Friday, February 26, 2016

A lie-in

 - Before my life in the UK I had never heard the phrase 'lie-in'. Once I understood that it just meant sleeping/ staying supine/ in bed that little bit extra,  I realized I'd been doing it my whole life anyway. I just didn't know the right terminology. 

- All wrongs are righted. I know what a lie in is, and to top it all, I'm quite the expert.

- By all means, post surgery I'm officially entitled to lie-ins. But I like to get up and get my kid ready for school and have breakfast chats about the way to beat Count Dooku and what storm troopers should be doing before its time for the bus.

- So I usually come back up, change back into PJs and have interrupted lie-ins.

Today was an early morning. I've just dropped my mum to the airport after 2 weeks with us. Of course I felt the great need to show her HK, take her shopping and to eat at places I love. 

- We didn't do quite as many sightseeing things as I would have liked but as she reminded me I was still meant to be 'at rest'. One memorable day was the Ngong Ping cable car ride to see the Tian Tan Buddha. I'd seen in it 2005, pre- cable car and was keen to revisit. Living at the diametrically opposite end of the city meant a long-ish journey to get there. Finally on the cable car and up we go to find.....drumroll....the worst fog in days -  a visibility of almost nothing feet. Wandered around in the fog and came right back down. But at least we spent the morning talking, meeting interesting people and having a cable car ride. 

- I managed post drop off lie ins on most days as my mum reads late into the night and her late nights lead to late mornings while on holiday. As she rightly says the doorbell here does not ring 10 times between 6 and 8am and so it's far easier to sleep that little bit extra than in Delhi where a retinue of people ring the bell for one thing or another each day. 

- The continued cold weather makes lie-ins just the recipe. I look out of my window and see the dragon boats out there on the water, practicing to be top of their game. I curse myself a little for being a sloth and not partaking in such activities. The moment passes as I doze.

- I have a meeting this morning and am having to give up my lie in. Boo.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The sublime works of Margaret Forster

One of my favorite authors died this week. Margaret Forster. She had such a wonderful way with words, letting the reader right into the rooms her characters inhabited. I wasn't a fly on the wall but instead a guest in the corner of the room, on a beautiful chintzy upholstered chair, watching as her 'people' lived full and interesting lives. She had this wonderfully clear view of the world and a capacity to elaborate the story on behalf of the many. 

I first discovered her writing in 2002, buying a book called 'The Memory Box' from a charity shop on Finchley Road in London. I remember only that it was a wet drizzly February day and that it was one of the days I had taken a random bus from the end of the road to the end of the line. I had wandered up and down Golders Green, eaten my sandwich on a bench and then walked all the way down to Finchley, peeking into shops as I went, ducking into others if the drizzle picked up pace. As the wife of a student, new to the city and with no job and limited resources the charity shop seemed like a welcome place while it rained. It was a treasure trove. I left with 4 books - one of them was Margaret Forster's 'The Memory Box'. I only recall many of these details as I pulled it out of my bookshelf this morning and find my name, the date and where I bought it all in my neatest handwriting inside the cover. It was a book that stayed with me, being read again and again over the years and the many moves. I bought a few more of her books from Amazon (notably 'Diary of an ordinary woman) and found others in other charity shops, each a gem. 

Over the years I returned to that and the many many Charity shops around London, each time leaving with a little piles of books that cost £1 or £2 each. Inexpensive books donated to charity by generous readers was always one of the highlights of my time in London. When it was time to leave I sifted through my many books and gave 50 books each to my top 8 charity shops. My own goodbye to a city that kept me in inexpensive books for a decade. I gave away most of the Margaret Forster's - but I kept two: The Memory Box and The Battle for Christabel. And tonight I'm going to re-read one of these. Margaret Forster, RIP.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Gong Xi Fa Cai

That is the Mandarin greeting in the title. This is the Cantonese: Gong Hei Fat Choy

Hong Kong is something special at Chinese New Year. The whole city wears an air of festivity and the beautiful decorations remind everyone to look forward, into the blessings and goodness of the coming year. We had a lovely day of celebration today and have a few more ahead of us before everyday life takes back over.

I wish you and your family a wonderful year of the Monkey. May all good health and happiness and prosperity be yours. 

Friday, February 05, 2016

This phone cover situation

I'm not sure when I began to care what my phone cover looked like. I remember being all fine with the tacky-but-sturdy plastic cover that were standard Vodafone issued in the UK. And then whoomp, it's like through a time machine to this future where I'm always trying to decide if I need a new cover or not. 

I had a Chumbak one for ages (which I loved loved loved and was so ghisoed by the time I changed phones) but then I went off them for no good reason. Then my phone changed and I had a clear plastic one and no matter how hard I looked I couldn't find anything I liked. So I 'tried' a whole bunch, bought randomly and from many different places. Nothing stuck.

In December, on the Mumbai leg of our journey, I admired my niece R's mobile cover. I was talking about how hard it was to decide what to get and that hers looked cute. Next thing I knew, for the princely sum of Rs.200 she had ordered me the exact same off Amazon India. 

I used it for a few weeks but the liquid wasn't really moving at a normal speed and the stars and stuff getting stuck at corners was just plain annoying me. So I rummaged around my cupboard and found I had bought this wood carved over for my friend T who loves Totoro. 

And now I'm pretending to love Totoro (till I find what I really want, which is something that probably does not even exist). Sometimes my own ridiculous and convoluted thoughts about mundane things annoy me. This is one of those times. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Childhood traditions 2

Here is one I set up when Kid was 2 and haven't yet stopped 4 years later. 

1. Every day when he comes home from school (and before that, from daycare/ play school) I would have 3 possible activities set out. As an example: a puzzle box, a small pile of books and a third set up of a way of using an existing toy or doing some craft. 

2. So he would change out of the day of grubby clothes, chomp down his snack and then pick one activity. You would think building a toy or crafting would be what he picked everyday but I was surprised by how many times he picked books or puzzles. (An aside: The joy of lying on ones bed with a small child tucked up in the crook of ones arm and reading together - that's a priceless memory which will sustain me well into old age.)

3. The choices have grown more complex as he has grown. A simple set of paints and canvas like above wouldn't be taken as seriously now as a few years or even months ago. Not unless it involves stencils or glue or something else with texture. I'm having to up my game to keep him interested in continuing to play with me. 

4. Activities usually involve lying/ sitting on the floor and take about 15-20 minutes. It takes me about the same amount of time after he has gone to school to figure out what the 3 choices are and set them up. Over the years I have discovered that we have a plethora of toys that get forgotten and I often reintroduce them this way to see if he has indeed outgrown them. 

5. This is what I like to call 'Precious time' . It's time that moves both slowly and quickly; he focuses on a task (this has helped in many ways with school work etc), he unwinds with something new everyday that does not involve a gadget, he gets to use his imagination in amazing ways and most importantly, he talks. I get a near 15-20 minute dialogue about life in general (in the context of the activity/ toy) and I need to prod only very gently for detail. 

6. We've kept this tradition on for 4+ years now and I won't stop till he rebels. Here is way a recent 20 minute craft pile we created: the Life Star (imaginary brother of the Star Wars Death Star which he would like in Lego but has agreed he would be hard pressed to manage till he is older {recommended age 14+, 3000+ pieces}. Cardboard box, tape and glue, colouring pens, Lego people and imagination. He will get hours of play with it)

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Summer shoes

I bought these cotton and hemp shoes for a pittance in Chatuchak market in Bangkok this summer. My sil got the same pair and proceeded to wear them instantly, wearing them thin and lamenting only having bought one pair.

 Still voting against closed shoes in the heat of Singapore I put them at the bottom of the shoe cupboard and forgot about them till I was hunting through the shoe pile in the recent Hong Kong cold spell. A cold spell I was grossly underprepared for. These turned out to be the only properly closed shoes I owned when the shivering cold began. I quickly remedied the situation with a few pairs of shoes - closed, black, boots etc. But in the few days while I got sorted these were my saviour. The thin cotton and hemp mix didn't keep the feet warm and they were soaked through the second the rain even threatened to fall but goodness me I was grateful for them in place of my boat like flip flops filling with water! 

Monday, February 01, 2016

Monkey year

What better way to begin a month of writing with something auspicious? In a short week we will be celebrating Chinese New Year, that most hallowed of celebrations. V and I were here in Hong Kong in 2005 for CNY and although 11 years later that seems like a lifetime away I have some pretty amazing snapshot memories of it. 

The decorations are everywhere! This is the prettiest I have seen so far - in a mall - and I am surprisingly not put off by the red & pink combo which usually does not sit well with me.