Monday, 23 December 2013

Scenes from a family...

It’s that time of year when we are like ships in the night as we all head off to our various Christmas parties and office outings and collide only in the rush for the bathroom the following morning, pink eyed and wild haired.

So has it been this week and, now that the son also has a proper grown up job and commutes up to London every day, and daughter is home from Uni and has basically turned feral, it’s even worse.  Like this:-

Scene 1
The kitchen of Crap Cottage.  The Shah and I are battling for access to the milk in the fridge.  The Shah has not got bags under his eyes so much as feckin’ great Louis Vuitton trunks.  He has wisely obeyed the law which states “He who drinks and snores, sleeps in the spare room”.

Moi: So what time did you get home last night?
Shah:  Er, (looks shifty) about 1?  (This is known as ‘testing the water’.  The Shah regards questions like this as tricks designed to catch him out.  Which they often are.)
Moi:  Hmmmm, where did you go?  I’ve forgotten.
Shah: A Lebanese restaurant off Wigmore Street.
Moi:  Did you have a good time?
Shah: (enthusiastically)  Yep, great.  I danced with the belly dancers!
Moi:  Oh my God...
Shah:  And someone grabbed my phone and took pictures!
Moi:  FFS.

And here, chums, is the photographic evidence of which he spoke. Note the wide-ass grin on the mush of the Shah.  Note the woman in the foreground holding her face in horror.  Nuff said.

Scene 2
Our bedroom in Crap Cottage.  It is early one morning.  The Shah has once again been out until all hours the night before and once again obeyed the spare room law.  Marital relations are cordial.

Moi:  Is son up?
Shah:  That b’stard!
Moi:  Whaat?
Shah:  He woke me up last night!  (Heinous crime)
Moi:  How?
Shah:  He texted me at quarter to one in the morning! 
Moi:  (tones of disbelief)   He texted you from his bedroom?
Shah:  (outraged) YES!  And then he rang me!
Moi:  He rang you?!  What for?
Shah:  To find out why I wasn’t answering his text.  Fuckrrrrrrr!
Moi:  LOL!!

Scene 3
It is morning.  Son has been out the night before.  I know he is a big boy now but there still exists the rule that he has to text if he intends to stay out all night, otherwise I fret.  I’m his mother, it’s my job.  Anyway, son’s bedroom is empty at 7am which disturbs me and leads to the following exchange of texts:-

Me:  Please reply when you get this to let me know you are okay.  Very unimpressed....

Son: Sorry. Was on the first train home at 5am but fell asleep.  Just woke up and now I am in Havant*.  I’m having to get the train back.

It took him another two hours and an extra £16 to get home.  Not happy!

Scene 4
My mother’s flat.  I am visiting to take her shopping and out to lunch.  Mother is out to lunch in more ways than one.  I wrote earlier this year about her bad language here and, reader, things have not improved one jot.

I enter the room.  Mama does not see me as she is absorbed in trying to force her purse into her handbag, and struggling.

Mama:  Go in!  (struggles)  Oh go in!  (struggles a bit more) GO.  IN.  (gives one final, fruitless shove).  Oh well, fuck you.

Scene 5
I am at work.  My phone rings and the display shows my mother’s number.  I pick it up with great trepidation just as it goes to voice mail.  I leave it a couple of minutes and call back.

Mama:  Oh it’s you!  I just tried to ring you but I got a girl’s voice saying something.  Couldn’t tell what the hell she was on about, so I hung up on her.  Silly cow.
Moi:  Yes, that was me, mum – it was my answerphone.  It was my voice you heard.
Mama: (shocked)  It didn’t sound a bit like you!
Moi:  Oh well, never mind – what can I do for you?
Mama: (in tones of drama)  I’ve got no electricity!
Moi:  Oh dear – what’s happened?
Mama:  The lamp won’t turn on!
Moi:  Hmmmmm, Try the light switch on the wall.
Mama (sighs dramatically)  Oh okay – wait a minute. 

She drops the phone on a hard surface, practically deafening me and I can hear her shuffling across the room.  A distant, muffled voice shouts “fuck!”  Eventually, she returns.

Mama:  Yes – it’s fine!
Moi:  Well I expect it’s just that the bulb in the lamp has blown.
Mama:  Well it’s chosen a bloody funny time to go – just as I want to use it!
Moi:  Sigh.....

And I expect there is plenty more to come...

Happy Christmas one and all and thank you for reading my blog over the past year!
CQ xx
* Havant, for the benefit of my foreign readers, is on the south coast of Britain and is over 50 miles from where we live.  Haha!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Jollies in Jaipur

So here we are on the final leg of our journey.  By pure chance, we had chosen to see Jaipur last.  We arrived following a long drive from Agra, via Mathura and Vrindavan which I wrote about previously, feeling a bit jaded.  Our guide was a young guy called Sanjay who spoke the best English of all our guides and had the kind of sarcastic sense of humour that went down a treat with the Shah et moi.

Jaipur is called the pink city because, in 1876 when the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) toured India, the King of Jaipur ordered the city to be painted pink as it is the colour of welcome.  It is now illegal for the outsides of any building in the old city to be painted any other colour.  

We had heard good things about this place before got there - various friends and contacts who had visited and lived there, raved about it and we were not disappointed.  We stayed in a small boutique hotel that had been in the owner's family for generations.  It was beautifully furnished with antiques and had the most attentive staff, bizarrely attired in military uniforms.

The gates to the old city

There is just something about the atmosphere of Jaipur - it was still teeming and busy but somehow just a bit less frenetic than Delhi and less tacky than Agra.  The Rajasthani people dress in such vivid colours, the wild pinks and ochres and cyans are a feast for the senses and it seems impossible to feel sad or down in the face of their cheerful disposition despite the inevitable crushing poverty.

Spice Boy

Snake charmer!

On day 2, our guide suggested we visit the Amber Fort.  'Hmmmm' we said as forts are frankly 10 a rupee in India and we felt well and truly fortified after seeing the various offerings in Delhi, Agra etc.  But we were persuaded. 

The fort is somewhat outside Jaipur and driving towards it, I suddenly noticed this incredible building at the top of a mountain.  The walls went on for so long, it looked like the Great Wall of China from afar.  There were red blobs moving slowly up towards the mountain top but we were so far away, I couldn't tell what they were.  The driver dropped us at the bottom of the mountain and Sanjay said the magic words - "So, how would you like to get up to the top?  By car, on foot or by elephant?"  No contest!  He led us deftly to the head of the queue for elephants (it's amazing how the crowds part for a good guide who knows his way around and is familiar with all the sites you visit).  

The red blobs turned out to be the cloths on the elephants which take punters one way only, up the mountain - not down.  You stand on a raised platform - no guard rails - don't be silly - and the elephants approach.  They know exactly what to do and they shuffle into position alongside the platform.  They each have a  seat on their backs and you hop nimbly (ahem) aboard and the Mahout gives the order to giddy up or the Hindi equivalent.

Unfortunately, Blogger has now taken agin me and won't let me add captions but you can probably tell that the bottom photo is the view from our elephant and the other two are the elephants patiently waiting for their next fare.  Our Mahout was fascinated by this weirdo visiting Coconut* and his Gori** wife and spent the entire ride facing us, rather than the direction we were going in, chatting to the Shah in a mixture of dialects.  They seemed to understand each other perfectly well and luckily Pinky the elephant knew where to go without guidance, which was just as well really.

The Amber Fort - when we hopped off Pinky at the top - proved to be absolutely gobsmacking.  You all have to promise me that, if you ever get to Jaipur, you will make the effort to go there.  The Jaipuri Royal family still lives within the fort (the current King is 15 years old) and their palace is the only building in Jaipur which is permitted to be any colour other than pink - it's a beautiful golden yellow colour.

As ever, the architecture was stunning, with walls inlaid with precious gems, mother of pearl and silver:-
The photo above shows the palace of the royal family.  It's in the wrong place in this post but Blogger is a piece of sh1t and won't let me move it without deleting everything else I've written :(

The silver vessel above is the height of a man.  there are two of them on display and when the King visited England for the coronation of Edward VII, he took both of them with him, filled with holy water from the Ganges, as he refused to drink anything else.

Finally, I have to show you the Palace of the Winds.  This extraordinary building is incredibly high but only one room deep.  The royal ladies used to sit behind the screened windows and look down on everything going on in the street below.

Next time, we'll make sure we are able to stay in India for Diwali (the Hindu Festival of Light).  The city was being decorated as we left and looked stunning with every street and every building festooned with swathes of tinsel that glittered in the daylight sunshine and tiny lights which glowed at night.

Below is the house which was across the street from our hotel.  Some people just can't help but take things a bit too far!

* Coconut - I refer you to my previous post - a term I use for the Shah because he is brown on the outside and white on the inside.
** Gori - an Indian slang term for a white woman.  A Gora is the male equivalent.

Monday, 25 November 2013


Leaving the flat plains of Delhi behind, we next journeyed towards Agra with the goal (of course!) of visiting the Taj Mahal.  We had been warned that the one and only thing worth seeing there was the Taj - or as a friend succinctly put it, "Agra's a bit of a shithole, really". Consequently, we decided not to stay in Agra, but instead to rough it here in the gorgeous Laxmi Vilas Palace hotel.

Here are some photos just to make you sick.  It was cheap as chips too....

The dining room

A corner of our room
However, we don't believe in doing things the easy way and, en route, the Shah decided he wanted to stop at a place called Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh which is supposed to be the repository of family records as well as being the birthplace of Krishna and thus, very holy.

So there we are, bowling along the dusty road towards our destination - actually with no bleedin' idea at all of where we were going - we just trusted the driver with our lives - when said driver pulls into the side of the road.  In the middle of nowhere.

There was a little old bloke standing there who just hops into the passenger seat and starts chatting away to the driver in rapid-fire Hindi.  Eventually, the driver jerks a thumb at the new guy and says the word "guide".  Oh, okay then.

Shortly afterwards we were dropped off and told that the driver would meet us back in the same place a couple of hours later.  A couple of hours?  Let me tell you, we were well off the beaten track.  It was hot, it was humid, it was foetid. And one other thing.  While we never had a language problem in India, there was definitely an accent problem.  This little old guy closely resembled Popeye and had fewer teeth.  Well, actually none.  I caught about one word in 20. The Shah did slightly better by virtue of babbling in a mixture of native dialects but jeez, it was hard work.  First stop was the Govinda Dev Temple just up a side street.  

Photo credit - Wikitravel because mine was rubbish.
Built in 1590, it was an impressive sight but the guide told us that the top four storeys had been lopped off it during some unrest centuries previously. To reach it, we walked up a steep hill, the Shah hissing at me to mind where I stepped.  Open sewers ran down either side of the street and I am quite serious when I say that I can no longer look a pork chop in the eye having watched the wild pigs snacking on the sewer contents.  Yup, really.

Naturally we were asked to remove our shoes before entering.  Today, the temple is deserted by all except someone to guard your footwear against the only other residents - hundreds of monkeys. I was wearing new shoes that day and it was an utter joy to wade barefoot, ankle deep in monkey piss, then to put my nice new sabots back on...

The culprits.

After this, we were led through winding streets, past many elderly ladies begging piteously (this place is a Mecca for widows apparently) through another temple and out into a garden where, we were told, Krishna had played as a boy.  Our guide insisted on leading us all round it, barefoot once again.  Suddenly I noticed the Shah snorting with laughter and gesticulating at the bushes.  Glancing to my left, I saw a bunch of monkeys shamelessly erm, making little monkeys.  Popeye couldn't understand what we found so funny. Eventually, we were led into an audience with a Guru and asked to sit on the floor at his feet while he coughed all over us and ranted on for a bit. Then came the demands for money.  24,000 Rupees please.  The Shah laughed hysterically.  I think we got away with giving the old scoundrel 1000 Rupees which is round about ten quid.  In return, we were given some greasy biscuits which had been "blessed".  Right.  Thanks for that.  We wept with laughter later when we remembered Sanjeev Bhaskar's Guru in the TV series Goodness Gracious Me.  Like this....

So - on to the Taj.  this was actually the following day because we had decided to see it at dawn - highly recommended and second only to seeing it at the full moon, apparently.  A 4.30a.m. start *groan* meant we were well on the road to Agra by 5a.m. and reached the Taj by 6a.m. when the gates opened.

I have no adequate words to describe the eerie, ethereal beauty of the Taj Mahal looming out of the mist in the chill of the early morning.
This the first sight you get:-
It really makes you catch your breath

It is the most extraordinary place as long as you can ignore all the fat-bottomed tourists vying for a place on the bench in order to have their "Diana" shot.  Quite, quite beautiful and an astonishing piece of architecture and technical wizardry.

Unfortunately, I stood in some camel shit on the way out whilst trying to dodge yet another of the ubiquitous monkeys.  But there you go.  If there's one thing we learned in India, it's that you have to be able to take the rough with the smooth!

Last word from the Taj.  Whatever you do, do not put your leg in the Wazoo Tank....

Monday, 18 November 2013

Delhi Belly

Oh dear - it is a long time since I put shellac to keyboard, isn't it? Sorry chums - to those of you who may think I've dropped off the face of the planet and those who really don't give a f.... Apologies too to all those blog owners whose writings I normally read and comment on - something else that has been let slide. It's just that, since we got back from India, life has been like an explosion in a WTF factory (credit here to Aunty Gwen, from whom I have nicked this fine phraseology).
So, although we got home a couple of weeks ago, I have only just found time to bore you with the holiday snaps enlighten you with tales of our fascinating travels.

It has only taken me approximately 20 years of sustained nagging to get the Shah to agree to go to the land of his forebears.  'Why is that, CQ?' I hear you cry. 'Surely the Shah feels right at home on the sub-continent?'  Does he hell as like! (whoops - northern roots showing there).  The Shah is, as I like to tell anyone who will listen, a confirmed coconut.*  In fact he spent the entire holiday referring to his countrymen as "them".  QED.

Anyway, enough of him.  We decided to eschew his home state of Gujarat and instead do the 'Golden Triangle' which takes in the three most famous areas of India - Delhi, Agra and Jaipur and hold onto your hats chumlets, because you are going to hear about them all.  Don't say I didn't warn you!

So - we arrived in Delhi at dead of night.  Luckily we had arranged for a driver to meet us and take us to our hotel.  Unluckily, we couldn't find him and he couldn't find us.  Eventually, a couple of phone calls sorted this out.  The next day we had hired a guide and another driver to show us the sights.  This was probably a bit of a misjudgement because we were absolutely knackered after a 9 hour flight  and only lasted half a day in the heat and humidity before requesting to be taken back to the hotel so we could crash out.  We did manage to see some brilliant sights though:-

The amazing Red Fort 17th C home of Shah Jahan

This where the Shah used to sit to commune with his subjects

The extraordinary Qutub Minar

The names Bhond - Jamez Bhond
I should explain here that the Shah is striking a pose in the manner of a poor man's James Bond as that is what all young Indian men appear to do when having their photo taken.  It was quite bizarre.  We saw a bunch of them outside the Lotus Temple posing in such a manner that the Shah felt compelled to mutter "fack me, it's Charlie's Angels".  Sadly, we weren't quick enough to catch them on camera.

And here is the Lotus Temple. Dedicated to the Baha'i faith.

Lodi Gardens

where even the squirrels are strange...

Plenty of space yet...Notice that only Dad gets to wear a helmet.
Every lorry had 'Horn Please' painted on the back in highly colourful style.  An instruction all other drivers were only too happy to comply with!

The traffic (which I wrote about last time) was the worst we had ever encountered.  Unbelievably noisy and heavy with no regard for road rules but, oddly no road rage either.  Maybe they got it all out of their systems by incessant use of the horn?

I think I found the suspicious person.....

                                                            I suggest the 'Soundhy Harad', Shah

Delhi was great and really interesting but we were keen to move on after three days and head off to see Agra and the Taj Mahal.  Well, it would have been rude not to.

*Coconut - a pejorative term I like to use for the Shah (one of many) indicating that he is brown on the outside and white on the inside.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Driving Delhi-style - everything you need to know

Hello chums and greetings from the Indian sub-continent where the Shah and I are currently on holiday.  Now y'all know how much I like to offer the odd public service announcement and today is no exception.  Just I case any of you are ever, stupid, brave enough to consider driving in Delhi (or in any other city here) what follows will tell you all you need to know:-

Q: I'm a bit worried about finding my way around.  What if I take a wrong turn?
A: No problem at all.  Just do a U turn anywhere you like! Anytime you feel like it. Make sure to sound your horn while you do so.

Q: But what about oncoming traffic?
A: Don't  be a wuss. Just turn straight in front of it and make sure to sound your horn as you do so.

Q: But what if I'm on a dual carriageway? 
A: Then you have 2 options.  Option 1 - drive over the central reservation (NB you may have to make several attempts to get up there, but just keep slamming the car at it - it'll work eventually and constantly sounding your horn will help).  Option 2 - just turn round in the road and drive against the oncoming traffic. Simples! Oh, and make sure to sound your horn.

Q: I have to transport quite a lot of people and I only have a moped.  What to do?
A: I see you're one of those pansies who thinks a moped is a 2-man transporter?  Hahaha! What's your problem? Cram 'em on.  6 is a nice round number but don't forget the fuel tank provides a handy extra seat and 7 is a lucky number, innit?

Q: How many lanes are there on the average Indian road?
A: How many would you like? The concept of "lanes" is deliciously old fashioned and somewhat academic.  We find it helpful to drive astride any white lines that the authorities may have misguidedly painted on the road.  Keeps us going in the right direction after all! Today I counted 9 vehicles abreast at the traffic lights.  I think there were 3 lanes painted on the road but, meh - whatever.

Q: Do traffic lights operate the same way in India as in the UK?
A: I'm not sure how the UK uses traffic lights but here in India, they certainly look pretty and help decorate some of the more squalid areas.  They also add to the Diwali festivities. I can't think of any other reasons why we have them, tbh. 

Q: How heavy is the traffic, on average?
A: That rather depends on how you define 'traffic'.  Do you just mean cars or do you include the following, any of which might be in the middle of a busy motorway at any time? Cows, tractors, carts, donkeys, camels, pigs, dogs (numbers of legs vary, so some move faster than others), people, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, lorries, vans, cranes, oxen, deer, cycles or motorbikes?

Q: OMG! You mean all these things could be moving in the road at the same time?
A: Certainly. The only things that are in the middle of the road and don't move are trees.

Q: What emergency equipment should I carry in my car?
A: Well, a blow torch and welding equipment would come in handy for most cars...

Q: Jeez - all this has got me worried!  Any words of comfort to offer?
A: Yeah - just man up and grow a pair!  If a 12 year old can ride a motorbike, so can you!  They say you only need 3 things to drive in India - good brakes, a good horn and good luck. And they'd be right!

Monday, 21 October 2013

In which the Shah emerges victorious

The Shah is a man who has certain strong likes and dislikes in life.  He is nothing if not decisive in his opinion of right and wrong.  And one of his major bugbears is those people who insist on driving in the middle lane of the motorway when the slow lane is empty. 

Returning from the Midlands on Saturday, he came across one such. The Shah  is in the slow lane and so he pulls out into the middle and then into the fast lane in order to pass Lord Twattington, sailing along in the middle, and flashes his headlights as he does so.  His Lordship becomes enraged at this slight upon his road sense, or lack of.  As the Shah pulls back over, Lord Twattington puts his foot down and shoots past, his face contorted with rage, making a series of digital gestures which suggest that the Shah might like to become intimate with himself with a view to reproduction.  The Shah is entertained by having inspired such ire and laughs at the good Lord as he accelerates into the distance.  

Unfortunately for Lord Twattington, waiting round the bend was a car containing a couple of members of Her Majesty's Constabulary who, having nothing else to do, set off in hot pursuit.

As the Shah sailed past a little further down the road, doing a sedate 70mph, he smiled and waved at his Lordship.  Sadly, his greeting went unanswered as the good Lord was busy explaining himself to PC Plod at the time.

It was one of those small victories that just delights the heart and it absolutely made the Shah's day.

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Rover's Return

No, this is not some Coronation Street themed post featuring the travails of Rita, Gail and the comatose Nick (how can they tell the difference?)

No - the rover I am referring to is the darling daughter who returned home for the weekend no more than 2 weeks after we last said goodbye.  Of course, she came home for a party, not to see her aged parents or her (now gainfully employed)  brother - don't be daft.  Still, it was remarkable the change that a scant fortnight of living away from home had wrought.

On the first night, I found her in the kitchen stroking the dishwasher and crooning.  Slightly perturbed, I asked what she was up to.  "It's just that I miss the dishwasher so much," she replied wistfully.  "I never appreciated it until now!  And mum, the house is so CLEAN!"

Later on, she admitted that I was right about one aspect of domesticity.  And that is that there is a distinct difference between cleaning and tidying.  I am in the habit of tidying up the night before the cleaners come.  The children have always derided me loudly - "Why are you cleaning when the cleaners are coming tomorrow?  You're so old/dumb/mad/loony," (perm any one from 4). Fruitlessly, I tried to explain that I want the cleaners to clean not tidy up, but the howls of derision drowned me out.

Now, lo and behold!  She is transformed and proudly demonstrated to her brother that this area is untidy, while this is dirty.  He looked so interested.

The bit that really made me laugh was her disgust that her flatmates can't tell the difference between a tea towel and a hand towel.  "It's revolting!" she cried indignantly.  "They dry their dishes on the hand towel and they dry their hands on the tea towel.  I had to sit them all down and explain it to them!" 

I bet she was popular.  I don't care.  Somewhere along the line, some of my incessant nagging went in and stuck.  I can die happy!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Unification part 2

Some years ago, the alert amongst you will recall that I wrote about the great joy of seeing elder child off to Uni.  Somehow, three years have flashed past and it is the turn of not-so-tiny daughter to fly the nest.

If I thought he was bad at getting himself organised, she was so, so much worse.  Her idea of preparation was to a) spend most of the summer either nipping from Festival to Festival or b) island-hopping in Greece or c) spend what little time she stayed at home, out clubbing till 5am.  Every night.

24 hours before leaving, she had still not packed and was asking questions like "Am I getting a student loan?"  Me: "you applied for one, didn't you?"  Her (disinterested voice) "Dunno.  Can't remember."

On the day, I sent the Shah out to top up the tyres on the car, seeing has how it was going to be carrying an extra 3cwt of crap several hundred miles. He came back to glumly announce that one of the tyres had a "dimple" in it. Several minutes of stressful shrieking followed, mainly from moi and mainly along the lines of "what the fuck does that mean?  Speak English FFS!"  What it turned out to mean was that we needed a new tyre pronto but there was no way to get one on a Sunday morning.  We had a v-e-r-y s-l-o-w drive to Uni.
Daughter posed nicely for a picture in the car before we left, putting on her best smile for blogging purposes, comme ca:-
With Marmite Toast in hand..
But chums, I have to tell you that this was the reality...
Mardy as...
We got there and hauled all her possessions up to the 5th floor of her Halls of Residence - thank God for lifts.  We all queued nicely and patiently while one family (who had brought mum, dad, undergrad daughter, three smaller siblings, two uncles and a Granny) took up all the space and got in everyone's way.

I shared a lift with one dad who said grimly "I reckon I need to do one more trip up there and that's it and we'll BE FREE and we can go and CELEBRATE!!"  a feeling echoed by 99% of the parents there, I'll bet.

Her brother was on holiday in Corfu with his girlfriend at the time and insisted on sending us thoroughly irritating pictures like this:-

Damn his eyes!

So I retaliated with the view from Daughter's new bedroom window in the pouring rain....

Yes - a lovely car park and, in the distance, ASDA, Halfords and Maccy D's. We went to CHAVDA to stock her up with food etc.  Somehow, we spent £183. God knows how this happened, given that everything there costs an average of 25p.  The Shah was very, very unhappy.

Still, she seems to have settled in well.  The house is much quieter and much, MUCH tidier but also much emptier without her.  Her room looked like the traditional tip when we left her and, of course, she has discovered that she's left half her life here "OMG I forgot my straighteners!  How soon can you come and visit me?!"

Nothing changes!