It is another grey day today, but nothing like the weather you’re battling back home. But drizzly and grey is not enough to deter Mr and Mrs Leungs’ morning hike up the mountain. I haven’t got to the bottom of their reasoning for this sudden surge in exercise but believe it to be something to do with the idea that being up in the mountains is good for maintaining immunity in times of the Plague, Asian flu, SARS, MERS, Coronavirus, Bird Flu etc. Sceptically I think you’d have to actually reside at the top of the mountain whilst the plague got sorted. Ah, but wait, perhaps we could reinhabit that uninhabited village and this is the Leungs’ secret plan and they haven’t let me in on it yet. Maybe every day they are secreting essentials up to the mountain Great Escape style?
Back to reality, the mundane, and thoughts of food, which if you’re a regular reader, will know consumes many of my waking hours. The bread I made yesterday was such a success that a whole loaf has disappeared (gone up the mountain?) by the time I make it to the kitchen at 08.30am to make some breakfast and glimpse my hosts backs as they head off. Left alone I have a sudden craving for a Western style meal. Often we eat a very typical Asian breakfast together. Rice, rice, or rice. Today I’ll have a change. Scrambled eggs on toast and coffee, that will be perfect. So I eagerly get to work to make it and find a plate and a knife and fork. Even I won’t attempt eating egg on toast with chopsticks out of a rice bowl. Success, a small plastic picnic plate and cutlery lurking at the depths of a drawer. The coffee will be instant, no Nespresso machines or percolators or cafetieres reside here.
Remember how my adoptive Mother wrote that she could not find one thing I would not eat when I first came to the UK? Ironically, scrambled eggs bucked this lovely trend and went on to cause many a row, and snotty tear shedding (by me), in those days of “you’ll sit there until you eat everything you’ve been given”. One morning, aged about 4, I was found wandering the streets near my home, after my Mother locked me in the house and left me with the cold and grey scrambled egg so she could take my siblings to school. Apparently I dragged a chair to the front door to climb up to escape, and was found wandering by a kind person who fed me chocolate biscuits and orange squash until my (behind the scenes very angry) Mother later collected me. I quickly caught on that getting lost as a cuteish, and rare in those days, Chinese toddler, often resulted in good treats that I could devour before the behind the scenes slap that usually followed. Apparently I detatched myself from my family at every opportunity to get ‘lost’ and be rewarded with comforting cuddles, chocolate and squash.
But scrambled egg karma has caught up with me today. My breakfast looks great but is inedible. The grilling of the bread has somehow turned it into small concrete slabs that I cannot cut or break with my knife or my teeth let alone chew. The egg congeals whilst I try. **** **** ****. It takes me a while to restore myself to that place of calm and tranquility that felt so right at the monastey the other day. And, as if to add insult to injury I’m left with a pile of washing up. Scrambled egg on concrete for one generates as much mess as making it for twenty. Perhaps I should force myself to sit here and suck it up, for I doubt there’s any chocolate biscuit and orange squash rewards waiting out there for an old(ish) Chinese woman wandering the streets of Hong Kong.
1. The press are having a field day. The UK ‘superspreader’ seems to have picked up the virus in Singapore and super spreaded it in a chalet in France. If he’s a superspreader has he super spread the virus to hundreds on his journey? It would seem not, as Easy Jet, although they are keen to trace those who sat nearby on his flight, say there is little or no risk to his fellow passengers. Superspreader, but only intermittently. Or, is it more likely this is another example of super journalistic headlining and that he might have simply have had an intimate but unfortunate double dipping fondue with his family and friends. In the same way that multiple cases here in Hong Kong have been attributed to a family sharing hotpot (knew I was right to be wary of this dish, not just the goose’s intestines). The high contamination rate being due most likely to a large number of people sharing an intimate supper, with everyone in very close proximity, possibly double dipping into the same pot. Not because one person is a superspreader.
2. I’m trying not to think too hard about the 100 people evacuated from the housing estate in HK, where faulty soil pipe plumbing, leaking contaminated air into the air extraction system might be the link between two cases, where the residents had no near physical contact. This adds a new level of risk to a bigger outbreak within the Hong Kong community. Definitely a case of the **** hitting the fan.
Forgive me. It’s a little hard not to try and figure Corona Virus stuff out, when you’re suck right in the middle of it all.
3. Other random thoughts include, one size does not fit all. How I wish I had bought some loose tights rather than tight tights. I bought a pair of black footless ones to wear under my denim cut offs as it’s gone a bit chilly here, but they were more lower leggless than footless, coming just below the knee and so tight I could hardly breathe. Who on earth were they made for, a 7 year old?
4. Why is there no decent bread available here unless you are willing to spend 6 quid (can’t find pound sign on keyboard) on a french stick? In desperation, I made 2 small cake loaves which Mrs Leung loved, spread thickly with lashings of butter. They might look a little weird but they tasted delicious. Spent a fun half hour playing with our neighbour’s son whilst they baked in the oven. I wonder how it feels to have no school. 2 months of ‘snow days’ for the children, and many of their parents.
5. Final thoughts about flights. Martin set off to ‘no internet Cuba’ on Sunday, just before Ciara hit the UK and flights were cancelled. I haven’t heard he didn’t take off, so presuming no news to be good news. My own flight out of HK mid March is still on the cards. According to latest reports BA, unlike other airlines, are still flying in and out of HK. So fingers crossed, after my 14 days self quarantining (not yet worked out how or where) I will be home to frighten the good people of St Ives by the end of March. I have never experienced any racism as a child or adult and hope that my good luck continues despite unhelpful headlines using discriminating language and the colour yellow? And of course let’s all pray I’m not, or don’t sit next to a super spreader on my journey home.
all 76 metres of you. Goddess of Mercy and Compassion, a Mother protecting her children, nurturing Mother offering tenderness and kindness. There you are, presiding over Tsz Shan Monastery, just half an hour from what is my Hong Kong home for now.
Today I spent the day, mostly in silence here, at Tsz Shan Monastery. It’s described as ‘a sanctuary for the purpose of spiritual purification, that endeavours to open the door to compassion and wisdom for the public through various activities’.
I am not sure quite what doors were opened for me today, but I am left quite emotional and struggling for words to describe how much the day has Impacted. The photographs cannot begin to show the beauty of the monastery, set in the hillside, nor convey the serenity, calm and generosity of the space. Tomorrow, maybe I will revisit this post.
I confess I’ve been playing around on my new, but challenging (for an iphone die hard),Samsung Galaxy note 10, that I bought cheap from a seemingly UK website. But quite bizarrely, and with a 2 week nailbiting, ‘have I been scammed?’ wait, it finally arrived. It came via UPS world shipping, sent to me all the way from, yes, you guessed, Hong Kong. Just in time for me to bring it back out with me.
I am loving being able to write at any time with the pen, without having to even turn the phone on, which is why I have switched from iphone and why I have to play about a bit to work out a different operating system and discover all the whistles and bells. Today, despite my creation saying 12th Jan, I’ve discovered a simple video making feature.
I am half way through my 8 week stay now. If my flight doesn’t get cancelled and HK doesn’t go into a lock down. Food has played a starring role this holiday, (well food is always is a key part of any holiday actually). Choosing, shopping, cooking, chopping. Learning history, language and culture through food. Eating in and eating out. Alone, with family and friends and sometimes absolute strangers. So I thought I’d try and make a foodie video to capture a few of those ‘ho sic’, and ‘mm hoc sic’ (not delicious) moments.
Last year when my big sister held my hand and took me to catch the mini bus to my little sister’s home to celebrate Chinese New Year, it felt like I was journeying into a village wilderness. Such a stark contest to my accommodation in the bright lights of Tsim Sha Tsui. I would never have believed that one year later I would be riding my very own bicycle there, all alone.
But here I am, just returned from taking some Time Out to do this.
58 years ago, almost to the day, 8th February 1962, I arrived in the UK as a 16 month old baby, to the delight of my would be adopters, Cath and Arthur Enock and their two children Christopher and Ruth.
But it wasn’t meant to be me. The first baby allocated to them, and the mind boggles as to how the matches were decided, (lucky dip?!) was withdrawn during the boarding out process. This is all revealed in the files I recently acquired, although I do remember secretly finding files in my parents’ bedroom and reading this as a child, ‘though my adoption story was never openly discussed.
In my files from the National Childrens Home, a letter from my adoptive Mother begging for updates after her first allocated baby was withdrawn, and more poignantly, two pictures of Golden Phoenix who, had she been healthy enough, would have come to my parents.
I cannot help but wonder whether she finally got adopted and if so where. Winnie is now trying to find news of her for me.
And quite bizarrely, each time I ask the minibus driver to stop outside my house, I have to shout out her name. For Golden Phoenix area, is the name of the place I am now living.
Before the virus epidemic took hold of HK, Mr and Mrs Leung and I discussed going to the village Cantonese opera, that happens to be take place in my little sister’s village, just once a year. I wasn’t sure it would still take place, as it’s a public event over 4 days, and even if it did happen, whether my hosts would want to venture out. But Mr Leung, who is separating some of the house out to potentially rent to a student, had arranged to view a small apartment that had been advertised, basically sizing up the competition.
So that’s what we set off to do. But what a day we had.
As well a the spectacular opera, the village was having a feast day. The temples were thronging, they lit the biggest fire cracker I ever saw/heard, there was a lion dancing parade and free suckling pig for every villager. And I bumped into my big and little sister and my two nieces. I hadn’t told them I was going, just in case we didn’t end up going, so it was an extra special bonus to round off a spectacular day.
(I don’t think Mr Leung has much competition in the rental market. After climbing 5 flights of a very tight and slippery stairwell, we squeezed into the smallest ‘apartment’ I have ever squished into. Real estate prices are supposedly dropping because of the virus and protests. I can’t imagine who would pay £460 to ‘live’ here.)
Wheels. I got some. only 2, but what freedom, what joy.
A lovely half Chinese, half Irish, young English teacher from Dublin was selling her bicycle. She was due to return to start her MA at Trinity College in April, but her school has now closed, as have all schools, and just in case there’s a lock down, she’s leaving early, to be sure she doesn’t miss the start of her course. I met her at University MTR, one stop from here, after journeying there on an empty train, and then rode home along the (super flat and supe safe) cycle trail by the sea. It was dusk. The city all lit up and me twinkling along with my red and green cycle lights. One or two other cyclists and a couple of little kids were all I saw. I was Queen of the road.
I remember my first bicycle well. Unravelling it in our narrow hallway, for it was mummified in the longest never ending strip of brown paper, wrapped around and around. A bicycle was a very big deal in the 60s. Mine was blue, and had a bell and a basket. I was so proud of that bike. I took my cycling proficiency test on it, passed with flying colours and then promptly fell off. It wasn’t a bad accident, but I was picking gravel out of my knees and that tender bit at the bottom of the palm of your hands, for weeks after. And cycling lost its appeal from that point on. My Dad, my sister and Martin have all had bad accidents on bicycles and I have developed a phobia of busy roads and anything off road that requires substantial effort. My last attempt at cycling in Cornwall, where I struggled to work out the gears (on both handlebars!) resulted in me abandoning the route and my fellow cyclists (all very fit and experienced) half way, desperate and almost in tears, returning back to base for consolatory tea and cake.
But cycling here is quite different from home. There are delightful, well maintained and signposted, flat cycle tracks all around. Following the ‘coast’. It has a very different feel from Cornwall, some of the cycle tracks run between the sea and some very busy highways. But it is all very do able and I plan explore as many as I can over the next few weeks.
This morning I received the membership fees for joining The Peninsula health club and gymn. Back when I first visited in Nov 2018 I cheekily wrote and asked if I could have a visit with a view to joining. The swift reply was a very polite No. But out of the blue I got a letter inviting me to trial their facilities, including access to the coveted pool. I accepted, but of course, due to the virus, the Pen have closed all their wet areas. However, they apologised profusely and at the same time sent me the application form and the price list. £250,000 for life membership. £10,800 per annum for annual single membership. Lots of lovey benefits, such as robes and slippers and discounts on staying in any of the hotel suites in Asia, discounted pick up from the airport in the Rolls Royce, discounted hire of the super yacht, and discounted beauty treatments, gymn kit laundry service etc.
Needless to say I shall not be signing up anytime soon, although I do hope to get to swim in that pool one day.
All in all, it makes my £40 bicycle, including 2 locks, lights, maintenance kit and phone holder, an absolute steal. And makes me smile as much as a swim in that spectacular pool will, when I finally make it.