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.
I don’t think I could ever drive through the gates of The Settlement and feel that it was a place I would feel good about. There is something about this place that fills me with dread even before I have arrived. I think it must be some kind of empathy with the people who live here brought on by the fact that, like them, there is very little for me to do. I play guitar and sing and that usually brings one or two people around. Sometimes they will share a song they know but mostly they listen and then drift off and carry on with their day in their own quiet ways, mostly on their own. At times like these is when I feel the weight of The Settlement most, an almost living thing bearing down on me and I feel lonely and useless as I share with those who surround me a communal contagious lethargy.
It could, with a little care and attention, be beautiful. If you stand in the middle of the tree clad square and look up you find yourself gazing up into a cloudless blue sky through the most amazing foliage and you could fool yourself into thinking that you were in an exotic holiday resort somewhere. Then your gaze returns to earth and reality sets in again.
Jeremy runs up to me excitedly. He has grown a beard since we last met and was looking handsome and confident. He was holding a small portfolio of his work which he clearly wanted to show me but he is also wary about handing it over to me.
“Be careful,” he says. “Keep it safe.”
I look through his work, a notebook really full of half-finished sketches and ideas. They are good. Some are intricate and complex and give, perhaps, an insight into the confusion in his mind which finds some kind of expression in his art.
I ask Jeremy if I can take some photographs and he happily agrees.
“Will you show them to your friends?” he asks.
“I will. They will be very impressed with your work,” I tell him and he smiles broadly.
In a different world he would be living in a studio apartment in Montmartre or wandering the corridors of Rennie Mackintosh’s School of Art in Glasgow with his fellows. As it is he lives at The Settlement getting whatever comfort and inspiration he can from those surroundings.
As I finish taking some photographs of Jeremy’s work a small truck pulls up outside the dining hall. Suddenly everyone is busy. Everyone runs to the door of the dining hall and Jeremy hurriedly gathers up his portfolio and joins them. It is lunch time and the speed with which everyone ran to the door reminded me of a scene often seen in the country, the one where a farmer driving a tractor arrives in a field with a load of feed for his sheep or cattle and they run across the field to be fed.
What follows is a selection of Jeremy’s work.
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.