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...