A Blonde Bengali Wife

A Blonde Bengali Wife
Travels in Bangladesh

We've Nearly Made It

Hello and Welcome!



Where you will learn everything you
need to know about the progress of A Blonde Bengali Wife, the travel
book I've written about my love-affair with the fabulous country of

It's a blog about Bangladesh, about Bhola, and about fiction
and creative writing in general...

A Blonde Bengali Wife:

First published in September 2010 and launched in October 2010.

Reprinted and re-launched in November 2015 as an eBook available from Amazon UK/.com

#1 Amazon Bestseller

Follow it on Twitter @AnneHamilton7 and @Anne_ABBW and Goodreads

Buy it here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blonde-Bengali-Wife-Anne-Hamilton-ebook/dp/B016UDI86I

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

To Go Or Not To Go...?

Season's Greetings!

I hope you've all had a very happy and peaceful (or exciting, as you wish!) Christmas and are looking forward to the adventure of 2014.

For the last 48 hours, this little corner of Edinburgh has been a hotbed of international discussion and negotiation as we've followed events in the lead up to Sunday's forthcoming elections in Bangladesh - and wondered if our (Jacqui, Allan, Simon and myself) New Year's trip there can, realistically, go ahead...

The final unanimous decision was reached last night - Simon's contribution pulling it all together with, 'if we go to Bangladesh, we will go to Bangladesh.  If we stay at home we will stay at home' - when we decided, with regret, that it would be sensible to postpone the visit until later in the year.

(Important Note: Despite evil rumour-mongering, this is nothing to do with the fact that Jacqui and I tried on our trusty salwar kameezes and had twin tantrums when we realised they were, um, a little on the tight side and must have Shrunk In the Wash).

None of us feels the political situation is a safety issue, more of the 90% likelihood that we'd be sitting in a guesthouse in Dhaka for more than half the visit: national blockades and strikes mean that even if we got into the city itself, the chances of getting out again to Bhola are virtually non-existent.  So, with thanks to Ali, for his sterling efforts, and to Hasina, Mr Hoque, Mitali, Bonny, Bachchu, Suez (read more about them in the amazing book, A Blonde Bengali Wife, available in print and e-versions, signed copies on request) and Dinah for their advice, we are now rebooked for an April jaunt!

Disappointed, yes.  But relieved to have the promise of being back in Bhola in only a few weeks time.  However, given that Simon's first words on seeing his Christmas stocking were, 'Santa Claus has been, now can we go to Bangladesh?' it might well be that we need to hail a ferry in Rosyth, do a round trip and end up with dinner in an Indian restaurant, just to placate him (he's 3, it'll work, trust me) in the meantime.

So, what to do with two empty weeks...? Suggestions on a postcard, please, but those who mention 'work' will be disqualified as sensible spoilsports.  What we will be doing tomorrow - Jacqui, Allan, Simon and I) - is coming together and raising a toast to all our friends here, in Bangladesh, and everywhere, and wishing you all the very best in life, health and happiness for the coming year.

Love, Anne x


Saturday, 30 November 2013

Four Novelists and a Narrator

‘Everyone has a novel in them’. 

How many times have we heard that said?  It’s possible.  Probable, even.  The world is full of the blissfully ignorant, who will write their novel ‘one day’ (when they have time) and the woefully knowledgeable, who have a drawer full of rejections.

To write a novel is to find oneself in a gleefully negative community.  Head-shakes and rueful smiles precede a useful little sound bite: ‘who do you know (have slept with/can blackmail/preferably all three) in the publishing business?’ or ‘JK Rowling had 3 million rejections, you know’ or ‘have you thought of bee-keeping instead? Fewer stings. Ha ha.’

At the other end of the scale is the urban myth of the bored bricklayer (brain-surgeon/dog-breeder) who wrote a thriller during a wet weekend in Wales and got a £billion advance and a 6-book deal.

So should the Regular Joseph/ine give up now? Of course not.  And I have four good reasons, aka Craig, Ruth, Katie and Stuart. A week ago, I attended the book launch of Craig Smith’s, The Mile, a funny and serious novel about three friends, a nonagenarian runaway, and the Scottish referendum.  Also accepted for publication is The Single Feather, by Ruth Hunt, which follows smart, sensitive Rachel trying to establish a new life as an artist who is not defined by her wheel-chair.  Katie Hart wrote Finding Destiny, a fantasy novel for young adults in which time-travelling Alex needs to save his family and city from the evil owl, Dragonstar.  It’s now being considered by a publisher, and next, another fantasy novel, Stuart White’s, Rise of the Kalax is currently being reviewed by an interested agent. 

All four are talented, determined (and previously unknown) writers I’ve worked with over the past months… and I’m sure they would agree, that whilst talent is vital, it’s the determination alongside that has got each of them to this point.

There’s another person to mention.  Gerry Coffey died last week.  A remarkable man – kind, intelligent, very funny, some may say a little bit stubborn – who made a huge difference in so many ways over his ninety-odd years.  He wasn’t a novelist but he was a storyteller of the best kind; his anecdotes, tall tales, and straight-to-the-point observations, will be remembered and quoted for a very long time.  Gerry, it doesn’t do you justice (and you’d probably have a word or two to say about my grammar) but this blog (and Simon’s lantern) is for you.

Anne x

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Ten reasons to join a creative writing class...

Thanks to an off the cuff remark by one of the participants in my Thursday morning writing class, I came up with a whole host of potential ice-breakers last week.  I'm always on the look out for new 'warm up' writing exercises that are fun, vaguely useful and never reminiscent of terrible office team-building days.

The man I will call Mr H (in case he's too modest to own his ideas here...) mentioned he had once written - for creative, not personal reasons, you understand - a list of 'Five Reasons to Date Oneself'.*  This started the cogs turning and I took the idea if  not the content to another writing group, twisted it to make it as convoluted as possible and asked them to create a list of things they would write Ten Reasons  about.  If it came from personal experience, all the better. Yes, it did take half the class to explain what I meant but it was worth it.

Here they are:

1 Ten Reasons to take a metronome on holiday...

2 Ten Reason to do a jigsaw puzzle upside down...

3 Ten Reasons why haggis is better than chicken...

4 Ten Reasons to drink tea straight from the teapot...

5 Ten Reasons to wear two pair of trousers...

6 Ten Reasons never, ever to date your ex-girlfriend's mother..

7 Ten Reasons to carve a pumpkin in the bath...

8 Ten Reasons why you should never write lists starting 'Ten Reasons'...

9 Ten Reasons not to climb onto your roof in December in your pyjamas...

10 Ten Reasons to cut jelly beans in quarters...

I didn't go as far as actually asking for the accompanying Ten Reasons... best not, I thought.  No questions that all of these people have earned their place in a creative writing group, or at least, it keeps them off the streets.

And you know what?  Reading these lists is like having a tune stuck in your head: you'll now spend the rest of the day mentally thinking up Ten Reasons....  Feel free to post them here!


*No, I'm not going to list them... Mr H might have his own plans for them, but there's nothing to stop you making a list of your own!

Monday, 30 September 2013

Images From Bhola

What's the best way to beat the blues?  You know: the end of the summer, the increasingly dark mornings and shorter evenings, a new term's work already piling up... 
Well, you sit down and peruse the Emirates website and the next minute find your fingers are compelled to book flights for Bangladesh! 
January 2014, Bhola (and who knows where else?) here we come.
With that in mind, and given your patience at my various pontifications over the last few months, I thought I'd simply post a few random snaps of the children and young people currently living in Bhola.
Here they are - 
Ahsan picking the carrots he's grown on our land in Valumia

Boys relaxing on the roof - where they are building the parapet

The girls on a break from the tailoring building stop to chat

School children practising for Independence Day Parade


Salina giving Rosina treatment  in the new physio room


The boys getting a lesson in sewing and mending their school uniforms

Just another day in Bhola!

Anne x


Saturday, 31 August 2013

Edinburgh Fringe, Toddler-Style

Simon shaking me at dawn and demanding, 'mummy, is it morning-time and what show we will see today?'
It must be the Fringe. 
And Simon is a 3 year old groupie... 

If he could write his reviews, he would.  Verbally, he's deconstructed the performances at length and it goes something like this:

ALIENS LOVE UNDERPANTS - 'very excellent funny'
That's good, because neither of us had read the book before we went.  We have since.  Many, many times.  Nearly as many times as we, and all house-guests, have had to check our underpants have not been stolen.  However, it seem we're okay: we live on the second floor, and aliens, like Darleks, can't - apparently - climb stairs...

BIG RED STORY BUS - 'mummy, why don't all buses have stories?'
A trip up Arthur's Seat, accompanied by songs and stories from top-deck storyteller, Peter Snow, was very well-received but has set us up for a lifetime of disappointment on Lothian buses.  Still, if there's nobody singing on the Number 4 bus home from nursery, Simon has no problem entertaining commuters with a rousing '5 little monkeys jumping on the bed'.

MR BLOOM'S NURSERY - 'very wriggling worm and lots of poo.'
Well, what's not to like there, then?

TIDDLER'S TAILS - 'there were no sharks, just pretend ones.  Real ones need big sea and that would fall out the tent.'
A bit of a lukewarm response to this one; it just wasn't sufficiently like the Julia Donaldson books to pass muster...

I did manage to sneak out and see one grown-up show, called, ironically, My Village and Other Aliens.  An excellent one-man performance by writer/singer Terence Blacker, which reminded me of a previous life... and where I'm looking to in the future.  Can't ask more of a show than that.  Although, I expect Simon would have said it suffered for the lack of real aliens.  And underpants.

Anne x


Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Much Madness; or, A World Within a World.

Here's a conundrum for all you writers - and readers - out there (keep reading, I'll get to the point eventually):

In the 1950's, the psychologist Erving Goffman developed the concept of the Total Institution.  This, he defined as:

‘A place of residence and work where a large number of like-situated individuals, cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period of time together, lead an
enclosed, formally administered round of life.’

(Goffman, 1961)

It was the heyday of the 'mental asylum' and of the boarding school, even the convent.  Care in the community wasn't even embryonic and criminals were far more likely to be incarcerated than paroled. Goffman was talking about actual bricks-and-mortar buildings where people on the inside only had contact with people on the outside through a strict system of gatekeeping.  These places were, then, worlds within worlds; they were enclosed.

Now, I'm fast-forwarding through lots of theoretical and philosophical debate (I find this fascinating, but I might just be weird), and - you'll have to trust me on this - somewhat redefining Goffman's concept. Let me ask you writers and readers still with me, to take a gigantic leap of faith and think about those words: totality, enclosure, gatekeeping... and consider:-

Is possible to describe a fictional world, created by a novelist, as a Total Institution?  Such a world and its characters are enclosed in the writer's imagination, and that writer is the gatekeeper between the fictional world (the story) and the real world (the reader).

Is the basis of fiction a world within a world, or am I simply locked in my own little world wherein lies much madness?  Any thoughts appreciated, especially since the critical text of my PhD is in here.  Somewhere!

I'm plodding on regardless. banking on the words of Emily Dickinson:

'Much Madness is divinest Sense -
To a discerning Eye - '

Monday, 24 June 2013

Note From Nicaragua

It would have felt very exotic to finish my novel in Nicaragua.  I could have written a neat little Foreward or Afterword, signed and dated Pochomill, or San Juan or Granada.
Was it ever going to happen?  Of course not.... too many people to see, deserted beaches to explore, horses and carriages for Simon to 'drive', boat trips to private islands.  Oh, and canopy tours above the Mombachu volcano involving harnesses, helmets and zip wires along tightropes and down vertical drops - I strapped on Simon and off we went!  (Not really, he stayed at home eating ice-cream, counting bugs and hunting dragons.  Honestly). 
Ah, yes, another time-consuming activity: staying alert to zap my deadly enemy, the mosquito.  As readers will know, Bangladeshi mozzies adored me and Tanzanian ones got so drunk on me, they couldn't fit back through the netting they had infiltrated.  Well, Nicaraguan ones lined the street, all but waving palm leaves and shouting Hosanna.  
But I did some research, important fact-finding in preparation for the future.  I found the perfect location for writing.  The shady garden overlooking the beach at Pochomill was a strong contender, but the crashing of waves, the Plasticine-blue skies  a swaying hammock were all just too much of a distraction.  Then, the house in the mountains in San Juan had a view down to the bay that just kept dragging my eyes away from the computer screen.  But here, in a blue and white colonial house in the centre of Granada, there 's a perfect tiled courtyard between the sitting room and the bedrooms -

And here at one end of the pool, a ceiling fan just above my head, is a chair with a squishy cushion and a footstool -  

I've stuck a little flag on top of it and proclaimed it mine.  And now, over a plate of gallo pinto and sapote milkshake, I'm thinking about thinking about writing...

Author's Note
Granada, Nicaragua
June 2013


Friday, 31 May 2013

Rounding Up and Counting Down

Two days away from an extended trip to the USA and Nicaragua (far enough away to escape the Scottish summer?) I've spent the week drawing this term's community education classes to a close, and finishing up some editing work.

Inevitably then, it's been a week of evaluation, reflection  and reviews.  Tricky as it is to come up with an original, interesting and useful evaluation form, it's often harder for the respondent to pass on his or her views via a standard, often dry, bit of paperwork.  Nevertheless, there are some past* comments from  writers that sit, immoveable, in a little corner of my mind.

What better to do on a lazy Friday evening, when I should be packing a suitcase, than share them with you?

  •  'Class is quite good but we have to spend too much time writing'

  • 'I still can't think of anything to write but at least I can do it grammatically now.'

  • 'Creative writing?  Seems that there are so many rules about grammar and punctuation and formatting and style and POV and how to submit your MS that being creative is the one thing it's not.'

  • 'A new tutor would be nice.  What about getting the person who writes JK Rowling's books for her?'

  • Overheard:  Ms A (whines) '...yes, but I don't think I'm being sufficiently stretched...' to Ms B (snaps) '...well, there's Pilates next door.  Why don't you try that next term?'

  • 'I had hoped to meet some proper writers but mostly it's people like me'

  • 'Sometimes there are no Jaffa cakes left at break time.'

  • 'I thought creative writing was those fancy letters you see on signs.  It's not. But I'm glad I stayed anyway because now I know that is calligraphy.'

  • 'Very good for my social life.  Now I can tell women I'm a writer as well as a postman and they are much more interested in me.'

  • 'I wrote a book of short stories before I joined.  The tutor hasn't been that helpful, I still need someone to rewrite the ends and beginnings and some bits in the middle. And to type them.'

I do hope every one of these people finally found what they were looking for; I'm not sure if being quoted on my blog would have been the type of recognition any of them was looking for, but I certainly appreciate their feedback!

On that note, I'm giving the last word to Simon, who has an uncanny knack of keeping me in my place.  This is his side of a recent conversation:

 'NO, mummy, close up your 'puter RIGHT NOW....  NO.  Writing is not work. Building towers is work.  Help me, please.'

*none of these come from any of my lovely, talented and appreciative current students - I promise!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Thoughts Back on Bhola

Recent posts have concentrated more on life and writing here in the UK, but it's time to return to Bhola, especially during a week when thoughts have turned to Bangladesh in general.  Few people will have missed the coverage of the factory building collapsing in Dhaka and the subsequent tragedy; my heart goes out to all of those affected.  It reminds me of so many 'near misses' on my journeys there, events that make a great story in retrospect - because they ended happily:  a speedboat in a tropical storm off St Martin Island; electricity failure in a lift (10 floors up) at the tail end of cyclone Sidr; a tribal sniper in the Rangmati hills; a bus under threat of hijack...

So, it's great to look at the most recent pictures from Bhola and see the quiet progress that continues to make a sad or sick child just that bit happier.

All the children now go to the local school for some lessons and in addition, the English teacher visits the boundary every day, and Ali teaches lipreading.  We have a new combined resident teacher (for special lessons) and office manager, with particular responsibility for the accounts.  Nozrul knows the community well and is already streamlining all systems!

Salina, mother of a little girl very disabled with cerebral palsy is now in charge of physiotherapy. There are at least 8 resident children and teenagers with CP or other balance and mobility problems, and many, many outpatients.   Salina, assisted by Supia and Rozina, both of whom are blind, is giving morning and evening treatments, and it gives a real and valued role to the two visually impaired young women. Conversion of one of the buildings has allowed for  big and bright physio room.

Valumia, the vegetable garden and 'fish pond' is flourishing, although this year there is little surplus produce to sell; a combination of poor weather and a healthy community who need to eat most of the food produced!

As always the pictures should highlight the stories.... but try as I might, I can't upload them!  Battling with Windows 8, I'm still learning that it might be intuitive, but clearly, I'm not.  Once I work it out, I'll edit this post to add the colour and interest.  Meantime, thanks for your patience....

And I'll finish with a reminder of the colours and the emblem of Bangladesh: the red sun setting over the green fields, which forms the basis of the national flag.


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Chapter 10: The Alien Plumber

Monday saw the first draft of my novel-in-progress off to my PhD supervisor.  Well, I say 'first draft' but it's a draft that has had many, many incarnations over the last couple of years.  And it wasn't exactly the whole novel, just about two-thirds of it (58 682 words or 161 pages to be precise, but who's counting!) Still,  for probably the first, and hopefully not the last, time in my writing life, I can honestly say I could not have worked any harder and I am pleased with what I've done. Though I do have a sneaking suspicion it is nowhere near 'literary' enough for a PhD... watch this space!

Two interesting off-shoots though.  First, Simon's language is clearly developing in too specific a direction.  As well as: 'party biscuit', 'big boy pants' and 'a minute, mummy; I'm busy', he can now say clearly and in context: 'copyright', 'edit' and 'genre'.  How can this have happened?  The literary mantle has fallen far too close to him.  Never fear, I am now working hard to teach him: 'U-bend', 'inlet valve' and 'there'll be an eighty quid call out charge, love'.  And his name will go down for plumbing school as soon as I have checked out the league tables.

Second (interesting off-shoot) is that the novel's temporary departure has given me space to prepare properly for this week's Comm. Ed class and in doing so has reminded me to stay open-minded and try new things, or in this case, genres (thanks, Simon!).  The topic is Science Fiction.  As the tutor, I shouldn't really say that it's only now I've actually realised that science fiction is, obviously, based in science fact. It's really not my thing, although one of the best books I've ever read is Marge Piercy's 'Woman of the Edge of Time' that is partially set (or is it?) in an altered reality.  Oh, and I love Star Trek, but only because I really, really, REALLY want a Mr Data of my very own. Anyway, research has already taught me a lot and - should I ever get time to read - given me a list of SF novels that might well be an education.

So, I can hear you all wondering, how on earth am I going to tie these random thoughts together in a scintillating conclusion?  Obvious.  If the novel doesn't pass muster as is, I shall simply introduce an alien plumber into Chapter 10 and call it experimental fiction. End of.

Anne x

Saturday, 9 February 2013

'Sirens, Smartphones and Stilettos'

Thursday afternoons see me tutoring the 'Ox-Pen' Writers, a community education creative writing class in Edinburgh.  It's a small but perfectly formed group (always open to new members!) with a lot of talent and a great group dynamic.  We've spent the last few months looking at the whole concept of 'collaborative writing' whereby we've taken a specific scenario - a wet Monday morning in February, on a street in Edinburgh - and developed a number of characters whose lives are (perhaps) destined to cross...

So, 'Sirens, Smartphones and Stilettos' was born, in which the reader is introduced to: Dennis the rat; Jacqui with the pink shoes; Nancy, owner of Nancy's Cafe; Molly-the-lolly, Kathy and her little girl, Suzy; Micky the bus driver; Kirsty, a girl in labour and  Niall the paramedic; Reg the postman; Malcolm the texting teenager and Alison the minister.


Last Thursday, the exhibition of work went up in Oxgangs Library (where it will remain for about 3 weeks if any of you locals want to visit), we launched the booklet full of stories and poems, and we had a (very well attended) public reading event -

As you can see, the hard work paid off - and this is a tribute to Georgia, Joan, Liz, Elspeth and Nikki for their talent and enthusiasm - and for brightening up miserable Thursdays!

Here's to the next one....!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Write Right goes 'live'...

So far, January has been a productive month... long may it last!

On Friday, my website Write Right finally went live.  Most of the thanks is due to the ever patient and very efficient Simon at ARCAS, who managed to create something that looks good, reads well and (hurrah)  is easy to use.  So please do go over to www.annehamilton.co.uk and have a look; even take a minute to tell me what you think

On Sunday, my new computer finally, finally, finally went live.  Weeks passed awaiting delivery, and another one saw it sitting on the kitchen table whilst I attempted to find the 'on' switch... That it is now connected to the Internet is thanks due to Ben, one third of the best neighbours ever, and yes, this blog is coming to you hot off the new keyboard, touchscreen, thingy.  Technophobe?  Me?

Today, I've passed the official halfway stage of my novel and have actually been managing to write a few hundred, on (one very rare) occasion even a couple of thousand, words each day.  Okay, it's probably still pushing it for the March deadline, but I haven't given up hope yet!

Will the excitement never end, I hear you all ask... 

So, I'll leave it there and say a big thanks to all of the other people too that have helped me avoid the January blues; Simon and Momo - you head the cast!



Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

A Very Happy New Year to you all!

Thanks to Wendy Clarke for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blog Award - especially appreciated since Wendy's own new blog is so well researched, written and put together... http://wendyswritingnow.blogspot.co.uk

The requirements for the blogger award want me to tell you all 7 completely random facts about myself and to nominate other blogs.  So here goes:

Anne's Total Trivia

  • I've run half a dozen 10k events
  • I once played Little Orphan Annie
  • I hate the dark
  • Inside, I'm tall, blonde and willowy...
  • I wrote my first novel when I was ten (one day I'll find it and read it again... help!)
  • I love terrible American sitcoms!
  • As a teenager I had a holiday job as a National Express stewardess








Best of luck to everyone in 2013 - in life, writing and whatever your dreams may be!