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Big Stones II

In Managing Time on November 12, 2010 at 4:24 pm

I’ve reorganised my timetable this week with extraordinarily positive results:

Previously Dean and I would get to the gym for 9-9.30 am, he’d go off to work and I’d come back home to start my day at 11-11.30am. I would do my stuff (concentrating on the big stones of course) until about 9.30pm when Dean would come home.

Well, surprised as I am to say this, I enjoy the gym; I particularly like the classes. I also like being with Dean, so going to the gym together is nice. However I hate waiting until so late in the evening to see him. I’m hungry and tired and not really very productive after about 7pm. So I’m grumpy and I don’t feel I’ve achieved as much as a should.

This week I’ve turned it round – I’ve been starting work at 9am, working until 6.30pm, going to the gym at about 7pm and getting home just before Dean. It’s a winning solution; I’m working when I’m most awake, I can finish work for the day and pack my desk up neatly (rather than wait for Dean who might show up at 9.20pm and might show up at 9.50pm, then I have to drop everything and leave my desk in a state), I’m still getting my exercise, I can take my time in the gym and particularly the steam room and I’m happy to see my husband when he gets home.

The only drawback is that I don’t see Dean so much in the morning which Dean doesn’t like either. But as I’ve told him a happy wife makes for a happy husband!

Offal corner

In Musings and Amusings on November 10, 2010 at 5:41 pm

One of the drudgeries of expat wifedom is shopping. I can hear you sighing with sympathy. But really, it’s not like popping to Sainsburys:  You can’t go to one shop for one kind of thing (like a supermarket for your weekly groceries), you have to work out which shop sells which thing and even that’s not foolproof ; if a shop has something one week it’s likely to be gone the next and they won’t restock it for weeks, if at all.  You can end up visiting 4 shops in one day looking for something that you previously considered ubiquitous, like shoe polish. Obviously that’s a waste of time, so following the old adage, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, I’m working on systems for shopping efficiency: Today was my meat shopping day, assisted by my trusty driver Raj.

I not really convinced by the meat I’ve seen in Gurgaon. I’ve tried home delivery but I’ve written off one supplier because the meat was distinctly suspect last time and I haven’t been able to get through to the other supplier on the telephone. For my birthday party we bought meat from INA market in Delhi which I though was a success so I went back there today. The plan was to buy enough meat for about a month. The shopping list was; chicken mince, diced chicken, lamb mince, diced lamb, pork mince and beef mince.

INA’s a great market, it’s a bit mad with chickens waiting serenely for slaughter (amazingly) and butchers cutting meat up with their feet, but what market isn’t, and importantly it’s clean. It’s a bit like Brixton market except INA is about as upmarket as you are going to get in India and I don’t think anyone would call Brixton “upmarket”.

So back to the shopping  – chicken – sorted. Lamb is mutton but mutton is goat (apparently mutton means goat as well as sheep (?)). Anyway all fine there. You can’t get minced pork at INA only diced (so where did I get the last lot of pork mince from – who knows!). Anyway that was fine too. You can’t buy pork and beef from the same market (or maybe you just can’t buy beef) so we had to go somewhere else for that, although beef is actually buffalo. Again all fine.

Before we left to get the buffalo we bought a couple of goat heads for my housekeeper (yes the heads of 2 goats). Oh my, oh my … journey to offal corner … what a challenge.  The goat’s heads themselves were a bit grim; blackened and wizened; but nothing I couldn’t handle. While I was waiting for the butcher to chop them up I realised that all the shops around me where also selling offal and displaying it like Selfridges. A bunch of oesophaguses in one shop and testicles in the next – not sights I’m used to – oh well. Of course nothing’s done quickly in India so I was still there 10 minutes later, trying hard not to look at it all because I was beginning to spin. Raj whisked me back to the car just in time, via the off licence, which is always a boon.

So 8kg heavier and about £20 lighter we were done. It took over 2 hours (not including about 45 mins to get there and back). However the meat’s ‘done’ for this month and I managed to pick up a tin of shoe polish as well. All in all that was a success.

I have to admit that the person dividing all that meat into 2 person portions, popping in into Tupperware and freezing it is not me – it’s my housekeeper Swapna. She’ll cook most of it too. So I may have to admit that it’s not such a hard life after all. But I do miss Sainsburys!

Diwali bonus time …

In Being Ma'am on November 9, 2010 at 4:18 pm

… hmmm … what’s Hindi for bar humbug?

Diwali in India looks a lot like Christmas in the UK; everyone has time off work, you give gifts and there are pretty lights everywhere. It doesn’t seem quite so commercialised as Christmas which is good but as India develops I expect it will become increasingly so. There is one aspect that I just don’t like; there is huge pressure to give EVERYONE gifts and money.

I am led to believe that one month’s salary is a standard Diwali bonus – think about it – that’s a whooping 8% – not bad for just doing your job. I have had advice to the contrary via my expat network where someone told me that sweets were the norm not money. Am I being taken for a ride just because I’m European?

For our household staff we started at a month’s salary as a maximum: Our housekeeper got a month’s salary (because she negotiated it as part of her contract) and a box of chocolates, as did our gardener, our new maid only got sweets because she’d only been in post for 3 days, our security guards only got sweets because I don’t pay them I pay a company so I reckon they should get any financial bonus from their company, I forgot about the dustbin men so I gave them a month’s salary when prompted (they asked for it).

Today the postman came to ask for his Diwali bonus. I said words to the effect of, “forget it”. I did explain that as I have no financial relationship with him I do not consider a financial bonus appropriate and I don’t have any sweets left. I expect that will get lost in translation.  He may have asked because he thinks it’s reasonable to do so or he may have asked because I’m a westerner and therefore a soft touch (or a combination of the two) – I don’t know. The postal service is pretty erratic anyway, I wonder if I’ve just made a mistake. We’ll see.

Dean’s staff all got a month’s salary, again just for doing their job, and a box of chocolates each at £4 a pop. I can’t help thinking that there is something not quite right about Diwali bonuses.