Jane Wilson-Howarth

Blog

 
 

Wobbling and weaving

Friday, 06 October 2017
How do you find somewhere to live in an urban sprawl with no estate agents, few road names, no road signs and absolutely no house numbers or real addresses; where there are few landlines and listed mobile phone numbers never seem to raise anyone.
Ram was the solution, a charming chap in his late thirties with a friendly demeanour, a comfortable paunch and a tiny notebook (3x4 inches) containing landlords’ contact details. He picked me up from the hotel, ineptly I climbed aboard his scooter and we wobbled and weaved through frightening thoroughfares, navigating potholed lanes and down bumpy alleyways. He took me to a grand 15-storey apartment block (where from the 12th floor I wondered about the next earthquake), to decadent serviced marble flats where breakfasts are served on the roof terrace, to a five-bedroomed mansion with a sauna, to several rather gloomy traditional brick-built houses smelling of curry, to interesting dwellings perched on hillsides, with bedrooms below reception rooms. Then finally we found a place we thought we’d be able to call home. 
Like many of the places expatriates rent, it is a bit of a marble palace but a Nepali family live downstairs and there is a modest garden. We can see out to the rim of the Kathmandu Valley, to Haatiban (elephant forest) on one side, the gleaming golden stupa of Swayambhu (the ‘monkey temple’) on another, and from the elevated water tanks above the roof terrace we should be able to see the Himalayas on a clear day.
The flat is totally unfurnished so whereas many normal domesticated women might relish the opportunity to shop and set up a home entirely to her own taste, I’m not so enthusiastic, even if it does mean I’m having to practice my faltering Nepali as there is plenty of negotiation and haggling. This always turns out to be a giggle, as my numerical brain is always a bit slow and it is slowed further by translating from Nepali and also converting from rupees to pounds and then there is a discount for no particularly good reason…. I’m easily discombobulated. Even in department stores prices don’t ever seem to be completely fixed but everyone is very patient and encouraging.
Our new landlord, Prakat, is a likeable Newar and we quickly bonded on being of similar age and he speaks a lot of the burdens life has laid on him. He is restless and his brow is set into a permanent furrows of worry but that doesn’t stop him laughing a great deal. I say he is likeable although he is terribly racist. He spoke of not wanting to rent to Indians (their cooking stinks the house out), Chinese (they keep water running while cleaning their teeth) or Africans (not very clean) or people with children (they break things), or in fact most people really. Fortunately, he thinks us worthy of his house. Even so we’ve had plenty of negotiations over what he will and won’t provide.
Discussions were lengthy, stretched over many days and gave us opportunities to complain about government, bureaucratic processes, tax and many other subjects. He told me how stressful it is moving house and that I must work slowly otherwise I'll grow thin and ill. 
There is always plenty to discuss as there are very few givens in Nepal. Take water, for example. Twice or thrice a week the government pumps water to homes, and today is one of those days. I could tell because as I cycled out this morning, there were multiple new springs that had appeared, issuing tap water onto the road, and at our new apartment there a trickle of water emerging from a pipe in the garden. I guess the water was pumped for about two hours. For people with money, the solution to this valley-wide water shortage is to pay for tankers of water to be brought to the house once a week or so. The tanker driver visits springs at the valley edge and fills tanks that every home has.
An alternative is hand-pumping from groundwater but that is usually contaminated and smelly – too smelly and coloured in some parts of Kathmandu even to be useful for washing and laundry. When we lived here 19 years ago, the water supply problem was about to be solved, by pumping water from the Melemchi River through a tunnel in the mountains, but people still talk about the water that will soon be coming from the Melemchi scheme. City streets have been dug up and new pipes have been installed in readiness. It remains to be seen when or whether the water will arrive.
The landlord agreed to install wifi for us and yesterday a man from WorldLink came to install the modem. He started work at the spaghetti of wires on a post outside the house and brought one wire to the terrace on the first floor. He needed to make a hole in the fabric of the building to bring the wire inside and so produced a power drill and set to work. The result were dinner-plate-sized craters outside and also in the freshly painted plasterwork inside. The landlord paced about with his hand over his mouth looking like he was restraining himself from shouting at the workman. I even looked like he was about to cry. Meanwhile, his son just laughed, although I’m uncertain whether this was at the mess or his fathers’ distress. Nepalis laugh a lot – sometimes when there is nothing else to be done. All was not as bad as it first seemed though. The workman produced cement from somewhere and the damaged area will be ready for repainting soon. Meanwhile a carpenter is applying a small sledgehammer to some metal shelves to make them fit into kitchen cupboards for which they are too large. And now he has gone on to hit a window that sticks (I thought it needed planning) with his hammer. I’m surprised the pane has survived this long.
Tomorrow the plumber will come, and I think he’ll need to smash another hole in the fabric of the house so that we can install a washing machine. I have a horrible feeling there will be a bit more decorating that’ll need to be done after that visit too.
 
The golden stupa at Swayambhu, with the 2000m valley rim behind
 
Looking north across Kathmandu to Ganesh himal - an early morning delight
Posted: 06/10/2017 09:18:53 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments



    Pontifications
    Travel
    Wildlife
    Writing
    August 2021(1)
    June 2021(1)
    May 2021(5)
    April 2021(3)
    March 2021(4)
    October 2020(1)
    August 2020(2)
    July 2020(1)
    June 2020(1)
    May 2020(1)
    April 2020(4)
    March 2020(4)
    January 2020(1)
    October 2019(2)
    June 2019(2)
    April 2019(2)
    March 2019(9)
    January 2019(2)
    October 2018(3)
    August 2018(3)
    June 2018(4)
    May 2018(5)
    April 2018(3)
    March 2018(1)
    January 2018(4)
    October 2017(4)
    August 2017(3)
    July 2017(2)
    June 2017(2)
    May 2017(1)
    April 2017(1)
    March 2017(4)
    January 2017(1)
    October 2016(7)
    August 2016(2)
    July 2016(1)
    June 2016(1)
    January 2016(3)
    October 2015(1)
    August 2015(1)
    July 2015(1)
    May 2015(2)
    April 2015(2)
    March 2015(2)
    January 2015(3)
    October 2014(4)
    July 2014(1)
    June 2014(4)
    May 2014(1)
    April 2014(1)
    January 2014(4)
    October 2013(1)
#righttobreathe / 100 word story / 100-word story / 50 Camels / 50 Camels and She's Yours / A Glimpse of Eternal Snows / A Wide Woman on a Narrow Boat / Aberdeen / Abuja / accidents / Active Fairness System / Adam Reta / Admissions / adventure stories / advertising / affairs / age concern / aging / air pollution / air quality / Akwanga / alcoholism / Alicia Ostriker / Americanisms / Amharic / animal reservoirs / ANM / Annapurna / antelope / anthology / Arrivals / Asad / assisted suicide / audacity / audible / audio musical project / audiobook / author / Author from Hull / author interview / author reading / author-to-author / Auxiliary Nurse Midwife / Baglung / Bagmati / Bajaj / Bajaj Pulsar / Bajura / banknotes / BBC Radio Cambridgeshire / bear precautions / Benjamin Langley / Bertrand Russell / Bethlehem Attfield / Bhotang / bicycle / bike trip / birdlife / birds / black bear / black kites / black pine forest / Blitz / blood oxygen / Bloodshot Books / Blue sheep / book launch / book review / border guards / Boreal Wildlife Centre / Bradt / Bradt Travel Guides / Brahmin / brain surgery / breakfast / bridge / brown bear / buckwheat / buckwheat bird / buffalo cart / Building Back Better / BuildingBackBetter / bulbul / camaraderie / Cambridge / Cambridge writers / Cambridgeshire / camping hazards / canals / carcinogens / caste / catastrophe / cave diving / celtic / chaite-dhan / Chandragiri / Chele / childbirth / children's books / Chirang / Chisapaani / Chisapani / Chobhar / Chobhar Hill / Chough / city cycling / civet / climate change / clinics / cobbler / cold / cold desert / colourful hat / comfort / coming of age / coronavirus / Covid / covid vaccine / COVID vaccines / Covid-19 / cows / creating characters / cycling / cyclist / daisy chain / dal bhat / dangerous wildlife / dawn / dawn chorus / Dead Branches / death / demonstration / Department of Roads / desert / development / development work / Devon / Dhading / Dhading besi / Dhading District / Dhangadhi airport / Dhaulagiri / Dhee / dhulomandu / doctor memoir / Dolpa / Dolpo / domestic violence / Dr. Katrina Butterworth / dragon / dragons / Drakmar / drinking water / droppings / Dunai / dust / early marriage / earthquake / earthquake alarm / earthquake damage / earthquake today / earthquakes / East Anglia / eco-resort / eco-tourism / Edinburgh / efficacy / elbow sneezing / embankments / emergency / England / English journey / English language / environmental crisis / Eräkeskus / eternal snows / Ethiopia / ethnic cleansing / euthanasia / evacuation / evocative smells / Ewell / expat / exploitation / Fagu Purnima / Falgun / FCDO / feelgood read / Fens / festival / festival of colour / festivals in March / fiction / Finland / fire-tailed sunbird / fishing / fishtail / flash fiction / flash literature / flash prose / flood protection / floods / folk story / football / footbridge / footpath / forest / forest fires / friends / Gai Tihar / gaming / Ganesh himal / Gangetic Plain / garden / garment / Ghami / Ghemi / ghoral / giant crab spider / giving birth / global warming / goodread / goral / gorge / Gorkha / gossip / GP writer / grandad / Greece / grey-headed canary-flycatcher / haiku / handwashing / hand-washing station / hangry / happiness / happyness / hare / Hatibhan / hawkmoth / health assistant / Heffers / Heffers bookshop / Hell's Grannies / Henningham Family Press / Henry Marsh / hill walking / himal / Himalaya / Himalayan Black Bear / Himalayan foothills / Himalayan Goral / Himalayan griffon vulture / Himalayan Hostages / Himalayan Kidnap / Himalayan serow / Himalayan Sunrise / Himalayan woolly hare / Himalayas / himals / Hindu festival / Hindu kingdom / Holi / Holi Purnima / holocaust / home care / home delivery / honey buzzard / hoopoe / horror / hot springs / Hotel Deep of Worldtop / Hotel Peace Palace / house crows / how long to write a book? / human kind / human spirit / idyllic childhood / Indonesia / Indra Jatra / infidelity / inspiration / inspiring fiction for children / Ireland / irrigation / Is She Dead in Your Dreams? / jackal / Janajibika Hotel / Jane Wilson-Howarth / Jews / Joe Wilson / Jomosom / Jomsom / joy / jungle / Jungle book / Juphal / Kaag Beni / Kag Beni / Kali Gandaki / Kali Gandaki gorge / Kalopani / Kalunki / Karnali River / Kashigaon / Kashigoan / Kathmandu / Kathmandu Valley / Katrina Butterworth / kestrel / khana / Khartoum / kickstart / kidnap / kindness / Kipling / Kipling's jungle / kites / Kolkata / Krishna / Kumari / Kurds / Kurentar / Kusma / labour / ladoos / lama / Lamjung himal / lammergeier / lammergeyer / landscape / landslide / landslides / language / language gaffs / Large Indian civet / largest tribuary of the Ganges / Laxmi Puja / leave no one behind / leave no-one behind / LeaveNooneBehind / Leaving no-one Behind / letter-writing / life lessons / Livelihoods / living goddess / lockdown / lockdown project / LoMantang / Lombok / London pigeon / loneliness / Lord Ganesh / Lord Krishna / loss and recovery / love / Lukhu river / Machhapuchare / Makwanpur / Manbu / mani wall / married life / Martinselkosen / Mary Kingsley / masala tea / maskmandu / masks / maternal mortality / Maya and the Dragon / medical emergency / medical evacuation / medical memoir / medical Students / Melamchi / memoir / memoirist / memory / Michael Rosenberg / microfiction / middle grade readers / Middle Hills / mineral water bottles / Monsoon / morning mist / mortality / Moth Snowstorm / motorbike / motorbike trip / motorbikes / motorcycle / MottMacDonald / mountain medicine / mountains / mouse hare / mouse-hare / Muktinath / Mukwanpur / mulberries / Mustang / nag puja / narrator / narrow boat / National Reconstruction Authority / nature / Naubisi / neighbours / Nepal / Nepal Communitere / Nepal road trip / Nepal roadtrip / Nepal Valley / Nepal wildlife / Nepali / Nepali food / Nepali tea / Nepali Times / Nepali topi / Nepali wildlife / Nigeria / Nigiri himal / nilgai / Nilgiri / Nilgiri South / non-fiction / Nonsuch Palace / Nonsuch Park / Northumberland / novel / nuthatch / Nuwakot / obstetrics / onions / on-line newspaper / orb spider / ox-cart / Oxford / Oxford vaccine / oximeter / oxymeter / pandemic / pangolin / parenting / Passer montanus / passing places / passive pleasure / Patan / Patan Durbar / Patan Durbar Square / payer / People in Need charity / percussion / Pfizer vaccine / PHASE / PHASE Nepal / PHASENepal / Phewa Tal / Philippines / Phoksundo / phonetics / photoktm2016 / pigeons / pika / pike / pilgrims / plastic waste / pleasure / PM 2.5 / poem / poetry / Pokhara / Police My Friend / pollution / polytunnel / pony trekking / post earthquake recovery / post-earthquake reconstruction / Potatoes / powder / pregnancy / Pridhamsleigh Cavern / prose / publishing / puja / Pul Chowk / Pulsar / Pungmo / Purnima / Purnima programme / Pyncnonotus cafer / Qatar / rabies / Rajapur / Rajapur bazaar / Rajapur Island / Rajapur market / Rajapur town / rat snake / reading / reading aloud / Real Fairness for Real men / reconstructed dialogue / recording / recovery / Red Dawn Rising / red-vented bulbul / refugee camp / refugees / relief work / Remover of obstacles / Requiem for Potatoes / retirement / rhododendron / rice / ricefields / Richard Mabey / Ringmo / risk takers / river crossing / river island / river-crossing / road trip / roadtrip / Rock Doves / rock shelters / Roe Deer / Royal Enfield Riders Club / Royle's pika / rubbish / Rufus-breasted Niltava / rupees / Russian border / rustling / rustlings / safety / Sally Haiselden / samosa / Sappros / Sarengkot / sarus cranes / School rebuilding / scorpion / screening / Second World War / Seeta Siriwardena / self-harm / senses / serow / Setopati / Shadow Spark Publishing / Shangri La / Shangri-la / Shanti bazaar / Shey-Phoksundo National Park / Shivapuri / Shivapuri Nagajung National Park / Shivapuri National Park / Shivapuri Village / Shivapuri Village Resort / short fiction / short story / shrikes / silk / Simon Howarth / Sindhupalchowk / Sinhala / Sinhalese / Six degrees of Separation / skipper butterflies / skippers / snow leopard / Snowfed Waters / social isolation / solid waste / solid waste disposal / Soti / South Sudan / sparrows / Speaking Tiger / species leap / spider venom / Spiny babblers / spotted owlet / squirrel / Sri Lanka / Sri Lankan author / Stephanie Green / stink bug / stolpersteine / street art / street dogs / Subsistence agriculture / Sudan / Suli Gad Khola / Suli Gad river / Summit Air / sunbird / sunrise / surgeon / Surrey / suspended bridge / Sussex / Suttee / Tahr / tales / tar tattoo / tato pani / Tatopani / TBS Kathmandu / tea / tea shop / teacher / teashop / Teku / Teku Hospital / Teku infectious diseases hospital / Temporary Learning Centre / terai / Thamel / Thankot / Tharu / Tharu people / The Book Warren / The British School Kathmandu / The Lonely Cat / The Lost Spell / Thessaloniki / Thumki Danda / time / To be blessed / totobobo / traffic / traffic jam / traffic rules / traffic uncles / transHimalaya / transHimalayan / translation / travel / travel anthology / travel narrative / travel writing / traveling with children / travelling with children / tree sparrows / trekking / Tribhuvan International Airport / trust / Tsirang / Twin Otter / Uganda / UK / UK aid / UK aid in Nepal / UKAid / unbound / unplanned pregnancy / Upper Mustang / urban cycling / urban life / urban pollution / urban water supply / vaccinating / vaccination / vaccine / Valley / vampires / vegetarian / velvet-fronted nuthatch / Viiksimontie / Village dogs / village life / volunteering / vulture / Wai / Wanderlust / water supplies / water tankers / West Sussex / western Nepal / white lies / WHO / widower / wild goat / wild places / wildlife / wildlife stories / William Matthews / winter madness / winter Wheat / Witchford / women of a certain age / Women Travellers / words / wordsmith / World Book Day / World Book Day 2020 / World Cup 1990 / World Environment Day / world's deepest gorge / writer / writers group / writer's life / writing / writing about writing / writing characters / writing exercise / writing for children / writing group / writing habits / writing prompts / xenophobia / year fives / yeti / young mother / young motherhood / Your Child Abroad / zoonoses