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!