Thursday, December 15, 2011

Small victory

I am not a big fan of posh gyms. Ever since the rather scary BodyPump with Brad experience, I have only used the one near the office for my twice weekly ergo sessions. I joined it, at vast expense, seven years ago and have never got my moneys worth from it. I am also a member of two other private members clubs that have gyms and the University sports centre near where we live. With an ergo in my flat and lots of great trails nearby to run on I have lots of choices so rarely visit my wildly expensive Central gym anymore. As a result I have been contemplating cancelling my membership

For the first time in over a month I went to the gym at lunchtime today. The ergo has a lovely view of HK harbour, in fact it probably has one of the best views in the world from a rowing machine, and as I was pulling away I wondered whether it was worth paying the ridiculous monthly fees just to be able to pop in from time to time.

Then I went to shower and change and managed to lose my locker key. A nice cleaning lady helped me get my stuff out with the spare key, which I returned to the front desk as I left. It's the first time I have ever lost a locker key in any gym so I was rather surprised to be told I would have to pay $150 to replace it (that's HK dollars, so about eleven quid in British money). I pay ten times that as my monthly fee and have been a loyal member for seven years, I politely pointed out, surely they could waive it. The poor guy behind the desk looked very apologetic but told me that was the rule and he couldn't give me my membership card back until I handed over the cash. So, I told him to cancel my membership (which he did with very little protest) and I flounced out leaving him with my membership card still in hand. I would like it noted that I didn't pay the $150 either.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I have a whole bunch of friends who have either just had babies, are pregnant or are thinking of getting pregnant. This includes a friend who once scathingly said when we were both child-less career girls "What's the big deal about being pregnant? Any dumb animal can do it!". Quite a few of my friends who pregnant at similar times to me are now onto number two. My friends with children now almost outnumber my friends without. It seems that I have got to an age when the biological clock, if someone has one, has well and truly sounded the alarm, been put onto snooze a few times, and now refuses to go off.

In some ways, as one of the forerunners amongst my friends, it is nice to be asked about babies, what they do. My best friend is just realising, 4 weeks after gorgeous baby A arrived into her life, that babies don't sleep that much, tend to cry a bit and that it is perfectly OK to call her the "devil child" after a sustained period of days with no sleep. Another friend has realised that you probably shouldn't do a sea change race in an outrigger when you are 6 months pregnant (although as I recall I did try it). It's nice to have so many new members of the Mummy club and, for possibly the first time since I had Eve, I don't feel as lonely as a Mummy.

As for me? I confess, all these babies and friends with babies is making me think. I always said I would consider another when a) Eve was at pre-school b) my career was back on track c) I was fit again and winning races. All boxes are now ticked. Added to that there won't be much of a bonus for the next year or two at the Gnome bank. Perhaps I may be getting broody again myself...

Banking games

I was in the lift up to work yesterday standing next to a grown woman in a smart suit playing a Smurfs game on her iphone. She got off at the investment bank trading floor. Weird.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Death becomes her

As I sit in an unusual moment of calm on the sofa with no Boy (out doing a swimming race), no rowing or paddling (because Boy is out doing a swimming race) and Eve still asleep at 8am for reasons best known to the sleep fairies and not to be questioned, I am looking at our rather elderly cat fast asleep on the rug.

Marlow is a very tolerant cat. She has put up with being dragged halfway around the world, living with a sister she despised (Henley, who passed away a few years ago) and a small person coming into her otherwise calm and fuzzy life. Despite being poked, prodded, pulled and generally hassled by Eve she has never once scratched, hissed or shown anything other than mild disdain for what we have inflicted upon her. Except an mealtimes, when she loiters under Eve's chair hopefully. We have been very lucky to have such a lovely pet and she is part of our little family. She is, however, getting on a bit.

So, as I sit here pondering life and death, it strikes me that if she dies in the apartment we have a real problem. What do we do with her? In the UK the garden was the resting place for all manner of rabbits, cats, rats and so on. But in HK we don't have a garden. Henley, our other cat, helpfully died on the operating table at the vet. One week later our very apologetic vet (having killed our cat) delivered us a little urn of ashes. Those have also caused us problems in that I don't feel I can just put them in the bin and many discussions with my Mum about scattering them have led is to the conclusion that Henley was incredibly lazy, hated going outside and her favourite place was the sofa, so unless I am going to stuff them into a cushion they will just have to stay on the shelf in Eve's room. However, at least there was no issue about what to do with a dead cat body.

Marlow is very much alive (although fast asleep at the moment) so hopefully this is not a problem I will have to deal with in the immediate future. However, assuming one day I walk in to find her on the rug but just that little bit stiffer and that little bit colder. I can't just throw her off the balcony can I?

Another grumpy post about poorly behaved children

One of my favourite blogs over the past few years is Pants with Names. Although I have neither the time nor the inclination to become part of a much larger mummy blogging community, I have my favourites that are mostly written by friend and friends of friends and I take a lot of interest and delight in the parenting challenges of others.

Recently, she wrote about whether one should or should not discipline the children of others. By discipline here we are not beating a small child in public but rather highlighting to other children some basic social norms (sharing, not hitting, being kind to smaller children) that are the basics with regards to human decency and a harmonious society. This is something I grapple with a great deal. It is a particular problem in HK because lots of children are not looked after by their parents and carers are rarely empowered to discipline the children at all, let alone in public. I don't tend to tell off children directly but I do seek out their parents or carers and suggest to them that they might like to do something. More than once I have felt very sorry for a Filipino helper whose prime motivation is to ensure that the little princeling (or princess-ling) does not tell any bad stories to Mummy about her, who has not actual support to instil discipline but faces me telling them that it would be a good idea if they could stop/start/remind their charge about something.

The worst instance was in a local theme park, Ocean Park. We went with friends and Eve was queuing up for a bouncy castle. Parents and carers were not allowed to stand with the children, but I could see Eve, and there was a park guide organising the queue. Eve was with her friend but, being kind, she had let her friend go in front and she went on a different slot to Eve. This meant that Eve was standing next to a couple of boys who pushed in front of Eve. Eve, having her mother's innate sense of fairness, asked the boys to go back, whereupon the larger brother of the two boys shouted at and hit Eve. I lost the plot completely.

I leapt over the barriers and grabbed Eve, who was by now crying. I told the park guide what had happened (she had been watching) and told her that she should remove the boys from the line immediately. She said that she didn't know what had happened, couldn't, and let the boys onto the castle. I told her, loudly and firmly, that she was reinforcing bad behaviour and if parents weren't allowed to stand in the line then she had a duty to ensure that children were treated fairly. She did that classic HK Chinese thing of saying sorry but not really engaging at all in any form of sensible discussion. Then, to top it off, she said that Eve would have to go to the back of the line to wait her turn to go on the castle again. Giving up on her completely, I looked around to find the parent of the boys to give her a piece of my mind, only to find the two boys were getting off and ran over to their Filipino helper who had seen the whole thing and just gave me a slightly weak smile as she carried their bags for them.

My Mum suggested that I write to the park manager but I know HK and they way things work here to know that nobody would care at all.


I was bullied at school. In fact at two out of my three schools. I was bullied because I was different, I was bullied because there were some nasty girls at my schools, I was bullied because I was too lacking in confidence to do much about it until my Mum stepped in - both times. I know a lot of it was from a strong desire to fit in an air of desperation and loneliness that I must have given off. Mum thinks that some children are just the "type" who get bullied. Maybe she is right. However, I spent a lot of my childhood at school being unhappy, until I finally found my voice, confidence and comfort zone at my final school.

As such I am acutely attuned to any hint of bullying or social isolation directed at Eve. She is a confident little girl around her friends but also like to fit in and be liked and seeks approval (oh so like her mother). There is one little girl in the playground, N, who is a couple of years older than Eve. I don't like N. I don't like her because she seems to enjoy excluding other children from her games. She will select one or two friends to play with and then, quite hurtfully, exclude the other children. This often includes Eve who, having been taught by her Mummy that if she wants something she should ask nicely, gets very upset when N tells her to go away. I came to the playground last night to find N sitting on a bench with one other little girl pretending to be on a boat with Eve standing nearby. She told me as I walked up to them that she was on the boat and Eve wasn't allowed on it because there were only two seats. Cue Eve getting really upset. I told her that there seemed to be lots of room and maybe we could all join her on the boat. She pointedly told me that Eve wasn't welcome. Eve started to cry.

Mercifully at that point N left the playground with her helper. H, our nanny, and I sat quietly with Eve and explained that not everyone is a nice person all the time and she had lots of other friends who would be more fun to be with. Eve gave a plaintive cry that she wanted to play with N and couldn't understand why she didn't like her.

To be honest, if it had been Eve behaving like that to another child I would have taken her to task about her behaviour. However, this is the city where 90% of children are looked after by helpers who have little or no support for discipline from the parents of their charges. I spoke to H about it, she had noticed it too and said that N's nanny knew about it but that she couldn't stop it. It would seem that the nanny fraternity in our playground have simply written N off as a spiteful bully. Sad for her when she is only 6 and sad for the other children who play there.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Portugal and Bill Clinton

My recent bout of food poisoning reminds me, as it usually does, of a trip I made to Lisbon many years ago.

It was pretty early on in my relationship with the Boy, in fact it was our first break. Being just out of Uni and having no money, I managed to get cheap tickets on a BA deal and off we trotted to Lisbon. The only hotel I could afford was a rather anonymous business hotel a good 20 mins walk from the main city centre but it was a holiday and one I could afford without going into too much debt so off we went. The first 2 nights of our long weekend went really well. I had done a bit of research so we did the usual tourist things, although I discovered a useful fact about the Boy - he doesn't much like wandering around churches and that's sort of the best bit about Lisbon, and ate in some lovely local places. On our penultimate night, the Boy took control and decided that we would eat at a local BBQ chicken place he had read about. It was cheap, the food was yummy and I congratulated him on a great choice.

Until about midnight. When I started to vomit, and the other one, mainly both at the same time. About two hours later the Boy started doing pretty much the same thing. There was no way on earth we were going to manage to leave our room so we alternated between the bathroom and the bed feeling rather sorry for ourselves.

Being a lower end business hotel, it catered for Portugese business travelers. This included the TV channels where the only two English language channels were Eurosport and CNN. It was the day that Bill Clinton's deposition about not having sex with that woman. CNN was running it, in its entirety. Eurosport was running the European truck pulling championships in full, unedited. For those who have not been initiated into this wonderful sport, it involves pulling trucks. Men pulling trucks. Women pulling trucks. Other trucks pulling trucks. Riveting. So we watched Bill and trucks, upon reflection perhaps Bill would have been more interesting had he been pulling a truck, for about 8 hours.

I still feel slightly nauseous whenever I see pictures of Bill Clinton.

Weight loss HK style

After 8 years in HK, about 6 more than I originally thought I would be here, I have got used to many of the less pleasant aspects of this amazing city. For example, I find that I not only tolerate but actually enjoy humidity now. I complain when it's below 25 degrees outside and frizzy hair is a small price to pay for being warm. I have given up all need for personal space and have got used to unsolicited comments telling me I am looking too fat, too thin, tired, too big and any other many comments about my appearance that seem perfectly acceptable to make to a virtual stranger. I have even got used to the slavish adherence to rules that sees me not able to raise my credit card limit or explain why I shouldn't get charged be being overdrawn on one account when it is the same account number as my other one and I have lots of money there (only someone who has lived in HK will understand that - it does sound like something from catch 22).

I had also got used to the less than strict food safety and hygiene standards in resaurants and it's been a full three years since I ate out and anything got to me, in any country in Asia. Until this week. After a fun and rare night out on a school night at a driving simulator (I lost all the races in the slow cars but did rather well in anything fast, even beating the boy in the final F1 race) and then a curry. It was one of the better quality curry houses in HK and I didn't eat anything odd but overnight I made friends with my bathroom. Three days later I still can't keep solid food in me, although I don't seem to feel too bad on it and I must be losing weight - every cloud and all that. Perhaps part of me, ie bits to do with digestion it seems, are still English at heart.

True blood

Today I got a notice about the company blood donor drive. Once or twice a year there is a blood donation day at the office. It's a great way to get blood donated and, like the UK, there is no fee paid to the donors so it really is a civic responsibility for the people of HK. Being a newly minted permanent resident (I picked up my new ID card today) I decided I wanted to donate. I know that, in the past, I was rejected because I had lived in the UK and there is still a general fear about CJD. However, this was before I realised that I an O negative and, therefore, a rather rare and useful blood group. I checked the stats and it is especially rare amongst those of Chinese ethnicity and, according to Wikipedia, just 0.31% of the HK population are this blood group. Surely, there could be an exception.

Um, no.

Amusingly I can't donate in the UK either because the countries in Asia I have travelled to exclude me from giving in the UK too.

Oh well, me and my rare blood type will just have to settle for doing out civic duty in some other way.

Monday, July 4, 2011


I'm a permanent HK resident now. This means that I can live and work here without needing a visa (yey), I can vote (double yey) and I have been here 8 whole years (shit, that went fast). It doesn't mean I can get a school place though!


I've always been one for taking on a bit too much. I have the attention span of a goldfish and, most of the time, a huge amount of energy. I may also be just a tiny bit competitive and don't really think that it's worth doing something unless you do it well (or enjoy it, but often they are one and the same). However, earlier this year I realised that I was struggling a bit and had really taken on a bit too much. Aside from the full time job and being a Mum, I also had training for two competitive sports, sunday school teaching, voluntary work as a mentor for a reforming teenage drug addict, rowing club secretary and, after agreeing to organise a dinner for my former head of college, the alumni convenor for my college (although other than one dinner I've not actually done much yet). So, for the first time in my life, I have given something up.

I am no longer rowing club secretary. Someone else has taken on that task and after 6 years (out of the 8 we have been here) that I have been on the club committee I am nothing, nil, of no importance at all.

What will I do with all my spare time now? I was thinking of Chinese classes...

Another mummy moment

To other Mums (and Dads).

Do you ever have a moment when it hits you, I mean really hits you, that you are a parent and your child is the most lovely and most important thing in your life? It's that moment when you really understand what unconditional love is all about - with the beauty and the pain that goes along with it - and how incredibly special it is.

It's the most amazing feeling alive.

School daze

I need to get Eve into a school by the tim she turns five. I started this process just after she turned 3. Two years would be ample to have a good look at schools, make a decision about which ones to apply for and get her a place. I mean, two years is two years isn't it. I even laughingly told a friend of mine with a newborn, when she asked me whether I had put Eve's name down for a place yet, that she was mad and should enjoy her maternity leave. Oh how I laughed. Oh how I don't now. There are not enough places for expat children in HK to all go to an international school. Due to a bit of nationalistic fervour around the time of the handover back to China, almost all fully government funded schools decided to teach on "mother tongue". A great idea to get exam results up but there is now a whole generation who have been educated in a language that almost nobody outside HK speaks (Cantonese - at least educating in Mandarin would have made more sense) and a whole generation of Chinese parents who apply for the already scarce places at the English-speaking international schools because they want their children to be fluent in English.

If I was any other nationality except British then I would get priority for the international school of my country. French, German, Swiss, Australian - even the Norwegians have their own school. However the descriptively named "British International School" is open to anyone who has enough money and who applies early enough. Bugger whether or not you are British.

Most schools in HK work on a first-come-first-served basis, and I've had admissions officers laugh at me when I tell them Eve is 3 as if I am asking to send an eighteen year old to kindergarten. Apparently anything later than embryonic and I may as well not bother to apply. So much for me thinking I would select the schools, it is more of a case of getting Eve into anywhere now.

The priority for getting into these schools is as follows:
1 - national of the relevant country (bugger that for me then)
2 - have a hugely over priced corporate debenture. This is something companies buy to secure places for their overseas employees. Neither the Boy nor I are eligable for one.
3 - buy your own hugely overpriced corporate debenture. Um, I don't have a spare million hong kong dollars kicking around for that one. And even if we did the waitlist for most of the debentures is 2 years anyway so I'm too late
4 - when you applied for the school i.e. the earlier the better

The more eagle eyed will have realised that nowhere does the ability of the child have anything to do with this. It's mainly about money. Welcome to Hong Kong.

I have applied for the Canadian (lovely campus and nearby), a newish school with rave reviews and small class sizes (but we would have to move to get closer to them), and the German Swiss school on the basis that I work for a Swiss bank and I might get some sort of priority over others. You have to pay to even apply to the schools (a couple of hundred UK pounds each) so it's not a decision to be taken lightly. That doesn't even guarantee you an interview either, it's just a fee for them to read your application.

A friend told me, to calm me down, that you rarely hear of children who don't find a school place anywhere and have to leave HK. True, but there's always a first time.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I am not really all that bothered about royalty or princesses. At lunch today with two colleagues, one Italian and one from the US, they asked my opinion on the British royal family. To be honest I am somewhat ambivalent. I don't think they do any harm, they don't cost much money and they are good for British tourism and charity work. I don't care much for their births, deaths and marriages and the Boy and I spent most of the aftermath of Diana's death wondering what insanity had gripped the country. Although I felt sad that two boys had lost their Mum, that was about it.

In HK it has been pretty easy to ignore the Royal Wedding. There was an etiquette class in a local shopping mall run by a Kate-look-alike shipped over from the UK, but if one didn't watch the BBC then there wasn't much about it. We forgot it was even happening until I popped on the news after Eve had gone to bed and saw "the kiss".

Eve is obsessed by Princesses. I rather like the Disney version because they tend to be pretty positive role models, witty, feisty, independent and often the prince has to work pretty damn hard to win his princess. Eve has numerous dolls and books, and although she has had a slight flirtation with Tinkerbell and the fairies (similarly very positive role models), she tends to revert back to her Princesses.

I have been reading a bit about Kate, or Princess Catherine, lately by virtue of the aforementioned Italian colleague introducing me to the online version of the Sun (I know, I know but how would I otherwise know the crucial information about TOWIE?). She seems, within reason, far more like the Disney princesses than any did before her (does her own shopping, buys from high street stores, does her own hair, flies in a normal plane - although I'd be REALLY impressed if they fly economy) and for the first time I find a small sense of pride in my royal family.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I don't like Barbie. I think I may be alone in this because judging by the amount of Barbie-related junk (move, books, hair clips, pens, bike, iphone apps, rubbish bin etc etc) there must be an awful lot of people out there who are happily buying into the vacuous blond bimbo. I, however, am not one of them.

I have nothing against dolls per se. In fact Eve has lots. She loves, and I entirely approve of, the Disney Princesses. They are feisty, clever, witty and often the prince is nothing but a mere sideshow. One of the latest films, the Princess and the Frog, was ultimately about pursuing your own dream to run a business - the prince and the princess bit was a bit irrelevant to the main part of the story. Here is someone who is an excellent role model for the modern young girl. Therefore, Eve has lots of princess related stuff, including the dolls, and I have no problem with it.

It's just Barbie. Aside from the fact that her body shape is utterly unrealistic (although I read recently that her boobs have got smaller over the last 10 years, that's OK then but she still wouldn't be able to stand up and would have awful back problems) her only real talent or appeal comes in being pretty and wearing nice clothes. In the 1960s Barbie started to have the odd job but they have always been traditionally female roles and, as I said to a male colleague yesterday, even Doctor Barbie wears an outfit more likely to have come out of his fantasy than mine. As if to refute my claim that "you'd never get a banker Barbie", he found one online. Of course she's not sitting behind a trading screen, but at the reception of a suitably pink branch.

Eve knows that Mummy isn't too keen on Barbie and, while looking at a picture in a Barbie book the other day (which I will allow in the house) she asked me why I don't like Barbie. I replied that it wasn't that I disliked Barbie but rather than I think women should be valued for their intellect, skills and talent rather than just how they look and what they wear. Her reply "But Mummy, don't you think her dress looks pretty?".

I'll try feminism again when Eve is five.


I don't get much time on my own to write the blog, so I tend to have to do it all at once. So that I don't forget the posts I have not had time to write tonight, I am going to give a preview of the next 3 posts.

Sports Day
Air travel

Feel free to vote on which one you would like to read first!

Working Mum's dilemma

It is mother's day next Sunday everywhere except the UK. This means that the Boy gets a shot at not forgetting, having been reminded back in March already about the UK one. It also means that Mums get invited to participate in lots of celebrations of Mum-hood.

Except, like most things, I always leave it to the last minute and forget. This year, with Eve at the stupidly-expensive-what-am-I-paying-for pre-school, Mums get invited in to have something made for us and a special Mum's story. It is on the 6th May so I booked the time off months ago, moved meetings, arranged to be in the country.

Then we get an email on 29th April, just before a HK public holiday, when the school is on vacation, saying that it has been moved to one week later. Cue panic and annoyance from me. They post the important dates on their website and I arrange my working life around them so that I can attend concerts and sports days and expected events, it is simply not acceptable to change them with one week notice. I almost wrote a nasty email back as disgruntled of Pokfulam, but it seemed a bit pointless because it wouldn't make any difference. Most of the Mums at the school don't work (I've only found one other that does so far) so presumably most only needed to change their yoga classes or tennis lessons.

Do I sound like a bitch? Probably.

The friends you make during pregnancy

While staying in on my own last night (public holiday so no nanny and the Boy is visiting one of my favourite cities in the world - boo hiss) I watched an interesting program on BBC Knowledge about diet and fat. Apparently, one can increase the number of fat cells in ones body, for example when one is pregnant and tends to lay down a little extra for winter, but once they are there we can't get rid of them. It doesn't matter what you try, they just sit their waiting to soak up fat.

So all those hours at the gym and denying myself doughnuts is pointless.

Then I hit upon the solution. Surgery. A bit over the top?

Summer has finally hit HK

Within one day of the temperature changing, I have 10 mossie bites and feel like one big itch. Despite being on the 23rd floor and too far away from the ground for the little blighters to fly into the flat, the little bastards have a way of getting into the lift on or with someone and setting up home in our flat. One has been munching me for the last two nights, despite deet, citronella and mossie coils going all night.

As I was in my kitchen this evening making a cup of tea, the horrid (and, may I say, rather full) looking suspect tried to land on me. Ha, gotcha. I feel great now and hope to sleep in peace - unless there are two of them...

When the cat's away

When I was growing up my Dad rarely went on business trips and when he did it was usually to see some sort of nuclear machine in Switzerland. I remember his trips for two reasons. Firstly because he used to bring back presents, a music box, a bear, chocolate. Secondly, because whenever he went away some calamity would befall the family. One year there was the UK's strongest hurricane in decades, made famous my Michael Fish declaring there was only a bit of mild wind on the way. Another year I recall my Mum dropping me off at school and watching the exhaust fall off the car as she drove down the road.

This tradition seems to have been passed down a generation and, with stunning regularity, Eve always gets sick when the Boy is on a business trip. Of the 4 times we have taken Eve to hospital (not as extreme as it sounds, the doctors in HK don't do "on call" so our only option on a weekend or evening is to head to the local hospital), three of these times the Boy has been away.

He flew to Turkey on Sunday. Today is Tuesday and, true to form, Eve has a stinking fever with no obvious cause and I am looking at a sleepless night on my own.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Last will and testament and a final joke

In amongst the things that my mother has been left, relatively abruptly, to handle on her own, probate and handling the will seems to be the most troublesome. As with all things in life, she has approached it with an admirable sense of practical togetherness. One of the problems she faced is that Dad hadn't updated his will in a while and it refers to assets that we no longer have so we need to adjust the will. As an executor, and one who lives in a different country, I needed to waive my rights over this or some such. Mum called me to tell me there was a form in the post for me to sign to do this.

Mum: It's in the post but there is just one thing I need to tell you. Your Dad wrote you into the will as Mrs S (my husband's surname)
Me: But that isn't my legal name. On all documents I am Ms P.
Mum: I know, but it will be too much hassle so can you just sign it as Mrs S?
Me: (raised voice) But I am not Mrs S. I have never been Mrs S. That's the name of my mother in law. I am Ms P.
Mum: (sighing) I know, but your Dad wrote you into his will as Mrs S so that's what you need to sign the form as
Me: But I'm not Mrs S. Dad knew that. It was a ridiculous thing for him to have done, he knew I am not Mrs S and hated anyone calling me that.
Mum: Yes, of course he did and he knew how much it annoyed you so you should probably think of it as his last joke.

And in that light it made complete sense, very much my Dad's sense of humour to jovially wind me up about it. Even in death Dad managed to make me laugh.

Be prepared

I was at lunch with a colleague a few weeks ago when, over post lunch coffee, he announced that he'd just bought some survival rope (or some such, there was a name but I can't remember it) for his survival kit. Thinking he was joking, and he is a colleague of whom I am very fond and work with a lot, I was a bit bemused. This came a couple of days after the Japan earthquake, after which most of HK had totally overreacted to the idea that radiation might reach HK, so I really thought he was joking.

He then proceeded to tell me the contents of his family's survival kit. He strongly believed that he should have sufficient food, clothing and water for a week.

I didn't quite know what to say. Having been stuck in a natural disaster myself, my main thought was a) helping other people b) getting out and c) making sure the duty free booze and the chairs we had bought got out with us. I don't joke lightly about this. We were on the coast of Sri Lanka when the boxing day tsunami hit and I saw and did some horrible things and have never felt fear like it before or since. The focus of the chairs and champagne got us through with relative good humour and sanity in the face or the tragedy around us. However, I can't think of that many situations we would ever be in within HK when we would need a survival kit. I take on board the food and water argument, but sleeping bags and ropes? Are we assuming all our apartments will be flattened and I'll need to scale a mountain?

Maybe I am a cynical Brit. Maybe I am somewhat fatalistic about things and take each day as it comes. Perhaps I should think about this more seriously and he has a point.

This post invites comment so please do.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

On a cold damp day in HK

HK is unusually cold for the end of March and today was even more miserable with a light drizzle too. Having lost the Boy to the HK Sevens rugby all weekend I have been enjoying some bonding girl time with Eve. After ruling out museums and playrooms (we went yesterday) and shopping there isn't much left to do indoors in HK on a wet and cold day. However, I have stumbled on a great way to spend a day. Bus adventure!

HK is blessed with a brilliant public transport system with lots of regular, clean and warm buses. To have a bus adventure you start at a bus stop somewhere away from where you live (thereby giving you a more unusual range of buses). You agree to get on the first bus that arrives at the stop and go as far as you can on it. Then get off and have some fun. For the second and subsequent legs of the adventure (and to avoid just getting the same bus back again) you pick a number from one to ten and get on a bus with that number on it. Eve and I had lots of fun and variously ended up in a market, a coffee shop, HK's fanciest shopping centre and Marks & Spencer (I may have engineered that one so I could pick up supper!).

We had such good fun, seeing new bits of HK and not quite knowing where our adventure would take us. Definitely one to do again.


On the same weekend as some half a million british turned out in London to demonstrate against the cuts, Hong Kong had a similar demo going too.

People in HK, if pushed, go a long way to protect the freedoms afforded them under the One Country, Two Systems of government when the UK ceded control of HK to China. The turn out every year at the candlelit vigil of the 1984 Tiananmen Square massacre is tremendous, almost 20 year after the event. When the HK government tried to enact Article 23, which effectively would have given the government the right to restrict many freedoms under a subversion law (similar laws are widely used in China to silence dissent) a million people came out onto the streets. If one bears in mind that there were only 7 million people living in HK at the time, this number seems all the more impressive.

Todays demo, however, was on a somewhat less grand scale. The demonstration was against the governments latest budget, the main point of which seems to involve giving every permanent resident a gift of HK$8,000. Despite this, there are some cuts and the local socialists and left wingers organised a demo today. I only know about this because Eve and I were on a bus adventure today and we got stuck in some light traffic. Despite the news reports of there being 10,000 people, I estimate there were about 150.

The wealth gap in HK is one of the worst in the world and there is no real social security to speak of (although medical care and schooling remains free for the poorest, which still puts HK well ahead of most countries in this region). However, it is also possibly the most capitalist country in the world as well. As I walked past the socialist party of HK banner I felt a sense of respect - it's not even an uphill struggle trying to bring socialist principals to a city like HK, it must just be akin to banging ones head against a mountain in the hope that one day you might chip just a tiny bit off!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dear germs, again

Dear germs,

Did I say something wrong? Did I do something to offend? I am not sure what I deserved for you to make Eve's ear hurt so much and fever so high that I only got 2 hours sleep last night. And another doctor's bill today.

I would like to thank Dr David for telling me exactly the same thing as Dr Louisa did yesterday, but seeing how frazzled I am and giving me some slightly stronger painkiller for Eve tonight. Take that germs - ha ha ha (hmm, perhaps I am a little bit overtired).

Hopefully I'll get some sleep tonight.

Yummy Mummy

PS. I did find that the lovely Dr David, who usually sees Eve at night, fancies Dr Louisa, who sees Eve during the day. I find that sort of sweet.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Letter to the germs

Dear germs,

I know that you need to live and eat and have happy germ sex or whatever it is that is your reason for being. I am really truly grateful that you saved the earth in War of the Worlds. I am impressed by your evolutionary rigour. However, I don't need this rigour and life-loving spirit to be displayed with quite such regularity via my daughter.

When I took her, again, to the doctor today (please bear in mind that I am not fond of doctors and they are bloody expensive in HK so it takes a lot for me to take Eve) and the doctor asked me how long she had been ill for I struggled to think of a time in the last year when she hasn't had a cough or a cold or a fever or some minor childhood ailment that has been just under the surface and mildly annoying for all concerned.

I am hoping that the 8 times she vomited today, including twice on me, will be the last display that you need to make for a while. It has been pretty impressive an I hope that you also found it amusing that I am having to shove a supository up her my daughters' bum to stop her vomiting. Can we just now agree I realise you are big and clever and can you please now just bugger off? For a couple of months at least. I really need to get some sleep and Eve needs to stop wiping her nose on her sleeve.


Yummy Mummy

A little bit of HK panic

If you have been breathing and near a TV or radio over the past few days then one will inevitably know about the horrific disaster that has befallen Japan in the last week. I have a particular fondness for Japan - Eve's first Christmas was spent in Tokyo, where her first steps were taken too. The Japanese are such kind people and I urge anyone to help in any way that they can.

However, this post is not about the Japanese. It is about the complete overreaction of people here in Hong Kong. Even the biggest doom-mongers regarding the nuclear reactors are not suggesting it will contaminate the whole region. Japan possibly and, if the wind changes, some of the coast or Korea and China. This is tough to contemplate, but it does not mean that Hong Kong needs to undergo some sort of mass panic.

The Hong Kong observatory website has, clearly knowing the tendency for people here to panic a bit, put up a nice clear diagram about exactly where our air comes from i.e. not Japan. It has also put the pages dealing with radiation levels, which I suspect never before registered a single hit, linked to the homepage. This is not so much Douglas Adams telling us "Don't panic" but rather "there is absolutely nothing to even register a panic about".

This has not stopped the gossip or doom-mongering. One colleague I sit near has taken to loudly telling anyone who calls from Europe that we are all watching Bloomberg closely to see what will happen with the reactors and whether HK will be effected. I admit that we are all looking closely at Bloomberg, but that is because the stock markets have been in freefall for the last 3 days AND WE WORK AT A BANK. The day I rely on Bloomberg for advice on nuclear physics I may as well pack up and turn off the lights as I leave!

Another colleague has booked herself an open ended ticket to Australia. Another is talking about whether she can work from the Singapore office.

None of this is in anyway logical. My point to anyone who cares to listen is that the point at which we in HK need to worry (meaning that most of Taiwan, Korea and China would have been hit too) there will be far bigger global ramifications for us all than whether we can get on a flight to Singapore. Concern and worry should, in my opinion, be squarely where it is deserved - right now that is with the people, including my colleagues and friends, who are in Japan.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


There's been a bit of a gap since my last post. There are lots of inane reasons I could blame. The computer broke and I can't log on from work. I've been super busy with a promotion and exams and so managing the work-life balance has meant not much time for other things. As Eve grows up things change less quickly, I get better at managing the challenges and need to write about them less (I still read all the other blogs regularly though).

However, the real reason is that I've been having a tough few months. My beloved Dad died just before Christmas. Bereavement, whatever the circumstances, is overwhelming and although daily life goes on, it is a constant filter through which you see and do everything. I have started a whole bunch of posts but when I read them back I realised how they were coloured by this filter so I binned them. I also don't want to upset my Mum, who is the most amazing woman and I want to only do things that help and support her. I know she reads this, and she worries about us and I don't want her to worry, so I wanted to be strong and sensible and alright.

Now I have decided just to have done with it and write this.

I really, really, miss my Dad.

That's all for this post.