Archive for October, 2010

Winter draws on

October 31, 2010

It’s difficult to think of winter in Goa; it rarely gets colder than 20C (70F). But the locals feel it when the temperature dips below 25C; woolly hats start to appear. Other signs of the onset of winter are:
We can hear the station announcer more than half a mile away as the humidity drops and the air clears.
The days are cloudless (hasn’t quite happened yet, monsoon which should have finished a month ago is still around).
The package flights from Europe and Russia start arriving
Beach shacks start to invade the coast
Lights festoon buildings for Divali ( Festival of Lights)
Local monsoon escapees return.

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Pubs – a disappearing act.

October 31, 2010

Apparently English pubs are closing at a rate of six hundred a year. We find it increasingly difficult to find a genuine pub. Appearances are deceptive. In we go to a likely looking local only to be steered away from the bar to a table by a young lady from Poland or Estonia, who slaps a ‘pub’ menu on the table and demands we order a drink. We walk out, of course.
However, the remaining pubs in the countryside seem to be improving. With good food and even better beer or cider, which is after all our main purpose of going to a pub. So we raise a glass to all those hard-pressed landlords are keeping a grand tradition alive.
This year’s favourite is The Bell at Pensax.

Buster meets and eats Dennis

October 31, 2010

The early morning start to Gatwick for our flight home had been trouble free apart from the alarm clock not going off. However, Martin’s internal clock woke him at precisely 5.30 am, our chosen time to to start the day.
The journey was plain sailing with no delays until we reached the boarding gate where there was a sniffer dog and handler.

Buster is a friendly black Labrador not yet two years old. He took a liking to Dennis, which pleased Dennis – until Buster picked him up by the head. The crisis was quickly resolved with a gentle reprimand from his handler, but this only added insult to injury as he referred to Dennis a toy. Dennis soon got over it as we all watched the dog’s diligence in his work. It was great entertainment during the tedious packaging process of flying.

PS For those who don’t know who Dennis is and if they are interested please leave a message for details.

Qatar Airways

October 31, 2010

A plug for this airline. Everything about its service has so far been good or better than good. This is being written at 39,000 feet after five hours of reasonable comfort in Economy. This year Qatar started flying from their airport hub in Doha, Qatar direct to Goa. Hallelujah! We can avoid flying to Bombay before transferring to a UK destination. So now we’ve lopped 6 hours off the trip. Minor downside is the very early departure and arrival times, but the time saving is a good trade off. Competitive prices too.

Of course, we spoke too soon. A suitcase had gone missing on arrival!

SVR – Pure nostalgia

October 2, 2010

Severn Valley Railway

Having been delayed returning to India by the visa debacle, we had extra free time, so we sallied forth to Kidderminster, bought ‘Freedom of the Line’ tickets and proceeded to have a thoroughly enjoyable day trundling up and down the Severn Valley in Shropshire and Worcestershire on The Severn Valley Railway.

The SVR was started 40 years ago by rail enthusiasts a few years after the line was closed by the then Transport Minister and mad axeman Dr Beeching. It runs about 30 miles from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth, through very English countryside.

We walked by the Severn, rode the Cliff Railway and admired some of Bridgnorth’s old architecture, got soot and smuts in our eyes and hair, talked with engine drivers and young porters giving their time freely to keep the project and wheels turning. Our luck was in too; there was a beer festival adjacent the platform at Bridgnorth Station with over fifty real ales and ciders to choose from. This ticked one of our ‘must dos’ on a UK visit; English beer! Wonderful.

The SVR set up is so good that we found ourselves far removed from the Elf and Safety madness of modern life and transported back to a time so much more relaxed. Not that safety is compromised, it just isn’t rammed down your throat at every turn.

Martin used to be a train spotter in his youth. Train spotters are now known disparagingly as ‘anoraks’, however without these ‘SVR anoraks’ an important (and fun) part of national heritage would be lost. Old and young were all obviously enthralled to be part of this living nostalgic scene.

CWG IV – On time

October 2, 2010

When?

Good news at last! The new metro station at the main CWG venue will open on time, the authorities announced.

“When is ‘on time’?'” we thought; ‘now’ wouldn’t be soon enough. But hey! ‘on time’ is not what we expect in the West. In this case it means, wait for it………… one hour before the opening ceremony!

Visas

October 1, 2010

Sorry! Yet again it’s visa gripes time. Last year we breezed through the hurdles and our visas were ready in three days flat. This year we sensed there would be a problem when we presented our carefully prepared papers. Two letters contained the word ‘work’ in reference to our business in India; if the word had been ‘project ’ there would have not have been an issue. But ‘work’ smacks of employment. Shouldn’t we therefore be applying for Employment visas rather than Business visas? No we shouldn’t, but too late. The clerk summoned her manager. Slightly aggressively he seized our passports and looked at previous visas and grumbled about our Tourist visa entries, the last of which was in 2005 and of no relevance. Confirming that we really wanted Business visas our papers were accepted and we were advised that they would be processed in up to five days and we could track the passports on line. They weren’t ready on day 7, but we drove to Birmingham to go face to face with someone. We were reassured there was no problem and we (foolishly) believed them. A couple of days later and a visit to the Consul General’s office and we had to cancel our flights back because we were still in the dark. At this office we had only been able to extract another ‘promise’ that they would fast track (!) the application and we could collect on Monday. This time the promise was kept, but we will never know the cause of the delay.
We are getting used to these ‘panic’ moments when it seems we our lives are temporarily on hold while Indian officialdom constantly gets bogged down when there is even the tiniest thing, like the word ‘work’ in a document that freezes the system.