The boy with orgasmic hair

nce upon a time, there lived a boy in India, whose hair were like that of a bear. Amateur barbers feared his presence because they could not comprehend the dense forest that grew on his head. They feared that they would have to use a magnet to find a scissor dropped accidentally in that lushness. Seasoned barbers approved his presence with a nod and a curt smile, just like a Gladiator would acknowledge a fearsome tiger. The boy’s viral hair growth was a challenge which they gracefully accepted. Some barbers would plead him to have a haircut more frequently because they could not afford to break so many combs and lose so many customers and spend half their day serving him.

The boy was not sure whether to pity the barbers or laugh at them. Their hands would go numb snip-sniping as the boy’s locks fell like trees falling down to make way for cities. Sweat would drip from their brows and stain their underarms. Sometimes, the boy would admire his hair as he stood in front of the mirror, moving his neck here and there and tossing them like noodles tossed in large bowls in street food stalls. He would run his fingers through them and feel that part of his body where sunlight never reached (his scalp that is). Sometimes his fingers would get stuck and he had to untangle them.

Then one fine day, in the midst of a collective barber-ist-sigh-of-relief, the boy left for Manchester. There was a celebration in his locality that day. The Barbers gave free haircuts to everyone.

The barbers in Manchester did not use scissors to cut his hair. They used trimmers and would just ask for the attachment comb number before mowing down his hairs as if they were grass gone wild in a lawn. What surprised the boy was that in a country where an alarming number of men were bald or were going to be bald soon, not a single barber praised his hair. They were so full of themselves, jabbering about their life all the time as they trimmed his hair to vapid styles.

A year later, he got married and his wife moved in with him. It was that year when he discovered a small barber shop tucked in a corner of a road near his home. It was run by three she-barbers and he had the privilege of getting serviced by all three of them.

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The first she-barber who sheared his hair was a slim, handsome woman. She had black hair and black eyes. As she cut his hair, she told him about her son Mike who was nine years old. She talked so much about him that by the time she was done with the boy, he knew that little Mike had a mole on his left butt and his second molar was making its bucket list. He knew that Mike loved to play basketball and hated onions. He knew that Mike was learning Judo and loved Shrek. The boy was now having a feeling that he had known Mike ever since his mother pushed him out of her body. The she-barber also asked him about India and how she hated Manchester’s rainy weather. The boy invited her to come and live in 45 degrees in Indian summers. 

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The next time the boy went to the shop, he found a smiling, chubby blonde waiting to slice his hair. By this time, he have had enough of trimmers and those ughhh haircuts that he asked her to use a scissor. She blinked and stared at him as if her had asked her to use some alien technology. She obliged and soon the familiar snipping sound of the scissor filled the ears of the boy. He closed his eyes to treat his eardrums. The sound of “Oh Shit!!!!!!” brought him back to reality. He opened his eyes and found that the she-barber number 2 had snipped her own finger and was dripping blood all over the floor. The boy had an impulse to laugh out loud and roll on the floor holding his stomach but he controlled it and asked her to put her finger in running water. He asked her not to use the scissor anymore after she bandaged her finger but she insisted. He held his breath till she finished because he was expecting his blood smeared ear to fall in his lap anytime.

 y Orgasmic Hair

She-barber number 3 was a beautiful young woman beaming at him as he entered the shop. Her eyes twinkled as she laid them on him. As the boy settled on the seat, she ran her fingers in his thick hair. She did it again and again and again till the boy started to worry that she will keep doing this for the rest of her life. He cleared his throat and she said – “Your hairs are soooohhhh thick!”. He smiled. It was after such a long time that someone had noticed his hair. She kept running her fingers in his hair as she snipped them slowly and kept repeating this at regular intervals.

“Your hairs are soooooooohhhh thick!!!”

“Your hairs are sooooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhh thick!!!”

He was sure she was having multiple orgasms by just running her fingers in his hair and he was alarmed by it. Then she started talking to him and asked him about his hobbies.

“I watch a lot of movies and read books,” he said.

“Wow! Me too! I go for movies on weekends. Your hairs are sooooooooohhhh thick!”

“Great! I usually roam around in the City Center, watch a play at times.”

“Do you party on weekends? Go out or something like that? God! Your hair are sooooooohhhhhhh thick!!!”

“Sometimes.”

The boy knew where this was going. He was now supposed to ask her out but he kept his trap shut and the moment passed.

 ater when the boy reached home and told his wife about his adventures, she stared at him for a few seconds.

“Why didn’t you tell her that you are married?” She asked.

“What?!? When a girl is running her fingers in your hair, biting her lips and moaning that your hairs are soooooohhhhhh thick, you do not tell her that you are married. That is very rude.”

“She was not biting her lips,” his wife said.

“You were not there.”

“You would not have missed that detail in your first narration. Who else was there in the shop?”

“Ahem. Just the two of us.”

Silence.

“I love you baby,” the boy said.

“I hope so!”

It took a few days for the boy to bring things back to normal in his house but he never went back to that particular shop again. His wife always gave him a peculiar look when they passed it but always found him concentrating at the ducks and rowboats in river Mersey which ran under the bridge next to the shop.

A picture of the frozen river Mersey which the boy took as he and his wife passed the shop and when she gave him ‘that’ frozen look.

[Images from 1, 2, 3, 4]

Cliffs, Ships and Spotlights

Going to Manchester was a high. I had always wanted to smell the soil of another country, take a lung-full of alien air. It was a whole new world. Different. Exciting. Scary. I learnt to say thank you, even to the bus drivers. I saw roads filled with flower petals in autumn. I saw endless rows of green hills during my train journeys to London. I absorbed the beauty of Britain like a sponge.

It was February when I landed there. The cold numbed my hands and I had to wear gloves to warm them back to feelings. It snowed later that day. It was the first time I had seen white cotton falling from the sky. It was overwhelming. Soon, I with my three flat-mates started to plan for a trip to Isle of Wight. No one went there in winters but then in Britain you pretty much don’t go anywhere in bleak winters.

I took upon me to plan the trip. From creating a map of the small island on the southern tip of England on a piece of paper to hiring a car on an online portal to booking a B&B, I did it all. I was like Alice in wonderland, wide eyed and not too sure whether all this was real. So, I pinched myself and planned.

There were no bridges to the Isle. You have to tuck your car in a ferry. We landed in Fishbourne and drove to our B&B. The island was awfully quite. It was off season. We stayed on the island for three days, visiting the deserted beaches like Shanklin, Ryde, Sandown and Yarmouth. We watched sunrise braving unexceptional cold winds. We went to the Needles, late for the sunset and ran into people coming back. They were beautiful three days but there is one incident which stands out. It changed something in me.

We were at the Yaverland beach looking at the seagulls and the waves lapping the shore. I was staring at the white cliff on my left. I was fascinated by it. I wanted to run and reach its top. I asked my friends if we could walk up there and they were horrified. I told them that I was going up and I will meet them for lunch. Excitingly, I started walking up the Culver cliff. The cliff was completely deserted and after walking for fifteen minutes, I could see no signs of humanity. I was walking very close to the edge of the cliff and there were red danger signs all over asking people to stay away as the edges had a tendency to break free. The horizon was receding as I walked up and ships which were hidden earlier started appearing. The sky was dark greyish cloudy but the wind was less wild up here.

The cliff was less broken at the top and there were wooden fences at the edges. I glanced at a few black sheep roaming around and a small house far off from the cliff edge. But that wasn’t something that caught my eye. I was staring at the vast expanse of ocean and ships looking like small toys, lazying around in the calm water. The only sound which I could hear was that of the wind, dancing around in slow rhythms, broken once by a speeding water scooter which looked like a shooting star from where I stood. A man walked by with his dog. He was going down the cliff.

“Beautiful day”, he said.

“Yes. Yes, it is”, I said, still staring at the ocean, inhaling deeply.

And then the clouds parted.

Spotlights started falling on the ships. The ocean was shimmering. It was as if something divine was making an appearance. I knew at that moment that I was looking at something I would never forget my entire life. The sun played hide and seek with the ocean for a long time, hiding behind the black clouds and then appearing somewhere else. It was peaceful. I had never felt such calm. It was like watching a play in a theatre, spotlights falling on artists performing with tranquillity and poise.

The play of nature forced me to reflect. Our life goes through a lot of turmoil as we grow up, wishes to be fulfilled, goals to be achieved. Something similar to the sky with dark clouds hovering over the sea. But then sunshine breaks in once in a while and we are so wound up in the race that we fail to acknowledge it. We fail to absorb the placidity it brings with it.

I called my friends on their mobile and asked them to come up.

“You are missing the sunshine”, I told them. They walked up finally and all of us sat near the edge of the cliff for a while, staring at the ships and spotlights. There was a smile on everyone’s face.

It has been five years since I walked up the Culver Cliff, perhaps for the first and last time, but I still recreate that scene to appease myself whenever I am tense. I close my eyes and imagine myself standing on the cliff, staring at the divine spotlight falling on the ocean. I have always believed that there is so much to see in the world that it is a sin to visit the same place twice. But, then, someday I might walk up that cliff again for old times sake, for the spotlights and the ships.

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[[This is my entry for Indiblogger’s Incredible Stories contest]]

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The long and short of it…

Hello to all the fellow internet crawlers, to all my friends connected to me by zeroes and ones. Now now! Don’t jump from your seats and to conclusions. I am not back. It’s one of those three-months itch. Yes, I was missing my affair with my blog.

Like all other bloggers who go on a sabbatical, I am supposed to dive into an egotistic and pompous rant about the happenings in my life in the past few months, which I will dutifully indulge into, to satisfy all the masala hungry people here.

So, this is my first winter in Manchester and what a dull and gloomy place it has turned into. It gets dark at 4 in the afternoon and by the time I get up from my desk at 6, I feel like I have been working since eternity. There are cold winds bellowing all the time making those spooky horror movie sounds and turning my umbrella inside out. One thing that I really hate is wearing caps, which I have to do now because otherwise, I will not be able to feel my nose and ears by the time I reach home. It rains all the bloody (Yeah! Bloody and Bollocks are the two latest additions to my dictionary) day and the bell of my house gets short circuited in the rain and starts ringing continuously at 2 in the night. So, I have to get up from my bed and go to the door in freezing cold to throw out the batteries to make it stop hollering. Bollocks!

And do you think that an Indian landlord in Manchester would do you good? Well, think again. I shifted my house three months back and fell upon a smiling, obese Punjabi Uncle who acted like Mother India before I said Yes to the house. After I shifted, I literally had to rub my nose on the ground in front of him to get a few minuscule things to be fitted. He gives miserliness a new definition.

The reason I went on a break (and I am still on a break) was that I wanted to write a book. Now don’t hit me with a cliché by asking me the bloody story. As if I am going to tell you! Buy it and make some dough land in my wallet if it gets published. Ever! And it’s going on fine. Thank you very much. Some wise man said once – The first draft of anything is shit! Got the picture?

And then in between all this mayhem to which my life was subjected to…

I GOT ENGAGED!!!! YAY!!!

Well, long story short, it was through a matrimonial site. My parents had put my advertisement (I like imagining myself as a commodity. It’s quite aphrodisiacal) on a matrimonial site and had almost given up hope. It’s not because there were no takers. 😛 Far from it! It’s just that my parents had set some very high standards. You see, they think I am Hrithik Roshan and the rejection rate was as high as 50 girls/week. No kidding! Then along came Polly (Yeah, that’s what I’ll call her on the blog), and we started talking over phone. Our parents matched the horror-scopes and Voila! 33/36! They almost jumped out of their skin! So, we talked, talked on phone, talked on webcam and talked each other into saying yes without meeting. Kind of romantic, I think. So, I went back to India and there was a small ceremony called Roka. Done! Amit is sold! He is now Polly’s slave (this is such a turn on! 😉 ).

What else have I done in the previous months that was exciting….Ummm…

I saw a play for the first time in my life in the Palace Theatre here. It was a musical called Chicago (you might have seen the movie). Before the play started, I thought that live performances can never match the ‘razzle dazzle’ of the movies, but I was wrong. It was splendid (another word that I have picked up here. Everything is either splendid or wonderful or excellent). The downside? I went alone and missed Polly and thought that it would have been great if she was sitting next to me instead of the wonderfully fat lady who could barely fit in her seat and was brimming all over me.

Autumn was beautiful. I went around the city with my camera and took some photographs. I visited Style Mill with MB, a British friend and was literally transported a 100 years back, specially in the apprentice house. I’ll put the photographs soon. And now I think I am rambling.

Anyways, the reason I actually started writing this post was because Visceral Observations had recently announced the Avant Garde Bloggies Awards, which is wonderful! Since this is a kind of beat-my-own-drum post, I must jog your memory cells and remind you that I won 8 awards last year and again thank all of you who voted for me. So, the nominations have started and are open till 20 December. Nominate your posts and the posts which you think are worthy of recognition. It’s fun, believe me!

And here are a few details to kick start the process (which I am shamefully copying from Oxy’s blog).

Here is once again the link to everything you need to know about the Awards as well as how to nominate your and other’s posts. CLICK HERE.

Conceived by Visceral Observations

Badges Designed by Chirag. Have a look at the Badges by CLICKING HERE.

Volunteers VimalVee and Magik

Publicist Nikhil

The Categories CLICK HERE.

Official Video CLICK HERE.

So, go ahead and have fun and I’ll see you around.

The funny(?!?) flowers are here

I was going to write a serious post this week, but then I got up early on Sunday morning and thought of taking a walk in the garden which surrounds my apartment. I saw a few species of flowers which I have never seen in my life before and thought of taking some pictures and that is why the serious post will have to wait for a few more days! 🙂

There were so may colours around that I went crazy clicking. Have a look and you’ll know what I mean! And, oh, before I leave you with the pictures, I would like to thank Archie for giving me the Treasured Blogger Award! Thank you Archie and here are a few flowers for you! 🙂

Flowers

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The blue flowers are like a ready made bouquet. They are blooming all over the city right now.

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These are leaves, not flowers, as you can see. They were green once, but then they started turning white from the boundaries(as you can see the ones in the background) and then completely white. What happens next? Will they turn Red? Orange? Or fall dead just like that? Kya Hoga! Jaldi hi dekhenge! Hum Log! Railgaadi! Railgaadi! Ahem! Sorry, got carried away!

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Rose! Thank God! One familiar flower! The Roses here are quite huge. They are infact humongous. If you are walking down a road and feel tired, you can just sit in one of them and take some rest. No kidding! And, by the way, all that water is dew drops, in case you are thinking that I spat on them to add the effect! 😛

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The bouquet again! This time in Pink! Just what you need for an angry girlfriend! 😉

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I know! This is a leaf! This was the lone red one in a huge green bunch. The outcast! Maybe the bohemian.

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I call them the red bulbs! They are the first one I see every morning because they are growing in bunches just outside by bedroom window.

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Dewdrops again. No! I did not pee on the plant! You guys are disgusting! How can you even think like that?

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Ok! This plant reminded me of Independence day. Not our independence day! 😐 The movie! The big blue ones are the large mother ships which stayed above the Earth’s atmosphere and the small blue ones are the small alien ships which were sent to fight our aircrafts! 😀 Do you think I am watching too many movies? Oh! And do you see the green leaves below? That is the Earth! Right now the alien ships are all cuddled together and having some sort of a conference as to which city to attack first.

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Do you see the small yellow insect? Well, that is the new micro robot I am working on right now. Its not perfect yet. It can’t fly(although it doesn’t need to but I am trying to add that functionality). The project was funded by Vicks Vaporub. They want a new product where this micro robot will come loaded with an advanced form of Vicks fumes. You just have to leave it into you nose and it will travel inside your body and by morning, there won’t be any trace of cold and cough.

Are you thinking where this machine will end up finally? In your commode, ofcourse!

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Capillary action at work I guess! No, I did not inject it with blue ink!

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Again not flowers! But look at all that spit dewdrops!

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Hope you liked the show! Now go and do something meaningful! 😛

The Blame Game

pointing-fingerOscar Wilde once said – What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

People end up reminding me of that quote too often. On a dull cloudy Monday morning, during an official meeting, someone passed a blame. It was subtle. Well crafted. I snapped. It was one of those WTF moments. What allows people to be so shamelessly naked and still claim to be draped in Cashmere yarn? We had an internal gossip meeting later on and my British colleagues asked a simple question – Why? They were apparently in a shock. They told me that they have never done that. To err is human and why is it so hard to just say “I am sorry” instead of pointing fingers – they asked. I had no answer at that point of time, but it set me thinking.

Was it an Indian thing? The naked guy definitely was. Is this kind of a behaviour an outcome of the competitive and cut throat environment we are brought up in? Is it because we have always seen our elders keep their ego above right and wrong? Is it because our parents always teach us to be good than the rest of the herd and in the process turn us into evil money generating cynics? Is it “actually” an Indian thing or is there another layer below it?

Well, it could be. Consider my job. I few bad ratings and I could be easily thrown out. I just have to rub someone on the wrong side. The rating system is royally out of shape like Rani Mukherjee’s waistline. There won’t be any repercussions for the company because the laws which hold an employee to his job are as fragile and dumb as Paris Hilton. There won’t be any compensations. So, what do I do when I commit a mistake? I try to hide it. Plain and Simple.point I have a car loan to pay. And sometime later on in time, a house loan too. I can’t afford to commit mistakes.

Have we just dissolved away the idea of attaching a moral and ethical value to our acts and simply end up putting a price tag on everything?

Its all right to put price tags on “things”, but now there are invisible price tags on the repercussions of our actions too?

Isn’t it a shame? We belong to a land where people stood by each other and fought the war of Independence, fought for what was morally right(Its another story that they killed each other after the war was won, but lets not get there).

AND, maybe its not an Indian thing. Its a human thing. Its just that it is we(in this case), who were caught with our pants down. What if I switch the working environments and the living conditions? Will my British colleagues end up in a whirlpool of moral upheaval and cynicism? More importantly, will my Indian colleagues shed the price tags from their acts and stop pointing fingers if they knew that things would be very stable? I am not sure if there are answers to these questions, because human nature is as unpredictable as the weather in Manchester.

gollum lord of the ringsOf-course, there is an “Utopian” scenario too. Think of a team where all the members are good friends. They all understand that they have to together make the project work and have a common goal. They like each others company and are ready to help. I have worked in such a team and believe me, it is at that point when cynicism is taken over by trust and responsibility of one’s own acts and the social conditions/wrong upbringing are thrown at the back-burner. But then, that’s rare.

Its human to point fingers. Nations have pointed fingers at other nations and completely destroyed them. We point fingers at God even when we slip on a banana peel. When Gollum pointed finger at Sam and said – “He took it!!”, he was not just influencing Frodo. He was creating a path to reach the ring. No matter how contrived and shrewd he might have looked at that point but he had his own justified-to-himself reasons. Everyone has.

But is there a way out? Or is it just that we are all Gollums in our own way?

Lake District

72 hours seemed to be a very long time to stare continuously at my laptop screen so a three day long bank holiday looming at the horizon spanked me into instant action last week. Discussions, Google maps, suggestions from the natives and an exhaustive search on the Internet helped me to create a rough sketch of what I wanted to see in the Lake district. Although I must confess that “Lake District” does not require such detailed Internet surfing but I like to have the details before I start. 😉

Lake District(also known as LakeLand) is an area in North West England famous for is natural beauty and its 20+ lakes and natural reservoirs. It is a very popular tourist destination and has unsurpassed and untouched natural beauty. Its a place where many poems of William Wordsworth were born and where he was finally buried.

We got up early, made some Subway style chicken sandwiches and picked up our car from the Airport and set out to explore the “real” Europe, as SRK famously said in DDLJ. I was sure that our path would keep us on the highway most of the time but we were in for a big surprise.

Our first destination was WastWater, which is the deepest lake in the district and stretches to 4.6 km. We were initially on the highway, but suddenly our path turned towards small two way roads on the hills. For an hour, we were not even sure that we were going in the right direction and blindly followed the GPS. It was thrilling and the weather added to the effect by being misty. Finally, when we reached WastWater after driving through the lush green hills, the first thing which hit us was the “untouched” natural beauty. No human intervention except for the road.

Wast Water

Someone just forgot to commercialize this beautiful lake and I was thankful. The lake was surrounded by high mountains covered in mist(this line is getting repetitive. Isn’t it?? 😐 ) with small streams of water running into it from the mountains. There were hardly any people around and we savored the quietness.

A stone bridge at WastWater, Lake District

We walked around the lake, took deep breaths and some nice shots and moved to our next destination – Grasmere.

While snaking through the hills towards Grasmere, we passed through a few small villages where we couldn’t see a single soul but a lot of animals and through pathways covered with dense trees blooming with flowers which at times swirled down as the car passed through them. Believe me, you would love to get lost in such a place. And yes, just for fun, we terrified a goat sheep too!

Shocked Goat

Grasmere is a village(the most beautiful one you can ever see) which has a lake by the same name. It became famous because of its connection with the Lake Poets and because of William Wordsworth, who lived here for 14 years and was finally buried here at the St Oswald’s Church. By the time we reached Grasmere, we were dead hungry and so after parking the car, we were searching for a place to have our lunch when my eyes fell on a perfect place to eat.

The restaurant where we had our lunch

Ducks and Grasmere

It was a small restaurant with a stream running besides it. On the other side of the stream was THE Church. I found the spot incredibly romantic. 🙂 Here is another shot.

Grasmere, where we had our lunch

We roamed around in the church after having our lunch and saw the graves of the Wordsworth family. I even bought a small handbook of poems by the famous poet.

The graves of William Wordsworth and family

We ambled around the village for sometime and the lake(where I found my dream house)…

Views around Grasmere Lake

…before moving towards our final destination – Windermere, the most commercialized lake in Lake District and England’s longest lake. Frankly speaking, I was not expecting much because I like places when they are untouched. But surprisingly, the place was not that bad. I liked it for exactly the opposite reason for which I liked Wastwater. It was crowded, with people, yachts, lakeside restaurants, ducks and boats all around. It was almost 5.30 when we reached there and there was no boat tour to Ambleside for the day, but there was a lake tour on 6.30. We took that tour and I must say that this lake has the most picturesque surrounding you can ever imagine. Check out the pictures if you don’t believe me!

Looks very romantic

Views around Weindermere - 3

Views around Weindermere - 2

Wishful Thinking

The plants are taking over!

Old fashoined wooden boats

We finally had a quick bite before moving back to Manchester at around 8. The best part is that now a day, there is daylight till 9.30-10.00 pm and you can utilize the whole day. It was a day filled with incredible beauty and all of us loved every second of it.

p.s. I am sorry for armageddon-ing you with so many photos, but I really couldn’t make up my mind about which ones should I remove. 🙂 Oh! There is one more! 😛

Birds Inline

Over and Out!

The flowers are here!

Ever since winters have gone on a break here, Manchester has been on a color riot. I have never seen such a mind-boggling variety of flowers before and that too within a radius of a kilometer of my house. So, a brand new camera and a plethora of colours to experiment upon was reason enough for me to get started on my expedition.

Right now, the city is covered with innumerable varieties of flowers, a few of which are already been shed on the roads and parks in the form of innumerable petals. Believe me, the beauty of thousands of petals whirling on roads as the buses rush past OR the beauty of parks covered under a heavy blanket of petals with is something hard to pen down. So, here goes.

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The city has an overdose of the pink flowered trees. Don’t ask me the names because I don’t have the slightest clue. During the months of April/May, the trees will be filled with such pink coloured flowers which would later fall and adorn the streets and parks. More photographs later.

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Tulips are another favourite here. You will find them in the gardens of numerable houses.

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These Lotus shaped flowers are also abundant. These are also the first ones to fall. The trees look really beautiful completely covered with them.

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The grass all around the city is covered with these very tiny yellow flowers. 

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When I saw these blue flowers, I thought, they should be called Bluebells. And voila! That was their name.

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Well, this is what I was talking about. The pink flowered trees. This is a park near Rusholme. I got down from the bus to take a stroll and was awestruck by the beauty. And can you see the petals strewn over the ground?

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No? Have a closer look!!

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Well, that was it. Before going, I would also like to add two of my favourite photos from my collection. They are nowhere related to the topic of the post but are worth sharing. The first one is that of a cemetery near my house. Somehow it reminds me of a huge dormitory where all the children are sleeping. 🙂

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The second one is that of the Manchester Eye. I love the clouds at the backdrop!

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That is all gents and ladies. Over and out.

p.s. If you want any of these photos, just let me know.

Edinburgh and Scottish Highlands Tour (Part 2)

Related post : Edinburgh and Scottish Highlands Tour (Part 1)

After roaming around in Edinburgh we all slept like a log that night. We had to wake up at 5:30 in the morning the next day to catch our tour bus to Loch Ness, Glen Coe and the Scottish Highlands. Our tour bus started from the Loch Ness Discovery Centre at the Royal Mile. I booked the tickets almost a month ago from here. This was this route, which was carved out for us for the tour. You can move or enlarge the map if you wish.

 

Our tour guide Paul was a very jovial and friendly guy and instantly made everyone in the bus comfortable. The Bus was nothing less than a mini globe with people from USA, Spain, Italy, Scotland, India, China and God knows how many other countries. Paul always made a point that we replied to all his queries with an “Aye” and “Okhaaye” so that we could become partially Scottish.

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[The highway as we moved towards Perth. The snow looks like white blotches of paint that fell off from God’s palette while he was painting]

We started our journey by crossing the Forth Road Bridge about which I already wrote in Part 1. We soon passed through Perth viewing some picturesque views of the River Tay(which is incidentally the longest river in Scotland) bending and curving with the highway. As we moved ahead, we made a stop at Pitlochry for breakfast where a pair of Italian guys was late even after constant reminders by Paul about being on time after breakfast. Everyone clapped as they entered the bus and we moved towards Killiecrankie which is famous for the stunning and ironical Battle of Killiecrankie resulting in the victory of the Jacobites and the death of their leader. 

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[The clouds cast shadow on the mountains creating beautiful scenes]

As we moved ahead, the landscape changed drastically. From cultivable land and lush green farms to barren mountains laden with snow. The scenery became more and more stunning as we progressed and whenever we made a stop somewhere, everyone jumped out of the bus to click pictures. Paul told us stories about how the Kings of Scotland have been cursed and many of them died one after another in accidents, how Macbeth(the name of the protagonist in William Shakespeare‘s Macbeth) was actually derived from the name of Macbeth of Scotland and how Macbeth(the play) was euphemistically called “The Scottish Play” because it was cursed

 

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[I am not sure but I took this photograph some where near Loch Lochy]

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[I took this photograph during the Ferry Ride on the Loch Ness trying to spot a monster!]

Moving further north into the Highlands, we crossed the village of Dalwhinnie which was famous for its Dalwhinnie Single Malt Scotch Whisky. We crossed the Spean Bridge towards Fort Augustus for some monster spotting!!! This was the only part of the tour which we had to retrace back to move towards Fort William. Fort Augustus is situated at the South West end of Loch Ness. We stopped at Fort Augustus for lunch and Paul suggested that we try some Haggis which is a Scottish delicacy. I was gung-ho about trying it but Paul did the mistake of telling us what it is made of! Although a true blue carnivore, I was somehow not able to bring myself to eat that! Next time maybe. 🙂 Instead I took a ferry ride into the Loch Ness in the hope of spotting the legendary Loch Ness Monster. Even after being in water for a good 45 minutes, all I was able to get were some beautiful worth sharing photographs. Next time maybe, I’ll see the monster raising his head out of the Loch Ness. 🙂

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[A broken and unused bridge at Fort Augustus]

After the ferry ride and a quick bite of haggis-less chicken and pork lunch, we moved back to the Spean Bridge towards Fort William. There were beautiful snow clad mountains all around covered in mist. We had our whisky sipping experience near Fort William. As we moved towards South now, we saw Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. We were not able to see the peak as it was covered with snow with a huge patch of clouds encircling it. We were informed that that is how it remains for almost the whole of the year. 

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[On our way to Fort William]

From here our bus turned towards Glencoe, the location of the Massacre of Glencoe. This was ironically the most beautiful part of the trip. We listened to Paul as he narrated the events than unfolded the night the massacre took place. We were spellbound, not just by the story, but by the beauty around us. How can something so gruesome happen in such a beautiful place? We halted at a spot in the middle of the valley surrounded by barren mountains all around us, some of them shrouded in mist and covered with snow. The place is ideal for trekking and evidently many people come for that in Glencoe.

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[The hills where the Glencoe Massacre took place]

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[Glencoe]

After Glencoe, we turned towards Stirling making a quick stop at a small village called Tyndrum. For those of you who have seen the movie Braveheart, Sterling was the place where the battle was fought between William Wallace(played by Mel Gibson) and the English army during the War of Scottish Independence. There is a monument dedicated to him in Sterling called the Wallace Monument. Although we did not stop at Sterling, but Paul did pointed out the Monument and the Sterling Castle as we finally moved back towards Edinburgh. We reached back in Edinburgh at 7:30 pm. A day spent well!! The rest of the day was spent roaming around in the city.

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[The Scottish Parliament]

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[Shocking!!! Rikshaws make a comeback!]

The next day, our train left at 12 in the afternoon, so we had ample time to have a look at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the  official residence of the Monarch of the United Kingdom in Scotland. Its a shame that we were not allowed to take pictures inside because it was the most awe-inspiring piece of architecture you could ever imagine. We were able to take pictures of the ruins of the Augustinian Abbey though. Finally we took a walk in the Royal gardens and have a look at the Queen’s Gallery which exhibits works of art from the Royal collection. If you ever go there, don’t miss the Tribuna of the Uffizi by Johann Zoffany. It is the most outstanding painting in the collection.

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[The ruins of the beautiful Abbey at Holyrood Palace]

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[Another view of the Abbey]

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[Another view of the Abbey. It was so grand that I felt like sitting there for hours]

Finally we were ready to bid adieu to this beautiful city to returned back to Manchester. There were many places which we had missed because of the lack of time. But yes, while leaving, I knew that I would return one day to see them. When we reached the Waverley station, we were surprised to know that we had a bus from Edinburgh till Lockerbie instead of a train. Well it was a blessing in disguise because at Lockerbie, we had the most delicious Fish and chips of our lives while we waited for our train to Preston

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[This is not a windows wallpaper. I took this during the bus ride from Edinburgh to Lockerbie.]

I should not say this but Manchester looked like an ugly concrete jungle after returning from Edinburgh. 😉

Edinburgh and Scottish Highlands Tour (Part 1)

Four days of Easter holidays was a good enough reason to set out for an exploration of the United Kingdom. Earlier, Switzerland and France were also in the picture but then I pictured my parents lashing out at me for wasting all that money and so I had to settle down for something nearer. Wales and Scotland were the options which came to my mind, and so Scotland it was. We planned for a 2.5 days tour to Edinburgh and the Highlands almost a month before Easter. Easter is one of the busiest time here as the tourist season starts from April and its a good practice that everything is booked well in advance. 

We started on a cold Good Friday morning from the Railway Station in Manchester and took the train to Edinburgh. The train reminded me of DDLJ and I did peeped out of the door to see if Simran was anywhere in sight! 

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No! Thats not her! 😦

The train journey was quite eventful as the train snaked through the lush green mountain terrains and gave us a glimpse of the life beyond the cities. We arrived at Edinburgh at 9.15 am and got down at the Haymarket Station. After a quick dump-bags-in-B&B act, we took a cab to the Waverley Bridge. It was then that the beauty of the city struck us like a bolt of lightening. 

Edinburgh is the Capital city of Scotland and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The moment you are there, you will feel a strong urge to be lost in its streets. You would want to walk around not knowing where you want to go and just absorb the beauty around you. I don’t know what makes everything so incredibly beautiful in this city. Is it the perfect blend of the new and the old? Its a city which overwhelms you instantly.

img_3599This is the Waverley Bridge. The city tour buses start from this bridge(from the point where the Red bus is standing). The Princess Mall is on the other side of the bridge. All the buildings which you can see are a part of the old town. The place where the Waverley station is built was once the Nor Loch(pronounced lo-kh), which was the city’s water supply and the dumping ground of sewage. It was drained in 1820 and a New town was created just opposite to the old town. The soil was dumped in the drained canal which created a mound. This is how the mound looks like now:

img_3617Impressive. Isn’t it? This is the National Gallery of Scotland which was build on top of the mound and the railway lines were tunneled right below it. I took this photograph while climbing the Scott Monument which is another beautiful piece of architecture built in 1845. 

img_3865This is the Scott Monument which provides a breathtaking view of the city. You can see the Edinburgh Castle and the Firth of Forth at the same time. Here is a view of the New Town. The New town was built starting from 1766 and was a solution to the ever increasing population in the Old Town.

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Coming back to the Waverley Bridge!! We took the Bus and boat tour which took us through the various landmarks of the city and finally on a boat trip into the Firth of Forth. The boat trip was a memorable experience as it took us below the Forth Road Bridge and then below the iconic Forth Rail Bridge which was opened in 1890 and is considered as the one internationally recognised Scottish landmark. 98 workers lost their life during its construction. 

img_3397The Forth Rail Bridge

img_3404The Road and the Rail bridge. Both the Bridges connect Edinburgh with Fife.

There are a lot of islands strewn over the Firth of Forth. The Ferry stops at the Inchcolm Island. You can get down there and take back the next ferry or may come back in the same one. There will be a lot of Seagulls around and if you are lucky enough(as we were!!), you can spot Seals too.

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There are a variety of Bus tours available which you can book from Here.

After having a quick bite(which was roasted pork and duck with boiled rice for me 😉 ), we headed towards the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile in the Old Town is a mile long stretch between the Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse and is the most picturesque part of the city. We headed towards the Edinburgh castle which stands on top of a volcanic rock. The site has been inhibited since the Bronze age and the building of the present castle dates back to the 12th Century. A few pictures of the Castle, the Royal Mile and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

img_3660The Edinburgh Castle

img_3842The Royal Mile

img_3651The Royal Mile

img_4229The Palace of Holyroodhouse

Camera Obscura is also a wonderful place to visit. It is located near the Edinburgh castle and contains some great illusions, 3D holograms and a thermal imaging camera. 

img_3829The illusion of parallel mirrors

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We spent the rest of the day roaming around the city on foot. There was a very happy feel to the city. Everyone was laughing and enjoying and why not? It was Easter! There were Bagpipers playing the beautiful instrument and there was a man sitting near an ancient structure on the Royal Mile playing a Violin. There were people sitting in the street bars and chatting happily. Finally, we had a beer in a Bar near the Picardy Place Roundabout before heading back to the B&B. It was a beautiful day and I fell in love with a city for the first time. Now I know how it feels like! 🙂

The next day we went to the Highlands, another scarcely inhibited and breathtaking part of Scotland with some tragic history. More on it in the next post. I leave you with a few random pics.

 

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The Scott Monument

img_3859The Bagpipers at the Royal Mile

img_3594From the Top of the Scott Monument

img_3749Inside Edinburgh Castle

img_3584Inside the Scott Monument

img_3875In front of a Multiplex in the New Town

img_3844St. Giles Church on the Royal Mile

To be continued….

p.s. there are an overwhelming large number of photographs in my collection. 950 to be precise for the 2.5 days!!! If you still have an appetite left, then you can view 70 of them here. 

 

Isle of Wight Trip

Phew! I feel like an underwear in a washing machine. Life is running faster than I could have imagined and all I could do is to muster up enough strength to stand steady. Getting used to a place is not easy as it sucks out all that you were used to. For me, it sucked out blogging, and for a few days I could not gather my thoughts to put them on my laptop screen and neither could I raise my finger to open my Reader. So, apologies, dear friends! And I hope that all of you would understand! 

So, coming back to the topic, one of my roomies here returned to India last week. Before going back he wanted to go to a nice, beautiful, peaceful place and the options were very less because:

  • Usually October-March is considered off season here in UK as Winters is a terrible time to roam around.
  • He had already seen London, Scotland, Blackpool and Lake District, all of which I still have to visit. So all these options were ruled out.

The only two options left were Wales and Isle Of Wight, both of which were again under an Off-season spell. Finally Wales was ruled out too and we ended up booking a car and Preeto(our TomTom aka GPS) for three days. Before going further, let me tell you about Isle of Wight as most of you must be in an impression that its the name of a Crater on the fifth moon of Saturn. Isle Of Wight is a small island on the Southern Tip of Great Britain. Its about 257 miles from Manchester which is about a 5 hours drive. The Isle is not accessible by road which means that you have to shove your car in a ferry and take it to the isle and vice versa. During summers there is a huge advanced booking for the ferry but we were fortunate due to our perfect timings!

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This is the island as you can see in the map above. We went upto Portsmouth(upper right corner in the map) in the car and then took a ferry to Fishbourne, which is on the north east corner of the isle. Ferries also operate from Southampton and Lymington. Take your pick! 

The Island is spread over an area of mere 380 sq Km and is famous for its beautiful beaches of Shanklin, Ryde, Sandown and Yarmouth. Besides the beaches there was so much to explore that we found it extremely difficult to keep up the pace. And all this during the off season! Two notable, must visit points of the diamond shaped island are the Culver cliff and The Needles. If you really want to understand the meaning of breathtaking, you must visit these two points on the island. The Needles is undoubtedly the most picturesque area of the island which looks like the end of the chalk coloured ridge which runs across the whole island. 

The Culver Cliff on the other hand was used as a defence point as it was used to keep an eye on the vast ocean all around it. There were two nine inch guns kept there but the cliffs kept on eroding and most of it was lost. Now also, if you walk along the cliff, you can see the warning boards and the broken cliffs all around. I would suggest you to park your car at Yaverland beach and walk up the cliff from there towards the last point. Its a tiring walk of about half an hour but what you will see along the way is what you would never forget. 

Finally, there were many points of interest like The Osborne house, Carrisbrooke Castle, the zoo and the Railway Museum which we missed because they were closed due to the off season. It was a beautiful memorable trip and there were a bunch of breathtaking scenes which I would never forget in my life. I leave you with a few attempts to capture them:

This is a view of the Culver Cliff from Sandown Beach. If you see closely, there is a pole like structure on top of the cliff. That is the Yarborough Monument at the edge of the cliff. That is where you could walk up the cliff. And you have to be there to understand how the vast expanse of the ocean looks like from there, sprinkled with ships and with shimmering spots of sunlight strewn here and there.

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Well, this is what I was talking about. A few pictures of the view from the top of the cliff.

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Here are a few pictures I took while I was walking up the cliff

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The Yarborough Monument

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We woke up a 5:30 in the morning on the second day and went to see the sunrise. It was freezing cold and apparently we were the only one on the Sandown beach. The island loves to sleep!

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And that’s me, staring at the Sun.

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I took this picture in Portsmouth from the upper deck of the ferry. The ferry was about to move towards the isle and I saw this building just next to the port. Isn’t this a beautiful place to live? Sitting in the balcony, sipping tea and looking at the vast expanse of the ocean and the huge ships moving around you!

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View of Portsmouth as the Ferry moved away from it. By the way, Ferry seems to be a mild word for that ship. There were atleast 60 cars in it when it left Portsmouth!!!

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Thats the “Ferry”!!!

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The Needles was another fascinating point of the island. We reached there after the Sun had just jumped into the sea and the play of colours on the sky were seen to be believed. Here is a view of The Needles as we moved towards the edge of the cliff.

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This picture was taken while we moved towards the Needles. Everyone was coming back after seeing the sunset and we were the only ones who were moving in the opposite direction. 🙂

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That is the view of The Needles from the nearest point. It was quite dark by the time we reached there.

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A few more random pictures:

This was taken while the ferry left the British mainland.

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Taken at Ryde Beach. Are these Seagulls? They made an awful lot of noise.

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The sleeping city in the morning.

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An unknown castle on our way to a beach. Don’t know the name.

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What a way to go up!!!

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Water gushing up during a high tide. The foot of the Culver cliff which is accessible during the low tide and are great for an evening walk are completely immersed in water during a high tide.

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This was taken from the ferry back to Portsmouth as the sun set behind the isle.

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And finally I would like to dedicate this post to Preeto, our Tomtom(GPS) who was very patient with us and always guided us with her sweet voice even when we went off track atleast 5 times! We love you Preeto!!

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