Saturday, October 24, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Let Us Bring Back Letter Writing!!!
Friday, June 26, 2009
Have you read any of these books?
Friday, June 19, 2009
Hong Kong Cultural Centre
On Monday night I took a break from reading and indulged myself in one of my other pleasures: music. A neighbour of mine in the village had been so impressed with the singing of some slightly inebriated members of The HKG Welsh Male Voice Choir (yes, there really is a HK Welsh Male Voice Choir), throughout the course of the recent Hong Kong Sevens Tournament, that when she saw an ad in a local magazine for a concert featuring said choir, she asked me if I fancied going along too. 'Of course, why not!' said I, always ready to do something slightly different than stay indoors on a wet Monday evening. So off we trotted to the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall. The building itself is very impressive and the list of upcoming concerts quite amazing, everything from Swan Lake to Sing-a-long evenings, quite something.
Foyer at HKCC advertising all the upcoming events.
The concert Hall itself was a sight to behold and for two hours we were entertained by three choirs, including the boys from Wales and two a cappella groups.
The Concert Hall
My favourite group of the evening were the HKFYG Hong Kong Melody Makers. This is a youth choir established in 2004 by the Hong Kong Federation Youth Groups and sponsored by the Dragon Foundation.It's aims are to reflect Hong Kong's vivacity and give voice to the city's cosmopolitan spirit. Choir members are young people with outstanding artistic talent whose passion for music benefits the community. As well as performing live in concert the Melody Makers often take their show on the road and offer free concerts around Hong Kong. Take a look at these links here to see an example of their work.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIKkY54AM1Q Melody Makers free public concert
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yu4mF-KeevQ Melody Makers singing about barbecue pork buns
As well as Melody Makers and The HK Welsh Male Voice Choir we were entertained by Kassia Women's Choir, enthralled by Soho Collective (a female a cappella group) and delighted by Kassia Children's choir - Hullaballo who sang their little hearts out. A thoroughly enjoyable evening and now I am going to look out for the next appearance of Melody Makers.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
THREE NAMES YOU GO BY:
3. Sweets (Steve being silly usually!)
THREE SCREEN NAMES YOU HAVE HAD:
THREE PHYSICAL THINGS YOU LIKE ABOUT YOURSELF:
1. My eyes
2. My hands - (when my nails are a reasonable length)
3. My neck - (when I have administered my Clarins neck cream!)
THREE PHYSICAL THINGS YOU DON’T LIKE ABOUT YOURSELF:
1. My feet - (they are horrible)
2. My knees - (thanks dad!)
3. That I can no longer fit into a size 8 (wow, that was a long time ago, too)
THREE PARTS OF YOUR HERITAGE:
3. And, although I hate to admit it - French (the family were champagne makers so if I had to be French at all this is, without doubt, a good enough heritage:)
THREE THINGS THAT SCARE YOU:
1. Letting people down.(same as Dot)
2. The BNP.(Cannot believe these guys are for real)
3. Cockroaches (one of only two living things I will kill without remorse. If faced with a mosquito I may have to see that off, too)
THREE OF YOUR EVERYDAY ESSENTIALS:
1. A glass of wine (say no more)
2. My laptop (to stay connected with my friends and family)
3. A pen - (love to know I can jot things down as they come into my head which is very often becasue I have an over-active imagination)
THREE THINGS YOU ARE WEARING NOW:
1. Shorts - it is very warm and humid today (another bad hair day).
2. Bright pink sleeveless top - (for the same reason)
3. Nothing else other than underwear, of course, not even flip flops, the tiles are cooler on my feet.
THREE OF YOUR FAVORITE BANDS OR MUSICAL ARTISTS:
1. Coldplay - (Chris Martin rocks!)
2. Oasis - (I'm a convert since going to see them live here in Hong Kong in April)
3. Nigel Kennedy - (genius violinist of mammoth proportions)
THREE OF YOUR FAVORITE SONGS RIGHT NOW:
1. Don't Panic - Coldplay (I know it is oldish but I love it)
2. True Love - Bing Crosby (because it was one of my dad's favourites and he used to sing it all the time. I can hear him now)
3. Nature Boy - Nat King Cole (I used to sing this to my boys when they were growing up and it will always remind me of singing them to sleep when they were tired or sick)
THREE THINGS YOU WANT IN A RELATIONSHIP:
TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:
1. I once ate bat
2. I once sang a duet with Ronan Keating
3. I came down a black run on my first skiing trip
THREE PHYSICAL THINGS ABOUT THE PREFERRED SEX THAT APPEAL TO YOU:
1. Dark Hair (shortish)
2. Broad shoulders and slim waist (as in David Beckham's or Cristiano Ronaldo's example)
3. Big eyes (Blue or green - preferably green)
THREE OF YOUR FAVORITE HOBBIES:
1. Reading and writing
2. X Stitching
3. Making jewellery (especially stringing pearls and wirework)
THREE THINGS YOU WANT TO DO REALLY BADLY RIGHT NOW:
1. Make dinner
2. Go for a walk
3. Have a glass of wine (it is 8 o'clock somewhere!)
THREE CAREERS YOU’RE CONSIDERING/YOU’VE CONSIDERED:
1. Writer (although I have only ever written a couple of things and nothing on the scale of a book)
2. Chef (I love to cook but only when I want to so I guess that wouldn't work)
3. Airline Pilot (I've always thought I could easily fly a plane after all the flying I have done in my life)
THREE PLACES YOU WANT TO GO ON VACATION:
1. Provence (never been there although I have been to France a gazillion times)
2. Belize (my nephew is stationed there and I haven't seen him for 23 years)
3. Memphis Tennessee with a stop off in London so I can visit my boys.
THREE NAMES YOU LIKE:
1. Nicholas (we almost called our youngest this name but my husband said that kids would call him nicker-less, so we didn't)
(I haven't really got a thing for arch-angels, I just love the sound of those names)
THREE THINGS YOU WANT TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE:
1. Spend more time with my kids and the family
2. Take my dads ashes to Australia (He loved it there when we took him on holiday and I promised him I would take him back again)
3. Help my boys in any way I can.
THREE WAYS THAT YOU ARE STEREOTYPICALLY A GIRL:
1. I have a major thing for cute shoes
2. I love sparkly things
3. I have a really bad day when my hair sucks
THREE WAYS THAT YOU ARE STEREOTYPICALLY A BOY:
1. I love watching sport
2. I understand the beauty of silence during a film
3. I know how the off-side rule works
Let me know what your answers are.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
*Some Fanatical Germans*
*A Jewish Fist Fighter*
*and Quite a Lot of Thievery*
Have you read this book? (If not, why not :)
Sunday, June 7, 2009
I'm on a roll reading chic-lit books at the moment and have just finished my very first Katie Fforde book, Wedding Season, which I really enjoyed. The story is very simple and the outcome really predictable, but then, it is a total fairytale, so what else do you expect?
There are three girls who have formed a relationship with each other by working together on weddings. Sarah is the super organised, wedding planner who does not believe in love, Elsa is an accomplished dress designer who is painfully shy and always wears black in order to blend into the background and Bron is a multi-talented make-up artist, hairdresser and cake maker who is caught in a loveless relationship that she would prefer not to be in. So......bring on Hugo the mysterious, who is a well connected internationally renowned photographer, Laurence the Reliable, who is a non drinker and always called upon to be the Best Man at friends weddings and James the unkempt gardener, who is also a gifted art designer and floral artist. Voila! You know as well as I do what is going to happen and the pleasure of reading this book is that along the way some amusing things occur to the main characters and lots of other interesting people are introduced to the story. I particularly liked Fen and Rupert, Pat and her cooking pals and Mrs Lennox-Feathersone.
The characters are well drawn and the situations they find themselves in are on the whole, more or less, believable. There are a couple of things that I could not quite take on face value and had to put down to artistic license - one is that Elsa manages to make and enhance, in less than two weeks, the replica of a dress which had originally taken her two years to make from start to finish and somehow, Bron, who had had some previous success making and decorating train engine birthday cakes, manages to understand how to design, cook and decorate one of the most elaborate wedding cakes I have ever heard described and she had never actually seen the original cake herself. This all adds to the 'cuteness' of the book, in my opinion. It is a fairytale after all, so why not have a little bit of the impossible in there too! The only thing that did grate on my nerves a little was the number of times Ms Fforde linked the word 'professional' to Sarah's character. The picture portrayed is that as Sarah is a professional she could not possibly be in love, too, almost as if being 'a professional' and being in love with someone were mutually exclusive........I couldn't quite get my head around the thought process.
I can forgive all of these small things, though, because this is such a light hearted, easy, summer read which deserves to be consumed whilst sitting in the garden on a warm sunny afternoon, book in one hand and a glass of chilled white wine in the other. Lovely!
Have you read this or any other Katie Fforde books?
Which is your favourite Fforde book?
Romance novels - Love them or hate them ?
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Vince and Joy meet each other on a camp site where they are holidaying with their parents. Joy is 18 and Vince is almost 19 when they meet and they fall madly and completely in love with each other. Joy's parents are in their 60's and Vince's are much younger and trendier. Vince and Joy are made for each other and they spend as much time together, away from their parents, as they can. One night whilst the couple are frolicking in the woods, their parents get into an altercation which ends up in a fight between Joy's dad and Vince's step dad. When Vince and Joy return home that night, all is not well and in the early hours of the morning Joy and her family leave the camp site without saying goodbye. Although Joy leaves a letter for Vince, it is raining heavily and most of the ink on the page gets washed away. All Vince can read in the note is "I am so ashamed". They are both devastated by their loss.
Moving on seven years we pick up the story of Vince and Joy again. We meet Vince's room mate, the wonderful Cass and her spiritually inclined cat, Madeleine and Joy's friends, her landlady, Julia and the irrepressible cross dresser, Bella. Without giving too much away it seems that fate guides Vince and Joy to dance around one another but never actually pick up their relationship. Somehow their lives move on in different directions. And this is how it goes into the future until we finally meet the couple again more than 17 years after they first met and fell in love.
This was a delightful book to read and I loved the characters, even the kooky ones were well drawn and believable. The story is light hearted but also asks a couple of serious soul searching questions, too. I can thoroughly recommend this for the summer and have now secured my second Lisa Jewell book, 31 Dream Street. I'll keep you posted.
In the same week I skipped through the lives of Vince & Joy, I also read the autobiography of Michael Parkinson 'Parky'. I've always been a fan of Michael Parkinson and was very excited to have this book thrust into my hand by my dog rescuing neighbour, as repayment for my regular walks to the beach with her 'new' dog in tow (well, you always knew I would end up as chief dog walker, didn't you!)
Parkinson has had a charmed life. That becomes apparent almost immediately as we wander through his times as an only child, fuelled by his mothers ambition for her son and lead through his childhood and short-lived cricketing career by his doting father. Stories of meeting the rich and famous adorn every page and I couldn't help but marvel at how fate had been very kind to Parky, opening doors and shining lights on pathways for him to follow, all of which lead to him become one of the most famous interviewers of all time. He spoke highly of every one of his guests and even Meg Ryan, who he termed his only failure, and Emu who he loathed, were treated with kind words. The only thing I could find fault with in this book was his criticism of what he sees as 'the establishment' and some people he had worked for. This negative reflection felt out of place and smacked somewhat of ingratitude in an otherwise positively charged story of a man who made a career out of being sociable and trying to make people feel comfortable. I enjoyed the book overall, though, it is funny in parts and poignant in others. I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Parky or those of you who like autobiographies.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Monday, June 1, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
How do we let go and move on after change happens? I have no definitive answer but I do want to tell you a story.......
Once there were two monks traveling through the countryside during the rainy season. Rounding a bend in the path they found a muddy stream blocking their way. Beside it stood a lovely young woman dressed in flowing robes.
"Here" said one of the monks to the woman. "Let me carry you across the water." And he picked her up and carried her across.
Setting her down on the further bank, he went along in silence with his fellow monk to the abbey on the hill.
Later that evening the other monk said suddenly, "I think you made a mistake picking up that woman back on our journey today. You know that we are not supposed to have anything to do with women and you held one close to you! You should not have done that."
"How strange," remarked the other. "I only carried her across the water. You are carrying her still"
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Before you say it, I know I don't need any more books to put on my TBR pile, I really don't. I've been thinking about this a lot and to counteract any criticism in this area I have now invented an ever growing list of 'Books To Look Out For' ('BTLOF'), which is entirely different to TBR and has come about since I started visiting other peoples blogs. Before blogging I would mooch along the shelves of the bookshop without a lot of focus, alighting on books if a cover caught my eye or if I came across anything that was written by an author I liked. Now, when I go shopping for books these days it is not for additions to the TBR pile at all because I have a purpose, I have a BTLOF list which is different and makes me feel much better when handing over the cash!!
Here are my purchases from yesterday:
The Distant Land of My Father, Bo Caldwell.
This is a book about an American girl, Anna, who was born and brought up in China. When the Japanese invade Shanghai during WWII, her father sends Anna and her mother back to California, for their safety. As time passes, the father does not return to his family and Anna gives up hope of ever seeing him again. Then, years later, when she has a family of her own, her father turns up in her life again.
Can't wait to read this, to be honest. It has all the ingredients of my favourite kind of book.
Peter Ustinov, The Gift of Laughter, John Miller.
This is a biography of Peter Ustinov which was written with his absolute collaboration. Ustinov is one of my favourite entertainers and I have heard excellent things about this biography......I'm excited at the prospect of reading it.
Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud, Sun Shuyun.
'Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud' is a Buddhist saying which means 'the search for a mind clear of doubt'. This book is a memoir of Sun Shuyun who was born in China during the cultural revolution. Her family were devout Buddhists and under the communist regime were forced to give up practicing their faith. Sun Shuyun learns the way of the communists as she grows up but shares a bedroom with her grandmother. Here she learns Buddhist prayers and listens to stories of historical hero's as her grandmother remained a practicing Buddhist, in spite of being forbidden to do so. Sun's favourite hero becomes Xuanzang. When she is older she decides to retrace the footsteps of his epic journey from China to India and back again, one which he took in order to bring Buddhist scripture and teachings to the Chinese people. Sun's book tells of a spiritual discovery where she finds the faith of her ancestors as she tries to understand what drove Xuanzang on. Another can't wait to read for me!
Five Finger Discount, Helene Stapinski.
I have read this book before and loved it, but somehow it went missing from my library. I probably let somebody borrow it and it never returned. Imagine then, the delight I felt when I saw it there, sitting in the bookshop waiting for me to find it again. Helene Stapinski is a now a journalist and this book is a memoir of her childhood. Her family are a bunch of murderers, crooks, petty swindlers and mobsters and she grows up in New Jersey City. She tells of corrupt local officials and the way her father would smuggle all kinds of wonderfully exotic foods from Cold Storage, where he worked. It is a funny and poignant view of a family surviving against the odds and her struggle to escape an inevitable future. I will read it again and it can now go on my "Read and Loved" shelf.
Bangkok 8, John Burdett.
I am not one for thrillers and cop stories usually, but, the blurb on the back cover of this book had me convinced I would like it, not least of all because it is set in Bangkok, where we lived for three years. I always think that tackling a book set in familiar territory is easier to read and identify with, than one where you have to paint the scenery yourself. I am not sure how I will go on with the violent scenes, I'm usually a bit squeamish, but, I'll give it a go and let you know.
So there you have it, my haul for the day and before you tell me that I did not pick up one single thing off my BTLOF list, I already know, but, in my defense I have to say that I would have added all of them to that list had I thought about it earlier ;)
Now, if only the Manchester United team could have been bothered to turn up for the Cup final I would have had a perfect day!! (You think that comment is bad, the non-reader thinks all the team should be fined a million pounds each for playing so badly!! I wouldn't go that far, but, I see his point!). Terrible game, boo hoo!!
Have you had any bookshop hauls recently?
Sunday, May 24, 2009
OK, so I promised you a review of some of the travel books I have read and here is the first of a comparative review of three books on India. Second and third to follow......
Friday, May 22, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I think I am the only person in the world who has not read any of Daphne du Maurier's work, especially the classic novel Rebecca. It has to be admitted that I have reached this age and not looked at one line of her writing - not until now, that is! Thanks to fellow bloggers ( Dot especially:) I spent all this weekend reading Rebecca and it was every bit as good as every fan had promised it would be.
Other than the thrilling storyline, the most interesting thing about this book for me is the fact that when it was first published, in 1938, it was billed as a 'True Romance' and a kind of 1930's equivalent of today's chick-lit. Daphne du Maurier hated the book being categorised in this genre and after reading it I can understand why. Even Alfred Hitchcock's film adaptation (which I watched on YouTube after reading the book - yes, I became obsessed!!) had that true romance undertone to it and although the film painted some excellent character portraits and focused on the insecurities, insanity and broodiness of some of the main cast, I do not believe it truly captured the heart of what du Maurier was trying to say in the book.
Max de Winter is a recently widowed man whose wife, Rebecca, has been killed at sea. He takes a holiday from his stately home on the coast, Manderley, because he is on the verge of a breakdown and needs to get out of the house as it holds so many memories of Rebecca. The house is famous throughout the county for it's parties and is know for it's style and elegance, which is due mainly to the work of Rebecca, who by all accounts, was the perfect hostess, wife, mistress of the house, employer and socialiser. Max heads to Monte Carlo where he meets a young girl half his age, sweeps her off her feet and marries her, all within a few weeks. They return to Manderley and the new Mrs de Winter finds herself mistress of an enormous staff and home and caught up in a world she knows very little about, completely out of her depth. The new Mrs de Winter appears to be the absolute opposite of Rebecca in every way, shy, awkward, clumsy, timid and eager to please.
Mrs Danver's is the housekeeper and was Rebecca's maid and closest confident, Frank Crawley is Max de Winter's secretary. Both characters play key roles in Mrs de Winter's life during her first few weeks at Manderley. Needless to say, Mrs Danver's loyalty remains staunchly with Rebecca and to the past so she is not a friend of Mrs de Winter and as Frank is devoted to Max, he becomes an ally and friend of the new mistress of the house.
The story takes various twists and turns and it illustrates how inexperienced, inept at being mistress of the house and totally reliant on male affirmation, the young Mrs de Winter is. She is not given a christian name in the book and is only ever referred to as Mrs de Winter or Madame throughout, therefore, her identity is tied exclusively to her husband's name and not her own. (Not a lot of Girl-Power there, I here you say!)
*****This is where you should stop reading if you have not read the book and don't want to know any more of the plot (Scroll down to next line of bold print to continue...... and no peeking on the way!!)*****
After the shocking truth of the real events on the evening of Rebecca's disappearance are uncovered, I began to realise that the hero and heroine of the story were actually a murderer and later an accessory to the fact! Throughout the clever narrative, du Maurier's ability to bring the reader along with these two dubious characters and have said reader sympathise with their situation, was nothing short of genius. I was with them all the way, willing them on through the tribunal and the visit to London, hoping against hope for a positive outcome for them both, that is to say, I was hoping that they would get away with murder or that it was all just a horrible mistake and Rebecca hadn't been murdered at all!! I couldn't bear to think that I was on the murderer's side in this story and not the victim's. Then I stopped and said to myself "What am I thinking?"!!
I re-read the beginning of the book after I had finished the end as the first and some of the second chapters talk about Mr and Mrs de Winter's life in the present, which is set several years after Rebecca's death and the time the rest of the story focuses on. I was shocked when I realised that the biggest crime of all was actually being committed there, right there in the present at the beginning of the book and I had no idea of that when I first read it.
****You can rejoin the post now - I hope you didn't peep at the last two paragraphs****
Brilliant writing! It was no more a chick-lit book than Lord of The Rings!
Tell me what you think of Rebecca - I adored it and will be on the look out for anything du Maurier - do you have any suggestions of what I should read of hers next?
Speaking of women and Girl-Power (which I was actually, if you include Mrs de Winter, Mrs Danvers and Rebecca) I met a really nice lady on Monday who I hadn't met before. Several years ago I lived in Singapore and became friends with a lovely fellow Brit there who had three sons around the same age as mine. We met at picnics and social events, we chilled out on the beach and at outings and got together on committees to organise this and that. Over the years we became close and had a lot in common, which included the love of fine wine and laughing at life in general. Then one day she headed back to Canada whilst I remained in Singapore. Shortly afterwards we lost touch and I often wondered what had happened to her.
Then one day, a year or so ago, I got a friend request on Facebook and it was her. Since then we have shared each others family photos, commented on life's little nuances and generally continued to laugh together. A few weeks ago she dropped me a note which introduced me to another friend of hers in Canada, also a fellow Brit, who was on her way, for the first time, to holiday in Hong Kong. We two became friends on Facebook and before we knew it, we were planning to get together on Monday for a mooch around in Honkers - I am so glad we did! We had a wonderful time chatting and telling each other about our life and family. It was as if we had known each other for years and when I left her it struck me just how small this world really is.
I know we will stay in touch and now I have another friend who is a friend of a friend of mine - that really is Girl-Power at work!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
And so, to Stanley (in another different outfit!).........
Stanley Main Street...........
Messing about on the South China Sea............
Stopped for prawns at The Pickled Pelican......with a view..........
View of St Stephen's beach...........
These waterlillies are real...........
And so to the Military Cemetery
Hong Kong was unexpectedly invaded from the north and Allied Forces, local troops, police and volunteers were pinned back against the sea........
691 are buried in this cemetery - all casualties of the fight against Japanese invasion or subsequently as prisoners of war........
The last stand against Japanese invasion happened in Stanley village and Allied Forces, local police, local troops and many volunteer fighters finally surrendered on Christmas Day 1941. 4,500 people lost their lives in Hong Kong either in the fight against invasion or as a result of being interned........
One of the saddest gravestones in the cemetery...........Mary Willianson died in Stanley Internment Camp in 1942 aged 75 and her grandson, Douglas Harvey Collins-Taylor was killed in action in Stanley Village on Christmas Day 1941, aged 20 years........Lest We Forget..........
And, on our way back this lovely garden cheered us up again. Could do with a sit down, it's very hot...........
Time for a Sundowner......
Shrine for incense................
Turtles live at the bottom of this well.............