Guy Fawkes Night

Our Guy Fawkes effigy

“Remember, Remember the 5th of November 

Gunpowder, Treason and plot”

What is Guy Fawkes Night?

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by blowing up the House of Lords during the State Opening of England’s Parliament on 5th November 1605 by a group of provincial English Catholics.
During a search of the House of Lords at about midnight on 5th November 1605, Fawkes was discovered guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder—enough to reduce the House of Lords to rubble—and arrested.
The King’s Council allowed the public to celebrate the King’s survival with bonfires and Parliament passed the Observance of 5th November Act.

How is it celebrated?

Today it is celebrated with the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes on a Bonfire, setting off fireworks and families gathering at parties. Traditional food includes jacket potatoes and pea soup (to warm up people in the cold English climate) and sweets such as treacle toffee, toffee apples and Parkin cake.

Children play games such as Apple bobbing which requires the child to remove an apple from a bowl of water using only their mouth and teeth. It is great fun watching children trying to retrieve an apple whilst not getting too wet whilst others quite happily push their head to the bottom of the bowl to retrieve an apple.

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Holiday in Sri Lanka 

I am so busy with college work these days that I am struggling to squeeze in blogposts. We recently holidayed in Sri Lanka for the Diwali holidays (which coincide with the UK half term holidays). Our Travel Period was From 16th – 23rd Oct 2017. Rez has helped me compile this blog with his review of places from his Trip Advisor posts. We can all highly recommend Sri Lanka. It is a beautiful country with lovely people, weather, food and infrastructure.

Day 01:

We were met on arrival at Columbo airport by our wonderful guide and driver Charmalla. It was around 9pm when we arrived (the only direct flight with out an overnight flight) so we transferred directly from the Airport to our hotel in Katunayake.

There were a few things we noticed immediately; the roads were smooth, there was no rubbish on the roads and the autos were Red, green,  blue, black and cream.

 

Other villas from the villa veranda

Rez’s ReviewTamarind Tree Hotel, Katunayake
Pleasant hotel with large colonial style rooms grouped in lodges. The hotel has a pool and has ponies wandering the grounds. Breakfast was split into veg first then non veg next. Self service tea and coffee.

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Day 02: Transfer from Katunayake to Habarana

Dambulla is a large town in the Matale district in the central province of Sri Lanka. It is the centre of vegetable distribution in the country.

It is also the location of the largest and best preserved temple complex in Sri Lanka.

Sungreen Resort and Spa, Habarana

Rez’s Review

Lovely hotel with rooms arranged around a central pool. Food was delicious and the hotel was ideally placed for such attractions as the Dambulla Golden Cave Temple complex, the Sigiriya Lion Rock and the elephant safari in Minneriya National Park. The staff are very friendly and welcoming.

Rez’s Review

Dambulla Golden Cave Temple, Dambulla

It’s a bit of a climb
Inside the biggest cave temple
Walkway between temples
Set into the overhang of what can only be described as a ridiculously large boulder, the Dambulla Golden Cave Temples are accessed up a steep set of stairs – elderly and unfit beware.

The temple comprises of 4 individual temples created at different times. Inside are ornate paintings on the cave ceilings as well as a large variety of state representations of Buddha in various poses including sleeping and deceased.

The guides are knowledgeable help you get through quickly and then allow you to return to each cave temple to get the photos. Be warned though flash photography is not permitted.

 

Back to the hotel for a 7 course  Dinner was amazing and delicious. Comfortable and tranquil overnight stay at the hotel.

 

View from the balcony at the rear of the room
Day 03:

Transfer from Habarana to Sigiriya. Climb Sigiriya Rock & Visit The Fortress.

Rez’s Review 

Sigiriya (Lion Rock)

Looking at the challenge ahead
Described locally as the eighth wonder of the world and recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site, it certainly is a very imposing granite rock which has had a royal palace and a monastery on top. Your entry fee gives you access to the full Sigiriya complex… be warned entry fee is pricey.

Be advised, this is a bit of a hard climb. My phone tells me I climbed the equivalent of 69 floors! The steps can be a bit hit and miss at times so watch your footing.

There are spiral staircases that take you up to visit some murals painted high on a seemingly inaccessible face of the Sigiriya monument… yes it’s amazing they managed to paint the murals in this location but was it worth the climb? Not in my opinion.

View from the top down
Not for the faint hearted!
Lion Rock conquered
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Also be aware there are wasps nesting around Sigiriya and if agitated they will swarm. This happened when we visited when a group of typically loud Chinese tourists decided to disregard the advice to keep quiet and proceed to go directly to one of the wasp nests and ended up causing them to swarm.

Let me tell you, seeing people running around frantically trying to swat away dozens of wasps on their face and arms is not a pleasant sight, not least because there is nothing you can really do to help them as you yourself are huddling down to avoid the attentions of the wasps.

The staff at Sigiriya are very well trained for such incidents and even have a large first aid tent at the midpoint plateau where wasp stings can be administered to. When such events take place they climb the rock to the top armed with large nets and take the victims down under cover of the net to safety and if required first aid treatment.

Another thing to watch out for are the numerous “guides” dotted all over the place. As you make your way up the steps if you look even remotely tired / old / unfit then suddenly you will get a “helpful’ push in the back to “help” you up the stairs. They tried it on with us on several occasions (I’m the first to admit I need to lose a few pounds!). Initially we were able to reject their help with a firm but friendly No but the last one just wouldn’t take no for an answer. To be honest I was curious to find out what help he was going to offer as he looked to be about 70 but to be fair to him he was also as thin as a racing snake. His “help’ comprised a very gentle push in my lower back… so not really much help at all if I’m honest!

Overall I’m very glad that we visited… the views from the top are stunning and it was good to get some exercise in on the holiday… Could have done without the trauma of the wasp swarm though.

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Evening Jeep Safari at Minneriya National Park.

Rez’s Review 
Our elephant safari was booked at one of the many roadside vendors but ours came recommended by our trusty driver. The Mahindra Bolero 4×4 picked us up from our hotel and took us to the Minneriya National Park where our guide was very quickly pointing out exotic wildlife to us… kingfishers, Peacocks, Crocodiles, water buffalo, monkeys and of course the Elephants.

Zahra is awestruck
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The Elephants were the highlight of the tour, initially seeing a solitary bull elephant and then shortly thereafter seeing a herd of around 70 elephants of all ages travelling down to the waters edge of the Minneriya reservoir. After taking hundreds of photos of this magnificent herd in brilliant light conditions we moved to find a smaller family group of 5 elephants and then later a mother large herd of around 60+ elephants.

It was an absolutely awe inspiring sight seeing these magnificent creatures up close in the wild like this. Be aware though that yours is not the only jeep on the safari… at one point the number of 4x4s exceeded the number of elephants! The drivers are all aware of the issues this poses and do their best to avoid driving into one another shots.

Day 04: Transfer from Habarana to Kandy.

Rez’s Review

Nalandia Gedige (Centre point of Sri Lanka)

This was described as the absolute centre point of the island of Sri Lanka though when you go there very little suggests this to be the case. What you do find is a Buddhist temple which was rescued from the rising waters of the Nalandia Gedige reservoir by building a platform onto which the temple was moved stone by stone.
The highlight was what the guide described as “Giant Squirrels” and he wasn’t kidding, these things were the size of terriers!


Spice Garden, Matale
We stopped here on our way south to Kandy. A very friendly guide shows you around the spice garden where you can revel in the exotic plants and herbs. For some (my wife and daughter) this is really interesting and a real joy to learn about. For an engineer like me… not so much.

Rez having his arm hair removed
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The guide describes in great detail the medicinal, cosmetic and healing properties of each of the plants and herbs and even gives a demonstration of the natural hair removal cream which after 7 minutes saw a 1/2 inch square of hair from my arm removed… effective then!

Tiny pineapples used to aid weight loss

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Following the tour of the gardens we offered a massage demonstration which was very relaxing and only required a tip to pay for. Following this we had an opportunity to purchase some of their produce. Be careful it is very easy to get carried away with the purchases. (Deb’s note: we did – and it was great,if expensive!)

Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden,Kandy

Rez’s Review 
I’m not really a fan of the green stuff but even I have to admit this was a pleasant walk around the botanical gardens. The gardens are very well maintained, and separated into distinct sections.


One shame was how many mindless vandals feel it is appropriate to carve a name or a word into a tree or a cactus, scarring for ever.

Cultural Dance, Kandy Red Cross Hall



This was pleasant enough but with no real explanation other than faded photocopied sheets handed out ahead of the performance it was a little difficult to follow.

The drumming… well it really felt like just a loud banging noise with no sense of rhythm about it and seemingly no agreed timing between the four drummers.

The dance itself was well done by the ladies and there were some visually stunning costume changes along the way. The male dancers… well more acrobats really as their dancing wasn’t really up to much… at one point I thought they were doing the early 90’s “big Box, Little Box” dance.

One interesting discovery was that this sort of dance recital appears to be a key ingredient in the search for immortality… time certainly seems to pass a lot slower when watching this sort of thing!

 

Swiss Residence, Kandy

A very friendly and pleasant hotel set on a very steep hillside overlooking stunning views of the valley in which Kandy is nestled.

Our room had been recently renovated and looked very good for it. Spacious bathroom with shower and bath, large bedroom with the wardrobes and bed forming an island in the middle of the room. Our room had large bay windows giving us a stunning view of the scenery.

The buffet dinner and breakfast offered a good selection thought they could have done with having some soya milk in to help with a dairy allergy.

Day 05: Transfer from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya.

Pickers at work in the tea Plantations

Rez’s Review

Store Field Tea Factory

This was a short stop on the road up to Nuwara Eliya where we found out all about the process for taking freshly picked leaves through various rolling, fermentation drying and sieving processes to arrive at the various grades of Orange Pekoe tea. Turns out the strong tea favoured by the British aka ‘builder’s tea’ is nothing more than the dust residue left at the end of the process! The obligatory factory shop yielded some fresh Ceylon tea for the larder.

Tea types

Araliya Green Hills Hotel, Nuwara Eliya

A very pleasant hotel set in what is colloquially described as ‘Little England’. Nuwara Eliya is at an altitude of 6000ft which means the climate is one the British can relate to very easily and goes a long way to explaining why the locals are all dressed in jumpers, fleeces, jackets, hats and earmuffs!
The hotel is modern and well appointed. We were greeted on arrival with a hot chocolate and shown to our room. The hotel has a small indoor heated pool which is needed as an outdoor pool would be a bit nippy.

We found strawberries at the local market

Day 6: Transfer from Nuwara Eliya to Bentota.

Rez’s Review

Centara Ceysands Hotel, Bentota

Early morning beach walk

We stayed the last two nights of our holiday here and were very glad for it. The hotel is reached via boat across the Bentota Ganga river where you are greeted by friendly courteous staff for a very smooth check in process. The rooms are of a high standard, ours was on the first floor and had a view overlooking the pool and the sea. The pool was a good size and pool toys (inflatables) were available. There was maintenance ongoing to the outside of the pool. My daughter and I had fun finding loose tiles and leaving them for the maintenance crew.
The food at the Café Bem buffet was excellent with a wide choice of foods available to suit most palates. Our arrival coincided with Oktoberfest so the array of German foods was greatly appreciated.

The poolside changing rooms are a little cramped and offer only toilet and shower cubicles with private / dry area available for changing in.
To get to the beach you will cross a sand track and there it is, a long flat sandy beach, great for playing on, and exercising on. You need to go a long way out to get to any real depth so good for paddling around in. Be aware of the beach flags, and take their advice.

 

Day 07:

Rez’s Review

Kosgoda Turtle Conservation Centre, Kosgoda

3 day old turtles


This was an excellent visit with informative staff guiding us around the work they are doing to ensure the turtles have the best opportunity for getting to the sea.
Sadly a bus load of Chinese tourists arrived right after us and began to barge around talking very loudly and frankly abusing the turtles with their rough handling and flash photography despite signs everywhere telling us in pictograms not to. We elected to let them blow through before continuing with our tour.
I’ve read a lot about people being upset at the rescue turtles swimming around small concrete tanks. Yes, they’re not too big but these are blind or deformed turtles since birth. The alternative really is release and then becoming dinner for another sea creature… is this a better alternative?

Resident Disabled turtle

Deb’s review:

Zahra loved this place and listened intently to the volunteer guide. She asked questions and got to handle the baby turtles. She was so gentle with them. We stayed for quite some time and saw a few tour groups going through whilst Zahra took it all in. It was a small place but a great project. They buy turtle eggs from scavengers and pay higher than the black market rate for them, ensuring the species thrive. Releasing them on the beach(at night) will hopefully also ensure that they return to the same beach in 30 years time and lay eggs again.  Zahra declared she wanted a job there. We then spent a fortune in the gift shop (all proceeds go to support the conservation effort). They gave us their business card and told her to return soon!


Maduganga Boat Captains, Maduganga

Mangroves

Rez’s Review

This was a guided boat ride around the Maduganga Lake, exploring the flora and the fauna this wetland has to offer.
We made several stops along the way including a refreshment stand on stilts in the middle of the lake, Cinnamon island to see the locals preparing cinnamon sticks and a Buddhist temple.


The trip culminated in 20minutes with our feet being nibbled by fish which was an interesting and ticklish experience!

Fish Therapy

Lunch at a fabulous fish restaurant suggested and recommended by our guide.

We ended the day with a short boat trip out to sea to see the coral reef and fish swimming over it. It was a bit turbulant to say the least and after a substantial lunch it didn’t take long for me to feel sea sick. whilst Rez and Zahra fed the fish with ice cream cones I tried not to feed the fish with my lunch!

Feeding the fish
Ready to rock the boat

Day 08:

We were supposed to have a day in Colombo touring and shopping in the city but as we had bought gifts and souvenirs whilst we were touring there was nothing left we wanted to buy. Also, Zahra was keen to have some more beach and pool time. She was up at 6am dragging me to the beach for an early morning paddle before breakfast. Straight after breakfast was a dash to the pool.Thankfully as the morning progressed she made friends with some other children and the hotel events person organised a water polo match which went on for some time. we finally left the hotel at 2.30pm to get to the airport on time for our check in and departure.

As is traditional in Sri Lanka we gave our guide / driver a tip in an envelope as we departed ways at the airport. Once inside we met another expat family from Bangalore and we knew at least another two families wete holidaying in Sri Lanka at the same time. it is a popular destination for good reason and I for one cant wait to return.

 

Deepavali or Diwali


Deepavali or Diwali is celebrated with much gusto here in India. Fireworks (or firecrackers as they are known here) are set off everywhere by everyone. I imagine it’s what a battlefield would sound like. The booms and bangs are loud and relentless as people celebrate. Businesses are also booming at this time of year.

When is it?



Deepavali falls on the darkest moonless night of Amavasya on the fifteenth day of the month of Kartik. In 2017 this is 19th October. Deepavali begins from the the thirteenth day of Kartik, known as Dhanteras. In south India the fourteenth day is celebrated as Narka Chaturdashi. It’s called Choti Diwali by children.

What is it?



In Hindi Deepavali means ‘row of lamps’ and it is for this reason that the festival is known as the festival of light. It is celebrated by Hindus the world over and markets the beginning of the new year in North India.

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How is it celebrated?



There are a LOT of fireworks! There are also oil lamps, candles and tea lights placed at the entrance of houses and also inside. Coloured lights decorate homes and streets. There are lots of sweets and chocolates, big feasts and much celebrating. Gifts and cards are exchanged and more money is supposed to come to people. (It is traditional for every worker to receive a months salary as a bonus at Deepavali). In fact the celebrations are very similar to Christian Christmas celebrations but here people also buy new utensils, metal objects and ‘holy’ items during this period. The belief is that these things will wards off ill health and evil for a whole year.

Dasara or Dussehra 

Festival display in Spar

What is it?



It is a festival that celebrates the conquer of good over evil. In north India it is celebrated as ‘Navratri’and is observed in the nine days preceding Dussehra. It is also known as Durga Pooja, Vijayadashmi and Dasahara.

In Karnataka it means the start of 2 weeks of celebrations in Mysore ending with a great elephant parade. 

When is it?

It is on the 10th day in the bright half (Shukla Paksha) in the month of Ashwin. Ashwin is the seventh month in the Hindu calendar starting on 17th September and ending on 16th October. (Ashwin means ‘light’ in Hindi and the Sanskrit translates as ‘possessor of horse’ or ‘horse tamer’.)

 In 2017, Dusserha falls on Saturday 30th September. The start of Dassara festival in Bangalore is marked by a government holiday on Monday 18th September. 

History and legend

Dussehra is celebrated as the victory of the lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of lord Vishnu. His birth was to overpower the powerful ruler of Lanka, the ten-headed demon king Ravana. The story is that Lakshmana, the brother of lord Rama, cut off Surpanakha’s nose, the beloved sister of Ravana. Full of revenge, Ravana, disguised as a sage, kidnapped Sita. Later lord Rama declared a war against Ravana and brought Sita back.
Mythology states that goddess Durga killed demon Mahishasura after a long period of cruelty and oppression. Another story involves gold coins. The lord Kuber rained coins on the city of Ayodhya following Kautsa asking King Raghu for 140 million coins to give to his guru in exchange for knowledge. After giving 140 million coins to his guru, Kautsa distributed the rest to the people of Ayodhya.

How is it celebrated?

It is believed that the celebration of Dussehra commenced in the 17th century when the King of Mysore ordered a celebration of the day on a grand scale. The celebrations at Mysore Palace attracts thousands of visitors each year – it’s a real crush. Children are lifted on to shoulders of parents to see the great parade of elephants at the palace. The Karnataka State government arranges 10 days of festival celebrations with a program of music and arts. Major buildings are decorated with lights and colour across the city of Mysore.
Episodes from Rama’s life are staged in the form of ‘Ram Leela’. In the evening of Dussehra big effigies filled with crackers (fireworks) are installed in grounds. The figures are the embodiment of Ravana, his brother Kumbkarna, and son Megahnatha, which are burnt later in the evening.
People visit the Pooja Pandals wearing new clothes, prepare traditional food at home and celebrate the festival with their friends and families.
The day also coincides with the immersion of the idol of goddess Durga.
The Dussehra celebrations spread the message of victory of good over evil. It is also start of the festival season with Deepavali / Diwali next month and national holidays to mark Anniversary of Gandhi.

Adverts

There are lots of adverts appering at this time of year as it is the start of the festival season. Here are a selection from the newspapers.

St Mary’s Feast


What is it?



St. Mary’s Feast celebrates the birth of Mother Mary is the most important festival celebrated in St Mary’s basilica and is attended by thousands of people. 

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St. Mary’s Basilica is a basilica located in the Archdiocese of Bangalore. It is among the oldest churches in Bangalore and is the only church in the state that has been elevated to the status of a minor basilica. It really is a beautiful piece of architecture and is busy with visitors all day.

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 When is it?



The festivities go on for 10 days beginning on Tuesday 29th August and end on Friday 8th September; the day on which the Mother Mary was born. The first mass began at 5:30am with masses every 30 minutes in three different languages. At 6:30am the Archbishop offered a thanksgiving mass.

How is it celebrated?

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The festivities begin with the masses. In the evening of the first day, the first novena flag is blessed and hoisted (it’s a traditional flag). The flag with the image of “Our Lady” was blessed by Archbishop Bernard Moras and was hoisted by Sri KJ George (a former Home Minister for Karnataka state).

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A Novena ( a form of worship in the Roman Catholic Church consisting of special prayers or services on nine successive days) is held on the first nine days from Tuesday 29th August to Thursday 7th September. 

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On Friday 8th September, the day on which Mother Mary was born, a Holy feast is celebrated. Holy Mass is offered in different languages and mass marriages are conducted for those in need. A thanksgiving mass is also organized for couples who have completed 50 years of marriage. Eucharistic celebrations (mass with bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus Christ) are held on the day of the feast. The day culminates with a grand chariot procession with a decorated chariot with the image of Mother Mary drawn by devotees along the various streets of Bangalore. 

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Afterwards food is distributed to the thousand of people who have joined in the celebrations. This throng of people consists of all religions with Hindus joining Christians in the celebrations. It is a great time of enjoyment and feasting together.

Bible College in Bangalore – my story of how it happened

This is a post I never thought I would be writing. My friends will tell you that I am the least likely person to go to Bible College. (In my opinion, I am also the most likely to get kicked out at some point!). So how did this happen? How, after 33 years of being a (pretty crap) Christian, did I end up going to Bible College? How did I get here? Obviously it’s all in God’s great plan for my life, but I can tell it from my perspective.

Becoming a Christian – my belief in God

Woodvale Chapel

I had attended Woodvale Chapel in Ainsdale, where I grew up, ever since my cousins Michelle and Carol had taken us at a very young age. I loved going. The folks were kind and accepted us (me and my twin) with all our challenges, having come from a ‘chaotic’ family childhood which made us aggressive, defensive and outspoken. (I know, not much has changed.) 

Billy Graham, Mission:England

The church took the youth group on a trip to the Billy Graham Mission:England at Anfield Stadium in 1984. I sat listening to this old American preacher saying things I had heard a thousand times before. God loved me. He loved me so much that He sent His only son to die for me so that I could go to heaven. I knew it and I believed it, only I had never said ‘the prayer’ asking for forgiveness and accepting Jesus into my life. Billy Graham did an ‘alter call’, which is asking people to make a public declaration of faith and saying ‘the prayer’. Me and my twin looked at each other in the stands and asked each other should we go down. We went down together and in front of thousands and together with thousands of others, asked for forgiveness of our sins and welcomed Jesus into our lives. I didn’t feel any different. I just knew I had done it. I was 14 years old. 

My Christian life

Now, becoming a christian doesn’t magically make your life perfect, and mine hasn’t been, but it does give you an assurance that your sins are forgiven. My Christian life has had many ups and downs. There have been some very deep downs, the biggest being when my father died of cancer in 1996. I was 26 years old and my father had been taken away from me. I was, and am, devastated by it. My life changed forever and God seemed very far from me. It took me a very long time, years in fact, to ‘forgive ‘ God for what had happened to my father and robbing me of a parent. 

Whatever happened in my life, when I drifted away from God, there was always something to bring me back. My faith has never wavered, ever. I know that God is there. It’s just sometimes in my life I wish He wasn’t. That’s quite bad really. I do get fed up, frustrated and angry. As I have got older, and hopefully wiser, I have realised that I am not alone in those feelings. I also know that I think I am the worst sinner in the world and God can’t possibly forgive me again for doing the same thing over and over and not learning. He does. Thankfully.

How did a crap Christian get into Bible College?

Faith Camp

So last year Zahra and me went to Faith Camp. It’s a family camping week at the South of England Showground and Peterborough Arena organised by Kingdom Faith Church. It’s a week of fun filled activities for the children, of all ages, and a week of lectures and seminar and praise and worship for the adults. It’s a great atmosphere and the teaching is great too. 

Last year there was a big advert (for want of a better word) for their Bible College. I was sat listening thinking I wouldn’t mind going to Bible College BUT, I thought, they would never let me in and it was on the south coast and the fees were out of my price range. As I sat there thinking this, friends surrounding me kept nudging me, winking, indicating I should apply, and laughing. I thought it was funny too. I thought they wouldn’t know what hit them if they did let me in. It WAS funny. I WAS the least likely person to go to Bible College (after all, I have been known to bring bottles of Prosecco to Bible studies!). There was absolutely no way I was going, even if I did fancy the idea.

Move to Bangalore

God, of course, had different plans. Fast forward a few years and here we are as a family in Bangalore, India. We moved here in 2015 with Rez’s work. It was a traumatic move and affected my health badly. I had to give up work. I’m not going to bore you with that long story, but it now meant that I was free to do what I liked. For the first time in my life I didn’t have a job. It is very liberating. I have never been out of work. I worked through college and university and went straight into work afterwards. No travel or inter railing for me. Now I had time to do something I wanted to do.

Volunteering

I spent most of last year working on the school PTA raising funds for the three charities they support. I baked and sold and organised and badgered sponsorship from local companies. It was all encompassing and kept me busy. When the school holidays were approaching I was considering whether I wanted to continue on the PTA or do something else. 

All People’s Church

That is when All People’s Church (APC) started advertising for applications for their Bible College. Now Zahra and I have attended APC for about 18 months now but I didn’t know they had a Bible College.

Again I thought about it and thought I might enjoy it. I also thought they wouldn’t let me in. I thought about it for several weeks before I spoke to Pastor Nancy about it. She encouraged me to apply. I finally plucked up the courage and filled in the application form and sent it in. I had done my bit and fully expected to be rejected. I mean I am 47 years old competing against 20 something’s from all over India for a college place. I didn’t rate my chances. God had a different idea obviously, and I still think this is His sense of humour coming out. I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognise. Normally I don’t answer them but this time I did. It was the Bible College asking me to come in for an interview and arranged a date. 

The interview

I was bricking it. I have not had an interview in decades, literally decades. I know nothing about modern interviews for colleges and universities. I had no idea what to expect, whether there would be a panel and how many other candidates would be around and what they would ask. I arrived at the appointed time at the church office and waited, alone. I was met by a lovely lady who led me into a small interview room and offered me tea. I was disoriented. For the next 30 mins or so, she asked me questions, none of which I can remember and all of which I answered. She then tells me about the college and what the subjects are, the teaching is in English (a relief) and timings (9.30am to 1pm), fees and that as an “elderly student” I might “nap” during lectures but not to worry, they were there to help and support me. (I try not to laugh but fail).  I am confused so I ask when will I find out if my application is successful. She tells me immediately that it is successful and I am going to Bible College. 

I’m in!

WHAT?! Wait. How did this happen? This went far too smoothly to be real. How did I just get into Bible College? It fits with school runs too. Just too surreal.

Then the spanner in the works came. Bible College started in July. I would be in the U.K. until the middle of August so I couldn’t join. No problem! What? You’re letting me start 6 weeks after the course commences? Yes indeed. I was stunned and delighted.

I returned home in a daze. It was still sinking in. I was actually going to go to Bible College. No one was going to believe me. No one was going to believe they actually let me in! How was I going to tell people and what would there reactions be. Probably similar to those I experienced when I told people I was getting married, no one believed me then!

Bible College

Anyway, here I am at Bible College and really enjoying it. I am learning so many things about history in the Old Testament as well as prayer, praise, worship, the Holy Spirit, practical christian living… load of things. It’s great. I’ve already caught up on assignments (some of which were pretty tough) and I’ve managed not to nap in lectures! I am the second oldest in the class surrounded by young men who look likely to be pastors and ministers of the future. It’s exam week next week. A whole week of exams. I’ve not even caught up on what I’ve missed yet but who cares…this is the first time I will have taken exams in over a decade too; I don’t care what my result is, it’s the experience which will be valuable. 

I am sure I will do another blogpost about Bible College itself in future, but for now you have my tale of how I got there. Lesson? Never underestimate what God has planned for you…it may well be outside your range of possibilities but it is never outside His!

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If you want to find out more…

If you want to find out more about becoming a christian take a look at CrossCheck for more information and help: http://www.crosscheck.org.uk/ 

A Bad Day in Bangalore 

Monsoon Season

It’s monsoon season here in Bangalore and it is raining….a lot. So much so that the monsoon is a record breaker with at least 17% more rain in Bangalore than ever recorded apparently. That means it is raining for a few hours each day, usually in the evening or at night, and the rain is heavy. It’s not the constant insipid cold rain from the UK, this is buckets being thrown down in a matter of minutes, and it’s warm. 

It’s worth stating at this point that my husband Rez flew to the UK at the weekend on a business trip, so isn’t at home.

The Flood

Last night it rained constantly and hard. I know this as I was up several times in the night with Bangalore Belly (yes, again!) and heard it thundering down. What I didn’t hear was the waterfall outside our bedroom. There is a balcony at the front of the house, with a drain hole. Water from the roof drains off directly onto the balcony (what an amazing thought through design feature that was). The drain can usually cope with the rain from the roof and directly falling in the balcony and we have a inch step at the door to prevent flooding. That’s all very well until ‘someone’ (not me, and none in the house is admitting to it) decides to place an upturned bucket over the drain hole. As a consequence of this ingenious action, water rapidly gathered and arose above the step. 

Zahra’s room was completely floooded. Her rug was sodden. As the bedroom was overflowing the water escaped over the top of the stairs and directly into the lounge and Rez’s office. Both were flooded with at least an inch of water. The Persian rug in the lounge soaked up a lot of water and prevented some further damage. The computers were sat in an inch of water, as were the plug sockets on the floor, and the wifi. It was a mess.

The Discovery

Zahra had a sleepover at a friend’s house last night so I went to open the curtains in her room. I stepped onto the landing, at the top of the stairs, and into a puddle. I stopped dead in my tracks. A puddle at the top of the stairs is super dangerous. I then looked up to the skylight overhead thinking it might have leaked, but there were no obvious signs. I grabbed a towel to soak up the water and opened the door to Zahra’s bedroom. It was a pool of water. Everything on the floor was sodden, her rug included. I gently paddled my way in and opened the door to her balcony. It was completely flooded. I turned and looked at the drain to see that an upturned bucket was covering the drain. I paddled out into the water and removed the bucket. Water imediately started gushing down the drain.

Becoming Bambi on ice

At this point the doorbell rings. It’s 7:30am and I have no idea who would be ringing the doorbell that early. Still in my PJs I bid a retreat from the pools and go downstairs. I step off the bottom step into a pool of water. I stop, confused. Why is there water down here? I step onto the Persian rug and it is sodden and squelches under my feet. I step towards the door an immediately become Bambi on ice, fall flat onto my back, smacking my head on the marble floor and slide with my feet in the air to the door, where I was able to plant them firmly with a thud. Both my hands are holding my head, which is soaked from the water I am now lying in. My PJs are soaked. Yet still I get up and open the door as though nothing has happened and discover the temporary driver has turned up early. He looks at me and I look at him and say “the house is flooded, please just wait” and hand him the car keys. How very British!

Surveying the damage

I close the door and grab my head. It’s hurting, a lot. I gingerly step through the puddles, sopping wet, to the bottom of the stairs. I survey the mess. The lounge is flooded. Rez’s office is flooded. The computer is sat in a puddle of water, as are cables and electrical sockets. I hold my head and wonder where to start. I decided on a shower first. Goodness knows what came in with that rain water, but I was now covered in it. I walk back upstairs and take a shower. Washing my hair I can feel a lump forming, it’s very sore.  I quickly dress and go back downstairs. I Whatsapp some friends and ask for help. I ask the driver for help – and I have never met him before. As is traditional in India he went to remove his shoes before entering the house; I told him not to. He walks in and stops immediately. He tells me it’s a bad flood. (With a throbbing head I missed the opportunity for a sarcastic response.)  He goes off to find a squeegee mop thing to just pushed the water out of the house.

The clean up

As we start cleaning up with a squeegee mop, ordinary mops and towels, friends start to turn up to help. All have the same astonished reaction at the amount of water in the house. Kirin has already arranged for extra help. Atifa asks me how I am. I feel my head and find a huge lump. Atifa does too and immediately tells me I have to go to the hospital. Kirin insists. Reluctantly I leave the clean up to others and head to the hospital with Kirin.

Zahra

On the way to the hospital I receive a call from school. It’s the school nurse. Zahra has a fever, is not well at all and needs to come home. I am in a car on the way to the hospital myself and feel a bit helpless. Kirin took control and calls her husband and tells him to pick up Zahra from school and bring her home. I advise the nurse of the plan and she wishes me well too.

I now wonder if this day can get any worse. (Thankfully it didn’t.)

The Hospital 

We arrive at the main entrance and have no idea where accident and emergency is. Kirin asks and is directed to follow the signs through the hospital. It’s a good job I wasn’t critical because I would have died on the journey through the maze. (We later discovered there was a separate entrance, around the corner and out of sight, for accident and emergency). We explain to a Dr what has happened and he nods and says “fast track” to a nurse. We stand there and look lost for a few seconds before another nurse guides me to a bed. I try to climb on but the wheels haven’t been fixed and the bed slides away from me. I quickly stand up and let go of the bed before I injure myself again. The nurse didn’t apologise and merely locked the wheels and told me to lie down. 

I explain to her that I can’t lie down as I have a massive lump at the back of my head. She goes and speaks to the Dr who comes over. I explain I have a huge lump on my head and I am not lying down. He prescribes an ice pack and tells the nurse I can sit up. He disappears. Some time later he reappears and starts asking me a multitude of questions: did I pass out or faint?, have I a history of heart problems?, was I unconscious at any point?. Clearly my description of slipping and falling on my arse and sliding to the front door wasn’t cutting it. Kirin tells the Dr what happened. He then feels my head and says ” oh, that’s a big lump!”. (Again I missed the opportunity for a sarcastic interlude.) He tells me I have to have a CT scan and they would take some blood tests. He tells Kirin to go and register me (that means they set up a tab for billing later). 

The nurse comes along and inserts a long needle into the back of my hand. “Just a slight scratch” she says as she pushes a 10cm needle through the thin  skin on the back of my hand. ‘Slight scratch’ my arse! I could feel that needle all the way in – it flipping hurt. The nurse then  took enough blood for a transfusion never mind some tests. I did wonder whether they were short of a few pints of O+ and took the opportunity to stock up their reserves. She then administered some fluid paracetamol as the Dr didn’t want me to eat until after the CT scan. Then she gave me an ice pack and left. 

After quite a short interlude the Dr was back advising me my blood sugar was low and they were going to put me on a drip. My blood sugar was low as I hadn’t eaten or drank a thing since waking up and it was now nearing noon! It doesn’t take a Dr to figure out my blood sugar might be low because of that. Anyway, I am now hooked up to a drip with an ice pack at the back of my head. 

Kirin is running around arranging things in the background so I don’t have to worry about anything. Zahra had been safely delivered back home and Saroja was looking after here. Sophie went round to check on her and reported back that she was unwell but basically fine. Saroja was busy cleaning up the mess with Anan (the replacement driver). I start to relax a little and realise how much my head hurts…like really hurts. I feel the lump that is now cold from the ice pack and can’t quite believe how big the lump is. All from slipping in water.

The nurse returns with a wheelchair. I get in after being detached from the drip. I am wearing shorts and a tee shirt. The sight of my glaring white legs reflecting the ceiling lights is clearly dazzling everyone and before we leave the emergency room three doctors yell for a blanket to cover me. Yes this is India and ladies do not display their legs. But you know, I was in a bit of a rush and modesty wasn’t the first thing on my mind when I left my flooded home this morning.

I get wheeled  through various corridors and up in the lift and through various waiting areas, all whilst being stared at. We reach the CT room and it is occupied so I have to wait in the corridor – but this is fine as the nurse then covers up my tee shirt and arms as well in the blanket. I definitely won’t offend anyone now – I look like I am in a straight jacket. 

The CT scan takes a few minutes and I am wheeled back to the emergency room and re hooked back up to the drip. We await the scans. The drip finally finishes and it is removed. We await the Dr to go through the scans. He confirms that I do indeed have a brain – he can see it clearly on the scan. I don’t have any fractures or bleeding on the brain – so all good. I do however have a flipping great big lump on the back of my head. He explains that this is better as it is a soft tissue injury and will eventually go down with ice packs and prescribes plenty of paracetamol for the pain.

Great – I can leave. Well no, not quite. We have to await the discharge report and pay the bill. Kirin goes off to pay the bill but there is a computer glitch which means they can’t add on all the treatment I have had to the bill. I didn’t see what happened but Kirin told them to write a manual bill and she paid that. About INR 5000 in total ( Note to self: I need to pay her back!). I had to ask for a nurse to remove the needles from the back of my hand otherwise I wokukd be walking out of the hospital with them.

Back home

Kirin drops me off at home and I am truly grateful, for her accompanying me to the hospital and looking after me whilst I am there. She had to rearrange her whole day for me.

I get in the house and Anan has already told me it is all done and finished. I see Zahra lying on the couch, looking quite a sorry state, and Saroja in the kitchen preparing lunch (great timing!). The house has indeed been all cleaned up. Rugs have been washed and are hanging out to dry. Water all cleared and floors mopped. Towels washed and hung it to dry. It was a completely different scene than the one I left in the morning. Friends popped by to see if I was ok, and relieved to know I was.

Zahra is till running a temperature and feeling quite poorly. I am now discovering new aches and pains from my fall.

A Bad Day in Bangalore 

It was a bad day in Bangalore. I have a headache from hell and my daughter is unwell. No parent likes to see their child ill, you just feel helpless. Dealing with a flooded house, injuring myself and looking after a sick daughter is too much in one day. I have survived it, so far, with the help of some truly wonderful friends. It could have been a lot worse and I am thankful it wasn’t. It was a bad day but tomorrow is a brand new day.
* Update: The newspapers are reporting 122.5mm of rain fell in 5 hours in Jakkur (where we live). The highest rainfall in Bangalore. A lot of houses in our complex flooded as a result.