I revel in the privilege of breaking school rules in the final sentence of this post, I use the word ‘and’ at the beginning of it.

Was it yesterday when I said it was easy to wake up early every morning? Well, even though I have no belief in any such concept as ‘jinxing’ there’s got to be something –at least psychological– in it. This morning was pretty horrifically difficult on the tiredness front. But feeling weakness is good, we are fallible beings.

We got one of these dongles from a mobile phone company which gives you internet, it’s a modest amount per-month. They call it ‘mi-fi’ and it sits in yer house and sends you teh internets through the air. When we first got it, speeds were high, but by now, perhaps in a cruel metaphor to how my week has gone fatigue-wise, it has become too slow and too hairy. Of course in the same way as I don’t believe in jinxing, I don’t believe in Murphy’s Law, but when I called up the makers of this so-called ‘mi-fi’ the internet worked well. Always the way. I reckon they press a button which makes it go faster when you complain, to scare you off. The calling experience was pretty amazing. I really really really don’t want to let myself become a “bloomin’ call centres” obsessive. I think it’s brilliant that I can talk to someone in India from my sofa. Anyway, that’s not what I want to talk about, I want to talk about how amazing it is that they can control my computer. I press a button and suddenly –from India– she is moving my mouse/cursor and typing in test words like ‘fasceboolk’ on Google to see the speed of my internet. That impressed me. And scared me a bit.

Special Skills

Yes, you haven’t heard wrong, the papers weren’t lying, I made my first curry last night. I felt a little bit like a clichéd British middle class twentysomething as it was a Jamie Oliver recipe, but it tasted nice nevertheless. It was a vegetable vindaloo with chicken things on skewers on the side. I really enjoy cooking stuff when I have to go out and buy ingredients, often ingredients I’ve never used like garam masala and dried chilli. It turned out really tasty, and our friends who we had round claimed to enjoy it too. I thought it would be hotter than it was, but thankfully it was only pleasantly spicy. I also learned that vindaloo has Portuguese origination due to the fact that the colonised Goa (the monsters, going into India and claiming it) and introduced vinegar – thus the ‘vin’ and the ‘loo’ is garlic apparently, but ‘aloo’ is potato in Hindi too so I don’t know what to believe any more.

We finished the evening off with the classic Wii game New Super Mario Bros. I am generally abysmal at that game because I just enjoy running fast until I die. My fellow competitor/team mate is a sports scientist (well that’s what he studied at university anyway) and he enjoyed doing P.E. type jokes like picking me up and throwing me in lava as well as having innumerably more lives than me. Pride cameth before his downfall though as all my failures had led me to be very cautious for the final round whereas his cocky gameplay led him to die, lots. I finished off my gloating by displaying what I think is my best skill, tuning into FM Radio stations. The party trick consists of me asking guests to name any FM radio station and I am able to tune into them in a matter of milliseconds. Trust me, I’m good. “Classic FM?” BAM SMACK…VAUGHAN-WILLIAMS. “Radio 2?” WHIZZ ZOOM…DIRE STRAITS. “Radio 4?” SCHWAT WALLA… DESERT ISLAND DISCS. INSTANT. MAVERICK.

“I didn’t ask for your life story.” #4 – Foil

(BTW I know I haven’t blogged for at least a week which is never a good thing. I have been keeping myself busy with an interview or two, an 80th birthday party, a concert and other things.)

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Today I’m going to write shortly about foil. Why? Because I can.

  • Often, but not always, school packed lunch sandwiches were wrapped in foil. I always had ham and ketchup in my sarnies, if you’re interested. I liked it when they were wrapped in that beautiful thin sheet of aluminium, because that meant after eating I could fashion a sword/dagger out of it. I would pretend I was Robin Hood or Peter Pan or just a cool guy with a shiny knife.

  • Foil is also good when you’re bored, especially if you’ve got a Kit Kat handy. Firstly take off the bright red paper cover, then you are left with a foil covered block of chocolate. I would press down the foil on the top so you can see the imprint of where it says “Have a break / Have a Kit Kat”. Sometimes I would press my fingernail into the middle groove and rip the foil down the middle and snap at this point, but that wasn’t really my scene. I usually tried not to rip the foil as I slowly undressed my chocolate, then laid the foil out flat. Now obviously the joy of a Kit Kat is in the eating:
  1. Snap it in half.
  2. Bite the chocolate off each end.
  3. Now the hard & messy bit. Nibble off the chocolate from the sides and the top, until you are left with two bits of wafer.
  4. Go round everyone in your class shouting “Look! Look what I done!”

  • Running your fingernail across the foil, until it becomes all flat and creaseless, is also very satisfying.
  • I remember the 1998 Blue Peter ‘New Future Appeal’ for Schools in Mozambique. One had to collect all sorts of aluminium, cans and foil and stuff; that was cool.

Talking of Blue Peter appeals, I remember back in 1996 when they did the ‘LEPRA Leprosy: Brazil & India Appeal’, I had a Bring & Buy Sale in my garden. I felt really important.

Check out that totaliser!

I really liked Stuart Miles, he was cool.

  • Has anyone had that thing when you put some foil in your mouth (for some stupid reason) and if you have fillings (for some stupid reason) you get the strangest tingling sensation in your jaw. Very strange.
  • Foil was introduced to Chocolate Advent Calenders about halfway through my childhood, it used to be a thing only the expensive ones had, like an extra gimmick which meant you had to pay an extra quid for it. They all have it now.

That’s about all I got. This is quite interesting:

Sibyl’s Travelblog – Issue 17

After recovering (slightly) from our sickness in Agra we made our way to Khujaraho, a small town half way to Varanasi. It wasn’t an easy journey as we had to get the train to Satna first and then get on a bus to Khujarho. It took about 10 hours. Long ting.

We met a gorgeous little Indian girl on the bus though who had incredible English for her age. She had her baby brother with her too, who decided he would only be happy if his mum lifted him up so he could see us; his poor mum! His mum couldn’t speak English but the little girl managed to keep up a conversation with us for a few hours. The entire bus listening to our conversation of course. She tried to give us her bracelet which was really sweet but I wouldn’t let her. She also asked about currency in England and if we had dollars – she didn’t know what pounds were when we told her so we gave her a coin Lucy had in her purse. She and the entire bus (it got passed around) were fascinated by it for a long time!

We spent a few nights in Khujaraho. We visited some of the karma sutra temples around our hotel which is what the region is famous for. On the last day we also went on an Indian safari type thing which is what we had come to the region to do! We wanted to go elephant riding at the national park because we thought they would be kinder to them. The elephants on the street can be treated so cruelly that we decided to make the trip out to Panna National Park. First we drove around looking for tigers, leopards, panthers, crocodiles and peacocks. It was like something out of the Jungle Book! We got to see a leopard which was very exciting and some crocodiles. There were deer everywhere but there were no panthers or tigers that day unfortunately – sightings are very rare.

When it came to the elephant riding (what we had been waiting for) it turned out we couldn’t do it as it rained the day before and the ground wasn’t stable enough for the elephants to walk on. Instead they let us get very close to them and I was happy enough with that. I think they are actually very scary creatures when you are next to them! They are so big; you realise how easy it would be for them to step on you. We were with a mummy and baby elephant and the mummy was very protective (understandably)! The little one kept picking up dirt with it trunk and chucking it at the keeper. The poor thing was chained because apparently it could get aggressive but at least the mum was able to walk around freely and get to her baby if she needed to. It was really sad though – it reminded me of Dumbo.


There were some very strange men working at our hotel in Khujaraho that decided to attach themselves to me and Lucy while we were there so we were glad to leave. Men in India almost decide that you belong to them and won’t leave you alone. We were constantly asking people to stop taking photos of us or declining to have our photos taken with groups of men – often they would ignore this request and follow you around anyway. It could be quite intimidating. Women would even hand us their babies and take photos.

We got the train to Varanasi – which was another 12 hour journey. The trains are possibly the most Indian experience you can get while you are there. You decide to be in seated (which is very crowded and you are sitting up all night), in sleeper (you have a bed but it’s not gauranteed so you can end up sharing it with lots of other people) or in upper class sleeper (a little bit nicer and they are actually reserved for you!) We got one sleeper train while we were in India – not pleasant at all and two upper class sleepers. It was all an amazing experience (looking back on it). Finding your train, getting on the right carriage and then getting off at the right stop is all adventure enough. You also have to avoid the man going around attacking people’s foreheads with red paint and then demanding money. Throughout the night there are chai men walking up and down the train shouted ‘chaaaiiii’ in a very deep voice – quite difficult to sleep through and luggage carrying men with the turbans wrapped around their heads (to balance the luggage on) also patrol the trains and will help you with your bags if you pay them enough.

We arrived in Varanasi from Khujaraho very early in the morning. It is a maze of small, dark, dirty alleyways surrounding the Ganges (the river that runs through India that is considered holy by Hindus.) It is a very interesting place but quite seedy and dark in places and apparently full of crime. I tried to find a church on the Sunday but couldn’t find a thing! I do hope that some Christian work is going on in Varanasi.

We stayed in a nice hotel overlooking the river and because we arrived so early in the morning we were able to watch the sunrise over the river! It was beautiful. It was horrifying how many people bathed in the Ganges because they believe it is holy (according to Wikipedia) 2,000,000 people ritually bathe in the water daily while the bacteria count is 120 times more than is considered safe!

We caught another train back to Delhi. We got to the train station by cycle rickshaw by a man that kept pretending he was a helicopter while not looking at oncoming traffic. Very scary! We stayed in the Tibetan area in Delhi for a few days before flying out. It was a very different experience of India. For a start everyone was Tibetan, it is tiny and there are ‘free tibet’ signs everywhere. Even the TV in our room had the message flash up before it turned on. We experienced a few joys of a major Indian city while we were there such as McDonalds, KFC and Connault Place which is full of western shops! Yay! After a month it was a welcome break.

We left for the airport at 4am to fly to Australia. In true Indian style the roads were as noisy and scary as in the middle of the day! It was a complete shock when we arrived in Melbourne at 6 in the morning and the roads were deadly silent (no crazy rickshaw drivers swerving and beeping.) It took me a while to realise what the difference was – it was quite unnerving at first. We got through customs fine too – a relief! I was worried because we were coming from India and they are so strict with what you can bring in to Australia (there is a whole show on customs) and dirt on your shoes (to protect their wildlife) I thought they might decide to fumagate us, but we survived.

Sibyl’s Travelblog – Issue 15

India

Our flight from Bangkok went smoothly and Lucy and I arrived in India at 10 PM on Sunday the 1st of March. We only made it out of the airport at 11:30 though after a huge passport control line and a massive wait for luggage. We got into town at 12:30 pm. Not a great time to arrive in India really. We got a very sweet Korean girl dumped on us at the airport by a Korean business man. He asked us if we were traveling and if we could take her to a hostel. SuJung 임수정 or Natalie is traveling alone in India for 3 months. We shared a taxi into town and ended up spending the next 9 days with her. Her English was not very good so communication has been hard (not that we can speak Korean – she is amazing for having two languages) – but she did improve loads over the 9 days.


Lucy and I were exhausted by the time we got to Colaba (central Bombay) as it was three in the morning our time. We had made a reservation at the Salvation Army hostel (tramps! – Ed.) but by the time we arrived they were closed and said they were full. It was 1 am when we finally found a hotel; it was very expensive for what it was, but we couldn’t really turn it down. The time spent wondering around that night was enough to have give us a bad impression of India! It had also given a bird enough time to single me out and poo on my bag. It would only happen to me! There were lots of men and beggars out though that did not make it very easy.

Monday

We headed back to the Salvation Army managing to get a room (for the three of us again). It was so nice seeing Living for Jesus calendars everywhere and Bibles out. There are lots more churches in India too! On our way to the Salvation army we were persuaded to be extras in a Bollywood movie, it’s set in a London night club and stars Kylie Minogue! We were skeptical about the Kylie Minogue thing but had heard it was common to be asked to be extras and they said we would be paid and everything else would be paid for. We agreed to do it the next day, despite the fact that I was quite nervous about the idea of dancing!

Kylie Minogue arrives at the international airport in Mumbai.

Once we were settled at the hotel, we went out on our own walking tour which was a great way to see the sights in Bombay. We walked along the Causeway, went to the gateway to India, the Taj Mahal hotel and Leopolds (both where the Mumbai bombings took place.) We also went to a modern art gallery and saw lots of the old colonial buildings.

Gateway to India (see if you can spot Sibyl!)

Tuesday

…was Bollywood day. We were met at 8am and taken by car to the studios. It was a long drive and we were told only when we were half way there that the day would finish at 9pm and that we could not leave! The distance back to town was enough to deter us from leaving though – the taxi cost would have been ridiculous! Once we arrived at the ‘studio’ (the very old shabby building with tents outside) we were taken to be dressed up and have hair and makeup done. We were wearing very casual clothes so they wanted to dress us up but they had hardly anything left. We had arrived late and there were lots of other extras already dressed up! They gave me a jewel studded top but I refused to wear the mini skirt they tried to force on me (too right! – Ed.). I was left in my shorts but told I had to sit down the whole time or I would ruin ‘the image.’ I was happy because it meant no dancing – they ended up making me dance anyway though! The day was so so long and most of it was just waiting around. It seemed like they only did about 10 minutes of actual filming. Our job was to sit in the background and bop to look like we were having fun. The set was actual really cool. They had created a giant blue bubble – maybe why the film is called ‘Blue’? And the stage had water running off it. I think the film has something to do with that too?

I read the book Twilight for most of the day, something which I have recently become obsessed with, so the waiting wasn’t too bad. Kylie Minogue was actually there! I couldn’t get my head around why though? We walked past her trailer situated outside an open sewer which had a piece of paper with her name on taped to the door – very budget. She is very tiny – small and skinny and an amazing dancer!

Kylie, looking good in Bollywood.

Kylie, looking good in Bollywood.

Maybe you will be able to see me in the movie but I kind of hope not (I kind of hope so! – Ed.) I dread to think. We finished at 8:30 pm and we were paid – 500 rupees and they took us back into town. I was so happy to finally get back and go to bed. I had been up very late the night before reading the second Twilight book. I couldn’t put it down even though I knew I would suffer in the morning! I finished it in 24 hours – like I have done with the rest of the book! Lucy keeps complaining that she has lost her friend to the series – I have finished them all now though.

Wednesday

The next couple of days were spent wandering around Mumbai again. We went to the Prince of Wales museum which is Indian history along with natural history. We also went to Chowpatty beach. We also got to see the extensive Cricket grounds (of course) and the University of Mumbai. All the buildings in Bombay are so beautiful! The Victoria Terminus train station is incredible. We also went to see Slumdog Millionaire at the ‘Regal’ cinema on the Causeway which is quite a famous building. I thought it was amazing and I want to see it again. We also felt very cool for having seen it in Mumbai and having been to many of the places in the movie.

The food here is incredible and there is so much choice. It is very different from South East Asian food too – which is a nice change after 7 months. I love the Indian sweets too. They are my favorite thing so far.

Thursday

We got a night bus to Goa (SuJung joined us) and arrived Friday morning. We have spent the last three days relaxing on the beach in Anjuna. The beaches here hilarious – they are full of cows, goats and dogs. Apparently they like to sunbathe too. The cows join you in sitting under the umbrellas in the shade!

We met two really cool travelers here – Pete and Sandra. Pete in from Swindon, England (oh, we thought you meant Swindon, Massachusetts! – Ed.) and Sandra is from Sweden. They were really nice to hang out with. They moved from Anjuna beach to Aranbul beach but we went to visit them there. We kind of wish we had gone to stay in Aranbul too because it is much more beautiful! We had a fun time visiting them there though. There is a natural fresh water lake by the sea which we went swimming in. Nice break from salt water although I am not sure how clean it was.

The Weekend

We went to a really cool market. Everything here is so amazingly cheap it is hard to resist buying loads. I am going to have to be careful.

I did not manage to get to a church on Sunday which I am really disappointed about. They only had Catholic churches and I failed even to get to their service in time! I will hopefully be able to find one next week. I am making good progress with Gary Brady’s book, ‘Being Born Again’ which I got as a present from him (Rhodri’s Dad) when I was baptised. It is really helpful to know what the Bible says about it.


We said goodbye to SuJung today as she is staying in Goa for longer than us. It was really sad, although it will be nice to just be me and Luce again. She wrote us a really sweet letter. I hope she finds some more people and continues to have a good time.