Sunday, February 27, 2005

Photographs have come to this blog.....

Technophobia is diminishing! V has deciphered how to download photographs from our digital camera onto the laptop. I have uploaded them onto an online server and here is the first ever photograph on this blog.....

Serene Buddha of Lantau Posted by Hello

This is the Buddha of Lantau. 20 feet high, solid bronze and 286 steps up a hillock on the picturesque island of Lantau. Utterly serene and completely beautiful.

Friday, February 25, 2005

of new things....

This last week has gone by in such a hurry that I have had not a mo to post some bits of new news. So here goes (in random order):

1. Trips and engagments: V & I landed two Saturday ago from our Hong Kong holiday and he left again on Sunday for New York (3 continents in as many days for him!). There he met an old buddy of ours. The news is that she and her he (also our good buddy) are now engaged. I have not heard the full 'so-how-did-he-propose' story. Needless to say I am very thrilled!
2. Babies are born: Two dear school friends have each delivered a beautiful baby last week. A little girl Tara on the 16th and a little boy Neel on the 18th. New life and innocence is blossoming.....
3. Old movies: V got back last Saturday morning and we went almost immediately to watch a hindi movie being screened by Pratham as a fundraising event. It was at the Prince Charles Cinema in Soho and we watched 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' from lovely plush red seats. V bid for and bought 10 Amitabh Bacchan movie DVD's as part of the intermission fundraising auction. That night we watched 'Amar Akbar Anthony' after dinner with friends.
4. Globe-trotters return: Our globe-trotting friends have returned from their adventures in South America. They have been our guests since last Saturday while they settle back to a London rhythm and each evening has been a wonderful wine and tale.....!
5. Of bones...: Went to Tayyabs in Whitechael for dinner on Sunday with our globe-trotters (one of whom rightly had a craving for the kebabs) and a delicious pork chop splintered and embedded a bone in V's tooth. Luckily the Royal Free Whitechapel is across the road (hmmm, I wonder is it coincidence or design?)and so we went to A & E. Beside a very drunk youngster who launched himself forward and hit the wall just ahead of us, there was no excitement. The nurse could not see anything and the doctor was too busy with the drunk guy. An hour later they sent us home with the bone still uncomfortably lodged in V's mouth. The dentist removed an mm speck from his tooth next morning and he is fine and raring to go to Tayyabs again. As you can see Tayyabs is just that good!
6. ....and snow: On the way back from A & E it began to snow. Rather late in the day considering its the end of February and we were waiting for spring. On Monday BBC advised us to expect 'Siberian winds' during the week and sure enough its been below freezing and there have been flakes in drifts and drabs. Nothing substantial (unfortunately) and each morning the dusting fo snow quickly turns to slush. But as it falls it looks so beautiful....

And so another week toward 30 passes by in a flash....

Tayyabs: 83-89, Fieldgate St,London E1 1JU Tel: 020 7247 6400

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

3eads or threads

This post (as the name does not easily explain) is about 3 reads/ three reads....

The weekend before we jetted off to HongKong V and I went to Greenwhich Market. A not so secret attraction of Greenwich market is that beside the weekend food market there are a few bargain bookshops which sell paperbacks for about £3 each. Here's the 3 I got and read (hence 3eads!)

Book 3: Fury by GM Ford
I had previously read one of Ford’s novels from the Leo Waterman series and enjoyed that immensely. So when I chose this book I expected Fury to be of a similar genre and voice and overall an easy-read American crime novel. Fury introduces Frank Corso, a once shamed and now reclusive columnist and occasional reporter for the Seattle Sun is the star. Once fired from the New York Times for fabricating a story, he is hired by the Sun's owner, Natalie van der Hoven, who is convinced that despite everything Corso is an “unusually honourable man". So when Leanne Samples (thus far star witness) claims, six days before the death penalty is to be carried out, that her vital identification of Walter Leroy Himes as the Trashman serial killer was a lie, Natalie calls in her marker to get Corso to follow the story. Delving backwards into the original material that helped convict Himes, Corso comes across unusual resistance from the Seattle city administration – indicating that something more than an unfortunate miscarriage of justice is at stake...and of course, like any good hero, he and his assistant, Meg Dougherty, turn things around just in the nick of time.

The plot was just about satisfactory – what makes this book a good read was the pace. The twists and turns are definitely not new in the world of crime thrillers but Ford’s satirical world-view and descriptions of the world of Seattle’s graffiti artists are riveting. Corso was like any other hero. It is Meg Dougherty who stands out as a character to reckon with. She dominates the book as six feet of "pure Seattle Gothic", vitally contributing her knowledge of Seattle street life (and much else) to the case. Her background story is shadowy and interesting making her one of the more convincing characters to read.

This book was a good read but definitely not in the league of the best. My recommendation is to read it only if you come across it by chance, on someone’s bookshelf, or in a library. Don’t go looking for it.

Book 4: The Remorseful Day by Colin Dexter
I’m admittedly a Poirot (Agatha Christie) and an Inspector Wexford (Ruth Randall) fan. I have watched read some of the books (but don’t recall either names or plots) and watched some Inspector Morse episodes (TV serial version) with John Thaw but never found either gripping enough to remember or pursue more wholeheartedly. It was the words on the cover of this one ‘The final Inspector Morse novel’ that caught my eye. I plucked it off the bookshelf of the bargain bookstore and resolved to give it a chance as my holiday book (for Hong Kong).

Morse is an eccentric British detective, almost as enigmatic as any of the suspects and victims he encounters. The Remorseful Day was wonderful. It revisits the life and death of Yvonne Harrison (a nurse) whose murder has baffled the Thames Valley police for more than a year. The unsolved murder is abruptly reactivated by an anonymous phone call to Morse's superior, who gives Morse the case despite his stiff opposition to getting involved. Reluctantly, Morse begins to He finds that the victim's hyperactive sex life has provided a surprisingly large number of potential suspects, all of whom have had time to hide or confuse their tracks.

There is a timeless quality about this book. You don’t need to have read any of the others in the series to appreciate this one. It moves at a steady pace and brings together elements of puzzle, comedy, thriller, word-play, description and village atmosphere. Indeed an engaging read - much encouraged.

Book 5: Deception Point by Dan Brown
This is the least good of Dan Brown's books I have read so far. I was introduced to Dan Brown’s work with the Da Vinci Coade which I devoured over two nights in Madrid on holiday. That was an amazing book.

With other books clamouring to be read after Da Vinci, it has taken me almost 10 months to sit down with another Dan Brown novel. And I am disappointed beyond belief. Deception Point felt as if it had been written to a formula for thrillers. The style seemed set and stilted by comparison with Da Vinci.

The whole plot is wrapped around the structures of power in Washington D.C. - the White House, presidential candidates, governmental agencies such as NASA and NRO. The basic plot is that NASA is coming under serious review for its huge spending and not-so-magnificent results. A Presidential candidate is scheming to change NASA’s future drastically and make space exploration a private venture. The incumbent President is the proverbial good guy and he recruits the Presidential candidate’s daughter (the daughter can't stand her father so there's no love lost) into his scheme to save NASA.

The central plot of the book is a discovery, conveniently by NASA, of a certain object buried in the ice somewhere in the Arctic zone. The discovery begins in a certain way, only to quickly reveal itself as something else entirely, which is exactly the fuel needed for the twisted plot to take off.

For fans of the genre, the book will be an entertaining read. Dan Brown is a confident writer, using typical tools building a thriller with a ever turning plot. The book is peppered with James Bond-ish hi-tech technologies supposedly used by the US defence forces. A notice at the beginning of the book claims that "all technologies described in this novel exist." While this could certainly be the case the book is far-fetched in dimension, relying on deception on rather a massive scale and in rather exalted circles and that makes it almost science fictional in nature.

Suffice it to say that this is a bestseller and I imagine that a lot of people will love it. It was not my favourite Dan Brown book by a long shot and I will not return to it for a while. More seriously the other two Dan Browns in the series that I have not yet read (Angels and Demons) are in peril of remaining unread till I am inspired enough again.

Till Book 6.....keep reading!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Into the grey

It's no surprise to anyone but me that as one approaches 30 the odd silver-grey hair pokes through an otherwise abundant head of brilliant black hair. Needless to say my least favourite colours at the moment are silver and grey. Needless to say that very soon I'll have to join the junta of hair-dying humans. Needless to say that no matter how healthy I get, no matter what veggies I ingest, this is an irreversible process. Ah well, I guess this is life!

However the point of this post is not to talk about hair, grey or otherwise.

V & I are back from Hong Kong. I loved every minute of it, not least because we stayed in a warm friendly house with friends. V liked it (note: not loved) but only as a one-off holiday spot, mainly because he was with me (ahem!) and because he had no choice! The sightseeing in HK can be kept to a minimum because there is not a lot to see in a city sized country.

Day 3: We MRT'd it to Kowloon and KCR'd (MRT and KCR both being rail systems) it to HungHom to get our Digital camera gaurantee converted to a worldwide one and to swap the instruction manual for an English one. Done and dusted by an efficient service centre, we went to the Jade market in Kowloon where I proceeded to spend some of my hard earned dough on beautiful trinkets. I am strangely attracted to Jade and bought a few beautiful pieces to jazz up my otherwise boring London blue-black attire. Walked through Nathan street (sent my last despatch from there but was too excited to write in any kind of detail) all the way to the Star Ferry Terminus, admiring all the shops. The ferry ride was cheap and fun and since it was bright and sunny, an altogether lovely experience.

Day 4: The big parade which I was so keen to see was a huge disappointment - there was no view from the planter I had to stand on; no crowd control to escape from it and what we did manage to capture on our camera and in our minds was greatly influenced by the US - cheerleaders and american marching bands interspersing many of the floats. Not enough oriental bits. Disappointing to say the least.

Day 5: The 1st of 3 days of Chinese New Year celebrations. We took the ferry across to Macau (or Macao as the Portugese say) but were sorely disappointed by the worn down industrial look. Macao's only highlight was the A-Ma temple (built into a rock hill) and the New Year celebrations (including noisy firework bursting) right outside.

Day 6: Took the MRT to Tung Chung which is on Lantau Island. Apparently Tung Chung used to be a backwater, with a few villages, a simple fishing harbour, and old rice fields. The modern world has since arrived with a vengeance - all connected to the development of the nearby state-of-the art Chek Lap Kok airport. After a long winded bus trip around hairpin bends of Lantau (that reminded me of the climb up to Ooty) we reached our destinantion - the Buddha is one of the most distinctive landmarks and in all it's bronze glory stands at 34m tall and weighs about 250 tonnes. The Buddha is part of the Po Lin Monastery which is at an altitude of 450 meters. We climbed all 268 stairs to reach the platform but it was well worth the effort for the wonderful view of the Lantau, of the little islands that surround it, and of the blue South China Sea. Back on the bus we noticed the neat villages and hamlets dotting Lantau's coast and lowlands. There's a cluster of them in the east, near the ferry pier at Mui Wo (or Silvermine Bay). Boosted by commuters and holidaymakers, they appear relatively prosperous. So too villages along Lantau's southern road, which are close to long, sandy beaches. It was an overcast but beautifully serene day and we enjoyed it very much.

From the entire trip the highlights for me were mainly the shopping - of which I did copious amounts - and the rolling fog we woke to each morning. Shopping so much so that we ended up buying a new strolly (haha - it was on the plan anyway!). My best buy was the Jade jewellery. The evenings with friends were great and Lan Kwai Fong will stick in my mind for some time to come.

The weather was mainly bright, mild - hot, sunny and clear - interspersed by the odd misty drizzle and rolling night to morning fogs. Back in London it is grey, greyer and greyest this week I am afraid. True to my predictions every year, February is colder than any other month. Shocking our systems and preparing our bones for much needed summer sun (she says hopefully). So we are back, at home, very much in the grey....

Monday, February 07, 2005

2nd despatch from HK

We are having an absolute blast in Hong Kong. I've been here before on a short stop over enroute to Australia in 1998 but for V this is the first time. For all practical purposes this is my first time as well - my memories from the 24 hour in 1998 are alternately blurred and sharp - some things seem familiar while others are a completely pleasant surpise.

Anyway sitting in Pacific Coffee shop in Kowloon's Nathan Street and posting as we have not had a minute to spare (having fun is so time consuming!)or any access so far.

Spent two lovely evenings with our hosts, pubbing in Lan Kwai Fong which is the central club/ pub/ disco area - crawled from 'Stormies' to 'Insomnia' to 'Beirut', ate Hagen Daz icecream at 2am to coat the alohol!

In the 2 days that we have been here this is what we've done:
Day 1: Went to the airport to meet my bhua who was enroute from India to SanJose. Walked around Central and Admirality and shopped some
Day 2: Spent the day at Ocean Park, fed and watched Sea Lions, watched a Dolphin show and rode he 'Raging River', gazed lovingly at the two pandas JiaJia (female - slept with her back to us) and AnAn (male - who came and sat right in front of us with a huge bunch of bamboo and delicately plucked each leaf off till he had a whole bunch to chomp - show off!), finally bought our digital camera (after checking in 4 shops and comparing prices a zillion times!) - so pictures are coming to this blog soon!
Bhua: father's sister or aunt

1st despatch from HongKong

V & I are in Hong Kong - a long planned trip to see friends and celebrate Chinese New Year.

Highlights from the flight:
1. More than 100 empty seats so we got front row seats, plenty of space and all the attention of the crew
2. To remain fresh / prepare for HongKong (after what would be a 13hr long flight) I drank water, walked around; V watched a chinese movie called 'Three of a Kind' and declared that it was just like a hindi movie.

Impressions so far: very foggy, long long escalators, loads of very helpful chinese people (as one would expect!)

More later!