Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spring is in the air

Last week, the weather was glorious;warm and sunny with a slight fresh breeze. It was good to go out without a jacket although everyone here carries a scarf shawl or pashmina, just in case! I met with some friends to go to the Andy Warhol exhibition and then we had a drink in the outdoor museum cafe, sittng in the sun until it went down over the harbour, just lovely.We've also held a Burns Supper for our "drouthy neebours" which went down well. Haggis travels well when vacuum packed.
I have attended a book group, a meeting with three writers and another meeting to plan our visits to the school where we participate in the English language programme. I am doing two sessions this term I have no time for more as we are preparing for four months of travel and visitors. It is so exciting! In just a couple of weeks we will be in Cebu then shortly after we have Janie and Peter coming for their second attempt, fingers crossed no one gets ill this time.Next up, three more of my Sisterhood pals will land in April for a week, then we go to Melbourne for ten days, back just in time to prepare for Mabel and Julie's visit at the end of April/ beginning of May.
Meantime, we are starting to get out and about at weekends again, so look out for some picture posts soon.

It's a sign!

All the signs pics were taken on the island of Cheung Chau, about a hour on the ferry from Hog Kong. It is a place that likes to tell it as it is. Some signs are self explanatory, some hilarious! (it might be more than just inconvenient that the shark net has been removed, for example!) If you are a pig raiser or a fisherman, I guess on an island of 20,000 people, you would know where the relevant organisations are and would not need signs, especially not signs in English! By contrast, none of the many restaurants catering mainly for tourists had signs in English!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

San nin fai lohk

Hapy New Year! I know, it is already the 17th January, but as you know, time flies and all that. So, what's been happening since my last post? We went to Scotland for Christmas with the grandchildren which was lovely.We managed to squeeze in an overnight to Eyemouth with them, all to ourselves, great fun! Christmas was quiet...well as quiet as it can be with 2 toddlers around! By 5pm they were surrounded by toys and fighting over two plastic coathangers...
I fitted in a long leisurely post Christmas lunch with The Sisterhood and then we flew off to Dubai for New Year.
Our hotel was in the old part of the city, near the museum and about a five minute walk from the creek, just across the water from the gold souk. On the first day, we explored the local area and the hotel and bagged two sunbeds to have a short nap, which tured into a two hour kip. It was so warm and sunny, just what we needed. Batteries recharged, we had dinner in the hotel. It had 6 restaurants so we were spoilt for choice. Both having head colds, a brutal curry was called for and it was delicious.The next day, which was Hogmanay, we took The Big Bus Tour and it proved to be excellent value for money. It included an hour's river boat cruise, which we didn't have time to use, despite catching the 10.30 am bus! We visited all the main attractions around the city and when we hit a major traffic jam managed to snooze for twenty minutes. Oh dear, we are getting old! However, that snooze meant we were able to stay up until 1.30am to see in the New Year in style. First, though, we ventured into the surrounding streets for dinner. I felt a little uncomfortable as I was the only woman in the place. On exiting we noticed a separate "family hall" where all the couples were. In the restaurant itself were groups of young men out on the town. They all wore gleaming white robes (called dishdash) and Arabian head dress, called keffiyeh. They were eating curry with their fingers and not a drop fell on their white robes, unlike me, I was liberally spattered by the time I'd finished.As Dubai is a Muslim country, no alcohol was served in the restaurant and all the guys were drinking pepsi or fanta. We remarked that a boys night out in Scotand on Hogmanay would have been rather  a different sight!
The hotel DID serve alcohol, (Allah and all the other Gods be praised), so we went to the bar to bring in the New Year. What a spectacle! There were men in white tuxedos, ladies in long gowns, feather boas, party hats and trumpets, starry glitter on the table, the whole works. The live band was wonderful. I have to say, I had not wanted to go, but I am so glad I stayed awake long enough!
On New Years Day we visited the museum across the road and then caught the coach for our dune safari trip. This was a real white knuckle ride, out across the sand dunes in a big 4WD jeep, ending at a Bedouin Camp where we had a camel ride before dinner and the entertainment .We were entertained by a whirling dervish and a belly dancer, I had my hand painted with the traditional mehndi, henna flowers all across the back of my hand. An Indian lady at the next table explained that once it dried, in about an hour, I could scrape it off. It looked quite pale and faded, but she promised me it would darken by morning and she was right! I thought I'd cut my hand in the night. It lasted for about a week, a lovely memento of our trip. The ride back across the dunes was even more exciting; now, as well as no roads, we had complete inky black darkness and other jeeps loomed up beside us and then veered off just in time. It was all quite "touristy" but sometimes it is easier to just go with the flow. As we get older, we don't feel the same need to explore "the places the tourists don't go" We've now actually lived in some of them!
We returned to HK on 2 January with a complimentary upgrade to First Class which was lovely. We took advantage of all the offerings in the first class lounge. I had a massage, Les had a manicure, then we had our shoes shined, sitting up on one of those big chairs you see in the movies. Our breakfast was served in the lounge, poached eggs with Loch Fyne Kippers and champagne. Most appropriate for a Scottish post Ne'erday breakfast, don't you think?
However, I was so full that I didn't eat anything on the flight, though I managed a wee glass or two of white wine, of course!Oh, and a selection of sandwiches and a couple of chocolates.
Since our return, Les has been back to work of course and I have been busy catching up with friends. Two more departures were announced this week, an English lady off to live in Australia and another going back to England. Meantime, I've met another two ladies in the lift in our apartment and become quite friendly with them. We've done various things as a group or in pairs, such as: shopping in Shenzhen, visiting the art museum to see an Andy Warhol exhibition, shopping for a wok, attending a session on the history and traditions of Chinese weddings and also one on how to make a Cheong Sam and knot those little Chinese buttons. I'm a dab hand at that!
I havae also spent a couple of days with my leg strapped up, elevated and with an ice pack to reduce swelling sustained when I fell spectacularly one day last week. It is getting better now, and all my friends have been so kind. One lent me her maid for a couple of hours to do my ironing, another poured me pints of gin (it is so as not to waste the half can of tonic, she assures me,and although it struck me that we could have had a can between us, I was in no position to argue!)
So January is starting out in style! Coming up, my three different book groups will be meeting. We will discuss: The Faith Club, a story of a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim. Then in another, we are reading Anna Karenina, to coincide with the film opening here. In the third, we are reading Middlesex and I have to say it is the one I like the best of the three for this month. It is so beautifullty written; the descriptions of people and places are amazing and the words just fly off the page. A masterpiece.Read it, if you haven't already.