Friday, August 15, 2008

Takeaway from the movie - WANTED

I hope that you are not hoping against hope that Angelina Jolie would be the hopeful takeaway, but that's practically quite hopeless, and that's not the point that I want to hope to convey here :)

James McAvoy in one of the opening scenes of the movie 'Wanted' works in a job almost similar to an IT engineer and he says...

"my doctor says I have RSI, can you imagine what a horrible and boring life it is, where one gets to do only repetitive work and gets injured too"

Might not be the exact words, but hope I have caught the essence.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cooking tales...Series 1

Of late I have been cooking various dishes,
Have a look -

My cooking tales are going to involve some interesting facts or goof ups...

Goof up 1 - date 12 - 8 - 2008
I had bought raw plantain to make a nice spicy sabji - vallakai kootu, the kootu became a kootooo....
Yesterday as I unpeeled the 'Green' peels thinking that being green ensured that the plantain would be quite raw, but as the plantain shed more of its outer clothing in a seductive manner, my nostrils were treated to a nice bananaish smell, never have I ever smelled a raw plantain... as the clothes go off, I mean the peels go off I am able to see the pulp of a slight yellowish color. As my doubts starts traveling towards north, I decided to taste the pulp and it was so sweet and yummy that I devoured it instantly and there ended my aspirations of making vallakai kootu. Might sound silly but not to me who was dreaming of a spicy side dish for a few hours before this goof up. So till I meet the proper raw plantain my cooking of this particular dish is indefinitely postponed.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Life is cruel – Edinburgh, Scotland Marathon trip…

Life is cruel – Edinburgh, Scotland Marathon trip…

Trips are always happy, happening and hassle free yet why do I say life is cruel…well time will answer that.

Marathon – a footrace of 26 miles 385 yards without major breaks, but ours was a different kind of marathon to be completed under 60 hours with a bit of time allocated to take a decent break.

Runners: Jaganath (yes from the LD trip fame), and me.

Phase 1 of the marathon: Booking phase - Having failed miserably in gathering more members for this trip had to decide to travel by train or bus. Train fares would have made me really sweat and toil hard for a few more months at work so the bus aka the national express looked like a good option, and the good option looked even better when they told us that there is a discount for a week day travel. Tickets booked GuildfordLondon VictoriaEdinburgh and vice versa.

Next was to plan for the activities to be taken up during the two days out there, so we decided to roam in and around Edinburgh during the first day and then go to the highlands on the second day. So we booked a highland tour for the second day.

Lodging: With just two days to EDD (estimated date of departure), we still were homeless with no room for staying there, this is where helped us by suggesting a few backpackers hostel in Edinburgh and very close to the high street. We luckily got two beds in the High Street Hostel.

Phase 2 of the marathon: Departure and Arrival – Having a map of the boarding point of the bus and a small suitcase and few backpacks we decide to hike for 5 km’s and were left searching for the bus stop minutes before the bus arrived. Boarded - reached London Victoria – Changed buses and boarded the one to Edinburgh. By 8 in the morning we reached St Andrews Square and again took another map and started searching for directions to get to the high street. Reached the place, had a shower, had a hearty breakfast of croissants, muesli, and juice and was ready for the day. Must say high street hostel was a nice clean and happening place.

Phase 3 of the marathon: 1st day summary – Edinburgh which is the second most visited place by tourists throughout the year was buzzing with people and activity, the first most visited place is London. Also Edinburgh has a good population ratio so it’s pretty crowded at all times. Also the city has a very different kind of architecture; huge grey/brown blocks constitute the building blocks, grand buildings. We ran to catch the 10 o clock bus trip which will show us a bit of the town and then take us for a boat cruise on the river Forth. The commentary on the bus was very average but that was to be compensated by the lovely boat cruise. As we neared the river Forth we were visually greeted by two lovely bridges called the Forth rail bridge and the Forth road bridge, this has been named specifically to keep the name simple.

Lots of interesting facts about these bridges are available, have a look

Tour Bus

Me close to the Forth Road Bridge

Forth Rail Bridge

Forth Road Bridge

Then the boat took off, I meant took sail, whatever it took me on the river Forth, the views were awesome, breathtaking and what not…the landscape was ever changing. Finally it stopped to pick a group of students from Inchcolm Island and then the boat ride became even livelier with the students singing, playing the guitar and immersing themselves and others in joy. I being a wildlife lover was searching for signs of new birds other than the terns, gulls and cormorants was greeted to the fact that we were to see seals soon. They were nice and huge, basking in the sun. The luckiest bit was when the captain of the Forth Belle told that to look to the left of the boat to see two Puffins bobbling in the water, unforgettable sight. As we returned back on the bus we meet two people from the US who are on a long trip around the UK as we were happily chatting with me we stole the tip of the great dish Haggis Neeps and Tattis. As we neared the high street we parted with good wishes and a photograph.

Forth Belle - Boat

View from the cruise

Forth Rail Bridge - Far View

Bluish View of the River Forth

Scanning for food or space for landing!

Seals Basking ....

Puffin - Rare One

Then Jagan and me went into a few stores to pick up a few stuff for friends and finally at 3 we entered inside pizza hut to hog on the pizza, pasta, salad buffet, am sure the kitchen members still don’t know what hit them on that particular day, we ate well paid and there was a fair going on there so we went watched etc…

Then we decided to wander all over Edinburgh town for the rest of the day, we went to few cathedrals, castles, certain squares and then were lazing in a park for a while.

We reached the hostel by 7, washed up a bit, got ready again, played pool at the hostel and left for dinner. We went to a place called the Arcade very decent pub cum restaurant and we feasted on ‘Haggis Neeps and Tattis’ and some roasted ginger mushrooms with garlic bread. We hit the beds at around 10:00 as we were facing an early exit from bed the next day.

Edinburgh Castle


Church on the High Street

Scottish Tradition - the Bagpiper in his costume.

Cat ....Bird Walk

Snack Time.

Shower time

Guess who a) Tom Cruise b) Brad Pitt c) a mix of all?!

Phase 4 of the marathon: 2nd day summary – cursing within my breath I wake up at 6, thinking that what a fool I am to plan for a trip so early in the morning and that too when am on a vacation….my misery only multiplied seeing the other lodgers snoozing away to glory. Good shower and 45 minutes later I was more or less sleep walking for breakfast at the hostel, but as usual food being a great stimulant and motivator shook me from ear to ear and told me to devour ummm 4-5 large sized croissants, 1 fruit bun, 2 glasses of juice and as soon as finished this I again felt sleepy maybe this time food being the culprit. Jagan (always late – I myself am late, he beats me regularly at being late) and I took long strides on the high street of Edinburgh to catch the tour bus at 7:45. As we see the bus all we can see is the driver cleaning the windscreen and another family who along with us felt that being punctual might be a good idea….as there is a saying which I remember from a friends gtalk status message – You have to be on time to a meeting and pray that there is someone to notice/note that you are on time. As we take good seats, the tour guide starts the engine of the Mercedes bus and adjusts his ear piece and Mike and gives us a introduction speech, oops slightly boring….as we proceed we went on the Forth road bridge, it was just a just a day before I was telling Jagan that it would be wonderful to travel on that bridge and got my wish fulfilled rather soon…as we proceeded to the city Fife we noticed that the flora and fauna was gradually changing every 30 minutes. We reached Pitlochry and got ourselves a 30 minute break where we walked down to a dam and enjoyed the walk and the view. Our next stop was at another dam, the place was named Loch xxxx forgot the name…could it be related to selective amnesia well you never know …we took some snaps and were in awe of the snow peaked mountain peaks and were left wondering how snow was left on top while we did have any snow at hand’s reach. Then we started for Loch Ness, for a cruise on the lake and those who didn’t want the cruise could take 1.5 hrs off to wander around the small town or just bask in the sun, am just amazed that as much as we back home complain of the sun, the locals here just love to interact with the sun and bask in its fury. I really have very less words to describe the view from the cruise, it was really awe striking and bringing some kind of feeling from within maybe we just call it ‘Inspiration’, that’s why great writers come to such places to write/finish their writing pieces; if I never write a great piece in my life time I can put the blame on the location. The return was quite subdued with all my extrasensory senses not dancing with excitement of the visual treats. I noticed a cloud pattern which is named after my discovery called the Zebra clouds, have a look….just kidding please don’t believe me. As we neared the offloading point, I see this lovely group of swans with their young innocent ones, don’t all the young ones irrespective of the category of gods creation invoke some kind of happiness from within each of us, well it does mighty well for me. This feeling makes me to run alone across the stream to get a quick capture of the birds and also get back on time to the bus to ensure that I don’t spend a night alone in Loch Ness basically I mean ensuring that I don’t get left behind. The bus started almost on time, and I was treated to another first, a bridge doing a 360 degree turn, 180 turn rotation first to let a yacht pass by as its sail was so high up that it would have scraped the top of the bridge, few takeaways from this experience, it was one yacht which made traffic stop for about 15 minutes and about 25 vehicles on either side of the bridge wait, still no honking, no irritation, no temper rise, no engines running, yes I have learnt from the locals behavior I really hope I can drive without a horn fitted to my vehicle in Bangalore. Bridge behaving properly and the bus even better and we are off to the whiskey tasting tour, wow free tasting, tasting never had a cost but the contents that you taste usually carried a price tag but not in this case. Tasted some Scotland famous stuff and some vanilla flavored stuff and me not being a well trained alcoholic could feel the effects of flying as tasting was drinking raw shots of each product. The guide had recommended some soup in this place so Jagan and me decided to listen to someone at least once in a week and we bought the vegetable and oat soup with a tuna sandwich and must say the soup stands in the top 3 of the best soups that I have ever had, smack yummy …15 minutes later with everything finding a place and settling down comfortably in my stomach I run to have a small rendezvous with the rest room. Next destination was Glencoe, the place which really stood out in the brochure, so our thoughts were would it be true or was it just another concept of the tough subject of marketing. As we wolfed down the sad story of the massacre of the MacDonald’s clan by their guest for whom they had given a lot and more than been very hospitable, history has some real sad and cruel stories and we are ensuring in different forms that we too leave behind sad and cruel stories to be the part of the history in the future, will this never stop, can’t we have a happy history always?

The place where the guide let us out of the cages aka the bus, we stood breathed some fresh air and felt nice being able to be in such a place that formed an important piece of history of Scotland. We were parked about 500 meters from the base of the hill and Jagan wanted to reach the base so he pulled a few of us from the bus and we went bounding like a hill goat to the base of the hill and the place was dear to the heart especially with a stream and a small stone path. As we raced back to the stop to get some accolades from the guide for our agility and speed in getting back, if only he had a ECG to print our heart beats or a stethoscope he would have seen a ECG equivalent to a seismic recording graph with epicenter 10 or a rock album song respectively, it was that tough running up the hill and especially the air was quite thin, a kind family seeing our state gave us juice; that bad. We started again and were treated to some beautiful winding roads and the place where a part of the movie Harry Porter was shot; we stopped for a pit stop and very soon were on a 2 hr journey back to Edinburgh with me dozing away to glory, any moving object can rock me to a blissful sleep. Reached high street, bade byes all around and off we were off to the hostel, packed got ready and we had have dinner and get to the station. Which other way to end the trip with our favorite food, yes we were again knocking at the doors of the pub Arcade, to feast on ‘Haggis Neeps and Tattis’ and fish cakes, licked our forks clean and got to the bus stand on time to ensure we get some good seats as it’s a first cum first serve basis here.

Dam - Pitlochry

Loch xxx!

Young Ones...

The Marathon Runners - l to r - Monish and Jagan

Loch Ness + Zebra clouds


Glencoe Base.

Glencoe Stream

Me and our Guide.

With a heavy heart we boarded the bus back to Guildford via London; we discussed the highlights of the trip and felt quite happy that we made it happen. We reached home by 11 am the next day and heard that a friend was giving a treat at Nando’s for lunch, the association with Nando’s continues, if you refresh your memory after my LD trip too we guys gorged on some Nando’s chicken with garlic and herbs chutney. Now everything sounded good why did I ever say that life is cruel blab bla bla because life was cruel enough to winch me away from such a beautiful place and that to in such a short duration, that’s why!

Complete set of pictures -