Friday, January 18, 2019

Three years and over, no excuses for not blogging!

I have been seriously amiss in blogging. It has been over five months since I blogged last. Now, the three-year marker has come and gone, and I am in my fourth year in the United Kingdom. A lot of things have happened that I haven't chronicled. Hence, this humble attempt to update my followers.

  1. My family visited me in September 2018, and my younger daughter Hannah has stayed back in Newcastle to start a post-graduate course in Digital Marketing. She and I meet when we can, but we certainly try and talk every day. It helps that we can talk with each other with the same telephone network free of cost. 
  2. I make food in a large bunch and leave it for Hannah as she does not have the time to cook food. While I went to give her the food to Newcastle in October, she came over to Blackpool in November to get the food. In this way, we managed to give quality time to each other. In December, we celebrated Christmas together. However, this meeting will likely not happen in January or in February, so it has to be March when we see each other again. This means she may have to cook her own food for the next few weeks.
  3. My job at the Blackpool Victoria Hospital has now entered the fourth year, and I will be working as a full-rota registrar from March onwards - once again. The rota is quite short - in fact, there are only 5 of us instead of the usual six or seven; hence, we will all be stretched.
  4. I have not had the time to go out anywhere on any excursions. I discontinued my contributions to the RSPB, the National Trust and so on, and have started others that will, I think, be better to sponsor in the coming years. My sponsorship of four Indian kids continues.
  5. I entered my second year of staying at the rented premises near the hospital. It has been a great journey so far and I am getting used to the way of life in the UK. 
  6. I failed my driving test in the first attempt but am hoping to clear when I next try to give the exam, hopefully not too much later.
  7. I am visiting India from the 2nd of February 2019 until the 23rd of the same month. I hope to attend the annual Paediatrics conference of the IAP (Indian Academy of Pediatrics) in Mumbai, then visit Prayag (Allahabad) with Inas to see the MahaKumbh mela and to catch up with friends while in India.
  8. I have been experimenting with my cooking as usual, and have tried many new recipes and food items in the last several months. Apart from the usual stuff like dals, curries etc., I have tried doing pulaos, biryani, bhajias, wada, new vegetarian combos, oven-cooked fish, and more. The more I cook, the more I feel that this can definitely be Plan B for me around retirement.
  9. I have joined the trust's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion service as an ambassador. I will be working with a small team of volunteers who will ensure that the trust continues to follow the letter and spirit of the EDI values. 
  10. It has been quite cold here in Blackpool. I was presented with a scarf by Hannah as a Christmas gift (I gifted her an Amazon Echo Dot, 3rd generation). This was over the three days that I spent in Newcastle in December. Amazing days, but Hannah was busy studying so we did not move around much. 
And that's it for now. Will try and blog more often. Thank you for reading. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Three months on, a blog revival on the cards.

The last time I wrote here was over three months ago. I have been busy, but I have also been neglectful as blogging is no longer considered fashionable. Vlogging is. Facebooking is. Instagramming is. Thus, I have hardly visited my own blog here. 

A lot has occurred in these three months. This includes the near completion of my working as a full-time registrar in Blackpool, the launching of my YouTube channel, my experiments with cooking, my visit to Mumbai in late May, and my waiting for my family to arrive next week to the U.K.

In the job, I have been working hard, doing a full rota. This has been very educational. I have learned a lot, some of it by asking people around, and some, through trial and error. The biggest challenge has still been communicating in an appropriate manner, and there are small incidents where I find myself struggling. Hopefully, this will all be behind me and I will be able to advance in the system. I suppose that calls for more hard work getting used to the British culture. 

My Youtube channel has been around for long. I just hadn't looked at it professionally. I have now done that - sort of. I have put up long videos there - mostly on advice, and a few recipe- and cooking- stuff that I think will help people who are looking for answers or for delicious homemade food. Guys, it would be marvellous if you visited my channel and liked my videos. 

Facebook has evolved so much in the last few years. For those who want to get customers, it has really good marketing and advertising options. But, for those who are potential customers, it does get a bit annoying when FB will interpose your friends' posts with ads. These are so frequent that one almost wishes one wasn't on it at all. 

But this is even more alarming when one gets on Instagram. It doesn't help that both are owned by the same entity! There are just too many ads there as well. And they are quite effective, to be honest. Made by professionals, they make you buy everything from tacks to diamonds!

I have come to realise that in this marketing-savvy world, becoming successful at what one is doing is not easy at all. In the past, one sold locally, hence word of mouth was the most important way to build your custom; now, the world is your stage, and how far you will go will depend upon how far you are willing to stretch your resources, and who you want to be the agent to sell your product to. 

Not that I am selling anything. Not today, at least. But a day may come when the skills you learn today may help you sell yourself as a marketable/dependable commodity! And that is why I keep trying. 

It is now over 2 1/2 years since I came to the UK. I have around the same more time to go before I can apply to the UK government for an "indefinite leave to remain" card. This, the ILR, is similar to the American Green Card. One needs to have stayed for 5 calendar years - not the whole time, but at least more than 180 days - to be eligible to apply for it. It does imply that you understand the UK system. This means that you would have to give an exam called "Life in the UK" before your eligibility is confirmed. My five years complete in November 2020, while my work visa is valid until July-end 2021. Thus, I will have about 8 months in which to apply and get the ILR - between the 15th of November 2020 and the end of July 2021.

So, this will be my first goal. Armed with the ILR, more options will open up for me to live and work in the UK. I don't even have to work around the year. Let's see what happens. 

I want to talk a bit about my life here. It is now well-settled. I will stop being on the full rota from the beginning of the new 6-month term starting the 5th of September, and work the 40-hour week from Monday to Friday, 8 hours per day. I can, therefore, do some locum jobs on weekends.

One of the big problems here was the enormous amount of money I was paying to British Gas for the electric supply they were providing me. Therefore, I decided to switch over to another Gas company called "Enstroga". The switch will save me about 350 British pounds per year! This is something easily doable. You just need to be proactive or else you will continue silently paying for the high bills.

Everything else is quiet. No stresses. Thank you for reading this long post. I am sure some among you won't care; some will continue to follow me and stay invested in my life's happenings. 


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Bird-watching and walking through the Forest of Bowland, 19/05/2018

On the 19th of May, a warm, balmy Saturday, I went with 5 other men to this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the Forest of Bowland. Wikipedia refers to this as the Bowland Fells. It is not a forest in the traditional sense. It is an area marked by gritstone fells and peat moorland. These areas include the geographical centre of the United Kingdom. They also encompass the Trough of Bowland, a large valley within it.
I went with Graham, Michael, Steve, Ken and Steven - this was a meeting organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (the RSPB), Lancaster Group. Our walk leader would be Graham Thomas, a veteran RSPB volunteer for decades. Michael was the man who picked me up from the Lancaster railway station and brought me to the starting point of our walk, the main Parking Lot of the forest. In reality, this was just an area to the side of the road. On getting out of the car, I realised, immediately, that this was a lovely outdoors event. I had with me just me new Canon 7D Mark II with the various EF lenses. Our aim was to circumnavigate a section of the park, trying to spot and listen to the avifauna of the area.
The walk lasted over 5 hours and we did nearly 10.5 km, all cross-country and up and down. On approaching a clearing near Littledale Hall (an old house which now has a drugs rehab centre), we had our packed lunch, before setting off once again. By the time we completed our walk, we had seen only 6-7 bird species but identified over 20 through their calls. We had also burnt a lot of calories and got good exercise. Here are some memories of this unique excursion.
In the evening, Graham gave me a lift right into Preston, from where I caught a bus to return to Blackpool In the latter part of the evening, I would join the members of the Fylde Coast Hindu Society for some good food and song-singing, but that is another story.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Under process for renewal of my work visa

It is time when my temporary residence permit expires, and so, in due earnest, I began the process to get my visa renewed for another three years. Only time will tell whether the UK government will rule in my favour and grant me the next 3-year extension or not. The entire process of renewal is online through the website. It is transparent, easy to understand and quick to fill. Once the application process is complete, you have to send your passport and the existing biometric residence permit to the UK government so that they can verify your details and decide on the renewal. You also have to visit a post-office (I went to the one in Chorley, over an hour away by train) to have your photo taken again and your fingerprints as well. Once all this is done, you have to wait till your papers, documents and the final decision comes back to you. 

Let us see what happens. 

Visit to Powis Castle and Gardens on the 5th of May 2018

I posted this on Facebook on the very next day, but I am writing this same post on this blog because it was a memorable outing for me and deserves a place on my UK blog. 

This is a post about #PowysCastle and Gardens that I visited on 05/05. This is a National Trust managed property still owned by the family that inherited these properties and the vast grounds around it. Located near Welshpool, this is a very handsome attraction to visit on account of it representing over 800 years of heritage, of which more than 400 of it is recorded history. The attraction includes the Castle with its formidable portrait gallery, the Gardens with its world-famous yew topiaries, a selected collection of treasures collected by Robert Clive from India, and more.
The National Trust maintains a lovely cafe and a gift shop, apart from a garden shop and a second-hand bookshop. The walk to the attraction from #Welshpool railway station is through the town centre, after which you enter privately owned grounds and walk through natural surroundings till you reach the castle entrance. This exhilarating walk was over 3.7 km and quite refreshing without a jacket, as the UK currently enjoys some of the best days of summer.
On arrival, I presented my National Trust Membership card - this allows free entry to over 600 monuments, parks and attractions all over the country. I decided to have a coffee before embarking on my journey. The first attraction I visited was the Clive Museum. Going up a round staircase, I was led into the innards of a mini-2 room museum. The first room mostly had books from the past; the second was the actual room full of artefacts and treasures acquired by Robert Clive during his stay in south India. The most prized possessions were the tiger-head sword handle and part of the crown of the tiger of India - Tipu Sultan.
The other items were armour, swords, arrows, items of decor and living such as nut-crackers, scissors, fly-flicks, fans, ivory chess pieces and so on. Nothing really exciting for me, but I could see the British and other European visitors found even the sight of a palanquin very interesting.
Next, I went on to the main palace to visit the gallery of portraits. Using an electric audio-guide, I passed through over 70 portraits and other exhibits within the dining room downstairs, the staterooms upstairs and the corridors in between.
Finally, it was the visit to the gardens that lifted up my spirits. What a lovely garden area there was! Lawns, terraces, yew corridors, climbers, trees, flowers, and lots and lots of greenery greets you as you walk around the terraced gardens that go down over a 100 feet to the bottom. Many flowers were in blossom, but, like gardens anywhere in the world, not all were.
I took over a 100 photos, some even in areas where photography was not allowed. Here is a sample of the photos I took. I will write short descriptions of the more important pictures.