The joys and woes of a writers retreat

Lakeside is the ideal place for a writer. 

Much of my thinking and planning happens whilst I’m walking down by the lake – often whole conversations take place in my head and are written down when I get back home.

Most writers look for peace and seclusion to get their ideas down on paper (or more frequently nowadays, on the laptop!) and I find no better environment than sitting on the veranda with a view of the lake, laptop in front of me and fresh fruit juice by my side.

Thanks to Lakeside I’ve been able to finish my debut novel which was published this weekend.

Those are the joys of my ‘writers retreat’ here at Lakeside.  And the woes?  Uploading the manuscript and cover with poor connectivity!  Still, it’s done now and I hope you get a chance to read ‘Heronfield’ at some time.

And to any writers out there looking for a ‘hideaway’ where they can write in peace?  Don’t forget us here at Lakeside!

Poison disrupts the delicate ecological balance of our valley

A couple of years ago a puppy turned up at Lakeside.  Starving, cut and bruised from beatings he was a sad sight to see, but we took care of him and he soon settled in, although he has always been nervous of men.  Bobby, as he came to be known, was a typical local Indian dog, very intelligent and incredibly fast – he could have given a greyhound a run for its money!

Bobby was a great friend to Loki, my Alaskan Malamute who sadly died last year.  Loki’s place was taken by a puppy called Perry who finally taught Bobby how to play!  The two were firm friends.

Having spent some months living wild as a puppy Bobby has never been a ‘house dog’.  He has always slept outside and taken himself off exploring every day – but always coming back for his meals!  Like most local dogs, and particularly because of his early history, Bobby was a scavenger and would eat anything he found on his explorations that was vaguely edible !

A week ago our neighbours dog took ill and died suddenly.  There was a case of a dog further up the valley suffering from poisoning but he luckily survived.  There are reports of at least 5 dogs being found poisoned on the other side of the lake.  And the wild boar, who have been making a bit of a nuisance of themselves while the diggers are deepening the lake, have suddenly disappeared.  There are rumours that a local official has said that all stray dogs must be ‘got rid of’ and it appears that indiscriminate poison is the preferred method. 

We have seen a reduction in the common wildlife over the last week or so, but one wonders also about the animals we see less frequently.  What of the local leopard who not only hunt but also scavange on dead animals?  Have they been affected too?

On a positive note (if there can be such a thing in a situation like this) Lakeside borders the Reserve Forest which is teeming with wildlife so we hope it won’t be long before other animals move down to take over the vacant niches around the lake.  Of course that is no comfort to our neighbours and others who have lost pets, including ourselves.

Bobby has not been seen for over a week.  We did hope for a few days that maybe he had just found a ‘ladyfriend’ and would be back, but as the days passed we have come to accept that he, too, is a victim of the poisoning.

We will miss him.

Chinese Fishing Nets, Fort Cochin

 

Recent clients on one of our South Indian Tours spent a couple of nights in fort Cochin, Kerala.  As with all tourists they spent time watching the Chinese fishing nets in use.  These nets seem to be found only in China and Fort Cochin!  It is thought that traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan introduced the nets here, but no-one is sure why they were set up along the coast here at Fort Cochin and Vypeen.

The nets are fixed to the shoreline and are operated from there by a massive cantilever.  The structure is about 10 meters high and operated by five or six men.  The individual length of the boom means that the net can only work in a specific depth of water so there are different sized structures to enable the fishermen to work in different depths of water in this tidal area.

Bamboo and teak poles hold the nets which have large rocks as counter-weights.  A man will walk out along the arm of the mechanism and his weight is enough to lower it down into the water.   The net is only left in the water for about four or five minutes before it is raised by the team of fishermen hauling on the ropes.  The rocks, each about 30 cm in diameter, are suspended from ropes of different lengths so that as the net is raised they  come to rest on the ground in sequence which keeps everything nicely balanced.

They nets rarely catch much – just a fish or two and maybe the odd crab or a few shrimps, but they can be lowered a great many times during the day which can lead to a sizeable catch.  The fish are often sold immediately to local passers-by who take them home for dinner – or by tourists who will get their hotel to cook them – no need for a middle-man in the market here!

It is not difficult to see why these nets are such a tourist attraction.  Large and elegant they line the shore like giant herons intent on fishing for their supper; their movemnet is strangely mesmeric and, along with the creaking of the rope and the splashing of the water, seems to wash away any stresses and cares.  Under the cloudless sky, watching the sun reflecting from the water in a mryiad rays, seeing the fish, leap and turn so that the sun reflects off their scales in rainbow shades – what a wonderful way to spend some time!

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How green is my valley?

At Lakeside we take our environmental responsibilities seriously.  We live in a beautiful place and want to keep it that way for ourselves, for our guests, for the locals and for the next generation.

Soma Basu of the prestigious Hindu newspaper recognises the work done by ourselves and the other ex-pats who live in the valley in a recent article.  She also describes beautifully just what a wonderful place this is.  I hope her words inspire you to take a holiday at Lakeside sometime!