Archive for January, 2007

Friends

January 31, 2007

Last night we enjoyed an impromptu gathering of friends at The Royal Oak Bovingdon Green. We weren’t able to make earlier arrangements because on this UK visit our timings were dictated by the vagaries of Indian bureaucracy. That is all behind us for the time being as we have our visas (the main reason for this trip) and they have all the appropriate stamps. The next step is to register with the Goan Police on our return; we understand that the police may require more forms and stamps than anyone is letting on. But that is in the future and not to concern ourselves right now.
It was a fun evening with much laughter and plenty of news and views being exchanged. So thanks to all those who were able to show up at the very short notice and thanks to all those unable to come; we missed you. Also we’ll take the opportunity to thank friends in other parts of the country who we have managed see and not see.
It’s reassuring to realise that should we need it there is a whole bunch of support should things go pear-shaped for us.The whole experience was at once humbling and exhilarating.

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The Bathtub Test

January 30, 2007

At the moment we are having a short break from travelling around the UK visiting as many friends and family as possible. Travelling by road has been a sight easier than in India, although much less interesting. Therefore we have little to talk about blog-wise, so we’ve come up with this food for thought tale.

It doesn’t hurt to take a hard look at yourself from time to time, and this should help get you started. During a visit to the mental asylum, a visitor asked the Director what the criterion was which defined whether or not a patient should be institutionalized.

“Well,” said the Director, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to empty the bathtub.”

“Oh, I understand,” said the visitor. “A normal person would use the bucket because it’s bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

“No.” said the Director, “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”

Alison wants a sea view and Martin is past caring.

England’s glory

January 26, 2007

You wouldn’t call January the best time to visit the UK. The weather is unpredictable, to put it mildly. We arrived in high winds, and have since seen Lords cricket ground covered with snow. Not much rain, though.

Despite the weather, we haven’t been blind to how beautiful the English country side can look. Alison’s parents have a new house in Worcesteshire which boasts views 25 miles to the Malverns. It’s all very green, rolling, and beautiful. We decided to get some first hand experience of the ups and downs with a run round the block. The block turned out to be somewhat larger than anticipated and the planned 40 minutes became an hour and a quarter. Martin was fine the next day, Alison had trouble walking. But it was all very pretty – if muddy. Still we don’t get the mud in Goa so the change was fun.

Now down in Cornwall. Bit warmer but not much. Grey skies and grey sea. Lots of sunshine yesterday and a beautiful sunset over Exeter and Dartmoor.

Rail Travel UK-style

January 25, 2007

Interesting to read about the sorry plight of First Great Western passengers (sorry, customers) in the Bath area and compare it with our experience on the Chiltern Railway into Marylebone. We are standing in line for tickets, two people in front of us and our train just pulling into the adjacent platform. First in line takes his time organising everything before he gets out of the way. Second in line gets her ticket delivered smartly but has not had the foresight to have her money ready, so there is much delving in assorted bags to find some cash. The ticket clerk looks at us, looks at the train and correctly assesses that we are not going to get aboard. He says ‘Go, get on. Pay the other end’, which we do with some trepidation about getting caught without ticket. Ho hum!

At Marylebone Station we approach the booth by the exit gates. Two passengers (sorry, customers) are arguing the toss, no doubt suffering the extraction of fine monies. Our turn next we think. But no! We explain what happened at the start and our man says ‘I know, they phoned. What tickets did you want?’ Two Travelcards and tens seconds later we were on our way. Smiles all round. Thanks Chiltern Railways; that’s what we call service.

Forgot to mention on our journey by train from Goa to Mumbai, just outside one station there was a locomotive on its side, in a ravine. The station in question was ‘Veer’ – clearly the locomotive took the instruction too literally!

Back to Blighty

January 23, 2007

We don’t know how the expression ‘Back to Blighty’ came about, but it’s from WW1 and was used by soldiers returning home from the trenches, either injured or on leave. On reflection we can view our first 20 weeks in India as a battle with bureaucracy and our trip to the UK should be for R&R and visa renewal. However, battle has already resumed as we manoeuvre through the trenches and no mans’ land of India House and the High Commission of India Visa Department. We won’t bore with detail; suffice it to say that the first meeting produced a note and a time two days later for a second meeting. At the moment we are not ideally placed for repeated meetings being encamped more than 250 miles from India House. The 500+ mile round trip and the three hours in India House was exhausting!
So, much to our regret, we are departing from Alison’s parents’ home to find billets closer to the front. Our thanks to John , Jude and brother Phil for their very great assistance and understanding during our stay.

Health and Safety UK rules OK

January 19, 2007

We’ve been told that time abroad changes your perspective on your home country. Landing back at Heathrow, boy did we know we were back in the UK. The weather was windy and wet. The approach was ‘lumpy’ but the landing very smooth. Then the fun started. Apparently, according to the Health and Safety Police, it was safe to land a jumbo jet but not to unload it! Cue chaos in the baggage hall. Passengers waiting luggage from a Chicago flight were told it had gone AWOL, and then the message was revised to say the missing items had been found but were coming through on a different carousel. Passengers from Amsterdam couldn’t have their luggage because another airline (not named, unfortunately) had parked blocking access to the hold. And so it went on. We did get our luggage eventually – all of it, so we cannot complain. Health and Safety is a relatively unknown concept in India – bad in some ways but good in others. At least everything keeps moving, which is more than can be said for the traffic on the UK’s roads.

We owe the Goans an apology

January 17, 2007

Short blog today – preparing to travel. Yesterday we questioned whether Alison’s chiropractic bench was ready. It turned up at 8am this morning! It’s gorgeous – weighs a tonne. Can’t wait to use it. Next time we blog it will be from the UK. British Airways and severe weather warnings allowing. More Magir.

On the road to Margao

January 16, 2007

This morning we were off to another meeting, this time with the only person we’ve met in Goa who is on time for appointments. However, Martin’s bicycle had a flat tyre. So we have to use public transport, which means a 10 minute walk, a thirty minute bus journey and another walk at the other end. 45 minutes to do 6 kilometres; that’s if you can get on the first bus. Lady Luck smiled and a black and yellow 1976 Ambassador taxi passed the front gates as we were leaving. These cabs ply on the road between Colva and Marlow instead of buses, which are unable to pass beneath the railway bridge. This one was abit off course having done a private school run.
On the way we were delayed because our driver picked up passengers from a broken down Ambi and stopped for a chat. Near collision as he got out without putting the handbrake on and the cab started to rollbackwards into the path of traffic. Martin scrambled for the handbrake by the drivers door. Another minute down the road and there was a hold up while a herd of water buffalo foraged occupying the whole carriageway; no-one in charge. Frustrated drivers tried to work their way round on the wrong side. We don’t think that they understand that they are going to block on-coming traffic and make the situation worse. Amazingly it all got sorted and we got to our meeting on time.
PS It’s nearly 8.00pm. We are getting ready for the trip to the UK tomorrow. We are waiting for delivery of the chiropractic bench, now ten days overdue. We get a call saying the delivery driver is in Anjuna and about to come back to collect the bench and deliver it to us in half an hour.
BUT Anjuna is TWO hours away. Delivery later? We don’t think so. Too tired to point out the illogic. We don’t think the bench is finished. We can’t change the situation, but we can laugh… just.

They think it’s all over…

January 15, 2007

We thought we’d wrapped this bit of bureaucracy up.
We’d sent the authorities some needful registration paperwork about six weeks ago. It was recently returned because an eagle-eyed office-wallah spotted that one letter of our postcode was out of place. We’ll put that right in a couple of minutes we thought. Go into the accountants office to re-submit the whole lot. This unfortuantely won’t do. It transpires that because of the delay in getting the paperwork back, one of the several supporting documents is now out of date. Guess what? We cannot replace it.
Back to square one and no doubt another fine for late presentation. Anyone out there who wants a job as a form checker?

Mozart’s Horn Concerto – not

January 14, 2007

Drivers don’t use horns as in the UK ie ‘You’re in my way, move!’ or worse.
We think they ‘horn’ to say ‘I am here’. Wagons all have stickers on the back saying ‘Sound Horn’ or ‘Horn OK’ Whether for the purpose of attracting a friend’s attention, warding off evil spirits, invoking protection from above or just through a real concern that all and sundry will collide with them if they don’t ‘horn’, we are not sure.
There is a large variety of horns. Did-dida-diddle-diddle-dee-dumdum reasonably high-pitched belongs to a bus that first passes at about 5.45 am and is audible for about 20 seconds. He doesn’t stop on our road. Colonel Bogey we think belongs to a shared cab. The breadman on his bicycle has an asthmatic bulb horn and we are not quite able to distinguish his from the fishman. We believe we’ve heard Tchaichovsky’s Da-da-da-der. Many small modern cars seem to have a reversing tune. The bells on the ice-cream tricyles make a pleasant addition. Some Enfield motorbikes have a really deep sonorous horn;we half expect a 1930s Rolls to pass by. Just as well we don’t have fog in Goa – heaven knows what sound those horns would produce. There would need to be plenty of them given how often barges hit the Zuari river bridge in broad daylight.