I had  an incredibly delayed Biman flight – there had been fog in Sylhet so my plane arrived nearly 6 hours late at Heathrow and took off at midnight instead of 6 pm.   But it was wonderful to be met by  Zakir, accompanied by Zara who had become a young lady since I last saw her.    Our lunch date with Zobair became a tea date instead, and there was no time to get up to Apu’s flat, we had to have a hug in the street before heading for the ghat.  Thank heaven for the new and wonderfully comfortable 10 pm launch, after a delicious supper with Neera, Zakir and the girls I slept like a log and didn’t even wake when we docked.

Its impossible to describe the joy of seeing my children again. First, of course, the welcoming party of Dipak, Iqbal, Saradat and several other dear boys who have all grown into such handsome young men.   It was strange to arrive at different ghat but I had more time to relish being on Bhola Island again before arriving at Bhola Garden.  And there they all were to greet me – girls on the left, boys on the right as always.   Everyone got a big hug from Mammi, including of course many to whom I was just a name but very soon became my children.

Thanks to Freda and Annie, who had been out the previous November and worked very hard with Zakir, I really had nothing to do apart from approving all decisions and spending  quality time with the children.    We didn’t even need a Board Meeting!  I was delighted with the state of Bhola Garden, looking so very clean and tidy and with so many improvements about which I’d only heard.  I confess I didn’t attempt the impressive spiral staircase!   But our flat is now wonderful, with comfortable sofas made by the children,  new power sockets and even a bedside light.

We were approaching the date of our big Wine Tasting dinner at Westminster Cathedral Hall, taking place on 7th February.  I had suggested to Zakir, who was going to be in London at the time, that the girls make table cloths and napkins for the event and they were hard at work producing the most glorious designs which of course were much admired by our London guests.

Eunus our wonderful carpenter has taught the boys so well, t carpentry now has more space on the roof of an old classroom and I loved sitting up there watching them at work.

Eunus our chairman was away so we didn’t have a picnic on his farm, but we had a glorious day out at a newly opened Childrens’ Park not too far away, with lots of fun rides – yes, I did go on the toy train! – icecreams and crisps.  And of course we visited Valumia and met Kamel’s adorable baby daughter, born in December.  We also made an expedition to Sugari Bagan where we met the engineer and arranged for plans to be drawn up for a school for slow learners and autistic children, our next major project when we can raise the funds.  We have many slow learners, both resident and day children whose parents pay a fee, so this could be an important money-making project and give a service to the community.

As is our physio department which is always busy with inpatients and outpatients.

The new District Commissioner was charming, and very grateful to Bhola’s Children for the £15,000 we donated during lockdown to the families of disabled children on the island.  Not only did he accept Zakir’s invitation to a barbecue, he arrived with six of his heads of department.    Fortunately Zakir had had the foresight to arrange sofas and tables on carpets and under an awning on the playground, since it was too large a party for his roof  terrace.

Finally we had a wedding:  Hasan and Mitu got married, which was lovely.

I can’t wait for my next visit.

Dinah

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