Monday, November 19, 2007

My first weekend in UK outside London

So, I had gone this weekend to meet a T.Nagar neighbourhood friend of mine in Stoke-on-Trent, some 150 miles from here. Peaceful little city known for its potteries, which, well, didn't interest me much. The weekend started with the realisation that buses here don't wait for an additional five minutes as they do in India. Ran my way to the Victoria Coach Station at 6:32 PM to find that the bus had left at 6:30 PM. Anyway, ended up coughing 20 more pounds to catch the bus at 9 PM.

On Saturday, we went to Birmingham. Roamed about in the Bull Ring, the famous market place there, and then went to Sandwell & Dudley to a huge temple there. Of course, I should be mentioning the nice South Indian food with Kesari and Thayir Saadam! :D Sunday was the day for Manchester, with me studiously planning out to go to a place called Castleton, for a beautiful countryside walk and a visit to the famous limestone caves there (It's called Devil's Arse.. wonder how these people get such creative names)... Reached Manchester at 11 in the morning, and since there was an hour's delay in the connecting train, we went out to the city and came across an ice skating ring. Well.. why not give it a try!

It was.. err.. scary stuff. With shivering legs, I somehow stepped into the ring and thud, down. Tried to get up and halfway through thud, down again. The instructor then asked me to bend on my knees and I finally get up and I managed to get up and move an inch and then, yeah... I fell down again :P "You should keep your legs stiff and together" was the instruction. "ada dawgu! I was getting scared myself and shivering and I should stupefy it seems", I said to myself Somehow... after some 5-6 falls, made a circle around the ring holding on to the railing and then I the escape from there! :P It was getting late for the train and so we quickly caught a local tram and ran to the station to see the train to Edale (where we had to go to get to Castleton) leave the platform.

My "Plan B" which I had meticulously made the previous day said catch the one coming two hours later, so that you can at least take the walk. But on inquiring at the station, they said I could go to one more station and catch a train to Castleton and reach an hour earlier than that. Was surprised actually, since Internet never showed up a station there.. and this was just 15 minutes away, when Edale was 50 minutes away.. Anyway, took the train and the station showed up in three stops. Got down and started inquiring about Devil's Arse and nobody knew.. Then one lady in a supermarket where we were asking gently says, "uh.. well.. I don't think so this is the Castleton you are looking for". We colon piped. Dudes! the nomenclature that you have for your places rock! Seriously! :-| Turns out that we had landed up in some place in the opposite direction from Manchester. Since it was getting too late, we came back, roamed about in Manchester, and then came back to Stoke. Well yeah, an experience is an experience! Caught the bus back from Stoke at night and now back in London! :-)

And hey, happened to see snow for the first time! It was lightly snowing in Stoke when I was about to leave for London, and on the way in the bus, I could see the fields capped in snow. It was dark but the snow white still stood out.. Beautiful!

UPDATE: Since a few people had asked for pictures, here are some... at Bullring, and at the Ice Rink at Manchester.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Waiting for her call

(Something inspired by Ammani's Short Tales, of which I am a regular reader.)

So you are there right under the bedspread covered up to your head, facing the cellphone in the dark. "Shall I put the fan off?", your mother asks. "No, just that I want the breeze and don't want to feel the cold as well.", you reply. Little does she realize how sultry it is inside. But you know after some thorough analysis that this is the thinnest bedspread that would not allow the cellphone backlight to pass through. Putting on the ring tone is out of question. That leaves you with just the vibrator and the backlight to tell you about any calls or sms's. To complicate issues, your cell phone doesn't vibrate when it is charging. Some design issue, the manual says. And the failing battery means you keep charging it frequently lest you miss out on that call you have been enduring all this for.

It's a couple of hours now. "Is she up to problems with her parents?" "Has she left the phone for charging and gone out somewhere?" "Has she got too tired and slept off early?" A million questions intersperse your thoughts. Sometimes accompanied by a split-second introspection of why you are in such a state. Managing a cell phone with such constraints and a failing battery on silent mode isn't all that easy. You keep charging it whenever you are on your laptop, with the cellphone on the hinge, as the backlight is easy to notice. Just that when the call comes, you have to slip it into your pocket and pretend that either you are sleepy and hence have to get into the blanket, or you need to take a leak. Sometimes you can't slip it in, and announcing on the cell phone that the signal is weak and moving out to a more private place helps. When you are roaming about in the house, its in your pant pocket. But over time you have lost a bit of confidence over how sensitive you are to that vibrator. Sometimes, the phone moves to the shirt pocket. Otherwise, you get reminded of all the horror stories about the medical impact of doing such a thing. That is when just putting your hand in your pant pocket helps you make sure. When you sleep, the pant pocket is way too open and the cellphone falls off. So you place it in your belly and tuck in your shirt so that it stays there. Of course, the keypad needs to be locked since you could roll over.

But that's when you are done with a call, and you are going to sleep, but it's just that you don't want to miss it in case she gets to call later, or early in the morning. Till then, its right in your hand, either with the charger on, when you keep looking for the backlight, or without it, when the charge is good enough, and you can put it for charging when you are talking. If its the latter, you at least get to cozy up a bit. But for now, that's not the case. And you are left thinking about all this with no signs of sleep coming. With a blue tinge, your cellphone lights up. So does your face.