Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Book has Landed!

So, the wait is finally over!! here it is, the book, the one I keep yapping on about, the one I thought would never see the light of day...
And if you'd like to follow Sense's hilarious adventures into motherhood, here's where you can grab a copy:

And if you'd like to know exactly how long it took for this book to finally get to the stores, this should give you a clue:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Travellers tales

Now I don't know if I told you this before, but the hubby is an incurable traveller. And ofcourse he loves for us to partake in his misery journey. So every few years or so, we up sticks and make like the proverbial arab and dissapear silently into the night, tent and all.
This time, when we threw darts bildfolded at the map (that's the ONLY way to decide our next move, don't you know?), it landed on Bucharest. so that's where we're headed.
Moving with kids comes with its own set of complications, though. There's term times and holidays to consider which narrows the window for the move drastically. There's also the new school address to consider - if the school's in the remotest corner of the city, then, sadly, that's where our new house will be, because beating traffic (driving on the wrong side of the road) every morning while getting two groggy-eye children into the back of the car is not how I want to spend my mornings.
But this post is not about the wonders of an expat lifestyle. Oh no. That'll need a whole blog and a new therapist.
This post is about my luck (or lack thereof) when it comes to travelling. It's ironic for someone who travels so much to have such rubbish luck with travel. Especially with air travel. The Gods of Air Travel must have a special bone to pick with me.
It all started ordinarily enough yesterday at Heathrow. Self, Hubby, two kids, the Mum-in-law, car seat and about 10 pieces of assorted luggage had safely made their way into the airport with just a minor wobble when our taxi wallah threatened to take us to the wrong terminal. Hubby, champion backseat driver, jumped to the rescue and we safely made it back to our original destination.
Okay, like I said, minor wobbles. Much like the suspicious counter staff at the airport counter who didn't know the rules about entry into Bucharest if you didn't have a Europeans passport. All that required as a quick call to the Romanian embassy to clarify what had been put on their website. After all, who can blame the guys on the counter? he'd heard of people coming in from Romania to the UK. But this whole bucking the trend thing had addled his brains.
Right. check in now done, I'd begun to relax a little bit now, and got on the phone to say our final goodbyes. The Mum-in-Law in the meanwhile decided to head off to the toilets, and the Holy Terror, following in her brother's footsteps and continuing the fascination with public toilets, follows her gran.
Half an hour later, no sign of Holy Terror or MIL. hmm. I have now been promptly sent off on an errand to check toilets for missing MIL & HT. Picture this scene: Toilets in the busiest airport in the world on one of the busiest days of the year. A steady stream of tourists, all being greeted with the sight of me wailing 'Ammmmaaaaaaaaaaaaa????' while knocking on each cubicle and checking under doors. Five minutes of this and I knew I was in serious danger of being arrested before I left the shores of the blighty.
Naturally by this time the airline had announced that they we closing the boarding of our flight. Baa-lamb's decided enough of this tomfoolery and takes charge.
"Right. You head off to the departure gates and stall them with Pickwick while I find Airport Security" he says as he jogs offs.
"But how am I..." I begin to ask, but I am only talking to thin air. The baa-lamb has marched off with a determined air about him.
Okay. So stop flight. Right. Lets take this step by step. We need to get to the gates first. All hare-brained schemes to stop the flight can be formed en route or, once we arrive. Who knows, maybe inspiration will strike upon seeing one of the bored ladies at the gate.
I arrive breathless at the gate - still inspirationless and decide to throw myself at the mercy of the attendant and the gates- who seems to be carved from ice. Like she's heard it all before (really? you've heard of people losing their mothers and their children? At the same time?). As I launch into a long-winded explanation, the Holy Terror tugs at my trousers. "Not now, honey, Mummy's talking to this nice lady here." I say on autopilot.
"Like I was saying Ma'am, my daughter here- my daughter? HERE?!!" I ended with a screech. Having rendered half the passengers on the flight deaf, I proceeded to squeeze the life out of my daughter  and dishevel my normally super neat MIL.
"But... You... How? Where?" Credit goes to the MIL for making sense of my incoherent ramblings and she explained that having lost her way on her way back from the toilet, she sensibly decided to wait at the exit gate knowing at eventually we would have to land up there. She'd then borrowed a phone and called the baa-lamb, and he did try and get in touch with me, but I was so busy concocting plans to stop the flight that I'd ignored his calls.
By the time the baa-lamb arrived it was a proper reunion worthy of a bollywood blockbuster.
I am happy to report that we are now in Bucharest without and further untoward incidents.  

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The Maharajah's Whiskers - Part Ek

For the people who know me, they’d say I was a fairly even tempered person. (Shaddup! You there- stop snickering!) No really, I believe everyone has their bad days and one ought not to be quick to decide based on one experience. But I think three times kind of pushes it a tad bit.
I am of course, talking about our favourite airline, our national carrier, The maharajah’s whiskers. It’s been three months since my return from the homeland and is only now that enough time has passed that I can talk about the incidents (pliss to note the plural) without hyperventilating or foaming at the mouth (which in this country of the stiff upper lip is vitally important. You only have to flare the nostrils ever so slightly before you are dismissed as being a drama queen. A sliver of a sneer whilst describing the events in Q is apparently just the right touch of emotion).
I now lay down the events that transpired and shall leave you, the reader to be the judge. I shall recite just the first incident in this post, as one needs time between the accounts to recover from the sheer incompetence.
Incident 1: After a goodly three years or thereabouts, I, very excitedly reached the shores of Mumbai, with a flu-ridden toddler, and sleep deprived brat and four pieces of luggage. Or so I thought. I mean that’s what I left London with. One flu- ridden toddler – check. One hyperexcited six-year-old who wasn’t going to sleep a jot on the plane – check. Luggage – ek, do, teen… hang on, where’s my fourth piece of luggage? An airline official bustles in just then to inform the unfortunate few of us that have been awaiting our luggage that due to a technical mixup (meaning the off loaders screwed up), our luggage was earlier put on a different conveyor, but we’ll have our luggage in this conveyor shortly. He was quite pleased with that. To be honest, so were we. At four in the morning, all I wanted to do was find a nice, warm bed and crash until it was time for my connecting flight to Cochin that evening.
Luggage comes and luggage goes, but my bright pink strolley remains stubbornly absent. The airline official, trying to helpful does the following:
Scratches head, the peeks out into the loading area to see if there’s any luggage left (why anyone would leave just one bright pink suitcase unloaded was beyond me, but hey, it was four in the morning). Finds nothing. Scratches head again and asks me if I was sure I had a pink suitcase (why anyone would hallucinate about pink suitcases was, again, beyond me, but hey, it was four in the morning) scratches balls (we all need a change) and then asks to see my luggage tags – and counts them (yes, there were four) then counts my luggage (counts three). Having now satisfied himself that I was indeed missing a piece of luggage and was not playing the fool, he scratches his ear and the leads me to the ‘missing luggage’ department.
An equally helpful airline official then takes over, writes out my form in Marathi (we are still at the international air terminal at this point), asks me to read if what’s written is accurate and sign it.  While I try and understand what’s been written in my rusty Marathi, the official informs me that I have nothing to worry about. Apparently this is quite a common occurrence. I seem to sense this was true from his lack of alacrity with a Spanish woman trying to locate her child’s buggy. His colleague was trying to convince her to pick one from an array of buggies they had in their possession, and nevermind the small matter of the buggy not being hers. My helpful airline official, in the meanwhile, reassures me that my luggage has probably flown to Cochin without me (probably thinking I’m going to compliment the airline on being proactive and taking a call on my behalf. I couldn’t possibly need all my luggage with me in Mumbai when I was only going to stop over for half a day), and it was ultimately my travel agent(!!) who was to blame, since he had booked me on an evening flight to Cochin, when clearly, there was a morning flight to be taken to the destination (which apparently my pink strolley has managed to board).
By now, toddler and brat both decided that they’ve had enough of India and were ready to head back to ol’ Blighty. It was only the bribe of an infinite supply of chocolate and the promise that they’d never ever have to wear jackets in India that made them change their mind.  I was lucky enough to have an extremely patient relative waiting for me outside, and as he escorted the scruffy trio out of the airport, I was glad there was someone to take over the haggling of the prices with the taxis.
Thirty minutes into the car ride. I get a call. From the airport. The helpful airline official had located my luggage and could I please come a collect it. I was getting mildly annoyed now. I informed the helpful airline official that he could now load my luggage on to a plane to Cochin, without me, as promised. I wasn’t about to turn the taxi around only to find that this was a false alarm.  Another fifteen minutes later I get another call. From the airport. The helpful airline official informs me now that it was after all a false alarm, but not to worry, my luggage was safely on its way to Cochin (my luggage seemed to be having adventures of its own).
That evening:
As I land in Cochin, I collect the rest of my luggage and duly hand over two exhausted babies to two elated grandparents while I set out on search of my bright pink strolley. The solitary guard on duty at Cochin International (ha!) Airport (helpful airline officials were missing at this port) informs me that I’ll have to traipse over to the Maharaja’s whiskers counter located some distance away to have any hope of seeing my pink suitcase. The helpful airline officer at the domestic terminal tells me ‘ Ais, ais, ewe see, youze was un international fleit. Sow, eye think, your luggage, it will be at the international terminal’ Ah. The terminal is a hop, skip and a jump away. And the office is connected internally. But I naturally have to hop, skip and jump to the international terminal and repeat my request. Where another helpful airline official tell me, ‘But ewe floo domeztic wonly now, no, madam? So, it will be in the domeztic terminal’. Hop. Skip. Jump. Domestic terminal.
Helpful airline official#1: Madamm… why will I lie, madam? Nothing is here wonly. Wait. Wonly for ewe, I will check with the domeztic.
Strolls to next room. Has a cup of tea while chatting with other helpful airline official. Comes back.
Helpful airline official#1: nooo, maidamm. Are ewe sure they have sent the luggage from Bombay? It will come tomorrow, perhaps?
Me: But I was informed that your very helpful airline has very helpfully sent my luggage before my arrival to Cochin. Helpfully.
Helpful airline official#1 (scratching head meditatively – seems to be part of their induction training): wait, huh, madam. I will check customs. Maybe it haasn’t cleared that wonly, no?
Fifteen minutes later
Yes! It is waiting madam. You need to clear customes with it wonly no? (beams at having helpfully solved this puzzle)
Well, luggages, even bright pink ones have limitations to how clever they can be. As to the limits of helpful airline staff stupidty, there seem to be none.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rookie Mistakes - 2

Having experienced Kochi on foot and thanking God that I have lived to regret it, last week
I decided to listen to Dad and quietly take the car when we decided to go shopping.
Now by 'taking the car', I do not mean driving it myself, although the Government of India has foolishly granted me a permit to do so for the past decade or so. I meant assigning Dad or he-of-infinite-patience-when-it-comes-to-his-daughter the chauffeur duties for the day while mum and self (and brats in tow) swan in and out of shops. We left punctually at the designated hour (i.e. exactly half an hour after it was agreed we would leave), and this time when Dad headed towards to car park he found me right along with him, matching stride for stride. Right. so far so good. As we settle ourselves into the car, I see dad quickly reverse out of the car park after strapping himself in. "whoa! Hang on Dad!!" I say - "I haven't strapped myself in - and neither have the kids!" Dad, for the nth time in this very brief trip looks at me like I'm a raving loon, visibly composes himself before answering, calmly, "It's not compulsory for the passengers to wear seat belts here. And the back seats don't have any seat belts."
I look around incredulously at the back. The seats are bereft of any anchoring devices. The kids are grinning away bouncing about like helium-filled balloons, rejoicing at the feeling of not being tethered down. As we continue backing out of the driveway - this time in a vehicle rather than on foot, I feel no safer and hang on gingerly to the door handle.
No sooner have we emerged out of the apartment complex (after what I though was far too much aggressive horn-tooting by dad), we nearly ram into an SUV which, from what I could gather thought we were involved in a fun game of Chicken. I roll down my window to give the guy a sound talking to - only to realise I was talking to thin air - Chicken man was continuing his dangerous trip down to road determined to visit the A & E by the end of the hour.
Dad meanwhile continued down to road, unaffected by our brush with death, merrily leaning away on the horn - apparently this was how vehicles communicated with each other here - a short 'parp' to denote mild annoyance at how you're driving to a longer 'paaaaaaarrrp' to denote - 'really now, you're being a twat' to a staccato burst of 'pip-paarp-pap-parp' to denote 'watch out! I'm a huge truck with no rearview mirrors about to burst forth from a blind turn at break-neck speed' to a myriad of other complex signals.
I seem to have learnt driving from a totally different rulebook because the left indicator here somehow communicated to two-wheelers behind you that this was the time to overtake the vehicle from the left and a right indicator - well, I don't know what it meant because it seemed to have no effect on the surrounding traffic.
My favourites are the roundabouts- manned by a traffic constable. Where if you choose to go clockwise when you want to turn right, The constable looks at you in askance like you didn't know what you were doing. It's obvious to anyone with half as much brains as the rotund constable that the shortest route in a roundabout if you wanted to go right was, of course anti-clockwise. And that is what one is expected to do. None of this new fangled nonsense about uni-directional traffic for our intrepid Kochi Konstable.
I now realise why almost all vehicles in India have an image of God hanging from the rear view mirror or firmly pasted to the dashboard (including Dad's car which now incidentally has permanent imprints left by my fingertips on the dashboard) - after all one never knows if one is ever going to ever return to your loved ones once you go out into the streets (on foot or by car) of Kochi.