Thursday, December 31, 2015

Eat my dust (or The last one for this year)

1. Back to points as I seem to function well within them. This is my last post in what has been a big and busy year.

2. I'm in Mumbai after 4 days in Kanha. We had a sleek and powerful leopard saunter out in front of our jeep just as we were giving up hope of seeing any animals on our first 6am Safari. A 2 minute walk just ahead of us. Magic.

3. The next day's 6am safari was turning out to be disappointing when suddenly, on our left, just outside my jeep window we passed a majestic Tigress standing still as a statue. After considering us for about 45 seconds she turned and crossed behind our jeep and wandered at a leisurely pace through the grassland and into the dense forest. 

4. The journey to Kanha was pretty painful with a driver who lied about knowing the way and drove us around for a few extra hours. And that's an understatement. We subsequently did two early morning safaris and ate dust in the open air jeeps, following the mud tracks and stopping to exchange news with other jeeps on their sightings. Despite long showers our ears remain clogged with dust. But the majesty of wild animals from both Cats to Barahsinghas and blue-singed peacock to the many others made up for all the drama of the journey. The forest was beautiful; dense and very green. The hotel was wonderful and the hospitality just amazing. Every person we met seemed to care deeply about it and told us personal stories of their own brushes with animals and of the many conservation efforts and the delicate balance between the man and wilderness. Such passion was entirely endearing. 

5. After leaving behind the 3 beautiful German Shepard dogs (Cheetah, Maya and Punch) at the hotel we are back in Mumbai to ring in the New Year before we scatter off to different places. Kid and I to Dilli meri jaan, V to another year at his desk job and the Cousin and his parents to Singers for school and work. We leave behind Another brother and his wife and Girl Cousin who are playing wonderful hosts to our hosts of suitcases and laundry and general small children clutter. 

6. It was a big year for me. Even though only about 2.5 of you bothered to wish me (yes I am still M.a.d) time marched on and in mid July I turned the big 4-0. It was a return to the scene of my childhood and a visit to the apartment complex we lived in in Bangkok. New memories with the Kid and Cousin and all 4 adults in a city so old and yet so new. I loved every minute of the trip; from leisurely meals at some of the finest restaurants (the celebrated Gaggan which everyone raves about but didn't quite do it for me and Nahm for a Thai meal I will not forget in a hurry), to river side jaunts, the reverence and beauty of the reclining Buddha and the frantic bustle of Chatuchak. 

7. Turning 40 is a big deal. Yes it's just a number and all my peers are turning it too but I've been working my way up to it and reminding myself daily (for many years) that I would soon be 40in2015. I found something of a piece of myself and peace within myself this year. I am not one for the mumbo jumbo of soul searching but I felt that in the run up to it I found a lot of clarity in my life. A big part of this was letting go of angst and control over actions of others and my own feelings towards people and situations that I had no power to change. I feel like I am in a calmer space now. I live under no illusion of youth and fully accept that I am well into middle age and frankly it's a wonderful place to be. And so dear readers, happy birthday to me!

8. We made some important life decisions this year. Both inadvertently and purposefully (and not without some trepidation). One of those big decisions involved moving countries and leaving behind Cousin and aunt/ uncle, a school we adored and many friends we had grown close to in Singapore. In hindsight, and in spite of the teething difficulties of any move, it has been good for us. It was the right decision from many angles and it has brought to the forefront that despite the distance the boys remain close as brothers can be and that is something we can continue to foster with ease. I think my greatest lesson was about how a positive attitude can mean that difficult decisions often have surprisingly good outcomes.

9. One of the most surprising outcomes has been how much I love Hong Kong. I only ever really noticed the mid levels and Central and Causeway Bay till we actually decided to move. And to me they were a cleaner version of busy Mumbai; a jumble of buildings and people packed densely into an important centre of Commerce. I wasn't too keen, although I'm always up for an adventure. I decided we should give it a shot, adventures are the adrenaline of life and that I could learn to love it as I once had cold London. Surprisingly, (only to me) once here I quickly fell in love with how that Centre is but a snap shot of the city. It is predominantly lush and green, an interesting mix of history and modern day drama, wonderfully complex beneath the sharp edges of a bustling commercial Centre. I'm loving all the exploring and new facets to the city at each turn. 

10. The health report is mixed. My approaching 40 body decided to give my sloth like brain some shaking. As my mind grew lighter, more sure, more settled it was my body that began collapsing around it. A number of health issues crept up this year but they have been swiftly dealt with and now I am nearly back to an even keel.

11. This years introspection has brought to the fore an entirely new appreciation for how vivid and complex life is. From the refugee crisis to pollution and poverty to continued Gender inequality, there were many things to ponder, act upon and preach on behalf off. The adage every drop helps to make an ocean has never been truer. And while I try and live the best possible life I can and teach my child to go at the world gently and with kindness I find myself looking for practical solutions, everyday things that can be my 'drops'. So so many have been imbibed and learnt this year. I'm hoping 2016 is going to be a continuation, an education and enhancement to this way of life. Of one thing I am sure - there is far more good than evil, far more kindness than anger and far more people rooting for peace than strife. Now if only more people would see how their individual efforts could bring change, 2016 and the years beyond are bound to be safer, brighter and more peaceful. 

12. All that remains is to say that Christmas Day marked 14 years of marriage for V and I. It has been a wonderful journey and even in its rare moments of mild strife I have never for an instant regretted this life choice. In fact this year we have reveled in It and found a balance that bears marking. Unlike our London days with our bunches of tulips, homemade Pizza, bottle of wine and walk in the cold sunshine we celebrated by landing in Mumbai at 5am (many many hours late). We had a day of family and I had but a moment all day to reflect on how I did miss that old quiet life but equally loved this new laughter and love family-filled one. All that remains is to wish you and yours a wonderful and safe New Year celebration and a year of interesting and enjoyable experiences. Be kind and see you on the other side! 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Decorating decorating

I start and then I cannot stop. Here is what we have been up to where Christmas is concerned:

Ok this is not me but our building lobby. It all began one Sunday morning two weeks ago. The boundary wall was festooned with fairy lights and these beautiful pots of Poinsettias appeared all along the lobby. It all looked wonderful; festive and elegant without being over the top.

Then the next day a Christmas tree appeared in the lobby. Real and smelling all woodsy, with elegant red shiny baubles and fake red wrapped gifts all tied up in bows below it. Still good.

Then they came and ruined it with giant purple and acorn and silver and green trimmings and wreaths and gnomes and mini snow covered trees all over the available surfaces - along staircases and next to the plants and on the lobby desk and every wall....overdone and far too much clashing going on....

Meanwhile in Casa 30 (OK OK 40) we had begun our own decorating. I like to try and follow the philosophy of reuse and recycle and being makers. We don't get a real tree (we have enough opportunities to see those) and instead make one. It's been a few years since we began this and it's always been interesting as a process and not always beautiful. 

This year we used our TV box. We covered it with brown paper and then used washi tape to create the silhouette of the tree. Then green and white kitchen string with clear mounts and red green blue pins to hold them in place. 

All along the string are little Christmas tree shaped clips, holding in place pictures of people and places and events that have been important to us this year. Clips are a couple of years old: 

That's Mt. Everest base camp and a very excited V's hands in the air. You get the idea.

I can't show you the finished product on the blog but it looks pretty amazing with all the pictures on it. The washi tape is not symmetrical and that's because the tree was created mainly by a 6 year old (with some supervision and an opinion which leads him to shout 'don't help me, I can do it' at regular intervals). I think the final product looks pretty spectacular in a homemade way and the pictures have given us a chance to reflect on the year and all the changes that have come home tonour little family. 

In other parts of the house Christmas decorations have appeared all through December. Our lovely smiley Father Christmas is sat next to the lovely poinsettias that my friend M gave us. 

And the main cabinet in our dining room has this little decoration going on:

The baubles are table decorations I bought two years ago. The trees are a set from IKEA, bought this year - I thought they looked quite interesting. They have some silver bells on them that I have had for a few years. The ceramic ornaments I bought from a very talented woman in Singapore last year. We sent many of those to friends last year and these ones were left for us to use. 

Then today we created a table centrepiece. Fishbowl which we already had combined with a cheap packet of 'make your own snow with water', paper trees from a new multipack, small wooden Santa figurine and of course the ubiquitous Lego police man who completes everything: 

And of course our little wooden tree. It's been painted over a few times but we still love it. 

I find I am reluctant to buy new and buy more things whether it's Diwali or Christmas. I'm enjoying using what we have and repurposing things to be useful over a longer time period. It's the last few days of school before we close for the holidays. It's a busy time of year and the chilly Hong Kong weather is taking some getting used to. I'm having to bundle up after the years of flip flop living. The festive cheer in the air is certainly making it easier to bear the cold. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

When I don't set myself challenges...

...I get lazy.

List of random things:
1. My aunt and uncle celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. We couldn't celebrate with them as their plans to come celebrate in India were scuppered by ill health. But from here and all over India they were being sent love. The pictures of their celebration with my cousin B and his family in the US were lovely. I'm hoping we can celebrate in 2016.

2. Tomorrow, the 13th, is my cousin B's birthday. Join me in wishing her a very happy birthday. When sisters were being given out I won the ultimate prize. Have an amazing day. You keep me sane.

3. Our lovely two sided clock from the Rail museum in Delhi is giving up the ghost. The mechanism on one side is faulty and this is leading to some hilarious confusions with Kid who is just about learning to read the time. 

4. Kid had his Christmas concert last night. We lucked out with seats 3 rows back but right in front of him. Lots of waving when they got into their rows. It was amazing listening to the 1st and 2nd Graders singing and reciting poems and carols and songs. A gymnasium full of innocent and joyful and enthusiastic voices. It was just the right length (25 minutes for each Grade); a wonderful evening where for once I took no pictures or video (part of my technological paring down especially in his presence) putting nothing between myself and my child but my absolute attention and focus on him and his classmates. I'm happy to rely on the school recording, his memory of the evening and the burst of joy I saved in my heart. It was a gym full of pride and love and innocence - if one could package that it would be priceless. 

5. I'm clearly terrible with keeping up. I have a few drafts I'll get to soon but really in January I need a new plan. I'm thinking a picture a day and some writing to go with it. Pictures of my house, this city and my life. Any opinions? 

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Childhood traditions 1

In my childhood, and this is not just from my overactive imagination, my parents Nik and I sat down to eat at 6.30pm every weeknight. Of course for large chunks of time (sometimes months) my dad would be traveling or posted to a different city and then it was just us and mum. But when he was in town this was sacrosanct. 

He got back from work between 5.45 and 6. It was an age before mobile phones and the Internet so there was very little bringing of work home. Once he was home he was all ours. We got back from playing outside around 6. Everyone had a shower before dinner (beside mum who was cooking) and we all pitched in laying the table, getting water and cutlery and condiments. We sat down at 6.30 to eat. My mum cooked up delicious meals and dinner was served. Of course we complained that we had to eat so early and that we didn't have the standard dal chawal fare. Like all children, no matter how good it was, we found something to complain about. 

And yet, as a middle aged mother trying to forge small traditions in my own home, those dinners were one of the defining moments of my childhood. Our parents ate with us and we talked, being asked to tell them new or funny or interesting or annoying things that happened in school that day. And they entertained all our questions, told us stuff, encouraged discussions and generally laughed a lot. It wasn't a walk in a sunshiny bluebell field but it wasn't far off. Like any family we had days when any one or more of us were grumpy, stressed, bored, upset. But essentially we had mostly great meals. 

Like all families we had numerous little traditions and oddities. This however was the one that I hold most dear. Next time, new traditions we are forging. 

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Chennai my sweet

Chennai is quite possibly my favourite Indian city. And the floods are ravaging it as we watch helplessly from afar. My relatives have all marked themselves safe but no doubt there are many in peril. From pictures of the water touching the under bellies of planes to the sight of people wading through chest high water, the pictures all over the Internet are giving us a mere glimpse into how bad things are. Social media is helping coordinate some rescue efforts, call for supplies and show an outpouring of affection. It's hard to sit and wait for news and TV newsloops are not helping by dramatising a lot of the events instead of just reporting them. 

I'm sitting here colouring away, letting my worries control themselves by making my hands do stuff, like colour my lovely book and create our Christmas tree. Chennai you are in my thoughts. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2015


It began as a lark. I had read somewhere that colouring was the new 'thing' for adults and I thought it was a good 'joke' present. And every time I walked into a bookshop I would see displays of various complex looking colouring books for grown ups. So I gave my sister in law T and friend H each this book, the Secret Garden, as a parting-from-Singapore gift. As it was a buy 2 get something off the 3rd free I gifted myself a copy as well. And promptly forgot about it. 

Then my friend M came to visit in the early days of having moved into our Hong Kong apartment. I remember her talking about this book on Facebook and so I pulled it off the bookshelf and gave it to her. I hadn't had a moment to colour and I didn't see myself colouring so it was my pleasure to do so. But as soon as it was gone and I could see that gap in my bookshelf I DESPERATELY WANTED the book. I DESPERATELY WANTED to colour. Talk about juvenile. I thought I could shake it. 

Last week I went to a bookshop to buy the last two books for December Pie and saw a display of the colouring books - they seems to be procreating. Anyway, after a quick internal battle in which my juvenile side won, I got myself another copy of The Secret Garden. Ever since that evening Kid and I have spent 15 minutes before dinner colouring (with a timer as it's easy to get carried away). It's slow going (for one of us!) but we are having some great conversations over it. 

I'm not sure about therapeutic but I am certainly enjoying it more than I thought I would. I think I need new pens/ pencils. Also a steadier hand and a bit more imagination in my use of colours. Kid thinks he is a famous artist - no crisis of confidence there. I need patience. I guess that's a lesson I am likely to learn page by page.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

December Pie

Last day of November. I'm tempted to take a month off and not write a smidge. No one is more surprised that I posted Every. Single. Day this month than me. I am a bit pleased that I kept to my self imposed 'write everyday' plan. But I am tired of coming up with things to write/ finding the words to write those things/ not missing a day - but pleased tired, if that makes sense.

Last year Kid saw an 'Elf on the Shelf' at his friends house and ever since been talking about us getting one. I frankly am not for it - can't imagine I would feel enthusiastic enough to move it every night and really do not understand the point of it. 

Also last year, he was sent an advent calendar by a friend in London. He opened all the doors in one sitting (5 minutes while I was heating dinner up) and proceeded to give all the chocolates behind the doors to our lovely (and sweet toothed) helper. 

This November kids in his class have been talking about Christmas celebrations and many of them have advent calendars and Elves for their shelves. So the hints and conversation have popped up a few times this month. And that got me thinking. 

For a kid that doesn't eat chocolate and a family that does not own an elf I decided to come up with an enticing alternative. And here it is:

It's our kindness-calendar meets book-on-a-shelf (meets clean-this-house):

And a bit like pie, here are the Ingredients: 
- 25 books all individually wrapped and waiting
- a basket and a little calendar 
- many shelves and cupboards to provide hiding places
- loads of books/ toys/ clothes that have been outgrown - and many that haven't 
- Small excited child

- Starting tomorrow, every morning before school he crosses off the date on the mini calendar, and picks a wrapped package. 
- While he is at school I have to hide the package. And set up two clues on bits of paper and leave them with his post school snack.
- When he gets home he uses the clues to find the package and unwraps a brand new book.
- We save the book to read before bedtime. And then we hunt for a toy or book he has outgrown and willing to part with. This is harder than it sounds. We have purged a lot of stuff this year as part of the move. He still has a few books and toys he has outgrown but loves. I also want him to give away a few things that he still uses/ loves. I think he is ready for this lesson of giving/ sharing/ parting with things/ seeing the joy of another child.
- Said toy or book goes in a box for us to carry to India and give someone we know who can use it.

It's December tomorrow - books and life lessons for the Kid; free pass from writing for me. Wish us luck.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Today's 5

1. Crazy weather swings saw us all back in shorts and tshirts again today. Some reprieve from the awful and disheartening shopping trip of yesterday.

2. I am trying to avoid being badgered into making a life changing decision. It's not V or Kid making me choose but an outside party who seems to think everyone should have their e x a c t same life. It's not a decision I am willing to commit to at the moment and I'm trying hard to be diplomatic and defer the decision. Sorry I'm being cryptic but I know everyone is one or the other side of this fence and really I don't need anymore opinions at this point. I have to trust that my own is right for me.

3. Did something to my ankle when I walked last week. It's achy and I've stayed home for most of the day , sipping cups of tea and digesting digestive biscuits. A good nights sleep and regular service of Busy household will resume tomorrow.

4. Only 3 more weeks till school closes for the year. It's a packed 3 weeks though with school concerts and class parents participation etc all in the offing. 

5. Today is to be noted for posterity because after weeks of wobbly tooth this morning Kid's tooth finally fell out. While he was brushing and telling me how he didn't want me to yank it out like his friends had been. Gums feel weird. Most adorable note and cleaned tooth safely under the pillow. Excuse me while I go find out what the HK tooth fairy gives a 1st tooth. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Make me happy

Saturday. Grumpy. Earlier I couldn't find clothes for fat people. Now turns out my feet are fat too. Lady in shop laughed when I mentioned the size of my paddles. Said 'best have made can'. 

Unfortunately it's suddenly turned to winter. Turns out I turfed out all my winter clothes in the excitement of tropical Singapore. So no fat people clothes or shoes in my useless wardrobe. At least I own one coat for when it gets to freezing.

Meanwhile hobo lady look: tracks, t-shirts, jeans, pajama bottoms, random shawls, ridiculous socks and Birkenstocks. As per usual, only messier. Grumpy. It's the perfect face to match. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Five is a good number

It wasn't as I imagined it would be and that is mainly because I missed most of it. 

Five years ago today my brother, Nik, got married. I had Kid, who at just over 1year and 4months, was a creature of habit. I got to Delhi in plenty of time for the wedding and so thankfully I got to participate in the run up to the big day. Beside watching a wedding ceremony the great excitement was the gathering of family in the days before. All my beloved cousins, aunts and uncles, my Nani, mama's and maiji's, neices and nephews. Full house and an absolute riot!

The dancing baraat and noise and crowd of people was beyond Kids coping mechanism and I spent most of the evening comforting one tired and over excited and over whelmed child. I missed the jaimal. I missed most of the actual ceremony, making it to the mandap for about 20 minutes in the middle. Eventually Kid passed out from exhaustion in the hotel room ( where I left him with V) we had booked in the same place as the festivities and so I did manage to eat a late dinner with the beautiful bride and my brother and their closest friends. And as we sat there enjoying dinner and jokes and each other's company I remember thinking how lucky they were to be surrounded by so much goodwill. 

But what I remember most 5 years on, is not all of that early angst of missing out on most of their biggest moment. Instead it is the look on both their faces. The look of both love and friendship and joy in celebrating and sharing this moment with each other and being held in the hearts of all the people they hold dear there that evening. 

The milestone is not 5 years, Nik and P. It is every single day of navigating the world with a person you love more than life itself by your side. It was a great wedding as the photographs often remind us. What I wish for you though is many many years of a stupendously good marriage. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks (and it's not for turkey)

Kid had a Thanksgiving meal in school yesterday. Of course he has took (and ate) a back up bread and butter sandwich (as recommended by the teacher) in case a turkey and trimmings dinner didn't quite do it. Apparently mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce are 'gruesome'. Wierdo.

Things I am thankful for:
1. Handwritten stuff: I think my handwriting is pretty good (and most of the world disagrees with the 6 year old who just this week declared it 'awful'). I love calligraphy and looking at and trying my hand at new fonts and the like. I love giving and receiving handwritten notes/ letters/ cards. I don't keep them all but I certainly appreciate the words and their beauty both in meaning and aesthetically. 

2. Good food: I am thankful for the abundance and variety of it available to me each day. Both to cook with at home and the various cuisines I have access to in this not huge city. I am thankful that my greatest food lesson as I grow older has been the appreciation of quality over quantity.

3. My parents and Nik: My parents - for always being cheerful, even in the face of adversity and ill health. I most appreciate them for still (despite having been proven otherwise) firmly believing that I and Nik are the very best things to have happened to them and the world. Nothing better than cheerleader parents. Long may I appreciate them and all they do for us. And Nik, for despite having his moments, I know is always there for me, even though we have not lived in the same house for near on 15 years. I’m thankful he has kept my secrets and shared my childhood with all its stories. I'm thankful of his (usually) agreeable nature and a loyalty that inspires. Clearly I lucked out in the family deal. 

4. In no particular order: New books/ old books worth re-reading/ comfortable couches/ sunshine/ good coffee/ water views/ freedom/ childhood friends/ everyday friends/ dishwashers/ technology/ watercolor paintings/ family near and far.

5. Kid: I envy his teacher for seeing him grow each day (although I am glad of the break) for this is an amazing age and of course like my own parents before me, my child is the Centre of my Universe. My real joy each day comes from playing on the floor with him - Lego, trains, cars, puzzles, arts and crafts - and listening to him fathom the world bit by bit. From hilarious mispronounciations to solemn statements and laugh out loud fart jokes, this is an age I would gladly bottle up to cheer me up in my old age. Nothing beats a good cuddle (and I hope we never outgrow those) and all that gorgeousness. 

And, finally:

6. V: I don't need to say it but since I'm being all candid about how much I have to thankful for I can safely say that he is what I am m.o.s.t thankful for. The greatest gifts he has given me are of loving me more than I have ever loved myself and teaching me that in life it is both where you go and whom you travel with. And that in traveling together we are stronger and having more fun than we ever thought possible.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate it. And even to those who don't - it seems in today's awful war-ing world that being thankful e v e r y d a y might yet be the only way to teach ourselves and our kids to be kinder, more gentle and be appreciative of what we have. I have an abundant life. I am very thankful. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Not sure if it is every year or alternate years but usually around this time of year there is a rumbling brouhaha over whether it's 'Christmas holidays' or merely 'holidays'. All over Facebook and in online forums people are complaining.

This year it was Starbucks in America deciding they would not spread the Christmas cheer - doing this by eschewing snowflakes, holly and the like from their red paper cups. Of course this 'outrage' was all over the Internet - with people caring deeply about their coffee cup not reflecting accurately their celebratory sentiments. 

Here in fabulous South East Asia we are equal opportunists. In Kids school (and in our social lives) both in Singapore and here in Hong Kong we celebrate Easter, Diwali, Eid and Hanukkah with enthusiasm and interest. This week it's Thanksgiving and of course soon after Christmas we will have Chinese New Year. A Christmas tree is to be lit soon and fairs and bazaars and IKEA are all bedecked with Christmassy wares and decoration. 

I'm of the belief that you don't need to be of a religion to celebrate it. And there is no better way to teach our children tolerance and appreciation than by celebrating as many occasions as we can. More than anything I like the idea that in this harsh world we have occasions to smile and celebrate and learn. 

It is the season to be jolly and I'm glad to be buying the odd cuppa from places not stepping on the political correctness bandwagon.

A: because he needs to (look) dash(ing). 

Santa and coffee go well together. Ho Ho Ho! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Apparently there is no waiting till after Thanksgving to get going in the Christmas spirit of decorating. 

I'm making quite a complicated Christmas tree this year. One that involves cardboard, cloth, paper, string, lights, photographs and other bits of decoration. At the moment it's all mainly in my head but in a dash around Causeway Bay today I came up with some of the cloth components, the lights and string. Kid and his dad printed off the pictures I needed over the weekend. But the more I think about my plan the more convoluted it becomes and I guess I shall have to take a mini step back and re-think it. 

Meanwhile Kid decided we hadn't painted in many months (entirely true) and so we painted up a few Christmas cards. 

And then when that got boring (very quickly) he moved on to a construction site. He is no Picasso but he so loves painting. I'm totally biased but all the warmth of that corner sun are well flooded in the painting. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

(Not so) New Rumblings

1. It's a blog lethal combination. Can't be arsed to write = lazy. Can't think of what to write = blank mind. Can't write certain things = secret/ None of anyone's business. The feeling is one of haphazard lethargy combined with the terror of losing my words. This month of writing nothing much but writing everyday is helping but I fear unsustainable.

2. It's been a busy year. Eyes wide open country moves that have been physically easy but mentally a challenge for a small person. Extreme sadness and helplessness at the illness of a loved one on the other side of the world. Support of family and friends who have lost their loved ones, from long distance messages and thoughts I hope cross oceans and find a small place in their hearts. 

3. Hand wringing sadness and anger at the way humans treat each other and that in this, 2015, there is war and starvation and inhumanity both politically and at the individual level. And yet how here life in the real world carries on. There is school, attempts at socialising, work, FaceTime, multiple visitors from around the world and Kid to keep me entertained. Beside trying to teach him about his great advantage in being born to us and in this situation and the fact that this too is fleeting and could be snatched away in a second (all without the gore of hard world violence just yet), I'm constantly being pulled in various directions and efforts to help. Some of these efforts are so minute and basic that I can only hope they join in the goodness of other people and weave themselves into a blanket of goodness, kindness and all the ~ness' essential in making the word safer, better and infinitely kinder. It is hard not to despair but it is certainly harder to ignore. And that can only be a good thing. 

4. A milestone birthday that was celebrated gently by my wonderful V and Kid, RT&P; with a short trip to Bangkok (scene of my childhood) to revisit the two things I remembered from then - the reclining Buddha and the building we lived in (both exactly as my memory preserved). We ate marvellous meals and laughed and swam and talked and shopped and had amazing massages and river cruises. It was exactly the day I wanted it to be. Full of smiles and the ability to be thankful for having got here in one piece and living this life. 

5. I've taken a serious step back from technology. Actually that is misleading. I mean wasteful technology. Yes I'm blogging a lot more and writing a lot more but the phone gazing in the darkness and hours of rubbish Tv are gone. No technology at the table while Kid and I eat our early dinner. I keep my phone away when he is around and I'm the better for it. I'm practicing what I preach, he gets no screen time during the week and I've cut way way back. And even on weekends I remind V to put his phones away and play play play. This is in no way giving us the feeling of being righteous (comment I hear echoing in people's heads) but instead the feeling of being present. And I can see Kid notices it. I want to continue this as long as I can. Till it's the everyday. 

7. I leave you with two pictures:

Top floor corner flat. Home in my early years. 

Utter peace and tranquility on this reclining Buddha's face. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday off

No one is more shocked than me that I have been able to keep up with challenging myself to write everyday. As it turns out my offline writing has improved in speed if not texture. Helpful given what I need it for in the real world.

But today I am a tired girl. Writing this by the indoor pool where Kid is having his swim lesson for the week. We had two late nights in a row and not nearly enough sleep. Of course all this is by choice and certainly part of a privilege but still, I can complain when I'm tired right?! 

So instead of some report on what I've been doing/ eating/ making, here are some random (and not very interesting sadly) pictures from my week gone past.....

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dancing in the Square

Now don't get excited you lot. It's not me doing any dancing. Went for lunch to Din Tai Fung in Causeway Bay and then wandered around unenthusiastically doing errands (winter things for Kid, a couple of books, a game for us all).

I was waiting outside Times Square mall for V and Kid who insisted they needed to go INTO the crowded building. I sat there wondering how yet again we had made the poor decision to come to this part of Hong Kong on a Saturday. It really is hellish, sardine can style crowding, and people smoke so much more here than in Singapore or London as they walk that it's smelly and pretty awful. And then as I berated myself for not thinking about this situation, this lot of women, girls really, walked past me. 

So I got up and followed them as they went to the little podium under that clock you see. They were joined by their 'rival' team in maroon outfits and a few minutes later there was a boom box and about a 10 minute dance routine. 

Some kind of advertising for Reebok I think. Certainly entertaining and food for thought as we trudged home on the crowded MTR. 

Not to self: Do not go to Causeway Bay on a Saturday. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Miss-tree reader 101

1. Choose a book you and your kid love. I chose 'Stuck' by Oliver Jeffers.

2. If you can, make a prop. By no means essential but I thought the 6 year olds would love being part of this book. It lends itself to props but admittedly not all books do.

3. Turn up on time - surprise is the key element. It was great to have the tree stuck up and the 'objects' in order before the class came back from recess. And the look on my child's face when he saw it and me was priceless. Well worth the one late night and effort to laminate the bits.

4. Kids have short attention spans and this book was just the right length. I introduced myself as Miss. Tree and told them they were 'Floyd'. It took us 20 minutes from start to finish.

5. As I read the story they each came up and 'threw' the object that had been read about into the tree. 

6. This is the tree with the kite stuck in it. Took this at home before I left. 

7. It's a funny old book and when I asked the kids what other things they could think of to throw in the tree they came up with hilarious answers and soon all 20 of them were in peals of laughter. One of the worlds best sounds is that of children laughing. 

8. I am lending this to a mum in another class and I will refurbish it a bit to use next year as a costume! It's stuck in our playroom now and I'm sure we will get lots more use out of it in the interim. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Crockery adventure

Following a Facebook post where someone recommended a small pop up store selling seconds from batches of big brand crockery I decided today would be a good day to go and have a look. 

I roped in my friend M and made a morning of it. We wandered around Times Square, dodging hoards of people in a hurry and I bought a few bits and pieces to work on my Christmas tree idea for this year. Then we sat down to a noodle-y lunch at Crystal Jade and caught up on all our news. After lunch we looked up the directions offered by the FB post, which turned out to be a street name, Jardines Bazaar, and wandered off to find it. 

Causeway Bay is crowded at any time of day or night. So watching our bags, and negotiating the crowd while looking at the map for directions we finally arrived at the start of the road. It looked busy, with lots of small shops offering food to hungry customers. I could smell great bowls of food being chopstick'd into eager mouths. 

Even with no shop number or name about halfway down the street, this place was evident with its boxes and boxes of crockery spilling out to the pavement. Every size of plate and bowl, loads of interesting designs. I chose 6 small odd shaped plates to replace an old crumbly set, 6 small bowls for soup or cereal and 2 beautifully shaped white porcelain serving dishes which are just the right size for dinner for two. One of the ladies spoke English and assured me they were both dishwasher and microwave safe. She told me how the main shop is in Kowloon but this pop up is for Christmas extras, seconds and surplus from Anthropolgie and Williamson Sonoma and a whole bunch of others. It was incredibly inexpensive and I came away feeling like I had got a bargain.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A classified breakfast

I'm of the view that my deep friendships have been made in my teens, twenties and early thirties. Friendships that include people I can call in the middle of the night in case of a crisis. Friendships that pick up conversations where we left off, be it 3 years ago or 6. Friendships which don't need Facebook or whatsapp to exist. Or existed way before them. Friendships where there is healthy debate and an understanding that even if our views have gone down different paths we can still be respectful of each other's views. 

In everyday life though I find I need another kind of friendship. Everyday friends. These aren't the ones where we have lived our youths and fiery passions at the same time. But they are as important. I need the kind where I can call a person and arrange a fairly impromptu meet for coffee and a gander. Or the kind where they won't roll their eyes because I need to go to IKEA for the 10th time in 3 months but offer instead to go with me. Everyday friends, where the history is being built now, at this later stage of life.

I used to worry about making friends, that I wouldn't be liked for being outspoken. That being helpful would be seen as being obtrusive. A friend did once say I was hard to be friends with because I tell it like it is. I almost told her not to bother in that case. I have to say that as I have grown older I don't worry about perceptions within what is on offer in my friendship. Mainly because my side of it comes with a loyalty that doesn't bend and a realism that means we must cut through the chaff pretty quickly. But I have also mellowed and my opinions are not as harsh. Also I don't often share the deep thoughts. 

I've been lucky in HK to meet a few lovely mums at the service apartments with kids a similar age and an outlook of a similar nature. Women comfortable with who they are and what they seek from this expat life. Women who are trampling through the tall grass of a new life in this city with as much aplomb as they can muster. Once every month or so we try and meet for a longish breakfast. Once the kids are safely away we meet at a Classifieds that is in the area we live in. Classifieds is a chain to be found dotted around the city -  the breakfasts are not inexpensive but good-ish value for good ingredients. It's greatest draw though is the fact that it opens at 9am in a city where that is considered early (unless you live in Central). So post drop off we congregate there and sip mochas and cappuccinos, and talk about the settling in of our children, the furniture finds and the new and interesting things we may have done since we last met. We make plans to explore together this new and intriguing city. We also talk about the cities and people we miss, the change in work life balance and where the best place for a pedicure might be. It's a wonderful few hours of words and camaraderie, an escape from the chores into eggs royale so to speak. 

These are my everyday friends here in Hong Kong. And our breakfasts are what make my days sunny side up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kid things

1. My 6 year old has just conducted a writing assessment for me. He claims that I should write my 'w's like this is printed one (sharp points) and not with the shapes more rounded (like u's). Refuses to listen to my claims that I have already done school and a rounded w is in fact perfectly acceptable. Also looked at me in total disbelief when I claimed my handwriting was by far the neatest of anyone I knew. Has shaken his head at me, told me how 'lying is not a good thing, mama' and left for the playground. My own lessons are biting me in the you know what. 

2. The ridiculous early set up of Christmas in November is messing with everything. This weekend, on a trip to buy some replacement bulbs, Kid conned his father into buying a string of fake greenery dotted with baubles. And despite my assertion that we are a few weeks away from decorating anything all I am hearing is 'when can we put this decoration up?' (December), 'where is my Christmas box?' (In storage), 'has my letter reached Santa?' (No, I haven't posted it yet). In my head I'm all long will I stave off the questions with vague answers that he seems increasingly dissatisfied with? The questions turn more urgent in tone each day. The la-la-la gets louder.

3. I'm prepping to be mystery reader in his Grade 1 classroom. I chose a book he and I have loved for many years 'Stuck' by Oliver Jeffers. No great moral story type book but instead something innocent and very funny to a small child. I decided to go whole hog and build a tree and all the things that get stuck up it. The idea is to use Velcro strips and let each kid stick 'throw' something on the tree as the story progresses. I drew and cut the pictures in a few hours while  watching TV. Had them laminated in Central while between appointments on Friday. Took 20 minutes. Bought tree ingredients from the same store. Spent this morning beginning to get it all together - shaped the top of the tree, cut up some crepe paper leaves, shaped and taped up the tree trunk. Tomorrow I shall finish up and day after I shall share it with a classroom of littlies. Why spend all this time on being a mystery reader you ask? Well, I figure these are the few years I can volunteer in a fun way. While my son still thinks I'm cool and non embarrassing. I like creating the odd thing that I can then pass on to another mum to use in another class. I'm sporadic with my efforts and I find myself very excited by this. I've never been a mystery reader and so here we are. Sneak peek at the first fix:

Monday, November 16, 2015


I have started and discarded more blog posts today than ever before. I've been out all morning and in between running errands I've had snippets of time to write. I have begun posts on all kinds of random things like Christmas shopping, decorating feats I am proud of, blogger friends, letters to Santa, a zoo trip, TV series I've been watching recently. I have nada, nothing, zip, to offer today. 

I'll leave you with a picture taken this morning, of a ginormous Christmas tree in Landmark in Central. Much like Singapore, Hong Kong is way too early and artificially bright and plasticky for Christmas. It's cheering for now, knowing that the end of another year is approaching but I'll grow bored of it well before Christmas. Also endless loops of instrumental Christmas carols in supermarkets - 45 days more to put up with it!!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Nekkid man Hong Kong

Two days ago my FB newsfeed began to fill with images of Anthony Gormley's sculptures. Apparently 31 sculptures of nekkid men (fiberglass, I think) had been perched on the edges of building rooftops all around Hong Kong. The uproar was in people's opinions of how this was insensitive in the light of the many suicides that Hong Kong sees each year, leaps from buildings to painful endings. That families and friends recovering from the pain were  to be reminded afresh of their loss. The other side being offered in the heated debate was how art was not always easy and artists were rarely thinking of pleasing their audiences but instead of provoking debate, expressing thoughts and making its audience use the piece to think about various things. People expected many a 999 call to be made in light of these life size sculptures seeming as if they are about to jump off the edge.

Anthony Gormley is perhaps most famously known for his Angel of the North sculpture. I've seen his works at various exhibitions and can see why he is celebrated in many ways. I'm not sure which side of this debate I fall on. My perspective is perhaps entirely different from someone who has had someone jump off a building and so I am keeping my counsel. 

I hadn't really looked up on my busy walking around Central day on Friday. I was too preoccupied with getting to my appointments on time and (not shockingly) fitting in with the iPhone look at crowded streets. Hence the many pictures. 

Yesterday however we came back into Central for a spot of Indian lunch at Ista. It's a good value, half decent Indian spread that I don't want to cook. Imagine my surprise when I looked out of the window by our 2nd floor table and saw this guy:

Not sure what I think yet. Not definitively at least. Although V and I had a somewhat heated debate about what we each thought. I've taken on board his points of view and I'm mulling them over before I conclude anything. At least, as any artist wants, the work is being talked about, gnashed over, thought provoking. 

The only conclusion I could come to was there is such a thing as too much Indian food. I waddled around like an inflated penguin for the rest of the day. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saturday shenanigans

I'll be up in a few minutes, gone into my weekend. I would love nothing more than a Saturday without chores and plans and news of the world. As responsible adults however it is hard to ignore things like laundry, still unpacked boxes, haircuts, groceries, bill paying, filing. All the detritus of the week that was shoved aside for the weekend is now upon us, piles of things that need attention. And of course all that playing and family time; book reading, living room camping, pretend s'mores roasting, car marshalling, puzzle-ing , train track building, sushi lunching, lots of giggling. It sounds busy because it is busy. 

I'll be up in a few minutes, gone into my weekend. Right now I'm watching the news and sipping my coffee. I'm marvelling at how cruel the world is and how poor beautiful Paris is wounded. How for some people the world is at its end, how some children will not go home tonight, how heartbreak is the most physical of emotions. I'm thinking of the asylum seekers running from fear, wondering where their next meal will come from, whether they and their children will ever be safe again. I'm thinking of how to teach my child to be kind gentle and thoughtful in a world that seems so harsh. I'm thinking of my aunt who celebrated her birthday yesterday, bathed in grief over the loss of her beloved father a few days before. I'm thinking how everything can change in a minute and how easy it is to blame others for our problems. I'm thinking about time and place, about circumstance and our belief in changing the world. I'm thinking I should be more thankful for my mundane chores. And how I should never forget that. 

I'll be up in a few minutes, gone into my weekend. For these few minutes however I shall sit in the sunshine on a windy day and pray for peace.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Central sightings

I don't live in Central Hong Kong although in nearly every previous visit this is the area we have stayed in. To me it is a warren run of crowded roads, a higgledy piggledy collection of tall buildings and a pretty crowded (as opposed to bustling) pen. It reminds me of Mumbai in many ways. It's interesting but I wouldn't live in it if I didn't absolutely have to. Different on a visit as opposed to the long term. 

I find though that I am inevitably here once every few weeks, usually an appointment of some kind, administrative or medical or meeting friends. Instead of coming in multiple times though, I now try and schedule things in for one whole day and then spend an exhausting day getting from place to place, running errands, meeting various people. Today has been just one such day. I haven't stopped since I caught the 7.45am shuttle into town. And it's been such a busy day that now as I sit on the shuttle towards home and Kid I find myself tongue tied with exhaustion. And so I will let the pictures of my day and a few words about each be my post for the day. 

These 4 shots above are from one of the walkways that connect the long line of escalators that run from Central up into the Mid levels. This corridor had some very interesting graffiti style art and walls of plants and benches to sit on. I hadn't seen it before and I really enjoyed it. 

These 4 shots are along Queens Road Central which is one of the arterial roads in this neck of the woods. Busy and not particularly beautiful but so full of life. Even the buildings feel like they are giving of an electric energy. I particularly liked the grey and blue water hydrant and took the picture for Kid who insists they are always red. 

Surely illegal? It was closed but I was there early - the road wasn't yet teeming. The shutter had a beautiful cut out - it's gave the gate some splendour amidst its run down condition. 

Lost in translation perhaps? 

Checked out a co-working space called Garage Society. Very nice and conveniently located. 

Coffee break...

Clever. And Yummy.

And Christmas trees!! Too early in my opinion but happy to be a sheep and ooh aah, for the spirits must remain high....

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Halloween 2015

Ok, so 12 days in I seem to have run out of things to write about. WHAT?!! I hear you say. 

Just kidding!!

Let me tell you how Halloween played out this year. Last year in Singers, if any of you was paying attention, we went the whole way and decorated with bats and spiders webs and hanging lanterns. We gave out eyeballs we had painted and loads of different kinds of things like colouring pens and eraser in addition to a few sweets.

This year was a rather less handmade affair. When discussions about Halloween began in early October Kid was pretty gung-ho about making things but when push came to shove we were so busy marshalling the mess of unpacked boxes that we agreed it would be absolutely fine to substitute most of the making with buying this one time. 

So we made and put up the Boo sign but I bought the eyeballs (ones that lit up, and ones that were bouncy balls) and some spiders to add to the decor. I found 3 small pumpkins in the supermarket and we bought one at school (ridiculously priced and I won't be doing that again). 

On the day Kid dressed as Captain Rex from Star Wars - a character he has never watched in action but has been handed down a costume for. Since he owns a light sabre bought for a fancy dress birthday party a few years ago he thinks it's just fine! He wasn't keen on going out to trick or treat but thinking it would be a good way to meet a few new kids V took him to a few levels of our building. He promptly came back in 15 minutes and emptied his bucket into our give away basket and waited patiently for the hordes to arrive. 

It wasn't planned very well and people had a hard time figuring out which floors to go to. Something that a simple list of signed up apartments could have solved. But they did come and within the two hours we were out of eyeballs and candy - and we had seen everyone from a popcorn box to a vampire, Peppa pig to a ninja. 

I'll leave you with some pictures so you can see what it looked like. 

Glass lanterns, basket, green beads and checked orange and white cloth from last year. Vallaka's permanently outside our door. 

According to Kid, without hanging bats what is the point. I guess next year I shall have to make more effort. Hopefully, I won't have moving as an excuse....

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Hong Kong Diwali

It's our first one here and I'm really not the worlds most festive person. So no breaking out the decorations and dressing to the nines for me. I'll join in the traditional celebrations when family is around (last year was case in point - we were in Bombay in V's brother P's home with parents, other brother R and all the kids in attendance) but to me and my own childhood memories it's essentially a festival of relaxation and food.

However in honour of being in Hong Kong I decided I would at least carry out my threat of 'food'!!! So instead of our traditional bar of chocolate as a sweet, I braved the Internet and made a 6 ingredient kalakand. The results are below and now mainly in our tummies! 

Last night I sent out an impromptu email to the 6 women I know in my neighbourhood and invited them for brunch at 10 this morning. Then without waiting for any replies I got the ingredients for papri chaat organized, soaked some sabudana and boiled some  potatoes. 

This morning 4 of these friends turned up and we spent 3 hours eating sabudana (sago) tikkis with dhania (coriander) chutney, plates of papri chaat with glistening pomegranate and squares of kalakand. 

They left and I got onto getting dinner ready before Kid got back from school. I and my lovely helper have cooked (in record time) Channa, Kashmiri dum aloo and Ulli Theeyal. It sounds haphazard (north south combo) but I decided that I didn't care much if they didn't match. It's what I wanted to cook and I have. Rice and paranthas, salad and raita, pickle and papad, to accompany the mains. I think food coma is round the corner. 

That's the moment the FRIED potatoes went into the fennel seed gravy. I can't tell you how divine it all smells. An agarbati of food so to speak! I'm stuffed with food but waiting eagerly for dinner. 

I thought the house was all set up. Lights fans and handymen have been the focus for an age. But a set of lights for each of the bathrooms and the kitchen were delivered today. Light delivery on Diwali, auspicious, no?! 

In other Diwali news I have been reading a book about it to my reluctant little Indian. It's called 'Amma, tell me about Diwali' - the story of Rama and of Lakshmi. It's a good book but I can't get my head around the little boys name - I know no one called Klaka - and so I change it to Karan or Karthik every time I read it. I really like the simple way the story is told and the illustrations. Kid has been enjoying it - we have re read it for the last three nights. I thought he was getting into the story, asking a few relevant questions. 

This was our conversation shortly after reading the book last night (in the run up to bedtime):
Kid: Mama, I remember when we celebrated Diwali in P tauji's house. We had firecrackers.
Me: shall we go back to celebrate there tomorrow? 
(This is the tauji that squeezes these cuties out of love!)


Kid: So will we have firecrackers tomorrow?
Me: No.
Kid: Why?
Me: Because we haven't bought any.
Kid: SERIOUSLY!!!! What is the POINT of this Diwali then?! 

And he stormed off to his room. To say I'm dreading the teenage years is an understatement! 

Happy Diwali to you and yours, from me and mine. (Forgive the Hallmark sounding greeting). May your year be filled with love, laughter, learning and light. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mini Adventure

I had pre- arranged to go to Sai Kung today, to visit the home shop of Hollie from BookBugz. Her online prices seemed almost too good to be true. Of course my only comparisons are exhorbitant Singapore bookshops and fairly expensive bookshops here. I don't have the luxury of Amazon here and I don't find Book Depository as cheap as everyone says. So a little schlepping to check it out was called for.

One shuttle bus, an 8 minute walk to the train station (including asking for directions), getting on the right line but train in the wrong direction, getting off at the next station, changing platforms, getting on the right line with train in the right direction, getting off at an interchange, waiting getting another connecting train, hunting for the non signposted taxi stand at my final train stop, finding out I needed a green taxi and not a red, switching to the long queue, waiting for 10 minutes while taxis dribbled in and it was finally my turn, then driving to her house - about an hour and 20minutes in all. 

Well worth the journey. An adorable place in a green, village like setting. Quaint little house, down a quiet side road, built around a little car lot and each home draped in greenery. And being (technically) in the New Territories, I had my first green taxi ride! Certainly an experience of new things (that are not handyman related) was a great way to start my day.

She has rescued an adorable little kitten which thinks it's a puppy and was happily leaping about looking for some playtime. I spent considerable time in her shelves of books, finally choosing about 18 books for Kid. There is a reason for this large purchase and in a few days I shall explain myself. 

For today I'm a happy camper because I reminded myself that I often like nothing better than exploring places I haven't seen before and meeting new and interesting people while doing so. Buying all those books for my child is just the very bright light above our reading chair. 

And on that note, may great light love and learning come into your homes this Diwali....