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!!!