Christmas

Lack of Posts

I've not posted much of late. I've just not felt the urge. There's a bit of a malaise at murky internet HQ. It's not as if I've had nothing to say, not least of which is to do with the incompetence surrounding the seemingly never-ending data losses (why should a low-ranking civil servant have the ability to download 25 million records at once? It's reasonably trivial to limit access so they can get records only one at a time - This has never been explained). I don't have a problem with the 'people make mistakes' - I do have a problem with the systems allowing this particular mistake.

I think it's the end of year lull. I'm always a little underwhelmed with December. It's all the forced jollity and people buying things for people which the recipient doesn't really want, only to receive back something they don't really want. It seems so futile.

Humbug!

Then there's New Year.

New Year is never an event in and of itself for me, as it's tied up with my Birthday. This means I each affects the other. When I was a kid, the stroke of midnight got me the bumps - by pissed people. I've hit the ceiling a few times! Also, New Year and Birthday sort of roll together, I envied people who could have a birthday at some point mid year...

These days I've managed to foster the rule that my birthday doesn't start until after sleep happens, but everything is still tied up somehow.

This year I'm 35.

So, what do I do on my birthday? So far, have a cup of tea, look at the internet and have another cup of tea.

Exciting.

Boxing Day in India

See previous and next. Date: Boxing Day 2005 Place: Kolkata

For those people in countries which don't have boxing day, it's the 26th December.

After breakfast Monica went to the hotel gym, and I went out for a walk.

South Park St CemetaryI left the hotel and went along Camac St, turning right into Shakespeare Sarani. I passed Kala Mandir and made my way to the South Park St. Cemetary, I wasn't sure if I got to exactly the right place, but in any event it was a nearby cemertary. The place was overgrown and full of character. Walking through the cemetary, left over from the days of the British Raj (which was centred in Kolkata) I saw lots of people going about their business. Carts of masonry were being pushed around, there were people filming, and a whole bunch of friendly kids (not asking for money!) who I exchanged some Bengali/Bangla বাংলা with. I think they were amazed to find a european who even had a few words (and that's all I've got!)

The language skills on display were at the level of - "আমার নাম মারক" (Amar Nam Mark - my name is Mark). I also asked their names, and smiled a lot.

As I carried on, I met a family coming the othr way. They warned me not to go any further into the cemetary as it backed onto a slum area, and there were cases of people being robbed at the rear of the cemetary. I was about to turn around anyway, so I walked with them to the exit.

Victoria Memorial, KolkataWe went to the flat in the afternoon, and had a fish curry for lunch. In the evening we went out with Anupam and Barnali and ended up at the Victoria memorial. It looked nice afer dark, but we could not go in. Opposite the memorial in the park area were some fountains running through a light display. Our evening tea was from a cart, we ate something called Bhel Puri, I don't know what it actually was - but it was very nice. It seemed to be puffed rice with some stringy bits and a sauce.

We made our way next to a place called New Market. it's a leftover from the days of the Raj, and is quite mazelike. There are official porters, you tell them what you're after and they guide you through the maze. Before heading there, Anupam said we were to buy something for me. I was against getting something purely for the sake of it, but they could not be dissuaded, but I did agree to getting something distinctly Indian, and something I would use. I wasn't going to get a shirt that I could just as easily get in the UK.

New Market, KolkataWe got hold of some Darjeeling tea and a few other trinkets, and found a sweater for me, but could not get the size right. In one place an American gentleman had overheard us speaking and he came up to me to ask where I was from. When I said the UK his response was the 'he knew it was in that kind of area, but couldn't place if it was Sweden or Norway'. How sweet.

He announced that he was American. I replied that I knew - Americans were usually easy to spot. He found this amusing.

A Kolkata taxi jamAs this picture shows, traffic in Indian cities can be busy!

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

See previous and next. Date: Christmas Eve Place: Kolkata

Nativity Scene in IndiaSt. Paul's Cathedral in KolkataIt's been quite surreal, on TV there have been Bengali santas selling carpets, and outside St. Paul's Cathedral in Kolkata there is a nativity scene, but apart from this we've essentially escaped the whole Christmas shenanigans.

One of the main things today was a trip to Rash Behari, a nearby street where jewellery is sold. Monica's mum was set on buying us a ring each. This was non negotiable. Now, the Indian sensibility is more gold -> better. Unfortunately this meant that most of the rings were way too much for me, I felt like 'Del Boy' and I wouldn't have worn the ring. In the end I got a nice simple gold band. Monica got a nice piece too. Gold jewellery is sold simply by weight in India, and in several shops they had an electronic display showing the up to the minute price from the financial markets. Monica's mum was a bit disappointed that they didn't have more 'bling' - but we had to explain that if she wanted us to wear the rings then they couldn't be quite the style she would have chosen.

In the evening we went into Kolkata with Anupam and Barnali and saw St. Paul's Cathedral, we then went to the Birla Planetarium. This was an English Commentary, and was quite funny when the woman broke into 'Indian Masi' mode and scolded the audience saying 'I thought I told you to keep the children quiet!'

There are also commentaries in Hindi and Bengali, I'm not sure how Anupam and Barnali coped with the English commentary.

After the planetarium we were taken over the Hooghly Bridge (Vidyasaga Setu) and back. Anupam seemed set on stopping the taxi in the middle of the bridge. We thought this was bloody dangerous, no hard shoulder - and it's not the best place to photograph the bridge!

Back at the hotel it was difficult to sleep, there was a wedding going on downstairs and music was thumping up through the floors.

Christmas annoyances

It has been a very annoying day. I wandered around my local county town today. Musak everywhere, the number of times I heard things like 'Rocking around the Christmas Tree' was unbelievable.

The forced jollity pissed me off quite a lot. The same musak all the time. In the end I grabbed a 'coffee' from Starbucks and ran away. (I know it's not real coffee, it's frothy coffee, but hey, I like frothy coffee).

I ran away to find only to find more musak in Tesco (I needed to get some catfood). The same song repeated thrice whilst I was there; some of the staff were wearing deely boppers. Maybe it's a sign of impending insanity?

If only some of the major chains would realise that NOT playing Noddy Holder songs at this time of year would probably keep the customers happier.

I went to PC World to get some photo quality paper. The woman in front of me was buying something inconsequential and the bloke said 'Can I have your postcode?' .... she told him... 'and your house number?' Argh! She was buying a 'How to' manual and happily gave over enough information to receive junk mail forever. I gave him a 'just ask me, go on then' look. He didn't ask. Why do people give this information over freely? Once I was buying a kettle and was asked for this information, the sales drone told me that they could not proceed without it - I asked them if they wanted to sell me a kettle or not - I could easily take my business to the competitor next door (it's not as if they needed to deliver it). They quickly found a way to get around this previously insurmountable problem.

I also found myself getting annoyed at people saying 'sorry' after I bumped into THEM! What exactly are they apologising FOR? From time to time I've got a 'sorry' and asked 'What for?' Only to receive the answer 'erm....'. If people mean 'excuse me', then SAY 'excuse me'!

Having got home, I wanted to print some photos from my ski trip and the printout kept being stupidly stripey. The stripes were less prominent on plain paper, but that is only as the ink spreads out a bit and resolution is lost - the prints are duller on plain paper too.

I cleaned the heads several times, printed the 'test page' with no problem and all seemed well - but it did not clear the problem. I *hate* inkjets!

I am thoroughly peeved. Does this mean I now have a grumpy git frame of mind?

I'll go into work tomorrow to print the pictures there, I'll take in my photo paper and cross my fingers.

Wishlists

Just to help people out who might be struggling to think what we might like... especially in my case as I have a birthday coming up too. We don't want, or need, any 'stuff'. Big/bulky things would probably find their way to the loft - our place is tiny and we've outgrown it. For any multi millionaires out there, a bigger house would be good, realistically that's not likely to happen.

We have the usual amazon wishlists on the go (maintained throughout the year as a handy place to store things for our own reference). My wishlist is here and Monica's is here