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Trip to India – Andhra Pradesh, India May 2010

8 May 2010

Having checked in online yesterday with BA, Julian and I just needed to go to the airport and drop off our bags. Simon picked me up at 7:45 and after an emotional goodbye to Ruth and Bex we went to pick up Julian. By 8:10 we were on our way to Heathrow and after a brief stop at McDonalds for a bacon roll and a drink, we arrived at Terminal 5 at 11:10 (actually 15 minutes before we were allowed to check in our bags). After a brief wait we dropped off the bags and went through to departures. Today Nottingham Forest are playing their away leg of the Championship play offs semi final against Blackpool and would you believe it no bars at the airport were showing sport! The only thing on was the results of the General Election and a hung Parliament etc. As a last resort we had to check the BBC website on our Blackberry’s to see what was happening (Forest lost 2 – 1!). At 13:15 we went to the departure gate and everyone was on the plane for a 14:25 take off. However, we were delayed and did not take off until 15:30.

9 May 2010

After flying through the night we landed at Hyderabad at 05:30 (GMT + 4½ hours) instead of 05:00. It was nearly 06:30 by the time we had collected our bags and we then went through to be met by Basheer, a friend of Joshua’s, who lives in Hyderabad. Incidentally I met Basheer when in Hyderabad last year. He escorted us to onsite ‘nap rooms’ (this is a room with a double bed, a corridor and a shower and toilet). We made use of these until 10:00 which meant that we could have a couple of hours sleep and a shower. At 10:00 Basheer took us to domestic departures before saying goodbye as we went through to catch the 11:05 plane to Rajahmundry. I should mention that there was a breakfast buffet in the reception area of the ‘nap rooms’ and so we had a bite to eat. The plane to Rajahmundry left on time and we landed there at 12:20 to be met by Joshua. From the airport we went to a hotel for lunch before calling at Joshua’s house to see Sudha (Joshua’s wife), Bobby (his son) and Sudha’s mother and sister. At 14:15 we left for the 1½ hour drive to Jangareddigudem.

As it was a Sunday, the journey only took 1¼ hours and we arrived at the centre at 15:30 to find a group of 10 coordinators putting sewing machines together for a distribution meeting later in our visit. The children from the orphanage were at an outreach meeting but came back whilst we were there and were very excited. By 16:00 we were at our hotel, the same hotel (and room!) that Bex and I stayed in last year. After we checked in, Joshua and the guys brought in cereals, milk, fruit juice and biscuits, and then went out and came back with a fridge to keep the relevant items cool.

Joshua arranged to come back to pick us up to look at projects at 17:00 but it is now 17:20 and he has not yet arrived and we have already had three power cuts! Joshua finally arrived at 17:35 and we set off to see projects in West Godavari. By the time we arrived back at the hotel we had seen 16 village stores, three ordinary sewing machines, one zig zag sewing machine, two basket making projects and two borewells. What was really interesting was that for the first time we saw a project fixing punctures on bicycle tyres, one that sold medical supplies as a pharmacy, one of the sewing projects had made a pair of trousers which were excellent and one of the basket making projects made panels that were used as walls in houses. Our final visit of the evening was to a fruit and vegetable stall who gave us a plate of bananas, carrots and sugar! When we got back to the hotel we had a chicken curry and then an early night as it has been a long day and tomorrow we leave at 09:00 to visit all the projects in Khamman which is 100 kilometres away. Whilst we were waiting for our food to arrive tonight, I spent half an hour with Joshua explaining my spreadsheets on the Indian projects and agreed that I would sent him an example to report with on a monthly basis. He also asked if I could email him my report to the trustees recently (in Indian Rupees) explaining how much we had invested, what the return is and how many families we have impacted between us.

10 May 2010

Joshua had organised that we were to leave at 09:00 today to head for Khamman and so we were up, and had breakfast at 08:00 but Joshua did not arrive until 09:55 and we left at 10:00 for the 100 kilometre drive to Khammam which took a little over two hours. The first village store we visited was next door to a bank and provided photocopies as well as the taking and developing of photographs which is also laminated for the bank purposes. (A great business idea and opportunity). At the next village we saw a borewell and then four general stores all on one street, it was like having a Starbucks on every corner! In the next village we visited a borewell and five stores and Julian and I were besieged by about 20 to 30 children who all wanted to tell us their names, ask ours, shake our hands and have photos taken. After some time we were able to move on to our final village in Khammam where a lady was making a sari. When we left the village we headed back to the town of Khammam where we had dinner at the Restaurant Family Selections. Inside was very dark but a major plus point was that it had air conditioning and the food was excellent. We shared a chicken tikka to start and then had prawn biryani. After we left the restaurant Joshua stopped at a shop to pick up cups of tea for Julian and I. It was very hot, very sweet and made with condensed milk. We then drove back to West Godavari where we called in two villages and saw one store and then a borewell and a store. We arrived back at the hotel for 18:00 having been on the road for eight hours. When Joshua asked what time we would like dinner, both Julian and I said we were fine and would just have some fruit, which we already have in the room.

It is quite staggering what you see on the roads in India, herds of cows, tractors pulling trailers so full that you cannot see the trailer and the load is dragging on the road. Today we saw two accidents, one where one of the tractors had tried to turn off the main road too fast and its trailer had overturned and secondly a lorry carrying scrap had turned over on a bridge. When we got close to home tonight we saw five trailers in a row, loaded as mentioned above, and all being pulled by oxen. Anyway, tomorrow we are off to Krisha at 09:00 (so Joshua says!!). Two things are obvious so far – timing is an indicator not an absolute and road signs are suggestions not instructions!

I suddenly realised at 19:00 that the World T20 would be on the television where Pakistan would need to beat South Africa for England to definitely qualify for the semi finals before they played their match against New Zealand. We found it on the television and saw Pakistan win before we went to bed as England were on too late.

11 May 2010

Joshua arrive this morning at 09:20 to tell us that the coordinators in Krishna were not available today and so we were going to go to an area of West Godavari, about two hours drive away, to see the projects there. The drive was into a much greener area than yesterday and on the way we drove past some fish and prawn farms. Our first stop was at a ‘basket making’ display which were in fact lace crocheted table clothes and curtain edging etc. It is clear that ‘basket making’ projects is a great generalisation as we have already seen baskets, flower holders, table clothes, purses and panels for housing. We then saw a borewell and a village store which was inside the ladies house and a sewing machine. Next we visited a village store which sold cold drinks but also had a carbonating machine to make soda water and keep refilling the bottles, the next store sold vegetables and then a sweet shop where the owner of the shop gave us a sweet the size of a table tennis ball that tasted like peanut brittle. Whilst we were there the drinks delivery man asked if we would take a photo of him with his lorry and we duly obliged. We then visited a further sweet shop before going back to the car by crossing a bridge over a river that had virtually run dry, but was full of rubbish. Apparently, when the rains come the river will fill up and wash all the rubbish out into the Bay of Bengal! Our next stop was a sewing shop that had three sewing machines where they made shirts, blouses and dresses. The shirts had labels sewn into them saying ‘Premier Shirts’ which is really interesting as some of the funds for these projects came from the directors of a company called Premier Strategies Limited, but the people in India did not know this. With the blue dress we saw, as Joshua held it up for me to take a photograph I could not resist saying “And this is Joshua’s favourite dress”. All the Indians (including Joshua) thought this was hilarious. As we travelled to the next village Joshua explained why the Indians put commas in their currency the way they do, it is because 1 Lakh = 100,000 INR and is shown as 1,00,000, then 1 Crore = 10,000,000 INR and is shown as 1,00,00,000. Next we saw a borewell next to a church.

For our next point of call we went to a restaurant called the Hawaiian where we had lots of Hawaiian food and drink. No, sorry, I was dreaming again, we had curry for lunch. It was an excellent prawn curry, but Julian has an upset stomach and so is not eating today which is a shame because that was the best curry I have had since I have been here!

After lunch we travelled for 45 minutes to see a borewell at a pastors home, where we were invited in for a drink. The only place to sit was in their bedroom and so we all sat on the edge of their bed. In the next village was saw a borewell, a village store and a drinks shop. For our next stop, alongside the store, the owners had opened a ‘Juice Parlour’ which made smoothies and Julian and I were treated to a banana smoothie each.

Just around the corner we saw two more village stores and the owner of the second gave us a bottle of chilled water each (much appreciated). We then had a 1½ hour drive back to Jangareddigudem. When we arrived at the outskirts of the town we took a detour to the Mother Teresa Academy where they have six sewing machines and a lady trains the trainees to use the sewing machines before they apply to Change4Change for a machine. We have currently provided 100 sewing machines for this.

On arriving back at the hotel at 17:30 we decided that we did not want any further food tonight as Julian was still not eating and I am still full from the most excellent curry I had at lunch (I must stop winding Julian up about this!).

Not sure if we will get to watch cricket tonight as it may be on too late. We decided to watch some as it started at 22:30, but by 23:15 after about five power cuts we gave up and went to sleep. At 00:30 I was woke up by Ruth calling to tell me that the UK had a new Prime Minister, David Cameron, as he had done a deal with the Liberal Democrats.

12 May 2010

Joshua arranged to picked us up at 09:00 again and then arrived at 09:30. Today we are going to Krishna which is a little over two hours away. When we arrived to the outskirts of the Krishna district we had a pineapple smoothie from a roadside stall. Prior to this on leaving Jangareddigudem we had stopped at a roadside stall for some ‘coconut water’ where they chop the top off a coconut and put a straw into it. Our first stop with the projects was to ‘open’ the ground for a new borewell and we then went to visit a village store, where part of what they sold looked like a large round pasta, but they gave us a packet and they actually tasted like Quavers. After this we went to see a borewell at a church and the pastors wife gave us a fruit juice made from a local fruit that tasted like a cross between a mango and a melon. We then went across the road to a village store and next to a store with sewing machines and a button sewing machine, before we visited a shop developing and selling photographs. The next village store had a phone and sold coconuts before we went to a store selling biscuits. At the next store we visited, the ladies husband had suffered a severe electric shock and we were asked if we would pray for him, of course we duly obliged. Next we went to see a borewell, and a new church was being built next to it, before we headed off to ‘Madeira’ for lunch. On hearing this our ears pricked up, but sadly it wasn’t a lovely holiday island, in fact is spelt Madhira! Lunch was excellent (more curry) and we ate outside in small circular huts. After lunch we went to visit a vegetable store which had a very sophisticated set of scales (at least compared to what we have seen before) and then to a television repair shop before visiting five more village stores. During this time two monkeys ran across the road past us and disappeared into the houses! On our next stop we saw a borewell and then a village store that was selling dried fish which looked a little bigger than whitebait. Joshua reassures me that they are really tasty and I am taking his word for this as they still have their heads and tails etc attached. We then visited five more village stores and a borewell before heading back at about 17:00 and got back to the hotel at 19:00 after 9½ hours on the road. So far on this trip we have seen 14 borewells, 62 village stores, three basket making projects and 109 sewing machines. On our travels today we discussed with Joshua about the basket making as it did not really describe what was being done and he said that he had thought about this and for his records will call them ‘small scale projects’ (SSP). For our purposes it is probably better to describe them as ‘local craft projects’.

13 May 2010

Joshua picked us up today at 10:00 (apparently this is Indian for 09:00!) and advised us that it was 48°C yesterday which was about 120°F. Today we went to Krishna again, but a different area. It was an 2¼ hour drive to a major city and then we started looking at projects.

Firstly we looked at a shop that did metal working and welding and then to the Balaji Bekary which is of course a bakery and we were given a piece of cake to try and it was delicious. It was hot again today and we went to see three village stores, one of which sold telephone credit, before we looked at a chai (tea) shop and a second bakery. We seem to have some variety in the type of stores here.

Our next visit took us to a blouse store and then a store which did ironing and also making shirts on a sewing machine. After looking at another village store we went to a shop making mouth fresheners and the lady wanted to make some for us. For each one she took two leaves of some description and cut the edges off and then pasted them with curd before adding betel nuts and various spices. She then wrapped them almost like I have seen done with vine leaves and handed them to us. They were to be eaten in two bites and actually were really good. I think that Julian is having fun with all this as his stomach is a little ‘iffy’ again today.

It was now time for lunch and we went to a very nice hotel and ate at the Springs Coffee Bar which was a serve yourself buffet. Guess what the buffet served?! ….. correct, it was curry! However, for afters we had fresh fruit salad and vanilla ice cream which was good.

After lunch we went to a ceremony to present ten sewing machines and 35 basket making kits. At the end we had to leave quickly as there were 40 other people who wanted sewing machines and we just do not have the funds for this at present. Joshua encouraged the ladies to ensure that they repaid their loans as this was what would enable more machines to be given out.

We then saw the rickshaws that we had purchased in the area of which we saw ten passenger rickshaws and four ‘flatbed’ rickshaws for carrying goods. Julian and I were treated to a ride around for 15 minutes on rickshaws and I have to say that they are not massively comfortable as the seats are quite narrow and each time you go over a speed bump you really feel it and nearly bounce off the seat. On the way back the chain came off my rickshaw and the driver had to quickly fix it.

We then drove out of the city via a bridge over the River Krishna. Now, the riverbed is about half a mile wide, but effectively there is a small stream running down the middle of it, which shows how bad the water situation is.

This is all the more pertinent when you realise that in October last year it flooded and burst its banks and numbers of families had their livelihoods destroyed. Many people were so distraught by all of this and their lack of hope and means of support that they committed suicide.

One man called Andreas had his whole family commit suicide, except his wife and children, and he was planning to do so himself when he heard about Joshua/Change4Change projects and asked if he could have a cow. How was successful and we met 25 families who all live next to each other and between them have 25 cows which they milk and occasionally breed. When we visited we saw at least three calves. They were so pleased to see us and wanted to show us one of the cows being milked and then insisted on making us a coffee with the fresh milk (and it doesn’t get any fresher). Because it was so hot and the coffee was taking time to prepare on an open fire, they sent one of the family members on a bicycle to fetch some bottles of Sprite for us as we cannot drink their borewell water. Sometimes you are completely humbled and touched by the way people react. Once again, as last year, we are hearing stories of how the work we are doing is physically saving lives!

Before we left they asked if we would pray for them and all the families gathered round, including the children, those who were wearing shoes removed them and we prayed. I felt a real prophetic urge to pray as in the Old Testament that their livestock would give much more milk that they would naturally do and that they would have many more calves than would be normally. It was really emotional and when we left I felt a real sense of what an honour it is to do this stuff and a pride (in the right way) that we have certainly made a difference here.

It was then a 2 hour plus drive back and we got to the hotel at 19:00 after another 9 hours on the road.

We are getting ready soon to try to watch the TV (power cuts permitting) as England’s game against Sri Lanka in the semi final of the T20 World Cup is on.

Well, we managed to watch Sri Lanka’s innings and just as England were about to bat the power went off and we stayed on the generator for about 1½ hours (this means that the TV does not work) and then it finally came back on just for us to see the after match presentations. At least we know that England won and are through to the final.

14 May 2010

Joshua picked us up at 10:00 and today we are off to East Godavari, which means that we cross the Godavari River, go through Rajahmundry and back out the other side. Our trip to the projects today took 3 hours and when we arrived we saw a shoe shop and then went to a drinks shop that used the soda water we have seen before and then poured it into glasses with favouring in. We had a glass of orange, it was really refreshing.

Next we visited a village store and then one that made pickles (Indian!) and sold cold drinks before we looked at another village store and a bore well.

At our next stop we saw a borewell and then two village stores before we visited a bakery and were given an Indian ‘sweet’ called gulabjam – which is like a mini treacle sponge! We then went to a shop which did sewing and made shirts and trousers before visiting our final village store at this location. On our way back to the car I noticed a lake that was virtually dried up with a fishing boat resting on the dried mud. That, together with the numerous rivers we have seen that are either dried up, just a stream or muddy ponds, shows what a problem the dry season is.

We then went for lunch and had a prawn curry which had some chillies in and if you bit into one you certainly knew about it!

After lunch we visited three village stores and then a bicycle repair shop and a shop that cooked food, like a take away almost.

Our next call was at a borewell and the pastor of the church had two little girls and they had put on their best dresses to meet us. We had a drink of ‘coconut water’ and then went on to visit another borewell and four village stores, one of which had a freestanding telephone outside that could be used when she did not have the shop open.

In the final village we saw the borewell and were then invited into the church for fruit, ‘sweets’ and drinks. One of the sweets was a pastry rolled in honey which was really tasty. Everybody makes us feel so welcome and wants to say ‘hello’, wave or shake our hands.

What I have not mentioned before is that every time we go into somebody’s house or a church then it is ‘compulsory’ to take off your shoes and leave them outside. At the end of each day our feet are filthy!

We then visited two village stores and the third had a selection of vegetables also. Next we went to a food preparation store/restaurant which had a milling machine and a fantastic fire for cooking on. Our final visit was to a vegetable store. I really enjoy the vegetable stores as they make such great photographs with all the colours and the way they are laid out.

It is then just a 3 hour drive back to the hotel. On the way back we needed to stop for Julian and Sinu (our driver) to go to the toilet and when Sinu jumped in the car he assumed that we were all on board and set off leaving Julian behind. After a few minutes Joshua told him and we had to turn around and go back. Turning around on Indian roads is difficult to do once, but twice is a real challenge.

Anyway, we eventually had a full compliment and continued on our journey.

We arrived back at the hotel at 19:30 after being out for 9½ hours. Julian and I estimate that we probably spend 7½ hours of them in the car.

So far we have seen or presented 120 sewing machines, 19 borewells, 97 stores, 38 local craft projects, 14 rickshaws and 25 cows. Quite a selection considering that we have only been in India for 5½ days!

Tomorrow is the big meeting with the press, the coordinators and handing out new projects to people from all four districts, including meeting as many as possible of the existing beneficiaries and Julian and I need to wear suits and ties for this. It will start at 10:30 and go on until around 17:00, could be quite a day.

15 May 2010

What a day! Joshua was supposed to pick us up at 10:15 and so we had breakfast at 08:15. By 10:00 we decided that we ought to get ready (into our suits). At approx 10:10 I could feel my stomach griping and rushed to the bathroom and as I went in the ache got worse and my head started spinning so I sat down and ………. the next thing I knew I was hurting and thought that I was drowning.

What had happened was that I had passed out and fallen face down on the tiled floor! As I did this my body must have knocked over a two gallon bucket full of water (that’s another story!) and as I landed on the floor the water rushed over my head etc and I could not breathe. Thus I felt that I was drowning, but did not know what was happening or where I was.

Julian just thought that I was being sick and did not worry too much!

I came out of the bathroom at 10:30 and so all this process must have taken 15-20 minutes. As I looked in the mirror my head was bashed, I had a partly black eye and my chest, shoulders, knees and neck were all sore.

The good news was that I did not break my glasses (which I had on at the time and may have done some of the damage) as I can hardly see without them, also I have not broken anything and I was not wearing my suit at the time.

When I came out I sat on the bed and had some tablets and after another 30 minutes felt much better.

Today it is a good job that Joshua did not come on time as I would not have been in any state to go out that time. By the time he arrived at 11:15 I had got my suit on and felt virtually ready to go (actually I could have done with going to bed, but a lot of this trip is a one off and some of the people we see today will have travelled for 4/5 hours and so my view is that although I feel ropey, it won’t kill me!).

When we arrived at the meeting place there were hundreds of people under an awning all singing and we were taken to a separate place at the front of the centre where the press were waiting. Both Julian and I spent time speaking to them before one of the camera crews put four microphones in my face and asked me to say my speech again into the camera. Basically I told them that the privilege was ours to be able to help the people of Andhra Pradesh and how grateful we were to find a good man of integrity like Joshua.

Next we went to the table at the front of the awning where the pastors, coordinators and recipients of the projects were. I was asked to give them a greeting and Julian spoke on Barnabus.

At the end of the meeting a group of ten local craft projects came to give us a demonstration and some of them were amazing, one made flowers in a vase, a window blind, a sort of roman blind, fans, as well as baskets of all shapes and sizes. It was fascinating to see the lady who made fans finish them off by splitting a cane to make a handle (just half way down) and then knock nails into it to keep the fan in place by using the back of the machete she had used to split the cane in the first place.

I have just remembered, before Julian and I spoke to the people we were given a shawl each as a present. Imagine the scene, it is over 110°F, we are in suits with shirts and ties on and then they put shawls around us!

As we left the meeting to go for lunch (which neither of us ate in our current conditions) the lady who I had prayed for with cancer and was healed was there and she wanted to greet me and ask if I would pray for her son who is ‘living a bad life’.

The ‘problem’ is that as soon as you start praying for people everybody wants you to and so after some time we went to the office for lunch.

Around this time I was starting to feel a little wobbly again and so asked Joshua if Sinu could drive me back to the hotel to pick up a tablet. When I went back I took the opportunity to change into my shorts and took Julian’s back for him.

After lunch Joshua addressed the people about how Change4Change works and that only if they make their repayments will other people be able to have loans.

We then distributed the funds for nine village stores before going outside to distribute 50 sewing machines. After about 40 of these I started to feel light headed again and so I sat down in the shade and they brought me water, which was really needed. Of course this means that Julian was left to help with the distribution of the remainder of the machines.

By this time it was about 16:30 and there was a lot of administration going on with loan repayments etc and so Julian and I went back to the hotel. Boy, was I ready for a lie down!

After we left, the coordinators were given the funding for 90 local craft projects which they would distribute back in their areas.

When I had had an hours sleep I felt much better except that every bone in my body now aches.

Having got back up I am now writing up my journal and am pleased to repeat that we have seen/distributed 170 sewing machines, 108 village stores, 19 borewells, 138 local craft projects, 14 rickshaws and 25 cows.

The total cost of all these would have been 3,788,790 INR or £58,288 and just today we have distributed £7,869 worth of new businesses. How fantastic is that?

Anyway, Joshua tells us that tomorrow we have a 5 hour drive to the airport, as they do not fly to Chennai from Rajahmundry. He will be picking us up at 05:30 in the morning (now, who fancies a bet on that?).

16 May 2010

Joshua turned up at 05:45 which wasn’t too bad and having said goodbye to the hotel staff, the coordinators, Anand (the administrator) and Joseph we got into the car to set off on our way home. We had a 1¼ hour drive to Rajahmundry where Sudha (Joshua’s wife) had made us a coffee before we had a 3 hour drive to Vishakhapatnam where we said goodbye to Sinu who in the last week or so has driven us 3,293 kilometres or 2,058 scorching, bottom numbing, dusty miles since picking us up at Rajahmundry at approximately 13:00 last Sunday until 10:30 this Sunday.

Our flight to Chennai took off at 12:05 and landed at 13:55 where a driver from the hotel was waiting to meet us.

We are staying at the Rain Tree Hotel which is very nice. After checking in, Julian and I went to the Business Centre to go on the BA website to check in for our flights home at 05:25 tomorrow morning. Having done that we went to the gym which is based around a rooftop terrace with a pool and phenomenal views of Chennai. I had a 5¼ mile run before a dip in the pool and then we had a Kingfisher beer each. Today we have flown Kingfisher Airlines and drunk Kingfisher beer!

We now need to get ready as Joshua is meeting us at 18:00 to go shopping to get a few presents for Julian’s children. I am fortunate, in that all Ruth and the girls want is perfume from duty free.

After a couple of hours around the shops Julian managed to find some gifts and I brought some bracelets for Ruth and the girls and it was back off to the hotel for a bite to eat.

We ate in the hotel restaurant where there was a buffet and both Julian and I stuck to the large selection of salad items and then had dessert which amongst other things had a selections of ice creams. We avoided the hot food (curries) as we are being careful not to get any stomach issues at this point.

By the time we had finished dinner it was nearly 21:00 and we all went to our rooms and arranged to meet at 02:30 in the morning to go to the airport.

Once in our room we put the TV on as the final of the T20 World Cup was starting between Australia and England. What a fantastic game, and made even better by the fact that England won. However, it did not finish until a quarter past midnight and so I set the alarm on my Blackberry for 02:00 and we had a little sleep.

17 May 2010

I do not know what happened, but somehow my Blackberry turned off and so the first thing that we were aware of was the reception waking us up to tell is that it was 02:30 and our taxi was there! Mad panic, jump out of bed, dress, finish packing, a very quick wash and out of the door, all in 10 minutes.

Joshua was waiting outside the door and we went down, got in the taxi and proceeded to Chennai airport. We arrived at about 03:30am and after saying goodbye to Joshua (in India there are police on the doors and you are not allowed to enter the airport unless you have a ticket to fly), we went into the check in area just in time to hear the announcement ‘flight BA036 to London has been delayed due to a volcanic ash cloud’. This is just what we need!

By the way, Joshua was going back to the hotel to have a sleep before he had to leave the room by 15:00. He is catching a train to Rajahmundry at 16:00 which will arrive there at 05:00 on Tuesday morning which is 00:30 in the UK. We should be home by 15:30 this afternoon UK time and so would beat him home by 9 hours.

That was the theory, but the announcement put all this in jeopardy.

Anyway we were instructed to queue up to check in even though we had checked in online yesterday. When we finally got to the front of the queue the young lady told us that it may clear in time and it was not cancelled at present.

So off we went through immigration and security to the departure lounge where we arrived at around 04:15. The boards still say that our flight (due to leave at 05:25) is delayed. By the time we get to 05:30 they change the time of departure to 07:30 but still reads ‘delayed’. The poor BA ground staff are doing their best to keep us informed, but they can do nothing, do not know much more than us and some passengers are quite aggressive with them.

At 06:00 there is an announcement that we are to go to a certain point and be given breakfast, which is a nice idea, but very poor quality. At least we get a cup of coffee.

By 07:30 we are still waiting and at 09:45 there was an announcement that the flight had been cancelled.

There was lots of speculation about what that meant, rumours that you would need to contact your travel agent, rebook new tickets and claim the money back when you got back from BA etc.

Anyway, we then queued up to be taken to a temporary BA desk which took sometime and when we got there we were asked if we have anywhere to go in Chennai to which we said ‘No’ and so they gave us a piece of paper with our seat numbers on it and the name of a hotel and were told that if we went back through immigration and collected our cases there would be BA reps outside to arrange transport to the hotel (called The Park) and then it was anticipated that our flight would go out at 03:30 tomorrow morning. They would contact the hotel and arrange to pick us up and get us back to the airport on time and we would be provided with lunch and dinner.

So, off we went, much happier now that we know what should happen. We got outside by about 10:45 and queued, with many others, in the direct sunlight for 30 minutes before we got a taxi. By this time we were all ringing wet (and I mean literally!) and I had to go into my suitcase to get a hat for Julian as his head was burning and I knew where I had packed mine.

Anyway, we got into a taxi that stopped five minutes later for the driver to top up the water in the cooling system. The drive to the hotel was eventful and there was no air con and because of the fact that much of the time was spent in traffic jams there was little air movement. On top of that we stopped twice to put water in and a number of time did not think that the car would make it!

In the meantime our hotel had been changed to the Sheraton Chola. We arrived there just before 12:00 and it was very nice with air conditioning etc. After checking in we went to our room, changed into shorts and t-shirts and went straight down to the outside pool. It was fantastic!

Having had a swim, a drink and a lie on the sun beds we went off for lunch at 13:00.

Lunch was very nice, buffet style and again we stuck to lots of salad and a dessert. Then at about 14:30 it was back to the room for a sleep. Julian got up at 17:00 to go to the gym, but I slept through until 19:00. The hotel reception called to say that a minibus would be coming to take us back to the airport at 23:30 and so we sorted out our cases and our clothes for going home before watching the last hour of a film on TV.

At 20:30 we went down for dinner. Later I went down to sign out of the room before picking up the minibus which had been rearranged to 00:15.

18 May 2010

After an uneventful trip to the airport, it was all really well organised as we checked in. The queue for immigration was huge and took about 45 minutes to get through, but we arrived in the departure lounge by 02:00. At 02:50 they started to load the plane and on the stroke of 03:30 we took off to fly back home.

I guess 1 day’s delay is nowhere near as bad as happened to many of the passengers in the previous events with the ash cloud!

By the way, Joshua will now beat us home as he should be there 90 minutes after we took off and we have a 10½ hour flight.

On the flight home I slept for seven hours and so I must have been extremely tired.

We finally landed at Terminal 5 at 09:15 GMT and quickly made our way out to where Michael is waiting to drive us back to Nottingham.

We are tired but very pleased after another eventful trip which just underlines the impact of what we are doing is having on peoples lives.

A Grand September

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