Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Numbering January

Time to start counting as I join up with Julie's Month in Numbers over on notes on paper.

 click on image to enlarge

The month of January definitely has a family feel. While my elder daughter took on some extra work, I got to enjoy more granny time than usual. 

  • At the beginning of the month, my granddaughter's new bed arrived. It is fit for a princess and she reigns supreme in her kingdom (bedroom!). This meant it was time for her brother to move from his cot into his new bed too and following a family tradition, for it's what his mother and sister both did when they were his age, he spent the first night on the bedroom floor wrapped in his duvet while all his soft toys had a comfortable night in his bed. 

  • The whole family enjoyed several outings to the Theatre, as January is the period when our local Theatre puts on productions suitable for children. We all loved Swallows and Amazons which is now travelling around the UK and if it comes to a Theatre near you, do go and see it. It is truly wonderful for all ages.

  • In February, my grandson will be 3 and he is having a Pirate Party in our Village Hall. My elder daughter requested some invitations and we gladly obliged. My son-in-law drew a fantastic pirate ship (well, he is an Art Teacher) and my younger daughter helped to download the design and to print them out. No doubt I will be blogging about his party sometime soon.

  • The enormous amount of tablets my youngest daughter now takes has diminished in number from when she commenced her treatment. Back in September, she took 248 tablets that month and by writing this down for the Month in Numbers, shows me just how far we have progressed. In a couple of days time, she will be down to 10 mg (2 tablets) and will then stay on that dosage for maybe a year. I could have used another number here, as she takes her medication at 9 a.m. each day, but I think the number 156 is enough of a reminder, don't you?

This has been my first attempt at keeping a record of numbers for a month and I have really enjoyed it. During the month, I jotted down in a draft blog special dates etc. I haven't included the number of times that I pick up and drop off my son-in-law at the station each weekend when he comes to visit his wife (9) and my girlfriends didn't want me to mention their ages (!) but it is interesting how relatively easy it is to record events in numbers. Do have a go. I am sure Julie would be delighted if you joined in.

Enjoy your day! 

Monday, 30 January 2012

It's a Wrap!

It was only when I was looking for photographs to display in the recent CNY posts, here, here, and here, that I spotted this in the corner of the China tour album. It would seem that I commenced a kind of scapbooking back in the 80's without realising it.
My 'roomy' Nancy, wrote this in my album

I have always kept bits and pieces from my travels since the 1970's. I have numerous brown envelopes stuffed with brochures, receipts, photographs, local information etc. that I never knew what to do with. I just knew I wanted to keep them. Maybe it would be a fun project with my granddaughter sometime to seek them out and journal them? Endless possibilities, never enough time!

Before I depart from this trip down memory lane, I thought I would share some of the things I wrote in a journal while in China. List of characters: Tour escort Richard, and Jasmine, the National Guide in Guilin.

Some memorable sayings and moments:
  • Jasmine had a beautiful voice and when she wasn't coughing alarmingly, sang songs from the Sound of Music learned from the television.
  • The trip on the Li River, the fabulous 'karst' mountain formations.
  • Those who carried hairspray had them confiscated at the airport after a demonstration by an airline assistant where he sprayed a board and set light to it to show us it was flammable. (!)
  • The cormorants perched on slim rafts along the river banks.
  • While on the bus which took us to the collection point for our river trip, Richard said 'That is Elephant Trunk Hill, the most photographed landmark in all of Guilin'. We asked, 'Can we stop for pictures?', he answered 'No, we don't have time'.

This was our lunch on board. The packet of Yupi peanuts has this on the reverse: 'It can lower cholesterol levels, prevent arteriosclerosis and heart disease, at the same time it has function of raising children's intelligence and keeping human vitality'.

After Guilin, we flew up to Xian to see the extraordinary Terra-Cotta Warriors. The vault took 37 years to build and 720,000 workers were involved in making this tribute to the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty. When we were there they had discovered around 6000 of the warriors, some weapons and chariots. My younger daughter has visited Zian more recently and there are now more than 8000 warriors on display.

Our guide in Xian was called Mr Liu and we loved him for the following comments:
  • 'It is harder to find a room (in Xian) than a girl friend'
  • 'I am going to enjoy you all very much' (my all time favourite!).
check out the ponchos - it rained a lot!

There's so much more to show and tell about my travels in Asia but for now, I hope you have enjoyed these glimpses into some of my Chinese New Year adventures.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Chinese New Year - Take Three

During my time in Hong Kong, I worked for the American Women's Association, a non-profit charitable organisation. I had started out as a Volunteer, after being introduced to them by a recently acquired American friend who arrived in Hong Kong at the same time as my family. We became, and even though now reside back in our own countries, are still the greatest of friends.

I'm the one in the mac!

It was an exciting time. I had never mixed with a large group of American women before and their enthusiasm and the way they embraced every adventure held me in thrall. As one of the Secretaries to the AWA President, I met such a diverse group of people from all walks of life. There was an enormous bond that made up the expatriate community at that time and I was so thankful to be a part of it. I also worked at a Child Development Centre and although that was a British run organisation, there was quite a cross-over in my two jobs. 

Through the AWA, I became involved in the many activities they organised for their members. I chaired House and Garden Tours, Las Vegas Nights, numerous Balls, Fashion shows, went on Asian tours, and assisted with the classes that they ran. Looking back, it was a really happy time in my life and I will never forget the people I met and their involvement in that happiness and the memories I carry with me. Although there was a fun element to AWA, there was also a very serious side. All the fund raising events were to support their many out-reach community programmes, such as the Refugee camps, the orphanages, education and scholarships for Chinese students, the pre-school children who lived in Kowloon Walled City, to name but a few. 

In 1988, I had the opportunity to visit China with a group from the AWA. Back then it was not as easy as it is now to travel around China. The roads were very poor, sometimes non-existent! There were no high rise buildings in Shanghai, whereas now it can top Hong Kong's sky scrapers. This was not my only trip to China, but it was the only time I was there at Chinese New Year. I had been wanting to see the Yangtze River and walk the streets of Shanghai since a girl, as this was where my Great Uncle Tom, mentioned here, lived and worked for part of his life. How glad I am that I was able to see the Bund and the French Quarter before all the recent changes. I even managed to visit the Peace Hotel on the Bund, where I am sure Tom would have passed many a happy hour.

On this trip, we were introduced to so many interesting people by our tour guide but there were very few opportunities to just mingle with the local population. I did however, on one occasion while we were being shown around a pottery factory, escape out into the village square where a large group of young females gathered around me and kept touching my hair, which is rather curly. They were all shouting very excitedly and I gathered that they thought my hair had been permed. They had only seen permed hair in a magazine and did not know that people could have naturally curly hair.

A serious piece of equipment!

One of the abiding memories of this tour was on the Eve of Chinese New Year.  After a banquet, several of us wandered out to sit at the lakeside where we were staying. On the stroke of midnight, we heard all the Chinese crackers ripping through the air and when the smoke cleared, there was silence and all we could see in the darkness were the outlines of small boats on the lake lit only by candlelight. It was a simply divine moment.

Have a great weekend wherever you are.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Year of the Dragon - Take Two

Following on from Monday's post, and as the Chinese New Year is an ongoing celebration for fifteen days, I am going to share with you a few more CNY stories over the next week.

One of our most eventful CNY was a trip with friends to Thailand in the late 1980's, to the so called Golden Triangle. Our first stop was Chiang Mai, where we visited several of the Hill tribes, and were even invited into an Opium den! 

 Scanned in photographs, apologies for quality 

After a couple of days trekking, we got back to the hotel in Chiang Mai, and while we were confirming arrangements for a boat trip between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, I spotted a newspaper headline which mentioned that several American tourists had been held up at gunpoint and robbed while on the trip we were proposing to take. More importantly, the boatman, while trying to protect the tourists, had been shot and killed. I went white. I said we had to cancel the river trip immediately. My husband and our friends took a different viewpoint. What safer time to take the trip, there would be policemen everywhere. After quite a discussion, me quite hysterically - we had two children who I didn't wish to be orphaned because of our recklessness - I was talked into taking the boat trip.

The next day, after a sleepless night on my part, we arrived at the boat dock to be met by out boatman and a man with a gun who was to accompany us on the journey. We all boarded the boat and set off on the river. By lunch time, I had calmed down sufficiently to enjoy the scenery, which was breathtaking. Around Chiang Mai it is very hilly and the vegetation quite dense, a perfect backdrop against the bright blue sky. The boat pulled over by a river bank and we were invited to cross a narrow bridge to meet an old monk who lived in a cave. Stomach churning, I crossed the bridge, and did meet a charming monk who shared our lunch and then we were back on the river heading towards Chiang Rai. 

By late afternoon, miles from anywhere, the boat pulled over. There were elephants wandering around in the trees! The boatman motioned for us to get off the boat, which we did (remember the accompanying man with the gun) and we set off along a pathway that led to a tiny village on stilts.  We stopped at one of the huts and were asked to remove our shoes. My heart was in my mouth by this time, I kid you not. Even writing it now makes me shake with disbelief. Up a ladder we climbed and entered a square space. In the middle of the room there was a coffin and about fifteen wailing people squatting on the floor. We were invited to view the coffin, in which lay the boatman who had been killed a few days earlier. We then found out that the man with the gun had not been on board to protect us, the tourists, but was accompanying the other boatman who was taking money from the boat hire company to the dead boatman's family. It is traditional for the company to help the family as the boatmen do not have insurance. We paid our respects to the family, gave them what money we had in our pockets and were invited to share a meal. Leaving the man with the gun behind, we got back on board and the rest of the journey to Chiang Rai was uneventful.

See you back here soon for some more Chinese New Year stories.

Monday, 23 January 2012


This year is an auspicious one for Dragons everywhere for it is said to be the luckiest of the twelve creatures that make up the Chinese calendar. The calendar has a twelve year cycle and as it is based on the lunar year, has a movable date. The New Year commences when there is a New Moon around January/February time and this year of 2012AD is the Chinese Year 4710 (or it could be 4709 or 4649 depending on which Chinese scholar you are a follower of!).

Scanned in photograph, apologies for the quality
Photograph taken when mum visited us in 1986 for Christmas and New Year

When we lived in Hong Kong those many moons ago, we loved the Chinese New Year celebrations: the fireworks in Hong Kong Harbour, the dragon dances, the Flower Market in Victoria Park, tasting different foods. It was such a colourful festival. The most important part of the New Year is to celebrate family and to honour one's ancestors. As it is a three day public holiday, it is the only time that businesses close and the streets can be very quiet on the first day of the New Year. Most people spend it at home with their families enjoying a celebratory meal. One of the customs that enchanted my girls when they were young was the exchange of red packets (lai see). These are usually handed down by an elder to a younger member of the family and contain HK dollars of an even number. It is unlucky to hand over an odd number of dollars as this is associated with money handed over at funerals. Depending on how many friends we met up with over the New Year, the girls could be the recipients of quite a substantial hoard of red envelopes.

Now here is a little known fact about me and Chinese New Year. Back from Hong Kong in 1992, having moved to a completely new area of the country from the one we left, I was invited to speak at the local Women's Institute about the Chinese New Year. Somehow or other, I became an 'expert' and ended up travelling around the WI circuit filling up a vacant spot in their calendar around the January/February time. It is true that I did have lots of Chinese embroideries they loved to see and handle, and I did have a large quantity of Chinese New Year decorations that I had collected over the years that they appreciated seeing, and recipes gathered from Chinese friends they enjoyed tasting. However, one of the high spots of the talk were the photographs I had taken of street signs on my travels around Asia. The most favourite of these - and, if you are of a nervous disposition, look away now - was the sign that read, Lo Slung Bra Company. The WI ladies loved it!

Wishing you all Kung Hei Fat Choi

Tuesday, 17 January 2012


This past weekend, my younger daughter had a friend visit her at my home. They have known each other from school days; over twenty odd years. They don't see each other that often but when they met up, it was as though it had only been yesterday that they last saw each other. 'V' had heard that my daughter was ill and just wanted to see her.

We all appreciated her taking the time to visit. She doesn't live nearby and leads a busy life teaching primary school children. It was a tremendous boost for my daughter. I haven't heard her laugh so much for a long time. 'V' has a wicked, dry sense of humour and entertained us a lot and I can't thank her enough for being such a good friend to my daughter.

This visit got me thinking about friendships and what they mean to me. During the time I have been looking after my younger daughter, my friends have seemed to be in two camps. There are those who support and encourage me while I look after her, and sadly, some friends who feel I do too much and therefore do not have the time that I once did, to spend with them. I find that I have been surprised and a little disappointed in their reactions to this illness. I value my friends a lot. We have been through life's happiest times and some of our lowest and I have always thought that we would be there for each other whatever the circumstances.

The one's who do support me are true friends. Like my daughter and 'V', no matter the gap between the times of seeing each other, we always take up where we left off and I feel so much stronger and happier for having them in my life. You know who you are and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your friendship.

Until next time... x

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Life is a bit chaotic at the moment and I have missed sharing my moments with you. My elder daughter is working at full speed and I am helping look after the grandchildren more than usual. My younger daughter did so well over Christmas joining in our activities that she became exhausted and has had a small set-back. My life is very full of family affairs but I do hope to find the time to blog over the weekend.

In the meantime, something to whet your appetite

Last Saturday, I took my granddaughter and elder daughter to see The Nutcracker. We loved it. A truly wonderful performance by The Moscow City Ballet that had my granddaughter humming the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy all the way to the restaurant, where we met up with the rest of the family.  

 We love spaghetti!

And, something to amuse...

When the children were here yesterday, my grandson wanted to be dressed as a robot and this was the best we could do with my granddaughter's dressing up clothes. He is a caution!

Be back soon.

Friday, 6 January 2012

A Gift

One of my Christmas presents from my lovely daughters was a Kindle. In the past, I had resisted having one thinking it to be 'just another gadget'. How wrong I was. Sometimes, of late, I have had difficulty reading books and magazines with small print, and the Kindle has been a revelation. It is light to hold, I can alter the size of print, and most importantly, I find the screen easy to read. It will never replace books in my life. They are important to me. Their delicious smell, especially old leather bound ones; holding them and turning the page; their design; the front cover... There is nothing not to love about a book in my eyes. However, the Kindle will supplement my reading pleasure, as I was finding it more and more difficult to read a book while in bed.

I am mentioning all of the above because of a recent find. I adore the author Carol Shields. To me she encapsulates all that a great storyteller should be. It was such a tragedy when she died in 2003 after her lengthy battle with Cancer. She was taken too soon. I often wonder how many more wonderful stories she would have written had she survived. In the words of her son and four daughters (when expressing their sadness for the loss of their beloved mother) but also for the loss of the novels that would now remain unwritten. In a Tribute to Carol Shields, Tim Adams wrote: When she wrote, it often felt as natural as breathing, and as essential... She was always a beguiling writer. She'd have you think her concerns were only little affairs of the heart, the minor compromises men and women make with love, the ways in which her characters might find hope and comfort in the domestic and everyday. She was able to invest this detail, however, with such generosity and wit that it amounted to a world view.

The first book of Carol's that I read was Happenstance. I purchased it in Rhode Island in the late 80's when visiting friends. I was hooked! After that, I bought them all. Or, I thought I had. Looking at ebooks for the Kindle, I just happened to type in her name and up came Dropped Threads a book edited by Carol Shields and Marjorie Anderson that is a collection of revealing essays and short stories by 35 Canadian women. How had I missed it? I am about halfway through reading it and enjoying the diversity of the storytelling immensely. Not only have I gained another Carol Shields' book, I now have an introduction to several women authors whose books I will investigate further. I can say, without doubt, the Kindle has been a huge success. Thank you dear daughters. 

Wishing you all a pleasant weekend. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A mixed bag of a blog!

You may have observed that I have changed my blog banner for the month of January. The snow scenes were taken in my garden last year and the wonderful sunset is of a local beach at the beginning of the year. Our weather has certainly been varied so far this winter; gales one minute and bright sunshine the next! 

Over on Sian's lovely blog, I read a post about recording your month in numbers. The original idea comes from Julie Kirk of notes on paper. Julie has been blogging her months in numbers since January 2010. If you are interested in this concept, why not pop on over to her site. If you click on [Months in Numbers] in her top header, she has written a really interesting tutorial on the 'How to' aspect of noting down those numbers. You can also blog hop and see how others write about their month in numbers. There are some great reads. I am going to give it a go this month. I think this idea is a unique way of recording daily events and will definitely add a new dimension to my story. 

Speaking of stories, do you remember the other day I mentioned we all went to see The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe on Boxing Day at our local Theatre? It was a superlative performance, quite magical and very imaginative. The sets were amazing! My grandchildren were enchanted, and although initially a little fearful when the Witch (Queen) appeared, sat throughout the whole performance eyes glued to the stage. The production obviously stirred my five year old granddaughter's imagination to such a degree that during the Christmas holiday she treated my daughter and son-in-law to her interpretation of The Lion, The Witch and the White Wardrobe! She had managed to remember all the words of the song Turkish Delight, though Edmund only sang it once in Act One. Her three year old brother also starred, throwing himself into a variety of roles, with the help of his big sister.

 Here's the princess practising her curtsy 

And the prince yesterday digging up the garden!

Busy day ahead. The granddaughter is back at school and it is my day for looking after the grandson. I wonder what mischief he is going to get up to today? Life's never dull when he's here; he is a real entertainer!

Have a good day.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Time for Change?

The beginning of a New Year is an opportunity to reflect on the year that has ended and on any areas of one's life that might benefit from change. Would I, could I, do things differently in twenty-twelve? 

The past year has been an interesting one for me, dominated by my younger daughter's illness, where I became her carer. It has been hard watching her daily struggles, and thankfully, the year end has seen her taking small steps to recovery.  My elder daughter returned to work and asked me if I could assist more in taking care of my grandchildren, which I gladly do. I can think of nothing more pleasurable than being a grandmother. I do love being a mother and although both girls are married with their own responsibilities, I still continue in that mothering role to be anxious about them. We are very close. The role of Granny, however, allows me to be much more frivolous! So would I change anything about these arrangements? My wish for 2012 is that my younger daughter's health improves to a level whereby she is able to live in her own home, start driving again and enjoy life. How wonderful that would be for her and my son-in-law. 

One of the best decisions I made in 2011 was to create this blog. It has brought me much happiness. In the main, I have found the blogging community to be such a sharing, caring, supportive group of people, with a wealth of stories and ideas that I look forward to each day. We may never meet and yet they are friends; there is a human touch to commenting on a blog post that feels so very personal. I have to confess, I do love a handwritten letter and treasure anything written by my family, but receiving a warm response to a blog post, gives one a certain pleasure and because of this, if I could make any changes to the blog this year, it would be to find a way to encourage more dialogue with like-minded bloggers.

During the year, I took quite a few on-line classes. Some were very successful, others not so much, but all provided the opportunity to keep on learning. I still have two modules that begin at the end of January for The Art of Business and Surface Design and I am really looking forward to those and seeing what opportunities arise from the course. I sat on the fence for a while about Ali Edwards One Little Word and have now decided to join in. I have chosen the word choice or, I should say, it chose me. This year, I have some choices to make as to my future. Some large, some small, and I am hoping that the word will guide me to make the right choices as I move on in 2012.

I am looking forward to all that 2012 brings, its challenges as well as its pleasures. Most of all, I wish you a very happy, healthy, and productive New Year!