October 2005 in Bangalore through the eyes of an Englishman

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31/10/2005 - London

The trip back was uneventful. I was in Premium Economy for some reason, probably had to be to get the round trip on the required dates. This translated into having a centre row and a window seat pair entirely to myself, with plenty of legroom. The only disagreeable feature of the flight was that it got into Mumbai at 1:30 in the morning, and I then had to wait until the morning for a flight to Bangalore.

I got home at about 9:00 in the morning. The reason for the trip dates was that I had to be on call at work because it was Diwali week, and most people were off. Monday, Tuesday, and Friday are public holidays, so you can get a 9 day break and only use up 2 days leave. So later in the morning, after Terry and I had got reacquainted, I went in to check my email. There was nothing doing.

30/10/2005 - London

I eventually found my way back to London, and around the South Circular road to Roehampton, by about 7:00pm on Friday evening. Leo and her man Steve have just bought an ex-council flat in a tower block there. It was reasonable by London standards, and has the virtue of a great view out over Richmond Park. It's a deer park, and you can see them grazing there in the mornings. Roehampton also gets raided every night by foxes from the park.

Leo and I caught the bus into Putney, had a beer, and then met Steve at a Japanese restaurant there. They had sushi, and I had steak. I got put up on a sofa-bed in their front room.

The next day I decided that the best strategy to protect the foot was to take a limited tourist trip into Westminster. I got myself a one-day ticket for the appropriate travel zones, and Leo and I went by bus to Putney again, then by train to Vauxhall, and by bus again to Westminster. We did lunch at a pub along Whitehall, and paid a visit to the Cabinet War Rooms (Churchill's underground bunker of WW2), which I'd not visited before.

In the evening we returned to Putney and did Italian, then all went to bed reasonably early since I had to be up at around 5:30am to catch my plane.

Big Ben.

Tony's place.

Nelson's Column.

Buffalo Soldier?

The Blues Bar.

With customary clientele.
27/10/2005 - Wet Weekdays

Richard and Rachel were both working during the earlier part of the week, and my foot was no better. On Monday I went over to see Mum again, stopping on the way at the Spite overlooking Otley to have a pub lunch of Liver & Onions. I'd been searching for Pork Pie & Peas, but the Timble Inn, a pub where you could reliably get those at one time, was no more; boarded up and up for sale.

Mum introduced me to her new next-door neighbour, a retired professional gardener probably 25 years her junior. He's in the process of completely overhauling the gardens of the his house, and seems to be a tough and practical person. I get the impression he'll be someone else who'll keep an eye on Connie and make sure her environment is maintained. In the evening I went with Cathy and Richard to a comedy club at the Harrogate Theatre, which wasn't bad, but hardly outstanding.

For much of the following day, I nursed the foot by retiring to a corner of the Blues Bar with a book about punctuation - Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which I quite recommend; it's pretty amusing, and makes you suitably paranoid about your punctuation. On the Wednesday I went into Leeds to meet Rachel, who was going there shopping; then I went to see Mum again. In the evening I went out for a few drinks with Richard, and chatted about everything and nothing. On Thursday, Rachel came over to Harrogate again. We all went to a little Italian restaurant down Cold Bath Road that we'd been to the previous Friday. Little Eleanor seems to have developed an addiction to the pasta Bolognese there; may have been the garlic, it was pretty well laced with it. She ate large quantities of it with great gusto, and remarkably little mess, on both occasions. In the evening, Cathy and Richard were at ante-natal class, so I took myself off to the Blues Bar again with another book about British bomber crews during WW2 that Richard had lent me. I met them later and we went for Fish & Chips at Gravely's.

On Friday, it was time to begin the homeward journey. I said farewell to Cathy and Richard, and drove back to Bingley. There I went first to say goodbye to Rachel and Eleanor, and then to Mum's. I got away at about 1:00pm, and retraced my steps back toward London the same way as I'd driven up the previous week.

Saturday night out at the Bell.

Leo and Natalie.
23/10/2005 - The English Weekend

On Saturday afternoon I went with Leo and Rachel to see my Mum again. I was somewhat out-of-sorts. The pressure changes of the flight has upset my fragile sinuses, and my left eye - which was gratuitously connected to my left nostril by a well-meaning surgeon many years ago - was streaming. Also the drive up from London had provoked a reaction in my right foot. I hadn't driven for over 2 years, and it obviously didn't like the 250 mile trip. The big toe joint was distinctly swollen and painful. Mum was on good form though, and happy to see Leo.

In the evening Rachel came over to Harrogate, and we had a family night out with Richard's friends Joe and Carmel. We went to the non-smoking Bell. Later, Rachel met up with her friend Natalie - who I've had a crush on for about the last 10 years - so I limped up there to see her.

On Sunday, Cathy & Richard cooked us all a magnificent lunch of roast pork with all the trimmings. I got a picture, but since it turned out to be about as unflattering of everyone on it as I could possibly have achieved, except possibly for the table, I've restricted myself largely to the latter.

On Sunday evening I took Leo to Leeds to catch the train back to London. She'd arrived on Friday directly off the plane from Cannes, where she'd been attending a television program festival. Consequently her company was expecting to be busy the following week with follow-up, and she was not in a position to do a long weekend.

In the evening I retired to the Blues Bar to anaesthetize my foot, catching a taxi back to Richard's to preserve the result.

Sunday lunch.

Granddaughter Eleanor.

Harrogate on a wet Friday afternoon.

The cheese counter at Sainsburys.
21/10/2005 - Brought the Rain

Well so much for the good weather; I appear to have brought the rain with me. The combination of October and rain has a melancholy effect that I find difficult to throw off. At this latitude and time of year, the sun only reaches an angle of about 40 degrees at midday, and this gives me the feeling of the whole day being evening. Coupled with that, after Bangalore, which is always a bustle with noise and people, Harrogate is eerily quiet. Walking down from Richard and Cathy's house this morning I could have counted the number of people I saw, before I reached the town centre, on the fingers of one hand.

OK, so some context. My mother and middle daughter Rachel live in Bingley, which is about 6 miles west of Bradford in West Yorkshire; Rachel with husband Dave and daughter Eleanor. My youngest daughter Leonora, Leo for short, lives in Roehampton in London with her man Steve. She's coming up by train tonight to visit. My son Richard, and his wife Cathy live in Harrogate, which is where I lived before the start of the great migration.

Rachel came over with Eleanor this afternoon, and we went into town to do some bits of shopping. Even in the town centre it was pretty deserted, as you can see from the picture. We'd split up and agreed to meet at The Gap - as in shop; but we missed each other. By the time I got back to Richard's house she'd gone back to Bingley.

In the evening both Richard and I were inclined to retire to the pub, but we had to pick up Leo from the station in York at midnight, which put the mockers on that idea. We compromised by going early evening for a couple of pints, then went to Sainsburys to do the weekend shopping. I stood in awe at the cheese counter; wish I could drag that back to Bangalore. After the shopping, Richard and Cathy made bangers and mash - I'm having an English food week. Then, at the appointed hour, we went to York and collected Leo; me driving, and Richard navigating.


The TV transmitter at Holme Moss.

SW Yorkshire from Holme Moss.
20/10/2005 - POSH

The customary explanation for the origin of the word 'posh' is that it dates from the days when English people used to make the sea trip to India quite often. The most comfortable way to do this, in terms of sunshine and shade, was to travel on the port side of the ship on the way out, and on the starboard side on the way home. Port out, starboard home - POSH. Such cabins, etc, were the most expensive, and so the abbreviation became a description of the people who travelled that way

My trip from Mumbai to Heathrow conformed to POSH. Whether the return trip does, remains to be seen. The flight (British Midlands, or as they now prefer, BMI) set out about an hour late at 1:15am. It was an interesting flight timing. The overnight flight pattern I'm most familiar with is that from the east coast of the US. In that case, the flights usually leave New York, or wherever, at about eight in the evening. You then cram an evening meal, some anaesthetising drinks, 3 hours sleep, and breakfast, into a 6 or 7 hour flight. In this case the flight was pushing 10 hours, so the whole schedule was more relaxed. I had quite a comfortable seat, and got maybe 4 hours of sleep. The only let-down was that by the time the breakfast trolley got to me, they'd given away all of the western breakfasts.

We arrived only 10 minutes later than the original schedule at 5:55am. Since I was travelling light, and got a mini-bus all to myself from the terminal to the Europcar pick-up point, I was on the road by about 7:15. The first 20 minutes were quite exciting. I hadn't driven for 2 years, and had not realized how messed-up mid-range vision is these days without glasses. To be fair, the next day it was much better, and I think it may have been an effect of the pressure increase as we descended from 36000ft to ground level. Anyway, I threaded my way through the maze of approach roads and roundabouts, and got on to the M40 in one piece. After that it was OK - but I must get some more graduated bifocals.

The plan was to partly follow a route that I used to travel about 40 years ago when I was working at the UK Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell in Berkshire. I knew a guy called Mike who had a girlfriend in Huddersfield, and he would give me rides up to Yorkshire periodically. He had a pet route up through the centre of the country that was designed principally to avoid passing through any more towns than were absolutely necessary. I was to use the M40 to shortcut part of this route.

As it turned out, the M40 was a joy. It's a good road, and the weather was dry, and once the sun came up, quite pleasant. Most of the traffic was in the other direction. Rather than getting off near Warwick as I had intended, I pressed on and turned north on the M46. That was less agreeable. There was traffic heading into Birmingham, and the road surface wasn't anywhere near as good. So I baled out as soon as I found a road I recognized from the original route - the A446 - just east of Birmingham. I drove on that for a while, then on the A38 to the A515, which would take me to Ashbourne. By now, the sun was well up, and it was a delightful day. The countryside of North Staffordshire and Derbyshire was very green, and the leaves on the trees had just started to turn. I passed through villages of immaculately kept cottages. There was Mozart on the car radio, and I felt generally ecstatic. This would not last, of course, since I was heading north. But it was good while it lasted.

From Ashbourne, the same road takes you to Buxton, then I took the A6 to Chapel en le Frith, and the A624 to Glossop. The next bit is the sneaky part, you take the B6105 over the moors to the west end of the Woodhead pass, and then the A6024 over Holme Moss to Holmfirth.

Of course, Mike's no-towns strategy breaks down at this point. He was heading for Huddersfield, and thus plunging into the mass of towns that constitutes south-west Yorkshire. I arrived on the outskirts of Huddersfield at about noon, and then took another hour and a half to get to Rachels's house in Bingley.Rachel was just about to set off to a toddler class with Eleanor. Eleanor, who is now a little over 2 years old, was not pleased by the idea of skipping toddlers, and going back into the house. So I arranged with Rachel that I'd go and see my mother, then to Harrogate, and come back to spend some time with her later in the evening.
18/10/2005 - Or So I Thought

I went back to the FRO as requested on Tuesday morning. My guy there was a bit late, and probably not quite woken up. He said he'd told me I should come on Monday, which I vigorously refuted. I'd much sooner it had been Monday, but was definitely not offered that choice. As it turned out it could not have worked anyway. Detours aside, I was to go to the Vidana Soudha (the state government building in Bangalore - as another digression, quite an impressive building from the outside, but my camera battery gave out), to room 224, get the appropriate piece of paper, and return ASAP. I was on a time fuse, since the Vinada Soudha was 3 till 5, and the FRO closes at 5:30. He wrote the address and my reference number down on a scrap of paper, and I went on my way. I'd walked to the FRO, since it's just down the road from work, so I went back, got my bike, and cycled down to Vidana Soudha. The cop outside the gate told me in an uncompromising fashion that I should bugger off - the offices were open to the public from 3:00pm until 5:00pm.

Who am I to argue. I took myself back to work, but there, all attempts to concentrate on anything technical proved futile. I tried until 2:00pm, but then decided to go back, and at least ensure that I was at the front of the queue when they opened at 3:00pm. This time I went on foot, since there had been nowhere to park the bike.

The cop was persistent though, and didn't even seem inclined to have people standing waiting outside the gate. So as an alternative to walking back to work, and then immediately returning, I walked slowly along the front of the Karnataka state high court, at the other side of the road, and around it's associated small park, then sat under the shade of a tree for a while, until it was 3:00pm. Magically, the evil cop had disappeared, and a new one was there who cheerily waved us in.

The Vidana Soudha consists of three floors of offices with corridors around the outside, open to the air, and offices on the inside. It's probably about 500m long, and 150m from front to back - I wasn't measuring. Reaching the second floor, I arbitrarily turned right, and seeing that the numbers started at 260 something, and went downwards, I persisted in that direction. Wrong choice - if you want room 224, turn left. Even so, when I got there, I was only second in line. Apparently we had to see the head guy (a government under secretary, and probably an elected official) in the office before we could talk to anyone else. The man in front of me gave up and left after about 20 minutes. I waited for an hour. The problem was that even though the office was only open to the public for two hours a day, it continued to do its internal business during those two hours. People from the office would constantly walk around the queue and stay in the office with the head man for 20 minutes or so. Eventually I caught a gap. The head man seemed moderately surprised to see a stranger.

I explained my mission, and although I could barely understand his English, I got the message that if anything had been waiting for me, he would know about it. He called one of his minions, and sent me away with him for confirmation.

It turned out that I was in fact known to them, because the visa extension Terry and I had applied for on 16th September had actually reached them. But there was no trace of the return visa application. They sent me off to the SRO (State Registration Office) located at the Bangalore police headquarters, where it should logically have been. It took me another 20 minutes to get there. To be fair to all, I have to say that the service at the Police HQ was exemplary. The man on the front desk understood my enquiry instantly. He told me to sit down, and after 10 minutes he came back and told me that the papers had in fact been sent to the government offices the previous day at 5:00pm.

I bribed a reluctant auto driver to take me back to the Vidana Soudha quickly, and reported my findings. The officer who had sent me to the SRO suggested I went to room 235A, and enquire there. Initially, 235A had no knowledge of it, but after I'd explained my predicament, one of them went to look for it. He opened a cupboard and got out a couple of large, fat envelopes that he explained had come in only today. The contents did not include me. But as he was putting them back, with an air of "I told you so", he noticed a small envelope that contained a single set of papers that was in fact me. "Ah". he said, "yes we have got you". You should be processed by 4:00pm tomorrow. "But, but, my flight leaves at 5:00pm!". "Sorry sir, can't do anything about that."

I returned to room 224, and explained that the papers were in the building. I was told I'd have to talk to the head man. He too was at pains to explain that they would have to follow procedures. So I changed my tack. My visa extension papers were also in the building, and in that very office. They entitled me to a multiple entry visa extension. This seemed to have the desired effect. I was directed to another minion - actually the one who'd originally told me that the visa extension had come through. It was almost closing time, but he went through the extension papers, and concluding that they were in order, he sent a sub-minion along to room 235A to recover the return visa application. After that, all I had to do was sit and wait. He checked the return visa application, then filled in a long handwritten page, consulting all the papers in the process. These were then duly tied up with tape, and presented to the next more senior officer, who checked them again, and finally taken to the head man.

I presume he signed up, since the man returned and said that the papers would now have to go 'upstairs' for authorization. I guess this means that a permanent secretary had to sign it. I was to return first thing in the morning to get my paper, and then take it to the FRO for endorsement.

So basically, I am supposed to fly out tomorrow, but I still don't have a return visa. We will see!

Doing things the Indian way.
15/10/2005 - Closer still

So yesterday I did my FRO day to work on the return visa. The omens were not instantly good. It turned out that one of the pieces of paper I need to get the reurn visa was my police report. That's the one where you have to go to the local police station and get the station officer to sign an official form to the effect that they have no problem with you staying in the country. More about that in the future some time. Of course I didn't have one. The one I got back in September had gone to the state government along with my application for a visa extension. So I had to go through that whole process again, which took up most of the morning. I also had to go to the travel agent where I'd bought the first ticket, and attempt to extract a refund.

I got a new police report after the usual process, and the travel agent didn't give me any hassle about the refund. He didn't have the cash there and then, but said if I came back the next day, he'd have it then.

Having got the police report I then had to do some of the usual triplicate form filling, and return to the FRO. This went OK. The man I deal with there knows me know, and we seem to get along reasonably. I had hoped that would be an end to it, but no. It turned out that the forms had to go somewhere else, and I have to go wherever that is on Tuesday to actually get my passport stamped. Stress, stress, stress!

The tree in the picture came down after heavy rain on Thursday. One guy, for instance me, with a chain saw and a pickup truck could probably have cleared it up in a day. But in India this was a job for a gang of about eight with two-handed cross-cut saws. Reminds me of Britain in the 50s.

13/10/2005 - Inching forward

Progress! On the Tuesday, at about 7:00 in the evening, I got another ticket. So know, I'm hopefully in a position where I can actually sort out the return visa thing. This is a first for me - never done it before, and no idea how it works.

As it turned out, the answer the next day was "not at all". I did my usual trick on this particular day. Rode to work on my bike thinking the traffic was pretty light, only to find when I got there that it was a national holiday. Nobody ever tells me! So the FRO was closed, and it turned out that it was also closed the next day. This left me in the situation with anything to do with the FRO. Business to do there postponed through no fault of my own until the eleventh hour.

The picture is of Asha's extended street family. They make part of their income by scavenging garbage, extracting the more valuable parts and them selling them - probably to some government program. Asha's mum is the one sitting at the back of the picture looking at the camera.

Dragonfly season.

And then the deluge.
8/10/2005 - Progress Report

At the beginning of the week, I had got to the point where I actually had an IARTA ticket to fly to England and back in my hand. I'd told Richard and Rachel and Leonora that I'd be there on the 26th, and all appeared to be done and dusted except for the small matter of going back to the FRO to get a return visa. And I was feeling quite good about the situation.

Work was much as usual. I've been dropped from one of the three projects I was working on because the other two require more urgent attention. Of course, it's in the nature of things that the one I was dropped from was the one that was interesting. Sadly it seems to be the case that interesting projects are never the ones where there's money to be made. On the other hand, I do appreciate the fact that the ones that make money are the ones that need to be worked on. No money, no business!

The pictures relate to this afternoon. When I left home to go into town, the sun was shining, as they'd say at one time in my homeland "Fit to crack the flags", i.e. hot enough to do damage to the pavement.

At about this time of year, the dragonflies always appear. Now I don't understand why, but they always congregate in quite large groups in certain spots. One of these dragonfly spots is just down our road. The group can be found over and around a specific tree. I don't know what kind of tree it is, or why it's singled out. A possibly related feature is that the fruit bats like it too, and hang there during the day. OK, the photo is nothing special. It's difficult to do justice to rapidly moving dragonflies 30ft away with a point-and-click auto-focus camera.

But the other point of this discussion is Bangalore's current fickle climate. The monsoon seems to be hanging on, and seems to have a string in its tail. Half an hour late, in the city centre, you can see the state of the weather. Absolutely tipping it down, and in the opposite sense, "Fit to crack the flags".

Of course, the illusion of well-being didn't last. On the following Monday the company decided that my trip dates were not suitable, and I should go earlier, so I was back to limbo. C'est la vie. Hopefully I'll have an alternative ticket soon.

Terry's new toy.
2/10/2005 - Ghandi's Birthday

India likes to celebrate historically significant days by shutting everything down. So today, half the shops, and all the bars and liquor stores are closed. The cable company has also shut down it's service for the day - and this is a paid for service would you believe. They won't be getting paid by me for this particular day when the guy comes round at the end of the month. Cable rage!

So I've been programming, and Terry has spent most of the day watching videos, and now it's all of 8:30 in the evening, and we've run out of videos, eaten too much, and I've run out of programming steam.

Terry lost yet another mobile phone, so she went out and bought herself the Motorola Razor she's been coveting. It has a camera, and I foolishly installed the software for it on my machine. This instantly disabled the USB software for my camera, which I had to reinstall about four times before I could get it working again. Incidentally, the pictures from the phone are pretty awful. Maybe it will do better in decent light, out of doors. We'll see. If they get to the point where the cameras are half decent, I'll get one. The pictures I put on the page are only 300 by 230 or so, so megapixels aren't an issue. I just need something that's reasonably in focus, has decent colour balance, and isn't distorted.
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