Archive for March, 2008

Halcyon Smyrnensis

March 31, 2008

Halcyon Smyrnensis

Halcyon Smyrnensis… or Kingfisher to you and me. This particular common but handsome Indian fellow usually perches quite some way away from the flat on one of the many wires slung across the sky from building to building. Yesterday he decided to sit in the tree in our ‘back garden’, close enough to get this shot of him.

According to the bird books he is ‘solitary, shy and inhabits open ground or near a water body’. This bird obviously hasn’t read the book and fails on all counts to match his description. Neither open ground or a body of water are within 1000 metres of our flat. He’s not solitary or shy either.

This morning he was on his usual perch on the wire when a lady Kingfisher dropped by. After observing a few social niceties he got down to the business of procreation in full view of all who cared to observe.

Photo call

March 29, 2008

My daughter Sam has asked that we include some pix of ourselves. Try this for starters…
All in a day’s work

Happy Birthday Samantha and Tamaris…. only five days late with birthday wishes this year!

Easter Weekend

March 26, 2008

Storm Cloud

We gather that UK weather has not been at its best over the Easter weekend. Depending on which way you look at neither has ours. Thunder, lightening, rain etc. Actually we loved the cloud and the rain. Last year we had to wait until May for any rain. The local say there has never been anything like it in living memory.
We changed our original plan to go down to Gokarna in Karnataka for assorted reasons and stayed in Patnem in the south of Goa. We wanted a beach day and decided on Galgibaga, which is advertised as visited by Olive Ridley turtles and only small numbers of humans. And so it proved. On a cloudy and warm day we saw only ten visitors on this mile long beach. We really enjoyed the day on the beach with good simple seafood at one of the two shacks.
Of course, there had to be a downside to the day, which came later. We both got sunburned! Ho hum, first time since we arrived here.

Wheelie Bins again

March 24, 2008

4 month old Wheely Bin

Yet more on the Goa rubbish collection situation. The wheely bins have been marginally successful. There is less rubbish strewn in the streets and less smell. The wheely bins themselves now look like they’ve been in service for twenty years and the lids are beginning to break up. Not very interesting, surprising or amusing. What has tickled us is the new method of collection.

You may recall that originally there were about ten men and the driver and the lorry was a homemade sideloader that probably fell over and was withdrawn as ‘not fit for purpose’. The latest lorry is new and somebody is caring for it, unlike the poor wheelie bins. Previously, the bin men would laboriously gather the bins from up and down the hill and park them halfway. The lorry would arrive and the bins would be emptied. The ten men spent fifteen to twenty minutes redistributing the bins. Last night at the usual collection time all was silence. We thought it was one of the regular strikes, but no. At 7.00am our breakfast (on the terrace, in hazy sunshine) was disturbed by somebody yelling directions in the street. We looked over the balcony and saw the refuse lorry with one khaki uniformed official and one man.

The official was directing the lorry up the hill and one man was emptying the bins as the lorry passed. Well, it’s much less wasteful of manpower and won’t take much longer than the old system. But the question is ‘Why was the wagon being driven backwards up the hill?’

Answers on a postcard please. Our suggestion is that the originator of the idea came from the ranks, has been promoted to wagon director and has to make sure that his job has a good reason. Maybe the whole journey is made backwards.

And yes there is turning space at the top.

Newsflash. The lorry has lost its ‘wagon director’ this morning and was travelling forward.

Hole in the Road

March 19, 2008

Hole Filling

On an early morning run about four weeks ago, we nearly fell in to a new hole in the road. The lamp men had been round turning off the street lights to save power and the warning signs consisted of a couple of leafy twigs on the heap of rubble round the hole. The hole occupied half a busy through road.

As time passed snail-like progress was made as a concrete culvert was constructed. Four weeks later the culvert was covered over with removable slabs and the other half of the road was opened up; as was the road verge running up a hill towards a housing estate.

Where do you think they started the culvert concreting? By now, you’ll have got the answer right. The concreting has started up the hill in the housing estate, so no doubt the hole in the road will be there for the forseeable future.

Planning ahead is not a strong point here, but more likely the contractors had to pay bribes to proceed.

The CM Cometh

March 14, 2008

Town Hall - Margao

Goa’s Chief Minister, Mr Digambar Kamat, is Margao’s MLA, the equivalent of our MP. Since he has been in his position of power, Margao has been getting the treatment. Day by day we notice improvements; public and private properties are being painted, roads mended, something akin to pavements being laid, improved rubbish collection, works ongoing in the central park. Steadily it is regaining some of its former dignity and beauty. We guess that without Mr Kamat wanting his patch to look good, we’d still be waiting…

In the past, Margao has been referred to as The Athens of the East and the Most Dusty Town in Goa. We’re not sure either description is anywhere near the truth, but certainly it has its attactive and dusty areas. The photo shown above is Margao’s Municipal Building take from the gardens in the middle of town, about two minutes walk from our home. Click George Barretto and his Gardens to see the the gardens.

PS Do you know if Athens is attactive? Never been there, but imagined it to be below average for a capital city.

A Spill

March 13, 2008

Cashew Apple
On our weekly run down to Colem, Martin spotted some cashew apples by the side of the road. The cashew is a curious fruit and Alison hasn’t seen one close up. So Martin decideds to turn round and head back up the hill to show her.

It is the steepest hill on the run, also the narrowest bit of road. Not wanting to go to the bottom of the hill Martin looked for a suitable turning place. The attempt was made and was unsuccessful. Not able to get round on the road he took the bike onto the shoulder and its marbles (well, loose laterite pieces). We all three of us slid ungracefully the floor as Hari lost lost his grip.

It happened at slow speed and we were unharmed. Hari lost some oil. For some reason the oil filler cap fell out. Typical! Martin struggles to get the thing off when topping up with oil.

Through this incident we now understand why the two-wheeler driving test consists only of the figure of eight manouevre on a sloping and pot-holed road. It is obvious that two-wheeler drivers are always wanting to turn back to look at something on the side of the road without having to stop.

Mixed Metaphors

March 12, 2008

Cows before the Cart

Martin dropped in on two friends who have given up on their house building project manager and are doing it themselves. The progress on the house since they took over is markedly faster and the ‘do it again’ count has dropped. Martin had just returned from a two hour round trip to have Hari Enfield serviced. Of course, this being the first attempt, Hari was not serviced and he has to return on Monday. We won’t bore you with details.

On arrival, Martin told David and Jill the story and finished up saying “It’s just like being in India”. They looked old-fashioned at him and said in unison ” This is India”. They then related how India is getting to them.

They were discussing yet another defect in the house and said that it was too late to rectify it because “it was like shutting the stable door after the cow had bolted”. They then compounded the error by muttering darkly about the project manager… ‘he was always putting the cart before the cow”.

India does get to all of us whiteskins who try to make a life out here.

Another Day by the Seaside

March 10, 2008

Velsao Beach

Sunday we had a day that felt like a day off. We went to the (near enough) deserted beach, where there is a restaurant Wow! 916. The beach is overlooked by the accident-waiting-to-happen agro-chemical plant. We guess it was built here for instant access to the railway… but surely there were other sites?

We arrived early enough to bag the tree (almond) table and spent a happy four hours with friends Greg and Sylvia with good food, no hassle and a delightful cooling breeze; temperatures have been a bit too warm for the time of year. Fortunately the chemical plant is not in view from the restaurant. Greg and Sylvia are old India hands and are moving from Bombay to Goa… cost of living in Bombay is too expensive ‘Near London prices’ they say.

After we parted company with our friends, we headed for our local beach for a quick dip, a gin and tonic at Cecilia’s shack (still our favourite) and watched the sun sink into the sea.

The Indian Tax Office Strikes Again

March 8, 2008

Three Tax Inspectors
For once we thought we were ahead of the game. This was back in January when we filed some tax paper ahead of schedule. This was done on-line and the tax office sent a receipt. Job jobbed, as they say.

We have just received a lengthy letter saying that although they have received the amount due the accompanying paperwork was not with them and we were facing a fine of Rs 100/- per day. Having waded through the jargon through to the signature, we decided it was a case for our accountant.

We went to his office, where he was deep into his computer. Just glancing at the letter, he said, “Sign and go”. Looking at our perplexed expressions, he implied that the letter was normal procedure whether or not the papers had been received; provided we sent the Tax Office the receipt with a signature all would be well. “Sign and go!”

The strange thing is that if we mislaid the receipt then we would be fined; not for not paying, not for not sending the correct paperwork, but for not having a receipt. Hope the accountant sent a notarised copy and not the original, because the chances of it arriving are slender to say the least unless it is recorded delivery.

PS The picture shows three tax officials on a fishing holiday.