Peaks & Troughs – live like a meringue!

Hi all

You know that bit in the cooking recipe where the instructions are to beat the egg whites till they form soft peaks – into which you will fold whatever you’re folding? Well that’s been my life, more or less,  since my last post. Not that I have any complaints : rather the opposite. My life – which took an adventurous turn early in 2011 – continues to surprise and delight some 6  years later. I actually started THIS blog 3 years ago and have only now managed to get to finish the draft, update my readers (!who?) and head into the travels and adventures of 2017.

Now I don’t want to go all Polyanna on ya, but I am in severe danger of becoming one of those people who are happy with their lot, and grateful to boot! Oh dear.  But just to get that stuff out of the way, I became a Citizen of Australia on 26 January 2017 (Awe-straya Day) so now I am a Dual Citizen with passports to match. Actually, truth to tell,  I am a Triple Citizen since (God bless my dear late Mother) I am also a citizen and passport holder of the Emerald Isle. Hence my gift of the gab. So why would I not be happy and somewhat satisfied?   Oh, I should of course point out that none of the above would have been possible if I had not been sober now for a little over 22 years.  I claim no credit, I simply thank my Higher Power, whoever and whatever that may be……..

But, as usual,  I digress. Since I last posted here, I have been on several trips, the most memorable being visits to India and the USA – both in 2016. No posts about those trips here, since I fell into the Facebook trap and downloaded info and pics there – which will in time get posted here. Perhaps. But from now on, I return to this blog and the easier freedoms it allows for drafting, editing and picture posting etc.  Bear with me and – if you are Facebook friend – be grateful you now can see a brief note of my travels, and need only come and see the full Blog here if you so choose!

The Highlights of my Indian and USA trips last year were, incidentally,  and in date order:

being in Jaipur, Rajasthan for the Holi festival (of coloured powder paints & deities) in March and at the other end of the year, travelling by train from San Francisco to Chicago – across the continent including the day of the election (November 8th) – and with nary a mention of such mundanities in the quiet confines of the Dining Car!

arriveincolour2

Holi Holi Holi  – very messy messy messy. My white plastic watch strap 15 months later is still stained – mostly in pink!  And to follow this wonderful experience, another honour of a lifetime during my American sojourn, which included San Francisco, New York and – of course – LA (Hollywood). What can I say but Thank You to all my fans……………..
MeOscar
Now – as I write – June 13th – I am in la bella Roma. I arrived last Friday evening, picked up a hire car and hurtled (you would not have wanted to be a passenger!) down the Autostrada to Napoli.  Three hours later andI was pet-sitting for a weekend as cover for my real plan – to visit a concert by the 3 young Italian tenors known as “Il Volo”.  If you don’t know them but like the sound of tenor harmony, as I very much do, then I urge you to hop onto YouTube where you will find many of their concerts over the last several years. I have followed their career since they won the equivalent of Britain’s Got Talent (in Italy) at the ages of perhaps 15-17 ? They are now in their early 20s and getting better and better. Even more importantly, they seem good-natured, happy guys – unfazed by their success and modest in their many interviews and relaxed in the face of a no doubt daunting schedule and their fans’ devoted – and noisy – attention.

Here’s an example. Like me, you may think that Nessun Dorma is a little overdonner, but this live version from Florence (with their hero Placido Domingo conducting) seems magical to me: their obvious desire to do it well and their joy/relief when they do.  I find it real and rather moving. here’s a  link (double click for YouTube):

Il Volo in Florence

Suffice to say that my visit to the Arena Fleagrea in Naples was worth the madcap drive, the very strange Hotel with mostly invisible reception, and rooms accessed upstairs from the street, through communal hallways and senior matrons sitting out playing cards at 11pm.  My meagre duties allowed me time also for a visit to Pompeii’s smaller but equally impressive sister town – Herculaneum. Though the Italian version – Ercolano – trips more lightly off the tongue.
I have some thoughts, some pics and some stories to tell of my briefest of visits to Naples and Ercolano.  I shall whip them into shape and enfold you into the mix in the post that will follow soon………..

Erco1

Love & Light.

 

 

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India to Australind.

I know, I know, some of my titling is excruciating – it can only get worse!!

And as for the content, for example:

You call that poetry?

No I do not

I call it verse –

which is far worse,

is it not?

Anyhoo – for my final blog that relates to India – this will be mostly photographic. I baulked – at the last minute – at packing my digital camera in my small case, so all the photos come via the iPhone. And in fact are not toooo bad despite that.

What they lack in composition and artistry, I hope, will be offset by the sparkling wit that goes with them!

Enough, already. Here are a few of my favourite things (apart from raindrops on kittens, bright rubber mittens – or however that song goes!):

This temple roof is completely covered with individual figures – and it all gets re-painted every two years! Talk about the Forth bridge Temple.

This is a proper Juggernaut!! Quite a painting job too!

And in the middle of the surrounding slums and chaos, this beautiful (and beautifully kept) temple in the middle of a “tank” – or water storage facility.

 And how about this for water management? As good (almost) as anything the Romans built – tho it hasn’t had to survive 2000 years yet – maybe 200 and is still carrying water to Mysore City from the mountains.

This is Tipu Sultan’s summer palace away from Mysore – on the river at Seringinpatnam (check that spelling!) where ultimately he was defeated by Wellington.

This stunning carving I mentioned in an earlier post – it is part of the wall / Water Gate at Seriningipatnam (etc!) but now – since the walls have fallen or been partly destroyed by the British, this piece sits at the River’s edge simple as a block of stone, which I stepped off into the River – as I bathed (a bit) to have all my sins forgiven. ;))

Things were not ALL bad! Here’s a solid gold throne from the Tipu’s other Palace!

This strange little house – right behind my “hotel” in Mysore – shows what life was really like for most people say half a century ago!!

I think I will send this to the London Zoo – as an example of how you can manage the litter and be subtle at the same time!!

And so, the Englishman abroad takes a break (in the Temple doorway) – certain sure that the Helpful Attendant will be returning the iPhone(camera) in a moment, together with a reminder that it’s always a good idea to make a small donation to the Temple (i.e. to him!!).

OK Folks – no more India stuff for the time being – until I start on my research for the Maharaja of Coorg (when I get home!).

Hope these give a little flavour of what a strange, smelly (in every way), entrancing and befuddling country India is.

I can only encourage you all to pack a small bag, forget about keeping too clean and laundered, don’t eat anything that hasn’t been cooked immediately before. Don’t drink the water – bottles are everywhere and price-controlled; only eat fruit you can peel. If you want to eat local (as opposed to air-conditioned tourist places) pick the busy places where there’s a queue of Indians.

Don’t expect NOT to be fleeced, no matter how kind and friendly your rickshaw driver / hotel front man / waiter is – you represent £££ or $$$ for them and they will – in the politest possible way – try to remove as much as possible from you. So I always try to keep in mind that – even if I am paying Rupees 150 for a ride that really should cost less than Rupees 100, the reality is, we’re arguing over 40p!!

(Given that there are 70 Rupees to a £1 and you can eat well for 200-300 Rupees!)

Hare Rama Hare Krishna  – from this old ex-hippy to you all!

Lavatory Humour

In my younger days – say at St Josephs College, London SE19 in the 60s, they used to dish out punishments for ‘toilet humour’ – these days I notice we sometimes hear the phrase ‘potty mouth’ directed at someone using smutty / graphic language (whatever!).

I only mention this to forewarn those of a sensitive nature that this little blog will be touching on matters somewhat closer to the earthy side of life – and believe me in India, you can’t escape that!!

Now that I am basking in the cleanliness and tidiness of Western Australia (more of that later) I find I shall be able to stop collecting toilet paper, or tissues from restaurants or indeed anywhere I found them.

For the uninitiated, there are two types of loo in India (especially in public places): the “western” style – which you can work out for yourself – and the other one.

This one consists of two parallel foot places – usually foot-shaped, though much larger – each side of an oval hole which heads off downwards.  These are especially fun to use (as you might imagine) on a moving, swinging train!

Obviously, for the westerner, unused to the techniques – not to mention the angles – involved, these are best avoided. In some up-market versions, there is a wall-attached shower nozzle; the intention being for you to use it like a DIY bidet! Even less appealing for the novice user!  But avoidance is not always possible.  My paper-collecting mania started within days of my arrival in India.

Picture my plight if you will – hot, sweaty, a bit lost – on day 3 in Bangalore. And in pressing need of a loo.

I had sought out an AA meeting (often a fun spiritual chore in a strange country!) and actually found it without too much trouble, arriving 20 mins before the scheduled start at 7pm. It gets dark – always – at 6.30 in this part of the world. So it was dark but a small group had gathered outside the closed school where the meeting is held.

My request to use a loo if possible had me directed to a far corner of the school courtyard where (it seemed) the kids’ toilet blocks lay. I have no idea which ones I entered, could find no working lights, but on trying the second door and seeing a row of sinks, I figured I must be close and gingerly stepped in.  By now, bear in mind, it was almost completely dark and I waited a moment or two to get used to the lack of light.

Ah, a row of cubicle doors and, inside each, inevitably, one of ‘those’ loos – and (of course) no sign of a paper holder (ha ha!) much less any paper.  Of course, up to this point, an encounter of this nature had never crossed my mind. My nephew’s apartment of course, has “western” style en suites!  Though I noticed later (apropopos of nothing) that the daily woman’s little room in said apartment, has the other type. Make of that what you will, in this day and age!

So……. without going into too graphic a detail – I had to go – and not just for a wee!!  Carefully removing the little wallet (money, passport, credit card) I habitually carry round my neck on my travels, I hooked it over the lockless door (I knew I would hear anyone entering the room anyway). Hoping against hope, I searched all pockets for a paper tissue, a bill, a receipt, anything? To no avail. And even if I dared consider it, this dark and unappealing place didn’t have as much as a tap, let alone a bidet-style hosepipe.

In the face of increasing desperation – both for relief and a solution any way you look at it – inspiration struck.

I have – also in the little travel wallet – a very expensive notebook and matching pen!  Montblanc supplied by Smythsons of London for those who care for such detail. I bought it as a client-impressing tool in my Butler days; it also holds my credit card(s) and driving licence.

For today’s needs, though – it held the notebook – albeit that the replacements are about £7 each – and the sheets are approximately three inches by two!! Just think about that for a moment……..

I draw a veil over how many special Smythsons/Montblanc  sheets were used that dark evening, and resolved to Never (never, ever, ever)  venture from home without at least a few tissues, some sheets of loo paper, or at minimum a copy of the Bangalore Times or equivalent.  Needless to say, I mostly forgot to do that, so each lunchtime (coffee-time, tea-time) I was the one sneaking off to the loo whether needed or not, to grab a few sheets. Or half-emptying the paper napkin holder on the dining table.

You may laugh – but believe me, there are times, especially travelling around India – when the sudden onset of that phenomenon “when ya gotta go, ya gotta go” – means business and you can be having a gentle walk through what passes for a temple rain-forest garden when it happens.  Then the only thing between you and total disaster might be – a rather small bush!  At times like that, it pays be at least partly prepared with that little stash of paper! And a prayer for rain!

But that’s another story which I won’t tell.  But, there are two post-scripts to this tale;

One: I cut out an advert from the in-flight magazine en route from Chennai (Madras) to Singapore; the Shower Toilet Seat (from Ideal Merchandise in Japan) : a toilet seat with a built-in shower!  Can be installed on any toilet, improves personal hygiene and even helps ease the pain for people with haemorrhoids!!  Now – if I could just find a way to adapt that into a small knapsack, like those ones that already have a water bag inside, I reckon I could make a fortune!

Two:  5 minutes after the Lavvygate tale above, I was in need of more water and ducked through the traffic across the mad Bangalore street and, on the point of paying, realised I had no money! My little travel wallet also holds whatever money I am carrying – and it was still hanging somewhere in the dark on the back of one of those kids loo doors!  Fighting rising panic as I rushed back – had it been stolen? Worse, had it dropped off a moving door, down into an unmentionable (and irretrievable) abyss?  My heart was pounding. To my great relief – for the second time that night! – things worked out OK in the end!

Poetry from the sub-continent

1. Tipu Sultan

Tipu Sultan, the ‘Tiger’ of Mysore,

Was a constant thorn in England’s side for sure;

He led a people who, though filthy poor,

Could nonetheless engage in heavy war!

The British were determined that the Raj

Would be the power, and with them in charge;

Tipu disputed this and fought with style,

For 20 years he fought with grit and guile;

He kept a bunch of tigers out the back,

In case he got to use them in attack.

But Wellington broke through in ’99

And, despite his French allies, a fast decline

Was the end of Tipu Sultan and his plans.

His dreams, like water, faded in the sands.

2. Bangalore

They call it the ‘garden city’

It isn’t that no more!

They call in Bengaluru,

It used to be Bangalore!

Stinkin’, stonkin’ traffic

Cycles by the score.

I wonder how many died here

In those Raj-rich days of yore?

Dysentry, typhoid, prickly-heat

Would have carried off  more

Than now; we take the jabs

And don’t drink the water –

Some of us take malaria tabs

The rest of us probably oughta.

3. Mysore

( misquoting of Julius Caesar)

I came, Mysore. I’m conquered.

Indiana James and Temples of Noon

Mad Dogs and Englishmen (as Noel Cahrd wrote – just say what you see, it’ll sound just like him!) go out in the midday sun……. and this Englishman no exception.

Hard to avoid – in Mysore at any rate – bustling, puzzling and damn-near impossible to navigate, it nonetheless opens and shuts early.By 10pm most shops are putting up the shutters and they sort of start, to slowly, try, to open them again around 9-10 in the morning!Me being the early bird (yeah, right!) I am scrabbling around – well lets say about 9.30, looking for a snackette.

Today was a pineapple dosa. Dosa is pretty ubiquitous here and comes in a million types – mostly too spicy for me, especially at breakfast. But the pineapple one was fresh pineapple (of course) and the dosa is a sort of pancake/omelette made (I think) with rice flower, sort of slightly dry omeltty texture. Always with little side dishes, this one has a sort-of raita (yog, onion and mint) and another more like a sweeter hummus! Everything is “sort of” – in terms of descriptors – because no matter how obvious the name (tea, coffee, sweet biscuit etc) the reality will differ. Bit like living in a parallel universe! Expect the unexpected – and rarely am I disappointed.

My last day in Mysore last and I tried to get into one of the four (yes four) palaces the last Maharaja built for his daughters – inevitably each one on a hill in a different  corner of the city, Tis now part of the Uni and has what seems to be an intersting mix of history, fashion, art etc. Like the V&A perhaps. Alas – despite quite a search by rickshaw in that midday heat, turned out it was closed today – no explanation. I am fascinated by what happened to all that wealth and land – will be on that case later.

Spent part of each evening for the last 3 nights wallowing in Indian music – magical stuff. Which includes an ornate blessing at the end, plus holy water and some jasmine flowers and even a little palm basket with something edible in it. Telling this story to my nephew, his first question was : any trouble with Dehli Belly?!  Rama is looking after me just fine…

Right!  NOT going into a lengthy travel thing. Suffice to say I am back from Mysore to Bangalore this early evening. First class train – BritRail could learn a trick or two. AirConditioning – and 10 minutes into the journey:  various staff pass by with bottle of water, then little biscuits and chocolate eclairs, then little mango drink carton. All included in the ticket price – which was about Four Pounds for the 2 hour high speed, non-stop journey. Compare that (shall we say) to London to Birmingham or further on InterCity!

A few random thoughts – and images:

Remember Sean Bean as Sharpe on TV?  Well there’s a whole series of books set in the Indian wars – including one called Sharpe’s Tiger – and it covers the Battle of Sringinapatnam (excuse spelling – not got my notes!)  where I visited the Fort and bathed in the River etc (this Tipu Sultan stuff is going to run and run I fear). I ordered a copy via Amazon and it will be waiting for me in Oz!

Cows are vegetarians, yes? At least I thought they eat only grass etc. Today – amongst the many cows grazing the streets of Mysore (I called one street Cow Alley as there were so many – including calves) I saw one nibbling at ? (or drinking fluids?) from some road kill. Looked like a rat……. I looked away sharpish. You probably want to do the same. An odd image.

On the streets of Mysore, young pavement artists decorate the hands and arms of young girls with intricate dies and designs from what looks like a mini cake icing cone. . I think the boyfriends pay as they are sitting nearby as I stop to look. One cheeky girl invites me to have something done and after some laughter and a trial sample on my hand, I am now sporting a very fetching an ornate temporary design on my upper arm. Done with Henna, I think, it initially had a black crust all over – which was enormously satisfying to pick off when it dried hours later. (Dare I say, think of picking lots of little scabs!!).

Today it is pale brown, on my pale brown arms – I will get a picture for later downloading. Rumour has it it will last 7-10 days, and judging by the young Mysoreans’ reaction, I am the only mad they’ve ever seen wearing one. Oh well, mad dogs, as I said.

From an odd newspaper item: supplicant talking to a God about a dream says “I dreamt I saw my hand and it was covered with honey” God replies that he saw his hand and it was covered with urine. Supplicant smug  that he is doing better than the God, who says “I am not finished yet; I also dreamt that I was licking your hand – and you were licking mine!”

Make of that what you will……. off now to change my rail ticket down to Chennai so I can stay for a 20/20 cricket match Tuesday night. The Royal Challengers Bangalore  v the Rajasthan Royals!!

What’s happening to me ? If you’d offered me a box at Lords for a test match I would have said thanks but no thanks! Here I am, quite hooked on 3 hours of nail-biting, will-they-won’t-they, bowl the others out, and get enough runs etc.  This is Not amateur local stuff – Tendulkar (Wisden Cricketer of the Year 2010) made 100 last night and another guy hit a Six a distance of 99 metres – that’s over 300 feet!! They have a league very like the Football League and are all playing matches almost every day! OK, stop snoring at the back there!! O dear, and to think I mocked Mick Jagger……..

Behind me (by the way) as I finish this – the Delhi Daredevils have just beaten the Royal Challengers (Bangalore) – which is not good news for my adopted team – they are about 10th out of 10 in the League!

Bye

Voodoo – or Who Do?

I had my palm read today – and my star signed looked over. Oh, and cast some shells to be read.

I hadn’t intended any such thing, but I’m glad I did!  For now I shall be able to seek out and tippex from address books certain jealous enemies who (as we would say) have it in for me. (Infamy, Infamy, they’ve all got it informe! as I believe Frankie Howerd said).

All that aside for the moment, I was standing outside a little shop, simply perusing the signs and thinking whether there was any merit in further investigation, when fate took a hand. In the form of a gentleman who arrived by moped, with his wife sitting (as is the norm here) side-saddle on the back. Before I knew it, I had agreed to a 50 Rupee palm reading and was seated inside, amongst a gallery of deities, shrines and flowers. (Well 50 Rupees is only about 70p and what the heck, I am on holiday – sort of).

It began very well – he worked out I was 61 – I had written by D.o.B on a piece of paper along with my name and Starsign.

I was successful in business / I had at least one property / I had travelled extensively / I had 3 children / oops…….

Oh, and I was going to live to between 85 and 87. That bit I liked.

Strangely,  he did identify I had had some health problems when young – and again in mid years –  but that generally I was in good shape. Well, of course, anyone can see that!!

Then came the crux of the matter – and this is where You (my friends, acquaintances and family) come in.   It seems that for the past 5/6 years I have been subject to a curse,  placed by someone jealous and envious of my life and achievements!  Well, that took the wind out……….

NOW  I understand why I left Dolphin Square, went to Margate, ended up in Seaford.  Changed jobs, location and now here I am – adrift and of no fixed abode in India (or elsewhere, for that matter)!!

But whoever you are – posing as my friend, if you please!

Rest assured, I will be finding you out and all your hexes and spells will be to no avail.   I am just trying to decide if I want the Rupees 5000 version or the Rupees 10,000 version of the work my friend can do with me to straighten things out. Oh, the 5K sorts it for 10 years, the 10K sorts it for 20.

I turned down an offer to include my 3 children in the (shall we call it?) cleansing process?  That looked like it might double the price. And anyway, my imaginary kids can fend for themsleves.

The only other question that troubled me a little was : if I went for the 20 year option (and the golden life that would ensure me) – that takes to me 81-ish years of age. Since I am going to be around till 85-87 ish (see above) does that mean my final half dozen years will see a return to the hex-ridden life I have known of late? Oh dear…..

Only he would know of course – and I expect there would be a cost implication to finding out.

So,  as I paid my 50 Rupees and left (feeling like a NoW reporter and saying I might be back later!) , I thought, I really must look through the address book /iPhone and see if I can work out who the spell-caster can be? 

So I can thank him or her for what seem to me to have been a few years of great adventures!!

Bangalore or Bust (do I mean dust?)

Gosh – but it’s hot!

I don’t know which sense  is assaulted the greater : hearing, smell, sound? All of the above…

If you’ve never been to India, try and imagine Oxford Street (London) on the busiest Thursday night, and add into the traffic and teeming hordes of people, as many motor rickshaws and scooters till the street fills to capacity.  Somehow the solid mass edges and weaves forward and moves like a giant, hooting, hissing machine. The smells that waft by – diesel, burning, flowers, drains (urine!), hot spices really do assault the senses. It’s airless, clogs the nose and mouth and yet has an intoxicating  and unsettling appeal. Keep your arms in as the rickshaw zig-zags and stop-starts through; or you’ll lose one.

There are tower blocks, here – maybe 20 storeys – plenty of a/c shopping malls but the hordes of moving people, the choked and heaving streets (let’s not forget the cattle!) ensure you can’t forget you are NOT in a sterile, controlled western city.  Every other building holds a restaurant of some kind, and a mobile phone supplier.  I watch with heart in mouth, as telephoning pedestrians (and I) skip between the twisting traffic to cross the road, jumping the cracked and broken paving that could funnel us down into the street-side sewer system in a second. There would be no point in holding your breath then!

Cannot decide if I want a cold mocha (Starbucks-style) or a fresh lime and coconut refresher from the street stall. Maybe both – and a lie down.