Tuesday 26 July 2022

 Escape From Bangalore, May- June 2022




Visas and passport problems

Our brief escape from Bangalore was planned around our ongoing passport and visa problems. We are in our fifth year in India and so we had to reapply for a new work visa for Andrew. In the preceding months, we had received conflicting information, but the main information (at the time) was that we had to return to the UK to do this.

We decided that if we were going to the UK then we would take a longer break and go to Sicily too. We have been lucky enough to have quite a few holidays of up to 4/5 days but had not had a longer holiday for 2 years. 

We also had to take into consideration that Max had his final exams (the equivalent of GCSEs) to do, therefore we had to wait until they were completed. Poor Milo is the neglected son, and he had to leave half way through his exams. I told school they could take his marks from the year and use them; he has got 3 years until his final exams so we are not worrying yet about them.

It took hours of planning to sort the flights, accommodation, book a hire car and all of it depended on the visa. If the visa was refused then we would have had to leave India for good.

Then, not unsurprisingly, the Indian visa department decided that we could get our visas in India, the month before we were about to leave. All that planning for the trip was not going to waste, so we packed and got ready to leave Bangalore for a whole month!

We have never had as much time as this on holiday together. Andrew still needed to be online for work sometimes but the rest of us were totally free and so excited.

Momo, our wonderful dog walker, agreed to stop in the house with his mum so Andy (the dog) was happy with this. He loves Momo and his mum. The cleaning ladies enthusiastically said that they would come in and clean as usual and do some deep cleaning (mmm… more on that saga later!)

So, on Thursday 26th May we got on an Air Emirates plane and we were on our way. 

UK

Thursday

Our first stop when we got off the plane was the Marks and Spencer’s shop in the terminal. Decent sandwiches and crisps at last. We struggled with all our bags as we had too many, but we fussed around making sure that the sandwiches were protected. We decided to get a taxi as we realised that getting on the shuttle bus would be tricky and there was a wait of an hour for the bus as we had just missed the last one. We had decided to stay in a hotel for the night rather than to carry on with the journey. This was a good decision as it was now the equivalent of 1 am in India, if we had carried on, we will have been up all night. The hotel was near to the airport and was really good. It had looked a bit dodgy on the write ups but it was just perfect. I wished we had stayed there on the way back (more about that later)

Friday

We were up early and straight down to the car hire place. It was so cold! Cold!  Cold! Cold! Not the May weather that we had been hoping for. We are not used to temperatures below 22 degrees. We stood shivering as Andrew signed the paperwork for the car. We managed to get a car large enough to get all the luggage in. I have no idea what type of car it was.

The ease of driving on the British roads was a delight. There were no cars on the wrong side of the road, wandering cows, stray dogs, nose -to -tail traffic and no people sauntering leisurely across the motorway not looking where they are going. The lack of motorbikes weaving in and out and surrounding you when you are in the car made the journey relaxing. Added to this, there was peace and quiet – no constant honking horns. 

During this pleasant journey, our gate app from India pinged us. Now, when Arjun or the maids check in to the community, we get a ping to tell us and the same thing happens when they leave. Sandra and Swapna are supposed to work for 3 and 4 hours a morning. As I looked, it showed that they had stayed only for 30 minutes and then left. They would barely have had time to walk from the gate to our house in that time, especially at their pace of walking, which is not the quickest. Imagine some of the people who go to Skegness for their holiday and wobble slowly along the seafront, and you get the picture. 

Now, the work ethic in India varies and it is totally different to the UK. Sometimes, you have to repeat yourself lots of times to get some people to understand what to do and you have to keep watching them so that they do what you ask or they will do what they think they should do (which is nothing at all) You also have the repeat the same instructions for the same activity each time, (every flipping day for 5 years!)

I had told the ladies that I have an app on my phone and I can see when they arrive and when they leave and that we have CCTV cameras in the house (mainly to check on our boy) but they had obviously forgotten about this. There is a language barrier but our ladies speak very good English so they do understand perfectly, in theory. Noticing the 30 -minute quick visit instead of 4 hours, I immediately sent a WhatsApp message asking why they had left so early. I can only just imagine their astonishment as they stared at their phones wondering how I knew this information when I was half way around the world. I, obviously, must have appeared to have magical powers. I got a reply saying that they would do their full-time quota on the Monday. I was NOT pleased. Unfortunately, worse was to come with their cleaning adventures but more about that later.

Back to the journey, we decided to stop. After all, there are decent food outlets and clean proper toilets on the roads here. Yay!  Peterborough provided a McDonald’s breakfast for the boys and a proper coffee for me. After our refuelling pit -stop we continued our journey.

We arrived in Skegness about 11 am.

This was where the marathon stay-awake session began. The Coles were in full holiday mode. No sleep for us even if we had the chance!

 We arrived at Andrew’s mum and dad’s house. We hadn’t seen them for two years, well, online but not in person, so it was really exciting. Christine had made proper hotdogs and the boys were really happy, sausages are available in Bangalore from specialist shops but they are just not the same.










After lunch, we went for a chilly walk on the beach, the rest of the people in Skegness were in their T- shirts and shorts. We had our winter coats on and were being really brave. Milo pretended that he was tough, not cold, and took his coat off!

Then, we needed to go to the Airbnb that we had booked in Hagworthingham. Usually, we stop with Andrew’s mum and dad, but now the boys like to spend more time in the bathroom, we decided that an independent cottage might be a good idea. 

We whizzed to the cottage, which was very delightful and cozy, and dropped off our bags. We immediately set off for Boston, as we had booked appointments for 4pm, to get our Pfizer jabs. 

We all have Indian Covid vaccinations but the boys’ vaccination type is not recognized everywhere in the World and this means that they still have to have PCR tests to travel (so the vaccinations are good for protection against Covid but useless for travelling on a plane. Poor Milo has to have a PCR test each time and he is fed up of doing this) We had planned to get the 2nd jabs when we went to Italy (more about that later…)

Getting the Pfizer jab was easy, smooth and quick but we got stuck in the Friday traffic and time started to slip away. We went back to the cottage and we were just about to sit down and have a bit of quiet time when our friends rang to see if we wanted to go to the pub in Hagwothingham. We would only be half an hour, we said. Talk about famous last words.

It was so lovely seeing our friends again and, of course, several hours later we were still at the pub – hence our marathon stay -awake session. What kept us going was that in Bangalore it gets dark at 6:30pm every day, whatever the season. So now, we were in full British summer time where it is light until 10 – 10:30 at night. We were buzzing and completely confused.

By the time we got back it was the equivalent of 4 in the morning for us. Fingers crossed the jet lag and vaccinations wouldn’t catch up with us the later in the day.

Saturday

 Wishful thinking on our part about the jet lag, it had managed to set in because we were awake super early, in tune with Bangalore time, we were far too energetic and realised that we would run out of steam soon.

Family from my side turned up about 10 am and we had a good time chatting. In the afternoon, Christine, Derek, Christine and John came round and that was lovely to see them too. By now, we were absolutely freezing as the weather had not improved and, in fact, it started to rain and decided to put on the wood fire. We didn’t go out in the evening but our friends came round for a glass of wine. We were not sure what the day was or what time it was. Bed early to combat the jet lag.







Sunday

We had been looking forward to going for a walk without the hazards we face in India. It is quite a relief when you don’t have to watch for snakes, village dogs and animals that might pounce on you. The boys couldn’t get out of bed in time so we went on our own. We went for a walk behind the cottage and into Snipe Dales. It was very green and beautiful. Cold but beautiful. The air was so fresh, clear and clean. India seems to have a fusty damp smell all the time that you do get used to.








We dragged the boys out of bed and then went to the George and Dragon for lunch and had the first Sunday roast in two years. It is amazing how mundane things  such as a certain dinner can seem so exciting. 

Back in India, Momo, the young man looking after Andy, sent some photos of him not missing us one bit. Andy was playing in the garden, going for walks and meeting his dog friends, asleep at Momo’s feet. We had seen Andy on the CCTV camera; he was not bothered by our absence.






 Monday

Andrew needed to visit the factories and he took Max with him. They went to Grantham and then to Skegness, I don’t think they managed to get to the Louth 

Milo and I had a visit from my mum.

Meanwhile, the gate app from India pinged me again and one of the ladies had turned up to “clean”. I had left a list of jobs for them to do while we were not in the house getting in the way. I sent a message to see if all was going well. “Yes, all is good,” said Swapna. We will see ….

Tuesday

For those of you that don’t know, we have sold our beautiful house in Brinkhill. We did this online the month before. Everything had gone smoothly.

The couple, who bought the house, invited us round to dinner and to give us the opportunity to clear out the loft. 

Nathan, Kirsty, Bella (5) and baby Esmae- Rose, were really welcoming. Kirsty had prepared a lovely buffet. We were impressed with how they had decorated the house and changed a few things. They are full of good ideas. We transferred all our rubbish from their loft to Derek and Christine’s loft!

Wednesday

Fish and chips! Absolutely freezing now, and we had had enough of the weather being so cold, we went into Skegness to have fish and chips to try and warm up. Yum! 




Afterwards, we went emergency ration shopping in the local supermarkets. Each person has a basket and can choose what they want. Very exciting! Chocolate and cereal are the favourites. We were limited, though, with the weight for our next flight so we couldn’t go too mad.

I think Andrew’s cousin, Melanie, came round but I’m confused on the day. It was nice to see her.

By the evening we were back in the pub in Hagworthingham. We were still on our marathon stay up late every night -whatever the cost.


Thursday

We were packed and out of the cottage by 10. Our next stop was Heathrow airport for the next part of our European tour. Although, the hotel we had chosen for this night was not good. After we arrived in the afternoon, Andrew and Max took the hire car back, Milo went for a shower in the adjoining room to ours and I sat down to enjoy a cup of tea. All of a sudden, I could hear thumping disco/ clubbing music. It got louder and louder. So, I went to investigate downstairs. I asked in the lobby and the man on the desk, who said that it was the party room underneath and it would go on until 1 in the morning. I pointed out that we had to be up at 4 and off to the airport so we needed another room. Luckily, he didn’t flinch and gave me two new sets of keys telling me to return the first set of keys when I had moved the bags. I was chuntering as I realised that all the bags we had with us (plus more Marks and Spencer’s sandwiches) were heavy and we were down two people for moving them. Milo was still in the shower and, as he likes to sing, I had to hammer on the door to get him out.

 We had just finished moving rooms when Andrew and Max arrived, too late to help. By this time, the music was even louder! I think we had a lucky escape as our new rooms were quiet. 

Meanwhile, I had checked on our CCTV camera in India to see that Andy was quite happy sitting by the window or lying by the door. Swapna appeared to be “cleaning”.

Later in the evening, though, we got a very apologetic message from Momo. He was very sorry but the glass vase on the outside table, on the upstairs terrace, had blown over in the wind and smashed. He had tried to clean up. 

Now, I started to get suspicious about the cleaning going on, the flowers had been put in the vase well over a week ago before we left. Were the flowers still in the vase when it fell? I asked.

 Yes, said Momo. The flowers were dead and the water was dirty in the vase. So, this meant that the ladies had not been on the terrace to clean. Cleaning the terrace is one of the daily jobs due to all the dust that is generated from the construction work. Momo has a full -time job as an accountant so when he comes back to the house, he doesn’t go on the terrace. His mum works too. When she comes back to the house she sits outside in the garden with Andy. Anyway, it was not up to them to do any cleaning, I had made this clear. But I was beginning to wonder what was going on.

Sicily here we come.






The second part of our trip was a visit to Sicily. We had no problems at Heathrow, even though there were lots of reports of cancellations and delays, we set off on time. As we arrived, it was warm and sunny. It was so wonderful to be back in warm weather again

Andrew’s aunt, Avril, and her friend Jerry came to the airport to fetch us (and all the many cases).  Mt. Etna had decided to erupt a few days earlier so we could see a bit of a cloud and a glow coming from the mountain as we went along the motorway.

We were going to stop with Avril at her house for 5 days then we would move to a villa in the mountain.

But we were on a mission not just a holiday, we wanted to buy a car, open a bank account and get the boys their second Pfizer jabs. We also thought we would see what the housing market was like.

The other part of our mission was to eat wonderful food and enjoy ourselves. 

After a snack, we set off to find a car. Andrew and the boys love looking at cars, giving their opinions on engines and other stuff (that I don’t listen to), whereas I judge a car on its colour, cupholder capacity and whether I can reach the pedals easily with my short legs.

After the third garage, I decided to sit in Avril’s car and play Sudoku on my phone, while they pondered which car would be a good buy. 

The evening was spent on Avril’s terrace watching the traffic going by and eating pizza from the take away next door and drinking very good quality wine. Yum!

Saturday

Milo and I were desperate to go the sea, so we packed all our things, we borrowed Avril’s car and set off for the beach. After a coffee and Nutella pastry at the beach cafĂ©, we were installed next to the water. But Andrew and Max couldn’t settle because they wanted to look at more cars so they left us on the beach.



LEONARDO


 Some of the teenagers that they met


 Our boy, not missing us one bit.












 Several hours later, they both came back excited as they had found a car that they both liked. We packed all our beach stuff. We had enjoyed swimming in the sea but the water had been freezing and my legs were numb, but it was worth it.

We had an appointment to look at a house at 4pm and then another appointment to test drive the car at 6pm. 

Action packed day then. Poor Avril wasn’t getting her car back anytime soon.

The house was in a lovely position a bit higher up the mountain with a fantastic view but it only had one bedroom, so it was no good.

We went to see the car that they had found. The chap who owned the garage said he would take us all for a test drive. The test drive ended up as quite an adventure. We went to see his wife who worked in a shop close to Avril’s house, she waved at us as she had a customer. We must have gone down every street in Giarre and then we ended up at the fish market on the sea front so that we could meet his friend in case we wanted to buy any fish. Sicilians are so friendly.

In the evening, we went to down to the sea front at Torre Archirafi, at the other end of Giarre. Max and Milo had been invited to meet up with some Sicilian boys for pizzas, they had their google translate apps ready.  

Andrew and I went for a walk and we bumped into Leonardo, who is a friend of Avril’s. We know him well and he took us to a small kiosk where they served homemade iced tea and drinks. It was nice to catch up with him.

Afterwards, Andrew and I found a pizza restaurant next to the sea. Meanwhile, the boys had finished their meal and were looking for us. They found us without much trouble and we suggested to them to walk further along the promenade while we ate our pizzas, as it is perfectly safe. They were excited at their sudden freedom and disappeared. They didn’t come back like we expected them to. This was because they had met a group of teenagers and went off with them. When we eventually found them, it was gone midnight. I have never seen our boys so excited or animated about what they had been up to and they talked nonstop all the way back to Avril’s. 

Sunday

Sunday is the day that the whole of Sicily seems to go to the beach. They take their picnic chairs, about 4 brollies for a family, and huge boxes that contain a full Sunday pasta lunch. People watching is great fun. We just stayed for the morning because it was very hot. Max and Andrew tend to get sunburnt and turn bright red if we are not careful. Milo and I have darker skin and are third and fourth in line to sit under our brollies.

Lunch for us was from the chicken and chips take away shop. We have been going there every time we have visited (for 30 years) and have watched the owners’ children grow up. They are now adults and work in there too. 

I don’t know how they manage the heat because there is a huge open wood fire where they roast lots of chickens on rotating spits. The chips are cooked at the front of the fire and are the best chips ever. Pasta is available as well; the lasagna is wonderful. We bought a selection of food and took it back to Avril’s house.

In the evening, we went back to the beach front so the boys could meet the teenagers for a walk along the beach. Bed was gone midnight again. The boys have decided they want to move to Sicily …

Monday

It was Andrew’s birthday. He didn’t have any presents as he wanted to buy the car and he had put in an offer. He had a posh breakfast at the bar over the road and then we went to look at another house. It was nice, bigger this time but the view was not as good.







Andrew insisted on having his correct age 


As most of our time in Sicily revolves around eating, we had decided to try the sandwich and pasta shop around the corner as we had a restaurant booked for the evening. The food was really good. 

We had a quick trip to the beach to keep up our leg numbing swimming, and in the evening, we went to a pizza restaurant on the port front. So, basically, we ate nearly all day …  Avril had bought a gorgeous ice cream cake for Andrew. But it was rather funny when the waiter came out with it, as the candles said 65 instead of 56!

Tuesday

We had a very exciting morning queuing at the bank. The offer had been accepted for the car and we needed to take a cheque to pay for it. As we hadn’t had time to open an account yet, we had to transfer some money into Avril’s account and then she had to pay for the car, so we had to take her with us. She then had to jump through hoops to sort out the car insurance. 

But we got the car and we all went to a spin in it.



In the evening, Andrew and Max had arranged to meet up with Leonardo, who is very experienced on giving guided tours up Mt. Etna and taking people next to the lava. Milo wasn’t keen on going and he was supposed to be meeting Giovanni, one of the boys from the other evening, so I stayed with him. 

Apparently, my dodgy hip would not have made it, as Max and Andrew said it was steep and slippery on the loose lava stones. They needed 2 hours to walk up the mountain to get to the place where the lava was flowing. They set off at 6 and, of course, by the time they got to the lava, it was dark and glowing nicely.

Luckily, they had worn warm coats and jumpers as it was quite cold. They managed to facetime Milo and I (we were at the local burger bar when they rang) and we could see as they approached the lava. It was stunning and Max and Andrew were enthralled with their adventure. The descent took an hour, they had some wine back at the bus (including Max) and arrived home about midnight. They were both so tired that neither of them could speak and both literally fell into bed.

























 Too many chips!








Wednesday onwards.

From this point on, I didn’t keep a diary so everything becomes blurred so I’ll write in categories!

The villa

It was time to go to the villa that we had booked. We have stopped in many places over the years but never a place as stunning as this. The view was spectacular and the house was immaculate. The owner, Pina, explained that they had not long finished renovating it and we were only the 3rd set of guests to stop there. We vowed not to leave for the next 10 days! It had a swimming pool so it meant we could escape the heat as it was getting hotter and hotter by the day. 

At Avril’s house it had been very humid. She had had new air conditioning units put in but she had not had time to upgrade the level of electricity, so if we put the kettle on when the A/C was running, then the electricity would trip and we would have to send a person down the stairs to the fuse box to switch it all back on again. It is handy having teenagers sometimes!

At the villa the air was cooler in the evening so it was easier. 

We had a good view of both the mountain and the sea so our time was spent trying to decide which way to look as we drank our wine.

A surprise for the boys.

Behind the scenes all that week, I had been plotting with our friend Verena, who used to live in Palm Meadows and who had returned to live in her native Germany. Her two children, Florian and Benjamin, had been really good friends with Max and Milo. When we had arrived in Sicily and put it on Facebook, Verena had contacted me to say it was the boys school holiday and Benjamin’s birthday on the Saturday and it would be great to meet up. Her husband, Alex managed to book some flights and some accommodation in Taormina and we arranged a meeting point and a time on the Friday. I knew where we could meet up but Verena had never been to Sicily so the planning was like a military operation. We arranged to meet on the Friday at 7pm in the square overlooking the sea.

Meanwhile, I knew it was Benjamin’s birthday and I hinted to Milo that we could buy him a present as we were in Sicily and send it to him in Germany as it wasn’t far away. But Milo was quite adamant that he would rather see Benjamin (not knowing that he would actually see him.) I decided that if we actually bought something then it might give the game away. 

Friday arrived, Verena sent me a message to say that they had arrived in Sicily and they would be in the square at the arranged time, their plane had arrived on time. We were sat by the pool at this point so I suggested to the boys that we got ready early to go to Taormina so we could go for pizza. I had told Andrew about the arrangements but not all the details because the boys would hear us talking. He went along with my plan but I thought he realised what was going on, he hadn’t. I found myself having to speed everyone up as they leisurely got ready at a snail’s pace. 
















When we got to Taormina and we were walking towards the square, the boys slowed down as they wanted to look in the shops. Andrew commented on my quick pace and why was I rushing? (I never walk quickly, I am always ten paces behind everyone else, one of my nicknames is TP, Ten Paces) 

I said we all needed some exercise, daft excuse, but they all quickened their pace. 

As we turned into the square, I could see our friends standing by the railings. Milo spotted them immediately and his face was a picture. Then Benjamin saw Milo and they were just so excited! Max hadn’t seen anyone, (we decided we must get his eyes checked!)

We went for a pizza and we were surprised when it actually rained, it meant we had to huddle at the table further under the canopy. It was wonderful to find out what they had been doing during the past two years.

As they had been up so early to catch their flight, we left about 9:30 pm (early night for us for a change!) and we arranged to meet early the next day on the beach.

The next day, we had a campaign to get to the ”posh “ beach early as it was Saturday and all of Italy would be on the move. We set off before the shops opened so we still hadn’t managed to get Benjamin a birthday present. The sunbeds were so expensive! We haven’t been for 5 years to Sicily but it was ridiculous. 60 euros for 4 sun beds and two umbrellas! The beach was packed and after a full morning we had had enough. Verena and Alex took Milo to their apartment with them and we went back to the villa. We arranged to meet in the evening at a pizza restaurant in the mountain. We went to a restaurant with an open area and it was cooler there but the right temperature for outdoor dining. 

 Afterwards, as Mt Etna was still erupting, we drove to find a dark spot to view the lava flow.

Derek, Christine, Julie and Joe arrive

The other exciting part of our holiday was that Andrew’s sister, her son Joe, and Andrew and Julie’s mum and dad came to join us for a week. They stopped with Avril. 













































Our week was packed with adventures.

On the Sunday, Andrew had booked for us all to go to Roman Amphitheatre in Taormina to watch a famous singing group called Il Volo. It is a trio of young men who won a singing competition. They sing opera type songs. They had beautiful voices and it was very entertaining. The amphitheatre is very dramatic and we could see the lava flowing down the mountain as he group sang.

 On the Monday night, we thought we would all go lava chasing, only to find that the flow had stopped. We tried to find a restaurant near to where we were but most places are closed on a Monday. We ended up with a rather sad picnic of shared arancini and sweet pastries on a bench in the square at Milo but it was fun.

We also all met up with Verena, Alex, Florian and Benjamin before they left for Germany and we went for a meal at Torre, (Benjamin still didn’t get a present, poor boy-next time!) 

On another night we went to a restaurant on the beach and it was very pleasant. The moon that night was very orange and shone on the sea really brightly.

We had a BBQ at the villa before they left and a family water volley ball match and before we knew it, they had gone back to the UK.

Pfizer jab number 2

After 21 days of having the first Pfizer jab then the boys could have a second one. Before we had left Bangalore, I had checked with the Italian consulate to see if this was possible and he had said yes. So, we went to try and get the jab done.  At the vaccination centre, the lady on the desk said we needed a temporary health certificate. This meant that we had to go to the health centre to do this. Avril was working so we went on our own. The lady there said we could have 6 months free health care for the boys and that we needed to take the document she gave us back to the vaccination centre. I did this all in Italian and was rather proud that I managed to do it.



So armed with our temporary certificate we went to the vaccination centre again. Everyone was so kind and helpful. The boys got their second jab. Yay!

Villa number 2

We decided to book another villa for 5 days. We had been due to go back to Avril’s but had become too spoilt with the option of keeping cool in the swimming pool. We booked another place to stay in the top floor of someone’s house. 

It was not far from the villa we were in (it was booked). The new place had an enormous swimming pool and the owners were really friendly.








After their jabs, the boys didn’t feel too well so we spent a couple of days there not going anywhere.

Once they felt better, we decided to go to Catania on the train. As it was forecast to be about 40 degrees, I decided to stay at the house by the pool and the boys went on their own.





















They were impressed with the train and the metro system and had a couple of hours wandering around the historic part of Catania.

Sicilian Friends

It was also wonderful to meet our Sicilian friends although we didn’t get time to see everyone.

Carmela and Salvo has caught Covid and so we had to see them while they stood by the door and we stood by their gate. Simone hadn’t caught it but he stood with them too.

Carmela, Salvo and Simone






 Ignazio, Lina and Enrico


 Pina, Salvo and Andrea

Ignazio, Lina and Enrico met us several times to go out for pizza, and Leonardo took us to see a house. Another friend of Avril’s called Salvo also took us for a drive to see some houses.

The people who owned the first villa, Pina and Salvo, invited us to their home by the sea for an afternoon ice cream and swim on the sea. Their son Andrea is a year younger than Milo (coincidently, they have the same birthday) The boys got on well and played football. Andrea speaks very good English. They are such a lovely, generous family.

Dubai

After 3 lovely weeks it was time to go on the next leg of the journey. We were all very reluctant to leave Sicily.  We had enjoyed the open freedom and the fact that Sicily is not crowded like India. Max and Milo had been free to go to the shops on their own and they liked the fact that there is more to do.



 The plane was virtually empty.It was the first flight of the season










 Milo bought an Oculus 










At one point when we were checking in for the flight to Dubai, there was an issue with my visa (even though, I didn’t need one for Dubai) and I volunteered to stay another week. Unfortunately, the lady was too good at her job and got it sorted so I had to go too. The international departure lounge in Catania was not as good as the domestic side. There were several flight-loads of passengers in an area only meant for one plane load. We ended up sitting on the floor as we waited but even that didn’t put us off stopping in Sicily.

There are no direct flights to Bangalore from Italy and one way of going is to go through Dubai. Flydubai is the “cheap “airline linked to Emirates but it was very good. 5 and ½ hours flight time is not bad, either. 

We had decided to stay in Dubai for 2 nights because if you take the onward flight you have to sit in the airport for 6 hours until 3 am and then fly for 4 hours but if you do two single flights (so Catania -Dubai, then Dubai – Bangalore then there is a choice of departure times from Dubai. The price is the same.)

We stopped in a hotel close to the airport. The weather was over 40 degrees and stifling when outside. On the Saturday, we decided that we would take the metro to the shopping mall. We asked at the hotel where the metro was. The man looked very puzzled -You are walking? he asked in amazement

 It was only 5 minutes, apparently. “Yes,” we said and off we went. 

We hadn’t even got to the end of the drive when we decided that this was not a good decision. We could hardly breathe, it was so hot and humid, so we turned around and got into a taxi to go to the metro station.

The metro was easy, so very efficient and clean. An air-conditioned covered walk way takes you from the metro to the mall. After a couple of hours at the shopping mall, we had had enough, there were so many people.

Max was happy because he got to see a famous F1 car (can’t remember whose car it was) and Milo was happy because he got to buy a headset thingy for his birthday present.

That night, we went to the burger bar in the hotel, where we had gone the night before, because the boys said that they were the best burgers that they had ever had.

The next day we could leisurely make our way to the airport for the bumpy plane ride home to Bangalore. It is monsoon and there are lots of cloud and thunderstorms!

 

Bangalore

Our boy Andy was so excited to see us, he just kept running from one person to the other. 

We were so pleased to see him too.

As it was late in the evening, I sent a message to the ladies to tell them not to come the next day as we didn’t want to get up early.

We had a bit of a lie in and then got up to go onto the terrace (we always have our coffee there) I couldn’t believe it; it was absolutely disgustingly filthy. There was glass on the floor (from 3 weeks ago when the vase smashed) and everything was completely covered in dust. On venturing downstairs, there was mouldy food in the back fridge. The dishwasher was dirty and there were stains on the floor where the freezer had defrosted.

Super annoyed, I couldn’t abide it that dirty so I cleaned everything. It took me a couple of hours but I got a sense of satisfaction and achievement to see it so clean and shiny.  The ladies had obviously not been following the list that I had left. In fact, I think only two things had been cleaned. 

When we had been away, we had decided that we would reduce their hours as we felt that, although they were both friendly, they didn’t exactly dazzle in their skills or attitudes, turning up late, going early and generally needing a bomb up the bum to do anything.

The next day, I spoke to them both about the reduction in their hours due to various reasons, including that they didn’t seem to do as I asked. Both started saying that they needed the money. 

When I asked them why they hadn’t done the jobs from the list, first of all Sandra said, “What list?” (Remember they forget things) but then Swapna said that Andy had eaten the list on the first day! I couldn’t keep a straight face and couldn’t stop laughing!

Once I had recovered, I said that for 4 weeks, even though they had whattsapped me several times, they hadn’t thought to ask for another list?  I showed them the photos that I had taken of the house before I had started cleaning the day before. So, I showed them photos of Swapna and Sandra clean versus Carla clean.

I then took them upstairs to show them the terrace and Swapna asked me if we had had professional cleaners in! 

Unbelievable!

Therefore, I said it is two mornings a week or nothing. Luckily, both of them decided on nothing. Their choice. They obviously were not that desperate for money after all.

 I am now happily cleaning and cooking myself. It only takes me two hours (or less) to do what took 6 hours with them and the house is clean and free of dust. 

I’m enjoying the freedom of no one calling to me all the time to ask daft questions and I don’t have to repeat the same instructions over and over again.

We have been back 3 weeks now and we are still thinking about the wonderful time that we had in the UK, Sicily and Dubai.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update ! April 2024

  20 people sharing 2 menus! When we go to a restaurant, we seem to spend a lot of time trying to keep a straight face so that we do not ups...