So good I just had to share it.

I chose this book for our Book Group last year. I confess I didn’t read it. Life unexpectedly got very busy and I was unable to go to our next meeting and I wasn’t going to be there to talk about it, sad but that’s how life is sometimes. However, I recently downloaded it as an audio book and have just spent the last two weeks listening to all 19 hours of it and it is still inside my head and won’t go away.  You know when you’ve read a good book, it stays with you and when you have a quiet moment it pops into your mind and you enjoy it again. This one doesn’t wait for a quiet moment, it shouts at me to take more notice, urges me not to forget any of it and to really hear the messages it delivers. So, here I am, listening to the voices in my head and sharing what I think.

This is the book.

9780099593584

This is my Goodreads review.

“Probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. One of those books that really gets into your psyche. How do you review a book like that? I suppose I could go on about the plot, how it’s based on the author’s father and draws on his contemporaries’ memories, about how is deals with love on so many different levels, about the times on the Burma railway. There is so much in this book, where do I start? I suggest you read the other reviews, they will explain it better than I can but I can tell you that I read it and then I listed to the author narrate it over 19 hours; he nuanced every single word, he drew out every single pause and gently read the most traumatic scenes with devastating effect. The book addresses the issues of good and evil, right and wrong, nature versus nurture, cause and effect so simply and honestly without being preachy and allows you to make up your own mind only to turn your decision on its head in the next chapter. It deserved the Man Booker Prize of 2014. As the chair of judges said that year “some years, very good books with the Man Booker Prize but this year a masterpiece has won it” Need I say more?”

Advertisements

A Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read

It’s the end of February, the second month of the year and I’ve finished my second book of the Reading Challenge I’m following. I chose Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and here’s my review I wrote for GoodReads (no point reinventing the wheel!)

51o-skhmpul-_sx316_bo1204203200_

Mixed feelings about this book. It goes without saying that the writing is superb. I was taken to an America I didn’t know existed. She wrote about her life as a young Black girl in a way that told of that experience I’d never connected to before. That makes me feel naive but I actually think it’s down to her skill as a writer. That said, I was disappointed in her re-telling of her life once she’d left Stamps for the final time. I felt it was rushed, lacked the private thoughts she’d previously shared and which had made such an impact on me, for the sake of delivering the chronological facts. All that said, what a book.

Now, what shall I chose next?…..

 

920702_1626451044297752_79268176943036961_o

A book you can finish in a day

Reading challenge – the first book.

I love my Kindle but was delighted when my daughter asked me for a book list so she could chose one from it to buy me for Christmas in print form. What a joy it was to scribble down books that had been in my head for a while. She chose The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay. It is published by The British Library as part of their Crime Classics series and was first published in 1936. Here’s my review for Goodreads.

A good old-fashioned murder mystery in a Downton Abbey-esque setting albeit not quite so grand. The patriarch is murdered and everyone is a suspect including Santa Klaus. The investigator is the Chief Constable who, of course, is a family friend but remains impartial. The bulk of the story is told from his point of view but various other characters are asked to write their account of events in a story form and these are integrated into the tale. I loved the writing style, so true of the upper classes of the 1920s-30s yet Hay also writes in dialect and it’s perfectly done. I’ve never read Agatha Christie but I suspect they would have similar styles. I would have liked a longer epilogue, I felt it ended quite abruptly but I suppose there wasn’t really any more to say.

Reading challenge 2016

In honour of Debbie Alvarez, woman, wife, mother, teacher librarian and all round incredible human being who died at the end of December 2015, I am taking the Reading Challenge suggested by some of Debbie’s friends. I love reading, always have, so this isn’t difficult but I’m doing it because Debbie read. I can be a lazy reader; it’s all to easy to pick up old favourites or an easy read and there is nothing wrong with that but Debbie always looked to learn something from her reading, she loved finding out new facts, discovering new authors, delighting in illustrations and illustrators, uncovering a hidden gem, realising she could match a book with a reader; I saw her do this every day for a whole year when I worked alongside her at Bradbury School Library in Hong Kong.

So this year I am going to be disciplined about my reading and continue to learn from Debbie. Her life continues, just in a different way.

 

image920702_1626451044297752_79268176943036961_o

 

Comunidad para mi hermana…

startwithsparkles

Community: 

A unified body of individuals.

The people with common interests living in a particular area. 

I am always astounded at how many beautiful people there are in the vast communities that surround my tiny nuclear family. In the last twelve days this community has exploded into a vast array of artists, writers, teachers, friends, family members, doctors, nurses, musicians, and humanitarians.

If you look for the bad in (hu)mankind expecting to find it, you surely will.-Wise words from Mr. Lincoln.

I like to think of it this way: When you look for the good in people you will surely find it… -A Rachel take

In a time of grief and loss there are no words that can absolutely console or express the feelings that reside within. Although, all I have left are words in fact. These words helped guide me through the last handful of days. The first day…

View original post 838 more words

“The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

10383742_10152288038791699_4363317368168934343_o

Photo copyright Louise Yates ℅ The Argus newspaper

100 years ago today, 4 August 1914 the United Kingdom declared war on Germany after Germany invaded Belgium. Sir Edward Grey, the British Liberal statesman who was Foreign Secretary at the time of the outbreak of the war made the famous statement “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”. The second half seems rather at odds with the popular notion that “it would all be over by Christmas”.

At momentous times in UK history I am very glad to be living back in the here. This is my heritage, my culture and my history and I want to share in it and play my part of rememberance.

Countries all over Europe are marking the occasion in their own way and there are events in South Africa, Australia and Canada on 4-5 August too.  In the UK,  the Lights Out campaign http://www.1914.org/events-calendar/?id=EVENT474295 is encouraging people to turn off  lights between 10-11pm, leaving on just one light and using the time to reflect on the war in all its aspects. Wreaths are being laid at cemeteries and on war memorials up and down the country. There are civic and religious services as well as torchlit processions happening in many villages and towns including my local town.

Art exhibitions including this particularly poignant one at the Tower of London are a very visual representation of the war. http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/07/tower-of-london-poppies/  I found this especially moving given the bloody history of the Tower itself. Titled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,” the final work will consist of 888,246 red ceramic flowers—each representing a British or Colonial military fatality—that flow through grounds around the tower.

So what does it mean to me? It means I am one of the lucky ones. My maternal grandfather was 20 in August 1914 and went to war with his two of his three brothers and his best friend and astonishingly they all survived. We think his youngest brother also went later once he was old enough. The friend then married my Grandad’s sister.

Here is his service record.

Rumsey. J A Pte. RAMC. He joined in 1916 and was drafted to Malta where he was for some time engaged as an orderly in the operating theatre. Later he was sent to Palestine and remained there until January 1919 when he was transferred to France. In October 1919 he returned to England and was demobolised. He holds the General Service and Victory Medals.

This is him in his RAMC uniform and this is him with his three brothers and his sister after the war.

10537384_10153025559437646_8197769959287663122_n         scan00004

It also means that my 17 year old son is living in an era where although war is still rampant across the globe, he is not at risk of conscription. Conscription in WW1 had a minimum age of 18 but at 6’4″ my son may well have been one of those young men caught up in the gung-ho attitude of the time who chose to lie about their age and sign up.

So what have we learned from “the war to end all wars” ? The UK is still selling arms, companies still make vast profits out of war and men and women are still dying.

This photo from Oxfam is a stark reminder of how far we still have to go…..

10593068_10152156043301396_2428771695477716559_n

Hong Kong holiday

Each summer since 2004 my kids and I have left hubby at work in Hong Kong and boarded a flight to the UK. Many expats leave Hong Kong in the summer for a variety of reasons, mostly to see family and friends in their home country and to escape the  heat, rain, typhoons and humidity that make up a Hong Kong summer.

So it was an odd feeling doing the reverse two weeks ago. Just as the UK started to experience really nice weather, well for the UK that is, my son and I waved farewell to my daughter and hubby and boarded the Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong. Of course, we landed on the tail end of a typhoon and had three rainy days but that didn’t stop us doing what we came for, meeting up with friends who had stayed for the summer.

Here’s my reflection on our trip before we go home tomorrow.

CollageIt

Thoughts on returning to Hong Kong in no particular order…..

  • Just brilliant to spend time with long term friends
  • Happy that Facebook has has helped us in touch and plan our time together
  • An unexpected meeting with a cousin and his partner, neither of whom live in Hong Kong!
  • Especially grateful to one friend and family who lent us their apartment whilst they were away
  • Thankful to their helper who looked after us so well
  • The wonderful transport system, MTR, trams, mini buses, ferries and taxis that make it so easy to get around  for very little money
  • A day out on a junk enjoying special time with another returning family who we’d not seen for three years
  • CollageIt
  • Air-con!
  • Asian food which definitely tastes different here than back in the UK
  • Access to the pool and the weather to enjoy it
  • Appreciating that part of me will always reside in Hong Kong and that’s ok

Thoughts about returning to the UK

  • Being reunited with our daughter
  • Grateful that my Dad can come and collect us from LHR
  • Catching up with my extended family
  • Having a home to come back to that is ours now our tenants have left
  • Excited to be thinking about plans for our home, making it a centre for our family
  • Giving the gifts I have bought to my family
  • Starting to get excited with our daughter about starting university in September
  • Connecting with ex-HK friends now in the UK and sharing memories and experiences
  • Thinking about going back to paid work……?

CollageIt

70th anniversary of the D Day landings

Two days after marking the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, I am sat watching the BBC coverage of the 70th anniversary of the D Day landings from Arromanches, France. I am reminded of the struggle for freedom both events share. The message is clear, we must never take freedom for granted.

My paternal Grandad landed on D Day plus 1. He never spoke to me about it, not sure how much he told my Dad or my Aunty and I am inspired to ask them now so that Grandad’s history won’t be lost. He was a medic and he had the job of sorting out the living from the dead on the beach. After the war he went on to train as a psychiatric nurse and worked at a large institution in Yorkshire. There were many refugees there too and my Dad tells stories of mixing with them; one story is about being told off at school in a German lesson for speaking with an Austrian accent, not knowing that it was because an Austrian Jewish refugee lived and worked at the hospital and helped my Dad with his learning! What those men went though, we shall never know.

The only photo I have of him from the war is this one from when he was stationed in India. He is second on the left, standing.

Grandad Leonard in India

Random thoughts I have picked up from today’s coverage:

These service men didn’t opt to have a military career, they were called up and that’s what they had to do.

They rarely spoke about it when they came back, how much they must have still endured silently.

Many soldiers buried in Normandy following D Day were only aged 16-20, the average age of today’s 600+ survivors is 89.

The incredible civil engineering feat, the building of the Mulberry Harbour, that meant that the landings were supported and sustained.

The extraordinary personal stories that have been related today are so moving, one man saying he knew his role was that of cannon fodder and as he waded ashore, he waded through dead bodies just floating around him and then through more on the beach itself.

This photo represents the fallen bodies on one of the beaches.

10351302_10152087409611143_7692487111741932494_n copy

Today no-one glorified war or celebrated it, the day was about remembrance, reconciliation and reflection and passing that message on to the next generation.

For more information follow this link http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0201qc7

The sense of reconciliation came across strongly in the formal speeches as well as in the personal interviews. Watching the German Prime Minister Angela Merkel take her place and be applauded by the crowd was moving, remembering that the fight for freedom was against Naziism not ordinary Germans who, as one person said today, fought for the same things we did, family and friends.

The sense that there are some occasions when present day issues must be put aside; watching Vladimir Putin was hard, but today he represented the millions of Russians who died in the war not his present politics and it is them we remember not him.

When I was born, it was 18 years since the end of the war in Europe. I was one of the lucky ones at school, I had both my Grandads alive (my maternal Grandad had fought in WWI and was too old to serve in WW2). Many of my generation only had grandmas and I knew I was lucky. And that’s just it, luck. Sometimes no matter how much planning, training and skills are put into practise sometimes it comes down to luck as to who survives and who doesn’t. I think that’s why many veterans feel guilty to have survived, they were no better and no worse than the man stood alongside them.

War and evil still exist in our world and we must be vigilant in protecting our freedom and the freedoms of those who cannot speak for themselves.

Lest we forget.

10450765_10152215228663285_6905872781259016800_n

 

 

Tiananmen Square 4 June 1989

I got married on 15 July 1989 but even though I was caught up in wedding plans and excitement for my married life to begin, I vividly remember this event and the weeks afterwards. Here’s how the BBC reported it.

Here’s how photographer Stuart Franklin caught the days leading up to and including 4 June crackdown:

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2014/jun/03/tiananmen-square-1989-in-pictures

This is how my friend’s husband experienced it first hand in Beijing:

http://ellipticalglory.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/upon-high-rock-lent-2c.html

Amnesty International UK is holding an event in London right now.

https://www.facebook.com/events/526597334130443/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

This is how I experienced the march and vigil in Hong Kong in 2013 during an Amber rain storm.

DSC_4021 DSC_4025 DSC_4031 DSC_4034 DSC_4039 DSC_4042 DSC_4044 DSC_4049

What saddens me still is the memories of Chinese parents who came into the school library where I worked and asked for books about the event that they could give to their children because it is still not really talked about amongst many Chinese families in Hong Kong where we have much more freedom of the press than on the mainland. Yet the hope and belief these parents had was that their children should know about not only this part of their history but also much more and that’s got to be a good thing.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: