Monday, April 28, 2014

Ryanair Humour

Nearly everyone hates Ryanair.

I have flown with them several times, and if you think that means I am an exception, you couldn't be more wrong: it means I dislike them even more – not just because of all the times I have been subjected to their frustrating booking process and annoying recorded in-flight promos, but because choosing Ryanair is a peculiar form of self-abasement – a reminder that purely because of their low prices, I sometimes fly with an unpleasant company which is synonymous with obsessive cost-cutting, hidden charges, appalling customer service and an obnoxious CEO.

Ryanair are completely unabashed about their business model and public image, and in a perverse way, I can't help appreciate how they sometimes poke fun at themselves. On a Ryanair flight I took this month, the in-flight menu advertised, among other things:
• "Free printed receipt with every purchase!"
• "Sweet snacks (great for sharingscoffing if you've been separated from your friend!)" (a reference to their no-allocated-seating policy)
• "Soft drinks & juices (because the toilets are still free!)" (a reference to the proposed pay-per-pee fee)

In 2012, flying back to London with Ryanair, I fell asleep when the landing cards were being handed out. When I woke up, I asked a flight attendant if I could have a landing card. "That will be one pound," she said.

It is a mark of Ryanair's reputation (and her perfect poker face) that before I caught on to the joke, I actually believed her for a second.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Oslo, 5:38 am

Norway is a great place for camping, not just because of all the hiking trails and dramatic scenery, but because of allemansretten (literally, every man's right) – the legal right to roam on foot or skis anywhere in open country, to swim or row in rivers, to sleep in a tent or under the stars, and to pick berries, mushrooms or flowers.

On our second day of camping, we pitched our tent on the shores of Sognsvann, a lake in the Nordmarka (north forest). Sognsvann is easily reachable from Oslo, so in the daytime it attracts joggers and picnickers. But after sunset, we had the lake all to ourselves.

It was a cold, clear night. When I awoke, hoarfrost covered our tent and the grass around it, and as I stood shivering in my boots and wishing I had remained cocooned in my sleeping-bag, I was reminded why wild camping is special to me: the stillness, the frisson of adventure, the vastness of the sky, and the waning gibbous moon setting over the spruce trees.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sheep, Crows and Certainty

Overheard at Mudchute Farm – a boy (about four years old) thoughtfully surveying the sheepfold:
I am ninety-nine percent sure I like sheep.
My childhood views about sheep are not recorded, but today my mother discovered, in the pages of an old diary, this unambiguous statement scrawled when I was two or three years old:


It says (in Bangla) We do not love crows. 'Crow' is misspelt and the letterforms are far from perfect, but as you can see from this example, I was a kid who was seldom < 100% sure about things.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Ex-God

This post is the second in a short series about religion and my grandmother(s).

When my brother and I were kids, if our mother scolded us, our grandmother (our mother's mother) would tell her to go easy because – so our grandmother said – children younger than five were like gods, in the sense that they could not (knowingly) do any wrong.

Here is an old photo of my brother on his fifth birthday.


He is crying because he is no longer a god, and he is worried that his sins will now catch up with him.