Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Just havering about dates

This post has lots of dates in it. It begins with birth dates. It continues with social dates. Next it deals with camels, (don't they eat dates?) follows with a recipe which uses dates and ends up with yet more social dates.

On August 15th, Callum was three. It was the second of his birthdays we've celebrated from Hong Kong via skype. Today, 29th, it's Jamie's first birthday, so we skyped and Callum greeted us by calling, "Happy Birthday!" in the way one would usually say "Happy New Year!" Cute.
On September 3rd, it's Les turn. It's the birthday he almost didn't have, so we will be doing something a bit different (for us). Every evening, we see a garish ferry boat sailing around the harbour outside our window, so we decided to investigate and now we are going to really be tourists in Hong Kong as we join the Bauhinia for the Symphony of Lights dinner cruise for Les birthday.

Our lunch date on Sunday was lovely, although it was a bit surreal to be eating roast beef and Yorkshire pudding outside,in temperatures in the 30s. There were15 of us on the roof terrace of a restaurant with a fanastic view over a yacht club and out to sea, past the very islands where I was so seasick on the June boat trip. Memory is selective, because during the lunch I eagerly signed us up for another boat trip, this time a private "junk" to cruise around the inshore (they promised me; inshore) islands and then moor for swimming and picnic. Now that I have taught myself to swim (or at least not to sink) I may even go in for a wee dip. Did I tell you that? Yes, after 58 years on this earth, I can get across the pool and halfway back without my feet touching the floor. However, I can't seem to get myself horizontal; my legs work away, but like a duck they paddle frantically underwater.

Mahjong is going well, I even won a game on Tuesday.I had a run of good luck, four quick Pungs and a pair of honour tiles to finish. Nice one. Everyone gave me 3 chips.As I can't work out the scoring yet, I've no idea why, but I took it graciously and stuck it in my wee drawer like a real pro.Something to do with my wind. Hmm.

Today I went to the Art museum to mug up on my Chinese art study group topic. I'll be looking at sculptures of  camels in the Tang dynasty. They were used to transport emperors, silk and spices, to carry musicians during processions and had an important function as funerary ornaments.That's about as much as I already know and I have found very little more on which to  base a 14 page paper and a half hour talk. Depressing, especially as I've found loads on Tang horses, which was what I wanted to do originally.Oh well, I suppose I do relish a challenge!

I haven't been back to poetry club  yet, I'm struggling with a halfbaked idea to write a villanelle with a Cantonese line and it's translation as the repeater. It's not going well, but I live in hope.

One of  the very first girls I met here, at Foon Ying ( a welcome to HK group; foon ying means welcome in Cantonese) writes a food blog. This week, she gave a recipe for chocolate truffles with no sugar, no fat, no gluten.... I made them today and they are delicious.Perfect for Les diet. It's amazing to think something that tastes so rich and decadent is harmless!Except to the teeth, I suppose, as they have dried figs and dates in them.Anyway, they are so rich, one (okay, two) is enough.

Tomorrow I 'm away out to Tung Chung to meet up with Elaine and see new wee baby Amy. Then on Friday I'm meeting a friend who has just come back after a summer in the UK. Next week the clubs start back in earnest, Corona on Monday and Book Group on Tuesday.
That's all so far.
See you back here next week? It's a date!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

This week I have been mostly...

This week I've been working on my topic for my Chinese arts study group. I did a bit of work, submitted my first choice...and it was rejected, someone else had already chosen the subject.Back to the library, then.
I've been reading Sea of Poppies for one book group and Death comes to Pemberley for another. I've joined a third book group, this one's a spiritual literacy book group, sounds like my old philosophy class, looking good.We haven't met yet, but I've ordered a couple of the titles from the booklist.

I LOVED the Mah Jong session, I even bought a book about it on the way home. I'm going again on Tuesday, this time for real, not a lesson. I can't imagine why it took me so long to get around to trying it. I think it could be quite addictive. Next thing I'll be geting my own table and set of tiles. Though nowadays they are plastic and have a sparkly back and are kept in a metal or plastic case, ivory being illegal and all that.

I went up to Shenzhen with two friends the other day, they were having dresses made. First of all we visited the seamstress, who listened to their requirements then made a rough sketch of the basic design. Next she measured every aspect of their bodies; apart from the obvious waist, bust, hips and length, she measured tops of arms, elbow to wrist, bust to waist. Then she made a more detailed sketch, asking questions about jacket length, sleeve length and making suggestions as to the best neckline, width of shoulder straps. Every tiny detail was discussed.Next we went wih her to the fabric market where  she whizzed through to her preferred suppliers and in no time at all the girls had selected silk for dresses, contrast silk for jacket, cuffs and piping, cotton for day dresses. We went back to the seamstresses  and she toted it all up...roughly, each girl paid a total of about £100. For that, one  got: 2 silk dresses, a jacket and a wrap and the other  got a silk dress and wrap and two day dresses.All made to measure and will be ready to collect next Thursday. So I'm going back next week with ideas...Whilst there,I bought  two pairs of linen trousers with a nice Chinese knot detail on the leg.The return train fare was the most expensive part of the outing for me and that was only because we travelled first class!
On Friday, Les was off so we went for a wander round Aberdeen. It has a fish market but there the resemblance to my old Uni town ends.We wandered in and out of the market, with fish, meat, eggs and veg on sale as well as towels, shoes, wood, tiles and bathroom fittings. I bought a really comfy pair of sandals, not a  big name brand, just what locals buy. They are great, no sore feet...yet.

Saturday was the usual round of supermarket shopping, then we went to the flower market where I spent the princely sum of £8 and got 3 huge bunches of  flowers: red gerberas, white ranunculas and some fluffy yellow thingy to fill it out. Looks good, but in this heat, it won't last more than a few days.

Tomorrow, we are meeting with a crowd for Sunday lunch, there will be 15 of us altogether, should be good fun. Les is working 3 days again next week, off Monday and Friday,so we are in no hurry to get home after lunch.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Past present future

When I was a wee girl, I remember my Gran had a fancy chest, with ornate doors and tiny velvet lined drawers with beautiful carved tiles inside. Many years later I discovered that they were Mah Jong tiles and my Gran had been a Mah Jong champion, in Paisley, of all places! So far as I know, she had no Oriental influences at all, I also don't recall ever hearing about Mah Jong in Paisley, or anywhere else, until I came to live in HongKong. Here, it is a national pastime and everyone I know plays. So now I've decided to try it. I'm having my first lesson on Wednesday after lunch with friends.

Yesterday we went to an exhibition in Kowloon Heritage Centre in Kowloon Park. It told of the history and development of Tsim Sha Tsui and had fabulous tableaux of Kowloon all made in Lego. The Star Ferry teminal, Kowloon clock tower, Peninsula Hotel and all the other buildings perfectly rendered in Lego. Piece de resistance for us was seeing our building, The Masterpiece, towering over all the others.If you've been here, you'll know which is our apartment, if not, it is the tall white building, about a third of the way down, just under the higher, thin dark area.


Today (Sunday) we are going to Sai Kung for a walk along the prom and a look at all the dogs out for their promenade with coats all brushed and ears and tails dyed neon pink. Yes, really! It's fascinating to watch, especially to see the doggie restaurants with special little high chairs for the dogs, right up at the table.We don't eat there though!

Tomorrow Les is off, so we are going to see Brave, after my morning coffee meeting for chat and catch up.Tuesday it is the monthly Kowloon Coffee meeting, always fun and on Thursday I am going up to Shenzhen for shopping with Katrina and Lynn. One friend is having something made, so I might think about getting a dress copied, although at present I still have I think three, no wait, four dresses from UK I haven't had on yet.
So I'm busy every day up to Friday, when Les will be off again. He's doing well, going into work three days next week, Tuesday Wednesday Thursday.

This computer is steadily becoming obsolete, first all the cable troubes, now the battery is not charging, also the keys are sometimes unresponsive, so I miss out letters, that is, I type them but they don't appear. It's all very frustrating, so I am looking at replacing it. Trouble is, with what? I am leaning towards an iPad, but then I worry about using that for writing, also the display is so small. Then I looked at various notebooks and ultrabooks. I need something more portable than this thing, as we do travel a lot, but as I write a lot  I need a keyboard, hard drive and a big display for skype. Any opinions would be most welcome!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tourists at home

We had a lovely meaty dinner at our favourite Aussie restaurant on Thursday with the guys from Les office. One is from Singapore, so I picked his brains about what to see and do when we get there in October.
Since Les is still off work, we've been tourists in our own (adopted) home city. On Friday, we went to Stanley, wandered round the market, had a nice lunch and sat in the sun for a while. Very relaxing and restful day. On Saturday, we did virtually nothing, just shopping and went into some bookshops for a browse then off to our local pub for a teatime pint.Later we skyped Janie and Peter and saw their newly finished ensuite, it is lovely.
Today (Sunday) we skyped Martin in the morning then took 2 ferries to Lamma for a seafood lunch, very pleasant. The big temperature gauge at the harbour said 30. We had a spot of rain just as we boarded the ferry but by the time we got back to Central it was sunny so we sat on a bench like proper tourists for a while, watching all the ferries coming in from the various outlying islands.
We have just finished the evening exercise programme, I actually enjoy it, I started to encourage Les and keep him company, now I really look forward to it. We have gone from 50 reps of each unit to 95, in about the same time, so we are getting better!When my NIA class resumes in September, I'll be fairly skipping round the hall.
Tomorrow I am meeting some friends for coffee and will make arrangements to go and see Brave, which has just opened here. Les is still off, so we will try another couple of tourist trips this week. I need to keep my hand in for future guests! I had a wee hint this week I might have some at Easter next year! Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

More calamities

Since yesterday's post, the following things have happened: the bedroom a/c was making a dreadful noise, so the maintenance team had to be called. All they did was adjust the setting, so we're not convinced, but at least it has stopped rattling, albeit momentarily. Next, the microwave, which conked out and was "repaired" in April, failed again when I was reheating some food. So I tried to reheat on the stove, where I had cooked it only an hour previously. The stove refused to light, gas coming out but no ignition. I guess the maintenance team will be back pretty soon. The food was a delicious vegetable curry to fit in with the doctor's recommendaton of 2 meat free nights a week. Much to Les dismay, it was still hot enought to eat without the reheat! He'd have been delighted had I had to abandon it and go out to dinner, to let him eat meat.
Better news; Les managed to get the Singapore hotel and flights booked. It wasn't easy, there are travel agencies around for a reason. However, he succeeded and we fly to Singapore for 5 days on 30th September. As a bonus, his hotel loyalty points got us a free trishaw ride round the city. We will be such tourists!
This morning, I was up early as Les got up to take a conference call at 7.00am. So much for sick leave, he lasted all of 3 days back here in HK before work beckoned. We did our exercises and now I am about to go out to meet some friends for coffee and catch up. It looks like a hot one today!

A Chapter of accidents!

So here I am at last! Most of you will know of the unfortunate illness Les suffered whilst in the UK, which caused him to be in hospital for two weeks and still off work now, seven weeks later! But the good old NHS (with a little help from BUPA) got him on the road to recovery. Now, so long as he sticks to the diet and keeps on taking the pills (seven different kinds!) he should be OK. But he won't be climbing mountains anytime soon!

We had a relaxing time in Scotland, going out for the prescribed 2 half hour walks daily, rain or shine and we also managed to catch up with family and friends once Les had recovered sufficiently from his surgery.  It was great to see the boys, Callum is so grown up and Jamie is almost walking! Janie and Peter came up for a long weekend to see Les, not quite as spectacular as visiting him in Hong Kong, but we all enjoyed our time together at Eyemouth and they have vowed to return to HK next year so we can finally do the helicopter trip.

Meantime, at Calamity Central... I hired a car to visit him in hospital, parked it in a quiet corner of a car park and came back to find someone had run into it and driven off without leaving details. £500 to pay. Next, I bought a nice tea towel for our Eyemouth flat, then decided it was too nice to dry dishes, so I framed it, first ironing it flat on the carpet ( I know, I know!) Burnt carpet needs renewing. What else? Well, I  came back to HK, plugged in my computer and BANG!...Remember that new cable I had to to replace in April, well, it blew up, damn near set the apartment on fire! Burn marks on the side of the (rented) sofa (thankfully came off with leather cleaner) New cable purchased this morning. Oh,and Les left his reading glasses on the plane.

On the positive side, I am following Les diet and exercise programme, so I have lost some weight without even trying. I hope to keep at it now we are back in HK. It's very hot and we are having to get used to it all over again.

 Things change rapidly in HK:  we noticed a complete revamp of our shopping centre, including the removal of the lift, its as if it had never been there. Sadly, my handy Dymocks booksellers has gone too, so I need to source another one as I just signed up for their loyalty programme before I left.
I have not yet caught up with any friends as this is the quiet season for expats, many are still in UK, Canada or US for the summer. However, tomorrow (Thursday) I am meeting three friends for coffee, leaving Les to his own devices for a couple of hours. Then in the evening we are meeting up with a work colleague and friend from the US who was recently in our holiday apartment in Eyemouth, so we are looking forward to hearing his experiences. Hopefully he had a couple of days without rain!

Next week, Les will start a slow return to work, with one day at the HK office and one in Shenzhen.He promises to take it easy and follow the doctor's advice of going in for two, then three, then four days before graduating to a full week by September. Whilst he is off, we will combine R&R with a couple of day trips to see places when they are a bit quieter during the week, as usually he only has time at the weekends when things can be a bit crowded.

By September, the expat calendar will be filling up and in fact I already have a booking to go to a local "ghost festival" and Les is coming with me to a talk about "Pirates of the China Seas" Ahrr, Jim lad!

As I write, Les is busy trying to sort out details for our October week holiday, when we hope to go to Singapore. I'll keep you up to date with progress on that, and all the other details of life in Hong Kong.
But for now, I'm away to collect the laundry and then have a cuppa before we do our exercises!
Hup two three!