It has been another interesting day at the Most Neurotic Dandelion Hotel for the Mildly Bewildered in Cochin, Kerala, the place they call God’s Own Country.
There is a saying that it is either a feast or a famine meaning that there is either too much or too little of a good thing. Yesterday was a little like that with the emphasis being on feast.
There have been times on this trip when I have felt a little underemployed to the point when I thought that Parkinson’s Law was being enforced entirely for my benefit. Parkinson’s Law, you may remember, was first articulated by Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British naval historian and author, who in 1955 in a humorous article for The Economist, proposed the notion that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
My morning, I discovered, was to be taken up with a visit to a school I had been to before. The headmistress, a formidable lady of the type you normally associate with 1950’s stories and black and white films about girl’s schools, who cared for their charges with a stentorian voice, a heart of gold and a regime of cold showers and hockey, had asked if I could go back to the school. She wanted me to work, first of all, with a group of teachers and their class, teaching them some songs that involved movement and then to have another one to one session with a young seriously autistic boy I had worked with before. My voice and the guitar playing, it seemed, had a calming effect on him.
I really had to think about songs with movement that could be useful. The teachers ideally wanted something that would make the children move their arms and their legs and make them walk forward. I had nothing at all in my musical arsenal and then, from somewhere back in the dark recesses of my mind, I remembered a song I used to sing at Sunday School. The words weren’t that great but I was sure I could fix that and it did involve arms moving around and some marching, on the spot and going forward. Suddenly the old Sunday School chorus ‘I’m in the Lord’s Army’ with slightly modified words had a new lease of life.
I don’t want to march with the infantry,
Ride with the cavalry,
Sail with the navy.
I don’t want to zoom o’er the enemy,
I’m at the R***** School.
It seemed to work and pretty soon we had children marching and riding and zooming all over the place. Wonderful to watch.
New audiences are always intimidating, even ones that know you and you know are pleased to see you but that was not going to be the case when I visited a school for, and this is how the school describes itself, Differently Abled Children, on the outskirts of Cochin.
The school is run by the Sisters of Relative Avoidance, not the real name of the order, and is a really beautiful place set in immaculate grounds with a separate home for women and a physio centre for people involved in car accidents. As we drive into the yard I could see through open doors into a hall where about 50 children and young people aged from about 7 to early 20’s were sitting on the floor waiting. I went in and sat down and looked across the hall at all those happy, smiling faces expectantly waiting to be entertained.
For about the next hour I went through all the songs I had been using, Glory of Love, Coulter’s Candy, Car Car and The Zoo Song. I am still amazed at how quickly children learn a song they don’t know and is in a foreign language, but they do and they love it and with that kind of response you can’t help feeling that maybe you have done something that may help to improve their lives. One thing is sure that they certainly did something to improve mine.
That has been today in Kerala, where the sun always shines, the welcome is always warm and the people always smiling.
Be well, be kind and never give up.