Posts Tagged ‘India’

A state of inertia.

October 31, 2017

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We are now entering the pre-Christmas period. Watch out! We still get almost daily calls on our land-line from people who say they are from Telstra. But the accent and associated hints of turmeric wafting through the line makes me think of call centres. Often there is a delay on answering back with a hum of others talking. I used to be polite and explain we are happy with our service. ‘No Sir,’ yesterday’s gentleman assured me, ‘you have very, very big problems with your internet. You have to let us fix it.

I just don’t have it in me anymore to remain considerate and without any further talk put the phone down. Does all this market calling brutalise the recipients? I mean, there is a real person there on the other side trying to make a living. But the frequency of those callers is increasing. I know there are help sides which can overcome most of those cold callers but new ones seem to pop up. Even on my IPhone I get oddly worded messages with codes and strange pass words or numbers and to deposit $100.- or so. I know the main thing is to never open any of unknown e-mails or attachments which I religiously follow. I just try and imagine what it must be for elderly folks totally innocent of all those crooks lying in wait to take advantage of this IT technology. Oh, hang on. I am one of those ‘elderly.’

I know with the recent ABC 4 corners program highlighting the failures of the NBN to deliver adequate speeds to the outlets must have called out whole nests of cold callers offering ‘help’ to the long suffering consumers of data down loads. In our case, apart from e-mails and the ABC news and blogs we don’t generally down load ‘data’, unlike our grandsons who download in one day what takes us more than a month.

I don’t really know what the etiquette of answering those nuisance calls is. I have no mercy with those that are out there to pillage my wallet but what about those calling for donations to help the 500 000 persecuted Muslim Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar? Or calls from Médecins Sans Frontières?  Then there are those looking after animals or depressed whales beaching themselves. There are so many good causes and all deserve help.

Going back to those ‘Telstra’ phone calls. They are all done by massive call centres in India. I watched a program and there they are all lining up calling the world to change ‘service providers’ or do something with their service, any thing really that earns them some money. They wear a nicely pressed ironed shirt and have to do an English test to get this much coveted job. They proudly wear their name- tags from a  chain or clipped on their trousers. The wives at home, stirring the curry and boiling the Basmati, waiting anxiously and ask  ‘did you get many responses today, dear?’  He might well say he had such a rude Australian who had put the phone down and that could have been me. I once just answered in Dutch and pretended not to understand English, just showing the level one can go down on avoiding the call. Just putting the phone down seems so callous. Yet, it seems I might already have reached that level of callousness.

How do people deal with those calls?

A take on Brexit. Should we follow with Libexit?

June 25, 2016


Too good not to pass on. By Richard O’Brien (from his Facebook page):

“So the nation that invaded and colonised Aden, Anguilla, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Basutoland, Bechuanaland, Bermuda, British East Africa, British Cameroons, British Guiana, British Honduras, British Somaliland, Brunei, Canada, Cayman Islands, Ceylon, Cook Islands, Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Gambia, Gibraltar, Gold Coast, Grenada, Hong Kong, China, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaya, Maldive Islands, Malta, Mauritius, Montserrat, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Nigeria, North Borneo, Nyasaland, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Rhodesia, Sarawak, St Helena, St Lucia, St Vincent, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, South West Africa, Sudan, Tanganyika, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Trucial Oman, Turks and Caicos Islands, Uganda and Zanzibar has voted to leave the EU, potentially sparking a global financial crisis, because they thought their sovereignty was under threat.”

Violins and French Polish

January 2, 2015
Cupboard after French Polish.

Cupboard after French Polish.

A good violin player knows his/her instrument better than he does his or her toothbrush. So does the French polisher. It seems a ridiculous statement, but let’s examine it. Of course, the latter does not necessarily play a musical instrument but applies art just the same as the former. There are more details than just intimate knowledge of their toothbrushes that are similar.

The violin produces sound by vibrations caused by the bow made of horsehair striking or moving across strings suspended above a wooden soundbox. We all know that. However, the sound produced by horsehair strung across the bow needs a certain ingredient called ‘rosin’. This gives a certain resistance when striking across the strings of the instrument. You would be hard pushed to get a sound out without first having ‘rosined’ the bow’s hairs. Note the verb ‘to rosin’! Rosin is a solid substance mainly obtained from the resin of pine trees. I am fairly sure that a musician, especially a good one, knows how to direct his wishes onto the instrument just as much as being obedient to the instrument after sound has been produced. As always, a give and take in the kitchen of any creative act.

It seems odd that despite the violin being such a great and popular instrument, most of the great 19th and 20th composers have written just one violin concerto for this instrument. e.g, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Chaikovski, Dvorak, Elgar, Sibelius, Bartok. ( From Wiki)

Personally, I think Sibelius violin concerto the greatest piece of music ever written. I know it is a bit heavy and like most of his work, steeped in all things Finnish. You can indeed see the frozen sixty thousand lakes skirted by birch and spruce laden with snow. The melancholic and endless winter nights, but also the warm springs and loganberry filled summers, the simple and all artful that is Finland.

Here it is:

Let’s now go to the French Polisher and his art. I rattled on of resin for the bows of violins and other similar instruments. The French Polisher also uses a kind or resin called shellac. It also comes from trees but is actually produced by a beetle which deposits its excrement onto trees. Typically it is only the female beetle that does this. I don’t know why, perhaps it is supposed to lure the male. I would not be surprised seeing how many females stop at nothing to get a mate, even if it means the poor old male gets stuck on the resin and cark it. Anyway, this resin deposited on trees by the female lac bug in India, Thailand and China produces the major ingredient for shellac. Shellac when mixed with spirits is mainly used for French Polishes and food glazes.

Like a good violin player giving direction and responding to the instrument so does the French polisher direct and respond to his pad soaked in shellac. The shellac gives it the sheen but applying it makes for a certain drag or resistance like the rosin on the violin’s bow. It is an art of getting a ‘feel’ of just enough pressure on the timber surface, enough drag to leave behind the desired honey coloured sheen. Not enough or too much pressure and it fails to glorify. Applied too fast or too slow and it will not happen either, at best giving a mediocre result. It does need a bit more than experience to obtain a feel for this form of art. I suppose it is like that with all things creative.

A feeling and expressing it, giving it form.

I am not sure about the reference to toothbrushes. I am no Violin player, but can do a bit of French Polish.

The magnificent Raan Curry for Christmas beckons

December 9, 2013

If the Turkey for Christmas is getting a bit hackneyed and the ham has soured, consider the Raan dish. I won’t bother with giving you the exact details in grams ounces or kilos. Try and create your own Raan by just imagining tasting the combination of the different herbs, spices and ingredients.

You know that if you put in a kilo of salt the dish is likely to be very salty. Cooking is very much anticipating how things will taste by mixing and imagining the taste of the mixed ingredients before cooking. The religious following of recipes with the book propped up against the kitchen whisk is never going to be a surprise. Not as a failed dish nor of a basking in the glory of an unimaginable masterpiece, hailed by Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and all your guests for years to come. Take the risk!

So, here we go. The bulk of this dish is mutton or at least a large leg of sheep. You need a well aged leg not a lamb leg although that is permissible as well. This dish is Northern India and as you travel up further north, the Indian cuisine starts to be less chilli hot and becomes more infused with the sweetness of yoghurt and dried fruit, raisins, currants etc. of the Northern regions.

The secret of this dish is that the leg of mutton is allowed to cure or ‘cook’ for about three days in the fridge by the acidity of the marinade. The marinade has to be enough to cover the meat. Voila, you need plenty of good quality yoghurt, the juice of about 4 lemons about 200 grams of raisons and currants, a tablespoon of turmeric, a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon, about 4 red-hot chillies, some cloves and about two teaspoons of cardamom, salt and sugar.

Mix the marinade in a mixer and let stand for about one hour, mix again. In the meantime pierce the leg and insert cloves of garlic. Good juicy garlic and not the cheap Chinese tasteless carton stuff. Poor the marinade over the lamb in a dish large enough to hold the leg.

Put in the fridge and leave for about two to three days occasionally turning the meat.
Then… as the excitement mounts…pre-heat oven to 200c and cook the lamb for about 30 minutes. Turn heat to 160c and cook 45 minutes for every kilo of the meat. It is cooked when the meat falls off the bone. When it does. Turn off the oven. Boil basmati rice.

I was amazed some years ago when we had Japanese students living in our house they were using an electric rice cooker. When I told them I thought the Japanese had invented boiling rice, they smiled politely but they never tried my system. She said, oh no… too risky! Can you believe it?
Here is how to boil rice; Just cover the rice with one finger digit of water on top of the rice and bring quickly to boil without the lid on. When water is disappearing and holes appear in the rice, put on the lid and turn the gas off. Wait for about twenty minutes and the rice should be dry crumbly and cooked. Perfect

Now, this is the important bit… Break the lamb into bite size chunks, put on the plate with the rice and pour some of the marinade over the lot. Some chutney or cucumber with yoghurt as a side dish compliments the dinner. Have it with chilled water with lime slices floating on top. Don’t muck around with wine. It spoils it. Have it afterwards.
Enjoy and let me know the results.

Can I speak to the Owner please?

August 11, 2013

Speak-a- da-english pleaz.

Do people still speak English in Australia or is it my aging? Of late, I am drawn to the language of silence as the preferred language. There are silent movies why not silent speech? It’s just that I don’t seem to mix with people that still speak normal English. The English speakers have all died, or, like me, are old and prefer silence.

Most people, especially the young now, use a kind of rapid language with bits of English thrown in for good measure. On the television or radio, it is the same. There is the Adam-Hills show which has been lauded as the best ever. In between lots of laughter there is that kind of unintelligible rapid machine-gun type talking between hopeful Biebers or other Big Brother like fame seekers. They must be in such a hurry to attain fame and riches. How else to explain their strange fast talk?

By the time I try to decipher the first few words the program has changed into a mad dance routine and I am again faced with the manic laughter of a rapturous audience and Adam’s rampant crinkly face all contorted into a somewhat too spontaneous response, making a mockery of anyone still trying to make sense of the first joke. I don’t get it anymore. It all moves too fast. The fun has gone out of comedy. Give me back Charley Chaplin or even Ronnie Barker with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. They spoke English.

At least with those cold- calls on the land line you get to talk to someone from India or the Philippines where English is still being spoken properly. It’s a pleasure to be reassured by a polite; ‘can I speak to the owner, please?’ I always feel honored to answer and take great pleasure in finally meeting like-wise people linguistically still normal and intelligible.

It is a great pity that I can’t really extend the conversation. Regrettably, I am not in the market in wanting to get richer, neither need a cheaper phone rate, nor a lucky chance to own a resort on some pacific island with waving palms and coconut clad wearing maidens playing the ukulele. It is a cruel conundrum to find an equal in language but with totally opposite desirable aims or outcomes.

I usually am too much of a coward to end the pleading conversation by, just as politely refusing their kind offers. Instead I switch on the electric juicer , hoping the noise will be seen by the callers as something close to a technical hitch. Those cold-callers have families waiting, little mouths to feed and probably live in some shanty without drainage, let alone have electric juicers. It is a cruel world. But, at least they still speak English, heavily accented, but preferable to the gun fire tattle rattle of our locals and TV comperes.

Here in Bowral we have an Elvis impersonator. He arrived on a Saturday morning by small truck laden with large speakers and amplifiers and a DVD player with TV screen on which he can read and hear the words of the songs that he then ‘supposedly’ sings. He is totally into being Elvis Presley with many glittering gold baubles stitched on his vest and flared trousers. His face is old and a brown weathered sixties looking, topped by a shiny wavy pitch-black wig of hair carefully brushed back but enough of it falling over the right side of his fore-head. Through the years he has developed a formidable stomach but still is agile enough to sway, very routinely, backwards and forwards with a speaker in his hand and makes a credible impression as an Elvis. I can tell that the young walk past somewhat bewildered and amused. They wouldn’t know what a legend he represents. The young are all in a hurry to become instantly famous aided by incoherence.

I really think that this is what he has been doing for years, perhaps his entire life. The whole electronic caboodle is driven by a small petrol generator that is only just less noisy than the pre-recorded music and singing. He has a printed note in an open suitcase asking to support him and his love for ‘The King’. I suppose his cause is as good as any or better. He certainly deserved a couple of dollars. It can’t be easy to pack and unpack this half-truck load twice daily doing the rounds around Australia. A true troubadour. What dedication for an idol that is still lingering around yet faded into history like forgotten notes left in a bottom drawer. I try and spend time listening to this Elvis still sung in fairly normal English.

I can understand every word.

Learning to Swim and going Europe

March 4, 2013


Learning to Swim

To try keeping your head above water while alive seems to be about the best advice one can give. I remember years ago being given that lesson by my mother. It seems strange that my memories of my birthplace (Holland) while a child seem to be mainly about warm and sunny days. Yet, having gone back and revisiting that place as adult it always rained or was shrouded in fog. One flew over cloudless skies all the way from Sydney to India then over the sun baked Mediterranean followed by the Swiss Alps below with sparkling jewels of mountains until you reached Amsterdam’s Schiphol and all became dripping and looking miserable.

Are childhood memories invariably sunny and warm? Perhaps one felt safe, cared for and loved and the sun always shone as it invariably would not when growing up and face the world independently. No weather has sun only; clouds, rain, storm and tempest are all part of it as well. That’s the lesson we learn when growing up, the trick is to keep head above water, steer the good ship into calmer waters.

Those first times that I went back I traveled by boat. The first trip cost me hundred and six Aussi imperial pounds for the whole of 5 weeks duration between Sydney –Genoa. Another ten pounds for the Trans-Continental express Genoa to Amsterdam. Unbelievably, one was fed and feasted for the entire 5 weeks trip including all the Chianti one could possibly drink included.  Those large passenger boats would be seen off from Circular Quay by enormous crowds with hundreds of streamers the last connection between the passengers and onshore family and friends.  Many would be given last minute advice. Alas, when the boat finally moved away many a tear could still be seen on both travelers and on-shore friends. “Keep in touch Mavis or Ron, will you”? Still being shouted and renting the air.

It was during those sixties and seventies that many young people would take a dip and tip a toe into a foreign world with overseas travel becoming more popular. Slowly, another world away from Australia would emerge for many that previously had been experienced by just a few or seen only on maps or heard from others. Who could resist the travel when it was so cheap? Compared with air travel it soon became the preferred choice.

Even so, it did not hurt to pack a few toilet rolls, just in case. It pays to be careful. There were some strange cultural habits being imported into Australia by European foreigners. Strange food items like garlic, black bread and coffee that came in beans with some of the migrant kids even disliking our own food goodies such as beans and spaghetti on our sandwiches with lovely vegemite and sliced Devon.  Then there were those foreign habits of drinking wine slowly and wanting to be seated when talking to others, outside coffee sipping with seating on pavements as well and even restaurants opening on Sunday. Where will it stop next and many were worried?


Some came back with tales that in France you did not have ‘normal’ toilets like ours at home with Pine-o-Clean refreshed pink knitted doilies covering the lid etc, no, you had to squat into a hole, oh the horror was still visible on Mavis retelling her tale how she lost her lipstick irretrievably in one of those dark bottomless holes at Marseille.

In Holland, some discovered, the toilets had a kind of platform in which to peruse or admire latest efforts before flushing, allowing a kind of final good-bye as well. Some years later in Bali and many other parts of Indonesia there were different toilet habits again. Suffice to say people there never eat with their left hand or indeed shake hands, pass goods with the left hand which is used for toilet duties. Have some pity for those born left handed!

As for my swimming lesson; we used to swim with a doubled up rubber bicycle tyre. The summers were endless and permanently sunny.  One day, with my mother watching I was half way across the river when the air vent came out deflating the tyre in seconds.  My only option was to drown or try and make it on my own. “Just keep on swimming normally,” I was calmly advised from the side of the river.

That’s what I did.

Giving up?

March 27, 2012

If there is one thing that could tip me over the edge, it would be that modern phenomenon; the mobile phone. I have always been a difficult customer, perhaps not meant for anything much more complicated than opening an umbrella or rinsing out the tomato- sauce bottle.

Perhaps my inherited frugal gene is to blame, forever ferreting to save and scrounge for the maximum that costs the minimum. My days of hanging around a phone waiting for calls from friends have long since gone with most calls now coming from unknown sources urging me into the world of a Black-Berry or some other mysterious device. Change your plan through us, they text. “You’ll save with us”, is the lure that got me last time and is now the cause for ‘over the edge tipping.’

I have become a victim of a device that connects five other devices. It does so wirelessly but not effortlessly. All you need do is insert a little card and you get connected to all those devices. That card is called Sim-card. Don’t be fooled by its short name. It’s holding the whole world to ransom. It’s a terrorist in disguise.

My own aim has always been to seek simplicity and certain disconnectedness. This aim is probably steeped in wanting as little responsibility as is humanly possible and… A kind of laziness not to get involved in anything distracting me from …whatever it is that fills my head at the time, most likely, nothing much really.

My dream still is to live in a square room made of straw bales. It would have a wooden floor and a cozy wood heater in the middle. I would live out of a suitcase and eat simple food, may be lentils or smoked pork spare ribs with apples cooked with rhubarb and crumble on top, a simple glass of red wine afterwards…Sleep on a kapok mattress and read Patrick White’s Voss under a kerosene light.

With the $30. – Pre-paid mobile connectivity, it kept me reasonably in touch with any emergency that might pop up. The emergency might be a call from the hearing-aid centre for an appointment or a cheerful reminder that 80% credit has been used up, nothing much more than the most mundane of calls.

I often wished I could get an insight why so many are glued to those devices. If not held to their ears they have them in their hands and they are so busy flicking up and down, even sideways. What am I missing out on? What sort of fascinating world is escaping me?

I believe that undertakers are flat tack with people having been run over by semi-trailers while crossing the road and stroking their IPods, IPad and multiple other connect devices with numerous Apps and Blackberries stand alone. What a riveting world it all has come to!

My latest sojourn into that, to me denied, world of devices was an invite on my $30.- pre-paid for a WeiWah wire free Wi Fi modem that would connect up to five devices. Can you imagine; five devices? It was guaranteed to open a world hitherto unknown to me. Not only that, for a mere $49.95 a month it was going to give me 10 gigabytes of this ‘open world’. It was just too tempting.

Of course my ignorance in those matters I keep close to my chest. Not wishing to show my ignorance and lack of confidence in general, I quickly nod in agreement when experts try and inform and instruct me on device connectivity. Any gadget that uses electricity, especially if it has a screen with options and menus instantly fills me with dread.” Open up tools, please”, they tell me. “What tools”, I ask. I then quickly resort to seemingly understanding it all.

I can’t tell you how close I came to tipping over the edge. Optus must now be having conference calls over it. I became the despair of the Philippines call centre. India gave up on me a long time ago. No matter how patient they all were, nothing connected, nothing worked. I removed the dreaded Sim-card, wiped it and even put it in reverse, all to no avail (as they say in romantic novels when the hero just can’t seem to be able to seduce a recalcitrant virgin).

I must have spent an entire year of $49.50 per month in trying to find this so much desired connectivity. It finally turned out the mini Wi Fi WeiWah wire free was faulty. So, there you go. All that modernity, all those wonderful opening up of a new world, once again denied through a mere faulty ‘device’.

Where are the straw bales?