Hiding In Your Cupboard

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

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

A picture of Jayne and I during the paint festival of Holi. The guy in the centre is our friend Balu.

Sunday, 4 March 2007


The seminal Bond classic Octupussy was shot in Udaipur. It is a faintly ridiculous tale revolving around, circuses, Faberge Eggs, teams of sexy female smugglers dressed in red lycra catsuits and a nuclear bomb that may just may allow the Russians to overtake Western Europe.

All the cheap hotels here show the film at seven pm. Although in the hotel we watched it at the kitchen staff kept on turning our telly down and their radio up so we couldn't really hear it.

If we thought Jodhpur was beautiful - Udaipur trumps it. A serene lake surrounded by an impressive palace, , and some beautiful Haveli's. In the centre of the lake there is a floating palace - a picture of which Jayne has helpfully provided you with. This serenity was perhaps boosted by our dodgy start in the city.

After enduring a terrifying bus ride (overtaking on blind corners, bravely taking on huge lorries in games of chicken) we made our way to Badi Haveli, a hotel which according to our guidebook is delightful with a garden restaurant. We get into our room and its a shit heap, Jayne isn't feeling too well after the bus journey so I try to put a brave face on it and resolve to leave the next day. However, when we find out that our shower doesn't work and that the sink leaks and that they no longer have a restaurant we decide to move next door to a hotel that really did fit the bill of delightful. To top it off our friends Rich and Shona were staying there.

This turned out to be a big mistake as when we I informed the hotel owner that I wouldn't be staying because of the state of our room he went completely ballistic called us a "pair of fuckers" and Jayne a "stupid fucking woman". At one point after I laughed nervously he shoved a finger in my face and warned me of the "direst consequences". Well nothings happened yet.

The palaces are beautiful etc but I am sure you must be bored of such things by now so I'll skip straight to the Holi festivities.

Holi is one of the four major Indian festivals (Diwali, Dhussera, Holi and one whose name escapes me but involes sisters travelling to meet their brothers to give them a bracelet that will bring good luck). According to the elderly gentlemen weho is making me a tailor made suit for sixty quid (bargain!) the festivals were traditionally designated to each caste. The brother sister thing was for the Brahmins (top caste, nearly out of the circle of reincarnation, priestly types), Dhussera is for the Kyshatriyas (warriors and second from the top), Diwali is for the Veshu (merchants etc) and Holi is for the Lebud (labourers and the lowest caste). He warns Jayne and I to be careful as these "bloody vagabonds are drinking too much whiskey and feeling up the women".

As it turns out all the festivals are now celebrated by everyone in India. The first night in Holi involves huge bonfires filled with firecrackers all around the city. Once these are burned people rush to the temple to see dancing and so on and for the final burning. The dancing is done on a stage next to the temple and we are treated to a performance by the Hedran, a community of eunuchs and drag queens that come to events like these to dance and earn money, or beg for it - one or the tuther. After that they drag some reluctant western travellers onto the stage and make them dance to Lonely by Akon and an Indianised version of Firestarter by the Prodigy.

After this has finished they go to light the bonfire. Unfortunately one of the power cables behind JAyne and I catches fire - there is a power cut and a mad scramble to get out of the way of the fire. The fire is sson out though and we spend the next twenty minutes watching a little man with a pair of pliers and some marigolds shin up the pylon to restart the power. There is a great cheer when it comes back on and the bonfire is lit - this is the biggest one and the noise from the firecrackers is deafening. As Jayne mentioned, this would never be allowed in England as it seems that the whole place is just one misplaced firecracker away from complete incineration.

The next morning is the main part of festival (or at least the bit people look forward to). We descend to the streets to find that everyone is covered with luminous powder paint. The indian men come up to you smear paint on your head and then give you a hug and say Happy Holi. Some of the hugs that they give the women are a little over-amorous but people for the most part are very friendly. We start water bomb fights with local children and generally get covered with paint. By the end of it all we look like a couple of purple turds but it was great fun. Some groups of lads got a bit unruly but we were protected by the staff at our hotel and a young lad of eighteen called Balu.

When Holi dies down we play cricket with Balu and his little brothers. They are amazing... although I obviously play an obdurate innings full of grit and then get out playing the hook shot for four like all great English batsmen.

Udaipur is the first place in India that we have had a television so I have only just been introduced into the joys of Indian programming. The sitcoms are great, plenty of tripping on banana skins, canned laughter and suggestively raised eyebrows. The adverts for men are hopelessly unrealistic - portraying the average Indian guy as a nightclub crawling, womaniser whose girlfriend always wears a mini-dress reminiscent of Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies. My favourite adverts are for the Get Wet range of mens products. The hair gel apparently makes your hair turn into "maffia style!!!!". The advert for deodarant rather bizarrely involves two, White!??, adolescent boys queuing up for a blue movie. They are obviously worried about getting past the lady on the door but entrance her with a spray of their deodarant while sneaking past.

The best programme by far is one called "Champion Of Knowledge" - unfortunately this range of knowledge is restricted to cricket and besuited and bespectacled boys, paired up, compete for a top prize of about 120 pounds. The presenter is an Indian version of Lloyd Grossman. One of the competitors hobbies was actually "mathematical statistics" which even surprised Lloydy. Questions generally run in the form of:

Who scored the fourteenth run of the match when India played the West Indies on 24th April 1978. They almost always get the answer right and give eachother innapropriate high fives for each point they get. Easy questions get you a quick single, harder ones a four and super hard ones a humongous six! At the end of the show the winners are presented with an oversize cheque for ten thousand rupees (120 pound) which they have to give to their school. Considering the amopunt of bullying they must be about to receive its surely not worth it?

Anyway better go.. lots of love

James and Jayne xxx

The floating palace of Udaipur

We're currently in Udaipur "the most romantic city in Asia". It probably deserves the label as its such a beautiful place. Its centered around a lake surrounded by palaces and temples. This is a picture of the floating palace..,. now a very posh hotel. The closest James and I got to it was about 50 metres in a leaky pedalo.

Saturday, 3 March 2007


So we arrive In Jodphur in darkness and take a rickshaw to our guesthouse. We are just about ready to collapse in bed after our nerve-wracking journey but deciding to have a beer and a bite to eat upstairs. Our hotel is in a Haveli - an old style of traditional Indian dwelling that was favoured by the reasonably well off before everything got trampled after partition or by blood-thirsty and ignorant clod-homping English sopldiers around the time of the Mutiny (1857). These building are dying out but are in many places preserved a hotels and guesthouses ranging vastly in quality. Yogi's where we were staying was about in the middle - quite comfortable but as with most hotels in India blessed with dubious plumbing.

The hotel is run by Yogi's son an ambitious young Indian who tells us that he wants to see his name on every coffee table in America. If he was in England he would seem a little stuck in the Eighties, a bit overly entrepreneurial, a yuppy perhaps. Quite a few of the Indian middle classes seem to have a similar attitude and there is a real sense of get up and go, the recent glut of foreign investment bring out he businessmen in many of the Punjabi's (and no thats not a racist term!).

Anyway, I digress. We reach the top of the Haveli and survey the view. It is spectacular - above us the imposing fort and in the other direction the lights of houses, temples and palaces stretch into the distance.

The view in the morning is equally spectacular. The fort is perhaps slightly more worrying at night but the town regales in a wash of bathroom blue. Many of the houses in Jodhpur are painted blue to ward off insects. At first this was the preserve of the Brahmins (the highest strata of indian society) but now anyone can do it. The town now looks like a chalky sea, choppy with the peopled roofs of crumbling Havelis.

We visit the Fort and so far it is easily the best "attraction" we have seen. You are given a useful audio guide as you meander around and soon you are taken into the intricate palce within the fort. The previous owners seemed very fond of stained glass windows and mirrors and the rooms reszerved for the ladies are particular fetching. After this we walked around the ramparts where you might feel like the safest soldier in the world. I really cannot imagine how anyone would have contemplated attacking this fort until at least the invention of the scud missile!

As we walk around the ramparts, Jayne, who is wearing a skirt that seems to take considerable pleasure in blowing skywards Marilyn Monroe style at the most unfortunate moments, noptices that we are being followed by three Indian men. Unfortunately stares and being followed are a favourite pastime of Indian men when it comes to western women. The whole country is quite sexually repressed, despite being able to buy the Kama Sutra in every bookshop you walk past. Sexuality is a little bit Carry On style - sometimes you half expect their eyes to bounce out on springs and for some Benny Hill throwback to make a fart noise.

Talking about eyes on springs, Michael, our American friend, told us another amusing story. He had made friends with an Indian guy who promised to take him to see some sacred stones which were supposed to resemble the first of all Hindu Gods, the elephant Ganesh. When he got there he found an old stoned priests wearing RayBans, laughing to himself as he sat next to a big rock with googly eyes on stalks and a hose for a nose. Hinduism is quite easisly the most amusing religion i have ever come across.

Most Hindu god's seemed to have a favourite form of transport - Ganesh travels on a tiny mouse and according to the picture in my hotel room Vishnu prefers an overweight pigeon. I have to admit to being slightly non-plussed about the basic set up of things so Jayne and I were quite pleased to hear some of the Religion's stories one night.

On our final night in Jodhpur there was a lightning storm - the great hawks that circled the castle were initially nowhere to be seen as the clouds closed in and then there was a crack of thunder and torrential rain for about two hours. When it rains in Jodhpur they turn the electricity off as some poor guy got killed last year while holding onto a cable at the same time as standing in a puddle. Consequently we were stranded in this restaurant trying to play cards by candle light. The young boy who was serving us our food demanded to tell us the story of Diwali - in short it goes like this.

Brahmin and Vishnu exist at the beginning of the universe which at that point is no more than an infinite line of holy fire. They challenge eachother to get to the end of each side of the fire and set off, Vishnu eventually gives up but Brahma decides to pretend thathe wento to the end and basically said it was great. When Vishnu found out he was lying he gets very angry and therefore creates the Earth.

Ram and Laxman are best friends (Ram is an incarnation of Vishnu). Ram is a very good guy. He loves Sita who is the prettiest girl around. She is stolen by the Demon Ravana who takes her to Lanka (Sri Lanka) which is a bit like Hades or hell and populated by demons (a suppose a bit like believing that all Irish people are green or leprechauns).

Ram gets Hanuman (monkey God who can fly either like a Kite or with a kite (not sure which)) to track her down. There is a war for fifteen years, Laxman gets poisoned, nearly dies. Eventually Ram wins and gets the girl.

The whole things a lot more complex and as this boy told us the story he animated it with gestures of flight, fight, love and beauty that would have made Marcel Marceau proud.

He finished his story as the storm abated and then escorted us home.

Next one will be in Udaipur.

Take Care