Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Hangover

So, the biggest night of the year is upon us and in an effort to remain hangover free - as I have been for the whole of the festive season - I will be taking a couple of 'PartySmarts' before the drinking gets underway.  (Please just click on the PartySmart link to see the hilarious cart-wheeling stick-figures who are clearly having a much livelier night than I ever plan to have!)  We are heading to a fabulous restaurant where, for the princely sum of $150 per head, we can chug as much Moet as we like, eat a nine-course dinner, and hopefully not get ejected by the Police at the Bangalore 'witching-hour' of 11:30 pm.  Apparently for about $600 restaurants and bars can get an hour extension, after which, no doubt the local constabulary could be persuaded to let them stay open a little longer for about Rs.600.  I have come to the conclusion that given a bottle of Moet retails here at about $150 per bottle, this restaurant will be losing a large amount of their profits at our table... Anyway, I decided to find out what was in PartySmarts as I've taken them a few times with considerable success (albeit one time I took it with my first drink, versus half an hour before as prescribed).  For 25 cents per pill, I get a whole bunch of Ayurvedic 'stuff' that will 'provide liver protection and prevent hangover symptoms...'  I was a little alarmed when none of the ingredients appeared on Wikipedia, but then found an Ayurvedic list of herbs which put me out of my misery - kind of.  First up, Kharjura, which is dates and I guess is good for you because of the sugars; Kasni is chicory and acts as a brain tonic (maybe I should take every day?) and is 'useful in headaches and checking bilious vomiting' - always a good thing; Yavatikta is something called 'the creat' and has been shown to increase liver weight in rats....; Draksha is grapes, which I'm not sure I need as I will be drinking plenty of their by-product tonight; Amalaki is Indian gooseberry, which increases your resistance; and finally, the oddest of all, is Bhumyamalaki which has no English translation but is good for scabby affections and a diuretic in gonorrhea - I guess that's a preventative in case it all goes horribly wrong and you get up to no good post-drinking!!!  So, it is with PartySmart and free-flowing Moet in hand that I wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year and hope that none of you have need for Bhumyamalaki in 2008!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Classic TV

This is a very random posting, but for some reason, I got to thinking about my favourite childhood TV programmes.  When I was six, it was Black Beauty and luckily YouTube has the opening sequence right here  And the other was White Horses, and sure enough YouTube has it here  Now, if only Majesty would come and get me up in the morning!!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Taxi-ing Time

Three times a week, Tom takes a taxi to work as I steal the car and head off to the stables.  This is normally a simple procedure where I call up from the car, book it, and it collects him.  Sometimes the driver might call to clarify our whereabouts, as we really do live in the a@@e end of nowhere.  Yesterday was different.  I called up to be told "there are no taxi's in your area, call back in 30 minutes..."  The fact I was booking it 90 minutes in advance didn't make a difference.  I dutifully called back in 30 minutes...."still no taxi's in your area, call back in 30 minutes."  My request to just send one from a different neighborhood did not compute, so I took a different tack and called another company.  They took the booking right away, no problems, or so I thought.... Just before the booking time of 9:30, Tom checked his cellphone - 11 missed calls, presumably from the taxi driver.  He called him back, confirmed his whereabouts, to be told, "10 minutes away."  After 10 minutes were up, Tom called again, to be told, "5 to 10 minutes away."  A third call resulted in him being told, "5 minutes away."  Ok, so it's nearly 10:00 now and the guy is no nearer than he was 30 minutes ago.  One final call, and Tom was told, "Not a taxi, wrong number."  The security guy called and spoke to the 'taxi driver' in his native tongue, still to be told, "Not a taxi."  It is amazing how in the space of 30 minutes one person can go from being "taxi, 10 minutes" to "not a taxi."  Maybe he switched career that very morning, decided it wasn't for him after all.  Who knows, but suffice to say Tom hopped on a rickshaw and then luckily passed a colleague in his car who took him the rest of the way to the office.  Thankfully Tom's colleague decided that he could be "taxi driver" for just 10 minutes!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Do They Know It's Fake-mas At All?

I have tried getting into the Christmas spirit.  I spent hours on our Holiday newsletter and Christmas Card.  I listened to my Christmas music compilation over and over, from The Ramones to Bing Crosby and even Wizzard and Mud for the 70's Glam Rock fans.  I even bought a 4ft fake tree (made in Madras).  But it hasn't hit me yet.  It's hard to get into the Christmas spirit when it's 80 degrees outside and the only Santa you might see here is a skinny fellow dressed in a red crushed velvet suit.  Not that I like Santa, but you get the drift.  And the drift.  There IS no snow drift here.  I miss waking up in Manhattan to 3ft of snow excitedly thinking that I can't get to work, but knowing that NYC transit is so efficient that there's no excuse. Unless you are commuting from Canada.  I even miss the time we spent seven hours delayed on the tarmac at JFK on Christmas Day - without a drink or even a bit of tinsel to raise the festivities.  Our Fake-mas Day, it's been decided, will be spent at Olive Beach, our favourite mediterranean restaurant, where we will dine al fresco on a buffet of unlimited turkey, ham, and eggnog (I'm told).  It's $50 per head, expensive here, but a bargain in the west, and am determined to drink every cent in alcohol.  And then some.  But I miss Starbucks Eggnog, and the surly assistant who once told me that he couldn't make it 'extra hot' as the egg would cook... I doubt that the Egg in Nog is really Egg, just fake egg.  I even bought some DVD's to watch in my blissful stupor that evening; of course, they're fake, from the fake DVD store, but where else can you get movies that have only only JUST been released in the cinema?  I've done all my shopping:  a mad dash round Marks and Spencers in Leeds for the UK family; an extravagant couple of hours in Terminal 4 Duty Free for Tom; and hours online at Amazon and the like for the US tribe.  Not quite Fifth Avenue and Regent Street!  I actually miss spending hours ramming Christmas cards and cash into envelopes to pay Christmas tips to the garage attendants (all 24 of them, most of whom we didn't know), hairdresser, dry cleaner, building superintendent, garbage men, mailmen, etc., etc.  I actually do it here too but it's an exercise that I completed just a month ago as most of our staff and 'service workers' are Hindu and celebrate Diwali, not Christmas.  Until Christmas comes, then suddenly, it's amazing how many Christians come out of the woodwork!  There's much debate here over 'how much is enough' and I play by the 'one month's salary at Diwali' and 'half a month's salary at Christmas.'  I figure that buys me enough good Karma with the Christians AND Hindus for the rest of the year.  So the driver, the maid, the flower lady, the ironing guy, the apartment staff, and our 'stylists' will all benefit.  We even donated enough to buy Christmas gifts for 10 people at the NGO I teach at.  That made me feel the Christmas spirit.  For a minute.  So, as I struggle with the tree tonight and string up the Christmas cards - all four of them - I will continue desperately to get into the mood.  But know that there is nothing more I miss than a rerun of The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show, a real Christmas Pudding, some Crackers, and, of course, being with our family to eat, drink, and be merry - and then fall asleep in front of the TV!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Breed All About It

I have a few doggie tails to catch you up on as 'dog fever' seems to have hit Bangalore.  No, it's not like 'chikungunya' fever, this is the real deal, as Bangalore hosted its annual dog show over the weekend.  We didn't get a chance to visit as seeing a large percentage of the 25,000 stray dog population every day - and hearing them at night - kind of gets you dogged-out.  However, I was compelled to write about two things:  1.  the 5-star hotel stray-dog incident and 2.  The Bangalore Mirror's 'spot-on' reporting of the current pedigree dog trend in the city.  I am firstly indebted to my favourite breeder, who reported so swiftly on the latter, and was with me to witness the former.  Note to animal activists:  she is physically breeding herself, so to speak, NOT a puppy farmer...  Anyway, the former incident involved the hilarity that ensued when a stray dog got into the inner sanctum of the 5-star Oberoi hotel here in Bangalore.  Guests were thrilled to see him scampering around the neatly manicured lawns, minding his own business, and but he outdid himself when he took not one, but two, shortcuts across a pretty little fishpond in true doggie swimming style.  The scene that resulted was quite reminiscent of a 1970's Benny Hill end-of-show sketch - except with more clothes - as the dog was chased by smartly-clad waiters, sari-cladded hostesses, groundsmen in brown pant suits, and even a toque-touting chef!  It did take a turn for the less amusing when, under obvious instructions from senior management, the groundsman took to hurling a large broom-handle at the dog.  Now I don't know a lot about dogs, but the sight of a stick - large or small - flying through the air is more a signal to 'fetch' vs. 'run away!'  I do not know what happened to the daring dog that day, but for a few fleeting moments he was the star of the show!  And equally funny in journalistic terms was this report from the Bangalore Mirror on some of the more high-end dogs that are gracing the city streets... this just goes to show that their canine scribes are about as clued in as their 'ask the sexpert' expert!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Drowning in Ants

So, this is the third and final posting in 'the bug trilogy...'  This morning, I was mortified to see bits of 'stuff' floating around in our half-empty water cooler canister.  I quickly removed it and Tom took on the task of identifying the mystery contents.  Should be no surprise, but it was ants!  Clusters of them, clinging to each other for life - or should it be death?  It's a big deal in India to have your body sent floating down the Ganges when you're dead; maybe our water cooler is the ant equivalent of the Ganges.  Only cleaner.  And in my kitchen in Bangalore.  I'm hoping this possible suicide pact is the end of the ants for the time being.  Watch this space!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Upping the Anti

So, as if German water bugs weren't enough, we are the palatial home to many hundreds of tiny, pinhead size ants, let's call them Indian everywhere ants.  Please don't get the wrong idea that our apartment is home to anything and everything creepy and crawly; I am sure there are much worse things happening elsewhere, and my maid assures me that is the case.  So the Indian everywhere ants are, literally, everywhere.  Their favourite hangout is the black marble kitchen counter-top, the clever little suckers knowing that I can barely see them.  They form weaving lines, dozens at a time, from A to B to C back to B and then into a scarsely visible hole in the wall.  It is a constant battle of wills between me and them; just as quickly as I fill the hole, they create another, and another, coming out of the most creative places to see what tasty treats have been left for them.  A drop of egg yolk on the counter top - their favourite; a small grating of cheese - yummy; and their new favourite challenge, my Origins ginger body scrub in the bathroom!  This week, they have upped the anti.  For several days, there was a trail forming, seemingly going nowhere, and everytime I squished it, it would come back.  Coming home the other evening I was horrified to see hundreds in a clearly defined trail up and around and inside the kitchen cabinet, with some of them even carrying unidentified bits of 'stuff.'  The trail led me to the 'stuff.....'  An unopened, still sealed, plastic bag within a box of Post Cranberry Selects Cereal.  The critters were all over it and, as we found out, all inside it too!  They had managed to gnaw their way in through the box, through the plastic bag, and into the heavenly goodness that is Cranberry Cereal.  At $10 a box here, they clearly chose the most expensive place in the cupboard to live.  But not for long.  They went the way of many of their family and friends - squished under a clorox wipe or sprayed into infinity with yet more toxic noxious probably-not-recommended-in-the-kitchen poison.  I have to say, however, but don't tell them this, that I secretly admire their ingenuity.  They are indeed clever little critters.

Three Bugs Does Not An Infestation Make...

I don't like bugs.  Any kind of bugs.  Large or small.  Foreign or domestic.  Forget it.  I only have to see one and I'm calling Rentokil and preparing to move out of the apartment.  We never got bugs in the UK, just spiders in the bath tub; my first exposure was in NYC where bugs, and sometimes mice, were common place, always a result of 'building works disturbing them from another place in the block...'  I distinctly remember opening my kitchen cupboard one evening to see a lovely little family hanging out on my cans of tuna and promptly trying to kill them with a hammer.  My fuzzy logic was that the hammer was about the same size as the bug; now I realize bigger is better.  I go for a size 10 shoe every time.  This prompted an urgent trip to Gracious Home where I asked the guy behind the counter for something to take care of a 'German water bug infestation.'  In polite society they're water bugs, to you and I, roaches.  When the assistant asked, how many do you have, and I replied disgustedly, three, he and Tom shared a look that basically suggested I was nuts and clearly they must humour me immediately.  The assistant couldn't help but smirk and tell me that 300 would form an infestation; I guess three were just passing through.  Fast forward to India... I found one small 'German water bug' when we moved into this apartment, maybe a hangover from the previous tenant, or just camping out til the new owners arrived.  He was quickly despatched with the size 10.  Eighteen months later, and no sightings inbetween, we come back from a trip away, and there, on my first day back, while slowly adjusting to Indian culture after a month of the western world, was the distant cousin of the first 'German water bug.'  He had to go.  And the next day, another.  Infestation or passing through???  By the end of the week, I'd seen a grand total of three.  My lucky number.  A combination of lethal poisons were brought into the apartment including deadly banned-in-the-USA chalk, whose lines the bugs do not cross, but difficult to use given I didn't know whether they were coming from the inside or outside - was I chalking them in or keeping them out??  Next, 75 cent poison spray with long nozzle for easy access into difficult to reach places.  I sprayed this everywhere and anywhere probably ingesting enough to kill an entire colony of cockroaches, sorry, German water bugs.  No more seen.  Until today.  As our maid unpacked a new box of Kinley bottled water, there they were, about a dozen, in the bottom of the box, kicking back and waiting to be delivered to a new home.  The box was removed to the stairwell where I instructed the maid to squash and remove all sign of them NOW!  'Now' is an interesting concept in India which ranges from somewhere in the next hour to sometime in the next millennium.  The scream of my 'NOW' left the maid in no doubt that I wanted it done in the next hour - or sooner.... She did make me feel MUCH happier when she told me that all the other apartments she sees have bugs in them - ours was the only one that didn't.  My good friend Karen also kindly pointed out that the boxes of water were brought home in the car.... great, now I have housebound AND traveling German water bugs!  This afternoon's project for our driver?  A complete clean out and disinfection of the car, equipped with a can of toxic spray.  It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.  And I'm BUGgered if it's me!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fabulous Photography

I have made it my mission to get out and about more in Bangalore - and India - and really take advantage of the amazing cultural activities.  This week, I've visited two different photography exhibitions - Tim Hall at the Tasveer Gallery, and students from the Light and Life Academy  Tim's work is amazing!  He manages to make many of his photographs look like paintings; I was told that he did a lot of post production to make the colours pop on his subjects, and they do.  Amazing.  I think the real secret to Tim's work is, as my photography course tutor in London keeps telling us, GET UP EARLY!  Most of his work is clearly done before/around dawn; you have to be dedicated to your art!  The students from the Light and Life Academy had an interesting display and I'm considering visiting their facility in Ooty for a week long course in December.  Maybe if I'm lucky my pictures will improve - though I'm not sure whether I'll ever be able to get up before-dawn!

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Bottom Line

Having returned to Bangalore from a month-long trip to the US and the UK, I can now reflect fondly on one of the more bizarre activities I undertook, namely colonic irrigation, or 'colon hydrotherapy' as it is more trendily known now.  The practice of cleansing one's colon gently with water has been practiced for centuries, but probably came to prominence in the '90s went many celebrities, e.g., Madonna, extoiled its virtues.  I've also known 'real' people to have amazing results; a couple friend of mine who were getting married undertook a series of three sessions each (less painful than a pre-nup, perhaps?) and waxed lyrical about its weight-loss, skin-purifying, and all-round-invigorating properties.  So when my New York friend was raving about her experience at The Great Jones Spa and urging me to try it, who was I to 'poo-poo' it?

The process goes like this:  Arrive at fabulous downtown spa, get in robe, go to small room equipped with bed, 'poop-removing machine', and curtained-off toilet, switch robe around so it opens at the back (don't be alarmed, the PR says, "Client modesty will be preserved at all times...'), swing up onto afore mentioned bed in foetal position and get ready for 'warm water to be gently infused into the colon while your therapist uses special massage techniques to stimulate the release of stored matter...'  Of course, to get to this point, a very sterile, brand spanking new poop removing pipe (not official terminology) has to be inserted into your butt.  Enough said.

I am told that the process - which lasts up to an hour - can be quite relaxing, cathartic, and even enjoyable.  My first experience left me wanting to curl back up into the foetal position and go home.  But I stuck with it.  And came back for a second time.  And a third time - at which point, I'm told, the real old stuff that's clogging up your colon will start to come away.  By this time, I was an old-pro and having many successful 'releases', as the therapist calls them.

It's an odd feeling laying there with a tube up your butt as someone massages your tummy, talks about dairy producing 'toxic mucus', and watches bits of you float past at high speed through the window on 'poop-removing machine'.  

What is in there?  I've heard stories about parasites as long as your arm coming out (none seen by colonic-expert of many years, Brigit Krome), or whole mushrooms appearing more than a week after consumption, and even twizzler-type shapes whizzing past (hence the more affectionate term used by me to describe this activity - twizzling).  The scariest moment had to be when I used the in-room loo pre-my first session, only to see a whole Metrocard down the pan!  If that's not the strangest thing to come out of someone, I don't know what it.  Man, that must have been hard to pass.  Sadly, I think it really fell out of someone's back pocket, but we can dream...

So, after all this twizzling, what were the end results you might ask?  Well, with the help of this and some aptly named supplements called 'The Mover' things are going pretty well in the bathroom department.  Note: Brigit says you should go after EVERY meal...  And I honestly do feel lighter. The fact that after a month of traveling, no real exercise, drinking every day, and eating out, I haven't put one lb on will vouch for that.  

Would I do it again?  You can bet your bottom dollar!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Puppy Love

Many of my single friends bemoan the fact that they can't find a husband - well, here's a story that proves you don't have to because in India, you can just about marry anything!  So far I've read about a woman marrying a snake, another a tree, and now this - a man has married a bitch.  I'm sure many men in unhappy marriages think the same... but this guy really did marry a FEMALE DOG.  Actually, it's not that they were in love, but that he believes it will atone him of his sins for attacking a couple of dogs years back... I wonder who'll wear the leash in that house?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Home Sweet Home

After a whirlwind two and a half weeks, I'm finally leaving the US to head to the UK for another couple of weeks. It is always bitter sweet visiting the US, NYC particularly. While I consider it 'home' as it's the last place we lived before we moved to India, it's fraught with memories of crazy work schedules, stressed out work-weeks, manic weekends, and not much time for each other. We did get a lot done in this time - visits with family, friends, new babies, bigger babies, shopping, eating (including Le Bernardin, very nice, and Les Halles, okay), a three-day work trip to Chicago, concerts (The Police rock!), even flu shots - but it's still nice to think we are heading back to 'our home' in Bangalore soon. 'First World' living is great, but comes at a price - financially and emotionally. I was taking a relaxed walk down the upper west side, our old neighborhood, and was really enjoying the sights and sounds of it all, but all I could think was that if we lived back here, I wouldn't be as relaxed, I wouldn't be a visitor, I'd be a resident, and with that comes all the day to day issues that arise wherever you live in the world. So, Bengaluru beckons us back for a little while longer at least. Someone asked me what the best thing about living in India is, and while initially I said 'my horse,' it really is the time that my husband and I get to spend together, vs. our crazy NYC schedules that left us frazzled and fraught by the weekend. That's what matters and that's why home will be wherever we are - together.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

End of the Travesty

So, part three of the triple tragedy with Travisa sees a happy ending to the saga... but not without complications, of course. We checked online this morning to get our 'status update' and were surprised to learn that while my visa was approved at 10am, Tom's was not yet, which was a little odd as mine is contingent on his being granted and was supposed to take three to five days .... fast forward two hours, when we are even more surprised to see that according to the online status, Tom has collected his in person, despite being in New Jersey, an hour and a half's drive away! After a long boring repetitive phone call, someone at the Travesty office advised us that it was indeed a mistake and that we could collect our visa's in person any time that afternoon.... and we did! Shockingly, they were ready, albeit three days after the promised deadline, but allowing us enough time to go and grab a glass of fizz at the Waldorf before Tom headed off for his flight. One member of staff, who told us he was a 'contractor' conceded that the system might not be in business long.... my only hope is that this happens before we have to renew our visa again in 12 months!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Celebrity Sightings

So, it's normal when I get to the first world to have a few celebrity sightings... this week was no exception, with the mixed bag comprising the very good looking Matt Dillon on 81st and Columbus, the elegant Ivana Trump and young buck boyfriend outside their Park Avenue place, and jogging through Central Park, the taller than expected Hank Azaria, former husband of Helen Hunt and one time love interest of Phoebe on Friends. You just don't get this in Bangalore!

No Visa, No Clue... Many Worries!

As an addendum to my Friday post, we still have no visa! We waited until 8pm (the office is supposed to close at 6pm...) while another two or three suitcases of passports were transported (by cab) from the Indian Embassy to the offices of Useless & Useless, Inc. Tom's was not among them, despite having a delivery date of Friday and his receipt. "Oh, that's not guaranteed," advised one apathetic employee. Great! His suggestion? "Come back Monday... I'll do you a favor, speed it up..." How?? I'm not sure what he did other than mumble and shuffle off with our receipt. He couldn't care less as I demanded to know what time, what we could do to expedite further, whether we should go to the Embassy ourselves, or the fact that we had a flight on Monday! The chaos in the office was palpable. Plastic buckets alphabetized and passports slung into them; bundles of passports grabbed willy-nilly from who knows where, waiting for who knows what; the seemingly helpless attitude of the staff... I have to go back later in the week to collect mine... and live through this mini-hell all over again. My big concern is that if neither visa is process, and we need to get our passports back, how will they find them? My urge to leap over the counter and search through the chaos myself may not be containable!! The system - I use the term loosely - started on October 1st; it will be interesting to see if it lasts without imploding until November 1st.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Travesty of Travisa...

So, Tom and I are sitting on a Friday evening in the 'outsourced' Indian visa office, run by TRAVISA, waiting to pick up his passport, along with about 50 other folk all in the same boat. And the police are here. Tempers have frayed as the pick up time for passports is 4.30pm to 6pm, but it's now 7pm and we're still waiting for some to be sent back from the Embassy! Despite getting here on time, the 'suitcase' of passports didn't arrive til 5.30pm and at 6pm, desperate staff just started shouting out names on the passports that arrived, and people stepped forward to pick them up. Those that weren't there, got on line, and waited and waited for more to arrive. During this, there was a scuffle and allegedly some woman was manhandled in the office and flung out on the floor! Crazy! Then there are the line cutters - typical Indian style is not really to queue, but we're in New York City my friends, so I joined in the tirade to get the offenders to the back of the line... While things in India do take some time, and processing paperwork can be slow, I'll be the first to admit that the old visa system in New York worked a treat - drop off at 9am at the Indian Embassy, take a walk round Central Park, grab a coffee, and pick up at 12:30pm. No problems. It would seem that India is a victim of its own outsourcing success, but maybe the problem is that they outsourced this operation to Americans, instead of their own citizens!

Monday, October 15, 2007

AOL... Rhymes with HELL!

Ok, so I would consider this more of a rant than a posting, or even a cry for help; either way, after two hours on the phone last night to AOL I feel like doing both the afore mentioned, as well as chugging a whole bottle of wine. I feel I have inflicted this pain on myself, but a few weeks ago I decided to route my personal email at my personal domain through AOL and their "My Eaddress" system. It's really simple, just bring your domain name to the "My Eaddress" site, then add your email address, change the settings on your domain, and BINGO, your email can be picked up on the AOL site. It all started out well, but was never 100%, so I decided to cut out the middle man and just pick up my emails at my domain server. THAT's where it all went horribly wrong... I have no idea how many emails are reaching me or not, but the ones from my husband and mom keep getting bounce backs from, of all places, the AOL postmaster.... And to boot, I cannot email my personal domain email from my real AOL screen name, as it is treating it as an AOL screen name, and says it's not recognized (that's correct, as I've stopped routing it through there). Long story medium length, I cannot delete the screen name from AOL, have no idea why some emails come straight to my domain perfectly while others take the AOL route. After three days of trying to find the right telephone number that could bypass the ridiculous recorded message 'help' at AOL, I spent two hours last night in a loop of hell talking to all manner of people, each of whom referred me to another division, who then referred me back to where I began, where I can quite honestly say I lost the plot! My favourite quotes in all of this were a tech guy who told me that waiting 10 minutes to get through to him was nothing; he's spent hours waiting to get through to other customer service hotlines! And the woman in customer service, who couldn't even find the "My Eaddress" service I was referring to, despite it being a much-heralded AOL offering! Hilarious (after the fact...) All (I think) I want them to do is delete all reference to my domain name from their system, and delete the 'screen name' which is not a screen name, but is my own personal email. So, where I am now, other than in interminable email hell? They figured out how to file a complaint, gave me a reference number, and told me to wait 24-72 hours... We will see! If anyone has a glimmer of insight into all of this, or just wants to rant along the same lines, please do post a comment. They cannot be any more UNhelpful than the help desk staff I encountered last night!!!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Beaming Bag Lady

So, the society pages in Bangalore are clearly hard up for pix when I get in yet again, this time on the 'What's Haute' section of the inaugural issue of 'The Bengaluru Pages.' I would have been happy to have been described as '... beaming...' had it not been for the feature's headline: Bangalore's Bag Ladies!!! Not sure it has the same meaning in India as in the US!

All Meat and No Veg

It's a Monday morning water-cooler question: What did you do at the weekend? Well, I'm pretty sure there's not too many responses like: Oh, I watched not one but two horses get castrated! And all within earshot of a bunch of nine year old girls bouncing on a trampoline, clueless to the fact that within a few yards was a poor two-year old horsey who wouldn't be jumping anywhere for a little while to come. It was actually fascinating to watch and quite quick and blood free! (That said, I'm not a guy and didn't feel the need to stand cross-legged as I watched!) In fact, we've decided that were we called upon to perform this on anyone/thing, we'd be able to do it with minimal effort and fuss, just the requisite amount of sedative and anaesthesia, depending on the size of the victim! A couple of quick slices and snips and it was all over, the offending articles slung unceremoniously into a basket (think chicken in a basket, and nearly the same size!) After watching Anthony Bourdain eat a cobra's beating heart, a freshly killed uncooked seal, and a bull's penis, I'm sure there's a market for these things in a basket somewhere - just not in our house!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Shop til you Pop

So, in the 'real world' shopping is one of my favourite things; I can spend 8 hours in ONE store (Nordstrom) and still not feel I've seen everything. I can go out for lunch and shell out $500 on a suit when I all I wanted was a sandwich. I'm good at it. But that was before... before Bangalore. Here, my shopping is confined to one or two stores: Anokhi, which is great for casual khurta, pj's, and the odd shirt for hubby; Cinnamon, an upscale store with clothes, accessories, and nick-nacks; and Grasshopper, the restaurant/boutique which is always great for a $100 bag purchase after you've had a few drinks, or a $300 jacket if you've had a few more drinks. The excitement of shopping in Bangalore is really confined to one place: supermarkets. And moreover, finding that great western item you'd forgotten existed and that costs you probably 10 times that of its western price. Today I revisited the imaginatively titled 'Supermarket' which is, in fact, no more than a small corner store in a very dodgy looking 'mall' on Brigade Road. The joy of 'Supermarket' is its ability to sucker you in to spending not just $20 on superfluous items, but nearer $80 on such items, which will fill less than two carrier bag loads. I give you some examples to today's splurge and you'll see what I mean: one can of Pledge furniture polish $7 - it's unheard of in India, so I can't wait to show the maid what to do with it; $4.50 for a box of Oxo stock cubes - saves me carrying them from England, although they weigh virtually nothing; $7 for a can of Pam cooking spray - there is no equivalent here, unless you want to add clarified butter to everything; a bottle of chocolate milk - my favourite hangover cure, a bargain at $4; and today's favourite, the last remaining three bottles of Starbucks coffee drinks - $11 for the lot - with a very short shelf life. My friend asked recently, "so, do you travel abroad and fill up your suitcases with this stuff?" Yes, came the reply. They do the dirty work, so you don't have to. But at the prices they charge, maybe I could just buy a round trip ticket home?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Breeding in Bangalore

Bangalore is home to more than 25,000 stray dogs, and while the animal welfare people are doing all they can to cull the ever-increasing population, it seems to me that the ex-pat population is more than making up for their decrease by an increase in Bangalore conceived babies. It first started with some friends last year, who came to Bangalore for six months, and nine months later went home with more than a few sarees and ganesha's as a souvenir; then another set of friends, already with two kids, bred another one in Bangalore before they left town, just for good measure; our newest friends (you know who you are) were affirmed non-parents, drinking too much and riding ponies, until the Bangalore breeding bug got them and they were pregnant before you could say, ok horn... So, what is it with Bangalore? My theory is that there's something in the water. Let me rephrase that. There are MANY things in the water, much of which you don't want to know about, and which is why I use bottled water for cooking pasta, take hot water from the office-type cooler for cups of tea, and use bowls and bowls of same boiling water to wash my veggies in pre-cooking. Maybe it's too much of one sex hormone or another in the water, or maybe it's the relaxed lifestyle that most women enjoy post their crazy western career, and the spare time they have to play wifey. Whatever it is, it appears to be spreading faster than a dose of gardia. Watch out yet-to-arrive childless ex-pat couples, you could get more in Bangalore than you bargained for!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More Than a Slice is a Waste

In a country so concerned for its morals and general sexual repression, I was surprised to see this ad for something or other in the Kingfisher Airlines magazine last week. What surprised me even more, was the featured gentleman's appendage which looked a little more than digitally enhanced... and a little much to take while I was nibbling on my sheesh kebab! As if by coincidence, a few days later I was reading an article on secrets of the advertising industry and lo and behold, it turns out that during fashion shoots, the less than endowed male members of the team are enhanced with a little dampened white bread! Why white bread? It's soft and moldable texture leaves no tell-tale lumps or creases! Brings a whole new meaning to 'Mother's Pride' (for our English readers...) or 'Wonder Bread' (for our US brothers!)

They All Look The Same...

Whether Hugh Grant has a new love or not, last Sunday's Panjim Herald appeared to think that COLIN FIRTH might give a fig!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Send me to Thailand!

Ok, I know I am far enough away already, but I've entered a contest on, the Conde Nast Traveller website, and the prize is a trip to Thailand! Only snag is, I think you need to vote for me :) So if you feel up to it, check out my page here. Who knows, I may take you with me if I win!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You've Made Your Bed...

Ok, so I won't go banging on about the Bangalore Mirror 'Ask the Sexpert' column for much longer, I promise.... but I don't think they realize how funny today's first entry was...

I am a 36 year old married man and my wife is 28. These days my wife and I experience body pain and backache after intercourse.

The doc's three words of wisdom?


Love it!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Raging Bull

There are many times in India when you think to yourself, 'you couldn't make this up,' and what happened to us on Saturday is at the top of this tree. In fact, I would go so far as to say it's the funniest thing we've experienced here and it would definitely rank #1 on the list of 'weird insurance claims...' So, we are driving (or rather, being driven) to lunch on Saturday when out of nowhere, a swerving motorbike comes crashing into the left side of our car (he's over taking us, but bear in mind, there appear to be no rules here about which side you overtake on...) The reason he's swerving - we all too quickly realize - is to avoid the oncoming cantering copulating cow complete with bull attached firmly to her buttocks. It's not hard to see from her expression, and gait, that she wishes he WEREN'T attached to her rear end. The poor motorbike rider only just missed the mating mayhem and luckily for us and him there was no damage to car, bike, or passengers. Sadly, there is no word to date from the cow or bull!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Page Three Stunners

So, after 18 months of failing miserably, I have finally appeared on Page Three of the Bangalore Times - not to be mistaken with Page Three of The Sun, that veritable shining star of newspaper publishing in the UK. No, this is India, and it's an all covered affair (the only breasts you'll see here are those of a chicken) and is more akin to the New York Post's Page Six, featuring pictures of the latest and greatest goings on in Bangalore's social scene. But its captions are what keep us coming back to it; The Sun's sub-editors would crash at their computers if they saw some of these.... ours was 'Fun Time!' Fairly innocuous. Our friend Angie, who was pictured drinking a glass of wine, was embellished with the highly imaginative caption 'Sip It!' The creative scope these guys use shows no bounds! I'm a little dismayed about the whole thing though. I was until now famous for being the only one of our social circle NOT to have featured on this page; instead, I was in the sports pages, pictured for actually DOING something, other than eating and drinking. Here's hoping it's another 18 months 'til my 'fun times' face graces the pages again.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


I found out today that I had been 'honorably mentioned' (is there any other way???) in the Pilsner Urquell international photography awards 2007. While I am not alone by far, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling! The winning photographs are just stunning and something to aspire to. This, on top of being exhibited at the inaugural Bangalore Photography Festival earlier in the year - David Bailey, watch out!

Revelling in a Product Recall

So, no sooner do I mention Revels among my top 10 favourite things than they get recalled for having, of all things, rubber in them! As mentioned previously, Revels have been cited as the 'russian roulette of sweets' as you never know what flavour you're going to get - malteser (source of the rubber issue), chocolate, coffee, orange, toffee, and the newly added raisin (or raisinette as my american spouse calls them). Nasty raisins were no doubt introduced to replace the peanut version to which everyone and his dog is now allergic; funny, there weren't such allergies 30 years ago! And what happened to coconut??? I had a little flashback to the coconut flavour this morning as, when grooming my horse, I added coconut oil to his tail to make it shiny and tangle free; Indian women and men swear by it, so why not my little pony??? What with that and the shampoo for 'puppies and kittens' that I'm washing him with, he's definitely turning into a 'girlie horse.' So, back to Revels and their recall; better to be on the safe side, I say. I remember many a product recall from my days of consumer PR - a military like operation involving every department of the company's organization, many outgoing faxes and calls (yes, these things even happened pre-email and pre-internet; at least today, most companies will have 'dark sites' ready to go live at the press of a button), and a lot of hard work. And why did they always seem to happen on a Friday evening just as you were sloping off to the pub! Get just a little part of it wrong and your product is damaged for life; get it right and you win awards. That's the way the cookie, or should it be Revel, crumbles.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Top Ten 'Trash' I Can't Live Without...

Being in a foreign land thousands of miles from home presents with all manner of new and wonderful things to try - the travel, the food, the drink, the culture - but there is 'stuff' you still need that you can't get. I previously listed five things I miss from home, and now in the interests of knowledge sharing with newcomers, and as a reference for potential visitors who always ask, 'what can I bring you?, I'm ready to tackle specifics. It pleases me greatly to say that boxes of these previously under-appreciated consumer packaged goods are piling up in my mother-in-law's spare room pending our return to collect them. Of course, if you can find them here, let us know.

Top 10 (in no particular order...)

1. Giant tubs of Advil - in a land where buying two or three painkillers is the norm, it's refreshing to be able to get your hands on two or three HUNDRED pills in one pack. In fact, bring anything pill-like that you can get in large quantities, vitamins, anti-histamine, etc., for convenience only.

2. Cortizone cream - I need at least a 50g tube, or three, from the US to counteract those mozzie bites. Even in the UK you can only buy the tiniest of tubes - and their sale is restricted!

3. Tampax - never seen one in India, and have looked in all manner of places. In fact, I've been known to supply many a spare one or six to the expat ladies of Bangalore. Bring plenty with you and hope your bag doesn't get wet en route...

4. Solid stick anti-perspirant deodorant - this has caused all manner of problems for both sexes as spray is the delivery method of choice here, and usually just in deodorant form. Nasty, man. Thanks to Karen for getting me out of a recent smelly spell with her direct-from-the-US Dove.

5. Anything by L'Occitane (particularly Verbena fragrance), Aveda (Phomollient and Witch Hazel Hairspray), and Molton Brown (especially hand wash) which can be conveniently purchased in their Healthrow spa.

6. John Frieda Blonde Volumizing Shampoo - yes, there is shampoo a-plenty here, just a lack of blondes needing volume. Big thing here is hair fall issues not hair full issues. (I think John Frieda was married to Lulu.)

7. Swiffer dusters - may god strike me down for getting excited about this, but I hear they're a marvel for blinds and fans... can't wait.

8. Stock cubes/gravy granules - not a whiff of them on the subcontinent and making your own is very 1980's, so stock up at Sainsbury, every pun intended.

9. Revels - a bag of English chocolate treats containing six polarizing flavours, eating which is like a 'game of russian roulette' as you never know which one you'll get... big among horse-riders and those with a sense of adventure.

10. Kleenex Cottonelle Moist Botty Wipes - enough said.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

What are words worth?

Not a lot here, by the looks of things you read every day! Whether it's an inexpensive flier, a hand painted shop sign, a well thought out ad campaign, or even newspaper copy, spelling and grammar can quickly turn into alphabetti spaghetti! Not that you can't see why as there are numerous languages spoken in Bangalore - Tamil, Telegu, Hindi, Kannada, Urdu, English and more.... For the most part, you can figure out what people are trying to say, but often times, it can be plain old baffling. My favourite this week was a lovely little pink flier which popped on our doorstep along with the morning papers. Here's the first couple of lines, with no grammar or spelling altered:

Anoos, a nexus for past present and future ruling roost since 25 years Explicit, Anoos excels it self in variegated forms now brings you a world-class....

A world class what, you might be asking?? ... salon & spa facilities at their Somajiguda centre

I'm not sure I want to be variegated at a nexus for roosters, but they do offer Well-versed staff, awesome products, and especial therapy. I'm loving the use of the word 'awesome' here but my favourite part is their international beauty school business which they have given the acronymn, of course, of IBS. I hear that that's in the 'bowels' of the salon building... groan!

Friday, August 24, 2007

What DO you do all day?

As an expat trailing spouse lady of leisure I am often asked 'what do you do all day?' Well, today has been one of those 'Indian' mornings where I've wasted three hours of my life that I'll never get back! I made two phone calls to the gas company to get a replacement cylinder (two because no-one answered the first number and it was only by osmosis that I knew the second was the right company, no greeting when answered or real confirmation that it was the right place!) Our gas is supplied here in camping-like cylinders and we are lucky enough to have two; I hear getting a new connection can take MONTHS so we were lucky to get one through Tom's company. No doubt the guy delivering it this afternoon will be taking this preferred mode of transport! Next, I called our building Super. This is a weekly call I am making in an attempt to get a receipt for some work that was done on Tom's geyser two months ago (it's a hot water system, not some kind of physical ailment!) It is more out of bloody mindedness that I am trying to get this as I know the plumber who did the job doesn't want to go back to the guy who allegedly did the work and get the receipt (in fact, they've probably both forgotten how much they charged me). I mentioned this to the Super a month ago and he was so adamant that he would get it, I had every reason to believe it would happen, but it's resulted in me making a regular Friday morning call to the Super to check on the status. The first week I call, he sends the plumber up who says it will take 2-3 days. The following week I make the call, and the Super offers to come up WITH the plumber but I just ask him to sort it. So today I make the call and apparently it will come today! Don't hold your breath... Next I call Hathway Cable about disconnecting our service. This is my favourite. We got so hacked off with their shoddy service, lack of response, broken cable box, no-one showing up, yada yada, that we subscribed to the lovely shiny and new TATA Sky, complete with satellite dish AND set-top box. So far, they have been nothing short of miraculous! However, my quest to get my Rs. 3,000 ($75) deposit back from Hathway and someone to come and take their shoddy cable box is proving a challenge... They were supposed to come Weds but it was raining (!!!), but they were to call when it stopped... two days later, and clear skies, I called them. They are supposed to be coming in an hour.... unless it rains, I guess! The kicker is that they are telling me they can't give me ALL the deposit back, they have to take 20% 'wear and tear' and 12.5% tax... that's the bit that I'm not buying so we are all set for a full on fight! I have to say though, I am nearly worn down to the point where I'd pay THEM to take the stupid thing back! The final part of my morning was spent chasing up the three calls I made to our hospital yesterday to get some routine test results; they were to be emailed and couriered yesterday. Nothing. More calls today, more spelling of my email address... slowly... even though it's on their very fancy computerized system... a repeat of my home address... even though it's on their system...and success, they have been emailed! And just to make my morning complete, everything is normal with them. Now I gotta go, the gas is actually here - just an hour after I called!!! It's these little things that restore your faith in humanity!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby...

... but just not in India, especially at school. Dubbed "the great sex debate" the Indian government's attempted introduction of sex education into schools has met with mixed responses, including some states banning the programme altogether. It's a worry. As perceptive Health Minister, Anbumani Ramadoss, put it so poignantly, "In our country, we do sex. But we don't want to talk about it and that is why we have a billion population." The topic (if anyone can bring themselves to talk about it...) is set to fuel discussions that will go on, and on, and on, and on... but it strikes me that it's about time something was done, given the apparent lack of sex education among young men and women. The grounds for this generalized assumption is through the forward-thinking Bangalore Mirror and its daily 'ask the sexpert' column. It's not a large column (no pun intended) and today appears on page 33 under 'yoga for women - issues II' and across the page from today's health tip: "fruits are natural blood cleansers and energy givers, however, be careful not to have them along with vegetables." Sound advice, I'm sure. Anyway, I digress. The 'ask the sexpert' column never ceases to cause hilarity and amazement as I sip my breakfast tea and munch on my cereal each morning. Generally, three questions are featured, mainly from men (I'm assuming) with issues such as, "my foreskin doesn't move like it did when I was a child (what's he trying to do? dance with it?); I ejaculate within five minutes of masturbation - am I infertile?; how do I get rid of my daily masturbation habit?" Our resident doctor, Dr. Mahinder Watsa (Watsa doctor doing writing for this rag - boom boom!), replies succintly and knowledgably: "see your doctor about the tight foreskin; if you are worried about infertility, consult a counsellor; and (my favourite, the one where he applies his own learning) learn better control like you would when you want to stop overeating!" What a great way to start the day!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Happy cantering

Having fun
Originally uploaded by The McGuires

Nothing beats a happy canter in 90 degree heat, with the sun shining, the flowers blooming, and your horse going where you want him to go!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Pass by Paparazzi

I am a fan of food, no doubt about that, and when in foreign climes - or even at home - I like to try new things and sample the best of what's around. The criteria for my restaurant choice when traveling is where they stand on the list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, the DEFINITIVE list of what's hot and what's not around the world. It's generally an excellent barometer of taste and how deep you'll have to dig in your wallet! This year we have been lucky enough to add to our 'hits on the list' dinner at number 2, The Fat Duck in Bray, number 5, Tetsuya's in Sydney, and number 33, Rockpool in Sydney. I would like to add a couple more to that by the end of the year, bringing our total to around 10. But beware those OTHER lists, and there are many of them... The funniest and most frightening, is the Conde Nast Traveler list of the 'top 82 restaurants in the world.' Why there's 82, I have no idea, but Paparazzi restaurant at the Royal Orchid Central in Bangalore proudly advertises its presence in this list on billboards around the site. So we decided to try it last night... NEVER AGAIN! The evening began badly with us being shown to a less than desirable table and told that all the others were reserved so we couldn't move; we pressed the issue and found out that apparently people book a specific table number - what cock - and we were then moved to the table of our choice. The sparse wine list included the usual Indian wines, and about eight or so imported wines in the white - all chardonnay - and another eight of so reds. Disappointingly, they barely had any of these wines, especially the lower priced ones at around 2,000 rupees ($50) so we had to plump for a Cotes du Rhone at 3,500 (around $90 - but which would retail at home for about $20!) The music was so loud we couldn't hear ourselves speak, so on request, they turned it down, only for it to be turned up again a few minutes later, then down... and so it went on. The food was nothing to write home about; the vegetable tempura and calamari were coated with the same, half inch thick, tasteless batter which made it virtually inedible, and the chicken was cooked so well it could have doubled as a frisbee! Even the billing process was difficult as we wanted to split it two thirds, one third, on two cards... the waiter acknowledged what I said, then walked up to Tom and asked what to do! Frustrating. Our total bill - without dessert but with two bottles of good wine and the pre-included service charge - was 12,000 rupees ($300!) Whether top 50 or top 82, sadly Paparazzi and its over-inflated prices, under-whelming food, and invisible wine selection will not be making it onto any of my lists.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Happy Independence Day

It would seem that everywhere I live has an annual day where they celebrate freedom from the tyrannical rule of the British in all manner of colourful forms. And India is no exception. Today is the 60th anniversary of partition and we were awoken at what seemed like the crack of dawn to much singing, chanting, and even fireworks, eminating from the Tibetan hostel down the lane. The newspapers and TV are full of independence stories, appropriate movies, and celebrations of India's rise from the ashes. While there is no disputing that India has certainly stepped out from the shadow of colonial rule, and many of its industries are thriving, it seems to be at a cultural crossroads that will take patience and flexibility to navigate. Younger Indians today find themselves with the choice of moving into office based positions, but are often the first generation of their family to do so and the transition can be challenging. And while they are earning good money and building their careers, they can still be held back by deep-seated beliefs and attitudes: the bright young female executive who has to marry and leave her hometown to live with her husband's family, giving up work, or, the inter-office sexual harrasment borne primarily out of the fact that for many, this is the first time these young men and women have been able to co-mingle so freely. These are issues that western companies seldom face. Another startling issue here is the amount of people who resort to suicide as a 'get out' clause when problems arise, giving South India the highest suicide rate in the world. The news is full of horror stories, day in day out, such as the four young girls who tried (half of whom succeeded) to poison and kill themselves when one learned she was to marry against her wishes; or the woman who was bullied, day in, day out, at the hands of her mother-in-law with whom she lived, so she poisoned herself; or the man whose family was being pressurised to pay such a high dowry to their daughter's future in-laws that he hanged himself. Most of these situations seem to stem from a clashing of old and new beliefs and instead of fighting against them and creating change, many sadly feel left with no option but to check out. One can only hope that the next 60 years sees a cultural change that blends the best of the old beliefs with the all the promise that the new generation has to offer.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Perfectly Pleasing

A funny thing happened this week... I had a GREAT experience with a small store in town from where I bought an Epson photo printer. And I mean small. It was a basement shop about 20' x 20' - not PC World! Despite initial issues (they sold the printer I wanted to another expat...) they made good and another printer was on its way from Chennai the next day. Although it was delayed, the store AND the Epson rep kept me completely updated as to its progress and even checked on its final arrival at around 9pm that evening. This is a rarity here. For example, Airtel, our phone company, was supposed to send a rep to fix our dodgy internet connection. No-one came and no phone call - except the next day to check that it had been fixed! Hilariously annoying. The plumber was meant to come at 10am. Then at 4pm. Nothing by 5pm. When I called, he said he had a problem somewhere else.... And so it goes on. Except for the nice printer people at the appropriately named Perfect Computers! I did ask the salesman if the printer would be perfect, however, and his reply? We are perfect in name only! I beg to differ Mr. Perfect Computers.

And the corks kept a popping...

What a wonderful evening we had last night! We were invited to the Taj West End hotel to view a screening of a new film about Rajasthan's historic palaces which have been restored to their former glory as Taj Hotels. While it was somewhat promotional, it was a beautiful film that focused on the Lake Palace, Udaipur (where Octopussy was filmed), the Rambagh Palace, Jaipur (where we recently had dinner), and a new conversion taking place in Hyderabad. The high point of the evening, though, was the unrivalled hospitality. We were greeted by horsemen and a very fancy entrance to the Ballroom where champagne (yes, real Moet, no Sula!) was served along with canapes. After a couple of glasses, we sat for the half an hour film, and were then shown to the hotel lobby which was completely transformed into a party room. The walkway from the Ballroom was lined with staff scattering petals in our path and sprinkling us with incense. And the champagne flowed, along with the deliciously extravagant canapes including foie gras, spiced crispy squid, and my favourite, prawns on mini doughnuts. I swear I drank my weight in Moet and Tom was drowning in Italian wine and Johnnie Walker whisky. My only regret? That I had to get up at 8.30 this morning to go riding.... ouch!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Carry On Chemist

Living in America gives you a whole different perspective on the world of 'drugs,' i.e., prescription drugs: they're openly advertised on TV making you think, mmmm, maybe I have that disorder?; you get to know the names of the ingredients you want/need so you're well educated at the doctors; and then you can buy them in bulk online and at the chemist (even over the counter pills are sold in giant packs, like 250 Ibuprofen instead of 12 in the UK!) So it can be a little disheartening in India, when you get a prescription for painkillers and they give you.... wait for it.... 4!! I begged and pleaded with the pharmacist who upped my prescription to.... 12!! And of course, that upped the price to a staggering 50 cents!! But before I got to the pharmacy, there was the question of the doctor - and getting the meds I wanted. I had just run out of prescription tylenol with codeine (painkillers) from the US and wanted to get a hold of a similar level of 'sledgehammer pain relief' here. When I asked the lovely (Indian) doctor for the same, you would have thought I'd asked her for heroin! She couldn't imagine where I'd got them from and why I would possibly need them, but no, they had nothing with codeine, and if they did, I certainly couldn't have it :( Maybe it's a good thing... but I swear she thought I was some kind of dealer/addict/headcase (delete as applicable). My only hope is to see my lovely (Indian) doctor in New York who is well versed with the ways of the pharmaceutical world and one's need, now and again, for something a little stronger, preferably in quantities of more than 4!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Imperial Rant

I was reminded last night of our recent experience at one of India's, arguably South Asia's. finest hotels, The Imperial in Delhi. Since moving to India, we have stayed there a handful of times but our last stay virtually mirrored our first stay nearly two years ago..... We arrived for a three night period and were met at the airport by driver AND greeter who escorted us to the hotel, where greeter swiftly disappeared after a few quick words with the front desk ... As we tried to check in, we were asked to take a seat in the lobby for a few minutes, after which time, a member of staff asked us to join him in a very quiet area of the restaurant. What had we done? Were our visa's not right? Had the corporate rate increased? None of the above. We were advised that a 'government delegation' had overstayed its welcome and would we mind being 'shifted' to the Shangri La (not shabby) two minutes down the road, just for one night. We negotiated a room upgrade and a complementary dinner, plus we were staying another two nights so all was not lost. Fast forward to July 4th this year.... we arrived at the hotel at 9pm with a booking at 9.30pm in their fabulously lauded and expensive Spice Route restaurant. As the receptionist pulled up our booking (which was made on the hotel's website a few months prior) the words BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE flashed across her screen. When I asked what it meant, she quickly closed the screen and called the duty manager, who arrived with the familiar request to 'take a seat in the lobby...' This time we were ready! No, was our answer, let's sort it here... then came the old 'government delegation' chestnut. We refused to budge. It was the July 4th holiday and we were eating in a half hour. No way! Well, they asked, could we check out at 7am? No way! We were leaving on an international flight at 1pm. At which time, the duty manager 'scuttled away' (there is no finer way of putting this) without a word of an apology, leaving the receptionist to hand us our keys and show us to our room. Not a pleasant start to our short stay and one which, I have to say, has left me thinking of moving hotels next time we are in Delhi. We did file a complaint with the hotel and posed questions on their criteria for 'bouncing' guests to which we received a very hasty letter of apology in the mail - but no comped night or dinner!!!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Back in Bangalore

So, after a whirlwind tour of Europe, I am now back in Bangalore where it's wet and windy and not at all pleasant! Despite the torrential rains in England, we managed to survive a whole week without rain; in fact, we actually got sunburnt at this year's Great Yorkshire Show, one of the only agricultural shows to go ahead this year because of the weather. It was a great change to see cows, goats and sheep in fields, vs. on the streets as they are in Bangalore! We were then lucky enough to have dinner at the fabulous Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, always ranked as one of the top restaurants in the world. It was quite an extravagance but worth every penny for the theater that accompanies each course, the fabulous food, and the stunning wine. We stayed over in Bray at Redroofs at Oldfield, which I believe will have been flooded shortly thereafter as the English rains headed south to Maidenhead. After that, I headed off to Paris for a couple of days (where it DID rain), then took the fabulous overnight train to Madrid, and finally onto the Costa del Sol where, as my friend Sue puts it, we stayed for a few days in 'a diamond in a pile of XXXX!' The weather was glorious, so it was down to earth with a bump when I got back to rainy, cold Bangalore. I can never remember how long the monsoon lasts here, as we get it once on its way north, and again on its way back. The only thing we can be thankful for is that, so far, we aren't having it as bad as the rest of South Asia where almost 20 million people have been displaced because of the rising flood waters. Let's hope it subsides - everywhere - soon.

It's been a long time...

... but I am now back in Bangalore and was quite physically 'moved' to blog when I read this story... Indian suspect in banana ordeal : An Indian suspect was forced by police to eat 50 bananas as a laxative, to retrieve a necklace he was accused of stealing and swallowing. When the bananas failed to produce the desired effect, police fed Sheikh Mohsin rice, chicken and local bread. Finally the necklace, which appeared on an X-ray taken on the suspect, was excreted and retrieved. It's a dirty job, as they say...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Good Vibrations

There is much buzz this week in India about the newly introduced contraversial vibrating condom. Not only are protestors angry that it purports to bring 'pleasure' to the act and is therefore a sex toy, they are also angry that a government owned company has produced it and somehow sneeked it onto store shelves. In a country where nearly 6 million people are HIV positive one would think that anything that creates interest in and promotes use of condoms would be a good thing. But of course, common sense does not always prevail. Perhaps given previous reports that 60% of Indian men don't measure up in the trouser department, they're just worried that the vibrating condoms don't come in a size small!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Venus and the Moon

On Monday, I was witness to quite a nice sight in the sky... but didn't realise it at the time given that a friend and I had already drunk copious amounts of Indian wine that had left our eyesight and judgment slightly impaired! I don't have a picture of it, but here's one from another website... we just thought it was a cute starry sky, but it turns out it was Venus close to the crescent moon, a phenomenon known as “Lunar occultation of Venus.” It's all happening here...

A Very Public Convenience

A Very Public Convenience
Originally uploaded by The McGuires

I am acutely aware that a lot of my postings relate to toilets, or lack thereof in Bangalore. This picture proves me wrong. There ARE public toilets in Bangalore - albeit maybe a little too public for most people's likings!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Calm After the Storm

No, this is not a reference to the monsoon, but more to my calmed state after the end of Equest 2007, the recent South India Equestrian Association show held at my riding school in Bangalore. It's strange but true that the whole competition sent me into a frenzy of stress and anxiety that I can only equate to my early days of doing client presentations at work - I loved it after the fact but got so nervous beforehand that I was terrible when rehearsing (some may say it didn't get any better during the real thing!) At the show, I was worried that in the amateur dressage, my horse wouldn't canter, but he did; a co-rider was worried her horse wouldn't stop cantering, and sadly, he didn't, even in the parts of the tests that were meant to be walk or trot! Poor thing. It all got me wondering, why do I do it? It's not that I'm getting paid for it (I will never be that good!) so that rules out the reason that I had to suffer such stress at work. A couple of weeks after the competition, I can now answer that question. Because I love it. I love the grace and strength of the horse, the excitement of taking part, the joy of learning something new, and of course, the medals! I often feel my riding is two steps forward, one step back, but this week was many steps forward with much cantering with no hands or no stirrups, more dressage, and my first 'real' jumping on new horse, Royal Majesty. Terrifying and exciting at the same time, jumping is completely exhilirating but I have to remember not to squeal over the jump and frighten the horse! Luckily he is much more experienced than me and carries me along for the ride quite confidently. I guess we all have good and bad days at whatever we do, and I only hope that this streak of stress-free riding continues up to and through the next competition!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Monsoon Madness

So, after much anticipation, the monsoon arrived in Bangalore a week ago yesterday. Heavy rains started just after 10pm and were accompanied by crashing thunder and continous lightning. Over the course of the last week, the storms have become worse, with the torrential rainfall lasting a few minutes, but causing enough damage to wash away homes and people! The worst came mid-week at 3am; we were woken by winds howling through the apartment and doors slamming. We quickly ran around closing windows before any damage was done. It was like a scene from the Wizard of Oz! Now the days are a little cooler in Bangalore, with temperatures peaking in the mid 80's, some overcast, some sunny, but up north is a different story. To date, 59 people have died up north (Rajasthan, Delhi, etc.) where temperatures are blazing at around 45 degrees centigrade (115 fahrenheit or so!) We shall be heading up there in a few weeks and will no doubt be yearning for the relative cool of Bangalore! Bangalore was always a cool spot - known as pensioners' paradise - and we have friends who tell us stories of how the temperature was in the mid 60's just 10 years ago, but how the arrival of hundreds of thousands of new people, cars, office blocks, and apartments, changed all that. It seems we have a long way to go til we reach the temperatures of Delhi, but at that rate, it could just be a few years away!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

More Ginger Nuts!

Yes indeed, following the programme, "F*** Off, I'm Ginger," they're going 'ginger nuts' in the UK right now, with this piece on the BBC website entitled "Is Gingerism as Bad as Racism?" I wouldn't take it so far, but do feel that there is a prejudice in Britain that doesn't surface anywhere else in the world. I had occasion at school to be called 'coppernob' (referencing a clothes store, not a metallic sexual device...) or 'duracell' but this was as a result of excessive orange hair dye, versus naturally ginger genes (although there is a hint of red in my hair, and I do have freckles... I often think that there may a latent ginger gene that will surface in offspring...) After reading the article, I can't say I'm convinced that redheads should be treated as victims of racism, but I had to feel for a journalist quoted in the piece. Sharon Jaffa. I needn't say more, but she does: "Growing up as a redhead I was lucky enough to escape with just the occasional name-calling - having the surname Jaffa was no doubt a double-whammy." Orange you just glad you're not ginger!

Stop Press!

So, to date, my mum's fab fundraising team has raised over 900 GBP (nearly $2,000)! That's great news all round! Well done!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Medals for Mum

While I was off winning medals for horse riding this weekend, the girls from Clinton Cards in Darley Mall, Bradford, were winning medals - and raising money - for someone very dear to our heart - my Mum!! The girls took part in the Cancer Research UK 'Race for Life' and to date have raised over $500. We are very pround and honoured that they chose to do this for mum. She is currently half way through her chemo and doing very well indeed, due to this kind of wonderful support. Thank you all so much!!!

Royal Majesty At Home

Royal Majesty At Home
Originally uploaded by The McGuires

Thought this was cute... not sure if the tongue is aimed at me, or his new fly mask!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Back Page News

After 20 years of getting my clients into the news, I finally got myself in! Picture shows Vika on Architect, me on Royal Majesty, Cathy on Cadbury, and Eva on Royal Secret, as we enter the arena for the Pas de Quatre competition at the South India Equestrian Association Equest 2007. The Pas de Quatre is basically four horses (and riders!) doing co-ordinated dressage moves, hoping that the horses get along nicely with each other and that we vaguely do things in sync! It seemed to work - we scooped first place and made the back page of the Vijay Times here in Bangalore.

Horsing Around

Royal Majesty and Me
Originally uploaded by The McGuires

So, I'm back in Bangalore and it's that time of year for the South India Equestrian Association Equest 2007. This year, I was competing for the first time, on my newly 'adopted' horse, Royal Majesty. I'm glad to say that for first timers we didn't shame ourselves... we got a first place in the 'Pas de Quatre' with our friends Eva, Vika, and Cathy; a second place in the 'Pas de Deux' with Cathy, and a fourth place/honourable mention in the Amateur Dressage. So not bad to say we have just become partners (a week or so ago) and I'm not good at handling the pressure of competition! I'm sure it will get easier?!?!

Monday, May 14, 2007

F*** Off, I'm Bored!

What is it with British TV these days? There are no real 'programmes' to speak of but a continuous round of reality shows focusing on: Real Estate, Food, Makeovers, and Crap! Firstly, real estate. From early in the morning to late at night, without any respite on the weekend, we are subjected to homes going under the hammer, people moving to the country, people moving to the coast, people moving to the country on the coast, moving abroad, moving back from abroad, doing up your derelict house, selling your derelict house. Who cares?!?!

Then there's food. Admittedly, I did get addicted to Masterchef on my last trip home; this time, it's the F Word with Gordon Ramsay, the point of the programme seeming to be to see how many times Gordon can say f*** to his celebrity co-hosts and proteges. I was truly scared by a makeover programme we watched the other night; presented by 'Gok Wan' (not a made-up name), How to Look Good Naked, takes regular women and gives them the confidence, clothes, and charisma to then take them all off at the end of the show and reveal themselves in all their natural glory. The programme last week was a mammoth mammary display of tit-anic proportions! Every two minutes, big ones, small ones, saggy ones, pert ones, and frightening ones were thrust onto the TV screen, and if that wasn't enough, full frontals now seem to be de rigeur on British TV! A far cry from India where a kiss still sparks protest!

Finally, there's the crap. My favourite in this category was last week's in-depth analysis of what it's like to be a ginger man (not gingerbread man, just a red headed bloke) called F*** Off, I'm Ginger. Nowhere else in the world is having ginger hair so reviled, and none moreso than if you are a man. This hour-long in-depth documentary followed one guy in his pursuit of why he was ginger, where the ginger genes came from, what women thought of ginger guys (not good), perceptions of ginger girls (good) and famous gingers throughout history (Winston Churchill!) Riveting. I can only say that I was very sad to miss the week's before programme, recommended by my friend Sue - Angry Short Men! You genuinely couldn't make this up. But someone did.

But it could only be second to the one hour programme I watched a couple of months ago about people and their storage units (again, someone did make this up) which explored people's relationships with their lock-ups. My favourite was the guy who still lived at home (of course) and went to his lock-up once a week to climb inside his real Dalek and drive around the storage unit car park. Priceless. Why waste time producing award-winning programming when we can - and do - thrive on such mindless drivel! Long live Crap TV!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

East meets West

I am back in England for a couple of weeks and stocking up with all things non-indian like Molton Brown smellies, Sainsbury's stock cubes, and Soltan sun lotion! As with every visit, I am horrified at the cost of things here, not just because we now live in India, but because we are paid in US dollars which are weaker than ever before vs. a strong pound and an even stronger rupee. The most shocking costs are the ones you see on Indian goods for sale here; people tend to say, 'you must be able to get these at home much cheaper,' but the truth is that most of the Indian goods on sale in the west are produced for export only and are massively better quality than those on sale in India. Not so the lovely big wicker chair I recently saw in The Conran Shop: it's IDENTICAL to the one we bought at Fab India in Bangalore for about £5/$10. How much does Mr. Conran charge? £65!!! I was horrified, until I went to a store called East in Leeds, which sells the lovely Jaipur-based Anokhi line of clothing, under the label 'Anokhi for East.' For background, Anokhi is a chain of well made, good priced, western clothes with an eastern feel; hand-block printed in beautiful fabrics with everything from sarongs to blouses to bedsheets. In fact I was wearing two of their pieces when I popped in East: the sleeveless, white cotton top which cost £5/$10 in Bangalore was priced at a whopping £35, and my light quilted jacket bought in Bangalore for about £18/$36 was a staggering £75! So who is making the money? I doubt that it's Anokhi, or the workers who make these lovely, inexpensive garments; one can only imagine that the fat cats at Conran and East are laughing all the way to the bank and have many more shipments lined up!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Celebrity Sightings

So, I am back in blighty for a couple of weeks and very excited that I am spotting celebrities that I have at least seen before or heard of! My friend Liz commented how funny it is that I still get a kick out of seeing them, despite having worked with many A list (and of course D list) celebs in my past. Today's was my favourite - Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant together! A pair of comic geniuses; priceless. I did spot Fred Macauley at Paddington station yesterday; no, I'd never heard of him either until I was in England in March and he was a contestant on the celebrity Fame Academy for Comic Relief. One spotting, however, has got me stumped - a very gritty northern actor who's probably late 60s and has long-ish straggly hair. I can see him grumbling in some northern drama or in a period piece. Any clues? Help!

Monday, April 30, 2007

An Award Not To Be Poo-Pooed

As some of my recent postings seem to be about bathrooms, or bathroom humour, I thought I would continue this trend with the latest news to hit Bangalore. 400 villages are up for financial awards ranging from about $1,200 to a whopping $12,000. The criteria? Not a single person among the 700,000 residents of these villages goes to use the field to defecate, they all use toilets built over the last two years! This is great news for rural Karnataka, but maybe not so great news for the judges who, I kid you not, had to do not one, not two, but three rounds of verification to ensure that the criteria was being met.... urgh! For the westerners out there who have not been to India, as mentioned in previous postings, it's a regular sight to see guys peeing at the side of the road in a strange squatting position (whether it be small village road, or large highway) and indeed pooping. In fact, Tom's office overlooks a building site where every day, just after lunch, a whole gang of builders stride across the field, hard helmet in hand full of water and take up position, in full view of Tom and his 600 colleagues, and do their daily dump! These fields have become known as the Pooping Fields (to be polite). Admittedly, public toilets are scarce here and many of those are probably completely unhygenic or pay-per-pee, which I am sure would be out of reach financially for these guys. And it's not just guys faced with this issue, more hard news appeared in the Times of India this weekend about the hundreds of women who work 'on the buses' here; they are often stuck for four hours or more as there are no facilities along their routes and maybe not even when they get back to the depot. What to do?! Ladies would NEVER be seen dropping trou - or salwar kameez - at the side of the road. They have taken to not drinking water at work, which in 95 degrees+ heat is tantamount to suicide! While they would probably not dare venture in these places, I can heartily recommend my top three loos in Bangalore if you are in dire need: 1. HSBC bank on MG Road - not only has a great bathroom, but free tea too! 2. The Oberoi Hotel - great for nipping in and out if you are taken short, as the loos are near the entrance. 3. The Leela Hotel - so many loos in the hotel and the mall that you are spoiled for choice! Ok, now gotta go....

Friday, April 27, 2007

Hugh Grant's Lunchbox

I thought this was a funny story yesterday when I first read it ... now I've seen the pictures, I am beside myself with laughter. However, given the state of his 'missile', I think my old client, Tupperware, should step forward forthwith and sponsor Mr. Grant in his next attack on the paparazzi. Call me old fashioned, but I'd always imagined Hugh to have a much more luxurious looking lunchbox!

Actor Hugh Grant has been arrested over an allegation he attacked a photographer in London, before throwing a tub of food at him. Photographer Ian Whittaker told the Daily Star newspaper he was kicked before the tub was hurled at him. The Metropolitan Police confirmed a 46-year-old had been arrested on suspicion of assault and has since been released on bail. Mr Grant's lawyers confirmed an incident was now under investigation.

An Arresting Sight

So, this is what all the fuss was about - so much fuss, in fact, that it has led the chief magistrate in Jaipur ordering the arrest of Richard Gere! The kiss, in the land that created the Kama Sutra, is considered sexually erotic and indecent - in the 21st Century! While most of India, including the media, appears to think this is ridiculous, the magistrate continued, "Whoever, to the annoyance of others, does any obscene act in any public place shall be punished with imprisonment of three months or with a fine or both." What is more obscene, this kiss, or being continually bombarded by the sight of men peeing on the road side, despite signs imploring "Do Not Urine Here!" Or the homeless kids taking a dump on the sidewalk (there's no $100 fine here for their parents not cleaning it up...) I could go on but it's lunchtime and my stomach is turning! Suffice to say if Mr. Gere finds himself imprisoned for any length of time, I would be more than happy to come to his rescue, armed with a cake with a file in it, of course, in exchange for a kiss!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Papering over the Cracks

For a moment yesterday, I thought that my wonderful husband and Sheryl Crow had got together in some strange toilet paper conspiracy. Her suggested ban on using too much toilet paper mirrors my husband's thoughts entirely. For no apparent reason, and certainly not environmental, he is fascinated by how much toilet paper I use vs. him; the fact that I am at home more or have different needs doesn't seem to matter! He is the one, however, who has a 'special roll' from the US hidden away for emergency purposes! I think India as a whole definitely does its part to reduce the use of toilet paper; I've never been in a public toilet that has it, given that 'hand-wiping' is de-rigeur here. That said, I carry a mini 'Charmin To Go' roll at all times, just in case the need arises. In fact, the last time I was in Target, I 'wiped them clean' of the product, so I am never without. There is probably some psycho-analysis that talks about the use of toilet paper, whether you use a little or a lot, but the only stuff I can remember is from many years ago when my old boss Alan put people into categories, 'scrunchers' or 'folders'; as I recall, the scrunchers were disorganised and the folders were anally retentive (every pun intended). If you have some time on your hands, and some toilet humour, it's a great game to play! My guess is that Sheryl is a folder - you definitely can't scrunch with one sheet!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bombed in Bombay

I am adding this posting as a cautionary tale of what not to do when in Bombay armed with a credit card and accompanied by willing accomplices... as we all know, the price of imported wine in India is horrendous, with the 269% tax on top of whatever mark up hotels and restaurants want to add. So it with this in mind that the Intercontinental Hotel on Marine Drive can charge Rs. 6,000 per bottle ($150 US) for Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, a delicious wine but one which retails for around $20/$25 in the US. One would think that three fairly well educated people could quaff one bottle and then move onto something cheaper. But no. One was just not enough. Nor was two. When two acquaintances joined us, they were happy to drink the wine too, not knowing the cost... and after the third, why not a fourth. And a fifth. At that point, it was time to go home (well, not home, but onto the next bar that would serve us something hopefully less expensive). You can do the math on the bill. Suffice to say our acquaintances were less than thrilled and probably horrified but gallantly chipped in the cost of one bottle, leaving the three of us to fork out for the rest. While a couple of hundred bucks or so in the US is still a lot of money but won't break the bank, I should put this amount into context in India - the total bill was more than our monthly rent and would quite easily pay school fees for a handful of Indian children - for the year. Moral of this story? Maybe instead of a designated driver we should have an 'alcohol ambassador' who stays a few drinks behind the rest, keeps the craziness in check, and doesn't allow a couple of bottles of Cloudy Bay to cloud our judgment! Any volunteers?!?