Archive for February, 2008

Does anyone here know what they’re doing?

February 27, 2008

Trip to the local private hospital this week. Not for treament but in an effort to smooth our path should we ever need some. Private hospitals tend to expect a sizeable downpayment to admit you (around 10,000/- or 125 GBP) and we had understood that if we registered with the local hospital, we could avoid this.

So off we set, expecting little more from the first visit than we would collect the necessary forms. The receptionist handed over two forms and said we could register if we paid 250/-. We filled in the forms at home, photocopying sundry documents to justify why our visas are out of date (all quite legal). Martin returned to the hospital today to be told by the ‘in charge’ that we couldn’t register in advance because, and we quote, ‘we might commit suicide and make a claim against the hospital’. Go figure!

Anyway, not a wasted journey as we stopped to pick up two pictures we’d had framed. We had spent 10 minutes selecting the best colour, pattern, size etc. And guess what – they were wrong. The frames look OK, so what do you do? If we argue, they probably won’t do the work at all. There isn’t anyone else in Margao.

We cannot figure how anyone makes a living here because most of the shops don’t have any concept of service and seem unable to deliver what they commit to.


Night time entertainment

February 23, 2008

For the past two months, we’ve had a noticable addition to the usual night time routine of car horns and humming air-conditoning units. Screech owls.

Four of them – babies that is – on the roof across from our apartment. We’ve been watching the parents pretty much ever since we moved in to Margao as they sometimes sit on the streetlamp across the way. They set up a nest in the eaves of the house opposite and have not shut up since, from dusk to dawn. They screech continuously.

Now we think they’re on the move as synchronised crashing has begun ie they’re learning to fly. We’ll miss them.

Beware all baubles when there’s a monkey about

February 20, 2008

We have a friend in Goa, called Suzie. She runs Blazing Trails, a company organising holidays on Enfield motorbikes. And Suzie has a pet monkey, called Rosie.

We stopped off to see Suzie a few days ago. And while Martin was talking Enfields with Suzie, Alison went to see Rosie. Alison made the mistake of having in her hand a scarf with baubles on the end. Within seconds the monkey had grabbed hold of the baubles and pulled them off the scarf, scattering some of them over the floor and the rest she stuffed in her mouth.

Cue Martin, Alison and Suzie on hands and knees to pick up the beads, while Rosie sat disdainfully above us and spat the remaining beads at us. Apparently she broke someone’s necklace in similar vein once.

Rosie has also been known to take alcoholic drinks off guests (and finish them herself) and break into the kitchen, drink any whisky that’s going (especially good, imported single malt), then trash the kitchen by opening all the rice, lentils, oils etc all over the floor.

Occasionally we consider getting a pet. Perhaps we won’t have a monkey.

RTO… again

February 18, 2008

RTO… again

After Martin’s last visit to the RTO (Road traffic Office), it was with some confidence that he set out on Monday morning to complete three objectives.
• Collect Registration Certificate for Hari Enfield
• Change address on learners licence (RTO’s mistake)
• Book a driving test

He allowed two hours. What do you think the success rate was? You were probably right: none of the objectives were achieved; nought percent.
For the first objective he visited four different offices, two twice. He actually had the Registration Certificate in his hand for a few seconds before it was snatched away to go somewhere else for another signature, never to re-emerge.
For the second objective he has to go through the rigmarole of re-applying for a learners license; this includes visits to three other places for verification of fitness to drive, authentication of documents and all because the RTO said it was Martin’s mistake.etc.
For the third, he was making his application for the test too soon.

OK! It’s India. Be persistent and it will all come good.

The good news for this Monday morning start to the week is that two out of three other jobs did get completed before lunch. The bank was still open and was happy to take a cash deposit and issue a new paying in book. The Post Office was open and he was able to buy stamps. However the Post Office wasn’t open to accept our letter saying that we discontinuing use of our Post Office Box No.404. “Come back at 3.30pm”

Well, he can do that on his way back to RTO, which doesn’t re-open until 4.00pm.

The Enfield Bullet

February 13, 2008

This blog is only for those interested in the history of the Enfield Bullet.
The bike was designed during/after WW2 and the Royal Enfield factory started selling them to the Indian Army in ’48 and then set up a factory in Madras (now Chennai) manufacturing spare parts, I think. This UK company went out of the bike manufacturing business in 1970, but in 1955 it had set up a factory to make the 350cc Bullet in Madras. The factory is turning them out today, virtually unaltered. It’s the bike they forgot to stop making. For many years this and a German 125cc bike were the only home-brewed bikes available. The monopoly was a gift of the government and was enough to discourage any ventures into new models.
Over the years the factory has produced a 500cc version, not noticeably faster but it can lug a fairsized load over the Himalaya, which would probably terminate a 350cc Bullet. There have been some minor modifications, plus a short-lived diesel version. Electronic ignition, electric start and right side gear change are available on some models. The RE factory now exports these classic bikes all over the world.
Our “Hari” Enfield was manufactured in 1994 as a Standard Bullet and then by 2002 it had reached the end of its useful life. The owner then had it re-built and modified. Alloy wheels, export grade crank, Yamaha 350RD front suspension and a few other decorative bells and whistles and leather pannier bags. Hari hasn’t been ridden since the re-build was finished so watch out for running-in problems; so far it’s been starting and gear change problems, plus those non-standard front forks/suspension. Maybe a new carburettor is needed… ho hum, that’ll be about 15 pounds.
For more on Royal Enfield in India, google it.

The moment we know you’ve all been waiting for

February 13, 2008

Hari Enfield
Yes, drum roll, fanfare of trumpets – we have an Enfield. An Enfield Bullet 350cc to be precise, now christened ‘Hari’. It might be called a Bullet but it doesn’t exactly go like one, Alison is pleased to report. It sort of ‘thumps’ along – Martin cannot now arrive anywhere discretely.

And you know, it’s just like owning an MG BGT, which we used to do in the UK. You go out in the morning and there are wet patches on the floor that weren’t there the night before. And he won’t always start, especially when there’s an audience.

Regular readers won’t be surprised to know that servicing is proving less than straight forward. The bike has been rebuilt, with Yamaha forks. So Enfield specialists won’t touch that part of it, therefore we have to go to two places for repair. The Enfield people are great – and cheap!! Get this everyone, Rs 195/- for a service (that’s about 2.50 GBP).

We don’t know about the Yamaha man yet. He wasn’t there yesterday – so we have to try again today.

Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that Martin will entertain you in future blogs with a history of the Bullet. And no doubt there will be regular updates on how ours is doing, or not, as the case may be.

And you think you have to wait for a doctor in the UK

February 9, 2008

Alison made her first foray into an appointment with a medical professional this week. It took three hours.

By the time she arrived for her 4pm appointment, there were already 14 people in the waiting room. There wasn’t much of a system – names were called but not necessarily in the order people arrived in. Couples went in (generally in Goa, if the wife goes for an appointment the husband goes too), came out again and resumed their seats. Not many people were seen (about three in the first one and a half hours) and no one seemed to leave.

Once she got in front of the doctor, Alison bucked the system – in and out in under 10 minutes, and she left the surgery!

Still we shouldn’t complain. Once you get in front of a doctor here, standards are generally high and the support infrastructure (access to screening, blood tests etc) is better than the UK and far cheaper.

But like so many things in India, we wouldn’t like to have to get anything done in an emergency. Speed and India just don’t seem to go together.

The difference between movement and action

February 6, 2008

Avid readers of this blog will recall a quote from Ernest Hemingway in a recent entry about ‘never confuse movement with action’.

Well ….. we still don’t have our motorbike. We used to think that jobs that took two days in the UK took two weeks in India. The way this Enfield is shaping up, make that four weeks.

Martin set off on Friday thinking he was going to collect the bike and ride it back to Margao. By chance, he had to see our Company Secretary first. The said Co Sec put him right regarding the paperwork.

We’re not quite back to square one – it just felt like it on Friday – however after a day to reflect we now have a new Resolution, we know what has to go on Form 29, and we may even know about Form 30 … we think.

By the way, if you put Margao RTO into Google, Goan Crazy comes up third!

Plus ca change ….

February 3, 2008

Martin went to buy a soldering iron, for those jobs Araldite is not up to. He asked in his local paint store. No, they didn’t sell soldering irons but they did know where he could get one.

Having successfully navigated the Goan directions, he bought a soldering iron. Did they sell soldering wire? No, but they knew a shop that did. So off he trotted, this time accompanied by a shop assistant. And where did he end up? Back at the paint shop. Did they sell soldering wire? Yes.

The words ‘why didn’t you say so in the first place’ form on our lips but we know there’s no point in uttering them.