Pigeons are Worth a Fortune in Fiction

A Belgian racing pigeon sold for £260,000 this week. There’s a lot more to pigeons than meets the eye. If you would like to read about pigeons in fiction, try my story ‘Internet Explorer’, where they play a significant role.

‘Internet Explorer’ appears in the anthology ‘Ways of Falling’, available from Earlyworks Press


fantail pigeons 2


I do most of my work away from the piano…

So said Benjamin Britten. Yeah, me too. No by, with or from the piano. Or the laptop, for that matter.

I’ve come back from India with two stories well-fermented: one has been brewing a long time, the other is a direct outcome of this break. Yep, that’s me walking – er – working there on the beach at Varca and again, behind the camera, pondering the palms in Patnem. Ye cannae whack it!


Me on Benaulim beach 2

Benaulim beach

Patnem beach


Impact India in Thane

Before I left India, I had the opportunity to visit a health initiative in Thane (pronounced Taanay), a tribal district, an hour and a half’s drive north of Mumbai, in the company of Zelma Lazarus the Chief Executive of ‘Impact India’.

Thane is a tough area for anyone to live, with a landscape that yields few crops, and few other alternatives for employment except working in brick factories.

‘Impact India’, a charitable foundation supported by the Government of India, is well-known for its ‘Lifeline Express’, the hospital on wheels which transverses India’s vast railway network, providing surgery to the poorest people who are affected by disability.

In Thane, it has embarked on a different kind of project with the aims of reducing the catastrophically high infant mortality rate and eradicating preventable disability. Life for girls and young women in Thane is particularly difficult. Zelma explains to me the cycle of poor health in which they are caught:

Having lower status than males, they are given less food than they need, which means that they are under-nourished. The hot climate brings on menstruation early, adding to health issues and, in particular, causing aenaemia. But as soon as girls hit puberty, they are married off, even though they are legally under age. So there are lots of under-age, under-nourished mothers producing under-weight babies who have a very poor start in life if, indeed they make it at all.

Often, new-born babies, still with the umbilical cord attached, transmitting warm blood into them, are placed directly on the cold ground. Many die of shock. This has prompted the ever-resourceful Zelma to launch a campaign to provide a baby wrap for every new-born child. So far, she has made about a thousand herself!

‘Impact India’ staff have developed a comprehensive programme of ante- and post-natal education for women and girls, as well as practical strategies for making sure that they benefit from the exisiting government primary healthcare facilities.

It was real privilege to see the programme in action in two remote villages. The commitment and openness of the staff was evident, as was the willingness of the young women to learn. I will be writing more about this important project elsewhere. In the meantime, you can find out more about ‘Impact India’ here:



A hard life for women in Thane (crop)

A hard life for women in Thane

Brickworkers' homes, Thane

Brickworkers often live ‘on the job’

Post-natal education in Thane

Post-natal class in progress in a village centre


Impact India  in Thane

Zelma with Impact India staff and government teachers at a village centre

Woman’s Work in South Goa

It’s been difficult to post from South Goa. Unlike other parts of India, there’s no great obsession with internet cafes. After a while, it’s all too easy just to ‘chill’ and let the world drift by. That’s if you’re a visitor…

If you live there, you might be making your living in a fish market, as the daily catch comes in; or cleaning rubbish off the beach all day long; or transporting stuff along the shoreline in the blazing sun. But if you’re really unlucky, you could be keeping a steam roller cool, so that it can roll tarmac on a suffocating day in the town of Madgaon.

On the other hand, you may be roaring post-menopausally along the road on your own motorbike. I like to think so! Beats wearing red knickers and trailing your stick along the railings, or whatever the poet said.

Fish market woman

Fish market, Colva

Beach cleaners, Palolem

Beach cleaners, Palolem


Woman on a mission, Varca

Keeping the steam roller cool


Construction labourer, Madgaon

Way ahead woman

Hell’s grandma? Colva