Oh my god, where has it all gone? I'm obviously talking about 2013, not my hairline!! Walking through the local shopping centre hearing Christmas music always brings home the fact the year is nearly over - why it only feels like 12 months ago since it all happened previously... funny that!
2013 has not only been my best year for yonks, but due to the sizeable increase in value of my Royal Mail shares it's been my most travelled. Literally been all over the place I have - just like George Michael's Range Rover!!
So anyway, t'uther week was Diwali (The Festival of Light) and thus decided the best place to spend it was in Mumbai - the home of Diwali - and why not, you may ask yourself? Why not indeed.
So ... at 2:00am, after spending 10 hours lazily stretched over 4 empty plane seats, eating really poor quality dehydrated food, I finally managed to totter down the steps onto the tarmac at Mumbai's Chatrapati Shivaji Airport. The first thing that hit me was the immense heat being given off by the 747 engines - only it wasn't the engines! .... it was 90 degrees at 2am in the f***king morning. Literally like someone was holding a blow torch in your face. I'm standing there holding my bag thinking, ''what the hell is wrong with this place? It's supposedly winter time, so why is it so bloody warm?''
Luckily, being an ex services man, the jungle training soon kicked in and decided to hot-foot it into the terminal.... where it was only about 89 degrees. Oh bugger!
Heckles 0 - Humidity 1.
Please note. For those people who've never been to India: everybody is 100% completely bonkers - remember that 'dosa' of information and you'll be okay.
Heat aside, Mumbai is an interesting, bizarre and disturbing sort of place all rolled into one. A place where it's deemed acceptable for an entire family with some tarpaulin to live on the pavement - directly outside a showroom selling Rolls Royce's at £200,000 a go. We tend to think of British politicians being corrupt, but our lot must be amateurs compared to these guys.
I had an entire week to sample the delights of Indian hospitality and would of done Michael Palin proud. Unfortunately, because India is predominantly Hindu, it meant juicy steaks and sausages were off the menu. To my mortal shame, I have to confess to seeking sustenance at a McDowell's in Colaba. Will I ever live down the shame??
A little temple in the market area of Kalbadevi. Eat your heart out David Bailey.
Exploring the chaotic streets and colourful markets (bazaars) was fantastic. Everyone was busy going about their business earning a crust - unlike in the very southern part of Mumbai where most seemed to be begging. The temples (like the one above) were fantastic, all decked out in fairy lights and lanterns which could of given Blackpool Illuminations a serious run for their rupee's.
As I mentioned before, people in India are absolutely bonkers, but not as bonkers as Bollywood movies. There's must be a dozen cable TV channels showing these movies around the clock as people just couldn't get enough of them. Two bolly-blockbuster's were nearing release whilst I was there: Bullett Raja and Ram-Leela. Films so OTT the directors must of been higher than Simon Cowell's waistband. Unfortunately, as I quickly found out upon my arrival in Mumbai - Indian women bear little or no resemblance to the super hot, gazelle-like stunners you see in these Bollywood films. Oh well, one can dream...
Absolutely stark raving mad, but highly entertaining.
Okay, even though I lost half my body weight in sweat, had to smother myself in mosquito repellent, couldn't find a chip shop anywhere, had to dodge meat flies / open sewers / street beggars and touts - I'm still thinking of organising another return trip for 2014 ...... well, not just yet, maybe when I come back from New York.
Happy Diwali to all.