has proceeded as per the advertised intent.

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