Archive for the Story fragments Category

Nervous arrivals at Mumbai Airport

Posted in Diary, Story fragments with tags , , , , , , , on December 26, 2012 by helenperkins

STEPPING out of Mumbai airport felt like stepping out of the Big Brother House.

Long before I found my way to the exit, I could hear shouting and cheering. I hoped the audience waiting for me outside was a friendly one.

I dragged my suitcase through the double doors at 1am local time and was met with the full force of three-hundred people shouting and waving. Taxi drivers, families, partners, hotel owners, porters, and more taxi drivers all clamoured for attention. The crowd was held back by railings and several security employees. All these jostled and clustered around a small floodlit square.

Like a rabbit in the headlights I stood in the centre, dead still. Please be here; please be here; please be here.

And then, as if by magic and four years since I had last seen her, my friend Afsha appeared in the corner of my view, raised above the sea of people.

She headed to the airport straight after her Mumbai birthday party. I hauled my bag to the only part of India I knew, even a little bit, and followed her into the night. Her favourite taxi driver sped us across the city to West Khar, where she and her family lived.

Mumbai’s roads, even at 1am, were busy. There was the honking and screeching of cars and yellow-topped auto-rickshaws, which nipped in an out of spaces in the traffic like fairground dodgems. I talked to Afsha – I can’t remember anything I said – and stared and gawped out into the evening. We arrived at Afsha’s home and, somewhere between meeting her mum and the dawn breaking I fell fast asleep.

This blog is a visual record of my trip, with a few tales and spots of advice. I hope it’s useful, especially for anyone who fits into the category of the nervous solo female traveler, and who is also hoping to spread their wings for the first time.



How to survive a summer music festival in six welly-wearing steps…

Posted in News, Story fragments with tags , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2010 by helenperkins

A few smart choices will protect you against a weekend of misery, several deadly diseases, and a moment of horror, waking up next to the snoring face of some strange bloke you find physically repugnant but found amazingly attractive while wearing beer goggles 12 hours earlier.

After spending last weekend with 8,000 music-lovers-from-other-mothers at Kendal Calling, I thought I would share my newfound tips with those taking to mud-filled fields for the first time

1. Pack the single warmest item of clothing you own.
In my case, because I don’t have any thick clothing, I ran away with my ex-partner’s hoody.

This had numerous advantages:

It kept me warm while I was waiting for my reporter friend to finish a Fosters-induced vomiting session by the portaloos.

It was also about five sizes too big, meaning that if my wits failed me, at 4am while trying to find the godforsaken tent, I could retract my arms and legs and shelter wholly inside of it like a turtle.

Finally, it allowed me to tell shifty-looking men, most often found lurking inside the dance tent, that it was my boyfriend’s jumper, thus giving them the brush off without the need of a rape alarm.

A silly hat and practical cagoule will also add to this lesser-known fashion

2. Embrace the food.

Take at least £20 with you, even if you plan to take food and alcohol too.

Festivals are getting pretty good at Mexican, Chinese, Indian and English (i.e. chips in gravy) but unless you have the cash you will have to spend four hours in a queue for a portable cash machine that will probably charge you to withdraw money – a crime of gargantuan proportions.

On Saturday evening, when you are sick to death of Snack-a-Jacks, Jaffa Cakes, Cup a Soup and bananas there is nothing better than a cup of hot tea and piping hot fajitas.

3. Don’t buy the t-shirt.

Come on, grow up.

It costs £35 and is hated by everyone in the real world.

Admittedly, while you’re there it might seem like the perfect way to remember the weekend, but outside the hallowed realms of the festival it is the clothing equivalent of wearing a ‘kick me’ sign.

4. Be realistic.

It’s easy to imagine your three-day music festival will be a weekend of camaraderie and an uninterrupted affirmation of friendship with your welly-clad companions.

In actual fact the experience is more likely to resemble a messed up scene from Withnail and I.

Chances are at least one of your mates will turn out to be a raving alcoholic – downing a rough mixture of Asda’s own brand gin, Bargain Booze Vodkat and bottles of red wine with silt in the bottom, stopping to reflect only after they have gone completely blind

Other friends will disappear into the night – only to return 15 hours later, carrying bongs and magic beans and without any explanation for either.

Then there will be the one who doesn’t get festivals and doesn’t like their hair getting messy, who can’t cope with three cereal-bar-based meals a day and three hours sleep a night, and who has wanted to go home ever since their iPod ran out of power.

It’s bad but it could be worse. Rejoice in the fact that they aren’t shooting up heroin by the house party tent, or bringing back fat, fling-seeking married men to your own flimsy plastic abode. But try not to give them any ideas.


4. Pack bottled water, too much food, paracetamol, extra socks and toilet paper.

Sensible advice done.

5. Remember: music festivals are not about the music.

There’s no point attempting to see everything during the weekend, so unless you’re the kind of person who cannot live without an itinerary you might as well enjoy the freefall of it. Maybe decide on three things you’d like to see with a friend and actually make an effort to see at least two of them. Treat the rest of the weekend as a musical all-you-can-eat buffet.

Me, on the second night of the festival, outside the riot tent. Still sporting the silly hat look.

6. Come back and lie through your teeth.

It’s 72 hours and 16mm of rain later. You’ve been cold, half-starved, angry, hung over, fed up. Your ears are still ringing from the headline act, your car got stuck in the mud, some teenager hit you in the face with a bottle in the dance tent (that stupid dance tent) and you now have a growing bump above your eye. You spent all your money and now you have to spend two hours sorting out your stupid tent, which was ripped when some lost drunk person fell through it at 4am last night.

It will probably be great but, whatever happens, make the most of the weekend. Follow the festival tradition: when you get home, tell everyone you had an absolutely amazing time – the best time ever. Make them jealous as hell, eat a massive meal and go to bed with a smug little smile on your face.