Friday 2 March 2018

Flying February.

Well February literally flew by.
My feet didn't touch the ground at work with the best part of 400 academic interviews to arrange and all the inevitable issues that come with them, I even ended up doing far more of them than I anticipated.

There was social stuff too of course. I've noticed the anti-Valentine's day backlash getting bigger and bigger in recent years and certainly judging by social media it seems to have hit a crescendo this year. Yes it has got massively consumeristic but then so have things like Christmas, and just like those celebrations it's what you decide to make of it as an individual that counts, not what the shops tell you to do. I couldn't give a fuck if people think I'm sad for celebrating Valentine's day, as a couple we always have and hopefully we always will.
This year Himself bought me a Porg and I bought him some lego so that shows you our level right there. We went to the cinema which is our tradition and thoroughly enjoyed Black Panther.

Our other outing was to London to see Bowling for Soup. As you may know they were my favourite band. Annoyingly they are one of those bands who did a farewell tour 5 years ago and then have basically consistently toured ever since! This is the first time we have seen them since that 'farewell' tour and was a anniversary tour for their album Drunk Enough to Dance.
We decided to book a hotel for the night after we found the show, which was in Brixton, didn't finish until 11pm. It was great to be able to sit in Wetherspoons with a post gig pint instead of racing back to Paddington station.
It was a great night but I think my days of going to such rampacked gigs might be done I really couldn't be arsed with all the constant pushing and shoving and not being able to see.Dear god I'm getting old!!

Next was my work trip to India. We arrived in the early hours of Wednesday morning so I must admit I was very relieved we had a car there to meet us. Our bags took so long to arrive we started to panic a little, this was clearly the theme of the holiday because it took 2 hours for our cases to arrive when we landed home too!?! That time there was near mutiny this time it was just tired resignation.
We finally arrived at the hotel at 3am, checked in and gratefully hit our beds for a few hours.
This is the view from my window with the famous Delhi smog in full effect. It smelt like a thousand coal fires though it was the over fierce air con at the hotel that left me with no voice by the end of the trip rather than the pollution.

We worked until about 4.30pm then we decided to walk to Khan Market which was about 10 minutes away from our hotel. This turned out to be a bit of a mad idea as we had to cross 3 main roads which was terrifying. They have pedestrian crossings but no one actually takes any notice of that, you basically wait until you see a gap and then just plunge into the traffic!
Being tall, blonde and very European looking I had been warned that I would be starred at, possibly touched/stroked and asked for my picture. I didn't get either of the later thankfully but I did get starred at a lot which I found incredibly uncomfortable. I hate being the centre of attention and would rather blend in to the background so I found it really challenging to have people stopping dead to gawp at me like I had just landed from another planet.

We enjoyed wandering round the market and both bought a scarf before heading back for a welcome cold drink and shower. It was certainly hard to adjust to 30 degree heat after flying out in freezing cold weather.
We had two full days of work and didn't leave the hotel at all as it has restaurants on site. I have to say the level of service was impeccable but to the point that it made you feel a bit uncomfortable. The person who did my room not only lined everything up in neat OCD rows and also folded any clothes I might have left out (I only did that the once!) the step too far for me was the lining everything up neatly inside my washbag and the taking of hair out of my hairbrush!?!

They did however leave a cute little mirror in the bathroom  for me to keep. My colleague Charlotte was gutted that she didn't get one until sure enough the next day there was hers too. The thing that cracked me up was they clearly carefully matched the mirror to your belongings. Charlotte only ever wears black & grey with the occasional white shirt. Her little mirror was plain grey.
This was mine! Do you think it was the bright yellow snoopy make-up bag, the glittery brooches or the colourful dresses that influenced the choice?

Saturday was our one day off so we had booked an 8 hour 'Old Delhi & Sightseeing Tour' with Reality Tours the amazing company Vix has just blogged about. My brother and his wife took the same Mumbai tour she and Jon did when they were in India in January, they also used them in Delhi and said it was the best tour of their whole India trip, so on that recommendation I booked it.

We were met by our guide Shehnaz at the hotel at 9am and had the services of her and a driver for the whole day. Shehnaz is a history student and certainly knows her stuff. I'm not sure she quite knew how to take Charlotte and I as we spent a lot of the time joking about and ripping the shit out of the British colonials, I also got a bit excited in Lodhi Gardens and went off in full garden historian mode at one point. I was busy explaining the complexities of the medieval herb garden when I realised her eyes had glazed and shut up. I did have a fascinating conversation with her about modern day arranged marriages though.

We started at the Swaminarayan Temple Akshardham Mandir where no phots are allowed. This awe inspiring temple is over a 100 acre site and looks like it has been here for centuries, in fact it is modern and only took a jaw dropping 14 years to complete. That would have been enough except it had a Gajendrapith or plinth of 148 life sized carved sandstone elephants. It basically told the stories of elephants through 3 stages. Elephants with nature, elephants with man and elephants with the divine.

You know me and elephants. Frankly our guide couldn't have chosen a better place to start! I was in heaven, it's a good job there were no photos allowed or I'd still be there clicking now! I did buy the guide book and here's a picture from it so you get the gist.
I was finally dragged away and we jumped in our car and headed to The Red Fort
We walked around the outside and then used an underpass to get across the very busy main road and into Old Delhi. That was an experience! I gather it is always manic to a soundtrack of car horns but being a Saturday meant it was particularly so. On a couple of occasions once Shehnaz had established we didn't mind walking we abandoned our rickshaw and took to our feet. Which was fine except for the fact our guide was teeny tiny and went nipping off at quite a pace between the densely packed traffic through gaps this fat English arse was never going to manage!!
We cut through some of the market to visit Jama Masjid next which is another temple.
See those birds? Those are actually kites, so birds of prey, in a huge flock like that - mad! Apparently they gorge on the huge population of pigeons.
 From here we delved deeper into the market, through narrow narrow alleyways and underground subways on our way to the Sikh temple. Here we had to take off not just our shoes but our socks as well and also cover our hair.
From there to the spice market which was insanely busy and also selling bags of coloured powder for Holi as well as exotic spices. We finally caught another rickshaw back to our car and driver.  I found Old Delhi incredible. incredible and terrible at the same time.
It looked like one push and the whole place would collapse, the electricity wires hanging everywhere, the people, the noise, the dust & dirt. If I'm honest it was all too much for me I felt overwhelmed and a bit panicky. I'm glad I did it but I don't think I would ever want to go there again. Charlotte on the other hand LOVED it! My ears are still ringing a week later from the constant car horns. I was fascinated by the monkeys casually existing alongside all this chaos.

Next stop was lunch and a much needed drink and toilet break. from there with no time to linger we headed back to New Delhi and India Gate. It was so, so busy, it seemed like the whole of New Delhi  was out walking and picnicking, it's a popular spot for families on lovely days apparently and this was a lovely day. From there we went up to Parliament House.
This was as close as we could get though because the Canadian Prime Minister was in town!

Our final destination was Lodhi Gardens which was my request. They certainly lived up to my expectations. They are beautifully maintained as are the Lodhi tombs within them.
Much as with the National Trust these days the emphasis is on preservation rather than restoration.

It was so peaceful, especially after the madness of Old Delhi. We wandered about and visited all the tombs. It was funny to see the British efforts, the flowerbeds and avenues of trees alongside the ancient and exotic. Step round the corner by the boating lake or the rose garden and you could have been in Hyde Park!
Even the temples had to have straight paths leading up to them lined with flowerbeds, oh the British and their straight lines!
In some respects we barely scratched the surface, but in another it was a great flavour of the city and it's people. We saw so much wildlife living alongside so much manic humanity. Monkeys, parrots, birds of prey, a mongoose and even a warthog trotting along the busy main road.

Hot, sweaty and exhausted we were back at the hotel just before 5pm where I inhaled 3 cups of tea before staggering into a delicious and refreshing warm shower.

So what did I buy on my flying visit to Delhi?

Not much there wasn't really the time and I only took £60 with me to change into rupees. So a little elephant, a scarf and a gorgeous bag that I could not resist, left me with a couple of pounds in change.

In terms of the rest of February and purchases after my epic January spends it's been remarkably restrained. One dress, just out of the packaging so very crumpled
and this mystery object!
Yes another Corde bag for my expanding collection.
I'm currently trying to 'freshen' it up a bit as sadly it's rather musty smelling. I've cleaned it (that's washing powder you see at the bottom) so I know it's clean and it's not mouldy, hopefully a couple of weeks sealed in a bag of biological soap powder will do the trick.