Monday 14 July 2014

Holiday in France with the Rickards

14th July 2014
Dear friends around the world,

Writing this blog entry for you (my Indian friends particularly) has been on my to-do list ever since I returned from India back in April. I already started a few times but didn’t finish it. My to-do list seems to be more of a bank of things I don’t get round to doing. For months I’ve been planning to “apply for jobs as a Teaching Assistant”, “apply for Part 2 at CAT”, “apply for that teaching job in China” and “tidy my room (especially desk) and sort out all the papers” amongst other things. Only this week did I finally manage to finish my CV and actually apply for some jobs: part time receptionist in my university's engineering faculty and two TA jobs in London. I am very pleased about this! :)

Other than making lists, looking up jobs, working on my CV and procrastinating, I’ve: finished and submitted that PEDR for my University; got the original Naughty Magic Simon line-up back together and done lots of band practices; played some cracking gigs; got my old waiter’s job back at the Chinese and got a second job in a shop in my village selling outdoor clothing & equipment. I’ve been to London twice, Nottingham twice and now I’m in Normandy, France, on a family holiday avec ma maman, papa, frère et sœur.
My mum can theoretically speak French well ; ‘theoretically’  because she gets nervous and forgets it all, and mixes it up with Welsh. The rest of us are terrible at French, but we are all keen to learn some more by the time we’re here again.

Holiday in  France

A warship defending or preparing to invade Plymouth as we depart for France
The people in Normandy and Brittany are really lovely. My brother, sister and I went to the Bobital Festival in Brittany on Saturday 5th July and had a great time listening to top quality bands, eating crepes, gallets, frites and kebabs and meeting very friendly Bretanic people, who could often speak fairly good broken English but hardly any Bretan (that’s a pity because we speak Welsh which is closely related to the Bretan language). One of the first people we met was a girl called Jeanne from Rennes. We chatted a bit then after a while she went off to meet her friends. Much later when we were dancing to Ska-P in the rain and mud, we met another girl called Cecilia who coincidentally happened to be Jeanne’s friend, so then all five of us danced together and had a super good time! I took turns dancing merengue with both girls and Jeanne asked me to teach her a welsh dance. Ska-P played some bagpipes followed by a folky-jig style tune so Siôn and I showed them Welsh folk dancing (Dawnsio Gwerin). One couple made a bridge while the other couple went under it. A few other people joined in and we travelled all the way to the middle of the crowd, the row of bridges getting longer and longer as more and more couples joined in. My sister was not left out. She had got a really tall Breton man as a dance partner.

Our favourite bands were Danakil, Blondie, Elephanz and Ska-P.
Here are some clips from the day we were there, courtesy of youtuber Bernadette Ramel:
Danakil are a French roots reggae band. I hadn’t heard of them before but thought they looked good in the blurb because I like French Reggae and world music. And they lived up to expectations. They are very popular in France and drew a massive crowd. One of the singers is from Senegal and he did a few songs in the Senegal dialect of French. They sing about political, social and environmental issues and the problems of a consumerist society, and about peace & love.
Yes, the famous American band. They were terrific. Quite varied with lots of good tunes.

Elephanz are a French Indie Pop Rock band with excellent music and harmonies. They sung mainly in English but had some French songs too.

Ska-P were one of the bands I’d come to see. They are a long established Spanish Ska-Punk band and they sing very energetic political songs and have a crazy stage show where one of the singers dressed up in different costumes, and they had various props including giant security guard which I think had someone inside it on stilts.  They were brilliant and great fun, but they were bit unfair on the bands on after them because they dragged their encore on too long. They kept saying “merci, bon soiree Bobital, siempre!” and then jumping into another song. Then at the end they danced around the stage and threw water bottles to the crowd. I really liked the song “Freedom for Palestina”.

All of this for only €34 each (and the ticket for both days would have cost €54). It was a small festival with one band on at a time and no other tents except the VIP area, two long food counters and two bars. Food and drinks were paid for with tokens that we purchased from booths. I accidentally brought too many, or the token vendor gave me extra because she was nice, so we had a bit of a feast. There were two stages next to each other (so one band can set up while the other is playing), so one band on at a time.

* * *

Other than this, we've been to lots of pretty and historic towns with old buildings and some sensetive extensions and restorations. We're all very impressed with the architecture, food, Breton folk music and lifestyle. If Britain leaves the EU then we'd consider moving to Brittany (or Scotland or Ireland). Normandy has been nice too although most of our sightseeing has been in Brittany. We've been staying in Normandy near the Brittany border in my Aunty & Uncle's second home, 20 mins walk from a village called Saint Martin de Landelles and a short drive from the small town of Saint James. 

More pictures on the way! we're about to leave and catch the ferry now.
Mont Saint-Michel
 Now I am home and it's next week, so here are more pictures!
Mon Saint-Michel and new access way under construction

A street in Dinan (which we saw on our way to Bobital)
Most mornings I cycled to the village to get bread, milk and croissants. I took the back road, past fields of corn, pylons, barns, cows and houses.
Visit to the historic town of Vitré
Fest Noz in Saint-briac sur Mer, Brittany
A very nice town, worth a visit!
Town fate in Saint James
Great band playing Chanson Francais and gypsy jazz. We spoke to the singing violinist afterwards. She's from Paris and she works in a charity helping poor Roma people (they are discriminated against badly all over Europe). When she was young she traveled around performing music with a group of gypsy musicians! She gave me her email but I can't find it.

Monday 17 February 2014

Liam in India: Exhibitions, Yoga, Meat and Temples

Dear friends,

All is well for me here in India; I am having a good time and I haven't been ill for weeks (apart from a few mornings, mildly, after some kind of street food). I'm too obsessed with food, and going to exciting but potentially dodgy places to eat seems to have become my main pastime. I've started writing some new songs and working of a few existing ones! I've bought a lot of nice things, including some excellent Indian comics from the Comic Convention I attended last week.
I've started doing yoga classes in the ashram, when I get up early enough. The teacher's yet to show up but both times there happened to be someone there who knew some asnas (stretches) and was willing to teach me. The class before these was the taster session for Sivenanda yoga, after which I felt so relaxed and dozy that I bought a Nokia Lumia 520 smartphone.

Working 6 days a week from nine til 6-7 or sometimes later, leaves little time for anything else! Sundays are our only day off, apart from the second Saturday of every month and the odd public or religious holiday. Sunday is my adventure day, hence there's little time for writing this blog, so I constantly postpone it along with cleaning my room and filling in my PEDR. There's hardly time to wash my clothes, or even myself! If I want a proper wash in warm water, rather than hastily splashing cold water over myself, I have to partially fill a bucket with cold water, carry it over to my room, and top it up with boiling water from my kettle. The solar hot water is only hot by midday, on a sunny day. It's really cold early in the morning and not nice to wash, but if I wash after breakfast when I have more guts and it's a tiny bit warmer, then I
m usually late for work. I could wash at night, or wake earlier and put up with the cold, which leads to me getting less sleep and being tired. Anyway, I've managed to get into a routine now which keeps me clean, on time, and usually not too tired (although i always start drifting to sleep over my work after lunch).
The other reason I haven't done the blog is that I've had no internet on my computer for over a month since my dongle ran out of credit.

  • 1st plan to top up dongle:  ask Hrishikesh to do it (he got me the dongle and said he could top it up for me). I can't remember why this didn't work out...probably I was always busy and so was he, and the only time we meet is in the evenings after dinner, and I had to decide whether to buy 1GB, 2GB, for 30 days, for 60 days etc, which I had no idea about so couldn't decide
  • 2nd plan: top it up over the internet. Stumbled: I can't top up my dongle online with a foreign bank account.
So I brought a smartphone which I can use internet on, after the hassle of setting that up. A week after buying my new mobile...
  • Eureka! I can top up the dongle at the SIM card and top up shop (on the slightly longer but nicer route home from my office). This I did. He put in my dongle number to his system and I gave him the money. But still no internet. The shop is closed on Sunday, but I can sometimes catch them after work on week days if I manage to leave at 6 (so I can visit them before meditation at 7 and dinner at 7.40). I've asked them quite a few times to sort it, and I've phoned them, and they keep saying they'll sort it, but they haven't, and normally I'm working or going somewhere in the evenings or I only leave office in time to get back for the end of meditation and dinner, so without enough time to pop into their shop. I just can't be bothered with this nonsense!

Sunday 16th of February

Started the day by putting on a wash load in the machines on the roof of Tapasya, followed by breakfast in the dining hall (puri and potato curry; proper good stuff!). Then had a good explore of the roof, looking at solar hot water panels and trying to figure out which pipes were hot and which were cold, before collecting my washing.

Went to the Hall of Grace and watched the Vocational Trainees rehearsing a group dance and an impressive balancing act for the Mother's birthday on 21st Feb, then continued wandering and stumbled upon the gym. It was open, so I did some exercise. Then I walked to the neighboring yoga hall and did some asnas and breathing exercises.

After a nice ashram lunch, I went to meet my friend in a designer interiors exhibition in the same venue as the Indian Arts Fair we attended 2 weeks ago. We collected lots of business cards and brochures for the office, and I enjoyed some free crisps, biscuits, a sandwich and a chicken/egg tart.

Then we rushed on the metro to see the Maari Ghar, a project by our boss Sanjay Prakash. We thought the exhibition would close at 5.30, and it was 5. We didn't know where it was, other than that it was on Janpath (a very long street in the city center).
We made it there, and luckily it didn't close til 7.
The building has been painted badly and hasn't been maintained well, so wasn't as impressive as we'd hoped. Still, it's built (mostly)  of rammed earth bricks and has survived since the 70s (/80s/90s)! Good, eh? The exhibition was interesting, but by now I was a little bored of seeing exhibitions and feeling hungry (even though I had a big lunch and snacks at the interior design expo! I think something's not quite right with that...)
It was quarter to seven, and we had planned to go to eat in Connought Place, but it transpired that Mr G had to be in Jamia before eight o'clock to collect his motorbike, which had somehow gotten broken. Out our way out of the Indra Gandhi grounds we popped into another design expedition. We rushed to the metro in an auto. I had to choose whether to go back to the ashram, thereby saving money, eating healthy ashram food, getting rest, chatting to people there, and doing my PEDR, or go with my friend to Jamia to eat some new and delicious meat dish, which could potentially make me ill, and which goes against the yogic, environmental and ayurvedic health principles that we've both learnt about (we went to Jamia last week after the comic convention, again to collect the bike, and ate three absolutely delicious mutton curries that were up there with the best food yet!)

In indecision I followed him onto the blue metro line, and so I chose Jamia. On the way (bearing in mind we're in a massive rush), we went to a Hindu temple, had prasad, joined the prayer and purchased some Indian fudge (three types, one of each type). Mr G bought us each a man bracelet to symbolize our eternal friendship, then we rushed on to Jamia, walking along the busy road in the dark trying to hail an auto. Walking past a ruined temple with loads of rubbish next to it and a big poster of some gurus/politicians, I said "Now I'm in India, yeah!". We collected the bike, got followed by street kids 'til we bought them some cheap jelabi, which they weren't impressed with (fair enough really, they need healthy filling food), brought some naan, and went to eat Kajak (beef heart). It was a most amusing situation, eating beef with red dots on our foreheads. The elderly Muslim man who owned the this particular street food joint was roaring with laughter.
Man, this was actually the best food yet! Marinated and grilled on a BBQ in front of us. Perfect!

Health wise, wasn't perfect this morning, and now I have a slight stomach ache, and my friend is nowhere to be seen, but it was well worth it!

So, over the last few months, I've learnt a bit about nutritional science and Ayurveda from "Eating Wisely and Well", which pretty much says meat is unnecessary, while Ayurveda teaches that it's positively harmful and makes you lazy (unless you live in a cold country). Environmentally, it is harmful, and it's not really fair to eat animals only because we like the taste when we don't actually need to eat them. However, in the last few weeks I've eaten out than I've eaten in the ashram, and I've eaten more meat than I eat at home! Usually chicken, some mutton, once fish and once beef (as described). Even at lunch in work sometimes there's chicken (the food I have at lunch is very, very delicious!)
I've been on a trip outside Delhi too!! to a place called Gwalior, on a site visit to a refurbishment project we're doing there. I saw the project for a bit then went to look around the area, and in the afternoon we went to see the old fort and some temples. Great day!! (two lunches, one with chicken, and chicken on the train in the evening) The train was great; we got food, and the toilets were clean. This was first class though.