Magazine article The Spectator

Falling in Love

Magazine article The Spectator

Falling in Love

Article excerpt

Done the Isle of Wight, been to Brighton, went to Paris in the Fifties when it looked and smelt like a foreign country -- I saw Bud Powell play piano and lived off baguettes and cheap vin rouge. I've since done America, done and still do Italy, been to Australia, South Africa -- you might say I was becoming a bit of long-haul bore. 'I always drink green tea and wear my own travel socks.

And never, never sleep. . . .' Should I now push on and turn myself into a cartoon version of Somerset Maugham? Get out and discover new sights, new aromas, change my wretched life? Should I take romance by the hand and go to India? Why not? After all, it's cheaper to get there than to go by train to Glasgow. It's half the flight time to New Zealand. Maybe I could start a rubber plantation (or is that Malaya? ), go mad drinking whisky and soda and shoot myself? Maybe I could buy some jute and discuss Gandhi, the original Slimmer of the Year, the anorexic's anorexic: 'Get out of India or I'll starve myself to death.' (It worked, we got out and now we're all going back again. ) God, the Heat! Did the Taj Mahal by moonlight look like a biscuit tin, as Noël Coward once said when people had Private Lives?

Having made the decision to go, I felt like Kipling. Gunga Din. We -- me, the other half and our two girls -- were going to see fakirs who'd been standing on one leg for 50 years staring at the sun with burnt-out hollowed eye sockets, and watch boys vanishing up ropes. Here we come. The children's lives would change overnight. They'd throw their PlayStations away on seeing starving kids in Bombay begging for crumbs among a million others, and realise that having 50 Bratz dolls was, in a way, as bad as Indian rajahs with their wealth and diamond-studded elephants. But, first, injections and anti-malaria tablets. We were going to a real foreign land, not Hove.

Goa is, I suppose, India Lite. It is wonderful to behold its buildings, its temples and its Christian churches. Its eclectic mix of rice paddies and Portuguese architecture. And oddly enough the dwellings were gummed together with advertisements for Kit Kat, for God's sake, and internet online gambling. Untouchable goats and cattle roam around the roads at their own snail's pace -- like English yobs.

You don't realise it but you are falling in love -- in love with the rhythm of it. …

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