Friday, March 27, 2009

London and the US. 7

Don Teodoro

doesn't feature in any Lonely Planet guide for London. Why should it? It caters to a very exclusive community of portuguese expats that hang around that side of town. The atmosphere is shabby and ran down even when compared to a small village café in the forsaken countryside of Portugal. The only thing that shines is the TV, for that is the main raison d'être of Don Teodoro: football matches.

As Dona Maria Olívia brought us the chouriços and superbocks, I couldn't help but overhear the owner of the place - sitting at a table close to ours - talk to a veteran soldier of the colonial wars. The veteran, as we were informed, is trying to buy Don Teodoro from Sr. Pereira. The words "evitar pagar o tax" kept popping up during the conversation. We were also told that if the deal comes through, they might diversify the kitchen's menu and start serving some chicken african style, etc. Dona Olívia doesn't know if she will remain in charge of the kitchen then.

The reward of coming to Don Teodoro comes towards the end of dinner, when you ask Dona Olívia for a cafézinho.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

London and the US. 6

Politeness and bye

I couldn't help but notice how my sister, who has lived in this town for a few years, plans her social affairs a good week a head. She informed it was a common attitude here; still, I thought that most of the Portuguese or Goans stranded in London would retain the custom of going out or inviting a close friend to go out on an impulse - say, on a friday night at tennish.

Well, both Portuguese and Goans adapt quite fast to this new mentality. And some might even find it impolite if you don't follow this etiquette.

Anyway, when the objective is to follow the nocturnal diversion of the town you're in, you might as well adapt to your surroundings.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

London and the US. 5


You can't measure hospitality - it's either present or absent. It consists in the difference between a host that shows interest in you and wants to share something and the host who avoids you and treats you as a nuisance, making you feel unwelcome.
After a fortnight in London town, I finally got a taste of English hospitality.

Over dinner, in a typical house near Sloane Square, our hosts shared with us savoury moments and conversations. The topics included Anglo-portuguese relations in India; the various ecological concerns of an English country-house; and the recent memories of humanitarian work at a hospitable in Moçambique.

I will not elongate on the food our hosts cooked for us - but it was delicious.

Here's to Hans Sloane. Cheers!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

London and the US. 4

Hammersmith and City.
She came in the carriage and asked a young asian boy to give up his seat to her. He shifted a couple of seats down. Sitting down with a big bag and her strange clothes, she turned towards him and started an apparently inane conversation; only that she did so shouting with a very angry voice.

"Today I cleaned up my room, I did! All spec and clean for my Amie to cook! she comes around sundays you know! Yeah, all nice and tidy! No one can complain now! Because those people! You know who they are, oh they're vicious mind you! Yeah but they can't say a word now! All spec and clean and mind you! I even cleaned behind the stove and those high shelfs! Amie comes around on sundays, you know!

She shouted so loud everyone was gazing at her. The poor boy was naturally in pain. Eventually, she started talking to other people.

(There's alway a crazy person on the bus)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

London and the US. 3

Rsponse from the British Library

Dear Mr Mendiratta

Thank you for your email detailing your experiences in the Asian & African Reading Room last week. I am sorry the problems you encountered hampered your research and that you found some of the staff to be unprofessional. I forwarded your message to the Reading Room Manager who will be raising the issues you have listed at her next staff meeting.

I apologise for the problems you experienced with the reader call light system. In the next couple of days, the Reading Room manager will be carrying out checks on all the desk lights and lamps and any lights found not to be working will be replaced.

The member of staff was wrong to inform you that you could not order any more material. Issue desk staff have been briefed to either order more items by proxy (on behalf of the reader), or to suggest that the reader requests a temporary extension to their reader limit (this can easily be arranged and in a short space of time). I regret that this did not happen in your case.

I am sorry that you were disturbed by the staff talking. We are aware sound does travel in the reading rooms and have reminded staff to speak quietly. A certain amount of noise is inevitable at busy issue desks, staff do have to communicate with each other and of course answer readers' queries, but we will remind staff again of the need to keep noise to a minimum.

I am very concerned by the observation you made regarding a fallen book and the staff member's response. A book can slip from a trolley if its not stacked correctly, but in a situation like that we would expect any member of staff to pick the book up immediately and to check for any damage. The Reading Room Manager has already raised this issue with the staff who were working on the Issue Desk during your visit and reminded them of the correct procedure.

I would like to apologise again for the unsatisfactory experience you had. The British Library prides itself on delivering good customer service and it is very disappointing to hear that we have fallen short of our own high standards. I do hope that your next visit will be more successful.

Yours sincerely

Sunday, March 08, 2009

London and the US. 2

Letter to the British Library [abridged]

from: Sidh Losa Mendiratta, architect and PhD student
to: Service Improvement, The British Library
sub.: Asia, Pacific and Africa room improvement

Dear Sirs,

I have been using the Asia, Pacific and Africa room for the last three days [...] and have found, to my disappointment, that various issues seriously hamper my academic research there - and probably that of other researchers. The British Library is proud of being an Institute for researchers, as every new member is inormed by the staff on arrival. And I believe that, in general, members comply with the Library rules and acknowledge the monumental importance of the Institution. If the users stick to the rules, it is only fair that they should expect the staff working in the library to stick to their own rules and commitments of service towards the users. In these last three days, I have found that part of the staff at the Asia, Pacific and Africa room has not carried out at leat one of these commitments and has in other forms shown un-professional attitudes. This is what happened:

1. I was informed, on my first day, that the orders placed on the computers in the room would be available within a maximum period of 70 minutes and that, when the material would be available to be procured from the main desk, a red signal light would appear in my seating place. In these three days, this light didn't switch on once. When the 70 minutes had expired, I went to the main desk and enquired and only then my requested material was delivered to me. [...] And I couldn't help but to have the strong feeling my requested material had been languishing on the main desk for quite sometime. If the signal light system is not working, users should be clearly informed.
2. In one situation, I requested ten items when I arrived in the morning. Enquiring after the 70 minutes about my order, I was told that six out of those ten items were not available because they were awaiting repair. I asked if I could place another additional order to substitute the six items that were not available. The staff rejected this request what I found to be unfair.
3. The next day, a very similar situation happened. This time, my request was only granted after the intercession of a staff member not working in the main desk.

Other un-professional attitudes:

B. One staff member dropped a heavy book as she was carrying it in a cart, behind the main desk. She failed to pick it up and returned to her working place. When a user (who, like me, had seen this) informed her of the book lying on the floor, thinking she had failed to notice it (so much was the noise at that moment in the front desk), the staff member said "It's ok, I'll pick it up later". The book fell next to a doorway.
I would like to express my thanks to other staff members that have been quite helpful. I would also like to make a more formal suggestion if the Library feels that it would be helpful for service improvement.

Thank you for your attention,

Sidh Losa Mendiratta
user 823680

Friday, March 06, 2009

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

London and the US. 1

Faux pas in Wiesbaden

En route to the city of London, I chanced upon a small and cozy party in the town of Wiesbaden. Here I met my old friend I. and naturally our conversation led us back to India and into my recent research about Indo-european stories. After a while, a woman sat close to us, casually eavesdropping on our lively debate as she talked to other germans. Eventually, I. asked me if I was looking forward to my stay in London. To which I replied "Well, I don't like english people in general, you know". I was going to elaborate and somehow justify the rather obnoxious statement but couldn't because the woman next to us burst out in a loud laughter that caught the attention of the whole affair of the party.
"Oh my God!" she said in tones of cockney. Athough she had been talking all the time in perfect german, she was a subject of her Majesty and just couldn't believe her ears.
What could I do? I stumbled upon an apology and tried to wriggle my way out of the hole surrounding me. To no avail - the english woman made it a point to let everyone know what had been the cause of her startle and indignation and I had to endure the ensuing dissaproval of the gathering untill retreating quietly back into my quarters.