Sound of old tea factory machinery (funny imitation!)

Alan Lane, my dear friend and a retired tea veteran of Assam fondly remembers the start-up sound of the Lister diesel tea machinery of bygone days. Here is an amazing and ingenious imitation by two little Indian kids.  Please turn up your sound to enjoy. You won’t believe it! Thank you Alan, for sharing this lovely video.


Ajo: a tiny town with a big heart

The old Spanish Mission Church

Last Saturday I was in Ajo (pronounced ‘Ah-ho’) a wee mining town– a stone’s throw from the Mexican border. Ajo is as cute its name (population 3,500). The other Arizona town that rivals Ajo in its teeny name is the town of “Why”. I learned from the folks at Ajo the residents of “Why” wanted to name their town “Y” because it is located at a Y-shaped intersection – but the post office does not accept a single letter for a town name and that is why Why came to named Why! So much for trivia.

The downtown plaza

The “Friends of the Ajo Library” – a volunteer organization had invited me to give a talk. Ajo is a 2 hour drive from where we live, and what a beautiful drive it was through a highway lined with wildflowers. I wished I had stopped to take pictures but I worried I’d be late, so we drove straight on. P1030944The quaint little Ajo Salzar Library is located right in the middle of the town plaza and the Friends of the Library gave me a very warm welcome. After my slide show and Q&A there was small reception with the most delicious baked treats and tea. We drove around the town and up to see the big open pits and a cute little historical museum. Here is a picture of me in my rather loud dress standing outside the mining museum. What a gratifying day! Thank you Ajo!

There’s a stingray in my pool!

stingray shorts

We live in the desert and things fall into our swimming pool –all the time.

A desert turtle fell in once and we found it lying at the bottom. At first I thought it was a brown hat. We fished it out and sat it on a rock and I was about to declare it DOA, when lo and behold the creature opened it’s bleary eyes, coughed up a tablespoon of water and shuffled off into the rocks.

Another accidental fall-in was a wee baby bat with a cheeky face amazingly like a Chihuahua. Batty was revived with milk fed with a Q-tip, kept in a dark shoebox in the laundry room (the closest thing I could find to a cave) and released at dusk. Bats probably send out a sonar signal like they say, because only seconds after I set him out on the patio, a whole bunch of aunties and uncles, cousins and friends showed up en masse, and Batty joined them after a rather drunken take off that almost landed him in the pool the second time.

Baby Chuckwalla lizard rescued from the pool
Baby Chuckwalla lizard rescued from the pool

Rescue#3 was a baby Chuckwalla lizard – which had ingested so much water, its stomach was bloated and tight like a Ping-Pong ball. After reviving in the run, Chucky waddled off to live another day. Hurrah!

This wild bobcat (the size of a large dog) lives up by the rocks in my backyard and sometimes pays us a visit. It recently had 3 pups.
This wild bobcat is the size of a large dog and lives up in the rocks behind my backyard. Recently it had 3 pups.

Other pool visitors include a beautiful bobcat that pays us the occasional visit. It has striking markings and elegantly tufted ears.

A young Sonoran king snake once jumped into the pool to grab a juicy chlorine-marinated mouse and probably nursed a stomach ache for the rest of the day. King Snakes (they can grow up to three feet) are harmless to humans and it’s a good thing to have them around  because they kill rattlesnakes.

Baby King snake slithering off after eating a mouse
Baby King snake slithering off after eating a mouse (note bulge).
This mallard duck flew in to romance with our plastic chlorine tablet holder (seen pouting in the far corner.)
The mallard duck that flew in to romance with our plastic chlorine tablet holder (seen in the far corner.)

Then, there are surprise drop-ins. An amorous mallard, veered off its migration course to crash-land in our pool looking no doubt, for a last summer fling. But sadly, the coy female lounging in the corner, turned out to be only a plastic chlorine tablet holder. Mally flew off with a disgusted ‘quack’.

Another time, a not-so-lucky raccoon was found floating belly up, eyes rolled back with  its ghastly teeth showing. My sister who was visiting from India the next day, heard all about it. Sis, if you must know, has little knowledge of raccoons.

Talking to her friend in California, Sis says. “I missed all the excitement, yesterday. A moose fell into Shona’s pool.”

“A MOOSE!” shrieked the friend, “My goodness, what did they do?”

“Oh it was already dead so they just threw it out into the desert,” Sis replies, casually.

“But HOW?”

“With a shovel.”

(More shrieks from the other end)

Sis covers the mouthpiece and tells me. “She can’t believe the moose fell into your pool.”

“Not a moose – a raccoon,” I correct her.

“Sorry, it was a raccoon,” Sis tells her friend, “Not moose. I got the animals mixed up because of the two ‘o’s in the spelling.”

“Then it could be a baboon, too, for that matter, ” says the friend, dryly.

Giving all creatures falling into our pool, it was hardly surprising when hubby looking out the patio door, one morning, declares. “Something large has fallen in the pool.”

I grab my glasses, “What is it? A raccoon? A moose? A baboon?” Anything is possible after all but I’m stunned at what he says.

“Very strange,” says hubby, slowly. “but it looks a little bit like a stingray.”

I can hardly believe my eyes. The creature is HUGE, with dull mottled markings and it’s flapping away at the bottom of the pool, obviously alive, because its large wings, fins or whatever they are, move up and down. In the refracted light of the pool it looks sinister and threatening.

“A stingray!” I scream. “Oh my God!”

Hubby is less prone to theatrics. “That’s ridiculous. We live in the middle of the desert! I’m going out to take a look.”

“No!” I pull him back. “You will scare the thing. It might jump.” The thought is too terrifying.

Suddenly, I have an idea. “Wait here, I’m getting the binocs.”

I peer through the binoculars, hands shaking, unable to focus. I almost drop them when the automatic timer on the pool pump suddenly comes on and the creature jolts forward and flaps around furiously, looking agitated.

“What?” Hubby grabs the binocs from me and adjusts the focus. He stares through them, opens the patio door and goes outside. He is laughing. “Come here, you’ll never believe what it is.”

Can you guess what it was? Hint: look at the first picture. Now wouldn’t you think it was a stingray if you saw it flapping  away at the bottom of your pool – that too, first thing in the morning, before drinking your first cup of tea?

Life is never dull, I tell you.  Cheers, my friends!

Update“What were the shorts doing at the bottom of the pool?” is the sneaky question I am getting. I hasten to explain – they were drying on a deck chair and got blown in by the wind. 🙂


How to cure hiccups

I just came across this ancient cookery book (anonymous ) full of delightful quirky and curious information. Here’s one:

434.–To Cure Hiccough or Hiccup

This spasm is caused by flatulency, indigestion, and acidity. It may generally be relieved by a sudden fright or surprise, or the application of cold, also by swallowing two or three mouthfuls of cold water or a teaspoonful of vinegar, or by eating a small piece of ice, taking a punch of snuff, or anything that excites coughing.

(Source: Thackers Indian Cookery Book 1900)

UPDATED: June 7th 2013 Thanks to  the delightful Lorna McInnes and Paul Tucker who commented on this post, I racked my little pea brain trying to figure out how to drink from the opposite side of the glass and guess what? Google and thou shalt find! It’s on YouTube!! I didn’t realize you have to bend over to do this (so no wet chin Paul Tucker) Check out this video and keep this in mind the next time you get hiccups! Cheers!

Of course I couldn’t  resist adding this video of a tiny baby with hiccups and the twin brother laughing. It cracked me up!

UPDATED June 10th 2013 thanks to a comment by Jo Wolf. Here’s some more time-wasting information.

Here are some known methods to cure bad hiccups :

  • Hold your ears and drink a pint of water.
  • Drink a glass of water extremely fast.
  • Scare yourself, somehow become frightened.
  • Smelly salts are known to get rid of hiccups
  • Grab your tongue and pull it hard.
  • Place one-half teaspoon of dry sugar on the back of your tongue. (You can repeat this process 3 times at 2-minute intervals. Use corn syrup, not sugar, in young children.)

Some other strange suggestions as a cure for hiccups:

  • Drop a cold key down your back. (Thanks Jo Wolfe!)
  • Lay on the floor and ask a friend to hold your legs in the air for 30 seconds.
  • Hold your breath and hop on one leg.
  • Hold your breath and dip your head in a sink full of cold water (surely hiccups aren’t that bad?)

You can read the full article here on Sports


UPDATED AGAIN! : 5 minutes later 06-10-2013. Alright I officially surrender! I am hopelessly sucked into this completely pointless and intriguing discussion. Here is more about the fascinating superstitions surrounding hiccups

“Did you know that when you hiccup, someone might be thinking ill of you? In some European cultures, it’s your body trying to expel that negative energy that attacks you when a bad thought is created in the mind of another. What is another way to stop the hiccups? Try to think of the person who is thinking ill of you, and say their name. This should stop the negative energy from flowing into you from their head. Let’s hope you can immediately think of that person, like Charles Osborne failed to do. Charles hiccupped for 68 years from the time he was 10 to his death in 1990. Someone must have really hated poor Charles.

In other cultures, such as Russian folklore, hiccups could simply mean someone is thinking about you—it isn’t specified whether the thoughts are good or bad.  Apparently, you could also be owned by the devil if you have the hiccups, according to common superstitions, and the hiccups are your body telling you that you have bad luck. In Japan, if you manage to hiccup 100 times, it means you’ll probably be pushing up daisies in a few days. Most of the superstitions surrounding hiccups are alike in many ways. 

(You can read the complete post on hiccups and sneezes by Morgan Nashwold by clicking here on