One of the pleasures of blogging is the people you get to meet – both virtually and in person. I was delighted a few days ago to lunch with Charlotte Weychan, the Galloping Gardener, whose delicious blog needs no introduction. She has established a hospital near Udaipur and was in India to check on progress.
We met at the delightfully-named Tikli Bottom guest house, an hour south of Delhi, and were treated to lunch and a tour of the garden by British owner Martin Howard. It was all just mustard fields when he first saw the plot, but under his care it is now full of beautiful native trees and shrubs, a small formal garden, an organic veg plot, a cutting garden and, when we were there, some cute local kids who took something of a shine to Charlotte.
Charlotte was charming and gossipy but sadly swore me to silence on some of her juicier stories and scandals from the UK gardening world…
Like Charlotte (and indeed Tikli owner Martin), I have found India has drawn me towards charitable work and, when not researching historic landscapes, I am managing to squeeze in some time working with NGOs. One of them is Asha, a impressive organisation that is transforming hundreds of thousands of lives in Delhi’s slums. Asha celebrates its silver jubilee this year and I have found myself doing everything from co-curating a photography exhibition at the India Habitat Centre, writing much of the text for a book, organising its launch with ambassadors and senior business figures – to chatting with slum kids and their mums, and buying Christmas decorations for a kids’ party !