Thursday 26 December 2019

The descent of Skywalker

I've just read a review (I've read more - this was just the most recent) of the latest Starwars film.

On a cold, damp & dark boxing day afternoon it should be something I'd eagerly want to go see, but the 2 previous Starwars reboot films have had so little inspiring in them and so much not to like that I think we'll probably just skip this and try to pretend the series finished with film 3 (or was it 6?) with Anakin-become Vader.

Maybe it's because we don't have a TV that these haven't worked for us?  The characters don't seem notable - I couldn't even remember the name of 'the black guy' without looking it up - and I've realised that mostly what happens doesn't matter to me. It's not the actors fault - the story or lack thereof  - is to blame.

I hope this IS the last, and they don't just have to keep nudging the franchise along, milking the fanbase for a few more dollars with each new film.

Sunday – the day after the day before.

And who should we meet at breakfast? What are newly-weds even doing UP before 10am??!

So we – our friends, plus Chris & myself – went out for another explore on foot, finding a park and zoo near to the hotel. We wandered about, saw buildings, animals (that seemed suitably content, plus tigers that weren’t so much) and generally got very warm. 

We had been invited for tea over to the grooms parents place for a couple of hours in the later afternoon, and that was also good: Christian family, clearly connecting well together, Carol visibly part of the family too.

It feels like there should be so much to say about that last day, but with the main event out of the way we were really just waiting to fly back.

We had dinner in the hotel Restaurant that night. It’s memorable because we were going to try a ‘garden restaurant’ in the grounds, but it a) had a menu that made little sense and b) seemed a bit more ‘greasy spoon’ than we’d expected. Having said that, returning to the main restaurant wasn’t a complete success – Chris ordered a butter chicken dish as the safe option and got something that was the hottest, spiciest dish we’d had between us all week. Overall the food was excellent as I’ve probably said already, but definitely Kerala upped the heat quotient over Goan cooking.

One more curious thing that’s connected was the smells and scents.

We noticed the spicy smells – all very pleasant – as soon as we got on the domestic side of India and away from industry, but we’d not realised how strong and all-pervading those smells were. For the wedding I’d brought a bottle of CK One (gift from Carol on her first Christmas here) with a plan to ensure I could smell myself at least a little at the wedding: couldn’t smell a thing! It didn’t matter what we wore in terms of perfumes etc, because nothing was going to overcome the natural fragrance of the country.

I’d booked our hotel room for the rest of the evening, and we checked out around 11.30pm for a taxi to the airport with the flight leaving at 3.25am Monday morning. Zzzzz.

Immigration was another experience, with poor Chris being grilled about what she did for a living & when we’d been in India before. This time we checked our bags through to Heathrow and made sure the labels said LHR. Outside of that the flights (on Qatar airways) were uneventful. We changed planes in Dohar, managing to nap a little arriving back in the UK around 12.30pm local time, 14 ½ hours after taking off.

Car was delivered to the carpark just after we got there, drove home, went shopping, ate, eventually went to bed after a very long day. Just 1 week before Christmas!

We will go back, but probably not 2020.

SATURDAY. Wedding day.

So we dressed in our transported finery and wandered down the corridor to the bride’s room for the 9.30am start of photos.


This is the land that invented bollywood.

There were half a dozen guys in the room, 4 with cameras plus a couple of assistants, light stands, reflectors, all kinds of things. Many and various photos were taken, video shot, poses posed. Carol is a beautiful woman by any caucasian standards, and had carefully kept out of the sun for months to ensure her skin was pale to increase her perceived beauty by Indian standards. I suspect the guys were working overtime to get a shot that would promote their business with an unusually attractive subject.

Then the local priest from the Mar-Thom Syrian church in which the wedding would take place came along to pray a blessing on the wedding. The Mar-Thom appear at first glance to be a little like the eastern orthodox with a substantial amount of Indian culture stirred in. (After a little research I’d say that’s probably not too far from the truth, but with their own connection back to early Christianity).

On to the church.

Dressed in suit and tie, the day was meltingly hot, though the cars were at least air-conditioned.

Unlike the church.

We left our shoes outside and wandered in. I mentioned that the fans were off to Chris and someone overheard & kindly turned them on. The wedding service was mostly conducted by singing the words written in the order of service, generally in English, but partially in Malayalam (local language) and perhaps in Syriac at times? There’s some similarities and many differences to a British wedding that I’ll not go into here, where local practice and Christian stuff is mixed together.

Off to a reception (a small affair Carol said, only around 250 people) the purpose of appeared primarily to have photographs taken of every guest with the bride and groom, and to eat. The food was excellent, based on local specialities. Food there runs from spicy to very hot, and this covered much of that range. Carol had a clothing change, from her white wedding dress to a special red and gold wedding sari for this, transforming from a western-looking bride to one that was fully Indian. Finally back to the hotel for a rest before the next part of the wedding celebration.

The final evening reception was somewhat delayed due to rain, making the planned outdoor festivities impossible. We arrived in the hotel reception at 6pm ready for transfer, and then waited. After a bit Carol and her new husband Joe arrived, having just finished the photos, then disappeared upstairs for more than an hour to put on her 3rd wedding outfit of the day – a gold north Indian style outfit with separate top, shawl and heavy pleated skirt. The couple and her parents reappeared explaining the reasons for the delay, and we all then transferred to the reception together.

This should have had a friend of the couple providing music through the evening but he’d been unable to come, so a friend and neighbour of the grooms family stepped into the gap with his family. Carol had also kindly mentioned to the grooms father that I played guitar and might do a turn – dobbed in by a friend! The music was a mix of piano pieces, a couple of worship songs from the last 20 years (NOT what we expected) and some vocals over backing tracks of various kinds including a turn from the groom. There was a slow dance, followed by a bit of formation Macarena in best Bollywood style that Chris was able to join in.

Things went quiet and I wandered over to talk with the guy who’d been singing to see if there was anything we could do together. He had a book of older worship songs, all written out by hand, so we picked a couple, sorted out a key they could be sung in, and I played along and sang a little while he sang main vocals. Finally Chris & the others came over, having found a (terribly slow) music-only backing track for 10,000 reasons that we sang together. Despite terrible singing and playing (the guitar was a beast to play, needing a good set up) our efforts seemed appreciated, and we were thanked by both sets of parents.

Stepping back a little, I’ve been fairly down-beat about the wedding, travel and everything, and that’s partly a reflection of not being well for some of the trip, together with a desire to just record what we did or didn’t do. The wedding was good and, it was great to see Carol finally get to marry after all the planning & hard work of the last few months. People were also enormously kind and welcoming to us, and we really appreciated that.

We made it back to our hotel & slept a bit.

Wednesday 25 December 2019

Friday we arrived at Trivandrum around 5.20am, feeling dirty and tired.

The groom and his brother collected us from the station and got us to the Mascot hotel. This was a place of amazing luxury compared to the train, though being in India bits still didn’t work or were loose. I ended up with broken glass in the shower then the glass soap dish fell from it’s (loose, swivelling) holder.

Everything seems busier, noisier, faster moving in this city. The language – Malayalam – is also apparently the most difficult in all of India, and the script is in a very even looped style, different from the typical Hindi script.

We had a shower and did our teeth, then a bit of a nap, breakfast with Carol and her family, then another nap before deciding to go explore.

The sun outside was fiercely hot and the air really muggy. Trying to follow our location and plan a direction using google maps was partially successful, although some streets that appeared on the map were actually impassable because they went through restricted areas or private property. Sweating freely, we eventually arrived at the cathedral of St Joseph, where there was a service going on. The singing was unusual and delicate, the church nearly full, and people had their hands in the air in worship. We did one circuit around the outside of the building (nothing of interest really, other than to note everyone removed their shoes before entering) and then made our way back.

Lunch was a snack thanks to the ‘welcome’ pack provided by the grooms family to thank us for coming, then we napped, swam in the pool, met our friends (flown in later from Goa) and swam some more. Dinner in the hotel was good, but spicy-hot!

It felt a little like a wasted day, but the train journey and lack of sleep had been draining, and we were glad to rest up.