Tiananmen Square Massacre, 30 years on.

June 4th or Lok Sei in Cantonese, means only one thing to those who know what happened 30 years ago today in Tiananmen Square, in what was then Peking. For millions of Chinese people in the mainland today , it is just another day because of vigorous government censorship but for millions more it is a day when they hope answers will finally come and they will have vindication.

My story

I remember it being on the evening news. Whenever you heard Kate Adie’s voice, you knew it was something to pay attention to. She had been reporting for a while on the student protests but when, on the evening of June 3rd she reported about shots being fired and chaos erupting, I sat up and listened. I was getting married in July of that year and I’d been trying to take note of special events that were happening. I never envisaged this would be one of them.

“Tell the World What is Happening”

Michael Burke was presenting the BBC news and he interviewed Kate Adie, the emotion in her voice says it all.

The view from Hong Kong

My family and I lived in Hong Kong for twelve years. I’m ashamed to say that only when we were leaving did I realise I’d never attended the vigil so in 2013, I donned my rainmac and joined the crowds.

Old and young, Chinese and non-Chinese, first-timers and annual supporters alike marched through the summer rain and converged on Victoria Square in Causeway Bay.

30 years on, what do people who were there think?

What’s the future?

In 1997, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of China after the handover from Britain. Hong Kong was promised ‘One Country, Two Systems’ but the freedoms that exist in Hong Kong today are being eroded and censorship is happening in a very real and obvious way. I’m not a journalist or an intellectual, so I cannot write accurately about these changes, but they are real. The most recent confrontation with the mainland has been about the propsed extradition laws that would allow people to be sent to the mainland for trial. Here’s what Reuters has to say. Today of all days, when people of Hong Kong march and remember the June 4th massacre, Chief Executive, Carrie Lam says “how can I retract this important piece of work because of criticism, including ad hominem criticism.” A friend who is at the vigil as I write this blog says “I would not be surprised if the protest is forbidden in HK in 10 years’ time. Lest we forget.”

Want to see how it went in Hong Kong this year?

The South China Morning Post is the go-to newspaper in the English language in Hong Kong but it too is subject to censorship. Recently a new paper has spring up, Hong Kong Free Press. Click here to see how they are reporting today’s events.

Finally

In October of this year, the world will mark 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. How people in China and Chinese people all over the world must hope that one day, they too will have the freedom to decide their own destiny. Economic freedom that has happened in China over the last 30 years must be followed by political reform. When that does happen, we must all fight to keep it. Today in the UK, people are marching against Donald Trump as he makes a state visit to the United Kingdom. It is one thing to honour the office of President of the United States, it is another when that person dishonours his own citizens and is complicent in taking away their freedoms and rights. Freedom has to be fought for over and over again and never taken for granted.

Clothing, and how I feel about it.

Made-to-measure in Hong Kong.

A Twitter thread popped up on my account today. It asked for female steroetypes that you don’t conform to. I owned up to having ditched make-up (apart from my trusty lippy) but it got me thinking. Yesterday, I visited a Repair Cafe (I’ll talk about that later) to get a pair of my daughter’s jeans repaired and I was so happy to be able to get this done. I don’t really like clothes shopping, that’s the other female stereotype I have ditched, but I like nice clothes. I like clothes that fit me and that I feel comfortable wearing regardless of whether they are fancy clothes or every day clothes.

One of the things I miss most about living in Hong Kong is being able to pop over the border into mainland China, specifically the district of Shenzen, and visit the Lo Wu shopping area. It was only an hour on the train. Lo Wu is famous for its fakes but I loved it for the tailoring you could get done there. The Lo Wu Commercial Centre (shopping mall) has five floors and is a real Aladdin’s cave just waiting to be explored.

The top floor is haberdashery heaven. It is full of stalls selling all sorts of fabric from silks and cottons to wool, cashmere and denim. Plus there are stalls selling ribbons, lace, buttons and all sorts of trimmings. The quality is superb and the range is huge. You can buy not only material for clothing but soft furnishing fabrics too. I’ve not got many photos, I always felt a bit awkward and it was back in the day before EVERYTHING got photographed!

I got to know one tailor quite well. Nancy and her sister could measure you up at a glance, although they wrote copious notes too. They could make garments from scratch or copy and adjust items you brought in. You know when you buy something and you wish the arms were a bit longer or shorter, or the waist could fit just that bit better? These ladies could work miracles and finally I had clothes that fitted me properly. It’s not easy having a western shape in the Far East, clothes are made for a completely different body shape to mine. I’m not an odd shape but I’m quite tall and so adding that extra length really worked for me. Plus, when you chose your own fabrics you can have your favourite clothes made in any colour you want. I own up to having had the same pair of linen trousers made in at least five colours! I had clothing altered and made from scratch with Nancy, including a beautiful winter coat I had made ready for my return to the harsh winters of the UK.

Nancy and me.

Repair and altering in the UK.

On my return to the UK I did find it easier to buy clothes that fitted me, after all I am back in the West where clothes are designed for my body shape and size. However, I still missed that snug fit that my clothes from Hong Kong had after Nancy had woven her magic. I took a few items to local tailors and discovered that dry cleaners will often do small alterations but it all seemed so expensive compared to the cost of the item of clothing. I realise that its all politics, cheap clothing is often made in sweat shops and repairs in the UK are done where employees are earning a proper wage but paying £10 to get a zip repaired on a garment that only cost £9.99 in the first place seemed bizarre.

Recently there has been a beacon of light pop up on my Facebook page. A local Repair Cafe has started up. Repair Cafes are an international foundation (click here for details) and a village not far from me is now hosting a monthly drop-in centre.

Yesterday I took the oppotunity to visit and took along three items for repair. The first was a Welsh dragon that belongs to my husband and that he has had for over 40 years. The dragon’s wing had been broken and needed a better glue that we have at home. The second was a pearl earring of mine that had come away from its post, again needing better solvent that I have access to. Both were attended to by a wonderful woman, the earring there and then and she is taking the dragon away to her workshop and will return him next month.

Finally, my daughter’s jeans were called for and a lovely lady told me that the denim itself was poor and had started to fray but she could patch it inside and then top-stitch the outside. The jeans had only been worn a few times and we are careful when loading the washing machine so it was so good to give these jeans another go at life and not add them to the landfill that is clogging up our earth.

Whilst the jeans were being sewn, I sat and had a cuppa and cake and admired the bags on display, made from re-purposed fabric, what a super idea.

It felt good to be amongst talented people who know how things work and how to repair them and sit with others who need their help. There was no charge, just donations accepted but there was no hard sell or obligation, however, how can you not give if you can afford it?

We need to stop throwing things away and make them last longer but in a world where we do not value trades as much as academic honours, we shall struggle. Repair Cafes might just be the answer to part of this problem.

In celebration of Hong Kong trams

I subscribe to a fantastic blog about Hong Kong which today is featuring Hong Kong trams. Take a look at the blog, Gwulo.com

When I lived in Hong Kong, I tried to travel by tram whenever I could. There is something about riding on a form of transport that has been around for over 100 years through one of the most modern cities in the world, but if you ride the top deck, you can still see glimpses of old Hong Kong. Here are just a few of the photos I took over the 12 years I was lucky enough to live in this vibrant city.

Views of the outside…

Views of the inside…

Tram stop signs including my local, Happy Valley.

Waiting for a tram, often in the middle of the road.

Party tram!

Coffee collaborations

What a fantastic idea. I’ve read so many recycling ideas and then pause to think but how could I actually implement them? This is such a practical response and benefits not only the environment but, more importantly in my eyes, people in need.

Beyond the Highrise

Coffe Compost Recycle them right and your coffee capsules could be helping farmers as well as under-priveleged Hong Kongers 

Nespresso is pressing customers to recycle their coffee capsules as part of a sustainability campaign in partnership with local charity Food Angel.

The aluminium in the capsules is “infinitely recyclable” according to the company. If recycled, waste capsules can be taken to a local plant, shredded and sent to a scrap-metal collector for re-melting. Meanwhile, the residual coffee grounds are separated from the capsules and taken to a local farm in the New Territories and used as compost on crops.

The coffee specialist has also pledged to make a monthly donation of vegetables from the farm to Food Angel, which runs a food rescue initiative, creating hot meals from perfectly safe and usable waste food and distributing it to underprivileged local communities.

To take part, simply return bags of over 30 waste capsules…

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Mother love

My husband and I moved to Hong Kong in the very last days of 2001 with our daughter who’d just turned six and our son who was weeks shy of his fifth birthday. We lived very close to Bowen Road and spent many happy hours walking alongside our children as they rode their scooters along Bowen Road. Mothers’ Choice was right at the other end to us and we would then drop down and pick up the Peak Tram into Central. Whilst sitting on the tram, I’d often think about Mothers’ Choice, what was it, what did it do and for whom? I made an educated guess and as we settled into Hong Kong life and began to make friends, I found out exactly how amazing a place it is.

I’m delighted to share this blog post and I hope it spreads the message that there is always a choice and always hope.

Beyond the Highrise

Local charity Mother’s Choice has been helping vulnerable teens and their babies for over 30 years. Carolynne Dear met with chief exec Alia Eyres

Alia Eyres (low-res) Alia Eyres now heads up the Hong Kong charity her parents set up in the 1980s

It takes passion and it takes great heart to successfully lead a charity and Alia Eyres, who heads up local non-government organisation Mother’s Choice, has these character attributes in bucketloads.

The organisation celebrated its pearl anniversary last year, an impressive thirty year history of helping one of Hong Kong’s most vulnerable sectors of society – abandoned babies and pregnant teens.

Last year alone, the charity provided 150 young children and babies with temporary care and 58 were placed with permanent families; its outreach programme offered over 10,000 young people with sexuality education workshops. It’s a multi-faceted approach to an issue that requires an holistic solution.

“Our mission is to join…

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Migration

I am sharing this on behalf of my friend, the Reverend Michaela Youngson, one of the Chairs of the London District of the Methodist Church, and a regular contributor to Radio 2’s Thought for the Day (or Micky, as we know her).

“6 Bible studies on themes of migration – for use anytime. They would work well in Lent or anytime you want a series. Each includes a quote from John or Charles Wesley, as well as Bible passages and reflections from six writers. The pack comes with a liturgy which can be used with each study or as a resource for public worship.”

I know many of my followers are friends from my time abroad and who are on their own journey and I hope they will be able to share and use this resource.

https://www.movingstorieslondon.com/biblestudies

 

Happy New Year 2018 Groundhog Day

It feels like Groundhog Day, Happy New Year messages are pinging on my phone constantly and it’s not yet midday, UK time. As a result of us moving to Hong Kong in 2001, I now have friends all over the world and they have been sending Happy New Year messages since I got up at 7am. Thanks to Facebook I am now in touch with family all over the world too, from New Zealand to Trinidad and many places in between. New Year started with a super message from my cousin in New Zealand which came in at just after 7am UK time. Since then, my son has seen in the New Year in Japan, friends have messaged from Hong Kong and it’s only four hours until the UK reaches midnight. Then I shall wait for hubby in New Jersey to call, hopefully then family in Trinidad will post on Facebook and then my friends on the West Coast of America will see the New Year in. Are you experiencing that Groundhog moment too?

Hong Kong has a special place in my heart, no-one does fireworks better than the Chinese.

Don’t mis-understand me, I think it’s wonderful. My maternal family has had a reunion for the last two years and our cousin from New Zealand is coming to the UK in 2018 for the first time in 17 years to share in the next one and we are all very excited.

Having said all that, I am actually sat on my own, watching TV with a bottle of bubbles at my side. I indulged myself earlier today and read “Go Set A Watchman” by Harper Lee and loved it. Being on your own doesn’t mean being lonely so I raise my glass to all my family and friends and wish you all the very best for 2018, what ever it brings. Just know that whether we connect in person or via social media, your friendship means a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembrance Day 2017

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I always feel conflicted this time of year and I use the word deliberately.

When I was growing up in the UK in the 1970s, we were regular churchgoers so of course, we went to church on Remembrance Sunday. It always left me extremely uncomfortable, the talk was about the Glorious Dead and I was beginning to question how being dead was glorious. I was lucky, both my Grandads survived their wars but many of the children I went to school with weren’t so lucky.  Every time I talked about going to see them, someone would say that they never knew their Grandad and wasn’t I the lucky one. It was never meant nastily, it was just fact.

My maternal Grandad was in the Royal Army Medical Corps, called up when conscription started in 1916, he was 22.

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My paternal Grandad was called up in World War II and coincidentally, was also a medic. He was a psychiatric nurse and had the gruesome job of landing in France on Day 2 of the D-Day landings and sorting out who was dead and who wasn’t. He then followed the front line as the soldiers fought their way through France to Germany. Afterwards, he was sent to the Far East, based in India. He had the equally horrific task of finding soldiers who had lost their minds after the atrocities in that region and had gone feral.

He is in the back row, second left.

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I never heard either of them talk about their experiences and I wasn’t aware of them wearing poppies, although they might well have done.

I was also conflicted about what we had won. Britain wasn’t at war but it didn’t feel like a place that was at peace either. Every time the England football team played West Germany, the newspapers were full of hatred and I couldn’t relate to that (it has only recently stopped, 70+ years on).  I was confused as to the “evil” we went to war over in 1914. It was much easier to identify the evil in World War II but I hated the fact that Britain didn’t feel reconciled to peace. Places like Coventry were a light in the darkness.

The 1970s went into the 1980s and the Cold War was still a threat. Greenham Common became the focus of anti-war campaigning. I joined CND. I didn’t want World War III, nuclear destruction and the devastation that would follow if the planet survived. We had already lost a generation of men after The Great War, I didn’t want that to happen again.

Yet I am not a pacifist. I believe there is evil in the world and we need to stand up to it, as individuals and sometimes as a nation. I am grateful that some people chose to fight on my behalf and make the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.

What I want is for war to be the very last response.

I don’t want anyone’s life to end needlessly.

I want our politicians to work harder to find other ways of solving conflicts.

I want our armed forces to have the equipment they need and not to die because of our negligence.

I want business and commerce to run fairly so people don’t live in poverty and feel that violence is their only way of being heard.

I want each person to be more tolerant to those who are different to us and not fear difference.

I am sorry that our weakness as humans leads us to behave inhumanely towards each other. I believe we are better than that. We see greatness in peace and in times of war. Let’s work harder to look less at self and more at others. Let us learn to let go of our self-importance, as individuals and as nations. I am a patriot not at nationalist.  A journalist at the Huffington Post gives this explanation.

Nationalism and patriotism are two words which are often used inter-changeably. This is incorrect since there is a world of difference between the two concepts, in spite of a few shared ideals. While patriotism fundamentally means affection for one’s country and willingness to defend it, nationalism is a more extreme, unforgiving form of allegiance to one’s country. As opposed to patriotism, which involves social conditioning and personal opinion, nationalism involves national identity and the belief that one’s nation and/or its government is supreme.

The legacy of the Great War was the League of Nations created after the First World War to provide a forum for resolving international disputes. We need to be better at doing this so no more people die.

The Royal British Legion is doing a tremendous job and I support them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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