Two emails sent on Sunday:
I have just got back from the Queen's Palace. Good old Pal phoned about 11 to say that today, being the 7th November, is the one day in the year when the palace is open to the public. I went straight there and found that it was open and, better still, hardly any people were there. It will clearly not have its renovations finished in the next ten years but you can see and appreciate what has been done and its location, on top of the highest (and steepest) hill in Tana means the views for 15 miles(?) in any and every direction are spectacular. Also because there is no glass in any of the windows of the four storey building there is a lovely breeze throughout. Effectively they have rebuilt the palace using original stone wherever possible but replacing to original designs what was destroyed in the fire and using concrete as a strengthening base for staircases and floors.
It is much bigger that it looks from outside the gates and the grounds also contain a church, various tombs, a swimming pool in ornate gardens and lots of cannons so I spent about an hour and a half wandering and only once being shouted and waved at in the nicest possible way for going where I shouldn't have. A very pleasant and hot walk so now I'm going to have the beer that has been sitting in my fridge for the last two weeks just waiting for this moment.
Just back from church. The final hymn was to the tune of 'When the Saints Go Marching In' which hasn't had a religious connotation for years. Two other church observations: where in England you do the handshake/sign of peace, here everybody in your pew holds hands and the people on the aisle move out and hold hands with people from the opposite pew and then there is singing and swinging of hands climaxing in a final slow swing raising hands to the heavens. Interesting. Different.
The second observation is that when the priest says (in Malagasy) "Go, the mass is ended" they leave immediately. Not just a few, everyone turns and makes for the exit while the priest and servers are still stood on the altar. Again different.