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‘Nothing much’

Precious stuff

What have you been doing today?  That’s a normal sort of question from one spouse to another I guess, when one of the pair has taken off to bright lights and city on the other side of the world for 3 months.

But today I’m glad I don’t have to answer that question, on a FB video, or What’s App call, where Mr P might notice a flicker of embarrassment as I mumble “er not much.”  For today, there’s no thing of substance to report.  I haven’t hired a junk or hiked the Dragon’s Back.  No Harbour Cruise, or Big Buddha, well not today anyway.

Today I made porridge, with bananas and blueberries.  The first cooking I’ve done in over a week.  And I brewed ginger, lemon and honey tea.  I washed my clothes, changed my bed, sorted my stuff.  And sorted my stuff.  And sorted my stuff some more.  For someone with so little stuff, I seem to spend an unproportionate amount of time tending it, as though each individual item were some small child or animal needing daily monitoring and encouragement.  But I noticed how happy each item made me as I lovingly put it back in its rightful place.  The 3b pencils, the little pots of honey and ginger tea, charging cables, the little key fob that reminds me of my beautiful Granddaughter Phoebe.  I don’t remember the last time I smiled when I changed a sheet on a bed.  A task usually done with lots of whingeing and complaining.

I was never a huge fan of Eckhart Tolle’s work, but the one thing I do remember is something about needing to build and tend one’s base camp if one is to climb mountains.  And over the years I’ve got good at this, building base camps, literal ones and my own internal one, that I tend through meditation, writing, reading, swimming, yoga, playing my saxophone.  

So no mountain climbed today my love, today has been about base camp stuff, so I am ready to climb the mountain tomorrow, maybe.

But I did head out, for hostel living can get a little claustrophobic, and joy oh joy I found a saxophone shop just one MTR stop away.  Hired me a saxophone and was given a book of Christmas songs.  And invited to go back and join one of the little offshoot groups, that informally play after group lessons.  

I then decided to go for my daily swim on the way home, walking with the sax, instead of taking the MTR.  Bit of a stupid idea, but I knew if I went back to the hostel I might not get out again.  And not an easy feat with so many shoppers on the street enjoying HK’s national pastime and me lumbering along with a big black case.  At one point I thought of stopping and seeing if the tide of fervent shoppers might just sweep me along, so tightly were we pressed together.

I wasn’t sure what I would do with the sax whilst I swam, sort of hoped I could leave it with the Security Office.  But no, lots of fast and loud Cantonese, lots of head shaking and pointing.  ‘You go down, you go down’ a cleaning lady interrupts my vain attempts to give the guard the borrowed sax.  So I follow her down to level 2, the training pool  area, wondering what I will find.  And lo and behold, a long bay of exceedingly large, lockable lockers, so big I could have got in one and played the damned sax.  

So here I am, home to HK.  I’m tending my little, temporary, base camp, and there’s no doubt in my mind.  Hong Kong, you got your prodigal daughter well and truly covered.  Thank you.

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The universe looks after me again



I woke up this morning missing the sea and the sky, and lo and behold had a last minute invitation to lunch at the Yacht Club at Marina Cove, Sai Kung, New Territories.  Think sunshine, clear blue sky, yachts and boats bobbing on what looked like a bright and clean ocean.  Probably not at all, but it felt good to believe so.

If I have been putting you off coming to HK, please fogive me.  As well as being chock-a-block full of mega malls, street markets, neon lit and nitty and gritty, it is also a place of jaw dropping beauty and contrast at every turn.  Incredibly wonderful kind people, and most of the ones I have struck up conversation with do not dispose of their saliva publicly, this pleases me greatly.

After a very long lunch I made my way back to Tsim Tsa Tsui.  Now I’ve got the hang of the MTR, the world truly is my Oyster, or should that be Octopus?  I have that same glow about me, that same bubbling inner joy that I remember when I first realised I could put letters together to make words, and words to make sentences, that I could read and write.  I was the only child in my class who could do either, but my precociousness caused me problems when I wrote PENSLIS (thank heavens for the SL) on the pencil box and vehemently denied it to my very lovely and non shaming teacher Mrs Houghton.  Oh what joy I have remembering.  I feel five again.  Imagine Dick and Dora and Fluff and Nip, or whoever YOU learned to read with, hugely magnified and plastered all over the underground walls, and being able to make sense of it all and you’ll maybe get the drift.  I stand there staring, transfixed at the map that tells you which entrance is nearest to which streets, and there are a lot of them in TST, and then why not imagine a small rather silly, beaming face looking up in wonder?  Can you, are you? That’s MTR literate me.

Retail Therapy

I’m feeling very proud that I have not succumbed to buying anything yet apart from delicious morsels.  But it’s very early days yet.  And it is so very very tempting.  There is absolutely NOTHING that you cannot buy here.  The shops stay open until 12pm.  I wandered into the newest shopping mall that only opened this week.  An Agnes B restaurant and chocolatier.  I thought she was a model?  Here’s just a few images of things that made me smile.

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Hireth

Hireth, a Cornish word for which there is no direct English translation. It describes an intangible feeling, a longing for the familiarity and comfort of a place.

I’m finding my roots, making connections, putting down some new roots. But I awoke this morning in my noisy windowless dorm, with a bad case of Hireth, missing the magical sky and pink light and silence from St Ives.  Then I realised how lucky I am to have found another, just different, place to call home.

Home

Home

Thank you unsplash.com for these most awesome images

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Not your average tourist

Today I forgot about looking for needles in haystacks and decided to play tourist for the day.  But I shunned the Peak, left the consumer madness of Tsim Sha Tsui and headed a few stops along the MTR to Sham Shui Po/Shek Kep Mei to find a very different Hong Kong.  Tenement blocks, bamboo scaffolding.  Not a designer label in sight, and buildings with character and style.  Row upon row of street shops selling textiles, crafting stuff, computer wares, affordable fruit and vegetables, a crazy flea market, all hummingwith a very different energy fromTsim Sha Tsui.  But the real reason for my  for visit was to join the queues for a Michelin star rated dim sum house – Tim Ho Wan.  As a solo diner I didn’t have to wait very long.  In HK real estate is so expensive nobody bags a table to themselves, space is at a premium.  So I shared my lunch table with a man from New York City.  In between our slurpings and delighted squeaks he told me that they have a Tim Ho Wan in New York too, but he said this one was way better and he wanted to experience the real deal. I’ve had many many Ha Jiao in my time, but these were absolutely the best dumplings I have ever tasted.  A Michelin star-lunch for £8, anyone?

This next bit will probably only be of interest to Harbour Spa Groupies.  

Some seven hours later, my legs and feet were screaming ‘no more’, so I popped into Kowloon Park, for my daily swim.  I love this place.  It’s probably not for everyone, but it’s a 5 minute walk from my hostel and opens at 06.30 and closes at 10.00pm.  A huge municipal indoor and outdoor pool complex that is accessible for everyone and costs about a pound a swim.  Fantastic shower facilities for elderly and disabled, and many many of them swimming.  Everyone warms up with exercises and tai chi for quite some time before they get into the water, which is clean, and a perfect temperature.   You have to walk through a continuous shower before you can reach the pool.  Most swimmers wear swimming hats, but considering there is so much Asian long dark hair it seems amazing that I never see any.  There are always cleaners mopping and cleaning, wiping out the lockers, which all have keys and there are lots of them.  The hairdryers are mounted on the walls, adjustable heaters/dryers, which was very useful when I had no towel.  The showers are clean, easy to use and very hot if you want them to be.  When things break, this is what happens :

And repair it they do.  Quickly.

Mass Transit railway, Mass(ive) swimming pool.  The Hong Kong people are excellent at managing large facilities, efficiently and cost effectively.  Why oh why can’t we?  Harbour Spa?

On the down side, HK ers have this rather horrible habit of publicly spitting.  They are fined if they do so in the pool, so they spit into the drain that runs round the edge.  Let’s not do this at Harbour Spa ladies!  And you’ll be happy to hear this is not a habit I will be bringing home with me.

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The Liam Neeson/Paddington Bear stuff

Journal entry transcription  Tai Wo Plaza, 09.00 Wednesday 21st November.  Nearest MTR to my birth Mother’s village.  Waiting to meet Apple News Reporter/Photographer and HK01 team.

WARNING – lengthy stream of consciousness blog.

I did it!  I got from my hostel to the nearest MTR to Kam Shan Village, where my birth mother once lived.  My happy face is on (small drawing) BEAMING because I navigated myself here, waking at 07.00am, showering and giving myself plenty of time.  I did NOT get lost or fail to get off at the right station, or go in the wrong direction or get on the wrong line.  

“So?  And?” I hear my own inner critical voice sneering.  But today, today I won’t let this voice (think This is me, from Greatest Showman now) take away my cause for celebration.  Small pics of balloons, and words she did it, written.

For I am that same girl who once spent 2 hours trying to find the family tent.  The same girl/woman who thought the colours of the grab rails on London Underground showed you which line you were on (with disastrous results obviously).  I am the Mother whose children knew/know it would twice as long to drive anywhere than it should, whose daughter had to navigate them off the Picos mountains.  I am that person who struggles to ‘get’ ski lift maps and once ended having to side step up a very steep mountain because she’d got on the wrong lift and ended up somewhere inaccessible when all the lifts closed for the day.  At 58, my earliest memory is of being lost as a small child at the end of my very small street.  Standing, confused and frightened, looking left and right and left and right as if watching a tennis match, no idea which way to go.

LOST, LOST, LOST.  Always lost, or worrying about getting lost.

At work, in lots of different schools, I was never able to get straight from the staff room to where I needed to be, always in an anxious state, “will I get to where I am meant to be, on time?”

After two months of living in St Ives I still couldn’t work out how you got to the Tate without going down a blind alley.

But today, in a foreign country, I am here, exactly where I am supposed to be.  An hour early, sharing a breakfast table with a comb over Chinese man.  Both of us eating dimsum, him much more than my two minuscule dumplings.  Is his heart beating with joy too I wonder?

Liam Neeson.  Remember I said about being married to a Liam Neeson alike from taken?  In that film, Taken 2?, the character Liam plays is taken blindfold in a truck to some cell in a foreign country, maybe Turkey, I don’t remember.  

From memory, and I could be wrong, he calls his wife, and by getting her to draw some circles on a map, and remembering the sounds he heard when blindfold and the number of minutes it took from when he was bundled in the truck, and the wind direction etc etc he works out where he is.  I am married to Martin, a man who can do this.  He’s not been abducted blindfold, but he has navigated himself back to a hotel he left and forgot its name and location, had no business card, on day 1 of a business trip to Oman.  Martin knows how to use a compass properly, has an inbuilt one, I call him Pembo Nav.  Pembo Nav never fails.  But being married to Pembo Nav has its downside.  My shaky, non existent navigation skills have NEVER needed to improve.  I learnt to rely on Martin’s expertise totally.  Becoming more and more helpless as the years went on.  Just as Martin has relied on my food buying and culinary ‘expertise’. Just before I left for HK, we had brief discussions on how to cook healthy food in our Remoska cooker, Pizza and full English would lose their appeal afer a week we thought.  This time apart, could be the making of us.

Perhaps then I came to find my birth mother, but actually found myself?

Footnote.  Paddington Bear Story.  

When I was a teenager I wrote to Jim’ll Fix It to ask him to dress me up as Paddington Bear and let me be on the show.  I know, I know.  Weird.  But he, it turned out was very weird and I got off lightly as he never replied.  I loved Paddington, had a duffle coat, red not blue.  And I never understood the attraction, then the other day it hit me.  Paddington was a foreign bear, lost in a strange country with a small suitcase and a label asking somebody, anybody to look after this bear.  I arrived at London Heathrow and was met by my adopted family at, wait for it, Paddington Station.  Aged 15 months, white fur coat and a small BOAC bag.  No obvious label, but no doubt wanting somebody to look after me.  

Funny how all the jots eventually join up……

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The happy concierge

Wednesday 21st November

Hop Inn Hostel, Mody Road

A lot of people come and go in this building.  As well as my hostel there’s a restaurant, a tailors, more hostels and guesthouses, other stuff.  So it’s all guarded by uniformed men who sit with the CCTV cameras in a kind of little prison.  Most are a bit grumpy looking, but one always smiley and friendly.  I found out why.  He has you tube karaoke on permanently, singing along in perfect English.  I sang with him the other evening.  He’s really good.  His star turn is Elvis’s version of My Way!

He does it his way

Hong Kong’s happy concierge.  See for yourself.  I can’t work out how to embed a video, otherwise you could hear him too.  

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I realise Jehovahs Witnesses (JWs) are somewhat wise, maybe.

I must have looked sad, or maybe a little lost the other day, for a Jehovah’s Witness thrust a leaflet at me, entitled Help for Those Who Grieve

(One day I will tell you the story of my first visit to Hong Kong, when I had the door slammed in my face, by my friend’s mother, mistaking me and my tall British husband for JWs.

Over the years, I’ve not slammed, but politely closed the door on many a JW, but the advice contained within this leaflet is sound, helpful even, if you ignore all the God stuff.  It made me stop and think about my time here.  Whilst I’m not grieving, and nobody died, all of the 12 points seem appropriate to helping me get the most out of my trip and search.

  1. Accept support from family and friends.  I’m down in numbers out here, so please send virtial support
  2. Watch your diet and make time for exercise.  So less dim sum and more swimming.
  3. Get plenty of sleep.  No more 02.00 What’s App chats then, and my blog to be finished by 11pm latest
  4. Be flexible.  A must when living in an 8 bed dorm.  Enotional and physical flexibility essential for lower bunk, stuff in a big cage under bed, living.
  5. Avoid self destructive habits.  Yes.  I can tick this one.
  6. Balance your time.  Must do more and worry less about telling everyone what I’m up to.
  7. Keep a routine.  Struggling with this one.  No food until 16.00 today, went to sleep 04.00 finally.
  8. Avoid making big decisions too soon.  So maybe I should think longer about disappearing off to Vietnam for 2/3 weeks over Christmas?
  9. Remember your loved one(s). I think they mean the person who’s died.  I have no problem in remembering my absent and much missed family and friends.  Hence the 02.00 conversations.
  10. Get away.  I already did.
  11. Help others.  No problem as long as they’re not asking for directions in Cantonese.
  12. Reevaluate your priorities.  Yes, very important.  I’m keeping a check on whether my ladder is up against the right wall before I get to the top.

So with points 3,6, 7 and 12 in mind, it’s goodnight from me, and goodnight from the good ol’ JWs.

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Coming soon

Ive been up to much, and I will write about it all tomorrow.  By now it’s 23.03 on Monday evening and I need to sleep.

But today I’ve learnt

Why I was obsessed with Paddington Bear

Why being married to a Liam Neeson type person from Taken is not such a brilliant thing

Learning to navigate is just like any other skill.  Takes practice and patience and baby steps are needed

Why I love Kowloon Park swimming pool and the Peninsula hotel, and why I’m not so keen on the Harbour Spa in St Ives any more

That I don’t need to take my Octopus card out of my phone holder to use it each time – like a ski lift pass – bliss

How to get around on the MTR, sort of

That the Jehovahs Witnesses are maybe onto something, and nothing

That many many people want to immigrate into HK, stay, extend visas etc. And that you have to apply to apply.

That a vegetarian aubergine and rice dish comes with free and unexpected pork bits, eeek

Why the doorman to this building looks so happy

Why being placed in Po Leung Kuk orphanage, as opposed to all the others, might be useful.

And loads of other stuff. 

See you again tomorrow.

Oh, and a favour to ask.  If you’re following this blog, please click to follow.  If you like a post, please click like.  It‘s amazing how just knowing you’re doing this is very very reassuring and comforting to me in my little cell.  Thank you x

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Role reversal

Sunday 18th November 2018.  18.11.18.

I meet up with my dear friend Liz, also from St Ives Cornwall but a real born and bred Cornish lady not an Emmet like me.  She’s been out in Hong Kong since July.  Like me she very recently become a grandmother, but her daughter is living here in Hong Kong.  And my little family live slap bang in the middle of England.  So my quarter Chinese grand daughter Phoebe was born in Warwickshire and her 100% Cornish granddaughter was born here in Hong Kong.

I watch Liz for a few seconds, just by the Peninsula fountain.  She’s searching for me I think.  Today everything is back to front.  “Normally I can instantly spot you Laura” she laughs later.  “Dark hair, animated, colourful. But here you’re just one in 7 million”.  Totally get what she’s saying, but this does not bode well for my search for my birth family, just a few amongst these 7 million, and maybe not still alive.

Liz, on the other hand, is one of the liveliest people I know, and is the easiest person to find today.  Blonde, tall and her own gorgeous inimitable style, that some of the very cash rich, but style poor, Chinese might do well to take note of.

We reminisce, stroll the designer baby mall (the baby changing rooms are something to behold, we are so far behind in the UK).   We marvel at Baby Burberry, Baby D&G, Baby Armani, you get the drift.., and later in the Ocean Terminal supermarket (nothing like a supermarket, more like a food art gallery) we gawp at grapes that cost £26, and an onion for £3.  Sweet potatoes are very popular, all sorts averaging at £4 a piece.  This perusing made even more hilarious because Liz’s husband used to run the very wonderful but now closed fruit and veg shop back home in St Ives.  I kid you not, you need a small mortgage to buy cheddar cheese, indeed anything dairy here, except clotted cream which at just under £4 is an absolute steal.  Tuna sashimi anybody.  No problem.  Cheap as chips.  

Home comfort