Thursday, December 23, 2004

Seasonal India Photo


3 wise men, SNC
Originally uploaded by rachie_sparrow.
I'm very proud of this photo. It's possibly one of the best I've ever taken. And it could be Christmassy - 3 wise men - so, Ho Ho Ho!

Tequila sunrise

8.30am: The orange glow of a streetlamp creeps in through the curtains. It becomes apparent that the annoying buzzing of the alarm clock is not going to go away. Our heroine rolls over, falls off the mattress and awakes to the din of a brass band marching inside her head.

She vaguely remembers staggering to bed at the ungodly, unsociable hour of 4.30am, after being bitch-slapped by a psycho-queen, and then engaging in conversation with a friend's father. Without slurring. Very surprising, as our heroine had consumed a rather large amount of alcohol, some proportion of which was knocked back with salt and a slice of lemon earlier in the evening.

With some effort, Rachie (for it is she) gathers up her remaining brain cells, heaves herself off the mattress and staggers upstairs to dip her aching face in cold, cold water. Bravely, she enters the living room. In the gloom, it is apparent that there are two people ensconced under a duvet. Her high heels clump over the bare boards. "Bugger off. It's too early for visitors". The voice of the host rises through the duck down, and emerges, muffled, into the dawn. "Shut up, you bastard. I have to go to work", retorts our heroine, desperately seeking her coat and scarf so that she can take her tequila-sodden liver out into the morning, and drag it, screaming, to the office.

Suddenly, another head rears from the sea of duvets (our heroine has had to sleep under an old sleeping bag). "Good morning Flatmate", she cheerily chimes [mutters in the tones of the undead]. "Urgh", replies Flatmate, and puts her head back under the duvet.

I must go now, and begin my intravenous coffee drip. Thank you, and goodbye.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Its a long long road...

OK. Breathe. We're staying at the Hilton in Delhi, because the hotel we were booked into is clearly a brothel, as well as obviously being in close proximity to a mosquito* breeding centre from which the entire mosquito population has escaped. This being high season, the Hilton is the only hotel with rooms. Bummer.

Today is the first day that we've stopped moving for over a week. We've taken 6 internal flights, one overnight train and several extremely long car journeys. I've seen all over India, from Mysore to Calcutta, and beyond. Yesterday we were in the terrorist hotspot of Guwahati in Assam - there are no words to describe the beauty of this place, and the poverty. Guwahati is a town of 1.1 million people, 20,000 of whom are child labourers. I met one of them - a 15 year old boy with cornea problems who worked in a tea-shop. His ambition, now that he can see, is to open his own tea-shop in a couple of years. He is the only breadwinner in his family. His father can't speak, his mother has too look after his two younger siblings. The day before we arrived, the tea-shop burnt down.

I've met some inspirational people as well. In Andhra Pradesh, we visited a school and hospital set up by a man who lost his wife and two young children in the sabotaged Air India crash in 1985. He came to Kakinada, where his parents in law lived, and started a school for working children. Now there's a school for over 100 kids, and a truly impressive eye hospital.

In Mysore, we met a group of doctors who, disenchanted with the money-obsessed environment of modern medicine, moved to a widly remote area 20 years ago in order to provide healthcare to displaced tribal people. They've knit themselves so tightly into the community that even if they wanted to leave they couldn't. They run two schools for tribal children, together with a health centre providing free and subsidised healthcare to anyone who needs it.

I'm in awe.

Will have to go on about the gift extravaganza later. Suffice to say that I will have to leave the enormous hats, brass prayer offering plates and large carved wooden rhino out of my luggage on the trip home. Honestly, you couldn't have put together a collection of less portable stuff for as welcome gifts for the weary traveller.

Also, we spent the last two days in the back of a car with a guy who believes that to speak to someone on a mobile phone, you have to shout as if you are trying to convey urgent messages across the alps. My eardrums have suffered, but they will find their reward in heaven.

Adios my friends. I'm going shopping.

*I have discovered that I am allergic to mosquito bites. I happened to get bitten while visiting the hospital in Mysore, and my arse swelled up into giant lumpy boils. Had to have an antihistemine shot in the bum, which knocked me out for a good two hours.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Praise be!

We arrived. We didn't fall out of the sky or crash into anyone else. The check in procedure at Terminal 4 was so shambolic that we almost missed the flight, despite arriving at the requisite time, but that's BA for you. No time to do any lovely duty free shopping. Only a mad dash to the gate, and an undignified scramble into my seat as I had to climb over the snoring gentleman in the aisle seat to get to it.

Still, once we were safely catapulted skywise, I had my fill of bloody marys, and managed to watch 3 and a half rubbish films; an achievement of which I feel justifiably proud.

Apart from that, I haven't seen much yet, apart from some sacred cows chewing the cud in the airport carpark and some very dodgy driving.

This is my last day of freedom before I'm launched into a whirl of journeys and meetings. It's not very hot, but the sun is out. I'm going to go and lie by the pool.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Spelling wasp

I have discovered a new obsession. I went round to see my friend last night - she lives just round the corner from me, and has the most adorable 2 year old daughter, who I wish was mine. Not that I'm broody or anything. Much.

Anyway, after The Adorable One had gone all grumpy and been taken off to bed, my friend showed me this new game. I spent the next half an hour regressing back to my childhood fights over Killer Gorilla with my brother, and desperately trying to co-ordinate my pressings of 1 and 2 to get the right answers. We were weeping with laughter by the time we gave up, but I'm buggered if I can get more than about 35. I will keep trying until the day I die. I will not be beaten on spelling! It just isn't going to happen I'm afraid.

I've not been playing today, which accounts for my non-appearance on the scoreboard (there could be no other reason), but once I'm ensconced safely at my mum's over Christmas, it will be war. Oh yes. You mark my words.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Animal Magic

I’ve been thinking a little about the animals that we share our urban jungle with. There are two events that made me think of this recently:

·BF and I found a dead mouse outside his house at the weekend, which I nearly stepped on.
·Someone today at work, clearly in the grip of mid-week hysteria, has asked why we never see baby pigeons.

The clear answer to the last question is that it’s because they emerge, fully formed, straight from hell. Tom, who sits opposite me, suggested that they creep up through the paving slabs at night, when no-one is looking. I think that this is more than plausible.

Anyway, the baby mouse reminded me very much of one that fell asleep in the toe of my roller-boot when I was ten. Unfortunately for the mouse, I didn’t know it was there until, after a strenuous session of roller-booting at the youth hut in the next village, I reached in to extract what I thought was a sock from the end of it and my fingers encountered damp fur. Nice.

On another occasion, early in the morning, I was attempting to rescue a mouse from being eaten by one of my family’s five cats. Picture the rustic scene – junior Rachie, clad in a fluffy dressing gown and clutching a piece of toast, dances around in front of the warm aga in her bare feet, attempting simultaneously to make the cat drop the mouse, and to shoo the cat from the room. Unfortunately, the cat dropped the mouse in the exact spot that my left foot was about to occupy. I’ve not been able to hear the word ‘squish’ since without thinking of that fateful morning, and the feeling of mouse between my toes.

I don’t really know why I’ve felt the need to relate my mouse-murdering past. Perhaps its my looming plane journey – I need to confess all my misdemeanors to someone…
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