I got home about ten days ago after an excellent visit. Andrew and I arrived together and I suspect Bhola and our children exceeded his expectations. . Brother Tall was an instant favourite. He hit the ground running: the Saturday we arrived, we visited Supari Bagan in the morning with some of the children; Valumia in the afternoon with all the children, followed by the traditional first day photograph on the bridge just before sunset; cricket; then a visit to the Government hospital (an eye-opener for first timers!) to see Shefali, who had had a minor stroke just before we arrived (she is better and thinks she will soon be back), after which a tour of the town, including a splendid new underground food market. Bhola Town has changed a lot in the last 12 years.
Andrew was able to stay one week, so we packed as much as possible into his time in the boundary. We had a meeting of our local board of trustees, BCSB, which was very successful. It was a joy for me to have BCUK represented by a young, tall businessman to whom my Bangladeshi friends gave their full attention.
Sports took place over several days. I am sad to report I only came fourth in staff musical chairs! Andrew’s team, as you can see, triumphed in tug ‘o war, which did not please Zakir who insisted on a change of ends. Even so, his team were beaten the third and final time – possibly because so many boys wanted to be on Andrew’s end.
We had a spectacularly good picnic. Once again Eunus, our generous politician chairman, gave us his beautiful farm, all the food and this time a cook so our women could enjoy themselves too. The weather was perfect, as it was every day, and we all had a great time. The second major outing, sailing on the river at Valumia, sadly took place after Andrew had left. This year Iqbal managed to rent the local ferry boat which took all 85 of us very comfortably, and we sailed up the river for 90 minutes. We did feel a bit sorry for the Bholaya waiting patiently to cross the river.
I was absolutely thrilled with the wonderful work carried out on the old buildings, thanks to the generosity of my fellow parishioners here in Chiswick. In fact the whole boundary looks spic and span, with lots of newly planted flowers. We now have 70 children, 40 boys of whom 36 sleep in one room, a cause for concern until we hit upon a way of killing two birds with one stone. I was distressed to see the land behind, which I had bought personally and which briefly became a cow pasture, was unused apart from a rubbish dump and a pleasant shady place where the girls prepared vegetables.
Zakir suggested moving the tailoring room, which is in the boys’ hostel and could accommodate a number of the older boys. The old cowshed is behind the girls’ hostel and the kitchen, some fifty feet long and facing east west, and will make a wonderful new tailoring room. Asma and all the girls love the idea, and since we still had some money from the repair of the old buildings, we wasted no time. The old buildings were demolished, along with the original boundary wall, and when I left construction was proceeding apace, I reckon the girls and their sewing machines will be installed within a month. There will be covered wheelchair access to the room.