Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2 Steps Forward and 1.99 Steps Backwards.

Onwards and Upwards. Surely it's just a Joke!
My Social Media mentor, Guru Guy, told me my posts are too long, or maybe he was politely saying that I'm too long winded with my self indulgent wallowing? So time to try to condense, and no better moment than over a topic about which I could potentially rant on over for days. Hold it there, as before I get stuck in, time for a shower, which entails a brief plunge in the pool followed by the outside shower around the corner of the pool house. In fact the only shower, and I tend to have three a day, I've had indoors, over the last ten weeks, was my first day here, before I'd found the out doors number. But STOP, this is exactly the type of digression kanGuru was referring too. So on to the nuts and bolts.
The honorable institution in reality
In order to get my visa to stay here in Paradise I need a sum of money in my local bank account, but all my dosh is in my Emirates' bank account. It's mine, and one would imagine I should be able to access it, after a few formalities, with relative ease. But no way Jose, not here, not with them and not without one hell of a battle. The first telegraphic transfer I couriered to the bank was refused as there was a letter crossed out without my initials being present. Ten days gone and, yes, that was my fault. The second was accepted and the stamped copy returned to me, only for them to then say a week later, that the transfer form had meanwhile changed and mine, the old one, was invalid. The third was submitted only for the honorable institution  to then announce that I, in person, must spend six hundred quid to fly back to Dubai to present the application in person! So thats four weeks passed and we're back at step 1. Next angle is setting up Internet Banking which sounds fairly straight forward. Yer right, who am I kidding. Myself I suppose? The major sticking point was that if and when it's set up you are notified by email and given a temporary password by SMS. Ten days go by before couriered change of email address is accepted. And then we have the three week conundrum of how I'm going to receive my password as my Emirate's phone number has expired and the bank won't call to any number that isn't a local number. After speaking to innumerable help line officers, where the language barrier proved the major stumbling block despite their insistant 'Yes Yesses' that they understood, I had got nowhere.
And here as I see it!
The erudite Ashley finally answered one of my many calls and laboriously we went through it for about forty five minutes and all angles seemed to be covered as he dictated exactly what I should write in my next couriered letter. Then I was to ring him the following week to follow up, by which time he'd be on night shift. I phoned and whoever it was said "No, Ashley's on days". I phoned the next morning and was told "No, Ashley's sick". And so then Osama became my man and he told me that whatever Ashley had said I still needed an Emirates telephone number. As it was Ashley had reckoned we could avoid this and I could get the password by email. Days drag on, daily phone calls to Osama are played out, Stephen's roaming number is submitted by yet another courier and finally I get an email stating 'follow these steps and put in the temporary password which has been SMS'd. But they never SMS'd!!! Meanwhile the truth regarding Ashley had come out. He wasn't on days, not even nights and he hadn't even been ill, he'd fuckin resigned. Had I been the final straw to break Ashley's back or even help him see the light and move on to some more sane institution? But then after ten weeks, and after yet another 'Fill this out with SMS'd password' which was never sent to Stephen, abracadabra I get both letter and password by separate emails. Tentatively I mold the two together and we're there. Well I never. So now all I want to do is extract all my dinaro out of there and to somewhere hopefully more user friendly. But the dragon reared it's head again today when I went to transfer funds, as when I logged in the beneficiary of the transfer I was told that for this process to take place I must complete the details with, wait for it... An authorization code that'll be SMS'd to me. Aaaargh, where's my gun. No, Ireckon I can do it, but it just needs fine timing between Steven checking his phone and me filling out the transfer. Must be positive.   

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Different Take on Christmas

Dunga Amman
Four years ago I decided Christmas Day should be the auspicious occasion for me to have my double hip replacement in the Hirandandani Hospital in Mumbai. I arrived there on Christmas Eve and around six pm the next day I was out on morphine, the first 'double' hip operation to be performed in India was underway, and by nine in the morning, Boxing Day, I was up and moving on the Zimmer. Then after only a few days I was so appreciating the potential this operation was going to have, after years of progressively worsening pain, culminating in necessitating the continual popping of pain killers. But three weeks after the operation, as I was getting up to pack my bag to head back to the Emirates, I twisted sideways and re-broke the right hip, and the four most miserable days of my life followed... So, I took the scenic road to recovery, and a long and twisting one it's been. To be honest it'll never be perfect, but cycling for the last fifteen months has been a saviour. Anyway that's all another story.
Durga Amman as she is classically portrayed
Time flies when you're having fun and now after three months here in Paradise Christmas has been and gone. In my usual unsocial way I was leaving my options open regarding how I was going to spend the twenty fifth, as I tend to get a little restless sitting around all day shooting the proverbial and waiting for a turkey dinner, though I'm sure Brenda's would have been of the highest order. As it was that option hadn't arisen when I decided how I'd spend the day. Fina and Sen live around two kilometers down the road from me in a small village called Poudre D'Or, and on the twenty fifth the village celebrates Durga Amman, the Mother of the World, otherwise known as Kali or Parvati, amongst other names. So, as they saw no reason why I couldn't join in, I decided I'd show my respects to the Mother as my Christmas festivity. For ten days prior to the ceremony those participating fast and pray and consequently I abstained from meat and fish, though I did carry on smoking and boozing as normal, but thankfully the do's and don'ts don't seem to broach these vices. Another aspect of my preparation was to buy new, unsoiled, white clothes; a new longi (sarong), shirt, boxers and pants, which Fina and I then dyed in turmeric water. Your clothes have to be new , or otherwise the outfit from previous ceremonies, though these must not have been worn otherwise.
On Christmas Day morning I was only to eat fruit and drink water or fresh juice, until Sen arrived with a tiffin of Kheer, a scrummy rice pudding with cardamom, cinnamon, raisins and nuts, along with half a dozen puri rotis. Then I was told to be ready for pick up at twelve thirty sharp. Pick up came in the shape of a vey ancient taxi with a maximum speed of around twenty clicks, so it was fortunate that we only had the two or so kilometers to cover to get to Poudre D'or. After 'rush, rush, rush, get your new togs on' we arrived at a shrine down besides a wee river, where there were about another dozen folk, mainly women, gathered. The village is only small so I guess that the procession is in ratio, so equally small and intimate... But as one pm stretched to two pm which in turn eeked its way past three and on through four, before gently meandering on to five in the afternoon, our number's slowly but surely swelled until there must have been over two hundred of us. I still don't understand why we had to be there so early, but there we go. Sen and Fina are, though, very dedicated and serious about their responsibilities. As it was it was nice to see the troops mass, arriving on foot, by minibus or local bus, and even dropped off by Dad, who drives away as is not participating himself. Although I did note that the majority of men arrived latterly, leaving the women to hold the fort for the early hours. So when the Pandit, or priest, for lack of a better translation, arrived, I'd had plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere. And of course this is the Hindu way, time is fairly unimportant, and in India, especially, I always feel a strong sense of timelessness emanating from the one billion odd inhabitants. Sen then asked the Pandit if I could participate in the ceremony and he said 'for sure', or words to that effect, and tied a saffron coloured cord looped around a piece of turmeric to my wrist, to ward of any lurking evil spirits. One of the things I find so special about Hinduism is that, although the faithful are very devout and sincere in their spirituality, they go about their puja, prayers, ceremonies, in a very relaxed, unimposing way. Unlike Christianity which is so serious and formal, or Islam, which is so fanatical and 'if you're not with us you're against us'. I'm a foreign stranger to these people, and I'm not Hindu, but the Pandit's quite happy for me to join in and not a single person, to my knowledge, raised an eyebrow at my presence, despite my being the only whitey there. 
Now the Pandit is here serious preparations get under way. Fina takes me down to the brook where I remove my flip flops, I'm to remain bare footed from now on, and stand in the running water. She then lights some incense and waves the smoke around me, first in circles one way and then the other. After that she quarters a lime and repeats the sequence, ending by throwing the four pieces East, West, North and South, irrespective of who the bits land on... Then Sen tied a lime in a length of saffron cotton which I knotted around my waist with the lime positioned over my left hip. The women, all beautifully dressed, mainly in shades of red, orange and saffron, wait patiently, sitting, sleeping, eating, chatting and joking, under the shade of our special tree or down by the water. The men, though, are getting on with the serious preparations as two cushions are woven from a pile of camphor branches, recently delivered in the back of a pick up truck. One is to cushion the head of the chap who will carry a pottery pot filled with charcoal embers, onto which more camphor leaves are thrown to give off a thick, pungent, smoke. The other is built up in to a three foot tower, wrapped in two saris, carefully folded. In fact this was a very important issue, as after four or five attempts the Pandit himself came over to fold the material. These are the little intricacies I don't understand, but despite all the seemingly casual attitude, they are crucially important. Then limes and other religiously significant artifacts are attached and after a lot of thisings and thatings and rearrangements, significant to the main man and other main players, the team are satisfied. Then we move on to acts of faith as many of the men and some of the women have their tongues pierced by a five inch trident. The son of the Pandit carry's out this operation, adding on a leaf of camphor before twisting the pin ninety degrees so it can then be gripped between the lips. Others go a step further and the trident is pierced through the cheek, above the corner of the mouth and then through the other side of the mouth. From either end delicate chains with hooks on the end are embedded above the corners of the eyes. At this stage Sen had pushed me to the front and I found myself next in line... Eeek, but no, he just wanted me to see. Though next year, having been able to psych myself up to it I reckon I'll go for the trident through the tongue? It has to be done. A progression. My respect to the greater picture. Anyway we'll see.
Final Inspection
Finally all seems to be as should be and the pot of smoldering  camphor is in place, although it takes a few attempts to get the totem properly squared up, what with walking into over hanging branches and the cushion not being positioned properly. But then the Pandit declares the procession is ready to set off and surprise, surprise, we're only about an hour and a half behind schedule... Ahead of the procession a water tanker spews water on to the tarmac, I guess to cleanse the road. The Pandit leads the way, dancing and chanting, followed by drummers, the bearers and the main players, all men. Sen and I are just behind as the procession threads it's way through the village and back out again past the shrine where we started out from. Then, as dusk sets in, we walk on through the water, which always seems to be streaming down the road, irrespective of if we're going up or down a gradient, another two kilometers or so, before reaching the temple of Durga Amman. I'm about fortieth in line at this stage and as the front runners enter the courtyard to the temple I can't make out what is happening, but basically the Pandit and others have worked themselves up into a fair old spiritual fervor and are preparing the scene for the finale. Then with the drums crashing and the onlookers chanting, our line slowly moves forward until there in front of me is my objective; a pit of burning embers around eighteen foot long. Before I know it it's my turn to go and the Pandit blesses me, I clasp my wand with camphor branches, as in prayer and step forward. The old man says "A droit, a droit, to the right", but I reckoned it looked hotter to the left, so I took that path. Slowly and steadily, with the toes turned upwards so as not to catch hot coals between them, the only piece of advice I'd had, I walked around ten steps before reaching the far end of the pit. Later, while lying in my hospital bed, with both feet heavily bandaged, and suffering from third degree burns I... No, it wasn't like that. In fact it was only the last step or so that I even began to get an inkling of warmth beneath my feet, and reckon that I would be able to go twice the distance on another occasion. In fact the hairiest moment was when reaching the end of the pit as there was a trough of water embedded in the ground, and stepping in to it my foot sunk down about twelve inches, taking me by surprise and I nearly tumbled to the ground. Would have been a disappointing ending.
A family affair
After me came maybe another sixty plus folk, Dads and Mums carrying their toddlers, old women dancing their way, families and little children. Then finally the Pandit and his close companions, who where by now truly whipped up in to a full on spiritual fervor, dance through and around the temple, each of them in their own state of trance. Then, suddenly, it's all over and everyone is queuing up to get their vegetarian nosebag, served up on a banana leaf. Looked fine, but not for me, as I was heading home to my first bloody, rare, piece of meat in ten days. But proceedings were not quite over, as when the old taxi drew up at my front gates Fina and Sen told me to stay outside, as they disappeared into the house for a few minutes. Then Fina came back out with a glass of water and turmeric and another lime. She dipped her fingers in the liquid and flicked it in the four directions and over me and then cut the lemon, again into quarters, waving the pieces one way then the other, before throwing them left, right, back and forth. The icing on the cake was when she then said "And now we are family". Only then was my initiation complete. But for her the remaining turmeric water was still of importance as she went around the house and garden sprinkling the liquid as if giving blessing. Even Frankie, my German Shepherd pup was doused and blessed.  
My halo!
So why did I take this option for my first Christmas in Mauritius..? Over the years I've ofter been in situations where Christmas is not celebrated, or I've been travelling and so have not been involved in a festive scenario. Consequently celebrating the occasion has not been a big deal to me as it's a family and friends situation. Also, as I said, I like doing different things and the way this developed with Fina and Sen, who have become my closest companions since I've been here, seemed like the natural path. And then the deciding factor is that I've wanted to do a fire walk for years, but, be it due to inverted snobbery or whatever, I've built up this distaste to the way that yet another practice, that has had a deeper, generally spiritual, background to it, has been taken by the modern day corporate team builder and turned in to a money making event. Turned in to a four day seminar where the punters are told goodness knows what about the does and don't of walking on fire. The whole caboodle hyped up out of all proportion so they happily pay up their five hundred smackers. Ok, fine, everyone ends up happy, the promoter and the sheep, but not for me. On this occasion it all seemed nice and natural and I was with folk who have been doing it for years without making a big Hurrah out of it all. Thank goodness that if their is a majority religion here in Mauritius then it's Hinduism!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Six Weeks Later

Amazing work, hand stitched by "You're lane's the middle lane"
Ahmed's family, back in Kashmir. The storks, for example,
takes one person four months to complete
and costs around four hundred pounds.  
Well that's been about six weeks since I, what in the past would have been, 'put pen to paper'. Yes I've had distractions with friends staying, and the internet connection is in the spare room, but to be honest I think I just went over kill before, writing six or more hours most days, and so in that one extreme or t'other manner I OD'd and didn't want to even look at my rantings. Another thing is that I didn't particularly like the way I wrote that last piece. I fully believe in what I was saying, but it just didn't come out in a very pleasant way. I'm not going to change or delete it as this is the whole point of writing this blog. Passion of the moment... But now I'm up and running again and have a few stories to tell.

A black and brown mutt lies in the shade,
on the busiest road on the island!
What to say...
Life is ticking over nicely now, tick being an operative word as you'll see, I've met some good people, the grapefruit, mangoes, bananas, papayas and coconuts, in and around my garden, are ripe and delicious, and I can see where I stand financially, though I do need to start earning some more cash as my present monthly income is not quite enough. But I've got some time and I've got a couple of, what I consider, good ideas to alleviate any monitory problems. As it is I can't work at the moment as my pending visa is a retirement one which means working is a big no no, and if I did and got caught out, then I'd be in all sorts of shit and most likely get chucked off the island. But in time I can change my visa, and in the budget for 2011, the government has made a big point in stressing that the island needs to encourage new forms of entertainment to bolster the tourist trade, which seems to have taken a major knock this year with number's considerably down. Ok, Mauritius is not comparable to that big chitty of Dubai, but I see the promotion of entertainment comparable to what I saw in Dubai in the beginning of the nineties, when I was able to get away with doing the most appalling, amateur, shows, as no one knew any better! At that time I was only interested in showing off and not interested in promoting, and by the time I was, the market was saturated. Here and now though, I reckon I know things that no one else on the island has experienced. Anyway time will tell and we will update on this topic some time in the future.
Here comes Frankie!
Back in ninety nine my best mate Rosco headed off to the Pearly Kennels a month short of his thirteenth birthday, which is pretty good going for a Rhodesian Ridgeback, when the book stated they live around eleven to twelve years. He had never been ill or had any serious problems, but in those last few months it all just caught up and the hind legs went and finally, I believe, he succumbed to an aneurysm. It was all very swift, as he lay on the grass beside Phil's workshop outside Barao de Sao Joao, just inland from Lagos, on the South West tip of Portugal. I was desperately upset, but time heals and it had been building up to a change in my life for a while, as I'd outlived the traveler's way after nine years of Combies and converted long wheelbase Mercedes vans. Since then, despite having lived four years in Cyprus and the last seven back in the UAE, I never felt confident that I was settled enough to be responsible for a dog as, as we all know, a dog is for life... Well things might all drastically change tomorrow, but as it is I feel that now is the time I can have a new best mate and so let me introduce you to "Frankie". Taraa. Frankie is a German Shepherd, eleven weeks old and has been with me for the last seven days. She hasn't done any nasty business in the house since her second day here, she responds to 'Sit' and 'Come' and  she's accepted the fact that she's not allowed in the sitting room, though everywhere else is fine. The collar's no problem and the lead's no problem, though we haven't gone into that one yet, I just let her drag it around for now. Not everything is perfect though as she came from a garden infested by ticks and this has been a major battle for the last week, and I just hope my house and garden aren't infested. I must have tweeked off a couple of hundred, which of course you're not supposed to do, but I felt I just had to as the problem was so desperate. And she's had two heavy duty baths with shampoo the vet gave me, but still... Again time will tell. Another problem we're dealing with is that she nips in that puppy with first teeth manner. Playing really, but her teeth are like little needles and my wrists are lacerated. Understandable though as in the main it's been when her patience has given in when I've been plucking out the nasties. Still we don't want her to grow up into a biter and so are keeping on the case here. Present tactic being that I yelp in pain when ever she nips, so she knows she's hurt me and so starts licking me better instead! This is pack communication, so I've read, and actually I think it's working, though I can't imagine what the down to earth, no nonsense, neighbour thinks, if and when he hears my whining!
And without over doing it, just one more.
When I picked up Rosco from just outside Rotherham, aged six weeks, with his pedigree certificate showing his birth date as October 20th, auspiciously the same day as my birthday, I was driving back up North to Forres to start fitting out my restaurant that I had naively committed to, without remotely understanding the intricacies of running a business. Consequently over that crucial period when I should've been bonding with Woofer I was working eighteen hours a day, freaked out at the reality of being a restaurateur, and only giving him a morning, afternoon and evening walk, with my mind totally wrapped up over the all consuming business. By the time I was able to give him undivided love and attention it was too late and he had developed his character. Yes, trainer's would say it's never too late, but for us there was never any way back. He was a lovely dog and the worst he would potentially do would be to lick you to death, but I had no control over him and, boy, could he run. Even with the deer around our cottage all he wanted to do was play, but of course that's not how the game keeper saw it when the Belgian's, paying three thousand quid for a weekend's wholesale slaughter, were lining up to take a shot, and Rosco comes bounding out of the wood and over the fence. Then when we were living the life of the traveler, (I used to call myself the Upper Crusty to annoy the crusty Crusties), one thing I did see was that on the whole their dog's were very obedient, and I believe this is because they were with them all day, every day. In most cases I don't reckon they consciously trained them, but just the repetition of "Come 'ere" and " Down" was all their dogs knew. So we'll see, but I really hope I get little Frankie to walk along with me, without any lead, and that she'll happily do what I ask one hundred percent of the time. I can already see her challenging, but over all I reckon we've got off to a pretty darn good start.          

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Let's just Face Up to Reality: Digression's are here to Stay!

Morinda Citrifolia
Noni. Photographed as I'm precariously balanced atop the garden wall  
Since I've been living here in the squat there's been a sort of fruit dropping daily from a tree over hanging the garden, just outside the kitchen patio. It looks rather alien, feels weird, smells 'orrible and before long starts to get decimated by the ants. Then yesterday afternoon Patrick, who was the number two to Clyde, my DSTV satellite installer, asked, in French, being one of the rare true Creole's who don't speak any English, if he could surmount the wall and pick a few, as they are prized for medicinal purposes, similar to Aloe Vera. And no, the ripe fruit which has dropped from the tree was no good, he needed it green, not white and mushy. Well, that got me on the trail, as there's obviously more to this chap than all that initially put's you off. So, with my Internet now connected I did a bit of exploring. First off  though I texted Jean Hugue and asked what the tree was called, and he replied that, at least in Creole, it's known as Noni. Wikepedia, and other sites, of course expand on that, so take your pick? 'What tickles your fancy' Could it be... Great Morinda, Indian Mulberry, Nunaakai, Dog Dumpling, Mengkuda, Pace, Beach Mulberry, Cheese Fruit or our very own, simply said, Noni? Whatever your desire, they are in fact a part of the Coffee Family! 
Now believe it or not, surprise surprise, Western Medicine, with it's couple of hundred year's worth of history, does not support that Noni has any medicinal value, The fact that the Polynesians have held this fruit in awe for over two thousand years is irrelevant. We are first world, we know best, and until we are at least one hundred and fifty percent certain, and still some more, just to play safe, we will sit on the fence! And just so everyone is happy and we don't remotely step on any toes we say 'Yes' to Gays having church weddings, 'Yes' to jailing Tony Martin for defending himself, 'Yes' to supporting his smack dealing attacker, in suing him, 'Yes' to George, redkneck, Bush and his sycophant, Tony Blair, in waging a war against non existent WMD, without remotely understanding the psyche of the Iraqi world, so now pulling out leaving the country a total disaster zone, 'Yeeeeeessss' to taking on the Afghans, who no one has ever been able to better, 'Yes' to teachers being able to have the shit beaten out of them by their pupils, and if they dare to raise a hand in self defense then we'll sack 'em and sue the shit out of them. 'Yes' to the Frog Platini and the corrupt Blatter for, for God only knows why, refusing that goal line technology is the future and, huff, puff, puff, huff, 'Yes' to Sarah Palin, and may she be the next President of the US of A, as then we'll really know how fucked everything has become... I'm done on this one, for the moment at least.
And on a lighter note, Sen works on building my kitchen TV plinth
 and Rajesh  fixes the pool cleaning pipe. That bein his domain
Deep breath, a long Ommmmmmmmmmm, and the Noni fruit should be preferably consumed when in a state of relaxation. So not appropriate for me just at this moment! Despite lack of recognition from Western know alls the fruit is considered by those who live with it to, amongst other things, be a great stress reliever, a strengthener of the immune system, effective in combating colds, cancer, diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, skin infections, depression and arthritis. But then we know nothing as we're   third world gollies. 

My Sweet & Savoury Divali Gift.
 The pink & white, presumably coconut numbers, should be interesting
After being just down the coast fifteen minutes on Scooter, having a sundowner with the Silversmith and gal, I arrived back home to find Sen about to leave on his Hero Panther 50cc. 'Hoi, what are you doing here, it's a holiday and you should be with the family... Anyway, of course, he wasn't here to work, but to drop off a wee Divali package containing pakoras, and other savoury and sweet titbits, from Fina and he, for me, a new friend. Now, as I said before Divali is a sharing primarily between family and friends, and so I feel well honoured that they have gone out of their way to include me as a friend.  

Nowhere can be Perfect
Even my 'not quite peaking' egg white's at six in the morning
can be a worry 
Of course nowhere's going to be a perfect Paradise. Well, not on this planet anyway. And now I'm beginning to see some of the less attractive sides of Mauritius, and as an easy starter for ten we'll begin with a dilemma that is rife in most, primarily, third world countries. And yes, it's litter. The other day I watched a lady walk out of her shop front and purposely drop the wrappings, presumably from her lunch time stuffed paratta, on to the pavement, before returning indoors. Obviously there's no rubbish bin under the desk, but if you have to deposit your shit outside then where is the concept of popping it in to one of the many bins up and down the road. Her shop actually had an official street bin right to the side of it. And then, of course, wherever you drive or walk there is litter lying to one degree or another. Be it the wrappings dropped beside a path, the mounting pile of plastic bottles or the two sacks of unwanted mangoes leaning against a wall. Now I'm just beginning my voyage in to the Island's mentality that has only the beginnings of the concept or concern regarding litter, but have experienced it in rather more depth over my years in the Emirates. And I'm more than likely completely wrong but my explanation is as follows...
Improvisation & no problem in finding a use
 for a good solid retired engine block
Fifty, sixty years ago the few folk populating the 'Pirate Coast/Empty Quarter' ("Yes, and for your next exotic holiday location why not experience being plundered while visiting a destination which offers little else than inhospitable weather and pretty well bugger all else to see than sand, sand and more sand!) were fishermen, trader's in the ports of Rhas Al Khaimah and Dubai or nomad's roaming the desert for months at a time, often surviving on little else than camel milk warm from the teat.They were very tribal and incredibly hard people, and they will, presumably, have had very little, and what they did have, would have, presumably, been re-used and re-repaired time and time again, until whatever it was, was just utterly exhausted and used up. Then it would have been chucked over the wall and forgotten. But then there would also have been such a comparatively minimal amount of refuse, that what there was would have been within the control of time and the elements, and so happily absorbed into the greater picture. But then hey presto, with the discovery of Black Gold, the eyes of the corporate world turned to this desolate corner and thought "Well, what's in this for me"?  And so, like always with a migration, along with the cowboys came all that was needed to support them, which before long meant McD's, whose kitchen motto 'CAYG' is their only positive point in my eyes, Kentucky, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and hundreds more from all over the world converging to sell there consumables. And from the fast food outlets, ok, they've got a bit better recently, but are still hugely abusive, every take away included three spoons, four or five sachets of ketchup, a bundle of paper napkin and, along with everything else, more than likely, a variety of plastic Ninja Turtle which will have successfully motivated young Ben to throw screaming and shouting fits day after day until his mother has relented enough times that he's got the complete collection of American sewer dwellers! But then of course it doesn't stop there, as no sooner does mother wipe her arm across her brow and take a sigh of relief that it's supposedly all over, than Batman's here and the tie in between whoever and which ever production company, warrants a new range of merchandise. So guess what, even Ben, aged five, can note the hoardings around town showing that with each shitty take away he gets another two inch high piece of plastic which will keep him occupied for around two minutes. But the marketing machine has won and so mother has to go through another period of trying to balance a rounded diet with moments of peace. Ad Infinitum. 
The local folk, having gone from nothing to everything on tap, just lap it all up, and not only does obesity rule and small children's teeth rot (no concept of cleaning after half a dozen chocolate bars. and "You are dentist, so fix it") but they do not see how ugly the country looks with all the plastic floating about. And the sixty plus percentage of Asians have no concept either and are not kept to heel. 
Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said,
the main man in Oman
Bordering the UAE you have Oman as one neighbour, Saudi Arabia being the other, and when you drive over the border in to Oman, quite likely, one of the first things you notice is there is virtually no litter. Oman never had a 'Boom' and have just evolved as an Arab nation at a steady, tick tocking pace. The British had, surprise, surprise, been an influence in the country since the middle, latter part of the nineteenth century and despite what other's might think, many ex British colonies, to a greater degree, respect the legacy they left. This tended to be an infra structure encompassing roads, railways, governmental systems, postal services and more. Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said spent his final school years in England and then joined the British army after attending Sandhurst. He then went on to study local government in England before touring the world and returning home to Salalah, where he studied Islam and the history of Oman. Now this seems like a fairly broad foundation for a ruler to build on I reckon. Although it wasn't all a jolly romp in the park as he spent six years under virtual house arrest, had to put down a couple of rebellions and even live up to the accusations of patricide! But in nineteen seventy Sultan Qaboos acceded the throne and created a system of absolute monarchy, which sounds very dictator like, and is, I guess, but in this case it seems as though the dictator has been an ok guy. And so over the last forty years Oman has developed a reputation for good public order, reasonable prosperity and, certainly by the neighbours standards, a relatively permissive society. Besides forming his own one hundred and twenty piece orchestra, with all the musicians being Omani, the main man has also put a considerable amount of the countries resources into infra structure, such as housing, tourism, healthcare and education. And it must surely have been somewhere under this umbrella called education that the populous came to realise that a rubbish free environment is pretty neat really! It might have taken a couple of generations, but go to Oman today and you'll see that in this regards, though many others as well, they are unique in the Arab world.     
 ht here is the treatment of animals, dogs mainly, as there are not so many mammals on the island. People are always upping sticks and moving back to wherever, and so they'll pack up, ship out and leave their pet four legged friends of the last so many years, on the roadway outside the closed up property. I think the locals are pretty good at feeding the waifs but they just end up going from bad to worse and a significant amount fall foul of the Mauritian Highway Code, There are a variety of codes one can follow. You can take the 'with the wife and child straddling the back of the 50 cc Mobilette I can't go more than twenty kilometres an hour down the middle of the lane' code. Or you have the 'It's a very narrow road but I'm driving a BMW 4 wheel drive, and not only have I got to get by that mobilette, but the tractor with the cart over ladened with sugar cane, and then their's the three buses that stop every four hundred yards to disgorge and refill' code. And if you happen to drive a bus or truck then you can follow the 'I'm the king of the road and I'm overtaking another bus and that's just a fact of life, so pull over on to the hard shoulder if you want to get through this' code. Consequently the dogs suffer major. Seven the other morning and a dog walked by me favouring one side of his head. As he past I saw that a five inch diameter area of skin, including his ear had been ripped completely off revealing bone, sinew, whatever, to no doubt cause him a long, slow, painful death. And what did I do about it? I was too shocked and in the short time it took me to recover, he'd disappeared. I hope I'm never again so slow to react. But then again, as the Dalai Llama agrees, you can only do so much and so don't go getting down about all that you can't put right.  
Hmm. Bus goes too fast, brakes lock,
 decades old welding and rivet's give,
 Back axle, springs and wheels say byebye!
And then the other detrimental side to island life I've come across, many more to come to light I'm sure, is the erratic madness on the roads, Compounded by, I should imagine, a tenfold increase in traffic over the last twenty years moving on the one dual carriageway and, otherwise, the twisting, pot holed, one and a half laners. And compounding the dilemma you have the different codes of road use and you have the vehicles which would give a first world MOT inspector death throes on the spot. And lots more I haven't yet taken on board, no doubt.       

Monday, November 1, 2010

Even more Digressions

Ennio Marchetto
Ennio Marchetto
A couple of days after arriving out here I bought a copy of L’Express, which seems like one of the most popular of the local journals. It’s mainly in French, though periodically has segments in English. I haven’t yet worked out the whys and when’s concerning the English bits, but it’s nice to have a break from the  slow, laborious, translation struggle. Like kayaking through choppy seas against the current, around the Musendan Peninsula, into the Persian Gulf, and coming round a headland and suddenly entering a calm, balmy, khor (fjord). Ok, that’s a fairly excessive comparison, but it was the first one that came to mind. Anyway, as I was struggling through French L’Express, sort of understanding that there’s a bit of an uproar regarding the proposed construction of a new power plant and that two brothers had been let out of jail by mistake, I saw an advert for an upcoming show, Ennio Marchetto. Now he is one of my hero’s, one of those legend alternative performers who have spent decades developing a one off, specialized act. He is one of those whose uniqueness and style as a performer I once longed to emulate, but was never able to reach those lofty heights, as I can never persevere along one track for long enough without boredom setting in. That’s why my show was more the work of a flibbertigibbet, jumping from a spot of technical juggling to a Tommy Cooperesque “Bottle, glass, glass, bottle”, and over to fire eating, then back to doing something with a ballon; be it a three foot long modeling one or a six foot diameter giant number! Yes, for fifteen or so years I have longed to see Signor Marchetto perform, but have never been in the right place at the right time. And here he was, two days after my arrival on the island, being advertised as an upcoming event in li’l ol’ Mauritius, in between performing in Helsinki and St Petersburg. I have since learnt that, understandably, due to the size of the island and backgrounds of the populous we are fairly starved of professional, international, entertainment! Again, without being boring, there’s got to be a hidden message here, and it can only be a positive one?
And with Kate & Leonardo
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Getting dressed to go out and buy an early morning croissant and I find that I’ve got no freshly ironed underpants in the closet! I know it’s been the weekend, but still, it doesn’t feel quite right to be putting on washed, but creased, jocks. In future I’m just going to have to get Fina to come in at some inconvenient hour over the weekends, to remedy this dilemma. (Eeek! I must be turning into one of those ghastly expat types I hold in such distain. Quick; a cold shower and self flagellation is in order, to banish these aspirations of grandeur.)
So a month on, this last Friday, six of us head up to Moka, the Mahatma Gandhi Institute, and wallow in an hour’s worth of mesmerizing costume changes, as this is the gist of the show. The whole show is timed to music changes, and so the stage will be blacked out and the British National Anthem will play, and then as the lights brighten Ennio will come out in a cartoon style paper outfit depicting the Queen, in one of her classic Queenie hats, frumpy dresses and holding a handbag, while waving, limp wristedly, at the minions.  His face, with heavy red lips and eye liner, is peering through, and throughout the show his ever changing expressions, after twenty plus years of redefining and repetition, come exactly on cue. After maybe forty five seconds of HRH the music pauses for a few beats and then it’s ‘I Want to Break Free’ and with a flip the Queen’s bonnet is transformed into peaked cap and the teeth and moustache of Freddie Mercury. The frumpy dress disappears and instead he’s wearing tight white trousers and a black, torso hugging vest. The icing on the cake with this skit is when he removes everything except the teeth and moustache, and with his own Number 1 cropped balding hair and leotard, he looks even more like Freddie. Other skits portray Madonna transforming into Eminem, a troupe of Greek dancers, Russian Babushka dolls decreasing in size as each is produced, Edith Piaf changing into the Titanic, where Leonardo and Kate straddle the bow, wind in their hair, before being chucked overboard, exactly on cue to the splash as they hit the water. And so it goes on and on and on. Brilliant stuff.

Most of the thirty three horse field, ready for the off
The East Coast
After the show and a couple of sharpeners with Forbes and his lovely gal Sonara, Jess, Pancho and myself headed forty five minutes across the island to the East Coast where we were playing a two day competition at the Anahita and La Touessrok Golf courses. The only blemish on the journey was when I was randomly pulled over on Scooter by two coppers. But after surreptitiously popping an extra strong mint in my mouth, the act passed off under the guise of a much needed cough, and presenting my licence, I was waved on. Thank you Forbes for giving me the three mints during the show. From now on they’ll be a permanent fixture. After spending the night in the cheap, but perfectly adequate, serviced villa I’d found the previous week in Trou d’Eau Douce we headed up the fifteen minutes to the Anahita, with plenty of time to soak up the vibes and take a few practice shots. The course is so beautiful, set along the coast, and the fairways give plenty of opportunity to escape the consequences of a wayward slice. Although Mauritian Vishal, insisting on hammering every tee shot with the Big Dog, reaped the consequences, and Swiss Richard, I think must have been doing it on purpose, as without fail, pretty well all his shots sped off at a forty plus degree angle to the intended flight path! I dread to think how many balls he went through over the two days! If there was a hazard to be sucked in to then Richard took a running jump every time. 
Ascending & Descending by M.C. Escher
On no, it's a Public Holiday, so I had to make my own bed! Felt quite faint after the work load and needed a little lie down to build my strength back up, consequently necessitating remaking the bed again, which led to another rest before yet again reremaking the bed, leading on to another... I must have ME, Mauk Escher Syndrome, as this is developing in to a never ending spiral!
That evening I headed down to the Green Island Bar and Restaurant having been recommended that this would be my best possibility for catching the Blackburn Chelsea match. Trou d'Eau Douce is a quiet little back water until the tourists arrive at the end of the month, so at six I had the place to myself. It was only after seven that the hordes of locals arrived to watch the final of the Currie Cup, Sharks versus Western Province. The three of them settled down, muttering amongst themselves and to the manager. I knew exactly what was going on, having had the same scenario play out time and again back in the Ferret in Ras Al Khaimah. 'We want to watch the Rugby, so how come this tourist has the telly on the English Premiership. This is our local and we always get what we want'. Actually I fully appreciated, as this final is a big annual event for South Africans, despite the fact that Western Province didn't stand a chance. All I was waiting for was for one of them to ask me if we could change the channel, instead of whinging to anyone but me! Finally the young buck came up to me and couldn't exactly ask me straight out but circumvented the topic, so I let him stew in it for a while before saying that of course he could turn over and that I understood where he was coming from. But as it was there was still half an hour to go so we all got what we wanted!
Par 3 over the water, at La Touessrok
The second day of golf was at La Touessrok, set on an island, which is hugely more difficult with narrow fairways and plenty of dog legs, but I was really chuffed with my play. I don't reckon I've ever thought so much during a game of golf as you need to seriously adhere to course management, rather than just blattering the ball. Consequently Swiss Richard spent most of his time trudging around the Out of Bounds in search of his lost balls. Compounding to the difficulty was the fact that, despite distances to the centre of the green being written on the sprinkler heads, there were so many other times when you needed to know the distance, say, to the trees ahead, prior to a sharp bend in the fairway. Was it a hundred and ninety metres or a hundred and fifty? Consequently, with nothing to guide you, though afterwards I heard that they sold course guides in the shop, not very well advertised, especially as the uninitiated don't appreciate how vital they could be, if you were one club over then bye bye ball. Still it was a lovely course and very different. Inevitably the competition was won by the renowned local bandit who racked up, I think it was, seventy six points over the two days.
My local Winner's Supermarket on a busy Public Holiday.
 Not that this photo does justice on the 'busy' front
Now I don't exactly work hard now, but for the previous two years I worked six days a week at the Golf Club, and I would generally be in by eight and away around five, except Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when, leaving the golf club at around one, I would do the two hundred and fifty kilometre round trip to Media City in Dubai, to do my bit for the company I've come here with. On these days I would generally tend to get home between five and six. Sunday was my day off and all I wanted to do then was be on my own, and even if I had wanted to party, everyone else was working, Sunday being the beginning of the working week in most Arab countries. As it was, after a bit of house cleaning, shopping, laundry and cooking up a batch to freeze in individual portions (professional bachelor touch here), there wasn't much time left over for anything else besides the ritual siesta on the sofa. Hey presto and it was dark and time for Sunday footie. Then it was Monday and six days to go... But this weekend had been a two day weekend, and despite my working situation, I was with others enjoying the Saturday and Sunday off. Consequently it reminded me of how important two days off is, as you need both in order to do the necessaries, unwind, as well as have the time to get out and have an adventure of some sort. So I say 'No' to six day working weeks. Ok, I now basically have seven day weekends, but I've done my bit in the past!

Public Holidays
Looking at, the official governmental portal for the Republic, the blend of nationalities is summed up perfectly by the island's mix of Public Holidays, of which there are numerous. For example, on the fourteenth of February we have 'Chinese Spring Festival', on the fifteenth of August we have the 'Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary' and on the tenth of September 'Eid-Ul-Fitr'. Then on this coming Friday, the fifth of November, we have the Hindu celebration of 'Divali', the Festival of Lights, which involves the lighting of small clay lamps, filled with oil, to signify the triumph of good over evil. It is actually a five day celebration, and for many the most important festival in the Hindu calendar, and is celebrated by the sharing of sweets and snacks amongst family and friends. 
Today, the second, we have a special day off to celebrate 'Arrival of Indentured Labourers'... Presuming one or two people have persevered this far with my ramblings, maybe my mother for example, out of support for her self obsessed son, I believe I can hear one or two 'Well what in the world does that mean?' Over four hundred and fifty thousand Indentured Labourers were ferried from India, many from Bihar who were known as 'Hill Coolies', between eighteen forty nine and nineteen twenty four, to work on the sugar cane plantations. Being 'indentured' they were not slaves, but were employed, on, generally, a five year contract, with wages, housing and return tickets. Of course this was abundantly abused and a fair proportion were treated poorly, with their right's ignored. But many remained here and now their descendant's make up over fifty percent of the populous. Consequently Government is monopolized by Indian Mauritians, as they have the majority vote! But fair's fair as the Chinese dominate commerce, the Frogs are the landowners and the African's have poverty... The day is officially celebrated at the Aapravasi Ghats in Port Louis, where the labourer's took their first steps on to Mauritian soil.



Staff, Delegation & Petit Dejeauner
Needs a photo here, so we'll give Brownie
a re-run as "You're not forgotten Old Dog,
I'm coming to find you"
So here I am, in my new home, and I reckon I’ve settled in very swiftly and nicely, thank you very much. I have never remotely lived in such a place, since flying the coupe, that is. As I’ve said before, the house is fully furnished, and yes, there are one or two things I will change in time, but overall the furnishings and ambience are great. What I found out today was it’s Fina, my right hand, her husband Sen being the left, who is the artiste who has positioned all the décor just so. My tooth brush and paste don’t just remain haphazardly thrown on the side, as I leave them, but are positioned at the appropriate angle to each other, complimenting the razor, foam, tube of unopened Zovirax, waiting for that alien in the lip to start pulsating, prior to eruption, etc! Yep, for all you Herpes sufferers, plan ahead. Don’t be ashamed as you didn’t, more likely than not, only you know, get the virus from anal sex (nothing necessarily wrong there of course), or sitting on an unbecoming loo seat. No, more than likely Aunty Ethel gave you a big ol’ Auntie Ethel kiss when you were a mere wee one, dooming you to a lifetime of coldslaws! In my case it was New Year’s Eve, Hogmany, back in the Bistro days in Forres, when, as the clock struck midnight in the toun square, a complete stranger, who afterwards became a very special friend despite what she donated me for a lifetime present, gave me a big smacker. Within twenty four hours the inside of my mouth was covered with ulcers and my lips were aaagh! Anyway it’s never been remotely as bad since, but the point is that a massive percentage of people have coldsaws, a virus that’s with you for life, lurking and waiting for a downer/depression, when it will spring to life. But, by keeping the ointment at hand and applying it the moment you feel the lip throbbing you can kill it off, avoiding the otherwise standard ten days depressing infection. True? And that was a minor, not very pleasant, but informative, digression, I know. But after twenty five years as a sufferer I feel the advice is warranted. Though that is for you to decide.
The said fresh decor
Oh, just noticed, there are fresh flowers in the vase on the table? Nothing ostentatious, just three whatever they are. How nice. Must keep abreast of such subtleties in future, as these touches are now ‘the meaning of life’ in my existance.
Anyway, here I am with Sen controlling the garden, Rajesh looking after the pool and otherwise aiding Sen, and the mighty Fina in control of the interior. Fina the decorateur and I, have, I believe, quickly developed a rapport, whereby  I’ll say “Fina, can you show me how to properly prepare a mango and then place it on that platter there, next to the plate with the grapes, and the other two with banana and strawberries on them?” To which she replies “I’m sure you’re right but how about putting all the fruit on the serving dish with the four partitions…” She’s correct of course, as this would be far more aesthetically pleasing. I had actually seen it there in the bottom cupboard, but it was under a load of other dishes, and with my hips the way they are I hadn’t been arsed to get down on my knees and maneuver it out. But then she’s here and that’s what those that do do! And this is the point, as besides Analize, who came in about once every six weeks to do a heavy duty dust back in RAK, I’ve never had a posse of staff before and I feel really embarrassed. Well I did for about five minutes until I accepted that this is a working relationship. She’s getting dosh and I can live the life of Reilly! And, as the icing on the cake, we can all have fun getting on well together while each benefitting in their own way. And I’m still a third under budget!!!
Morning four and I’ve got the team from work coming for breakfast. Jess and Pancho are off playing golf, but that’s cool as they checked out the pad the other night. As I tend to be these days I was up around half five, and after a brief plunge and douse down under the outdoor shower (please note AB, if you ever read this), I doodled around and then started getting the petit dejeuner together. After whipping out the tomatoes and mushrooms in garlic butter, to rest in the oven under a low heat, I got the ribs on. They took half an hour or so and then it was the time for the Spanish sausages, what’s their name, and local variety of black pudding. None of the other’s tried the latter, except Cesar, tentatively, but it was actually my favourite of all. Scrambled eggs were whisked and pending for the last moment, so I got on with laying out the Greek olives, cucumber slices and selection of cheeses. I passed on the planned Charcuteries, leaving them for another day, feeling that to include them was getting a bit excessive, and having, once upon a time, been a restaurateur, I hate waste. Of course by this time, nine, Fina was ensconced, and you know about the fruit scenario. Although being mildly pedantic, I will correct myself, to note that the platter actually had six partitions and so included the cucumber and olives!
Fine, but various adjustments to be made when my stuff arrives
sometime over the next couple of days
I had phoned Brenda and asked her to pick up some bread from the Boulangerie on her way and she had said that they were all leaving at eight thirty to tentatively get here for nine, be it a fifteen minute journey. As it was, sure enough, pretty well on the dot, Sen, doing a brief morning shift, I don’t know why, though maybe to make sure all is in order with my noble guests arriving, informed me that there were intruder’s hoving in. Brenda, having been here before led the way with the firey Dragon breathing down her neck, then Karen and Cesar. I was pretty well there, especially with Fina tidying up the loose ends, so, after an in depth snoop, they settled outside on the front patio with the sun sneaking down through the trees, while I finished off. Then it was out to the ‘early morning dining area’, nicely laid up by Fina, with all the crockery, cutlery and condiments in place. But where was Irish? The others had seen her leave prior to them, presuming she was on her way? But na, no phone call , nothing. Seems like a ‘I’ve just arrived from Dubai and so far to important and busy to make a polite call saying I’m so sorry I can’t make it, as am looking at potential homes’ type, more than acceptable, explanation . Well, is it worth my asking her to my Pendre la Cremaillere? Hmmm. To be mulled over? But, dare I say it; I believe the others had a very fine time.

Something I’ve been Mulling Over
For Fucking Years…
Again, A great start but to be improved
Expat scenarios the world over, but personified,from my experience, by the Emirates, especially the big Chitty of Dubai, attract, like flies are attracted to a newly laid turd, folk who come from nowhere and within thirty seconds think they’re God’s gift. When I spent my first four years in the Emirate, (here comes the “I remember” boring old fart spot), back , way beyond, in eighty one to eighty four, there was no such expression as ‘Jumeirah Jane’. In those days the people out in such postings were semi adventurers. Ok, Dubai was certainly not a hardship posting, as you pretty well had all the mod cons, and in fact, for most of us, a finer lifestyle than we’d had before. But I think we were aware of this and appreciated it. Yes, there were plenty of aspirers, as there have always been throughout time, in the worlds of the Expat. Such as with the Brits out in India, back in the days of the Raj (see Kipling or E. M. Forrester, I think it is). But, possibly because Dubai was a newish expat playground back in the early Eighties, the aspiring snobbery orientated ones were more of a joke to the majority, rather than an imposition. But when I returned ten years later the ‘Jumairah Jane’ was prolific. They’d come out from their semi detached, government housing scheme flats, the parent’s spare room, wherever, and within a blink of an eye considered themselves an HRH. I guess that likeminded places attract likeminded people. And with an unspoken mantra of Dubai being  ‘Come. Go get it, regardless of who you stomp over along the way’, then such types take up the challenge, spreading the word to their likeminded friends, and so it goes on, snowballing… This is of course a gross generalization, but the attitude is present in way enough of a degree to warrant stating this point. Anyway, enough on that pet hate for now (but be assured I'll be back to it one day, when some incident trips my switch)! 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Done & Dusted

Magnificent Monday
The entrance to Chez Stuart with Scooter stabled outside
Nine thirty in the morning is the projected hand over moment, so I head down to the State Bank of Mauritius to see if my money has been received, so I can deal up with the landlord and Agent. It  would have been too good to be true if the transfer had been a swift, fluid, success story, I guess, as of course, my account still only held the opening two hundred rupees and that'll only go as far as a fine four pound Sunday lunch outing. So I head on up to the house where Jean is waiting, with LisaAnne, his fiancée, Fina the maid, her husband Sen, the jardiniere, Rajesh, the pool attendant and Annan, Head of Security!!! Before doing the inventory introductions are made all round and it's time for me to make myself clear about where we all stand. Rajesh is easy as he's part of the deal and Jean pays him to come in six days a week, between four and six in the evening, to do the pool and then help Sen with whatever. Annan, my security chief is not actually an employee, he works for Jean otherwise and is on call to stay the night if I am away. On these occasions he's there six pm till six am, all for the princely sum of three hundred and fifty rupees, plus fifty for travel expenses (between eight and nine pounds a night). Jean is very concerned about the house being left unoccupied over night and I'm happy to concur to this arrangement, as we're not exactly talking about wallet busting sums here. When he's on duty Annan snoozes on the front verandah and is able to watch the telly in the pool shed, though calling it a 'shed' does not do the rotunda, edifice, structure, pavilion, whatever, justice.
Early morning sun slants across the breakfast table
 and on to the front of the house
The tricky ones are Fina and Sen as they've been working for Jean for over ten years, and get twelve thousand rupees a month between them. That's all very well and good when you're tidying up behind, and cooking for, a husband, wife and two teenage kids, but it's a different story when you're employee is a well trained bachelor who loves to cook for himself; though she can happily teach me Mauritian style... So I don't want, or need, them full time and I'm not paying them this amount out of sympathy. But I do need them part time and they are obviously very trustworthy and know all the ins and outs of the estate, so we take the middle line. As it is they are quite aware of the situation and are more then happy when I offer them six thousand (around a hundred and thirty pounds a month) to come in for four half days a week. Fina, nine till twelve, and Sen, four till six in the evening. So that's general cleaning, washing and ironing, gardening, and any other wee jobbies I come up with, taken care of. And I'm still thirty percent under my original, worst case scenario, budget! Boom Shanka. Jean, the fiancee and myself then do a swift inventory,I assure them that they'll get their money as soon as I receive it, and hey presto, I'm left, home alone. Beautiful! 
Tap dancing & Mosquitos
Satellite now connected, I feel a barbie for one
 coming on this Sunday as I watch Chelsea demolish Liverpool
As dusk advanced I meandered throughout my policies, looking in cupboards here, checking out the outdoor, subtly positioned lighting, there, settling on the throne and verifying it’s comfortability, knowing how much time I’ll potentially be occupying it, trying out the TV, though no channels of interest yet, until I subscribe to DSTV, the South African service available, dadeda. While getting to know my new home, being cost conscious, I was supping away at my fresh lime Daiquiris, as the local Green Island Superior Rum (recommended) costs one hundred and forty nine rupees, in comparison to imported spirits at over ten times the price. As sozzleness settled in I even started dancing around the estate, IPod on, engraining myself further. This is the first time I’ve truly bopped for years, except maybe at the twice annual golf club shindig back in RAK, when Heidi, the Norwegian chiropodist, and I, had to show up those big, rough, tough, macho, self conscious Bunny Rabbits. The ones dotted around the Ferret d’Or loudly listening to their own drivel, repeating the same crap as they’d come out with the day before, and the day before that, ad infinitum. I always find it amazing how people can hold the same conversations, generally the local gossip, time and time again, blissfully unaware that it is all repetition from the previous day’s drone! Of course I can get away with saying this, as if anyone happens to read it and take umbrage, then it can only be because they feel themselves a guilty party. Ha! During this time I happily ignored the mosquito’s eating me, as after the years of living in vans around the Mediterranean the bite doesn't bother me any more. But once I went to bed it was a very different story as the psychological factor does get me, and this time it wasn’t in mono, or even stereo, possibly not even quadraphonic. There was a fucking swarm in my bedroom and there was no way I could take that Chinese torture. So after two to three hours alcohol induced slumber I was up again and enjoying my space. Bzz, bzzzzz, bzzz, bzzzzzzzzzz, silence… Where is the fuck? ‘Slap’, on the neck, bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, again silence, aaarrgghhh. Of course you know what I mean.
Looking down from the volcanic rockery
The next day my money still had not arrived, but there is absolutely nothing I can do about it except wait, and Jean understands as he’s Mauritian, so knows the score. Early evening and Sen and Rajesh are up to their tricks, Jess, Pancho and Brenda are coming for Daiquiri Sundowners, but this time with a fresh strawberry number as an alternative. Sen is occupied raking up fallen leaves which had recently been attached to, possibly, one of my Mango trees, or otherwise one of my other arboreal varieties, yet to be identified. I need Davey Jones to emerge from his locker and get on the case, as he’s destined to be my advisor on all things nature orientated. Despite the fact he always performed miserably after choosing ‘Science & Nature’ as his specialist, for double points, topic in the monthly Ferret d’Or Quiz’s; painstakingly set and presided over by Moi! Interrupting Sen I mention one little problem we need to resolve… The kitchen tap, which is a good old fashioned, solid, heavy duty thing, seems to me, to be in need of a new rubber washer, as you turn it two twists anti clockwise to get it running, and then magically it needs sixteen twists clockwise to turn it off! Well this was my count prior to mentioning the dilemma to Sen. ‘No problem’ he says, or at least, a French variation, and gets on the case. I’m saying ‘No rush we’ll look at it tomorrow’, but no, he’s out to prove his worth. Spanners, hammers, screw drivers, etc, are supplied by Rajesh, when called for, the tap is dismantled, and after around an hour, with a slither of Phoenix beer can washer emplaced, the water is turned back on. Honest to God this is the truth! Two turns on and thirty four turns off. It’s a new world record! But, at least, having armed myself with three plug in mosquito, twelve hour, tablet numbers, I had a blissful six and a half hours sleep, without a chirp from any visiting enemy Stukas.