Hiding In Your Cupboard

Hiding In Your Cupboard
Banksy's desecration of the Palestinian wall

Tuesday, 31 July 2007


I have finally met the Prime Minister. Frankly it was about time... even then we were separated by a glass door panel. I was three minutes away from a face to face meeting, possibly even a handshake. However, at the last minute I was turfed out of the waiting room (for the second time), to make way for Helen and her “people”. Despite this I managed to catch Helen’s eye – and there was certainly an exchange: an exchange between political rebel and political stalwart.

Why am I referring to myself as a political rebel – I hear you ask? Well, on the same day that I met Helen Clark – I learnt that the New Zealand government had agreed to the filming of Parliamentary sessions but in exchange had outlawed the use of images of parliament or MPs being used to “satirise, denigrate or ridicule”. What a bunch of children! I thought Mr Blair was a bit of a scaredy-cat when he tried to describe the media as a Feral Beast – but this takes the biscuit. The TV companies have said that they are going to ignore this ban but the crime is a serious one – laughing at a politician while using an image of him in Parliament (i.e. actually being a politician) puts a person in contempt of parliament which is an imprisonable offence.

One politician virtually cried when a reporter described him as “examining the insides of his eyeballs” when he was caught asleep. He claimed that journalists weren’t funny and that they should consider a different career if they wanted to be comedians. Ironically enough for the politician if the comment isn’t funny it doesn’t meet the criteria for satire or ridicule and whether such a comment could be said to denigrate someone is fairly dubious. So it seems that as long as journalists remain tacitly humourless they can say anything they like.

I.e. it is permissible to say:

Politician A is a liar who is responsible for the deaths of many innocent people.

But not:

Politician A smells of Poo.

This leads us, prima faeces, to the conclusion that Politicians would rather be known as mass murderers than smell of poo.

This arrogance on the behalf of the politicians makes clear their dim view of the general public. Why are Blair and the New Zealand government so concerned about their portrayal in the media? Essentially, because the message they are trying to communicate via the media is often torn to shreds by the time it gets to the electorate. Blair complains that he has tried to convey the facts via other forms of media (i.e. his website, carrier pigeons, Morse code and smoke signals) but to no avail. This is bollocks – Blair and governments world-wide have made only perfunctory attempts at embracing an alternative media that scares the wits out of them because they struggle to control it (Blair is a famous, and strangely self-congratulatory technophobe – which is fairly shameful for a leader of one of the richest countries on the world).*

When they get upset at the media’s treatment of their press releases they are essentially upset because they want the media to act as their direct mouthpiece with little or no comment. They fear that the general public are essentially too stupid to read through the lines and make their own analysis.

If they are so concerned about straightforward “FACTS!!!” being communicated to the public (which they are strangely reticent about when it comes to issues such as cash for honours, invisible weapons of mass destruction or accurate rates of inflation and unemployment) they should take the responsibility of publishing them themselves and then we can all breathe a sigh of relief and tear them to shreds anyway as they will probably be doctored beyond any sense.

I could write for ages on this subject but I fear a rant coming on so will stop myself here.

I have procured another, slightly better paid job for the next few months. One problem… I have to start at 7am. Starting at 7am is for morons… the sort of people who say things like “you wouldn’t recognise hard work if it punched you in the face” or “twenty pounds!!! You were ripped off mate. If you had driven up to Hastings, got on the 32 bus, got off at Wimpole, swum through a Ford, jogged up a mountain, scratched out your eyeballs with a feather and then eaten your own appendix you could have got that for 19 pounds.”. You know the type – inevitably a bit ruddy in complexion, simple in the eyes and prone to laughing at the wrong bits. They quite often get to work early for seemingly no reason whatsoever except for the fact that they don’t have the concentration span required for sleep.

So I’ve been lumped with that entertaining lot. I can’t wait to become a student again and then get a relatively interesting job.

Jayne’s job however, is much better. She has met a lot of her caseload now and it seems pretty interesting. The lengths that people are able to go here for children who are having difficulties put the UK to shame. I can’t go into too much detail though as most of what she does is confidential.

Jayne’s first school meeting provoked much merriment. After walking in to the room and introducing herself in a professional manner she stepped on what turned out to be the school dog.

In all seriousness the head-teacher said:

“I can see the school dog playing a really important role in the speech therapy you are delivering.”

In what sense?

“I’m very sorry I am unable to make my appointment today but Rover here, he’ll take charge. He can’t fucking speak but that’s no matter nor can the children.”

Anyway – I have to scoot.

Hope everyone is well.

Lots of love

Jayne and James x

* Blair has said that he is going to use his early retirement to learn how to text message. Come on Tony, my Gran can send Text messages it requires the simple skill of pressing a button and reading. Surely you can read and press buttons Tony?

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Whoops forgot to post this bit - start of blog 24/6/7

Apologies for the unreasonable length of time since the last update of this blog. Jayne and I have been extremely busy trying to avoid being unemployed and homeless. With these two objectives now achieved, I feel its appropriate to take half an hour paid leave from my Temp job to cover the last few weeks.
Our week in Sydney was short: perhaps too short… for me the end of a period of travelling is always quite poignant. You can’t help but think of all the things you may have missed or whether you could just throw everything to the wind and spend the rest of your life traipsing round, scraping the bottom of your rucksack for change or socks. A life without routine can either be extremely fulfilling or extremely frustrating. The last minute decision to jump on the next train to nowhere compared to the realisation that you have missed sun rise at the Taj Mahal/Angkor Wat/ Great Wall of China because you lost track of time/ overslept/ got engrossed in your book. The proximity of New Zealand and a tightening of funds magnified the prospect of a return to routine and brought with it feelings of panic mixed with converse feelings of relief.
We were able to stay at our friends Jen and Ben’s place in Sydney, who, as it turned out, lived in the building next to the Palladium in Pyrmont. Four years ago, myself, Pat, Adam and Charlie rented a flat here and stayed for about six months.
On an exciting note of reunion I managed to track down my good friend Hannah Roughvie who went to York University with and also travelled Asia with me. I hadn’t been in contact with her for about four years and somewhat flukily managed to get in touch a couple of days before we arrived. Hannah arrived in Sydney about three months after I did (four years ago this is) armed with a school rucksack, a duty free bag full of Marlboros and about 200 quid to her name. She then proceeded to stay at my flat (invited of course) and work as a fishmonger.
Now though, she is well on the way to becoming an Australian resident, manages a home for disabled adults and is expecting a baby sometime soon. She has the dubious honour of being my first pregnant friend (being the first that is not that it is dubious for her to be pregnant – she seems over the moon about it and I have no doubts that she’ll be a really excellent mum).
Jayne and I have carried on mine and Patrick’s habit of doing ridiculously silly things while checking in at airports. On our way out of Sydney we were convinced that we would be able to print a copy of our New Zealand visas at Sydney Airport.
On arrival we were told that there were no printers at Sydney Airport.
The international Airport of one of the most important cities on Earth doesn’t have a printer. They sell plates of oysters (who in God’s name eats oysters before a flight?), and you can buy a pair of Gucci heels but you can’t print anything… anywhere.
Consequently, when we presented at New Zealand immigration I was slightly worried that we might be refused entry (seeing as we had a single ticket, were short of the required amount of money to emigrate by about 2000 and had no evidence at all of being in possession of a valid visa). I didn’t help matters by saying that we had arrived from “Symbmy… yeb, thabs it Sybmy” as my throat went a little dry.
Fortunately, after routinely asking us whether we had jacked up heroin in Vietnam (and us correctly saying no), the immigration officer let us through without seeing any documentation at all. He gave us a year long stamp and that stamp is the only thing that any employer has bothered to look at since I have been here. They have no idea about my work status… I could be planning to bring down New Zealand by subtly undermining their bureaucracy. It could happen NZ… one illicit shift in a café could be enough to bring your entire economy down… watch out.
Our first couple of days are spent in the centre of Auckland which I feel was a disappointing start for Jayne. Auckland has to have one of the least inspiring city centres in the world. Wolsey Place and the Peacocks in Woking have more charm and slightly better clothing shops (you’ve got your Madhouse, your Olympus Sports, your Burtons and the Next Sale that sees hordes of tragic mid-thirties wannabee Bridget Jones’s cueing from Dawn to get their hands on that pencil skirt made from 40% polyester by a blind, 2 year old monopod in China using a spoon and some spit). It is Aucklands suburbs that really give the city its character.
You have districts like Ponsonby and Parnell: wide avenues lined with trendy shops, excellent cafes and restaurants and reasonably trendy cocktail bars. Then K Road with its all night club venues, dirty gig venues, vintage shops and proliferation of cheap sushi. Further out you get places such as Mission Bay which are near to the water and are laid back and pleasant to stroll around and have a good nightlife. Unlike any other city I have been to, Auckland is littered with excellent restaurants. On my street alone there are three restaurants that would possibly be classified as one star Michelin restaurants. They are also fantastic value – the best restaurant here charges about 40 pounds for its Menu Degustation – 8 courses of foodie heaven and only another twenty eight pounds for a quality wine to match each course. As soon as Jayne and I are rolling in it I shall update those who are culinarily motivated with some reviews.
We eventually, and perhaps short-sightedly, find shelter lodging with a little old lady called Marilyn. She is the owner of an extremely hungry Pointer called Hetty. So hungry indeed, that when I left some frozen chicken in a bowl to defrost I was not unsurprised to find Hetty hiding under a duvet shivering combined with a mysterious absence of my chicken.
Marilyn lives next door to a chap called Ron Davies. Ron is very gay, although it was news to Marilyn, and also used to present the Kiwi news. Jayne met him first and was told that he was writing a novel. When she asked him what it was about he replied egnimatically that it was about “an extremely disturbing incident involving himself and a professional rugby player which he couldn’t possibly go in to at that very moment”. I have met him just the once. He was helping Marilyn paint the front of her house and spotted me leaving with a couple of DVDs that I was returning to the shop.
“Hello lad,” he said. “What have you got there; porn?”
It was a bit like Jon Snow asking you if you you’re a legs or a tit man. Marilyn chimed in…
“Porn. I didn’t know they rented out porn at that shop.”
Being fully confirmed as not only a watcher of porn but the flagrant type who rents it from public video stores and then flaunts it in peoples front gardens was a little unsettling but neither of them seemed to mind very much.

Sunday, 1 July 2007


My career as a hard hitting news journalist took its first teetering steps this Friday as I spent an evening at TV New Zealand’s offices courtesy of Janet, the producer Jayne and I met a couple of weeks back.

The building is a white affair situated next to the hypodermic Skytower (a vertical lollipop of tacky bars, glitzy casinos and a pretty decent theatre). Slightly nervous, I tried listening to the Libertines to gee me up before I met Janet. Unfortunately, the reception staff were unable to find her so I soon found myself sitting in the recording studio waiting room with the shows guests.

The show I had come to see is called “Eye to Eye”, it’s a topical debate programme with a focus on Maori affairs and is hosted by Willie Jackson, a lugubrious and combative interviewer with a compensatory bald pate. The set up is simple, Willie in the middle, Maori’s on the left and Pakeha on the right. In comparison to Australia, where the relations between Aborigines and settlers are excruciatingly embarrassing, relations between Maori’s and Pakeha are relatively cordial. There are however, some stresses but New Zealand seems to play these as a strength. Things aren’t perfect but in my opinion New Zealand is a good example of how a multicultural society can survive; its willingness to debate the issues of race frankly and honestly removes their taboo and enables real change or action in a way that the two opposing facets of political correctness and voluntary racial segregation never will.

Before Janet arrives a camp production assistant waves me in and invites me to sit down. The guests are already there – helping themselves to a corporate cheese platter (they always contain that mysterious pale white cheese with a green wax coating; origins unkown) and sandwich selection (with obligatory and much-hated seafood cocktail (two words that should never be combined – not even in the murkiest depths of Hell, other contenders: crab stick)).

The guests introduce themselves to me, confident that I know them. Unfortunately I don’t so I have to assume a look of ever increasing mild astonishment as I shake each hand.

A Maori lady who looked to be in her sixties implored me to eat the food. Consequently the first few minutes of my career in journalism were spent eating spicy chicken legs.

Janet soon arrives and whisks me away to watch the news being recorded live. The room is just as one would imagine, an impressive bank of television screens fronted by an imposing, Maginot line of technology. The news team busily count in various different reporters and cue prerecorded interviews and graphics etc. Janet introduces me to Tate Urale – the producer, who offers me a beer and tells me to ring him for some experience. (YAY!)

Next I see a few offices and the Newsroom (where the news is received and stitched together). It is a Friday and there seems to be much opening of wine and beer, journalists seem to perch on their desks like chicks eager to fly into Auckland's after work bars.

Next I watch the debate, which interestingly enough, turns out to be on immigration. Awkwardly enough, it turns out that the Maori lady, the leader of the Maori First Party, is against the current level of immigrants from white countries (her argument being that they were restricting opportunities for Maoris – I have no facts to bolster either side of this argument so I won’t bother expostulating). I wondered if she was annoyed at offering me the spicy chicken wings after hearing my Anglotwang (my new word readers). Perhaps that small amount of sustenance was all I needed to avoid starvation and thrive on this Island restricting others from attempting to get a career in writing.

The guests on the Pakeha side of Willie included the rather maverick Minister for Immigration who sported a funky leather jacket. This garb would be worn with a mountain of self-consciousness by any British politician (think Hague in a baseball cap or a lank haired Blair twiddling with an out of tune guitar); but this guy pulled it off. Not completely, but perhaps in the way that Harrison Ford might just pull off the next Indiana Jones movie.

After the debate I met Brendan, New Zealand’s leading weatherman. He is literally all smiles. I think I could have told him that his grandmother had just been died and that God had decided to give up on the weather idea (it was always flawed in my opinion) and he would have just smiled at me and said “aw shucks” like a Hanna Barbara cartoon.

After a short conversation he thrusts a bag of fresh red snapper into my hands and tells me he caught it that day in his Kayak. It was the Kiwi version of a depressed Michael Fish reluctantly proffering me a bit of his lukewarm kipper in a bygone Shepherd’s Bush greasy spoon.

Or being given a fish finger by Andi Peters.

I cooked it Thai style and bloody lovely it was too.

It was a very interesting evening indeed and to top it off Janet asked me back next week to watch the recording again. Except this time they are questioning the Prime Minister. I’ve been here 4 weeks and I am about to meet Helen Clark (big chin et al – google her Anglophiles). Any suggestions as to what I should say to her are extremely welcome.

Must scoot


PS. Amusing moments of the week so far:

Our new Irish friend pointing at my cuboid Gastro-chip exclaiming “Is that a… no it can’t be… is that a potato! Its so impressive what they’ll do with them these days.”


“Pirates of The Carribean, oh I liked it, three hours of Johnny Depp. But I didn’t understand it, far too many different storylines”.

Really… – I just remember the single pirate themed one. Perhaps by storylines she meant post-modern Johnny Depp references.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

auckland at last!

Things with Marilyn started ok. We were slightly worried that we would find it hard to make friends while living with someone so much older than us but the people here are so friendly that making friends has been no problem at all.

Unfortunately, Marilyn seems to be suffering from some sort of post-menopausal aversion to heat and insists on having all her windows open all the time, taking cold showers and not letting us put a heater on. It is winter here and quite cold especially in the morning and Jayne and I were spending most of our time in bed trying to oust eachother from the small electric blanket we were so generously provided with.

There were so many rules with Marilyn that I would inevitably forget. The sort of rules that old ladies seem to make up out of the blue to annoy people. Here are a selection of Marilyn’s rules:

Wash out all your tin cans before you throw them away.

Don’t unplug the phone charger to put your Ipod speakers in for even a minute because the phone cuts out (no Marilyn this occurs because you don’t put the phone back on the charger and also because you associate losing the call via pressing the wrong button with battery failure).

If you put the heater on open all the windows (???????????)

Make sure the blinds twist upwards not downwards.

Things came to a head with Marilyn after Jayne and I came back from an extremely entertaining Friday night. I left the kitchen door open while I remonstrated with the tirelessly inefficient folks at HSBC Bank. I unfortunately woke Marilyn up and the next day she as good as asked us to leave as “our lifestyles didn’t match”.

Fortunately enough this played into our hands as we managed to find somewhere really quickly with some really nice young people for less rent – so all is well that ends well I suppose.

Jayne and I have both had colds which has affected our hearing. We are occasionally like an old couple who’ve ended up at a rock concert. A typical recent conversation went like this:

Scene: Grungy K Road – home of Adult shops, massage parlours and gay bars.

James: Look that shop sells nipple clamps.

Jayne: What??? Nickle Lamps.


Jayne: Wicker Amps??


Jayne: Wicked Lamps

To finish this horribly long and poorly written blog entry I must mention the work we have procured. I have been doing spreadsheet stuff for Chubb Security and Vector (an electricity infrastructure company) and have currently become obsessed with budgets. Did you know that when Jayne and I both work full time we will be able to afford either 380.16 beers a month, 16.42 pairs of boots a month or 110.22 CDs a month.

Jayne has been working in a café with a lazy harridan. Fortunately she has now left and is working for a recruitment agency as their hostess. On a much better note than this though Jayne has done extremely well in her job search and has been offered two excellent speech therapy jobs. She chose the one with the company car (beat that NHSers) and will start mid-July. The managing director of the firm she worked for invited us over for Sunday lunch. Pip (for that is the ladies name) lives in a house on an Eastern Peninsula and has the most incredible view of the water and all of Aucklands islands. Her family were really nice and hopefully Jayne will really enjoy working there and maybe learn a lot about setting up her own practice in the future.

Final point I promise, if anyone is still reading. I have been attempting to network my way into a media career (so I can get on my journalism course and become the next A A Gill/Greg Palast (think Michelin starred restaurants populated by the extremely corrupt situated in the Gaza Strip)). This was always a fruitless exercise for me in Blighty, partly because networking isn’t my greatest of skills. In New Zealand though things are a completely different kettle of fish. Two nights ago me and Jayne were having a cocktail and just happened to sit next to the CEO of TV New Zealand and his wife, who is one of NZs leading journalists, I told them what my plans were and they immediately invited me round to their house, tonight, to discuss my career. How cool is that!

Right I am finally buggering off. Hope everyone is well and good.

Lots of love

Jayne and James xxx

Saturday, 2 June 2007


Me and James in Sydney

Friday, 18 May 2007

I think this ladies head has been photoshopped onto a different blouse - I can't think of any legitimate reason why.


So Hue Hue Hue... do you think you are! Do you think you are...

Events have taken a surreal turn in the charming city of Hue. Last night an electric storm lit the sky with its veiny white fingers. Today, as I stepped out of my hotel the first thing that came to my attention was a charred Vietnamese hat left on the ground - owners whereabouts unkown.

I have provided a picture of a slightly dull looking lady sporting a Vietnamese hat to bring colour to this otherwise troubling story.

This is not all though. The people of Hue have a strange fascination with the Kangaroo. The following conversations have occurred.

Slightly unnerving Vietnamese waiter: Do you know of the kangaroo.

Me: Yes - from Australia.

Waiter (leaning towards me conspiratorially): Yes they are very big - their young they raise in pouches. Do you have a pouch?

Me: No. (I amusingly unzip my pocket) I have a pocket though.

Waiter (guffawing): yes but that is for your baby wallet. Did you know they box - man and kangaroo - thats what the Australians do. And I also saw on Discovery channel that some kangaroos can fly!

Me (incredulously): no... they're far too big. Do you mean flying squirrels?

Waiter: No, Kangaroos - 300kg it weighed and it could fly.

The next Kangaroo exchange occurred with a cyclo driver on the way to the Citadel (imagine oriental ruins of the like I have described many a time before).

Cyclo driver: Do you have a coin with the kangaroo on it?

Me: No - an australian coin you mean. No sorry.

Cyclo: Are you sure... my baby collects coins (my baby collects coins?! what?). This is a very good coin.

A short pause occurs while he is silent. He pipes up again as we pass a blonde girl of indeterminate origin. He waves at her to get her attention and points at me.

Cyclo (to blonde girl while pointing at me): Look, Kangaroo. You Kangaroo too.

Cyclo (to me): You like that Kangaroo (winks).

And finally in a tour office.

Tour salesman: Do yu know the Missy Roo cafe? They sell take-away salads and fruit shakes.

Me: No.

Salesman (looking slightly crestfallen): Oh a shame... do you see my Kangaroo (points to inflatable Kangaroo of the variety carried by Aussie sports fans worldwide).

Me: Yes its very nice.

Salesman: Yes it is isnt it. The cafe they gave it to me as a present - such a lovely Kangaroo - in exchange I promote their restaurant.

Me: They pay you in Kangaroos...

The salesman just goes a little dewy-eyed and stares with longing (lust?) at his Kangaroo.

All very strange. I really haven't imagined this!

Take care

James and Jayne xxxx

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Apocalypse Nam

I write from the charming city of Hue (pronounced Hweh - like the policeman in 'Allo 'Allo). Very French, pleasantly quietish, too many shoe shops. Oh and too many hat shops also.

If Cambodia is the country of the ubiquitous pyjama Vietnam is plagued by the erroneously worn surgical mask. I presume they are to stop people taking in traffic fumes, but they seem to be worn everywhere. I think they may be paranoid about germs - I personally would spend more time cleaning the toilets than wearing a face mask.

Hmmm some sort of order please. Saigon first - more aptly described as Missed Saigon as we spent our entire time failing to get our plane tickets changed and then it rained and rained and rained. So despite going out for some drinks we spent most of the time watching old Bond movies.

In the small amount of time we did have to walk around the following observations were made. People buy nodding pigs or horses for their car rather than dogs and secondly that Vietnamese food is insane.

Completely insane.

So far we have eaten shrimp vinegar fondue (the most complicated eating process I have ever come across. Douse rice pancake in cocounut water, lay it on plate, cook prawns in vinegar, take them out of boiling vinegar with miniscule chopsticks, place on paper with fish sauce, unripe banana, pineapple, lettuce, mint and then wrap into an elegant origami style cylinder - all in the space of about thirty seconds before your pancake sticks to the plate), fiddled with rice and pork mush wrapped and steamed in banana leaves and been physically threatened with vodka marinated with cobra or more pleasantly sea horse.

There is a French influence in Vietnam stemming from their occupation of the country between 1850 approx and the Vietnamese War. Fresh bgauettes are widely available as is dark rich coffee. The coffee is actually a little disappointing - a bit too sweet. They also eat a lot of pate which is very odd for this corner of the world.

From Saigon to Nha Trang. Nha Trang is simply a beach resort, nothing of any note except some good bars and too many gap year students talking to me about how many days they have been on the sauce for. This makes me feel a little over the hill as I struggle to go out two nights in a row at the moment. Time for me slippers, pyjamas and face mask possibly.

After drinking all the teenagers under the table we undertook an arduous 14 hour bus journey to Hue, our starting point (only in a written sense). The scenery more than made up for the two hours sleep. Rolling green hills sauntering into wide blue bays. The landscape is pockmarked with colourful tombs, seemingly placed randomly, as if families all have their own morbid plots at the end of their garden - Great Uncle Albert's just past the washing line and the plastic climbing frame.

The rules and regulations of my hotel have politely asked me not to bring any radioactive material into my room. I sleep better at night knowing that there is unlikely to be any radioactive material lurking in my hotel - its a common worry. I was surprised that they let me take up my curiously deformed rucksack (its like a bag with cerebal palsy) up to my room as rule five states: no suspiciously bulky items allowed in rooms. Thank god we're not travelling with chubby lothario Russell Grant - he'd have to sleep on the stairs.

Well thats it so far. Hope everyone is well, fine and reading the Dandy.

Lots of love

Jayne and James xxx

Friday, 11 May 2007

A Phnom Penh(y) For Your Thoughts or I Didn't Use a (Phnom) Penh To Write This I Used a Keyboard

Cambodia, glorious land of pyjamas, inappropriate topiary and somehow humorous adverts dsiencouraging child prostitution.

The women here wear pyjamas everywhere (literally pyjamas - they are decorated with whimsical designs of babies sleeping and sheep leaping over fences).

The topiary is ubiquitous and seems to be done to every living plant imaginable - from hedgerows to mighty oaks!

The adverts star a little stick-pervert in a kind of comic strip. Firstly he gets on a plane, secondly he gets a hotel room holding a stick-child's hand and next we see him clinging desperately to the bars of his prison cell with an anguished stick-grimace.

We are now in Phnom Penh - Cambodia's capital city. In short - here is the report:

National Museum: Rough Guide says "take at least 2 hours to explore". Our survey says "take five minutes to walk round three hundred slightly differing statues of the Buddha".

Grand Palace: Rough Guide says "visit the glorious silver pagoda and the Royal Throne". Our survey says "spend a few minutes looking at another statue of the Buddha and then some silver floor tiles".

I am beginning to become the worlds leading enemy of idolatry.

With the sights dissappointing all that was really left to do was go out - and go out we did to the world famous "Heart of Darkness" Bar. Mad dancing with the locals ensued alongside our new Kiwi friend Carly who is heading to London in the opposite direction to us. One guy was wearing a flat cap similar to those worn by Cambodian soldiers during Pol Pot's reign of terror. International opinion (well mine and Jayne's anyway) is split as to whether he was wearing this hat through coincidence (Jayne) or in irony (James). The guide book is again slightly innaccurate when it comes to Phnom Penh's nightlife - claiming that there is an arrogant middle class youth that frequents the late night bars - Cap Guy and his friends proved to be very nice giving me free beer (not laced with rohypnol) and dancing the tango with Jayne and strangely enough myself.

The next day was wisely spent lazing in bed although we did manage to book a tour to the infamous Killing Fields.

The Fields are unsurprisingly an unnerving experience. For a start I thought the mass graves would be much bigger in size. Its horrifically surprising how many bodies can fit into one small hole. The biggest grave contained over 400 bodies all in a space 6m deep, 3m wide and about 6m long. Most people were killed with blunt instruments, children were killed by holding their ankles and flinging them into trees or throwing them in the air and piercing them with a bayonet.

There are many people still alive in Cambodia who were involved with Pol Pot's regime. Many lower ranked people have served jail sentences although Pol Pot never faced a court and died in excile in the late 90s. Its very hard to imagine how these people must feel now - they were after all victims themselves of coercion and brainwashing (soldiers who refused to kill dissenters etc were executed themselves along with their families). I wonder whether they have a detachment to it, live in a state of shock or still believe in their actions. In all it is estimated that about two to three million people were killed and the vast majority of the population is now under the age of 25.

Next door to the Killing Fields site there is a school and the cries of the children float over the graves. Thunder cracks and the clouds draw in and suddenly we find ourselves talking about affable Irishman Ronan Keating as he is performing in Phnom Penh tonight (as if Pol Pot wasn't enough!). The whole scene is fairly bizarre and I find myself making the guide laugh when i tell her I don't like Boyzone.

We are now in Vietnam and although the topiary and pyjama wearing has sprung up again like Rocky in the final rounds, we haven't done anything of note yet. Will fill you in when we do.


James and Jayne

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Angkor.What? Not another bloody temple!

Hi there everyone. Well after the hedonism and wild living of bangkok for a second time, we are now in cambodia the land of eerie temple ruins, land mines, child sex tourisn and apparently cultural performances of shadow puppetry.

Our first stop was Siem Reap, a city slap in the middle of the Angkor temples which seems to have developed over the past few years at a phenonenal rate purely to support the massive influx of tourists who come here to see Angkor Wat. It's mostly made up luxury hotels, backpacker guesthouses, huge 'souvenir shops' and overpriced bars and restaurants. Even though it sounds awful there's something really pleasant about the place. Maybe after the 15 hour journey from Bangkok which included 7 hours driving on the worst road imaginable in a bus that had definately seen better days any place would seem pleasant?

Anyway along with 15 million japanese tourists we decided to buy 3 day passes to really explore angkor. It really was amazing to see Angkor Wat and the hundreds of other fascinating temples in various stages of ruin. The temples were only "discovered" by the western world in the early 1900's but they are so steeped in history and myth that walking around inside the huge temple complexes made me feel as though I was stepping back in time. So different to seeing exhibits in a museum. The experience was slightly marred by the crowds of tourists and being mobbed by aggressive children who desperatly competed with each other to sell you a cold drink. These kids could speak 4 or 5 languages but never went to school and had no understanding of what they were saying but would repeat phrases like "maybe later","lovely jubbly", and even sing beatles songs at you. Cute until you wouldnt buy anything from them and then...Ive never been given such daggers!

After getting up at sunrise to visit Angkor and sated with culture, the afternoon was pleasantly spent lazing by a pool side bar owned by an alcoholic ex soldier. As we were his only customers he thought it best to sit and get sloshed whilst lecturing us on the ways of army life and giving us a bitter diatribe about the unfairness of the lonely planet guide. We ended up sneaking out as he stared morosely into space.

From Siam Reap another sticky, bumpy bus ride brought us to Phenonh Penh the capitol of Cambodia. Phenonh Penh ticks all the boxes for an Asian city (pollution, road side food stalls, suicidal tuk tuk drivers, cheap beer and food) but has an unmistakable European feel to it. The buildings are very colonial and the baguettes are very French. I could quite happily wile away a few days here drinking coffee and watching the world go by but being a diligent traveller decided to "do the sights". After a day sightseeing we thought we would reward ourselves with a couple of drinks. A "couple of drinks" turned into dancing till half three with the rich kids of Phenomh Penh to cheesy disco and even cheesier R&B...I dont know if they watch alot of MTV here but those kids can dance! They put mine and James's drunken attempt at a tango to shame (or maybe we did that ourselves!) Anyway the hangover the next was not pleasant and I dont think visiting the National Genocide Museum was the best idea.

More to come soon on the Killing Fields, and general Cambodian pursuits.

love Jayne xx

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

new photos!!

Hello new photos can be seen at


James and Jayne

Koh take a walk!

Once again Bangkok languishes in Holiday while I am here - which results in raucous nights and lazy days as everything (conveniently enough for my hangover) is shut.

I think we were about to go sea kayaking the last time I wrote. It was a pleasant trip through mangrove swamps and hungry monkeys (enticed by our pineapple bait). My navigation skills left something to be desired though as Jayne and I quite frequently found ourselves propelled at speed into unsuspecting trees.

From here we were advised to go to Koh Lanta rather than Koh Phi Phi - as it is supposedly less touristy and more picturesque. Unfortunately when we arrive there the place is deserted and the food terrible (so unusual in Thailand) so we decide to just spend a night there. A relatively uneventful evening was enlivened when we met Su, a Thai man whose English name is apparently Jayne. He has very good English and informs us that he went to University to study Leisure and Tourism. In Thailand this seems to be a very different degree to the drop out subject in England. Tourism is Thailand's major industry so a degree in Tourism is very important. The teaching of the degree is somewhat dubious though as they seem to make people cling to social stereotypes - for instance Su told us that if he met an English person he would be told to say:

"Oh I love the Queen's English" and to offer us an imaginary discount.

American: "oh your country is so big!"

Irish: "The irish people are so witty but I am sure you enjoy a drink yes?"

Japanese people will apparently buy anything and never barter and German people never buy anything always believing that they can get it cheaper and better elsewhere.

Su was also surprised that he would not stand out in England because of the colour of his skin which he wished was paler. Something many people in India were surprised about.

From Lanta we moved on to Koh Phi Phi which i suppose provides one with the archetypal vision of Thailand. Azure sea napping white soft sand. This does come at a cost - Koh Phi Phi seems to be about three times as expensive as anywhere else.

Koh Phi Phi was the most affected place in Thailand after the Tsunami. On the main road in the tourist resort there is a Banyan tree wrapped in yellow ribbons which serves as a memorial - the Thai people bow to it as they walk past. Some of the damage is still apparent - some buildings haven't been rebuilt where people have run out of money. There are some photos of this on the blog.

One bar stays open late on Phi Phi - the Reggae Bar. Each night they encourage drunk tourists to fight in their boxing ring for free drinks. The men fighting really went for eachother - it was quite sad watching these two men start fighting as a joke but then start to seriously hit eachother as everyone else looked on and cheered.

From Phi Phi to Ao Nang on the mainland where Jayne and I had to take it easy due to funds. We spent one day in bed watching films and contemplated staying there for the rest of the trip and just making up the rest of it!

In Ao Nang the sex industry is very apparent. As usual Jayne and I accidentally ended up in a bar in the Red Light District and we were mobbed by Thai "bar" girls trying to drag us into their establishment. I am quite torn on this subject - as to its rights and wrongs. Ideally, I don't think any women should have to work in the sex industry but the problem here is not as black and white as it would seem.

Many men come here because they are old and feel unwanted in Europe where they are thought of as 'past it'' and unattractive (there is nothing quite as excrutiatingly embarassing as seeing a man over the age of 50 trying it on (and failing) with the new 18 year old bar girl at his local pub). Here, although they are of course paying for this feeling, they feel wanted and useful, there is a greater deal of respect for older people in Thailand than in Europe. They are obviously living a lie but it seems a lie they are happy to live with.

The funniest thing I have ever seen happened two days ago - a whore-imbibing-gentlmen (as I like to call them) had obviously run out of steam with his personal girl of choice and resolved to take her out in a kayak. I watched for twenty minutes as they went round in circles, capsizing and crashing into various rocks - he got progressively more and more red-faced and she just didn't give a monkeys - she lay back and didn't row at all, indolently dragging her manicured fingers through the water.

On the other hand some of the men are extremely seedy about the whole thing and at the end of the day, despite some sympathy (or pity) one may engender for these men, they are exploiting someone. All these exchanges boil down to lust, rejection and money so nobody comes out a winner. Throughout Asia people are forced to surrender their dignity in the name of poverty simply because Western people are a lot richer than them. Many people complain about scams and dishonesty here, but I ask you - what would you do if you had no money and were surrounded by overweight, I-pod wearing, nefariously whoring, money drizzling imbeciles. It is very easy to think yourself honest when your wallet is fat.

(As I write this (originally by hand on a bus going from Thailand to Cambodia) an American girl has just turned round to me and asked 'excuse me, do you know which of the border's we are going through?" - all fine except for the fact that she did little quotation marks with her fingers as she said borders. Now unless she sees the world as one big country and that borders are but abstract concepts I'm not sure what her little sign means. Do she not think the border is real or perhaps that Thailand and Cambodia are the same country. The border is real and its a complete pain in the arse to get through (13 different stamps in total and my passport was checked three times))

The next evening we are joined at our table outside the seven eleven (cheap beer being our motivation for this classy seat) by a Swiss man who owns a hotel in Ao Nang. He turns out to be more a fan of Thai boys than ladies and hinted heavily that he had used prostitutes before. Next we are joined by another Swiss guy who manages one of the bars in the Red Light District. He has the opinion that Thai people either can't or won't "think ahead", they live entirely for the moment and never have ambition or interest in anything further than their daily needs. This is obviously untrue and he is an obnoxious character with little foresight himself.

This trip is turning into a den of vice!

We return to Bangkok and meet Kaz - a charming Japanese guy who spent three years in London and recently tried to throw himself off a building after his girlfriend left him. After spending a night out clubbing he invites us to watch Spiderman 3 with him at the cinema the next day - I think this film might give him ideas so I advise against it.

As you know we are now in Cambodia and have seen the Temples of Angkor Wat today - however as this entry is already very long and rambling all over the place - I'll write about it later.

Hope everyone is good.


James and Jayne

Thursday, 19 April 2007


I have had something of a dicky tummy in Bangkok - ironically enough seeing as we escaped such misfortune in 'dirty' India. It may have something to do with the local whiskey though (actually rum) as many people seem to have a similar problem. Am fully recovered now and Jayne and I are residing in Krabi - soon to do some sea kayaking and make our way to the island of Koh Lanta.

As Jayne mentioned we arrived in BKK during Songkram - the Thai new year and as she also mentioned this entails a five day water fight. You can't step out of your hotel room for more than twenty seconds without returning drenched. Obviously this is good fun, but unfortunately it makes for rather poor blog entries as there are only so many times that I can regale you with an hilarious tale of throwing a bucket of cold water over some unsuspecting child. I will nevertheless attempt to describe the scene at least once - although there will be photos and soon you will be thrilled to know there will also be video footage.

Rama I is Bangkok's main thoroughfare and, due to the Thai people's real love of their monarchy, is lined with with paintings of the King and his family. Some are just portraits and others are sort of contemporary action scenes. Imagine Oxford Street lined with photographs of Charles pretending to be Camilla's tampon, Fergie sucking a millionaire's toe or Harry giving the Nazi salute and you'll have something of the opposite that occurs here.

Normally Rama I is a wide pleasant road with little traffic except at rush hour. During Songram the street is a crush of Thai's and travellers all throwing water at eachother and rubbing dough into eachothers faces.

Naturally, a few drunk English people take things a bit too far, buying supersoakers and imagining themselves as a bermuda shorted Andy McNabb, lurking behind corners and generally not following Sangkrom ettiquette - that is: dont soak any old person who isnt joining in, anyone with food or anyone who is working (with the exception of the police who take the punishment with good grace and are not impartial to giving someone a good soaking themselves).

We manage a couple of nights out which rather inevitably sees us drinking buckets: a mix of Sangsom (Thai rum) coke and Thai Red Bull (about 14 times as strong as our own diluted stuff). All sorts of exciting and mundane characters were met but the one that sticks in the mind is Enrique - a part Guatamalen, part Brazillian, part Australian with long dreadlocks and a face like Ronaldinho's. To top this off he wears a Barcelona T-shirt with Ronaldinho pasted onto the back.

His English is very good and we chat into the wee hours about him liking very tall girls, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The Office. He teaches English as a second language which is slightly worrying as he has a somewhat comic mastery of it. The funniest thing he says revolves around an amusing interlude with his exgirlfriend and her mother. His exgirlfriend's mother had been slightly flustered at the prospect of meeting her daughter's new part Guatemalan part Brazillian boyfriend and somehow came to the decision that the appropriate thing to do would be to take him to the local drag queen show in Sydney. Enrique went along, amused but unpeturbed until his girlfriend and girlfriend's mother retired to the ladies room - while left alone Enrique was approached by a gay man who asked him (well according to the way Enrique tells it - begs him in a quite extraordinarily camp manner) to buy him a drink. Enrique, although no homophobe - he insists, isn't into this and only relents to his request (and here is the coup de grace readers!) after "at least half an hour of him buggering me". I'm not sure if he saw my childish and stifled laugh but it worries me that Enrique teaches English as a second language - soon we'll all be getting extremely buggered off with all the incorrect usage.

We eventually grab gold-dust-like train tickets to get out of Bangkok and arrive at the train station dry due to cunningly taking a taxi rather than a rickshaw. We enter the station and sort out a couple of formalities and then have to stop in our tracks as the Thai National Anthem is played. As previously written - the Thai's are very fond of their King and it is actually against the law to insult him or deface his picture. Infact, a Swedish man, whose name escapes me, was recently sentenced to ten years imprisonment for defacing images of the King. The King's not such a bad chap though and pardonned the man after a few weeks. This is a law that anarchic Jayne has no fear in breaking - in the last day she has said the Queen "has put on a bit of weight" and accidentally compared the Royal family to Thailand's version of the Battersbys from Corrie.

As the anthem comes on everyone, approximately 500-700 people, stood up as one and sung their hearts out - they certainly put English footballers to shame at any rate. We take the overnight train and then a bus to Krabi - a riviera town where one can get some of the best cooked food in Thailand down at the River Market. It can be quite hard to work out how to get the best food here as there are a plethora of stalls and they are mainly used by Thai people who seem to know instinctively what they are doing. We try a couple of places and get an odd variety - some very greasy noodles, delicious garlic pork yet served in an unfeasibly small portion, a wonderfully fragrant vegetable Thai Green Curry and pork stir fried with Calare greens (a little like asparagus if it flaunted leaves rather than its customary spear) which was a fresh tasting, moreish dish.

Its low season here now so Krabi feels a little deserted, tomorrow we are going sea kayaking and my prowess as a navigator and rower will no doubt come to the fore again much as it did when I had that job ferrying BMW Bikes across the channel.

Hope everyone is feeling well and good.

Lots of love James and Jayne xxxxx

PS. The next blog may be hot on the heels of this one as I have got slightly behind schedule!

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Ad Hoc Bangkok

After a very long and uneventful 24 hour journey we have arrived safely in Thailand. The differences between India and Thailand were apparent as soon as we stepped of the plane. James kind of knew what to expect as he's a regular here but I feel as if I have become so acustomed to the way of life in India (the way of life for a couple of travellers that is) that for me it was a lovely surprise just to be surprised again.

Firstly as I approached the main taxi rank with a sinking feeling bracing myself for the expected onslaught of aggressive touts and leering men I noticed that no one was looking at me. In India I was constantly stared at just because I am pale skinned, a woman and not in a Burka. Secondly a taxi tout approached us, 'taxi sir'. 'NO' I growled at him in my 'do not mess with us we are seasoned travellers even though I dont have a clue where Im going voice'. He then smiled at us and walked of!!!! The Indian touts do not give up, they will even follow you out on to a dual carriage way without looking, all the time screeching 'very cheap price!'. I even managed to sit and have a fag outside the airport next to the taxi queue without an audience of giggling children, staring ladies and crotch grabbing men!

The second difference I noted between Thai and Indian people occured when James and I found ourselves in a bit of a pickle. James went to get some cash out of the ATM but his card was refused. We have had ongoing problems with our bank since we left the UK. No matter how many times we tell HSBC that we are in Asia and will be visitng many different countries they still insist on temporarily and always at the most inconvenient times, barring the cards. Anyway, we were stuck in Bangkok airport with no local currency, and about 20 Sri Lankan rupees to our name. If this situation had occurred in India we would have been swarmed with people trying to help, offering lifts on their mopeds to a million different ATM's, promising us the loan of their Grandma's savings and generally making our problem very much their problem. Used to this attitude of helpfulness mixed with nosiness I assumed that all we had to do was explain the problem and someone would let us use a phone to call the bank, have the block removed and reimburse them when we had been able to get money from the ATM. Nope. Emirates couldnt help us, the bank couldnt help us, the peolpe at the currency exchange couldnt help us, the lady at the 'Can I Help You Desk?' couldnt help us, infact she seemed put out at being approached. Eventually a young girl at an internet cafe took pity on frantic James and gave him her own phone card to use.

Bangkok so far has been alot of fun, the sort of fun that would not happen in India. Our last night in India was also a lot of fun, we decided to blow our budget by living it up with the Glitterati of Delhi society. The nightlife for the rich young hip things in Delhi revolves around impossibly expensive and showy hotel bars. The Delhi jeunesse all have fantastic drawling 'Hinglish' accents 'like yaar man I am thinking these tunes are rrreally hip'. The club we ended up in played a mixture of Hindi film songs (which got the dance floor heaving!) Bangra tunes and dodgy dance and trance remixes. In England it would have been terribly uncool but I have never seen so many people going for it. It was a world away from the chilled backpacker bars playing Jack Johnson for the millionth time, full of stoned Isrealis and we loved it!! I was sad to say Goodbye to India and Delhi in particular. We will definately be coming back.

So Hello Bangkok. So far we have been immersed (literally) in the Thai new year celebrations which involve huge street water fights, visited the seedy district of Patpong Market where we saw a rather half hearted sex show and eaten the best food in 2 months. More on all that soon.

Jayne xx

Friday, 6 April 2007

Goodbye India and the Coco Gokarna

We are soon to leave India. This was really brought home to me when a slightly unusual English lad, sporting a Clark Gable moustache, bundled past me out of our hotel, fixed me in the eye and said "Goodbye India". As if me entering the hotel as he was leaving the hotel meant that I was somehow arriving and he was perrenially leaving. It wasn't - I had simply left behind my wallet.

Before I get on to the subject of leaving though there are a few more tales to tell. After leaving the cliffy sanctuary of Varkala we took the train up to Gokarna. Another beach resort you will be fervently excited to hear but this one is the most deserted so far. There are only several beach shacks here and we were lucky to find one that wasn't simply a concrete altar strewn with a blanket and surrounded by the least fortuitous pigs building material of choice.

And surprisingly enough - not much happened. We met another couple called Ryan and Steph who are doing exactly the same as us (moving to New Zealand). We get on well and have invited them to meet us in Wellington for a Roast Dinner.

The only incident of note happened to Jayne. Middle aged Indian men have a nasty habit of staring at Western Girls - if they are in a bikini it drives them into some sort of pent up frenzy. Sometimes they will set next to you (well Jayne not me) and ask sexually innappropriate questions such as "Do you remove the hair on your legs for all men or for your boyfriend?" or "do women where you come from sleep with many men?". All the time trying to sneak a touch here or a touch there.

Why they think this of Western Women is of some debate. Traditionally the west is viewed (by some, especially older people) as a place with low moral standards (or broad mindedness as the pervy men like to put it!). Also the general attitude towards women in India isn't brilliant. I seem to get a lot more respect from travel agents, shopkeepers, waiters, barmen than Jayne doees which can be frustrating. There also seems to be a slightly strange attitude that men cannot help themselves if they see a beautiful, semi-naked (this being a skirt and top in India) woman and that they should either be flattered by their crotch grabing, accidental brushing and lingering stares or accept that it is their own fault for having such an outwardly licentious presence. Hollywood films don't help either as many poorer Indians view of the West is informed entirely from Film (in many cases having not met a white person before or refusing to believe that there are many Indians that live in the UK). The image of James Bond flicking his fingers and delivering some incredibly witty double-entendre before bedding a bevy of varied beauties lingers in the mind and they feel frustrated that such wanton Western women will happily bestow their charms on men from all around the world but either ignore or swat away Indians. In a sense they have a point - when was the last time you saw a lead man in a Western Film that was Indian (Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans doesn't count), when they are portrayed they are often quite geeky and the last character in the film to actually have any success with the opposite sex. This seems to cause some resentment which may acount partially for the racist bastards that approached Jayne on the beach.

As they approached her Jayne could hear them describing her as lovely jubbly etc, and then they stood over her, stared at her and said hello. Jayne said hello back but then covered herself over to which they replied "fucking white bitches all deaf and dumb" and then walked off. Unfortunately these things obviously ocur when I am not around so its hard to do anything real about it.

This attitude does seem to be largely confined to lesser edcuated middle aged men (the younger men sem to have more manners?) and that the vast majority of Indians you meet are pleasant. In fact it is not unusual to receive vociferous assistance from bystanders (women and men) if you are touched innapropriately by a stranger.

Anyway enough of this rant!

After Gokarn we took a couple of trains up to Bombay. The land around Gokarn is quite mountainous and the track burrows through several very long tunnels. In the small service gaps along these tunnels some people appear to live or at least permanently take shelter. As the train drove past one group they all leapt up in white sheets, howling into the damp air and pretending to be ghosts. Not scary as much as highly amusing.

And then Bombay once more - a city that is part London, part New York, part Bangkok. We drive past what I assume to be slums - wooden shacks painted brightly but later realise to be quite good accomadation when we notice that they have electricity and see a postman. Their children are all dressed in school clothes, which is a good sign as very poor people use their children to work or beg. We drive past the slums on the way to the airport tonight and I shudder to think how these people live.

A few amusing points to record;

The baseball capped Indian grandad who sat next to me on the train to Bombay was a Jehovahs witness and reading a copy of their magazine "Awake". He didn't pester me for cups of tea but was reading an article entitled "Youth Questions: How Can I Avoid Homosexuality?".

The bins in South India have clearly been designed by a delusionist. I presume his idea was to make them more appealing to children or generally more aesthetic so as to encourage people to use them. An animal motif was his choice and you might think that monkeys, tigers or elephants might have been suitable choices - instead he plumped for penguins. Possibly the least likely animal to find in India. As a result the streets of Bombay are littered (spot the irony?) with open beaked, sunward looking Penguins - all of whom have conspicuously empty bellies.

More excellent TV to report. To celebrate Easter one channel devoted the weekend to showing scenes of flagellation and modern crucifixion.

And finally - my new favourite sport. Sport Stacking - where teams of repressed teenagers race against the clock to stack cvups in pyramids. Its real and details can be found at:

Please contact these people if you would like to organise a competition of your own. Perhaps you could see how fast you can stack plates as well as cups - the possibilities seem endless!

For League Information:
Reach Matt Reed Executive Director of Leagues
Direct Telephone: 1-303-962-5667
E-mail: mreed@worldsportstackingassociation.org
For Tournament Information:
Reach Pola Metz Executive Director of Tournaments
Direct Telephone: 1-303-962-5654
E-mail: pmetz@worldsportstackingassociation.org
For General Information:
Telephone: 1-303-917-4171
E-mail: info@worldsportstackingassociation.org
Fax: 1-303-962-5650
Address:P.O. Box 260526; Highlands Ranch, CO 80163-0526

Keep stacking

James And Jayne

Saturday, 31 March 2007

There aint no Vikings in Varkala

I'm sorry they are just getting worse. I'm pretty sure Richard Whitely may have been reincarnated within me, perhaps he has become my larynx... or my tibia??

Like the mountainous habitat of Valhalla, Varkala peers down from the sea from its lofty clifftop viewpoint towards a curiously rough sea. The waves come from two directions and pinch the unwary swimmer who is unable to slip between the two crests. Unlike Valhalla, which must have been daunting, Varkala is a pleasant tourist resort. A line of colourful beach shacks all serving the same food queue along the cliff. They stay open until the last person leaves and unlike Goa can play music until after 10pm. The staff are friendly, sometimes very friendly as there seems to be one or two staff/tourist relationships going on; something I eye Desmond Morris style from my deckchair.

Anyone who has read some of the earlier posts on the blog knows about our rather thrilling initial experience of Ayurvedic massage. You will emphasise with me then when on our first night here I am approached by a slightly flirtatious, homosexual German called Fabien who tells us that he has been studying Ayurvedic massage for the past 8 months. His story is quite interesting - Ayurveda is a holistic lifestyle designed to balance certain elements within the body. Earth, Water and Fire (you don't know how much I wish he had said Earth, Wind and Fire!). According to Fabien I am a Fire and Water person and Jayne is an Air and Water person. The fire element within me means (unsurprisingly) that I can be quite aggressive - presumably I put out this aggression with my water side??! Other amusing things about Fabien include the fact that he is twenty but looks thirty and is also Patrick 'hips and lips' Swayzee's doppelganger.

Fabien was a foundation stone of sanity when compared to Geert the Dirt - an insane Belgian whose sartorial style of converstaion saw us literally in stitches. Behind his back though - as he warned us that he had contempt for people who 'were bitches!'. In no particular order these are a few of my favourite Geert the Dirt moments;

1) Asking Jayne 'who she really was' for about twenty minutes.

2) Ordering a coffee and then pouring it all over the floor because it "had not been made with love'.

3) Saying "a cookie is a composite of many ingredients".

4) Becoming paranoid that we would go to the press about our conversation.

5) Intermittently falling asleep for a few minutes.

6) Informing us all that he used to work as a prostitute.

7) Inviting me and Jayne to share a polyamorous relationship with him.

Where are all the sane Europeans!

Day 2 in Varkala was less crazy person than crazy incident.

Jayne has picked up body boarding like... well if not like a duck to water perhaps like a goat. She has a good knack of getting on waves but finds it hard to look behind herself when on the board so relies on me to tell her when a wave approaches. This has predictably resulted in a few funny moments where Jayne has attempted to get on waves that weren't actually there or been dowsed by a wave that I 'forgot' to mention. Normally though I am a paragon of virtue and ensure she gets on a decent wave.

Unfortunately for Jayne, as the largest most menacing wave of the day approached, I was momentarily distracted by a shoal of small fish that had suddenly surrounded me. Without her usual wave warning system in place Jayne endeavoured to avoid a soaking by using her board as a shield between herself and the wave. Jayne came off the worse from this encounter and now sports a slightly swollen eye, a grazed stomach and a gammy knee. I had to rescue her Hasselhoff style and drag her back to the beach.

As Jayne caught her breath I was struck on the head by a falling Pilchard. My initial assumption was that we were going to experience a brief shower of fish until a leathery skinned German man (in requisite towel thong (he looked like a deflated sumo wrestler)) pointed out that one of the many eagles had dropped it from the sky. The James Bellamy in me wanted to respect the natural cycle of life and allow the fish to die on the beach. Jayne however, was a lot more compassionate and threw it back to the sea.

We are now on our way back to Delhi and are heading off to Thailand soon. Unfortunately Jayne had some money stolen after leaving her purse outside our flat. Very unusual as it is usually me who does the losing!

Anyway must go, hope everyone is in tip top condition and generally having fun.

Lots of love

Jayne and James xxx

PS. Just met an Indian Professor of English who spent fifteen minutes quoting T S Eliot's Wasteland at me while I nodded sagely trying to give the impression of one who has learnt it by rote.

PPS. News Update:

Passport In Police Custody Eaten By Rats

A seemingly innocuous story that has caused a real stir - dominating one news channel for the whole day. Apparently it has sparked some sort of argument within the police force and they are now fighting eachother - with sticks.

PPPS. Advert Update

A Honda Motorbike that is so good it turns men gay?!!

Thursday, 29 March 2007

My food fantasy

I woke up this morning with drool caking the side of my face..attractive i know but its becoming a frequent occurence as I just cant stop dreaming about home food. I fantasise in my sleep about roast dinners, bacon butties, shepherds pie, decent Chinese takeaway and so on every night.

The food in India is massively varied in type and quality but you just cant get decent Western style food anywhere. Most restaurants in the places we have visited cater for a tourists with menus full of pizza, pasta and toasted sandwiches but more often that not its just not quite right. For example yesterday I ordered 'speketty with tuna, tomaytoo, origayno and garlic' sounds fine, except they obviously were all out of tuna so substituted it for something reminiscent of smoked haddock. Even the curry seems wrong, its nothing like it is at home. To get a curry that tastes 'curryish' you have to stress 'really really really spicy please'. Even then the waiter generally smirks at you as if he knows your only joking or your doing it for a bet.

It's possible to find authentic Indian food in dingy shack style cafes full of autorickshaw drivers holding hands over chicken biryani's (open affection between male friends is very common and totally acceptable but cracks me up when I see two macho moustachiod Indian men leering at me whilst gently caressing each others arms). The menu has 8-10 items on it at most and you have no idea what you have ordered until it is plonked infront of you about 30 seconds later. Although the place is grimy, the food has not been cooked fresh to order and asking for a fork or spoon is out of the question, its mostly very tasty and very spicy. However you have to put up with being stared at as if your an alien while you try to eat potato curry with your hands, and then worrying about seeing that potato curry again for a few hours afterwards.

So after another breakfast of chickpea curry this morning James and I started one of our (actually probably just 'my' but he's very patient with me) favourite conversations...what would you be eating if you were at home? - Easy- BLT's made with Sainsburys organic white loaf and loads of mayo for breakfast. Lunch - Sushi and sashimi with a glass of ice cold Sancerre. A mid afternoon snack of Marks and Spencers naughty Chocolate Bites. Dinner - difficult one but today it would have to be Rare as Fook fillet steak with peppercorn sauce, green beans sauteed with garlic and french fries, followed by apple pie with Hagen Daas praline flavour ice cream. (Im almost welling up writing this!)

Im becoming obsessed with food I cant have. When we meet new people I have noticed myself manouevering the conversation around to food and talking about it for far too long...I know James is getting a bit bored of the topic (strangly enough as anyone who knows James will agree, he seems content to eat curry twice a day maybe even thrice). So please indulge me and tell me what you had for tea last night. I've spent all morning imagining what you may have had:
Simon: M&S lasgne unless you were entertaining your new lady then it would have been Hawaian pasta?
Mum Phillips and Brain: chinese takeaway or deli leftovers?
Baby bear: pasta and Lloyd Grossman sauce.
Matt: you were a difficult one but James and I thought you would still be getting over the weekend and wouldnt being doing take away so lamb chops with mint sauce, lots of veg and a few Danone activia things.
Jen Cuz: Easy..thai!
Rowan: Pasta carbonara.
John Dico: meat and two veg a la Dad
Jemma and Ashley: James thinks noodles??

Am I right??
Anyway time for lunch now. Byeeeeeeee


Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Photos at last!

hi there

We have at last got round to putting some photos up - these are of the second half of our time in India as we didnt have a digitasl camera when we were in the north.

Hope you like them - will put captions on soon!

James and Jayne

click here for the photos


Monday, 26 March 2007

Jayne's First Post

Hello all, well I though it was about time I wrote something on this blog rather than leaving it all to James. He does such a good job though, and as I get so many more emails than him he has more time on his hands!

Well after James going temporaily insane in Cochin due to the extreme heat, our plans have slightly changed. I was woken up at 8am by a manic James (the first time I have ever known him to be voluntarily out of bed before 11) jumping up and down jabbering about going to the Himalayas. The heat had really got to him and we decided tht rather than staying in the stifling South for a full month we would have a couple of weeks here and then head back to Delhi early so we could travel up to Shimla and maybe even pop in for a cup of tea with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala.

Sanity restored and a few cold showers later we decided to take in a cultural performance of traditional Keralan Kathakali theatre. I had read in my guide book (the rough guide.. which I am becoming more and more suspicious of..its seems to have been written by the sort of traveller that insists on eating all meals a la native with their hands and believes that sitting in a paddy field with your head in a cow pat is seeing the 'real India'') that to really apprecite Kathakali you must take in a few 4 hour tourist performances followed by an allnight unabridged Kathakali marathon. The three hours of torture that was the Kathakali theatre we saw was more than enough. To me it seemed to be an Indian mixture of Carry on and Panto. The actors train for 6 years in order to be able to master thousands of intricate gestures that each mean something different.. impressive, however the only peolpe who are able to interpret the movements and thus follow the story are other Kathakali trained artists, seems kind of self indulgent to me. The acting style comprises of Parkinsonian facial twitching, each type of twitch is supposed to convey a different emotion, maybe James and I are not the cultural vultures we believe ourselves to be but we really couldnt see any difference in twitches. However I dont want to completely slate South Indian cultural arts. The following evening we decided to splash out on a fancy seafood meal with decent wine (wine!! first time since leaving home!!). Unbeknowst to us the restaurant had a Kathakali dance performance, the musicians and dancers were brill, maybe Kathakali dance rather than theatre is alot more intune with our Western tastes.. or maybe it was the wine....

Moving further South we decided to do some of the journey via scenic back water ferry. It was such a lovely journey, in stark contrast to some recent expereinces on the trains (see previous posts). There was something faintly embarrasing about being on a boat full of tourists all furiously snapping away at any sign of 'local life' but after a while they calmed down (except the obnoxious woman in front of us with the biggest camera I have ever seen) and it was such a pleasant way to get from A to B. One of the stops our boat made ws at the ashram of the famous 'hugging mama', one of India's mopst popular guru's. I expected to see a few bamboo huts and maybe a temple but the ashram was a huge tower block that wouldnt look out of place in the costa del sol. Apparently she's so popular that people come from all over to see her and get a hug and spiritual enlightenment. I would love to go and stay at the ashram on our way back through but I have to convince James who keeps mumbling under his breath about 'mumbo jumbo'. I feel that I need to at least attempt to have some sort of 'spiritual expereince'here in India!

Anyway it has taken me years to write this post due to frequent power cuts and my tan is fading so I'll say bye for now.

Jayne and James xx

ps come on you lot, get commenting on the blog, all the other blogs Ive seen are covered in comments and we feel really unloved!!!

pps. My favourite Indian news story this week: A dog that helped the police sniff out a huge amount of drugs has got a bounty on its head by some Keralan mafia group. the dog is now in police custody and may have to have its identity changed! I love India!!!Its so random!

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Only Cochin.....or the Hokey Cokey Kochi!

Hello there,

My marathon effort to provide a witty pun or play on words for each destination has, I think, plumbed new depths this time. However, due to Cochin's binomial status you have two for the price of one* - so you should be happy.

Cochin has had its ups and downs - the intense heat at night and our inability, till today, to get an air-con room has led to a few sleepless nights and I was only saved from becoming a ranting, sleep-deprived loon last night by Jayne administering a brown paper bag (well it nearly got that bad). The heat in the day is fine - its just when you want to sleep that it becomes oppressive. Still we have air-con now and I am an extremely happy chap indeed. Even more so as I have broken my record for emails in a day - 4. Still a bit crap though - Jayne has a little chap with a computer following her around with the amount of mail she gets. I think she's putting his kids through college!

So to Cochin.... Well the rickshaw drivers are all lying bastards and have an extremely non-euclidean sense of geometry as the distance from the centre of town to our hotel has varied by as much as 4km depending on the honesty of the driver. I am seriously considering drawing an honesty vs length of distance graph to demonstrate.

One driver we get though is extremely pleasant and takes us around a few of the local sights. Firstly we visit a nursery school/temple and we are immediately surrounded by 5 year olds desperate to know our name and for us to take photgraphs of them which they then hungrily devour as they peer into our camera's viewfinder.

We then head to Matancherry Palace, a seventeenth century building that houses the cheapest museum in the world (2 rupees and I am obviously not including free ones!) The main exhibtion is a succession of portraits of Cochin's leaders over the past 200 years. The leaders are all impressive - scholarly, progressive, fair minded and liberal. This is quite clearly reflected in Kerala's position as the most progressive of India's states (in almost every social statistic you can name - 100% literacy being the most widely known). When you compare such gallant leadership to the corrupt frogs who seem to battle it out for control of Agra (and thereby ruining this city through pollution, overcrowding and general malaise) you can see exactly why some places thrive where others wither.

During a quick lemonade break our driver reveals his hidden breakdancing skills. He invites us to attend a performance of his. He asks me to show me some of my breakdancing but I am forced to politely refuse so as not to show him up.

This leads on to Jewtown, an arts and crafts centre in the middle of Matancherry. Part of Kerala's wide and varied cultural heritage includes
a diasporic Jewish tribe of which there are only seven "pure" families left. The synagogue remains though and inside it is said to hold individually painted, white and blue tiles which are the centrepiece of "The Moors Last Sigh" one of mine and Jayne's fave Salman Rushdie's, darlings. Unfortunately due to a stinking mound of petty bureacracy bigger than the dung heap residing in the neighbouring Elephant stables we have so far been unable to enter.

Time 1: Reason for refusal of access - Jayne's bare legs and my positively slutty khaki shorts.

Time 2: Reason for refusal of access - Sarong's too garish?? Not really sure perhaps they thought I was some sort of devil-worshipping cross dresser - or even worse that we were DB and VB themselves??!!

By this time we had understandably lost patience (especially as Jewtown is in the very heart of the numerically challenged richshaw drivers territories). I blame this all on the doorman being a jobsworth but Jayne seems to be taking a more cosmopolitan approach - citing religious values. For me though - religious values stretched only as far as the hot walk home.

Well that's all about Cochin from me - the lovely Jayne will fill you in on Kathakali dancing (ethnic pantomime/dance from Kerala), she's highly qualified as she once got to the second round of her school disco dancing competition. I, however, seem to develop piles whenever I watch any form of entertainment felching the terms - ethnic, rural, traditional, rustic or barn and therefore slept throughout the whole performance. I can never get it out of my head that I am watching another countries morris dancing!

Anyway lots of love

James and Jayne

PS. Items for sale on Indian trains: pens, flapjack, cashew nuts, tea, coffee, curry, aftershave, perfume, children's picture books with an acutely horrific moral message, wind up toys, handkerchiefs, saris, samosas, torches, lighters, knives and towels.

* "Hokey Cokey Kochi" provided by Dixon's Dastardly Dido's Ltd

Monday, 19 March 2007

3 Slapping Incidents in Sleeper Class

Hello there

Or should I say "Hallo Dur" due to the proximity of St Patricks Day and Ireland's famous victory in the Windies.

I have literally hauled myself out of bed to write this blog entry - we have just got off an 18 hour train to Kerala and I have left a slightly train-lagged Jayne dozing in our room. We were unable to travel in the air conditioned luxury that we have become accustomed to as we booked our train too late. Sleeper Class is the second from bottom class - so instead of sharing a cool cabin with four snoring, overweight Indian businessmen (all of whom have a little doggy bag of various smelly breads and chutneys packed for them by their loyal wives), we found ourselves next to what my mother would describe as the Hoi Polloi (in a little mock posh accent... hello mum!). Two boys stare fascinated as Jayne took out her contact lenses, it took ages to explain that they were like little glasses and there was some confusion when they assumed my gesticulations (the international method of twisting ones wrists back on themselves and forming two circles over the eyes to symbolise specs) to be describing a wisened owl.

The lights are soon off though and we find ourselves speeding through the night. The noise is deafening as the windows are open and you get a real Twainian sense of adventure as the breeze whips through your hair and the faint lights of railway dwellers wink past.

The peace is short lived though as a large brute of a man turns on the light and gives the bespectacled boy in the bunk opposite mine an almighty slap (slap no 1 folks), throws him out of his bed and settles down to sleep. The boy slinks off but is not perturbed. He waits until three in the morning to get the railway police and then starts a full scale, highly vocal argument that seems to involve the whole carriage. He reaches for the emergency stop cord and pulls it in desperation as his complaints seem to be falling on deaf ears. Slightly worryingly this acheives absolutely nothing and we are soon all back to sleep.

Just as the breeze and the repetitive noise of the train started to send me off to sleep again I was awoken by Jayne tugging on my t-shirt.

"The man opposite me is wanking," she tells me, remarkably calmy. Always a trooper our Jayne.

In my weariness I tell her she must be mistaken and that she should turn over. This she does but I resolve to keep an eye on him.

Almost inevitably I am soon greeted by the sight of him fondling his exposed phallus (slapping incident no. 2). Charged with indignation I, for some reason, shout "hicheh!" (Hinglish for "kindly desist from your secretive onanism fellow traveller, you are perturbing my lady friend")*.

When this doesn't work I am, for the second time on this trip, seized by a moment of primeval, ex-colonial outrage and deal the offender two sharp blows with the rim of my panama hat (slapping incident no 3 and no less harsh due to a couple of loose strands of whicker which could have given quite a nasty scratch).

This seems to do the trick as he mumbles and yawns and turns over as if he had been mometarily seized by some unfortunate bout of sleep masturbation (actual condition - scientific name sexsomnia - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_sex for details including a story about a sufferer who somehow broke both his fingers). Unfortunately Jayne missed my moment of bravery as she had her earplugs in.

I keep an eye on him for the rest of the night and at one point become convinced that he is making a video of Jayne with his mobile phone, further investigation though showed my worries to be unfouned - it was just a trick of the shadows.

Anyway we are safely in Cochin now - very laid back and sleepy and cloves in everything. More on this place later.

Take care, hope everyone is well.

Love James and Jayne xxx

* In all honesty i was completely at a loss for what to say... what is the international ettiquete one uses in such situations? I have emailed my query to this lady - http://www.sideroad.com/consultants/Etiquette-Experts.html

and suggest you do the same too to ensure a swift and accurate reply.

Thursday, 15 March 2007


Technorati Profile

Further Goans on

A couple more characters for you to dissect.

The nameless French female hippie who ruined (perhaps transformed is a better word) an acoustic guitar jamming session by standing up and dancing like an extra in an Austin Powers movie while wailing like a deranged Kate Bush. Plus the ubiquitous out of time bongo player.

As a good friend used to say to me about travelling... "you'll be sitting on the beach, enjoying yourself, minding your own business, reading a book, catching some rays... and then some twat with a pair of bongos sits next to you".

Next there are the Italian American couple who come to South India every year to see this female pseudo-deity that people around here think is the messiah or some other such nonsense. The pseudo-deity is called Amma - Mother Earth, the Hugging Guru or something along these lines. They tell me she is amazing, and that if you go to see her your whole life will change. That suddenly you will see the true meaning of existence.

Unfortunately after they had travelled all the way to the deep south of India she wasn't in - gone on a tour of Delhi apparently. A sort of spiritual "gone fishin'". I worried momentarily for their spiritual health but then bumped in to a chap called Mickey who worried me even further.

Micky is a long haired Austrian drunkard who has lived in Goa for seventeen years. He has wrinkle eyes and bows his head as he speaks. He spent five years building a house here only to see the government bulldoze it after they passed a law stating that there should be no permananet dwelling within thirty metres of the beach. He seemed quite sad to be honest and we left feeling quite sorry for him.

Then there is the woman with twins who seems to breakfast next to us every day. She is obviously a very eager parent as she commentates on every single moment of her and her twins life in a bid to get them to talk before everyone elses children. So our breakfasts are a little like this...

"so mummy is drinking some tea, yes you hold the water, now you're drinking the water, umm yummy water. Finish that up. Now what will mummy have for breakfast - do yuo think she'll have the muesli or the eggs. I think mummy is going to choose muesli. Mummy is in a quandry she feels like Borodin's mule with all this choice. Mummy is going to end up insane if she comments on every little event on her life for the next few years - so please just start talking darlings..."

She then gets out what has to be the most complex childrens picture book that I have ever come accross. When she opened her book the words started off simply enough "cup", "bowl" and so on. But soon we had "Cactus", "Pomegranate"! Whats the point of trying to get your child to say pomegranate?? Especially from a picture in a book - from now it is going to think that all orange circles are called pomegranate. I half expected her to say "antidisestablishmentarianism" and have a little picture of a Roundhead fighting a Cavalier.

Being the most famous speech therapist currently on holiday in Goa Jayne informs me that this is a poor way to teach a child to talk as the more complex words will go right over their head until they are able to grasp the simpler concepts. I thought about telling her this but worried that she might talk to me in the third person and call herself mummy - which would have been disturbing.

Finally, I have been up to some amusing antics myself. A couple of nights ago I was a little the worse for wear and as Jayne and I sauntered back to our beach hut i suddenly became aware of a desperate need to pee. Most of the bars were shut now so I thought the best course of action would be to go in the sea. Unfortunately, as I approached the foaming surf (unzipping beach shorts et al) I slightly misjudged its velocity. I soon found myself skipping backwards dramatically as I wee'd into the approaching wave! I haven't urinated using this method before but I can assure you that from a visual point of view, at the very least, it is highly amusing. Soon afterwards I fell into a big hole in the sand that I had seen some children digging in the day.

Anyway must be off - we may manage to get away from this beach soon - in which case we will be heading for Cochin in Kerala - the only state in India with more women than men - I expect to be constantly followed by the flutter of excited Saris.

Lots of love

James and Jayne

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Goan son

Compared to the rest of our travels Goa is a different kettle of seafood indeed. We arrive at clean and sandy Margoa station and take a rickshaw for an hour and a half to Palolem Beach. Once a deserted hippy hangout the crescent palm lined beach is ow slightly overpopulated by tree houses and beach huts and seafood restaurants of varying quality.

Palolem is very relaxed and very beautiful - it seems quite easy to get stuck here. Unsurprisingly, what with the white beach, lovely sea and cheap drinks we have done very little of any import - it really is who you meet here that provides interest rather than what you do.

Our first character is Christian the hyperactive tout who takes us to our first beach hut. "Full power!" he shouts, rather quixotically, as he greets me. He takes us into our hut and starts proudly showing us the amenities.

"Lights... full power!" he exclaims as he flicks on a five watt bulb.

"Luxuy fan... full power!!!" and on comes a creaking dusty old fan.

We move into the bathroom and he flushes the toilet... not a lot happens but still he remains undaunted "State of the art western toilet with flush... Full Power!!!"

And now the shower - a trickle of luke warm water... "Full power shower!! Full Power" he says, pleased with his joke.

We take the hut though and start to chill.

The first couple of days are spent sunbathing, eating seafood and body boarding - something you will know i am an expert at due to my ability and experience at surfing on the East Coast of Australia. Friends at first are few and far between - a couple of girls who are rather uninspiring. We start to get a bit worried as there seem to be a lot of louts who may have been better off sunning it in Magaluf rather than India but we try to hold back our snobbery and by the third night we meet some very interesting characters indeed.

First there are Mick and Danny two guys from Ilford, Essex who set up market stalls. We meet them at Cafe Del Mar and they are quite evidently off their faces. They tell us proudly that they have no insurance and no malaria tablets and that they have been risking their neck on scooters for the past couple of weeks. Nice boys though and Mick was a Spurs fan so I like him straight away.

From here we moved onto Another Essex guy called Cookie. He split up from his wife a month ago and after a particularly drunken night out found himself on a plane to India about to start a cross country motorbike rally. Him and 200 other suicide wannabe's had bought Enfields (old english motorbikes) and planned to race them from North Goa to the tip of India. This is a perilous feat with plenty of near-death experiences. Their photographer has broken his back and is now in hospital in Cochin for the next six weeks.

Finally we meet a guy from Liverpool whose name escapes me at the moment. He fixes you with a stare and answers your questions about five seconds after you ask them in that curious way that scousers over the age of fifty seem to do. As if they are about to deliver a Jimmy Tarbuck style one-liner or slag off a Manc. He is covered in tatoos on Penguins. When Jayne asks him about them he pauses for five seconds and then tells us his slightly unbelievable story.

Do you remember that just before Christmas a baby penguin called Toga was stolen from an Isle of Wight Zoo. The Zoo was appealing for his return as they didnt believe he could survive in the cold of Winter without his parents. He claimed that he was the thief and that he was travelling around the World on his 25,000 pound reward money.

A small bit of detective work, however, has proved him wrong. According to www.bbc.co.uk the penguin was stolen and never returned. Bad news for our scouse friend as he is clearly insane but good news for Toga's parents as they hatched another chick on the 23rd of February.

The next day we go to see a reggae concert by Graeme from UB40. He's not bad but seems to get in a mood and storm off stage. The plot thickens however when I go onto UB40's website.* No one called Graeme has ever played for the band. Our Graeme does however looks a lot like Astro, the bands MC (part Grime/part Lilt advert). Yet more research though reveals Astro's real name to be Terence Wilson. Strange.

Paranoia sets in - is anyone in Goa who they claim to be.

Then there are the Nepalese guys who run our shack who claim to be in a Nepalese Hip-Hop group. Are they really... how can i be sure?? - I know so little about Nepalese Hip-Hop?!!!

Anyway with these worrying tidings I probably should scarper.

There will be some more photos up pretty soon so stay glued - and not like a crappy prit-stick left in the sun.

Lots of love

James and Jayne xxxxx

*(with the immortal and perhaps fatal-for-the-street-cred intro... UB40 Band Members to Start Rover Raffle at Birmingham Children's Hospital. Apparently Konk the Clown will also be there to entertain the children. Further news on the site reveals that Ali Campbell the whiny lead singer would love to move into Drum And Bass despite being a superlative guitar player. Follow this link for lots of UB40 facts... http://www.ub40.co.uk/news/20050107a.php).

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Some items in the Indian press

The Indian English language press is mesmerising - ranging from left wing broadsheets such as the Goan Gavind Times or the cheeky but fun tabloid the Bombay times.

Inevitably the news is littered with stories of horrific bus crashes, mass corruption, poverty and the faintly ridiculous. Despite this the press still seem to manage to put a brave face on it all.

A typical story might run a little like this;

"A protest was held today outside the offices of Gandhi Construction Ltd who were responsible due to corporate neglicence for the collapse of the local library which resulted in the deaths of a hundred school children.

The company had cut corners and not installed the correct girders. They had been found not guilty in court amid rumours of bribery and backhanders.

The vigil of course changed nothing but on the bright side the local village have started up a new book stall."

Some real stories from the press which seem completely alien to us include:

A man who bought a flat who was not allowed to live there with his family by the other tenants because his son had cerebral palsy - they thought he was clinically insane. (Bombay Times)

An astrologer was sentenced to 3 years in prison because he photoshopped a picture of himself and the prime minister and fooled his clients into believing he was the prime minister's personal sooth-sayer - despite living at the opposite end of the country.

An article determining whether you should go to the hospital if you break an ankle or whether to just rest it.

A bank that threatened to kidnap a debtor over an unpaid credit card bill for 150 quid.

A comparison of Gandhi and Tolstoy that concludes that Gandhi was spotless while Tolstoy was a syphillic, lechering brute. (not sure on my history here so unsure as to the validity of the argument).

A story about a judge who declares that all politicians involved in corruption should be hung from trees.

And some stories that are surprisingly like our own press:

A story about young doctors burning out - turning out and falling victim to "smoking uptake".

A million articles on how to avoid high blood pressure, obesity etc.


Famous actor checks into rehab.

Fascinating - well I think so... one good thing for me is the extensive cricket coverage which seems to be written by people with a Phd for the game!



Saturday, 10 March 2007

Out for a Bombay Duck

We arrive in Bombay after an eighteen hour train journey and immediately get ripped off by a taxi driver who charges us about three times as much it should from the station to get to our hotel.

Our hotel is expensive by Indian standards - about 11 pounds a night. We enter its lurid pink corridors and are met by a middle aged Indian man standing completely still over a Hessian mat looking intently at the wall at the opposing end of the corridor. Thinking I had perhaps caught him in a moment of repose, I peeked out of our hotel room about fifteen minutes later and he was still there staring at the same wall. The other members of staff seem to be particularly unfriendly, and virtually clamber over me to get a sight of Jayne even when she is in her favourite Burka. I seriously think a mere sight of ankle with these boys would see them all needing a new pair of trousers.

Putting these initial problems aside we emerge into Bombays humid day. It is very unlike most Indian cities - no rickshaws or cows cluttering the roads; pavements, trees and so on. We go for a lovely meal in a place called Busaba which actually sells Beef. When I get the bill though I realise that Bombay comes at a price, everything is about twice the price here as it is elsewhere.

The young Indian's of Bombay are also very different from their peers in other parts of the country. They are a lot drunker for a start - a group of lads were earlier chanting the refrain "We are the champions of the world... and we'll keep on drinking to the end!!!" to the tune of the famous Queen song. We chat to them for a bit - their names are apparently Ashar, Fernandes and Shaun. Yes Shaun. We talk about working for call centres (which they all do) and music we like (a band called Stain'd are quite big - as are the Killers and Nirvana). I eventually start talking to Ashar, who seems the quietest and most thoughtful (although how this can be said of a man who has consumed about five pints of beer in forty minutes in 35 degrees celsius, im not sure), about Shiv Sena. Shiv Sena are a political group who propose a sort of fundementalist Hindi or Hindu state. The party has varying levels of popularity across India and are also linked to to the BJP another Hindu party that up until about three years ago had a majority in Parliament. They are also extremely blinkered when it comes to religions outside Hinduism. Both parties have been indicated in causing riots that have resulted in the deaths of thousands of muslim's and both seem to have quite shady pasts.

Ashar is very anti-Shiv Sena (the mayor of Bombay is currently Shiv Sena). They apparently banned Valentines Day because it is immoral (and not because its flogged to death by Hallmark et al either) and they are also responsible for the rash of confusing name changes accross India. Thereby - Bombay is now Mumbai, the main station Victoria Terminus is now rather awkwardly monikered Chatraphati Shivaji Terminus. Ashar, who seems fairly typical of the new urban, young elite (liberated and sprinkled with new found cash) - dislikes them very much - bemoaning any restriction of his freedom.

Unbeknownst to me, while I am talking politics with Ashar, Fernandes is smooth-talking Jayne. He reluctantly moves on though when Jayne tells him I am her boyfriend... I'll warn you now - sisters, cousins and friends of Jayne's there is a very drunk, call centre worker in Bombay who really wants to meet you!

Other Bombayites we see look straight out of an episode of Friends, all leather sofa's, intellectual glasses, linen trousers and glamorous girlfriends. One group we sit near in a posh restaurant, gently ribs an incoming friend with a low mocking roar as he approaches their table - they ruffle his hair and laugh as if he had done something rather embarassing last night. This is unusual behaviour indeed!

On the flip side though, the contrast between rich and poor here is at its greatest. There are a lot of child beggars, and mothers with malnourished babies asking desperately for milk. Sometimes you give, but it can mean you get mobbed by other beggars and other times you don't and then you feel awful. Despite not being the cause or the solution of the problem you can sometimes feel like a complete bastard.

Our first night out is in a travellers pub called Leopold's. The music is hip hop of the Kanye West variety (i.e. listening to me light my farts over a loudspeaker would be more pleasant), on my way to the toilet I am accosted by a large Hoochie Mama (my camp friend Michael's description not mine), perhaps a more politically correct way to put it would be a cross between Naomi Campbell and Dawn French with Whoopi Goldberg's hair, but that really isn't very politically correct either. I make, what I believe, to be a valiant attempt to strut my stuff with her but she soon loses interest and turns away making me look a bit like the fading Rugby player forced by his agent to do a celebrity dancing show. Flustered, I press through the crowded dancefloor and stand next to what I assume to be the "engaged" toilet door. I am slightly embarassed when a huge guy pushes past me opens the door and looks at me like I am a pervert when the room is shown to be empty!

We make our way home, a little tipsy and are slightly shocked to see our hotel owner still staring forlornly at the wall.

Next stop Goa where we will mainly be doing absolutely Sweet FA.

Take Care, love

Jayne and Jamesx