Well, you never know what will happen when you write a post about Bob Dylan. In the case of 60 Going On 16, it led, this weekend, to the blog's first visitors from Bolivia and Mongolia, which just goes to show how universal is Mr Dylan's appeal.
And that was all rather thrilling and, in that happily coincidental way, a reminder of what I was doing and where I was exactly 20 years ago . . .
No prizes for guessing where; the little bowler hats (or sombreros de chola, to give them their correct name) are the clue. Yes, I was ever so many thousands of feet above sea level, in the world's highest capital city - La Paz, Bolivia. But not anywhere that tourists normally go; I was visiting a small day centre for some of the La Paz's most impoverished citizens. To say that it was precariously situated was an understatement; it clung, literally, to the side of a rough road looking down on that elevated city. (The charity I worked for was helping to fund the centre, through the Bolivian voluntary organisation that ran it, and I was spending several weeks visiting, writing about and filming projects in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. The children in the photo were visiting too.)
Without the centre, most of the people in the photo would never have had a nourishing meal and would certainly not have had what the centre also gave them - the opportunity to generate some income through making and selling traditional craft items. They'd also made gifts for me to take back to England and that was a humbling experience. Despite the poverty, I have happy memories of that day and of the people I met there. You won't be surprised to know that I have kept every single gift that they made for me.
But the centre also provided a meeting place and even somewhere to kick a football around and to dance and sing. (Amazing what can be achieved in a very narrow space.) When you live in a cramped, tin-roofed shack or, as I saw in one case, an old chicken coop, with no light, heat or sanitation, the value of having somewhere to go to meet your friends and to have a warm drink and a hot meal cannot be underestimated.
Many things have changed in Bolivia since 1988, not least in terms of government. In 2006, the country voted for its first indigenous leader, Evo Morales. This brought considerable discomfort to Bolivia's complacent ruling classes, who were almost exclusively of Spanish and European descent. Having seen, at first hand, the way that those in high places treated their indigenous servants (and they all had servants), I think a little discomfort was well overdue.
Bolivia still grapples with poverty on a monumental scale but it is an extraordinary, wonderful place. I'd dreamed of going there since I was very young and first heard about Lake Titicaca - the world's highest inland lake. (Yes I went there too but I'll save that for another post because it was one of those once in a lifetime experiences.) For today, I'll leave you with one of my favourite photos* from that visit: a little girl, who must now be in her mid-twenties, and one of the elderly women for whom the centre had become a second and welcoming home.
*The photos are scanned, so the quality isn't great but they'll give you an idea of life in La Paz, 20 years ago.