(When I took the above photo, a man appeared from nowhere, and tried to make me pay him. I’m not sure he was even connected to the lorry! I walked away, and let Husband deal with him.)

Still so much that’s new in India. Today I tried ‘Dragon Fruit’ or ‘pitaya’. I’ve seen them in supermarkets in the UK, but never known how to eat them. I asked the man delivering them, and he said to cut it lengthways into quarters, and then gently pull back the peel. I washed it first, just to eliminate chance of eating germs. It looks really amazing. It tastes really disappointing! Is okay, but nowhere near as exciting as it looks. Apparently, they are very good for you, and full of cancer-fighting nutrients. They grow on cacti.

On Monday, Husband had to work. I arranged to meet a friend in the lobby for tea. I asked her if Mumbai was safe for a woman to walk around alone. She assured me that she walks everywhere, and has never had any trouble. The main danger is scams and pick-pockets, so I should be alert, but was unlikely to be attacked, even after dark, and even in poorer areas. Sometimes, being somewhere very different to home can seem scary, but usually it’s safe.

I had previously asked my friend to read through CLARA, to check it was acceptable from an Indian’s point of view. It is very difficult to write about another culture, and I was keen that I shouldn’t write something that seemed offensive to people living in India. There were a few changes she suggested, mainly to names, but mostly it was okay. When we met, I was able to show her the cover photograph. I am just waiting for the cover to arrive for approval, and then the printer can print it. All getting very exciting now. It is, I think, the best book I have written, so I hope you will read a copy.

In the evening we went to the hotel bar. There was also a rooftop bar, but it was shut due to a horrific fire at another hotel, where several people had been killed. I’m not sure whether the government had shut all rooftop bars as a precaution, perhaps to check their safety procedures. This bar was okay, but had the most uncomfortable seats ever. Women over 50 like comfy seats. I also got a lot of feedback from Husband about my cardigan. I ignored him, I’m sure it will start a new trend.

Last breakfast. The breakfast is nice, but the table-setting is a bit random. There should be cutlery, a bottle of water, glass, side-plate and napkin for each place. But there often isn’t. Sometimes things are delivered as you eat. It’s a little odd to be presented with a side-plate and napkin when you’ve nearly finished eating! There are a LOT of staff waiting the tables. I’m guessing each one has a specific role, and they don’t always keep up when new guests arrive to eat. They also have a tendency to come and chat while you’re eating. They hover near the table, and ask if everything is okay (which happens in UK restaurants) but then stay to ask what plans you have for the day, and if you’re enjoying the hotel. I’m not sure whether to pause my eating while they’re there, or carry on chewing whilst they chat.

Arriving home after a holiday is always nice. When you first arrive, there’s a certain novelty to cleaning your teeth in tap water, and being able to eat a bowl of cereal when you’re hungry. You have all your memories and photographs, and it doesn’t matter that you haven’t yet unpacked because you’ve only just arrived home. Then, two weeks later, you feel like you’ve never been away, you’re tired again, and feeling stressed because you still haven’t managed to put away the suitcases! Or perhaps you’re more organised than me.

I do enjoy being in India, even though it’s exhausting. I have visited several times over the last few months, talking to people who live in the poorer areas, learning about their lives, visiting their homes. It has been fascinating. I wonder when I’ll come again.

Thank you for reading.

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Don’t forget to look out for my new book: CLARA – A Good Psychopath?
An exciting story that shows what it’s like to be poor in India. It’s nearly ready…


Dhobi Ghat

Dhobi Ghat

We decided to walk to Dhobi Ghat, next to Mahalaxmi railway station. This is a laundry, built by the British Raj in 1890, and still in use today. It was easy to find, as it really is right next to the station, and you can see lines of washing as you approach. We stood on the bridge, next to the station, and looked down at the laundry.

There were concrete pools of water, each with a flogging stone (where the laundry is bashed until clean). People stood in the pools, dunking linen, and rinsing it in great vats of water. There were also people washing themselves and cleaning their teeth – it all seemed to happen in the same water, though I could see a narrow gulley that was taking away the dirty water. Hanging above them, were lines and lines of washing.

The laundry is used by hotels and hospitals, and smaller laundries, who send the linen there to be washed, and then iron it before returning it to the customer (for a profit). Clothing manufacturers also send stuff there that they want ‘stone washed’, and we saw lots of jeans hanging to dry. They also dye fabric. The owner’s name is written in the back of garments, so they all get returned to the correct people (though it looked to me as if there might be muddles sometimes).

The people who work there are called ‘dhobis’. They don’t earn much, and many now also double up as tour guides. Some have installed washing machines and dryers, which we could see under awnings, but there was still lots of hand-washing happening.

The laundry is big – I read that 7,000 people work there. There were little pens, and tiny houses, all within the laundry walls, though some people live in the slums outside. Lots of tourists were there, taking photographs. We could see lots from the bridge, though for once I wished I had my big camera and not just a phone to take photos.

We walked down, looking for a way inside. The street was very crowded, with tiny shops and stalls and traffic and people. We passed a stall selling meat – there were chickens wilting in the sunshine behind the stall, struggling to get next to a fan. They were killed to order, which makes for very fresh meat (which is necessary when there’s not refrigeration) but an unhappy life for a chicken. We also passed blocks of public washrooms, when you tried to not breath in as you walked past. They are probably the only facilities available for the people who live there, as there didn’t look like they had any plumbing actually in their houses.

We found a gate into the laundry. There was a faded sign, saying that it was in The Guinness Book of World Records, for the most hand-washing done at once. A man appeared, and offered to give us a tour. But it all looked a bit daunting and ‘unofficial’, so we declined.

It was very interesting. When we got back to the hotel, I read that the local people don’t particularly like the laundry, seeing as a dirty place. Apparently most of the cases of malaria and dengue fever come from the laundry. The slums surrounding the laundry are gradually being cleared away, and replaced with tower blocks for the workers to live in. I hope they are better.

I hope you’re enjoying my blogs about India. I have visited several times over the last few months, mainly going into the poorer areas and talking to people, learning about their lives, so I could write my next book.  
CLARA – A Good Psychopath?

Due to be released soon. Don’t miss it. A compelling read with some huge ideas.


Thank you for reading.
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Walk to Worli Sea Face

Walk to Worli Sea Face

Our second day in Mumbai, and we decided to walk a little further than yesterday (it would be hard to walk less far, as we barely left the hotel driveway!)

We set off after breakfast. I was again struck by the contrast between the hotel behind us and the life happening at the end of the driveway. The hotel has large metal gates and guards, to stop the life encroaching on the unreality of the luxurious hotel (though we encroached on the bustle of real life happening on the street). We had a map, and walked for about two miles to the coast. It felt much longer, due to the heat and the noise and the pollution. You can’t walk too fast here, because the air is too thick to want to take deep breaths. I didn’t notice much pollution when we were here before, but we were right on the coast then, so maybe that makes a difference.

India bombards you. You need to be very alert when you walk, as there is lots of potential danger (like the man welding above your head, or the motorbike zooming along the path, or the man carrying a pile of unsecured bricks on his shoulder). The pavement is often rough, with loose paving stones, and there is a whole lot of nasty stuff you need to avoid stepping in. Plus you want to see. There is so much life happening, and you want to notice it all, not miss anything. So you walk slowly, and with care, and you wish you had more than one pair of eyes.

People here live their lives on the street. If you have scissors and a chair, you have a barber’s shop. We passed fruit stalls, and a printer’s shop where machines were spewing out reams of posters, and a laminating shop, and a small unit where they were cutting and polishing granite. A man with a sewing machine was making a suit jacket, and a woman with tweezers was removing a splinter from a child’s foot. A group of women were threading flower heads into garlands outside a temple, and cows were tethered to railings. So much life. I guess, if the weather is dry, and you don’t value privacy, then being outside isn’t unpleasant. It’s hard to evaluate different cultures, and I wonder what those people would think if they visited my home. They would probably think it odd how secluded we are, strange that we should live such isolated lives in our big houses and cars and offices.

I don’t know why I love India. It’s too hot and smoggy and smelly. There is constant noise, and I don’t like eating any of the food because it upsets my tummy. And yet, there is something here that fascinates me and draws me back. Perhaps it’s the people, who are polite and who decorate their clothes and buildings with such lovely patterns. I like the way people are busy, striving to improve, always on the look out for a chance in life.

The sea front was hot, and smoggy. Not particularly beautiful. (The dog in the photo was asleep, not dead.) There was a naked old man bathing, so I had to angle my photographs carefully (didn’t want to shock my mother). Walked back to hotel, and showered. Being outside is fascinating, but I need a safe clean place to escape back to – not sure I would enjoy India if I was back-packing.

When I checked the local news, I read that a boat had sunk just outside Mumbai, carrying a party of school children. And a helicopter had crashed into the bay. And a leopard had wandered into a residential area, mauling people before it could be sedated. (I didn’t even know there were leopards in Mumbai, but it didn’t say it had escaped from anywhere, so maybe there are.) As I said, you need to be careful in India…

Thank you for reading.
Tomorrow we plan to visit an ancient laundry. Why not sign up to follow my blog?


(A rather hot, wishing I had tied back my hair, photo. Was told I looked ‘Mumsy’. Assume that’s a compliment.)



First Day in Mumbai

Slept very heavily, but breakfast finishes at 10:30 local time, so had to set alarm for about 4:40am BST. Short night. Dragged myself to restaurant, hoping it would be worth it. It was. There were dozens of counters serving different food, all freshly cooked. Some were ethnic Indian, some more European. It all looked amazing, with a huge choice of fruits and breads and hot food. A man walked around serving tiny glasses of chai (a spicy tea). My stomach is rubbish at accepting strange foods and different bacteria, so I am always extremely cautious when away, and limit myself to only freshly cooked hot vegetarian food. This was not easy here, as everything looked so tempting, but I forced myself to have just pancakes and black coffee. Husband ate everything.

We did almost nothing all day. The hotel is lovely, with a pool area and spa and fitness room. There is constant noise from the street below, but you don’t really notice it. There is some interesting art work.

At 3pm local time, we went to the drawing room, as our room included complimentary afternoon tea. I knew it was unlikely I would eat any (wouldn’t be hot freshly cooked food) but Husband was keen to sample it. A beautiful array of cakes and sandwiches arrived – it was so hard not to forget my ‘rule’ and just gobble it down. But I knew I was bound to be ill, so limited myself to tea. There was a pianist, and it was all very lovely.

We decided to go out for a stroll. Asked various members of staff if the area was safe to walk around. None of them understood, and all asked where we wanted to go, and whether we wanted a hotel car or a taxi. Am guessing most guests don’t walk. We looked online, and it seemed that walking around this area was safe, as long as we were careful of pickpockets and scams. Violent crime against tourists seems rare.

We walked out the driveway, and instantly were plunged into ‘real India’. There were tiny shops and stalls and people working on the street. Men were welding on balconies, there was a laminating factory, a printing works, grocery stores, people cooking. The whole of life happening right there on the street. We didn’t walk far – it was hot and we were tired – but we saw so much in such a short time. That is India. Very poor and very rich all overlap, and you can’t avoid noticing the contrast. I was wearing smart clothes and sunglasses, which felt very out of place as soon as I left the hotel. Next time I’ll wear my old jeans and a tee-shirt, though I will still look like a tourist. I am so big here, I feel like a giant compared to local people.

Ate dinner in hotel restaurant. We both tried to order food that wouldn’t be too spicy. We both failed. I find I eat a lot of shortbread (brought from England) when I’m in India. I think to enjoy the food here, you need a very strong stomach and to enjoy extremely hot food (we eat a lot of curry in the UK, but it’s much milder than here).

Went to bed about 8pm (1.30am local time). Another day I want to walk to the sea front, and maybe go to see Dhobi Ghat, which is an ancient laundry and is near enough to walk to. Today was about resting after Christmas and new year and the journey, but we still managed to dip a toe into India. It’s a fascinating place. Thank you for reading.

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The Red Light District of Mumbai

So, deciding to be brave, I went to the red-light district of a Mumbai slum. Husband was working, so I contacted Tearfund, and they arranged for me to visit one of their projects. Beforehand, I was very nervous about going on my own, but I am so glad I did it.

I was met by Max, who is the director of Sahaara. We’ve never met, so it was a little like a spy story -“I will be under the arch with a pink carnation in my buttonhole” (Well, actually, he just told reception who he was and we met in the hotel lobby, but you get the idea.) We then got a taxi to Turbhe, the area of the slum he works in. We chatted in the car, and I could check on a few things I’ve included in my latest novel (which is set partly in the slums of Delhi).

As we walked through the slums, it was all very similar to places I saw in Delhi: homes made from scavenged materials, uneven walls, unglazed windows, corrugated iron roofs. The hard mud paths were litter strewn – in a couple of weeks they’ll be quagmires of wet mud.



Roads were pot holed, narrow, stalls and heaps of rubbish making obstacles for vehicles to inch around. At one point the road was blocked as a lorry driver was asleep, curled up over the steering wheel, oblivious to the honking from other drivers who were unable to pass.



We first went to a building (actually, it was really just a narrow room) which is a feeding centre/education room. In May, everything closes (due to the heat) but they were still providing a mid-day meal. They had two gas burners, one with a pressure cooker of dhal, one with a vat of rice.






There was a bowl of hard boiled eggs, which they must’ve cooked earlier. No work-surface (no idea how they chop vegetables – they must do it in their hand, on a plate balanced somewhere). No sink, no running water. There were cupboards, some of them very high. At one point a woman climbed, a foot on a shelf, other foot on the top of a cupboard door, to reach plates from a top cupboard. Metal plates were stacked on a drainer.



They were washed in a bucket on the floor, the water carried in from an outside water butt.
Water is piped into the slum once in the morning, once in the evening, and people fill containers to use throughout the day.

The children arrived. Black-eyed, smiling, interested to see a big white woman sitting in their room (I feel huge in India. Everyone is smaller than me. Husband is a giant here.) I took lots of photos, but I’m uncomfortable about publishing them here, as most of the children had mothers who were sex workers. I will include fuzzy ones of backs, but not include faces, and hope that preserves their anonymity (we were on the edge of the red light district, I could photograph houses on the left, not on the right.)

These children were growing up in an environment where prostitution is the norm. Sahaara is educating them, so they don’t follow their mothers into the same profession, so they will have choices in life.
Previously, they found that some children arrived only for the food. Sahaara therefore made a rule: if the kids don’t attend lessons, they can’t eat. People complained, but now they all come to lessons. Seems a wise decision to me – if we just feed the poor, they will always be poor. (This is why I like Tearfund/Sahaara – they sometimes make unpopular decisions if it is for a greater good.)

IMG_2095They showed me the toilet – a room with a drain, a bucket, and a ladle. Absolutely no idea how it should be used (thankfully, was just a morning visit, I didn’t need to use a loo). Max told me that families are more likely to have a mobile phone than a toilet. There was also a fridge (not in the toilet, just in the room).

While we were there, the power went out. This happens every Friday. There isn’t enough electricity, so different areas of the slums have no power for certain times during the week. They never know how long the power-cut will last, sometimes a few hours, but when I was there it came back on after about 30 minutes. The fridge whirred back into life and the ceiling fan stirred the warm air. It would make the fridge pretty useless for anything other than drinks though.

We walked through the red light district. The houses here were slightly better, I guess it pays well. Each little house had 3 or 4 women outside, just sitting on chairs or on the floor. I thought they were sitting in the shade, chatting to each other. (Later, realised they were soliciting customers – am a bit naive about such things). Sahaara has a second centre in the heart of the red light district.

Here, they chat to the women, teach them skills like sewing, hairdressing, making things from junk – enabling them to have life choices if they want to choose a different career.
Max said it’s about caring for the women, showing them that God loves them, that they have worth, that they matter. Sahaara has a 9 point plan, starting with recognising the women, then greeting them, then befriending them, then inviting them to the centre, then the women coming on their own…. until, hopefully, they will decide they want to leave. If they do, then there are safe houses they can go to, to adjust to life outside the red light district, somewhere they can start to rebuild their lives.

Usually the centre is shut during May, but they opened it to show me inside. When they saw it was open, a couple of women came in, to see what was happening.

Back at the other centre, about 35 children sat on the floor. One child said grace (I think it was in English, which seems bizarre, as they all spoke Hindi. But I was tired, brain was fuzzy by then, so maybe was imagining it).
They ate from the tin plates, no cutlery, scooping the food with their right hands. The women were busy, one dishing up the food on plates, the others taking it round to the kids. I nearly offered to help, but then I realised, it was like Lunch Club at home. Everyone had a role and knew what they were doing, the last thing they wanted was some big foreign woman getting in the way!

We got a taxi back to the hotel, and Max delivered me safely to the lobby. I was so glad I had been, met the women, seen the children. It makes it easier to support the work and talk about it to others. Everyone has a different story. Some of the women would have been trafficked as children, some had gone into prostitution by choice, because their options were very limited. Max said they work with everyone, the prostitutes, their children, the pimps. They all need to be cared for.

It would be easy to judge, but their lives are tougher than ours, we are not so very different inside. If Sally finds she cannot make enough money from rent, she may well decide to go back to her village, to buy a young girl, to act as her pimp, so she can feed her own child. Not because she is more wicked than you or me, but because she has grown up in a harsher place, where survival means hard choices.

Sahaara is trying to show that God loves them, wants a better life for them and their children, and is teaching them the skills so they can make that choice. But the decision has to be theirs. All Sahaara can do is give them the choice. All we can do is help to provide the resources, and pray.

Thank you for reading. If you would like to help support Sahaara or learn more about their work, go to for more details.


I have included some of the women’s stories in my latest novel:
CLARA – A Good Psychopath?
Available from bookshops and Amazon, as both a paperback and Kindle book.
Why not buy a copy today?
UK link below

Mumbai, India

 I am writing this in Mumbai. Husband has to work in India for a few days, and travelling on work expenses is always rather nice (I pay for my travel & food, but the hotel is no extra, and they’re nice!) so I tagged along. Plus I love India, it’s possibly my favourite country (not that I have seen more than a snippet of it -but what I’ve seen, I like.)

We arrived late Wednesday night, having woken early that morning (left home 5.45 am), so I was tired. We had to go through different immigration, as I was travelling on a tourist visa, and husband had a work one. The woman at the desk was very pleasant, and when husband pointed out for the sixth time where he would meet me, she laughed. When he went off to his work visa desk, she commented that he seemed very worried about me.

“Yes,” I smiled, “he thinks I’m incompetent.”

Immigration officer then asked for my visa. I gave her the print out with the hotel details on. (They look the same, both printed from the computer.) She politely asked if I also had a visa.

She then asked where I had come from. I was surprised, but gave my full postal address. I even remembered the postcode, which often defeats me, so felt rather pleased with myself. Immigration officer looked confused and asked for my boarding pass. It was somewhat crumpled, but I dug it out from the bottom of my bag, then realised my mistake. “Heathrow!” I said, ” You wanted me to say Heathrow, not my address, didn’t you!”

Immigration officer continued to smile. We then had trouble making the fingerprint machine work (but I don’t think that was my fault.) Eventually I was allowed into India. I think Immigration Officer went for a tea break.

We’re staying at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. It’s beautiful. There was a mix up with our booking (also not my fault) and as a goodwill gesture, they upgraded us to a suite. The hotel really is beautiful. There are flowers and candles everywhere, and the corridors are all open, with lots of carved lattice work.

When we returned yesterday evening, there were patterns of flower petals everywhere, so pretty. (Romantic husband referred to them as ‘vegetation on the floor’ ).







Walked to Gateway to India. Lots of people there, some were catching ferries across the sea. It was previously owned by Portugal, (the Portuguese for good is ‘bom’ and its a bay, hence was called Bombay).





We went to a market and bartered for some trinkets. I am not very good at bartering, especially when the crafts are actually very pretty, and the price seems to be low to start with. Tradesmen smile a lot when I shop (and tell me not to bring my husband next time, because he’s cannier than me!)

Wandered around the city. I love the faded colonial buildings covered in vines, the huge plants, the colour everywhere. Every sense is bombarded, so much noise and smell (not always pleasant), and so hot. We met some friends for lunch. They said that in a couple of weeks the rain will come, sometimes raining for several days continually, which cools everything down.

I also visited the slums on the mainland, where I was shown around by Sahaara, one of the projects Tearfund works with. I went on my own, as Husband is working (very brave of me!) I will write up what I saw and post it later this week. Right now, I need a shower!

Excuse the bleary photos -all taken with my ancient phone.
Take care,

Anne x

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If you enjoyed this, you will love my new book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary.
I have always written a diary on holiday, so last Christmas, I decided to find all my old diaries and blogs, and make a book for my children. However, several other people also asked for a copy, so I have written a public version – it’s available on Amazon and has been described as “The Durrells meet Bill Bryson”!

Why not buy a copy today? I think it will make you laugh.

The US link is here:

The India link is here:

The UK link is here:


Tearfund Poems: Fear and Funeral

Tearfund Poems: Fear and Funeral.

Anne E Thompson


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Tearfund Poems: Fear and Funeral



When all consuming
Saps all mobility from limbs
Removes the ability to make
Even the softest sound.
So it was in silence
That he killed her
Repeatedly killed her.
You can die many times
In thirty seconds.
When he left
To continue with his living
She found a tiny shred
Of life within her.
She stretched it out
Thin and taut
To fit the shape
Of who she had been.
Because the shape was the same
No one noticed she had gone.
So she fed the brittle remains
With normality and routine,
And the remnant began to grow,
To fill her shape more naturally
To fit her life more comfortably.
But she always knew
That it might tear again
And leave the shell
Without a soul.

In Zambia we saw a truck full of boys driving around town. They were banging on the sides of the truck, like a drum beat. We were told that it was part of a funeral.

Image 12

African Funeral

Bang away the anger
Beat away the pain.
Another friend is gone now
Another brother slain.
Riding on the truck top
Travelling thro’ the dust,
Black voices shouting,
Hard thumping palms.

Bang away the anger
Beat away the fear.
Driving round the town now,
Funeral service tears.
Lowered in the ground now,
Covered with red mud,
More goodbyes spoken
Heart rending done.

Bang away the anger
Beat away the pain.
Disease has claimed it’s victim,
Disease has won again.
Hatred in our hearts now,
Sorrow fills our eyes.
So quickly taken,
More broken lives.

Tearfund Poems

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to visit Zambia and Mumbai, India.

I loved India, though every time I ventured from the hotel I found every sense was bombarded! Almost too much colour and noise and smell and warmth and life.

In Zambia I saw that lives which were lived very differently to my own shared the common bond of loving family and striving for our children.

Both countries have huge problems. In Mumbai, many women are trapped in prostitution or abusive relationships. In Zambia, life expectancy is 35, due to AIDS. We did not see many people older than us and many families are left without parents, uncles or aunts.

Tearfund works in both of these countries. Look on for more details.

More poems, articles and stories at:

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