The Real Marigold Hotel

Jan Leeming

Shoreham 2007

Shoreham Airshow 2007
Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.



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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 9th January 2016


I was delighted when the lovely Ros Edwards (Talent Producer for Two Four Productions) chose me - with the blessing of BBC 2 - to be one of eight people to go to India filming for 3 weeks. The working title of the 3 Documentaries was to be 'The Real Marigold Hotel' and we participants - all of retiring age and from different branches of the TV and Entertainment Industry - were to investigate the viability of retirement to India.

We are all living so much longer and for many of us the pensions don't stretch that far so, retiring to a warm climate where the medical service is excellent and the pound goes five times as far, is a very attractive proposition. We were sworn to secrecy and we were not given any idea as to who our fellow travellers would be. We were subjected to a Medical and an Interview and once accepted underwent all manner of 'jabs'. The tricky part about getting a Visa for India was left to the Production Team. I understand that the remnants of British Bureacracy still run deep and the 'Visa getting' is quite a protracted process.

Apart from being honoured that I was chosen, my reason for signing up was that my Father was born and brought up in Southern India and only left a few years before Partition. The Atkins family had been in India since the time of Clive of India around 1750. When you live 'solo' holidays are quite a problem for many reasons - one being the enormous supplement which is imposed if you are single. Although I could afford a holiday in India, I wouldn't want to go on my own. So Marigold was a golden opportunity.

Our destination was kept secret right up until we actually arrived. We knew we were flying in to Delhi and then onwards but where to was a secret. I don't know about the others but I was quite concerned about the identities of my fellow travellers - living with a loved one is difficult enough but having to live with 7 strangers was something of a challenge. We only met on the day of departure outside Terminal 5 - you can't film inside Airports. We were a totally diverse lot - two actors, Miriam Margolyes and Sylvester McCoy; Wayne Sleep the Ballet Dancer with whom I'd worked in Pantomime at the Theatre Royal in Windsor; Patti Boulaye a singer whom I knew from many meetings at Charity events; the Chef Rosemary Shrager; Comedian and erstwhile Presenter of Catchphrase, Roy Walker; and World famous Darts player Bobby George - a really mixed bunch as you can see and several with 'very big personalities'.

We were given a night in Delhi to get over the journey and acclimatise and only then did we find out that our destination was the Amber City of Jaipur. Jaipur is two cities - the old Amber City in which we were to stay is surrounded by the new Jaipur with its Malls and mini High Rise buildings. And the two areas are totally different. Once you turn off the hugely busy street and in through the Walls of the Amber City you are in a different world and one which, in some ways, has not been touched by time. The streets are narrow and 'filthy' with goats, pigs and cows scavenging in the detritus strewn in piles all over the place. There is colour everywhere - from the women's sarees to the brightly adorned temples. My heart sank because I couldn't imagine where we might be staying and then like a little doorway to a different world we arrived at the Kurta Haveli which was to be our home for 3 weeks. Brigadier Singh and his wife - our hosts and owners of the Guesthouse were patiently waiting for us as we were strewn with rose petals and presented with the ubiquitous Marigold garlands. (I wondered why the films were called Exotic Marigold and now I knew - the Marigold garlands are presented everywhere)

Our rooms were superb with absolutely everything one could need and wish for - we didn't get much time for sitting around but the sitting room was lovely and adorned with a beautiful mosaic peacock. Our hostess Sushma was a wonderful cook and I relished living on Vegetarian Indian food for the whole of our sojourn. Chicken was offered at lunch and dinner but I preferred the vegetarian dishes and Sushma made Vegetable Samosas to die for. (When I returned to the UK I expressed my surprise that I'd had absolutely no Delhi belly trouble at all and yet had eaten spicey Indian food - it was explained that most of the spices were those which are very good for the digestion like Tumeric. Also I observed the rules of no ice in drinks, no fruit you can't peel and no salads because you don't know the source of the water used to clean the leaves) I will write my 'diary' and hope you enjoy the Marigold experience as I share it with you.

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