Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Holy Cow

It's incredible what you learn about the animal world living in India.  Not only are cows sacred - and have right of way on the roads - but in a stand-off with a dog, dog wins... in a stand-off with a horse, cow wins.  It seems ironic that one small animal (Mitzie) could terrorize one large animal (cow).  I witnessed a 'head to head' between the two of them on the street the other day and when things got a little tense between an over curious calf and Mitzie, the Mitzter came out on top, sending the calf fleeing down the street.  On the other hand, while out for a pleasant ride recently, my friend and I were confronted by a handful of cows which sent the horses into a flat spin and literally jumping for cover.  In fact, as the cows galloped toward us, we had to take cover in adjacent bushes and try to calm down the horses.  Clearly this was HYSTERICAL to the couple of young boys who were herding the cows, and they spent a good few minutes chuckling at these crazy white women in their fancy outfits cowering in the undergrowth.  Had Mitzie been with us, however, I am sure things would have been TOTALLY different, and we'd all be celebrating her victory over the herd and our more dignified handling of the situation!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Time flies...

... when you're having fun!  And we've certainly been doing that, for the most part, since the arrival of our 'daughter,' Mitzie.  Not content with turning our lives upside by getting a dog, we have also moved house, which involved re-house training (for all of us!) and all the general stresses and strains that go with shifting (as we call it here!)

Mitzie has developed quite a personality and has so far caught and maimed a couple of mice/mini-rats in the garden, dug her way almost to Australia, chased monkeys by the score at the stables, and even shown us her swimming prowess as she followed me (when I was on horseback) into the water.

The best thing has to be Mitzie's slightly bi-polar personality - she's terrified of kids and runs away from most other dogs; except street dogs.  We arrived home by car a couple of weeks ago and Mitzie's heckles were immediately up...  street dogs had not only infiltrated our street, but had dared to pee outside her house.  Thankfully I had her on the lead as she sped off to chase not one, not two, but about five of them off her block.  She's a galloping along, barking, ears flapping, dragging me behind, and they actually run away!  This has now turned into a nightly ritual where she defends the T-junction at the end of our block from anything stray and slightly ugly.  

She also has a bionic sense of smell or hearing or both; twice a day some nice man walks his yellow lab quietly along our street, but no matter where the Mitzter is, she will smell/hear it and run barking like a banshee to protect her territory!  Crazy.

We had trained her wonderfully to sleep in her 'cave/crate' but that's all gone a bit pear shaped since we took a 10 day trip out of Bangalore, our first without her, and she got more freedom than she was used to!  Suffice to say we left her in the crate for four hours last night while we were out for the evening, and came home to witness a mess beyond belief, bent bars on the door, and apparently, infernal barking and howling for at least an hour.  Back to the drawing board on that one then...

All in all though Mitzie is turning into an unlikely guard dog and obviously the sweetest companion - to us, at least!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Would you pony up for this gear?

This has to be a joke, right??? Katie Price (who's she) launches her new range of equestrian equipment!

I will so be wearing that at the stables next week....

For the Love of Dog...

As I speak, the Mitzer is hawling her 3' wide dog crate along the living room floor as she tries to pull a blanket out from the inside.  I refuse to put it back where it belongs as Mr. M does not believe that she EVER behaves in a less than desirable way...

Her sheer guts and determination to shift things belie her small stature.   

She is fearsome in the face of frogs, monkeys, birds, big dogs, and horses, but terrified of small children, visitors in the house, and running water.

She is quite keen on stealing things and running away, such as shoes, cuddly toys that don't belong to her, bottles of water - full or otherwise - and even as the picture shows, a bag full of toys, which she opened the cupboard to get, and her bed.  Nothing is sacred, trust me.

We are thinking of signing her up as an extra for the next Matrix movie after seeing her jump vertically (think Harrier Jump Jet) from the floor onto the kitchen counter to get at some leftover Indian food.  She leaps from sofa to chair and back, making the odd stop on the side table to grab some tissues.  And trust me, if she leaps on you, you're winded for a good few minutes.

I read an article recently that said dogs should be given jobs (that's reminiscent of one of my favourite shows in the US, Dogs with Jobs).  So, I have given her the job of carrying socks for us when getting dressed in the morning.  Problem is, there's more chewing than carrying going on.  Will have to think of something new...

On the training front, she is well versed now in where and where not to 'go peeps' and Mr. M thinks I'm some kind of dog whisperer for my ability to get her to peep virtually on command.  We are also quite good at sit, stay, and come.  Down and off are an issue, as is 'Mitzie stop eating my glasses...'  We'll have to work on those things!

Thankfully - after just getting her snout stuck in her crate and releasing a blood curdling yelp - she is now resting on the sofa, as is the way before Mr. M comes home from work.  He then sees a peaceful, resting puppy, with not an ounce of mischief in her bones... Ha ha!

Three Wheels on my Wagon...

It had to happen.  A flat tyre.  On the way to a wedding.  Our driver's sister's wedding.  In the middle of Bangalore.  I was driving.  During Monsoon.  In fact, during a stinking Monsoon afternoon which saw the streets become rivers.  Thankfully, my Hero, Mr. M, was in the car with us (me and Mitz).  I have never seen him spring so quickly into action.  He was out the car, into the trunk, spare out, flat tyre off, spare on, quicker than you could say, 'should I get out and help?'  In fact, both Mitzie and I remained dry as a (dog) bone inside the car while Mr. M was soaked to the skin.  What was amusing, was the lack of police or helpful looking individuals when you need them.  Out of the hundreds of people thronging through the Bangalore bus station (where we took refuge) only ONE person offered to help, with more people finding it quite amusing to see the only white guy in the vicinity up to his knees in water changing Madame's tyre.  It did make me realize that while I have been on quite a high a lately driving myself here and there, with or without hubbie, that we are quite prone to getting flats here (due to the lack of road surfaces!) and if I were on my own it would be quite a pain in the ass.  Having learned to change a tyre on an army landrover, I'm sure I could do it, but wouldn't want to!  I was impressed by my knight in shining armour who delivered me to the wedding an hour late, but on time, as things generally run late here, without me having to get even slightly ruffled.  That's a few brownie points well earned.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Release the Hounds...

... and whatever else ammunition you have in the crazy war between dog owner and residents.  We have had another complaint; this time, about noise after 11:30pm in our bedroom... apparently the sound of strange instruments dropping on the floor and rather heavy feet.  Ah, that'll be Mitzie practicing the euphonium and drums.  Crazy!!!

Last week, we saw a very adorable property that is available in our area that is worthy of the name "Bunny Cottage."  Very delightful and just enough garden and space for a family of 2.5 - and it even has a granny flat!  Mitzie loved the garden, which was a better response to another house we saw, where she took a dump on the master bedroom floor... thank god for poop bags!

Calling our Landlord was a bit of worry as breaking your lease anywhere can be a) very easy or b) a harrowing nightmare.  Fortunately, this was very easy, and he was very reasonable, until I mentioned that we had had a few issues in the apartment but they were in no way the reason for our departure.  I mentioned the dog being 'banned' from the periphery, the stolen shoes, the passive aggressive behavior, and the upcoming AGM where the dog would be discussed... Our landlord went NUTS!!!  Full on angry and amazingly on-side with us.  His big thing is that in India, guests are like God and we should not be treated like this... He even said he didn't care about the money... this was unacceptable.  And then he rolled out the name of his friend... the owner of the property company that we live in, yes, the same name we were planning to roll out at the AGM if things got tough!  Seems we move in similar circles!

He immediately called the building manager, who called me and said not to worry... We discussed the missing shoes again; while he reassured me that they had NOT left the building (with Elvis) I told him that if they weren't on my feet, that didn't really help me!!!  

Mysteriously, the AGM was postponed due to 'unavoidable circumstances' and will be held next week instead.  I have NO plans on attending, unless it is to release Mitzie among them to take a dump.  Instead, I am hoping our Landlord arrives and brings with him the 'six big dogs' that he mentioned in our phone conversation and which he threatened to move in with if we left!  

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sick as a Dog

As we learn about life with our little dog, two things have become quite clear:

1)  She doesn't like fine cheeses
2) She doesn't like to dance to Bjork too soon after breakfast

We found out both these facts the hard way:  first off, Mitzie managed to grab a shrink-wrapped $12 piece of Chevre from our shopping bags on Saturday and 10 minutes after poking her snout into it and having a good lick, we were cleaning up the aftermath...  Clearly she is NOT a fan of fine cheeses.

Then this morning, I got over-excited reminiscing about my clubbing days when Bjork's 'Big Time Sensuality' came on VH1... Mitzie tried to keep up with my high energy dancing until 'blurgh,' her breakfast came back onto the sofa.  Maybe it was a comment on my dancing.  Or Bjork's outfit.  Or both.  Either way, there will be no more dancing til breakfast is well digested.

She does seem to like to eat the strangest things though; her favourite on Saturday morning?  Horse poop.  And of course, she'll come and give you a kiss on your face straight afterwards.... It's a wonder we are not riddled with all manner of disease.  Who knows, we could be.  I'm sure we will find out at some point... or we will become so immune to everything that we'll never get sick here again.  Let's hope for the latter.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Poops and Pooped

I am exhausted!!!  Just over two weeks into being a puppy momma and I am shattered.  Not sure if it's the combo of non-stop nannying, or a bit of a heavy partying weekend, but I am wiped out.  Also, the stress of our neighbors is taking its toll and I'm wondering whether they are involved in the disappearance of three pairs of our shoes from outside our front door...  It's very Indian to leave your shoes outside the door, and given that we are walking our dog outside in the mud on the non-existent road, it's actually a necessity that we don't come in the house in them.  So, yesterday lunchtime I was a little shocked to see two pairs of sneakers and one pair of birkenstocks had gone!  Of course, housekeeping (the ladies who clean the stairs and take the trash out) claim they weren't there when they came around in the morning; they were, everyone saw them (me, Tom, driver, neighbor) and security hadn't seen them... Security also haven't noticed the three times previously that our driver has had his fuel pipe cut and the petrol drained from his bike...  The building manager did make me feel better by saying that if the company paid for better security, we wouldn't have this issue.  THAT'S reassuring.  I'm not sure which is worse - having a thief in the building OR handling somebody's passive aggressive behaviour against us...

On the Mitzie front, things are progressing nicely... one or two minor set backs (little parcels in strange places...) but she is getting to grips with 'sit' and 'come' but is a terror on her leash.  She was good at Tara's party on Sunday, but got VERY territorial when any other dogs came near, even though it was their house!!!  And she hates kids.  They're ok while they're petting her, but then they start to tease and mess about and a little growl turns into a snap... we have to watch her closely around little ones.  Or avoid them altogther!!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Walk of Shame

It is quite ironic that as our neighbors demand that we walk Mitzie outside the apartment complex, this article appears in the Times of India about our very neighborhood.... Couple this with the 25,000 stray dogs in Bangalore, the majority of which seem to live nearby, and you'll understand why walking your dog outside is NOT a pleasant experience!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Bitch is Back

As anyone will tell you, I'm a very reasonable person (ahem) but can hold an argument with the best of them, even if my position is tenuous to stay to the least.  That's why I'm relishing the residents' meetings at our apartment complex next week...  Since learning that a couple of people 'complained' that we had a dog in the building - which is completely within the rules - and getting a copy of the rule book handed to me, I spoke with the secretary (I'm not giving it an upper case S) of the residents' committee to address her concerns.  She launched into me with a tirade of comments, mainly aimed at the fact that the building manager doesn't follow the rules and we should not have the dog in the 'common areas.'  In a nutshell, we're allowed to have the dog but not take her on the landscaped areas or the kids' play area; no problem.  We can, however, walk any pet (iguana, elephant, dog, or cat) around the periphery of the building, which in our case is a driveway.  She didn't seem to know that.  Nor did she seem to agree with it.  Tough.  They're your rules, baby, and if you don't like it, it's your own doing.  By the end of the conversation, my wily PR ways and sugary sweet apologies for not having known the rules had got her onside, but you knew it wasn't going to go away.

Fast forward a few days, I am exercising my dog - and my prerogative - around the 'periphery of the building' and who announces herself to me, but ms secretary.  'So, you've decided to walk your dog around here...'  I was all polite and very happy to reiterate the rules to her and remind her that I was doing nothing wrong.  In fact, many of their 'rules' area quite blatantly ignored, particularly where kids are concerned, but I guess the dog threw them, as no-one has had one here for four years, as I keep being reminded.  She advised me that she'd had now two complaints - I'm not sure if complaints are just calls, whatever - about the situation and that it would be raised at the, wait for it, AGM on August 30th.  What a great opportunity for me to get up and have a good old fashioned argument with a bunch of people who clearly don't know their own rules, hate confrontation (hence her blaming the building manager when I called her), and can't make a decision to save their lives.  Excellent.  

While chatting to the frosty cow, sorry, secretary, a half dozen squealing infants on bikes came tear-arsing past us on the driveway, as if to illustrate my next point, 'well,' I said, 'the rules quite clearly state that kids shouldn't ride cycles or rollerskates on the driveway, but they do....'  I'm not sure when the rules were written, but clearly rollerskates were in and skateboards were a thing of the future...  

She invited me to attend the meeting - well, I couldn't refuse - and I was quick to call the building manager to check the time it started, and add on four hours for the usual tardiness of people.  He already knew that it was on the agenda as 'secretary' had called him yesterday.  I haven't told him yet that she blames him for not explaining the rules thoroughly - but I will, eventually, to get him more onside - but I did raise a few issues of my own with the rules, for example, they state that pets can't go in the lift, but the four times a day that I carry Mitzie up and down the stairs, I nearly have an accident over the multitude of bikes stored in the stairwells.  Surely that's a fire hazard!!!  

And there are more, don't even get me started on the rule that states your laundry shouldn't be hung in public view... hello, THIS IS INDIA! Laundry is EVERYWHERE on public view.

The building manager is going to call her again, but I reckon he's got no balls and she will eat him for breakfast; he was quite keen to get me to speak directly with her the other day, proving that point.  I have many aces up my sleeve, and one I shared with the building manager when he told me that most Embassy properties DON'T allow dogs... Erm, well my friend, the OWNER of the company, lives in an Embassy property AND has dogs AND walks them round the building AND I'm quite sure he doesn't take the stairs... SILENCE.

On a more positive note, having Mitzie has made me realize how nice it would be to live in a little house with a picket fence where I could walk freely outside without being chased by packs of wild dogs, sink up to my knees in mud on an unpaved road, or get accosted by frosty cows with nothing better to do that recite, incorrectly, the rule book.  So, we are looking to move to a 'gated community,' and I shudder when I say this because for the last nearly three years I have been denegrading people who do, labeling them as 'softies' who don't want to see the real India.... Ok, so maybe I'm a softie now.  I may draw the line at Palm Meadows, which is the ultimate Floridian living on the outskirts of Bangalore, complete with all mod cons, supermarkets, restaurants, and so much that you literally NEVER need to leave.  But it would be nice to have a little two up, two down, for the bitch and us.  

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cloudy Day Over Cloudy Bay

On a very sombre note, I learned today that a wonderful guy called Dave Freeman had passed away at the weekend.  Dave and I met through Fiona and had a mad couple of days in Mumbai together which included the now legendary evening that saw us polish of five bottles of extremely-expensive-in-India-imported-New-Zealand-wine Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($750 please!) BEFORE heading off in a desperate search for more booze!  Oh, and food; we forgot to eat...

I was not a big part of Dave's life, nor did we spend a great deal of time together, but the time we did have was filled with friendship, laughter, joy, adventure, and a sense that all was well in the world.  Dave once published a book, 100 Things to Do Before You Die.  Knowing him for the brief time I did, I have no doubt he did them all, and probably with a glass of Cloudy Bay in his hand.

Whine and Wine

I am sitting here exhausted sipping a nice glass of red at the side of Mitzie's crate after chasing her around the living room for the last hour removing anything and everything from her mouth... iPod case anyone?  Tupperware container?  Bag of sneakers?  Slippers?  Pink horse whip?  Silk cushion?  I could go on... this is, of course, aside from the 'authorized' chew toys imported from the four corners of the earth before her arrival Chez McGuire.  Aside from these things, earliero on our walk around the building I had to remove an either dead or comatose mini-frog from her mouth as she tried to digest it, as well as a 2" piece of unidentifiable bone, and I think some cow cud...  I cannot imagine having a baby would be this hard - just kidding, all mommas out there!

The last few days have seen a massive improvement in sleeping habits; her crate is in our bedroom and with the aid of "Relaxing Music for Dogs" (I kid you not) and a little patience on our part, she's now sleeping most of the night in there, undisturbed, apart from telling us she wanted to poop last night at 2am.  My pilates instructor this morning asked what was wrong in class, I told her, "Baby crying..."  It may as well have been.

Mitzie is still very timid outside the apartment but has actually developed a bad barking/growling habit in the last two days...  Her first outburst yesterday was at the stables, where she slept happily on the sofa for an hour at the side of me, but then when my friend Tara came to chat to me, she went ballistic, barking and agrowling.  Same thing today when the doorbell went a couple of times, and later today when our maid brought the kid she looks after to meet the dog... Actually, I was quite pleased about that one!!!

To be fair, Mitzie had a stressful day...  we visited the vets, which was lovely, but out of nowhere, a thermometer was shoved up her bum... she didn't flinch!  After nail clipping, skin check, ears cleaning, heart monitoring, and a good old squeezing from the vet, she was subjected to a (not so experienced) assistant shaving the back of her neck and not one, but two local anaesthetics, before a needle as big as your finger was injected into her containing a microchip.  She was scanned, successfully, and the numbers matched up.  Now we can swipe her at the supermarket!  Maybe she'll bleep through security at the airport or shops?  Whatever, she didn't move a muscle and was very much a lady throughout the whole process.

And now she sleeps... after a little whining, and my first glass of wine, she and I are both relaxed.  Please let it stay this way just through dinner!!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Barking Mad

So, not only did Mitzie find her BIG barking voice yesterday, Tom and I are BARKING MAD that we've had our first complaint about her at our apartment.  Wow, didn't even take a week!!!  Head of the residents' association (WHATEVER) has complained that she was in the 'communal areas' which I'm assuming as a rational person means poolside and in the kids' playground, NOT the driveway around the building where everyone parks their cars.  I'm cool with not taking her on the grass, and look forward to seeing THE RULE BOOK that the building manager is bringing tomorrow.  Tom has vowed to learn EVERY rule in the book, and call the building manager every time we see someone contravening 'a rule.'  Maybe it was me letting her run wild in the spider plants (she looked VERY cute!) or Tom taking her for a snoop in the bushes by the kids' playground... whatever, we will overcome!

Yesterday Mitzie really came into her own; we took her to the stables for the first time where she met Majesty... I don't know who was more nervous, her or Tom!!!  She was actually very relaxed around the horses, chased the geese and duck, didn't notice the monkeys (despite them pointing at her!), was a little timid around some of the farm dogs that live there, but went BESERK went our friend's dog, Fido, a sort of houndy looking boxery type dog, came into where we were sitting.  She was barking up a storm!!!  Fido, who is 10 times her size, looked positively perplexed and skulked away.  Apparently he's a big baby and LOVES little dogs, squirrels, all that stuff.  I predict they will be married in a year.  It always starts that way!  Her barking continued when we got home as Tom ran out of the bathroom with just a towel round his waist; Mitzie, it was enough to scare me too!!!

Training is going OKAY.  We are kind of pooping and a peeping in the right places, but nighttime is difficult with much crying from the crate if she has to be separated from us.  We have taken a couple of steps back in her crate training and are sitting alongside her while she's in there to stop her a) chewing her way out and b) crying til Tom caves...

She has already, you'll be pleased to know, shown signs of equestrian prowess, running around the house with a pink whip in her mouth reading to 'giddy up!'

Friday, August 15, 2008

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Who knew that having a dog could be so difficult?  But I should have known, having had Majesty (horse) to relate it to.  One minute you have a glorious day, the next, a terrible time, with no rhyme nor reason to it.  I guess that's the beauty of the relationship between humans and their pets.

Yesterday was a trying time for Mitzie who suddenly became very timid again leaving the apartment and had to be carried to the peeps spot (where nothing happened, again...) which could have been the result of all the stray dogs lurking round every corner or the fact we'd been charged by a cow earlier.  Our long walk/run in the afternoon wasn't much better; I carried her to the park but she seemed happier to sit on my knee instead of exercising, but would put on a sudden sprint when she saw the exit.  People often under estimate the intelligence of animals; she knows where she is and where she wants to be, much the same as Majesty, who walks S L O W L Y out from the stables but is very quick to virtually trot back in.

After three hours of post exercise snoozing (think I wore her out eventually) she flipped into a funny half hour which saw her picking up and running off with anything that wasn't screwed down - baseball hat, shoes, slippers, sneakers, phone case - and me replacing it with authorized toy - i.e., something indestructible.  It was during this phase that a friend of mine called and just as I was telling her how well Mitzie had done in finding the right place to peep/poop, she (Mitzie, not my friend) just got down and did it on her brand new puppy rug from Singapore!!!  That wasn't the worst of it... Tom, who cannot resist her pleading eyes and whining, against my better judgement, allowed her time on our bed... she thanked him, by peeping all over the duvet and soaking it through the sheets.  They may think I'm hard nosed about all this stuff, but it will benefit them in the long run.  And me, who won't be washing as many sheets...

Today we are back to 'performing' on the balcony, but still very timid when 'out on the streets.'  I must admit, I'm a little scared of the packs of dogs here, and Tom and she were terrified by  gang this morning, so I don't blame her for wanting to stay in the confines of the safe apartment!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Big News in Little Dogville

Where to begin!  The last 24 hours have been a revelation!!!  For no apparent reason yesterday, Mitzie gave her first tiny 'wuff wuff' followed by a small growl...  I think it was her reaction to the dearth of Olympic coverage here in India!  She quite enjoys watching the TV.  Then last night, she pooped in the designated area on our balcony, despite about eight attempts to get her to do it outside.  And this morning, we had our first peeps on the balcony too!!!  It had been 15 hours since she last went, which seemed ridiculously long, and she doesn't seem to want to go outside on the grass.  Slowly but surely she'll get the hang of it... 

The vet came to see her yesterday and gave her a clean bill of health, except for a small eye infection was has been plaguing her for a while before we brought her home.  We discussed the options of getting her spayed - and he could actually do it at home!  Yikes!  Not sure what he would charge, but his one-hour visit yesterday was the ridiculous amount of $7.50!!!  Tom wants him to visit every day...

We did have a restless night...  Twice during the night Mitzie launched herself like a rocket dog onto our bed and woke me up from a deep sleep.  Tom is the softy in the house, letting her stay there, while I frantically get her to go back in her bed.  We will try her in the crate tonight... Neither of them will like that!!!

I'm sure life is going on as normal in Bangalore and feel slightly guilty that Majesty is being neglected til we establish a routine for the little one.  However, I did hear yesterday that he was being filmed for a small part in a Kannada film, so he's clearly doing quite well without me!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

You can't teach an old dog...

Mitzie has now been with us nearly 48 hours.  She's adorable and so loving but a lot of hard work!!!  Yesterday she learned a number of new tricks - some good, some not so good - such as:

- Leaping onto the highest part of the chair and leaping off again is good fun - not good for Dachsunds' backs!
- The kitchen is where it happens, particularly the bin, to the point where she opened it with her nose... it's now moved up onto a unreachable shelf!
- Outside is not so scary, despite a little hard work and coaxing to get her to move even a few steps.  She's very shaky but once she gets into her stride, she's off.  And all on a collar and leash that she's never had on before.  
- People love her, so remind me NOT to be outside when the schoolkids are coming home. They're mad for her.  And she doesn't seem to mind the fuss.
- Fetch is fun, especially with her favourite lamb toy.  Still hasn't quite got that she has to bring it back to me... not to her favourite spot on the sofa!
- Chewing is great, except when it's the corner of my laptop, my slipper, the sofa, her bed, etc.  On the advice of friends, we used a deterrent spray all over the legs and bottom of our wooden furniture and that's done the trick; she doesn't show any sign of interest.  And as soon as she starts to chew anything bad, it's replaced with her favourite lamb and a bone.

The one puzzling factor for us is her desire to peep and poop IN the house, versus OUTSIDE.  She seems to have found a spot in our bedroom for poop (thanks for that, this morning!) and one in my dressing room for peeps.  Suffice to say ALL the doors are closed now and a more rigid 'ELIMINATION' schedule is in place.  That said, after three trips outside today, and a couple onto the newspaper balcony, by 11:30am she STILL hadn't peed.... until she decided to do it on the (thankfully tiled) living room floor...  I guess it will be a long process!

And now she sleeps...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dog Blog

It's been a long time coming, but around the time of my last posting, we found a gorgeous little 8-month ol dachshund bitch that we named Mitzie.  Given summer travels to the UK, France, and Singapore, we couldn't bring her home until yesterday...  and now our life will never be the same!!!

We have been to see her a few times inbetween our travels and she's been an absolute delight, liking nothing better than a good cuddle up on the sofa.  Yesterday, when I went to collect her from her family home, she ran straight up to me, crying, as if she knew something was happening.  After some goodbyes to her momma and sister, I took her off for an appointment at Fuzzy Wuzzy to get her cleaned up and smelling good.  

She was very good in the car and snuggled up all the way, but seemed a bit bewildered by everything.  At Fuzzy Wuzzy she was PERFECTLY behaved, but was a little shaky afterwards but soon settled down when we went to the apartment.  She is not house-trained, as she lived outside before, so our patience will be tested!  As we live on the sixth floor, we are attempting a mix of paper/outdoor training, with a crate...  our first attempts were foiled as Mitzie picked a couple of mats in the bedroom - one to peep on and one to poop on!!!  Despite using 'dog training spray' to encourage her to go on the balcony, these seemed to be the best spots for her.  We will persevere!

She didn't seem too much interested in toys yesterday, but soon learned what a 'treat' is and that her food appears regularly in her crate.  She ate it standing half in and half out - and within a half hour we were cleaning up more peeps from the rug!!!  We tried to get her to go outside at 11pm but she didn't seem too keen - eventually, we brought her back in and she did a successful one on the newspaper.

Taking her outside is a little difficult right now as she has never worn a collar and lead - and wasn't ready to be introduced to them last night.  Today she's happily wearing her collar - with the odd chew here and there.

Our first full night was somewhat uneventful; we put her dog bed on our bed where she slept for a couple of hours, then we moved her to the floor.  Despite a little whimpering she soon settled down.

This morning I was traumatized at the LACK of peeps!  Despite desperate attempts on my part to get her to go, nothing was happening, and for three hours she ate, played, and slept quite happily until the urge was too much...  After a little whimpering and circling around, back she went to find a rug in another room - and dropped off some poop five minutes later at the same spot as yesterday (now without a mat!!!)  

Chewing has started today - anything and everything from the corner of my Mac (not good, Mitzie) to a fabric drinks coaster and the sofa...  I have managed to replace things with a Nylabone and a little toy, especially after she decided my diamond engagement ring was a good thing to get her teeth around!!!

She is currently napping next to me on the sofa (she seems to do that A LOT) and has enjoyed visits from the Maid and our Driver, neither of whom really fazed her.  No barking so far (thank goodness!) and this afternoon we will be trying a little walk around the block... don't hold your breath!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

It's one of those strange days today.  My friend went for some laser hair removal, only to find out her appointment was delayed slightly due to the fact that four eunuchs - dressed in full sari's - were having their faces done... which made this bizarre story in today's Times of India even more apt.  (I had to look up tonsured too...)  But I'm not sure if that's actually as funny as the headline in today's Mirror:  Son Turns His Dead Dad into a Teapot  Gotta love the tabloids!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Where in the World

I was just having a little fantasy shopping in Louis Vuitton, Tod's, and Canali, and forgot for a moment where I was.  New York?  London?  Paris?  No, good old Bangalore!  And if that's not enough, Tiffany and Stella McCartney are opening in the same mall!  That tipped me over the edge.  When we arrived a couple of years ago, we got over excited at the tiny Marks and Spencer here.  No more, now you can go and splash out on shoes, bags, and jewelry much the same as your former colleagues are doing in London and New York.  The prices are comparable - i.e., high - plus a 12.5% tax but if the Dollar/Rupee exchange keeps going in our favour, who's gonna grumble!  Well, I do of course have one small grumble.  Small being the operative word.  I've never been able to buy shoes in Bangalore that weren't handmade because Indian women have tiny feet, certainly not the size of my plates.  Tod's could offer me a 38 in the shoe I liked; I need a 43...  Apparently big sizes are on their way... ah, one can dream.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

It's that time of year, it seems, when we as expats wave goodbye to many of the friends we've made during our time in Bangalore.  The longer we are here, the harder it gets.  The departures often coincide with the end of the school year; conversely, the arrivals happen between now and September.  The first year was ok-ish.  We had a couple of good friends leave, but a solid social circle remained; the second year was more difficult (two sets of friends to Singapore within a day of each other); this year is horrendous!  Four families with whom we have a lot of contact and spend much of our time are jetting off to the four corners of the earth - San Francisco, Shanghai, Beijing, Sweden.  At the moment the only upside I can see is more holiday destinations for us in the coming years.  But that doesn't help the day to day as you seem to be one of the only survivors in your group.  That said, little things like the arrival of a new foal at the stables make life a little more palatable during the tough times.  The little girl was born on Wednesday evening, and I had the thrill of meeting her at just 45 minutes old and her sucking my finger.  We watched her first steps, her first feed, and her first poop!  At just 18 hours old, she was frolicking around in the paddock.  It's times like this that you realize just what a genius mother nature is!  I will be needing many hugs from her in the weeks to come...

Friday, June 06, 2008

In Hot Water

Hot water is a bit of a luxury in India; we don't have it in the kitchen or in our bathroom sinks, but we do have it in two out of the three showers, provided by the ever reliable 'geyser.'  In the UK/India, a geyser, pronounced 'geezer,' is your water heating system, a small tank of water that you have to switch on to heat about 15 minutes before you need to bathe.  However, in the US, a geyser is pronouned 'geye-zer,' and is a gushing hot spring.

Well our Indian geyser was certainly a gushing hot spring today; in fact, in less than 90 minutes of us being out of the house, it had erupted and gushed gallons of water an inch deep in virtually every room in the apartment.  Thank god for tiled floors.  Thank god for inexpensive rugs.  And thank god for saddle blankets which soaked up a lot of it in one of the rooms!  It's not the first time the geyser has erupted, but it's certainly the most dramatic.  In the course of two years in this apartment, we've probably had each one repaired in some manner about half a dozen times.  And we will again on Monday!

The whole drama reminded me of the confusion over the US/English word geyser/geezer and its pronunciation:  Our friend Ben was visiting NYC from the UK and couldn't stop laughing when he saw the brand of water 'Crystal Geyser.'  Pronouncing it the US way, geye-zer, it doesn't sound funny; switch it to the UK way, geezer, and pair it with the word's other meaning, 'old man,' and you can see why Ben decided it was a great name for a bad drag queen.  I have to agree, although the name of the world famous Tupperware sales person, drag queen 'Dixie Longate' is certainly high up on the list.  Say it a few times and you'll get it...

(Just a Little) Sex and the City

Last night I went to my first Indian movie premiere, well, I guess you would call it a Bangalore movie premiere, which was in fact my first time inside an Indian movie theater.  Not that I don't like the movies, but with good quality fake DVD's readily available at $1 each, sometimes it's not worth the hassle.  But last night, friends and I went to see the eagerly anticipated premiere of "Sex and the City" and it was quite entertaining - both the movie and the experience.  For starters, there were more men flooding into the 10pm screening than you would EVER see in the UK/US; my husband wouldn't be rushing to see SATC anytime soon.  So, assuming they weren't there for the "City" aspect of the movie, I assume they were there for the "Sex."  In Bollywood movies, it's still mainly taboo for actors and actresses to even kiss, let alone swing virtually naked from a sex-swing as we've seen Samantha do in the past, so the skimpy outfits on screen last night would be near-porn for the censors here.  Which leads me to another thing.  I'm not sure if we actually saw the whole movie because of the censorship issue; there were definite jumps and stops and starts in the soundtrack which led me to believe that either too foul language or sexier scenes were cut, despite the fact that some of the movie was still quite risque, as you would expect.  Something I wasn't expecting was the on screen instruction at the beginning of the movie to "Stand for the National Anthem" which was then sung by a host of celebrities... Being British, it felt like it was time to go to bed as when I was a kid, they'd play the National Anthem on TV at the end of the evening's broadcasting (pre-24 hour TV, of course!)  This was followed by the obligatory movie trailers and an hour and a half of movie, before an unexpected interval:  the film stopped abruptly, everyone rushed out for a pee/ice-cream or both, then headed back for a second round of movie trailers and an equally abrupt resumption of the movie.  The last time I was at the movies and they had an interval was during "Out of Africa" which was about 9 hours long!  The trailers were quite entertaining:  really good trailers for some likely bad US movies and some really bad trailers for what could be good Indian movies (one was touting the fact that some actor was playing 10 parts in one movie; I guess he's the Indian equivalent of Eddie Murphy!)  SATC itself was entertaining enough to keep me awake, unlike the premiere of "Star Wars:  The Phantom Menace" in Leicester Square, London, at which I managed to sleep through the "most exciting section" of the movie, the pod race.  I can only blame that on too much pre-movie champagne, a humiliating stagger down the longest red-carpet in history (with people wondering, "who the hell is she?"), and a less than compelling story-line; I'm Star Wars old school.  So, back to last night.  Whilst there was no red carpet or champagne (no liquor licence) we enjoyed a free pepsi and popcorn, but bought our own Baskin Robbins.  All in all it was a great fun evening and a real 'taste of home' for those who miss the "City" that never sleeps.  Speaking of which, having got home at 1:30am (how can movie theaters stay open that late but bars and restaurants close at 11pm???) I desperately need some sleep before I head off to buy the fake DVD that is sure to be on-sale already.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

It's a Dirty Job...

... but someone has to do it.  Yesterday, it was me.  It was a first.  Here's a quick guide in case you want to try this at home... 

Monday, May 26, 2008

You're Never Too Old...

... to get excited about winning a rosette!  I have found in recent years that all the motivation I need to take part in something (road race, horse show) is the promise of a rosette or medal - or preferably both.  I've never thought of myself as competitive in that sense but I guess I am now!

This weekend I took part in an in-house show at my riding school with three classes - best turned out horse and rider, dressage, and obstacle course.  Majesty and I practiced hard on Saturday but unfortunately the less sensible of the two of us drank a little too much that night and felt tired and wretched the next day, without a chance of a nap and baking weather conditions.  In fact, I was found by my husband late in the evening in Majesty's stable giving him a kiss and cuddle while he slept on, unphased.  At least he's not the jealous type (horse and husband!)

Unfortunately, we missed our 7am lesson, but managed the 10am one in preparation for the show at 3pm.  Inbetween times, we preened, cleaned and groomed (the horse and me) which is hard work with a hangover and a horse that looks at me as if to say, "Are you done yet???"

Perseverance and preparation paid off, as we scooped first prize for both the best turned out horse and rider AND the dressage test (the judges had low expectations!), and came second in the obstacle course, in part due to the fact that I was directionally challenged at one point, and finished the test off in reverse!  Overall, we were the champions of the weekend, earning the most points, and came home happy with three red rosettes and one blue.  

I think Majesty deserves more than his usual sack of carrots for carrying me so skilfully through the weekend!

And more shocking news...

I was mortified to see my home county of Yorkshire mentioned in the Times of India this morning - and not in a positive light I might add!  In an article discussing the contraversy over first-cousin marriages, the practice is mentioned as being "routine, particularly in tough-bitten regions such as Yorkshire, where the 'kissing cousins' concept is a piece of folk wisdom practically ingested with mother's milk."  In all my years, I've never heard of this!  I always thought that was associated with Norfolk, where it's regular to see the acronym "NFN" on school-childrens'/patients' notes, meaning "Normal for Norfolk."  

I see that the argument has been rumbling around for a couple of years after a British MP criticised Pakistanis resident in the UK for maintaining the practice, allegedging resulting higher than normal rate of birth defects.  It's certainly a taboo topic in many countries - I remember an Irish colleague in the UK who was about to get married to a guy with the same surname; I quipped, "what a coincidence."  She said, "not really, he's my first cousin."  They had agreed NOT to procreate on this basis.  

In the US, there is the hilarious 30 Rock episode where Liz Lemon finds out that 'The Hair' she is dating is related to her, a distant cousin, but in a country where marrying your first cousin is illegal, then even third or fourth would seem bad.  And chatting to an Indian friend who had an arranged marriage many years ago, we asked how long he had known his wife before they tied the knot.  His reply, "all my life.  She's my first cousin."  He went onto explain that it was okay to marry the daughter of your mother's sister, but not the daughter of your father's brother (or something like that!) and from a procreating perspective all would be well.  They have a thriving, highly educated daughter, so I guess it's not all doom and gloom for the gene pool as some people would have us think.

But in Yorkshire? Who knows.  I had to leave the country to find my husband after an exhaustive search in the UK - ha ha.  Maybe if I'd had a first cousin, I could have been wed years ago!!!  And on home turf - think of the wedding expenses that would have been saved.  Ah, now maybe I see why Yorkshire folk would do it...  

Shock News Story

I had to giggle when I saw this story on the front page of Sunday Times of India:

Surely not.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Driving Miss Julie

Or should that be, driving by Miss Julie...  Motorists beware, for the first time in 2.5 years, I got behind the wheel of our car and took to the roads of Bangalore!  I did drive the car when we first bought it - just around the apartment complex - and since then have left the driving in the capable hands of our wonderful driver, Manoj.  Yesterday was a bit of an oddity:  Tom was working from home, so we gave Manoj a surprise day off, but then had a dinner invitation to a hotel about 15 minutes from our apartment.  Normally we would take a taxi: there was a taxi strike; or a rickshaw: the heavens opened just as we were leaving, so an open air rickshaw wasn't an option.  Only one thing for it, grab the car keys and give it a whirl!  

I've been dying to drive here recently as I think I've figured out the rules of the road:
1.  Everything stops for cows
2.  If you're bigger than me (i.e., truck vs. car, car vs. bike), you have right of way
3.  Don't use your mirrors, if someone's at the side of you as you change lanes, they'll use their horn to let you know (OK SOUND HORN is painted on the back of every truck - don't expect them to look before they switch across three lanes...)
4.  Oh, lanes mean nothing.  If they're there, straddle them; if they're not, weave all over the road
5.  When stopped at a level crossing, traffic should line up across both sides of the road, on either side of the crossing, making it impossible to move forward when the train's actually gone
6.  Don't indicate; it's a sign of weakness
7.  Don't flash someone in; it means the opposite, i.e., I'm coming through, get out of my way

This video from YouTube helps you get an idea of what I had to deal with when I finally got out of our 'layout.'  

The drive out of the apartment was bad enough as my knees were banging the steering wheel and my clutch control was like a Kangaroo on acid.  Next I had to navigate the road out of our layout; I use the term 'road' loosely as it's more like the surface of the moon.  In fact, the craters are so big, they have their own zip code.  No, it's not tarmacced, silly!  My next move was a right turn where I foolishly indicated much to the chagrin of my husband, who reminded me I had shown weakness, so I just went for it.  I successfully navigated tiny back streets - avoiding cows, children, and goats, jam-packed flyovers, a triple lane ring road, right turn across six lanes, a Police controlled traffic light where I had to do a sharp U-turn, and even parking nicely back in our apartment.  Two slight hiccups:  On arrival at our dinner destination, security asked us to pop the trunk... er, how????  After a couple of minutes of indecision, they let us through, presuming that if we were stupid enough not to be able to figure that out, we'd have no chance planting a bomb.  The final humiliation on arrival at the valet parking... er, how to get the keys out of the ignition?!?!  Thankfully, these guys know their job and showed me how...  For now, my need to drive is satiated and I assured our driver this morning that his job is definitely safe.  

Friday, May 16, 2008

BA = Bloody Appalling

So, BA just posted a 45% rise in profits.  BA b oss Willie Walsh is happy, of course, but decided NOT to take an annual bonus because of the recent Terminal Fiasco, sorry, opening of Terminal Five.  I'm sure that that reputed $1.4 million dollars will be put to better use paying just a few of the people who've claimed insurance directly from BA for delayed baggage.  I for one benefited to the tune of $500 (and contrary to what I wrote earlier, it WAS for the full amount).  The full financial effects of T5 will not be felt until next year given that it opened to close to the end of the fiscal year, so watch this space.  In the meantime, I find it unbelievable that BA is suggesting they may have to put up flight prices in response to surging fuel costs.  In an environment where most people would currently rather fly Baghdad Airways than British Airways, one would think they would use their marketing savvy to rebuild customer loyalty and entice nay-sayers back into the fold with cheaper fares.  I for one will still fly BA for convenience of a direct flight to the UK, but am still in my heart of hearts a Virgin.  Virgin Atlantic.  Nothing beats the purple and red decadence and sheer fun of Richard Branson's Upper Class experience; the hanging chair in the old Heathrow lounge; the sausage sandwiches and unlimited champagne; and a free fake tan and a manicure before even getting on the plane.  BA are fun-suckers on the ground, in-flight, and at baggage (what baggage?) reclaim.  And soon we will have to pay more for it.  Bloody Appalling!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Booze Ban in Bangalore

It's a dry day in Bangalore... or should I say a dry THREE days, which means that there's no booze being sold anywhere, and moreover, most of our favourite restaurants are actually CLOSED!!! Reason?  It's election time in Bangalore and as far as I can make out from our driver, there are concerns about unruly behaviour if voters are drinking; plus, it appears that it's customary for the political parties to dish out booze.  Maybe I should sneak into a poll booth and grab myself a shot or two of India's finest whisky???  Normally, a couple of dry days wouldn't be an issue - we have a party to go to on Saturday night, which definitely will not be dry - but it's our anniversary tomorrow and we were hoping for a nice meal out.  Instead, we will have it at home with much better (imported) and much less expensive wine (remembering that tax on booze here is over 250% and then there's the mark up in restaurants...) and I will be cooking (beef, I hope) steaks. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Eye of the Storm

Over the last three weeks I have witnessed every kind of weather - snow storms on arrival in Manchester; wind and rain in Yorkshire; bearable sunshine in Spain; torrential rain in Spain (NOT on the plain....); sunny mild weather in London; and finally searing heat in Bangalore. Last night, we added another weather phenomenon to the list: CYCLONE! I kid you not, we were hit by the edge of whirling Cyclone Nargis. It began with a little lightning, some thunder, then torrential rain which left parts of the city under 2.5 feet of water, but the worst was the wind which sent the rain every which way, most of it, it seemed, into every room of our apartment. Yes, the window sealants are THAT good here... One room (a little less well sealed than the rest) was full of hailstones by the time I got to it, and I seriously felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz as things were whirling around outside. The most shattering effect? It knocked out our satellite signal TV for the last 10 minutes of my nightly fix of Seinfeld.

It all reminded me of my favourite email of the year, following the much heralded 'minor' earthquake in England a couple of months ago:

"Not often I send these types of things out but with the uk earthquake last night it really makes you think...

With all the news on TV lately about the hurricanes that America is experiencing, the typhoons in China, flooding in Switzerland and recent mud slides in South America, we shouldn't forget that the UK has its share of devastating natural disasters too.

Attached is a photo illustrating the damage caused to my uncle's home from the
earthquake that occured last night.

It really makes you cherish what you have, and reminds us not to take things for granted.

Do take care of yourself and be safe."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Faster than my speeding baggage....

I got an email last night from BA settling my claim for compensation - WOW - that was quicker than it took for my bag to get to me!  Of course, it was not for the full amount I claimed for, despite being quite conservative and NOT buying the $300 jeans or the winter coat or the boots... I guess the proof will be how long the check takes to get to me.  Let's hope they use Royal Mail vs. Air Mail...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Back in Bangalore...

I'm finally back in Bangalore with a streaming cold, chesty cough, and horrible jetlag.  It's hotter than Satan's crotch here and my body is freaking out after two weeks of snow, rain, wind and temperatures in the single digits centigrade.   I don't know about you, but I can't do with centigrade.  If I have a fever, it should be 103 not 38.something or other.  If it's hot, I want it to be in triple digits, not double digits.  I'm also very anti kilograms and kilometers, but I still think that England shouldn't be a part of Europe and that carrots should be all different shapes and sizes, not EU-ified as they have been.  

Anyway, back to Bangalore where the big news in my absence is that McDonald's is now selling chicken nuggets.  Oh, that and by 2011, in a water purification scheme, Bangaloreans may be drinking treated waste water.  That would be as opposed to the UNTREATED waste water that appears to come out of my tap now.  Welcome home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Surviving Flying

So, after five days 'missing in action' my luggage from BA finally arrived.  Not a word of warning or the promised phone call, just a slip through the door to say it was in the recycling bin!  Thank god it wasn't recycling day...  Suffice to say my claim for five days of necessaries is lodged with BA and we can only wait with baited breath to see what they deem necessary or not.  The fact that I had traveled from a country currently celebrating temperatures of 100 fahrenheit and above, to one that was lucky to reach a half of that, one would think that a coat and boots would be 'necessary' items.

My second flight of the fortnight was to Spain at the weekend with the wonderfully cheap and sleazy EasyJet.  Not only do they charge you $10 to check a bag in (versus carry-on), they have a free for all seating policy that causes mayhem at every turn.  What DID amuse me greatly on this flight was the pilot's welcome announcement, his introduction of the staff, who are there for our safety, and how we should pay attention to the safety demonstration.  Normally that's enough, but he added, "Statistically it's proven that survivors are made up of people who paid attention..."  Funny, but scary at the same time.  As if sensing our fear, he continued with a quip for young children:  "For the young children on board, yes, we are nearly there, and will be nearly there for the duration of the flight."  Hilarious!

Humour AND luggage that arrived at both ends - what more can you ask for from a flying experience!!!

Friday, April 11, 2008

You Know You're In England When...

1. You can get pate in the supermarket - that's pate for dogs as well as humans - in fact, you can get ANYTHING in the supermarket.
2. You are driving along in bright sunshine then suddenly hit a freezing snowstorm.
3. The line for the Manchester flight contains at least one woman in a full 'leisure' suit complete with camel toe.
4. The TV is full of repeats, celebrity cooking programmes, and property programmes (with/without celebrity).
5. Wine is one fifth of the price of India - and 10 times better.
6. You can drive YOURSELF around the city AND get up to speeds of more than 10 mph.
7. McDonald's sells beef.
8. The temperature is in single digits.
9. The cows are ALL in fields.
10. Your luggage doesn't arrive when you do...

Bags of Fun with BA

I have restrained from posting for the last five days in an effort to keep calm and relaxed but enough is enough. BA - YOU SUCK! I flew business class from Bangalore via Heathrow's Terminal 5 to Manchester on Monday and STILL I have no luggage... My flight from Bangalore was more than two hours late, leaving my connection time between T4 and T5 less than an hour, which involved lots of puffing, panting, running, and bus travel, with thankfully the Manchester connection being slightly delayed. On arrival at Manchester, wearing a long sleeved t-shirt, cargo pants, uggs, and a hoodie, I was paged and told my bag wasn't there, but would be coming on the next flight in the morning. As I drove over to Leeds in my rental car, I encountered a snow storm on top of the pennines and the temperature dropped to 2 degrees centigrade, that's about 28 degrees less than my home climate of Bangalore!!! Clearly my clothes would not be up to these temperatures, although thank god I had the foresight to wear Uggs not flip flops!

The next day came and went, and a few calls to BA ascertained that no-one knew where it was - Manchester or Heathrow, and messages were being unanswered at each airport... great. Day three, same old story... I spoke to some urchin who told me that I could claim for basic things I needed, like jeans and a couple of t-shirts. I asked him, "Do I sound like a jeans and t-shirt girl??" He conceded no. Which is actually bullshit as I have the largest jeans collection in South Asia (currently standing at 17 including the two in my missing luggage...) But I am 6 foot tall and a size 9 foot (UK) - getting anything to fit me is a nightmare here. We did manage to find an outfit in good old M&S to wear for my mum's birthday dinner, but I had to couple it with a pair of Geox sneaker shoes that I left here one time before. Classy. But wait, on checking on the BA site, my bag had been found! And it claimed it had been delivered, same day, by courier, Express Baggage. Of course it hadn't, so another call or two to BA and we discovered that it was indeed with the courier but could take 2 to 7 days to be delivered. They have a backlog, apparently....

So, day four, we headed off to Gap and Harvey Nichols. I found some fabulous jeans for $350, but they didn't have my size, and the sizes in Gap are different to the US, but I managed to find one pair that fit, for about $100. I am excited to have an alternative to my cargo pants now! Many more calls to BA and I am now on day five (having been told earlier in the week that a couple of days was nothing, some people had waited MUCH longer - LIKE I CARE!!!) I placed a call this morning, the bag is with the courier, 'just wait' was the instruction from the lifeless BA rep. Wait for what??? 'Buy some basics,' she said, ''and wait.' I am heading to Spain a week from today - my uggs and cargo pants won't be the basics I need there... I see more shopping on my horizon today!

The BA reps I am speaking to have clearly had enough, sound lack lustre and are not equipped with the basic information that a consumer may want to know, i.e., how much can I claim for? There doesn't appear to be a limit; use your reasonable judgement. Well, half the clothes in my case are from Ghost - wouldn't it be reasonable to go and buy a couple of pieces from there? $200 for a pair of pants and $100 for a top. My shoes are from Donald J. Pliner - $250 - not available in England, but I'm sure there's something as expensive here. And my make up and toiletries (as I obviously couldn't carry them on the plane...) you've got $200 right there, easily.

So, while I 'wait' as advised for my bag to turn up, I keep buying 'essentials' like M&S undies and Boots toiletries. And while this is painful, I know it pales in comparison to the pain that will be coming when I have to claim for these 'basic items' from BA. If it's taking more than a week to get luggage handled - and that's supposedly their core competency as a business - how long will it take to process an insurance claim??? If I'm still blogging in 2010 I'm sure I will be able to share it with you...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Keep It Clean

No, this is not a reference to my previously sexually oriented postings, but this recent op-ed piece in the Times of India explaining Indians' notions of dirt varying from the West.  It was written as a response to the recent Forbes survey on the world's top 25 dirtiest cities, among which Mumbai and Delhi were mentioned.  It's a really interesting take on how Indians view and define 'dirt' and whether it's in its right place or not.  It would seem that those living near to me, feel that the drain (small canal) designed to take care of the extra water from the monsoon rains is the right place for their dirt.  In the last few weeks it has become clogged with crap, from either the local building site, or just good old trash.  But I guess that's okay, according to this article, because it's out of the kitchen and not in anyone's way.  Visiting India for the first time can be an assault on the senses - usually the poverty, the cows and dogs on the street, the traffic chaos, and the trash everywhere are what jar westerners the most.  We have a couple of friends who would find this article most interesting - while she is a HUGE fan of India and loved the Ganges and the whole gritty experience, he calls it a 'shit tip.'  He loved Singapore, and its clean streets and bright lights, but she found it 'too clinical.'  I guess India really does have something for everyone - and at least the trash on the streets gives the cows and stray dogs something to nibble on for lunch!

No Sex Please, We're Indian

I've previously posted about the 'Ask The Sexpert' column in the Bangalore Mirror and questioned its validity.  I even met someone from the Mirror who confirmed that the letters were indeed real.  I now understand why.  Read all about it...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sling me to Singapore Again

We just took a long Easter weekend break in Singapore and I cannot say CULTURE SHOCK loud enough!  Maybe if you were visiting from London or New York, it might not hit you so hard, but from Bangalore, where 'road rules' apply to no-one, 25,000 stray dogs roam the streets, and a good wine is hard find, it was overload.  Many people say Singapore is too clinical, and I can understand that perspective, and our friends who live there do miss the hustle and bustle of India, but for a weekend, I can handle it!  The sidewalks are SUPER clean, the roads smooth and hassle free, traffic sticks to its lane, the manicured greenery greets you the minute you leave the airport, there are no stray dogs, and you have a million choices of food and drink venues - THAT STAY OPEN AFTER 11:30!  I'm pretty sure you can dance in Singapore too!  So, my top things to do in Singapore were:

1.  Eat and drink fantastic food and wine - but at very western prices
2.  Take a trip around the city tourist style in an open top bus - even Little India is clinically clean, a la Disney
3.  Sip a Singapore Sling at its birthplace, the Long Bar at The Raffles Hotel - at $20, it's a bargain
4.  Try local delicacies like chilli crab, chicken rice, and fried carrot cake, at a hawker centre like Glutton's Bay
5.  Shop 'til you drop in one of the MANY MANY malls - air conditioned, full of global retailers, and a good way to keep out of the rain
6.  Don't leave!

Life on Mars

"It's a god awful small affair, to the girl with the mousey hair..."  Well, the 'season finale' of season one of Life on Mars last night on BBC Entertainment was a god awful BIG affair to this girl with the mousey hair so you can imagine my horror when, five minutes before the end of the show, they cut to commercial break (yes, we have them here on the BBC) and NEVER RETURNED TO THE PROGRAMME!  I know that everyone else in the world has watched the first AND second season of this show, but here in India, we haven't, and I am pissed!  I have been searching fan blogs and youtube but we missed SO much of the end that it doesn't make sense to me!  The last we saw was Sam coming back out of the woods after letting his dad go.... and that was it!!!  Now, we read that the very last scene shows Sam jumping off a building, so maybe we were censored here?  It wouldn't be the first time, read the breeder's account of watching the very censored Brokeback Mountain... That said, there was no rhyme nor reason to the way it ended.  I am distraught.  Help!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Target Practice

I was once in the British Army, and was actually a markswoman on the shooting team.  Never once did we do this, strangely enough.  And we definitely wore more clothes.  At least during the day.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It's in my genes...

It's official.  I can't help being sarcastic, insulting, or just wholly inappropriate.  It's in my genes! News just out proves it:  British Humour Dictated by Genetics.  So, apologies to my global brothers and sisters, but I now officially have a get out of jail free card for some of my off-colour remarks and 70's sitcom style quips.  As Bette Midler (funny for an American) famously says, and I wholly concur:  "F@#% 'em if they can't take a joke!"

Scheduling Schadenfreude

Anyone living in Bangalore knows that the traffic can be a pain and turn even the shortest of journeys into an expedition...  and while we are excited about the arrival of a brand spanking new international airport to the city, the travel time to reach it has caused much concern.  It's in the north, outside the city, about 40km from us - but that's about 2.5 hours driving time, depending on the time of day.  And while road improvements are being undertaken, there are still certain areas prone to jams.  The existing airport, while old and small, is just 10 minutes away from us in the south of the city.  And we are not alone in wanting the existing airport to stay open for domestic flights at least.  The new airport travel time could turn a quick 3 hour door to door trip to Goa into a 6 hour nightmare.  So, the front page of the newspapers was a welcome relief this morning, delivering the news that, surprise surprise, the new airport, due to open on March 28th, will now be delayed for two to four weeks due to the air traffic control system not yet being operational and approved.  Rather selfishly, as I have a big trip planned shortly, I can only pray that the system doesn't get approved until I am safely landed back in Bangalore, meaning that instead of leaving the house at 2am I can leave at about 5am for my flight... and have a 10 minute journey home at the end of that long haul flight back.  

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Stuff White People Like

My friend the breeder and I have been criticized for having patronizing blogs and making wild assumptions about cultures we know nothing about.  Shame on us for having a sense of humor. Well, here's a great site that is both patronizing AND makes wild assumptions about a culture that we know EVERYTHING about - OUR OWN.  So, enjoy, and see how many of these things you can identify with.  Go on, laugh, life's too short...

Size Matters Stateside

Supersize me is an expression associated with the US and it's never more apparent than when you've been away from it for a while.  Everything is bigger - coffee cups, food portions, buildings, and of course, people.  I read only yesterday that with more than 50% of New York residents being either overweight or obese, the city is funding 'fruit carts' for poor neighborhoods so they can get some good food vs. junk food.  While we are big, I don't think we are 'supersize,' although living in Asia is interesting for a couple of six footers like us.  I can't buy shoes here as my size 42/43 is tooooo big (but I can have them hand made for next to nothing, so that's a plus!) and clothes shopping is a nightmare for someone with long limbs.  Even sports clothing is difficult:  Adidas sells 'Asian' sizing, and their Asian XL barely covers my midrift!  My husband has problems too:  a slim fit Anokhi shirt?  Forget it.  Despite his recent 10kg weight loss, the shape is just not right.  He has a great solution - Custom Made!  Shirts, suits, pants; all very well made and very inexpensive.  Will he ever be able to live in the West again???  His current trip to the US brought home a very real fear we both used to have when flying internally.  No, not terrorist attacks.  Or even bad airline food.  The fear that the 'supersize person' would be seated next to you!  By 'supersize', I don't mean a few pounds overweight, I mean obese; the 300lb+ man/woman who will spill over into the adjoining seat and need the seatbelt extension designed for moms with babies.  We have all done it.  Sat cowering in our seat as the overweight person walks up the aisle looking for their seat number; a sigh of relief flooding over us when they sit down before our row, or pass us by altogether.  So, my 'large in Asia, small in the US' husband was particularly chuffed when boarding a flight in the US to be told by the passenger in the seat next to him, "thank god you're sitting next to me, you're thin!"  So, while in Asia, we may be 'supersize,' back in the good old U S of A, we are mere small fries.  

One Month on my Wagon

I can never remember if being on the booze is on or off the wagon.  Or what the wagon has to do with it.  Or whether it's wagon with one g or waggon with two g's.  Suffice to say today is a landmark in my life - a whole month off the pop!  Obviously, it was slightly enforced due to, oh, emergency surgery BUT it was January 31st when I had my last drink - a very fine Australian red we had brought back from Oz last year and saved for a special occasion. The occasion was that our friend Gordon was in town - who knew that the real occasion would be the last drink for a month.  My husband claims it's the longest I've gone without a drink since I was 18.  I would probably argue that it's the longest I've gone without a drink since I was 15!  While nit-pickers may dispute the legitimacy of a month that is the shortest in the year, given it's a leap year, it's the longest February we'll have for another four years, so it should count for something.  I am a little torn though.  Someone (more religious than me) reminded me that it was Lent and that maybe I should stay off the pop 'til Easter.  That seems a little excessive to me, especially as I have some English friends arriving tonight.  It would clearly be rude NOT to have a little tipple or two with them.  And definitely amiss not to take advantage of the excessive Sunday brunch we will be attending tomorrow.  So, for the moment, I am content with my month/29 day abstinence and looking forward to whetting my palate with a little fizz very soon!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Size Matters

It has taken me two years+ to realize that I'm a 110 percenter living in an 80 percent country.  My cravings for symmetry, accuracy, timeliness, and thoroughness are never going to be met here, so as my husband would say, 'get over it!'  I am trying.  Recently my craving for 110 percent actually got me more than I bargained for with a - with hindsight - hilarious view of the Indian perspective.  I ordered, from my lovely man at Perfect Computers (in name only, as he once told me...), a pack of A3 Epson Matte Archival Photo Paper.  It took a few weeks, but eventually it came, and I handed over my $75 and was on my way.  It was only when I got home that I realized that the paper was 'Super' A3, not just A3, which is a whole lot bigger than I had bargained for.  I called the store, they suggested I speak to Epson.  The conversation went something like this:

Epson:  "I hear you have some doubts about the paper."
Me:  "Yes, it's the wrong size."
Epson:  "What are your doubts?"
Me:  "I doubt it will fit in my A3 size printer."
Epson:  "Most people in India accept this size."
Me:  "Most people in India must have an A3+ printer then."
Epson:  "So, what are your doubts?"

This went on for a while, and included email exchanges where I sent him the definitions and sizes of A3 and Super A3/A+, until he concluded that he couldn't get the right size here, would refund the store, and I could get my money back.

Fast forward two weeks post-op and my call to Perfect Computers who agreed to refund my money, even offering to come to my apartment and collect the paper there.  As I was passing by there, I decided to do it in person.  Of course, I am looking for 110 percent, or in this case, just 100 percent of my money.  But, in typical Indian style, EVERYTHING is a negotiation, and EVERYTHING should only be done at 80%, so here goes:

Me:  "Here's the paper, I'd like my 2,995 Rupees back please as we discussed."
PC:  "Let me show you some other paper, I will give you a sample to try."  (Shows me some crappy stuff).
Me:  "It's not matte and it's not archival, so no thanks, just give me the 2,995 Rupees please."
PC:  "Is there something else you'd like in the store?"
Me:  "No thanks, I just spent 8,000 Rupees on ink from you so don't need anything for a while, just the 2,995 Rupees please."
PC:  "Well, as you bought this last month, I have closed the books and sent off the bills, so it's a problem."
Me:  "Not my problem, in fact, I never got a bill/receipt for this, so you can just give me the 2,995 Rupees please."
(Repeat this discussion twice...)
PC:  "Ok, I'll give you the cash, I just need to take off 4% tax." (fiddles with calculator)
Me:  "Er, no.  You normally ADD tax to the amount I pay, so if anything you give me more back.  Please just give me the 2,995 Rupees."
(Repeat this discussion again...)
Me:  "Here is 5 Rupees, please give me 3,000."
PC:  "Here you go.... 3,000 Rupees."

I'm not sure if there's a moral to this story other than - everything is a negotiation and you should expect that.  And stick your ground.  Size DOES matter, whether it's the size of paper, the amount of your refund, or the amount of time it takes to reach a satisfactory conclusion.  While we may only be arguing about a few dollars, to me, it's the principle of the matter and the fact that as a 'foreigner' here you never know whether the 'opposition' is trying it on because you're white OR simply because they have a livelihood to maintain.  Either way, if you have the time or the inclination to negotiate, you can have some moments that on reflection are 100% funny!

Monday, February 18, 2008


So, while laying in my hospital bed, some unscrupulous internet travel company from Italy that I have never used nor heard of stole around $700 from my checking account!  That's just what you need to come home to.  And the process of getting it back is as painful as surgery.  It all started when I looked at our online statement on Friday and realized that there was a chunk of money missing, but the itemized posting hadn't appeared yet so I called up the bank.  They told me the amount and company, even giving me a phone number, but said they couldn't do anything about it until it had 'posted' onto the account - why didn't I call them?  We actually tried the number - doesn't exist - but I didn't feel it my job to call them, given I hadn't even heard of them!  And how weird not to be able to do anything - basically, let them take the money first, without stopping them, then get it back.  Cart before horse?  They then went onto tell me that the card number used was one that isn't even in our possession.  Nor have we ever met.  So they closed the card.  The weekend passed and on Tuesday, I called again.  Did it post?  No.  Could I stop it posting?  No.  After 45 minutes on the phone, we figured out that the guy we're talking to is literally 10 minutes down the road from us here in India.  I asked if he could just pop around and give me the money.  He declined.  He did recommend that once I was reimbursed, I should take all the money out of the account, close it, and reopen another.  I told him that after three rounds of fraud in two years, I was ready to take all the money out and just close it.  Finally, on Wednesday, five days after me first spotting it, the fraudsters took all my money - and more - and it posted on the account.  I called again.  I was told many contrary things - the card was just issued to me, no it wasn't, yes it was, oh no, in 2001, then in 2005.  Who knows why.  Then I was told I should have been sent straight to fraud on the Friday, and I wasn't.  Who knows why.  I shouldn't have been told to call the merchant, but I was.  Who knows why.  So, as we sit here, I am waiting to be credited for nearly $700 so I can go and take it all out of the bank for good.  I'm sure they won't miss me but the fraudsters who have plagued us probably will!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A is for Appendix...

So, today I had my stitches removed. All seven of them spread across three tiny cuts. Very neat. So as the physical pain subsides, the mental pain of our healthcare claim begins. For those NOT familiar with the US system, you have a kind of healthcare insurance that you pay monthly but there are so many rules: you have to visit a doctor within their network, or pay a lot more to go 'out of network,' which obviously we do as we are VERY out of network; you have to get 'precertified' before you can have a procedure, which means getting an approval code from them, even if it's an emergency, and that can be tricky in another time zone; and there are code numbers for EVERYTHING which, without, it becomes tricky to claim. So, last night, we bit the bullet and called up to get our post-op pre-approval and while the customer service people were lovely, if their questions are anything to go by, we could be in for a loooong claim process:

Them: "What was wrong with you?"
Me: "I had acute appendicitis."
Them: "How do you spell that. I'm not a medical person."
Me: " A P P E N D I C I T I S."
Them: "What happened?"
Me: "I had it removed."
Them: "What's that called? Wait a minute while I consult a nurse...."
Me: "Appendectomy."
Them: "How do you spell that? I'm not a medical person...."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Service Overload

Anyone who's ever been to India will know that the service levels here vary wildly - there's over attentive in any store you walk in, to the point that the assistant is a hair's breadth behind you and it becomes a game to swing round quickly and stare them right in the face, asking them 'what do they want.'  And then there's the service you really need, like when something's broken at home, needs replacing or refilling, then usually, there's no-one to be seen for hours.  Days.  Weeks.  Hospital in-patient service here is like the former, although they can't actually get into bed with you, the staff spends as much time as possible in your room, through waking and sleeping hours.  Now, this is probably a good thing, I hear you say, given that the health service in supposed fully-developed countries is crumbling and people are dying versus receiving life-saving operations.  I agree wholeheartedly.  The healthcare here has been second to none.  From the ER to admission to OR and discharge, everything went smoothly and quickly - both words not characteristically associated with India.  However, the line has to be drawn somewhere.  And I draw it at the 5:15am bucket bath.  As I lay helplessly hooked up to the IV the first day post-op, the over-zealous nurse arrived around 5:15am to change the drip and inquired, "would you like your bath now?"  NOW?  It's not even dawn!  Why would I want to bathe pre-dawn?  With a stranger?  Don't answer that.  I said no, later.  "6am?"  WHY??  My negotiating instinct kicked in - yes, even at that time.  I would bathe at 6am in exchange for a cup of tea.  "No, not until doctor has done his rounds."  What time is that?  "9am."  Well, I figure I'll bathe at 9am then too.  That didn't go down well.  I think we settled at a time around 6:30am.  And no tea was forthcoming for another 24 hours.  The next day was different.  Nurse arrived at 6am and I feigned sleep.  A deep sleep.  Complete with eye mask and a little snoring.  The nurses were very similar to the stewardesses on planes who will wake you out of a near coma to offer you some tasteless snacks and a cup of tea.  Or, as I experienced on a BA flight to Heathrow, the first-time flyer next to you who wakes you to tell you they are bringing tea around.  Or some headphones.  Or a menu.  Or a snack.  Or a visa form.  It might be a treat for you, lady, but the last thing I need is waking up every time a stewardess comes around on an 11 hour flight!  Anyway, as I say, I got away with the early bath on day two.  And bathed myself, with a little help from hubby, at a more reasonable hour of 8am.  Aside from the enforced early baths, the service was second to none and I doubt that I would have received better care anywhere else in the world.  And all for the bargain price of $4,000.  You wouldn't even get the bath for that in the US!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lose an Organ, Lose Weight

It's now over a week since I got sick prior to the appendicitis and I weigh around 4kg (8.8lb) less!  If you add that to the 6kg (13.2lb) that I lost since November, you have a whole Olsen twin!  Granted, my weight loss since November was a combination of a) lots of exercise b) low-carb eating and c) a couple of colon cleansings in New York; a more preferential way to lose it than that of the last seven days!  My friend the breeder is currently undergoing her own method of post-partum weight loss, involving eating a dodgy chicken stroganoff in India... ouch.  Despite the fact that I weigh a considerable 65kg (143lb), it amused me that in the hospital the nurses wouldn't give me intra-muscular injections in my arm because they said it was 'too thin,' opting for my 'fatter' thigh instead.  My complaint that I was thin because they didn't feed me for two days went unheard.  Let's recap:  my diet for the first day after surgery comprised of two capfuls of water, and the next day wasn't much better.  My pleas for a cup of tea went unheard as their version of the 'liquid diet' didn't include my favourite morning beverage, but did include foaming pineapple juice and something resembling dish water labelled 'soup.'  So I got rather excited when I saw barley water on the menu; it took me straight back to the days of summer and picnics when I was a kid, sipping Robinsons Barley Water during Wimbledon.... Of course, in India things are not quite as they seem.  Or maybe they are EXACTLY what they seem.  I waited a half hour until the barley water arrived.  In a flask.  Lukewarm.  Beige foam on top.  And looking, smelling - and tasting - like flour and water glue paste.  It was indeed barley water.  But not Robinsons.  And definitely not for me!  Please Britvic, don't buy and bottle this one! 

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Worm's Eye View

If you ever wondered what went on during an appendectomy, here it is, with helpful commentary:

I left my appendix in Bengaloooooo-ru...

... not quite as catchy as Tony's Bennett's Heart/San Francisco version, but more factually accurate.  What began as a Thursday post-dinner, "ooh, I have a case of Delhi-belly," to a Friday night of, "ooh, I think I'm in labour but am not pregnant," to a Saturday, "not hungry, not sure why, not sick, but something's wrong..." ended up with me being admitted, feverish and rashy, on Sunday to The Manipal Hospital, suspected of everything from malaria to dengue fever to cholera (that will teach me to mention it on this blog!)

After extensive blood tests, x-rays, urine tests, ultrasounds, and a CT scan - and reluctantly being admitted to the luxurious 11th floor - it was quickly determined that I had an inflamed appendix - appendicitis - and it needed to come out.  (Image NOT to scale - and NOT mine!)

Redundant body parts:  I have a history of getting traditionally childhood diseases later in life - tonsils out at 21 and chickenpox around 25 - and of getting rid of unnecessary body parts - tonsils, being one, and I was born without wisdom teeth (you don't need them, we've progressed genetically since then) and even an incisor (when was the last time you needed it to chew up a carcass?)  So, getting rid of this useless 'appendage' was a no-brainer.  Except for the fact that I've never had a 'real' operation, nor have I ever had stitches (a fact I was quite proud of just a week ago... again, that will teach me to talk about these things!), and that it would severely curtail my extensive travel plans over the next few weeks!!!  Oh, and the minor issue that in the whole time in India I haven't even dared go to the dentist for fear of some hideous infection, let alone have someone slice me open, poke around inside, and stitch me back up again.

All roads lead to Yorkshire:  My surgeon, however, was pretty convincing.  A lovely man, who trained in the UK and of course, worked at Bradford Royal Infirmary in his time.  For those of you not familiar, Bradford is the curry capital of England and whenever I go home to Yorkshire, I head there for a curry and feel I have been transported back to Bangalore, although it has a greater Muslim than Hindu population.

Through the Keyhole:  In a speed not generally associated with India, I was whisked from, "ok, let's do it," to the operating theatre - via the cash payment desk and the 'nipple to mid-thigh shave' - in around an hour.  I was to be operated on laparscopically, which to you and I means, 'keyhole surgery,' not to be confused with the hit tv show, and would still be able to model for the Sports Illustrated calendar.  Should I ever be asked.

Luxury - at a price:  So, off I went, carted off from the luxury of the 11th floor - the categories of rooms at the hospital range from 'General' at $25 per night and shared with 99 of your closest friends to 'Super-Duper Executive Luxury Suite Type' at $300 per night.  We plumped for one at the higher end of the range, large enough to sleep hubby in the spare bed, but small enough that I didn't get exhausted walking around it.

Pecking order:  The surgery was 'uneventful' but, I'm told, absolutely necessary.  It was nasty inside there.  Words like 'puss' were used a lot.  Oh, and my colon had started to wrap itself around the nasty unnecessary organ.  Enough said.  And I felt quite perky afterwards, aside from laying in the recovery room for 2.5 hours alongside a woman who clearly didn't sound like she was recovering.  In fact, I thought a holy cow had wandered in there, the noises that were emanating from her.  And I had three requests.  In this order:  1.  I want to see the surgeon.  2.  I want to see the detached appendix.  3.  I want to see my husband.  I put this thoughtlessness down to the after effects of the anaesthetic.  But we'll never know.

Suffice to say that the 'third on the list' had heard of the successful surgery and run straight across the road to the luxury mall to buy me a fresh pair of my favourite PJs and some magazines.  Neither 1. nor 2. would have done that.  Without a doubt.

As I returned to my room, I felt comfortable, relaxed, and happy that I'd made the right decision.  And desperate for a cup of tea.  But that was not to be...

To be continued...