Saturday, July 30, 2011

August is almost here

I can't believe it is August already! Time really does fly when one is enjoying oneself. Since my last post, I've been co-opted onto a committee, hosted a "girls night in", visited the Museum of History, Jade Market and Botanical Gardens and had a lovely afternoon over at Tung Chung with Elaine and wee Hannah, who is geting bigger every time we meet. She is not so shy around me now, even letting me read to her and play "this little piggy". And she happily ate all the blueberries off my cheesecake. I've been back to the library and borrowed among others a book of short stories by Chinese author Eileen Chang. They are told in traditional style but with a modern (ish) slant, written I think in the fifties or sixties whilst she was exiled in the US. The have lovely titles, like "Jasmine Tea" and "Aloeswood Incense" and are set in Hong Kong or Shanghai.Now we are going out for a walk;madness in this heat, but Les sees very little of our surroundings so I'm going to take him on a local tour.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More about the Book Fair

Can you tell I enjoyed it? I didn't tell you yet about the open floor session with David Starkey, Tom Parker Bowles, Nicholas Coleridge and A A Gill. It was very interesting, all four spoke very well. David Starkey was funnier than I'd imagined him, A A Gill was as acerbic as I'd thought he would be, I had never heard of Nicholas Coleridge so had no expectations, but he was also good fun. The biggest surprise for me was Tom Parker Bowles, who was funny, self-effacing and at times serious when talking about his job as a journalist. Big surprise to me; I'd quite wrongly assumed he'd be a bit of a "Hoorah Henry" and got where he is on the back of his family's fame (or infamy). The session was chaired by Sir David Tang, a HK businessman and wit who may have watched Dimbleby on"Question Time" in the UK? ("Yes, you, the man in the powder blue shirt, oh, you're a woman, I do apologise") Anyway, great fun was had by all. Like all of the events I attended, it was a full house; the huge theatre space was full and still they kept coming, sitting on the floor, standing in the aisles.The theatre officially seats 600 so I'm guessing easily 800 in there? The first 100 people to turn up were given a free book by one of the four. Guess who was number 102?

Hong Kong Book Fair Images

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hong Kong Book Fair

From the train station, the route to the Fair is clearly marked in bright orange signs. The tourist ticket counter is green; I of course just passed on by as I live here. My superpass also means I go in via the VIP entrance. Just like when I travel, dahlings, I prefer to avoid the hoi polloi. As I neared the entrance, uniformed stewards sheperded the economy class crowds to the correct doorway and there was a tangible excitement amongst the throngs heading inwards. The exit routes are also clearly marked and separated from the entry lines by crowd control barriers; exceptional crowd management strategies and very, very necessary. All this and we are only two days in! If weekdays are as busy as that, I'll be avoiding the weekend. The Fair continues until Tuesday which is great, as I discovered yesterday that there is a whole floor upstairs I haven't even been to!
Wendy Cope was very funny and thanked me for raising the copyright issue in my question at the open floor session. She got right up onto that hobby horse and even questioned the film camera man as to the purpose of his filming, reminding him that he didn't have her permission to upload any of her readings to the internet. The Fair is wonderful and my superpass will pay for itself by tonight's visit. I've never seen so many people enthuse over books. There were students staggering under armfuls of set texts, waving reading lists; mums and toddlers sitting on the floor sorting through shopping baskets loaded with picture books; teenagers grabbing graphic novels, expats like me picking through the bargain bins ( I found 2 at $10 each, that's less than £1 each). At some stalls, the stallholders had microphones and were extolling the merits of their wares, gathering massive crowds who blocked the aisles. The were like the guys at homes and garden exhibitions with the magic knives or stain removers, except they were talking about books! Yes, those things I've spent my life encouraging reluctant teens to pick up. Yet here they were, practically trampling each other in their eagerness to get their hands on ...well, anything, really, or so it seemed to me. Some people came with trolley suitcases to haul away their booty of books and you can even buy a special book fair trolley for that very purpose.
I took pictures on my new phone and I will post them just as soon as I figure out how to send them to myself!

Thursday already?

Tuesday morning I had my first 2 hour Cantonese lesson. I can now count to 20 (and therefore to any number) tell the time and know the words for dollar, me, he/she and they, prawns, fish, rain (very similar but it's all in the tone) crab and vegetables. So at least we'll have a varied diet and I can talk about the weather. As it is either raining or has been raining ( I know both these) I am sorted. No word yet for sun but that doesn't matter in July as there isn't much. Relief...I DON'T have to write anything,unlike poor Les who had his first Mandarin lesson on Wednesday and does have to do the writing/reading. Well anyway that's 2 hours down...just another...98 to go.
This week's outings included a trip back to the second hand furniture store with two friends, a return visit to the Chi Lin Nunnery (in the rain this time) and two visits to the Hong Kong Book Fair, of which more later.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Another week, another pot of coffee

Friday's coffee morning also lasted well past lunchtime! Four of us went to the island to be shown a fab supermarket ( ok, I know that doesn't sound exciting, but it was full of interesting foodstuffs from all over the world) Lunch was at a members club on the roof at the pool and the hostess generously bought us all a glass of wine. The weekend started early! Luckily Les was very late home so I was able to eat dinner as it was so late! We went to a newly opened restaurant for their opening deal which comprised oysters, lobster bisque, lamb chops and fresh fruit. It was very good value.On Saturday morning we went over to the island to try out a street market. We bought fruit, veg and fresh herbs.The evening BBQ was wonderful, although it was a bit wet. It's not just in Scotland you can't plan an outdoor event, then! On Sunday we were looking out of the window and we spotted some colourful umbrellas in the open space near the art museum. We hoped it might be something interesting, but alas it was only some photography booths. Instead, we walked to the Star Ferry Terminal and looked for the preserved graffiti by the acclaimed "King of Kowloon" Tsang Tsou Choi (pronounced a bit like John Joe Choy). He proclaimed he was the emperor of Kowloon and that the government was cheating him out of his birthright, so for fifty years he went around writing protest graffiti all over Kowloon. At first the authorities deemed him a nuisance and painted over his graffiti, but he soon had a cult following in the art world and his work has been used on CD covers, T-shirt slogans etc. By the time of his death in 2007, he had had exhibitions all over the world and was even featured in a TV ad for a cleaner, shown wiping away grafitti!

We lazed by the pool in the afternoon, a much needed rest for both of us. Les of course has been hard at work whilst I have been hard at play! Honestly, it is very exhausting fitting in all these social events!

Here's a pic of the graffiti

Today(Monday) I was treated to a very posh afternoon tea in the Mandarin Oriental hotel and also received a bottle of champagne! It was a thankyou from Elaine and Martin for allowing them the use of our holiday apartment whilst they were in Scotland for Gillian's wedding.Nice one!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Weekend almost here again

Although it says Thursday at the top of the post, it is actually Friday morning here.It's been a really quick week for some reason. I went to the first coffee morning on Wednesday which resulted in a plan to have an outing next Wednesday morning. A group of us are going to the Chi Lin Nunnery. I know, I've already been, but it will be fun to go again with a group of women, even it it's just to say,"Oh, look at the colours, isn't that beautiful" etc. Thursday's coffee morning went on to include lunch and resulted a BBQ invite for us for Saturday evening, should be fun. Today I am about to venture forth in torrential rain to the third coffee morning, who knows what it will bring!
Wednesday evening's poetry group was fun, none of my usual friends was there but the group is starting to get to know me and I spoke to loads of people between readings; it's nice to go in someplace and people say, "Hello, Joyce". I read Seamus Heaney's "Death of a naturalist", a bit of a risk in a group that includes a professor with one of his THREE degrees being in Anglo-Irish literature. Funny reading that back..."The Three Degrees... and I've not ever heard him sing! Unlike last week where two people sang songs, but that's a different story. Anyway, the reason I read that poem was because the week before, he'd said Liz Lochhead's "Revelation" reminded him of it and although it also looks at rite of passage and male coarseness, I don't think it has the same undertones of male aggression or domestic violence. Discuss.Comments welcome.
By the way, I want to state here that I BOUGHT and PAID for the Kindle downloads of the two full length books of poetry, I don't want anyone to think I am abusing copyright or cheating poets out of their hard earned crust! Especially as next week I'm going to see Wendy Cope who is legendary for her robust opposition to poetry for free on the internet and has instructed her agents to remove forthwith anything of hers that appears for free. Good for her!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I'll make this a quick post because I am going out this morning to a welcome coffee morning for newcomers to Hong Kong. (I'm also going out for coffee tomorrow morning and on Friday morning...). As well as that, I'll have my weekly poetry group tonight. Such a social whirl!
Next week, my Cantonese lessons begin. I'm not sure yet what to make of this; part of me wants to learn at least enough to buy from markets and part of me shies from what will probably be quite difficult, especially as others have told me there is an expectation that learners do at least a little writing. It looks so complex! I'll tell you more about it once I've had my first lesson.
I took Les to Lamma for lunch on Saturday, it was very hot but the ferry trip over and back was cool and refreshing.On Sunday we went to a huge shopping mall to buy some kitchen utensils. What a nightmare! First we got two trains then looked for the free shuttle bus....the queue was literally a mile long. At least. We queued for about 15-20 minutes. I was almost on the verge of opting for a taxi but as Les said, we are tryng to live as locals so we need to do as they do, which meant queuing in boiling heat in an underground car park for the free bus. When we got to the mall, it was as you might expect jam packed. The bus queued for ages to get in to the drop off point. Frustrated passengers were getting out of cars in the car park queue, leaving their hapless spouses to wend their way to the carparks, all of which seemed to have a "FULL" sign on them.
We found a Jusco and managed to hit it on a sale weekend, so with lighter pockets and heavier bags we gave up on Ikea and the rest of the mall and lugged our wares back to the free bus then the two trains home. If I need to go again, I'll go on a weekday.Apparently thay have a giant bookstore there but I don't think it would be relaxing there with that amount of people. The gym there is one of the venues I was considering for joining for the weekly zumba class, but on second thoughts, I'll look for somewhere easier to get to. Two trains, a bus and a long hot walk is enough of a workout on its own. I do miss zumba though and I certainly need the exercise, so yesterday morning I looked out the zumba CD Lisa burned for me and had my own wee private class right here in our livingroom! It was great fun, I boogied on down by myself doing as many steps as I could remember and improvising the rest. The warm up and cool down I remembered well and just shoogled about for the rest of an hour. Still fun, still sweaty, but I missed the banter. I just wanted to be sure I could still do at least a bit before I go to join a class full of Skinny Minnies in lycra. Anyway, must shoot off now to my first of three coffee mornings.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

About books

My "Super Pass for Book Lovers" for the Hong Kong Book Fair 20-27 July
I've joined the library!

I'm going to be immersed in books! I've taken out an "access all areas" pass for the upcoming Hong Kong Book Fair and as well as just going along to look, read, buy and author-spot as I do in Edinburgh every year, I've registered for two sessions, one with poet Wendy Cope and the other with a fabulous panel including David Starkey, A.A. Gill and Tom Parker-Bowles(?) Not sure how literary he is, but I'll tell you after the event.

I joined the Hong Kong Public Library Service and came back with a bagful of books about China and Hong Kong. Since I don't have my personal librarians to renew my loans out here, (thanks Ann and Jean), I'll need to remember to take them back on time. I've put a reminder on my new phone, but I'll probably just wonder why it's beeping at me in two weeks time.

Remember ages ago I gave you my predictions for the Orange Prize? Well, guess what, I'm rubbish at predicting winners! Tiger's wife won, I've read it and it was very good even though I didn't think it would win. The other contenders are now doing the rounds of the summer lists, so we'll see how they do.

The weather has been hot hot hot and, for a change, no rain and few clouds so it feels less humid. It's one thing being in the heat if you are on holiday and just sitting around, but when you need to be out and about doing things, shopping, etc, it is draining. Goodness knows how those poor souls who need to go to work are coping. Heh Heh!Les is managing fine, he doesn't really need to be outside to get to and from work as he can access the train from the apartment's basement level and is met by a minibus at the Chinese end, same on the way home. We did go down to the pool for half an hour last night and then after dinner went for a walk to get some air when it cooled down a little.

Jen has a working computer at last so we got to see Callum last night, no sound from their end, but we conquered that by phoning them at the same time. Thank goodness for technology. I've also skyped Martin and Renee and Janie and Peter this week, so if you haven't downloaded VOIP (Skype is free), do it now and drop me an email or fb message and you too can converse with us and see us ( and us you) in glorious technicolour.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Get thee to a nunnery

Column with Buddhas
Plaque at entrance
Interior courtyard with bronze incense burner
Courtyard view

Well, no sign of Hamlet but this Ophelia did indeed get herself to a nunnery, the Chi Lin Buddhist Nunnery to be exact. What a beautiful, peaceful place. However, in Hong Kong you are always in the city. I tried to avoid skyscrapers in the pictures but you may get a glimpse in the distance! The parts I could not photograph were in fact the most impressive. The Buddha shrines were jaw droppingly beautiful; immense Buddha statues in brass, wood, clay and porcelain. However it is an active place of worship and not possible to photograph. The other pictures are taken in the adjacent Nan Lian Garden, an oasis of calm in the city. I had lunch in the snack bar; vegetarian, of course, being in a buddhist nunnery!

L-R View from Lotus Walk ; Pefect Pavillion ; Lotus flower in the Lotus Pond

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A week in the life...

I've had a surprisingly busy week, which I wasn't expecting! Les went to the US early on Monday for the week, so I thought it would be fairly quiet round here, with no shirts and less cooking. Not so! On Monday I had to wait in all day for various deliveries.Between 9-11am the telephone linesman, followed between 1-2.30pm by cable TV and internet connection. For some reason I expected that I would also be given two handsets, I seem to remember that from an email somewhere, but in the end I had to dash out to buy some so I could be connected, since I had already given a shop the house line number to arrange delivery of lamps between 4-7. The phone duly rang and the lamps arrived, swiftly followed by the electrician to repair the bedroom chandelier. I say electrician singular, in fact there were three of them, plus two from the building team who brought ladders of ever increasing length, all to no avail. The lamp has been returned to their workshop and I now look up at a hole in the ceiling! A new lamp is to be delivered next Wednesday.By the time everyone had gone and I had skyped all the family (except David ...BUY A NEW COMPUTER, BOY!) I was feeling a little stir crazy so I went out and walked around the still bustling streets for an hour just to get some fresh air. To be accurate, just to get air, its not so fresh in a city in 32 degrees with 90% humidity, but still...

Tuesday saw the delivery of my beautiful Chinese cabinet, shown here, which is to be used as a less than traditional ( but essential, surely,) drinks cabinet. You can see the outside, the door fastening and the inside which is lined in what looks like illustrated newsprint and I LOVE it! I got it from a second hand store about an hour from here. Just going there is an outing in itself and it is like Aladdin's Cave when you finally get there after two trains, a walk and the lift up into an old industrial building out in the New Territories.

On Wednesday, I visited the art museum and then attended a free concert of Haydn, Beethoven and Brahms, played by a Finnish quartet. In the evening, I was brave enough to read two poems at the weekly poetry group I've been going to, I read a Chinese poem ( in translation ! Doh!) and a Liz Lochhead.

On Thursday, I joined a Women's Group in the morning and a book giving charity in the afternoon. In the evening I met my friend at an event where we had to drink beer, not hard work in this heat, to donate to the book charity. The celeb was Australian cricketer Shane Watson and although it's cheesy, I had my pic taken with him.

Friday was the 14th aniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China and although there were parades and protests on the island around Government house, I saw nothing of it here and spent the day doing housework and ironing, boring but essential.

Today I walked for miles in search of an authentic steel wok with a long wooden handle and a double bamboo steamer for inside. Success! Then I took a bus straight to the HK Cultural Centre for my second free concert this week! It was an outdoor performance of the Hong Kong Police Band and the People's Liberation Army Band. Stirring stuff! I felt a wee twinge of homesickness when the HK Police Pipe Band played Highland Cathedral and Auld Lang Syne, all the more amusing as a traditional Chinese junk in full sail went by. The "E" intro was perfect, David, but the drumming was loud and strident. Couldn't see if they were playing Canmore or hide. There were 12 pipers, 2 tenors (no flourishes), 4 snares and a bass. On the way home I stopped at a street food stall, called a dai pai dong, for a "bubble tea" which is not tea at all, but coconut milk with sago floating in it (the bubbles) . It was delicious, although probably very fattening!

Now as I write the sun is setting over the harbour and the lights are coming on in the convention centre, where last night I watched the crowds going in for the Kylie concert, a sell out according to today's newspaper. Now I'm about to go and scrub out and season my new wok and play around with dinner ingredients. If it turns out to be a disaster, there's no shortage of eateries a stone's throw from the apartment!