Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Burns Night - Indian Style

Normally Burns night cheers up a very quiet, damp cold night January 25th and we always look forward to ours. Many a happy night has been had in the past celebrating the life and works of the famous Scottish Poet - Robert Burns.

We were going to attend a formal dinner in Madras/Chennai but it was cancelled at the last minute and not to spoil a party I rashly claimed that it would be no problem to throw a dinner party for 20 in my house!!! What was I thinking!

So all hands on deck, everyone contributed something or other (no time to organise caterers) and we managed to have an extremely pleasant evening of Cock-a-leekie Soup, followed by Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, then Cranachan and Atholl Brose for dessert then a cheese course, finished off with homemade tablet and shortbread. It is quite amazing what you can do with Amul cream.

We even managed to get our hands on some Scottish Haggis and flew in the neeps, Whisky, oatcakes. (Thank you my Brit friends for sending these out!)

To top it all our friends Alaisdair and Lynne managed to secure some pipers from the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles Regiment to pipe in our haggis.

The Scottish Saltire Cross Flag a la Robinson Crusoe being flown on a bamboo pole!

Pipers from the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles Regiment

The table set for 20 -looking resplendent
Our Madras Scottish contingency from left
Frazer, Bob, Alasdair and Mr Maddog

People made a big effort to dress for the occasion!
My cook Josephine carrying in the Haggis while being piped in

Many speeches were given and Mr Maddog didn't let us down with his address to the Haggis which he recited all verses without reading.

Oops....is that almost an empty decanter of Whisky I see before Ian and I?

Then it all got very silly with other poems Burn's style but very funny and laughed the night away. Finishing off with a Celidh and having a visit from the local Policeman to see what all the noise was about! (Very funny - considering I think India is one of the most noisiest countries I have ever been in!)
Burns wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Chennai Aiport - Midnight, December 14th 2008

Hmm...... now let me see. I have recounted this story to quite a few people since and every time I recount it I still can't quite believe it myself. In fact, I always enlist the help of Mr Maddog or baby Maddog #1 to keep the facts correct, just in case, dare I say it, exaggerate.......

But exaggerate not. This is a true story.

As you may have gathered from my earlier posts, our decision to go to New Zealand was a very last minute decision. I wanted to go home for Christmas to my family and friends in the U.K. - they all said I couldn't. They knew I would have not come back (another story). So on the last day of term Mr Maddog bought 5 tickets to New Zealand via Hong Kong.

We left the next day..............


Our flight was around 3.15 am and there we were with our suitcases packed and dressed ready for the airport and our long journey.

Baby Maddog #3 starts vomiting at 8pm............uh-oh. Copious extra clothing for her and plenty of wipes were stashed away in my hand luggage.

En-route to the airport we stop no less than 3 times for her to vomit on the side of the road (thank goodness it was dark and I couldn't see what I was standing by or in).

We arrive at Chennai airport which had, once again changed it's layout for where vehicles drop off passengers or collect. It was mayhem, cars, people everywhere blocking every route. The airport resembled more of a stadium hosting a major football match thronging in every direction possible. Eventually our driver Ramesh just abandons the car and throws our luggage onto a couple of trolleys as the police were breathing down his neck to move on quickly.

Baby Maddog #3 takes one look of the crowd and is immediately spirited into Daddy's arms, with Baby Maddog #2 clinging onto my trolley. The eldest is also clinging to Dad's trolley.

The luggage falls off the trolleys no-less than 3 times, due to:

a) Not being able to see where we are going and going over major potholes.
b) People pushing the luggage off, just by the crowds.

We eventually after a long time make it into the airport to...........the busiest I have ever seen it, and, no-one to direct you.

We find the Cathy Pacific check-in desk but get directed to a snaking queue that seems to be going around the departure hall. So we join, and at this point Baby Maddog announces that she needs the toilet, NOW, RIGHT NOW!!!

Great, a trip to an Indian Airport toilet.

Still shaky from just trying to get into the airport I pick up Baby Maddog #3 into my arms and #1 comes with me. It takes me ages just to find it, and, lo-and-behold the doorway is completely blocked by luggage trolleys. 20 of them! By now I'm incensed and with my left arm push them out of the way angrily, just in time for the said trolleys to knock me over still holding BMD #3 and come crashing down onto the trolleys and SMACK. I hit my forehead on the corner of the marble floor skirting. Ouch!!!!!!

Uh-oh indeed. I'm dazed and immediately hear two men pulling me and BMD #3 off the trolleys. All I can see is stars and this guy is pulling my arm out of my armpit, BMD is screaming at the top of her head.

"Get off me, leave me alone!" I roar. Bodgit and Scarper disappear into the crowd.

I must have looked a sight. There I was, sitting on the floor outside the ladies toilet in Chennai Airport with a screaming child and when I felt it......a huge egg on my forehead.

Oh bugger, this is a biggie I thought. Going to need something on that pronto. BMD #1 is just staring at me. I can't speak, (still got stars and birds flying around) and all I'm thinking is I need to get something on that bump. I couldn't find my Arnica for bruises in my bag (I can't really see) and then feel the next best thing, a spray. I take the lid off point and shoot at the bump and spray and spray. It's insect bite relief spray - but hey, it was cold.

I sit there for goodness knows how long - my sight comes back. An airport official comes up to me and offers me a chair to sit on.

So I offer lots of loud rants of how they should improve their Health and Safety not to mention security. What a bloody disgrace of an airport and so on...... They scarper too. Leaving around 50 Indians staring at me. Which then brought me to this strange thought - how times have changed. Once upon a time it wouldn't have been usual to see an Indian woman sitting by the entrance to a toilet cradling a child. Now it was a white woman (although I wasn't begging, yet). I could see the bemused expressions on their faces. No help offered of course. Remember I had ranted a bit earlier - probably petrified to come near me!

"I really need the toilet Mummy" came BMD #3 who had now stopped crying but was rubbing her nice big bump on the back of her head.

"Mummy, OMG that looks terrible" was all BMD #1 could say (she's 11) and looked like she was in shock.

After seeing to BMD #3 I managed to walk back rather shakily through the crowds to Mr Maddog in the queue holding onto BMD #1 arm to steady myself.

"OMG!!! You need a doctor" he says and grabs a Cathy Pacific staff member and points at my head demanding a doctor quickly. Judging by the expression on her face she didn't have the foggiest idea how to get one of those and sauntered off.

We turn round and BMD #1 is looking pale. "You O.K.?" I say and............ off she goes into La-La land and faints on the spot. I just about manage to catch her.

Meanwhile the queue is moving and an impatient Indian woman behind us says can we move on please. I won't repeat what Mr MD says.

No more surely......? Oh yes, this is where the fun begins in earnest...............

An airport official (if you can call then that) comes over, not a doctor, but with a wheelchair, takes one look at BMD #1 on the floor slumped against a pillar and then me and says........

"Who's the wheelchair for, you or her?" pointing at BMD #1

BMD #1 goes into the wheelchair and I lean on it taking BMD #2 (the stoic daughter in a crisis) with us. Not to medical services but the airport managers office. Where two men come in look and my growing egg on my head and say I need a hospital. I need to get out of here is what I'm thinking. They give me a choice Chennai (miss my flight) or Hong Kong. I'll take Hong Kong please and give them another earful about their shoddy airport.

Hmmm..... they reply probably not giving a monkey and swab some iodine on the said lump and give me two paracetamols for the ensuing head-ache. Meanwhile BMD #1 is still slumped in the wheelchair.

Eventually I catch sight of Mr Maddog looking frantically at the glass box which is the airport managers office separated by a barrier and Police. Time to go I think.

"Come on honey, lets go and find the others " I say to BMD #1. Her response.............she faints 3 more times.

By now it's a bloody comedy. We leave her in the wheel chair and proceed to find Mr MD who informs me that Cathay Pacific were very nice and pushed him to the front of the queue and let him check us all in at the Business class counter. But BMD #3 decided it was a good time to throw up again - all over the check in desk.

Beam me up Scottie.

While Mr MD fills out the tedious Immigration forms for all 5 of us I sit on a chair rubbing the now found Arnica cream onto my now boulder of a lump and watch the crowds pass us by queuing for Immigration. One of which is a mother from one of my daughters classes, she just stares at us, had done since she was in the same Cathay Pacific queue.( Probably decided early on that she wasn't going to associate herself with us. Or offer any help. Interesting.

We must have looked a sight, me with the boulder, and one child green or grey with a bag strapped to her face (just in-case) and one in a wheelchair.

Still the queues were murder that night, all expats and Indians getting away for the holiday season and we jumped the lot. Saved us about an hour in queuing.

We get to the departure lounge and Mr MD goes for Indian Chai (very sweet) and I look at my motley crew - made it. We are getting out of here. Thank, whoever.

While sipping my tea and laughing with Mr MD and the Baby MD's about how ridiculous it had been so far I suddenly realise that we haven't booked our R.V. for New Zealand (time differences and office's being shut).

"OMG, N.Z. office hours close in 5 minutes!!!" says Mr MD. So proceeds to call NZ in the departure lounge of Chennai airport and secure our R.V. for our 3 week holiday. Meanwhile they are calling our names for last call for the flight.

We proceed to the plane - with the little man still pushing the wheelchair for BMD #1 (more queue jumping - I like this now, amazing what a wheel chair can do).

That's when I spot her, the mother from one of the BMD class, I have to walk straight pass her, she's on an aisle seat......

"You made it then" is her only sulky comment.

COW!! is what I think and give her an evil eye, which in hindsight must have looked scary given the boulder on my forehead covered in Iodine and Arinca cream.

I get to my seat and think alleluia I'm getting out of here when the cabin crew take one look at me and summon the head honcho lady of the crew.

"I'm not sure your fit to fly with that" she says. Please, Please, PLEASE get me out of here, I'll do anything.

"Hmmmm, I know what your saying my dear, this is India - lets see....."

So I have to sit with ice on my head for 5 hours and allow them to call a doctor to meet me at Hong Kong airport. I must admit I was thinking blood clots and nasty things too.

Meanwhile BMD #3 throws up again on take off.

But Head Honcho cabin crew lady nurses me and pampers me for 5 hours, bless her. Then informs me that the only way I can see the doctor is by getting a wheel chair to meet us at the plane door. I look over at BMD #1 who is now looking a lot more perkier. O.K. we'll take it.

Ironically it's not there when we eventually leave the plane (BMD #3 does one more throw - this time on landing, more changing clothes). The older Indians had nabbed it, obviously realising what a great queue jumper it is.

I make it to a clean, orderly medical suite in Hong Kong airport for a thorough check up by a rather attractive looking Hong Kong Chinese doctor. Either that or the bang to my head did something to my sight. Given a bag of pills & potions and sent on our way.

So what did I learn about my daughters?

One can chuck for England.

One faints at a drop of a hat and would be better suited to more genteel times and regular doses of smelling salts - Jane Austin times?

And.... one actually has the makings of a great doctor or nurse, was stoic throughout, found my arnica cream, told me what to do, order the airport staff around and kept control at all times........she's 7.....

And Mr & Mrs Lastminute.com...? Book our holidays a little earlier next time, not in the departure lounge. Oh.....and keep away from airport trolleys.

Writers block

You know when you been away from your blog to long?

You forget your password! Yes, I had to sit for almost an hour trying to remember it.

Many people have been asking me why I'm not blogging?

Answer, too many people who didn't really know me in India kept on coming up to me and commenting about things on my blog - it kind of un-nerved me. Nothing special or weird, just a realisation that these things are out there in cyberspace for all to read...........

The result? Writers blog-block........and it's lasted a fare while. Then I discovered my saviour Facebook which allowed me to keep in touch with friends and family and share my photos. So, you see I have been busy writing, just not to this.

But as my friends said where are those stories of the Maddogs many mishaps in India?

Writers block is off and I'm writing again before I forget them completely.

Now, lets see....................where shall I start, oh, I know Chennai Airport.......this could take some time, bear with me (and for those who already know the story, know I need Mr Maddog and Baby Maddog #1 to keep me straight on the order of this epic tale)...see you soon.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Some people will do anything for a bit of peace and quiet.

While on our travels around New Zealand the baby Maddogs whining really got to me. "Lets go and look at this" said Mr Maddog.

"Let me at it" I said.


Bungy jump above the Waikato River, Taupo, New Zealand.

New Zealand - 5 in a camper van

The Maddogs did their usual thing as ever very last minute and booked flights on the last day of school term, and flew the next day meanwhile booking our camper van in the departure lounge at Chennai Airport! As always flying by the seat of our pants!

We arrived after an exhausting journey via Hong Kong and treated ourselves to a night at the Langham Hotel in Auckland and my first bath in weeks.

The we picked up our camper and made our way over to the Coromandel East Coast where we met up with our friends Lizzie, Henrik and their son and spent our days walking, snorkeling, spying on Stingrays. Then we headed over to Rotorua for visits to Geysers, Maori dancing/cultural shows, and the all important visit to a spa!

After that we made our way to Hawkes Bay to go and visit the vineyards and Art Deco city of Napier, where we spent Christmas day on a beach in the sun watching the surf.

New Zealand is just gorgeous, wide roads, green fields, mountains, fresh air, seafood, New Zealand Lamb, WINE!!!!!

Hot water beach on the Coromandel Coast where at low tide you dig your own hot water pool and the temperatures are as hot as a bath from the escaping water deep within the earth.

Coromandel Coast

Great to catch up with friends from the U.K. who were also in New Zealand at the same time.

Beautiful white sandy beaches

Where are the Mad Dogs for the Holiday Season?



Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Humbling of Mr Maddog

Mr Maddogs department in the Company do a lot of fundraising within the local community and in recent months for a local school in the vicinity of the office where he works. He was asked to make the presentation of 200 flip-flops/thongs/slippers to the children. As all the children didn't possess footwear. There are hundreds of children in this city alone who walk around bare footed all the time exposing the risk to diseases especially during the monsoon season.

The brief was give an inspiring talk to the teachers and staff and present the flip-flop/slippers. We talked about it as a family and decided that a talk on geography and the world would be best. So armed with the Baby Maddogs world globe he went.

What he came back with was gifts from the headmistress and a deep humbling of the situation that these kids, parents and staff endure to just try and give children an education.

This my friends is a classroom believe it or not for 4 classes, they have to take it in turns to use the chalkboard.

No desks, no chairs and most of time not enough pencils and paper to write on.
But the kids are issued with a uniform and it's amazing to see them clean, neatly pressed, braided hair. The parents are immensely proud of the fact their children go to school so the kids wear their uniforms with pride.

A beautiful show of dancing and singing was performed by the older girls.....and....

the boys

Then Mr Maddog got into action giving a little lesson on where Scotland is!!!!

Then the presentation of the shoes started with the youngest child in the school

This is the Headmistress of the school giving gifts of significance to Mr Maddog a welcoming shawl and an apple. This lady used to work in one of the tall office blocks that surround the village and single handed started up the school as there was no education provision in the village and felt compelled to do something. Quite a lady wouldn't you say?

Mr Maddog returned home that evening deeply humbled by the contrast between what he saw that day and how privileged our own children were going to a school where there is no want for nothing.

A few weeks later we got an update from the school saying how the children were so grateful for their shoes that, can you believe this, they walk to school barefooted and carry the precious footwear to put on at school so not to spoil them or wear them out. This is despite being educated by the teachers that they are to wear them all the time. Makes your heart bleed.

This will not be the last you see of this school, we intend to do more. I'll keep you posted.