Wednesday, 26 December 2007

It's only words...

It's THAT time of year to review what's gone well in the past 12 months and plan ahead for a happy, peaceful, successful etc etc new year. About 5 years ago I kicked the habit of making resolutions into touch. I realised that, for me, making vague promises that would never be kept was a fairly pointless exercise, and one that usually ended up with me feeling bad, guilty or useless. These are not feelings I want to have about myself.

So - I devised a new scheme. Review the past 12 months. Work out what's gone well, then distill that down into one word that encapsulates what it was that made it good. Then carry that word forwards into the next year as your personal mantra, and try to keep it at the centre of how you approach life.

As examples, I've had, in previous years, words like "honest", "me" and "balance", which have all been useful to focus on. Last year's word was "relationships" - a reminder to invest only in those which are good for me, and to take my energy away from those that are destructive. Very helpful it's been too. Mind you, you do have to be careful when choosing your word. It has to be something that you have a fighting chance of being able to influence. My good friend, C, introduced to the word concept, embraced it enthusiastically but then saddled himself with 'blow jobs' as his word(s). Not only is this difficult to bring ethically into all areas of one's life, you also risk being sadly disappointed if it doesn't come to fruition (as it were). Still, he is now happily loved up, so you've got to hope that, belatedly, his word has panned out OK.

My word for 2008 came to me, appropriately, in a yoga class. It's stability. In life, in work and in holding eagle poses.

2008 is going to be a great year. Have a good one x

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Everyone's a winner, baby... that's the truth....

And now (drum roll) for the inaugural GP Christmas Quiz! In the best traditions of end of year festivities, for your enjoyment and entertainment, a short review of GP's year. Naturally there are prizes - answers on a comment please and GP will award and divvy up the spoils in the New Year*.

* All gifts to be collected in HK. In the event of a tie, GPs judgment shall be final. And confidential. And not necessarily consistent, as, dammit, this is my Christmas Quiz so my rules, OK??

So let's begin....

1. Geography

What are GPs most and least favourite destinations of this year? Chose from:

Business: Singapore, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, London, KL, Bangkok, Zu Hai
Play: Nisseko, Seoul, Palau, Guam, London, Tokyo, Phuket

Calculate the co2 involved in this crazy amount of travel!
Name GPs favourite airline seat (clue - links to q2 below)...

2. Personal and Social Education

E the W, P the P and J the P. All have featured in GP's personal life this year.

a) name those people
b) provide those stories

Which of these people is GP most likely to see in 2008 a) through choice and b) through unfortunately running into them in HK?

3. Mathematics

GP visited Macau and burned through a few thousand dollars cash at 3 separate casinos.

a) What are the odds of that happening?
b) How likely is GP to do this again i) this year, ii) in the first half of next year and iii) keeping to her word and making it an
annual thing only?
c) During her trip, GP consumed 3 "free" diet cokes and 2 "free" coffees. What is the net profit GP poured straight into the
coffers of Messrs Wynne, MGM and Venetian?

4. English

GP is well known within the business for being a grammatical pedant. Is her particular bugbear:

a) apostrophe misuse
b) subject/verb agreement
c) gerunds
d) all of the above, and she'd better get a grip on herself before she gets a reputation for this.....

5. Music

Name all the songs that the titles of my posts come from, with artists. In the event of a song being performed by more than one artist, name the artist that GP prefers, with reasons. Karaoke renditions of songs, performed for GP, bring additional bonus points.

6. PE

Get down and GIMME 5!

7. Media Studies

Which of these is GP a regular subscriber to:

Guardian Online, The Straits Times, The Week, Vanity Fair, Amnesty International, Heat

Which of these has GP finally broken her addiction to in 2007?

8. Languages

What progress has GP made with her Cantonese this year? Can she now:

a) competently direct a cab to a new location
b) order off menu in a Cantonese private kitchen
c) discuss the merits and demerits of universal suffrage for HK
d) all of the above
e) none of the above?

9. Arts

Slightly thin category this year due to over performance in other areas. However.. The highlight of GPs artistic year was:

a) 1984 at the APA - great show, worrying portent of totalitarian nation states we are descending towards, Orwell had it right
all along...
b) There's something about Mary on the outdoor screen at Cyberport. I know it's crass, I know it's tasteless, but the scene
with the dog high as a kite attacking Ben Stiller is one of the finest slapstick moments on film
c) Aliens on the plane home from Guam... Finally I get to know where all the quotes come from... Keep it tight people
d) Korean language version of A Midsummer Night's Dream at City Hall. Oh you cynics, you don't know what you missed...

10. Chemistry

GP is well known for being a climate worrier and prone to excessive interest and concern about environmental issues. How much hot air does she produce on this subject? What is the net effect on your environment during this atmospheric phenomenon?


The absolute highlight of GPs year was:

a) final departure of odious work colleague
b) traveling to Guam and Palau with great friends
c) the entire long, hot summer.....
d) the lane crawford sale - shoe section

Merry Christmas and a very peaceful and happy 2008 xx

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

we'll always be together...however far it seems!

songs follow me around.

yesterday i was travelling from plush KL hotel to the airport, singing along to 80s and 90s classics, whilst also fielding texts arranging a social life in HK. One of these was Phil Oakley's collaboration with Giorgio Moroder, "Together in Electric Dreams'. It is a perfect piece of pop nonsense.

Today I heard the same song again, whilst going through the ritual of seeing a fantastic friend, S, off from HK. Suddenly the trite lyrics seemed all the more meaningful. Mind you, I often have the same sensation listening to ABBA after a particularly nasty breakup. There's depth in that simplicity (or something..)

Still, the notion that "We'll always be together, however far it seems..." seemed comforting as she embarks on a world wide, year plus long trip and the reappearance of L after a long absence proves the truth of these otherwise trite lyrics.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Have you read the news today, oh boy....

Unofficially I have been exhaustively in search of the worst media available in Asia. I think I may have found a "winner".

Yes, the South China Morning Post is hopelessly parochial, short on decisive commentary and long on fashion. The Straits Times is, well, pleasant, but hardly what you would consider "news" in any conventional sense of the word. The China Daily is an unashamedly biased and slick PR campaign - the journalists surely can't take the crud in there seriously, and therefore neither should we.

No - the outsider, a late entrant, but truly extraordinary for its lack of perspective, sheer poor quality of journalism and dull, dull, dull-ness is (tah dah!!!!) The New Straits Times (henceforth The Dire Straits Times). Yes - available for free in any Malaysian hotel or on line at .

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Another suitcase in another hall

This should be the time of year to gently slow down as Christmas approaches, write Christmas cards, see friends and family and generally reflect on another year gone.

Sadly this year this plan will only be partly achieved. The seeing friends bit is, predictably, ticking along nicely. In fact, a little too enthusiastically perhaps. Friday night went from a quiet night in, through a lovely dinner out with a very good friend, perhaps unwisely to crashing another good friend's Christmas party and then simply inexplicably to Insomnia, where we drank more (as we really needed to by then) and shook our collective booty to cover versions of rock classics cranked out by a Filipino cover band. A quintessential HK experience that, like Christmas, really should come but once a year.

Work wise, something has gone seriously wrong. Tomorrow I fly to KL for a day. This is wrong on so many levels that they aren't worth counting. At the moment the one that's top of my list is that any allure that business travel once had has simply gone. It's dull, stressful and tiring, as well as being climatically disastrous, and I don't care how nice they make the lounges, it's not worth it.

I was remembering fondly today my first business trip, which I got seriously over excited about. Somewhat embarrassingly, with hindsight, it was a trip from London to Edinburgh. I got to travel business class and stay in what i thought was going to be a nice hotel. How wrong I was. I began to realise how unglamorous work travel was shortly after checking in. the hotel was in a grotty part of town, conveniently located next to the bus station. The rooms were cramped, chintzy and smelt of smoke. The other guests seemed to be mainly American tourists.

This in itself wasn't great. However, the final nail in the coffin was when a piper, complete with full Highland regalia, fired up right underneath my window. He proceeded to blast out Highland toons, about a tone flat, for the next hour. Simply dreadful. I later found out that the woman in charge of booking the trips was receiving kick backs from the hotel management for putting us all up there, and was duly sacked.

The KL trip will be a marked improvement on that, with a fighting chance of an upgrade and the hotel will certainly be better. But, bah humbug, NOT the way to relax into the festive season.....

Friday, 7 December 2007

Everybody hurts...sometimes.....

The Guardian has a series where individuals write in asking for advice - it's called Private Lives and it's quite revealing. This week a woman asked for advice for how to get her parents to be more empathic towards her sister who is suffering from rapidily advancing Multiple Sclerosis. My view below.

"I empathise with this very difficult situation. However, I’m not sure that the advice I’m going to give you will be the answer that you are looking for.

I write as the 37 year old sister of a 30 year old brother with autism and behavioural problems. As is common to many people with autism, my brother requires full time support carefully co-ordinated between social and health services.

My parents are in a state of denial about the on-going issues associated with his care, and seem to be waiting for him to “get better”. Their fantasy about this happening effectively prevents them from dealing with the many and varied here and now issues he and they face. My fantasy about my parents suddenly developing the skills to care for him as I believe he needs is driving a wedge between them and me.

My advice, therefore, is to accept the level of care and support that your parents are able to give and not to expect them to be something they are not. If you have said your piece, and called it as you see it, then let it rest. Labouring the point further is exhausting for you, unlikely to change them and ultimately unhelpful to your sister (who, after all, is the one in this piece whose needs should be paramount). Concentrate on the help that you can give, lean into friends and family for support and connect with MS support groups who will be able to give you practical and emotional support at this difficult time.

Good luck. If, of course, I’m wrong then please let me know! I would love for there to be a different answer, but having been around this particular loop more times than I can remember over the past 10 years, I’m not sure there is. Dealing with a disability within a family is a source of on-going grief and loss for what could have been. Sadly this also includes letting go of your idealised version of your parents too."

Monday, 3 December 2007

There was a parking lot - now there's a peaceful got it, you got it...

One of the things I'm passionate about is sustainabilty.

This in part stems from a childhood largely spent being far too serious and pompous for my own good. Whilst other girls were reading Patches and Jackie, I'd be hoovering up New Internationalist, Amnesty International and debating the merits of Fairtrade. For ethical reasons I've been vegetarian more times than I can remember, for reasons of greed and cravings for bacon I've lapsed exactly the same number of times. When the rest of my peer group were enjoying the first Live Aid concert as a great free show, I was arguing with my parents that if they were really serious about ending gloabl poverty, then instead of donating some cash they would bloody well sell the house and make a serious statement of intent.....

Fortunately for all concerned, I've mellowed significantly in older age, and am now enjoying, with bells on, being far less earnest and serious than the up tight adolsecent I once was.

However, one thing that remains an absolute passion for me is caring for the environment in which we live, and treating it with respect and care such that we can continue to live with it. I don't have kids yet, but one of the scenarios I dread is having to explain to some indignant child a couple of decades hence why there's permanent shortages of clean water, no trees and all the food we eat is GM by necessity. And that's not to mention the lack of coral, the reduction in diversity, the permanent damage to our weather systems, the melting ice caps......

The thing that really gets my goat is that all the science, and much of the technology to do something about it, has been known about for decades. Back in the eighties, my inspirational chemistry teacher, Geoff Herbert, laid out in very stark detail exactly what we were doing to the planet. He was right too. Strikes me that if one A level teacher in Stockport understood what was going on, then so do the powers that be, which makes our collective failings to act all the more shameful.

Still, this is now veering dangerously towards an auto-rant. And, in an act that neatly demonstrates the problem, I'm just about to board a flight to Shanghai. But this is only a temporary state of affairs, promise, as shortly I'll be acting to at least make the tiny part of the world that I've got control over sustainable and indeed a peaceful oasis.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

Well, I can assure you in HK they certainly do. Never a city to miss out on a) a festival or b) a shopping opportunity, the lights have gone up, the Christmas trees are out in force and the shopping promotions are being, er, promoted. Of course the spiritual content of the celebrations are a touch on the low side, but hey, who needs that when there's 10% off if you spend, spend, spend with your HSBC card??

Bah humbug.

This year will be the first one I've spent outside the UK, and only the second that I won't have spent with my family. This is my choice. I knew my parents would be upset, but didn't realise how upset until I called home the other day. They are seriously considering postponing Christmas until I'm home - which is probably not 'til Easter. This is clearly nuts. Sweet, but nuts.

I'll be spending Christmas in HK with my surrogate family of friends. And since my word of the year has been "relationships", and my intent has been to invest my time and energies in those that are best for me, this seems like a fitting way to end 2007.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

If there's a smile.....upon my face......

Growing up, I played in the school band and orchestra. Nothing cool - no sax, drums or bass. No, I played bassoon - largely I suspect because the school had bought one and needed a tall kid to carry it. After this unpromising start, I grew to love playing, especially because, due to a shortage of competent bassoonists in the Manchester area, I got to play with loads of good orchestras who were desperate for some bass in the woodwind section.

The only issue with playing the damn thing (aside from the inconvenience of lugging the case around) was that it just wasn't hip & funky at all. No role models. No cool riffs. Plenty of comedy moments: Theme from Ivor the Engine - check. The mop in Sorcerer's Apprentice - check. and on and on....

The one notable exception to this, which I've just caught on Craig Charles' funk & soul show, is Smokey Robinson's Tears of a Clown - listen and grin.......

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Livin' my life like it's golden

Jill Scott is an amazing woman with an awe-inspiring voice and the abilty to find poetry and beauty in the everyday.,,2213892,00.html

I came across her music completely by accident. I was driving to see a patient back in the days when I was Dr GP, seeing naughty kids. I was visiting one of our more difficult patients - a 7 year old girl, whose behavioural problems and social skills (more accurately lack of) were, predictably, putting her on a course towards exclusion, academic failure and social isolation. I'd never warmed to her - in fact she was indirectly the reason I decided to leave the NHS. During a particularly difficult session at the hospital, she bolted out of the treatment room. As we tried to shepherd her back in, she turned to face me and launched a huge glob of spit down my front. As I stood there, with her gloop dripping off my clothes, I realised that there really was more to be had in my working life than that. And so I became Corporate GP and the next chapter in my career started. She will be around 17 by now - wonder if she's done better than her dismal prognosis at that time would have predicted. I hope so.

ANYWAY, as I was driving along, "Getting in the way" from Scott's first album, "Who is Jill Scott?" came on the radio. I can still remember the moment. Her voice was so pure, striking and poignant that I pulled over to listen to the song properly, and also to make sure that I got the name of the artist when it finished. Her song, "Golden", is my theme song, and it's either the song that I want playing at my wedding or my funeral. I'm not yet decided, but for me it speaks of optimism, learning from experience and meeting each challenge head on and with integrity. And those are qualities I would like to think I live my life by.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

And so you're back....from outer space....

Or in fact, Beijing, capital of PRC, venue for next week's Communist Party meeting and, lest anyone forget, the host city for the 2008 Summer Olympics. Due to China's (mis)understanding about freedom of speech it was impossible to get onto a blogsite last week. Or the BBC news pages. But the Guardian site was OK so at least some unfiltered news got through the doubleplusgood nonsense peddled by their vetted media sources.

As an aside, my friends in Beijing tell me they just assume that they are watched, listened to and followed. Makes life easier, and at least then they don't get surprised when they find out it's happening.

It's no secret that the Chinese are immensly proud of hosting the Olympics, and are going all out to use them to show case China and its many economic and social achieivemetnts. An aspect of this that I find intriguing is that they are proud to show the world how calculating and planful their preparations are.

As an example, I was browsing yesterday's China Daily (makes the South China Morning Post and Straits Times look unbelievably racy). Inside was a huge glossy pull out about preparations for the games, including a two page spread on how women who wanted to be hostesses in the games are preparing for this honour. I imagine here they're talking about the chicks who hand out bouquets and carry cushions with medals on them, not the squads of, er, other hostesses who will no doubt be cashing in on the games too.

Preparation for being a hostess includes "smiling practice" to achieve the state mandated perfect smile that displays eight teeth. Eight because it's lucky?? possibly..... should you want to try this for yourself, then grip a chop stick between your gnashers (for up to 2 hours at a time) as this will train up the right muscle groups.

You might not want to try this on your commute into work.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Thursday, 4 October 2007

express yourself

23 Sep-23 Oct
It's good to empathise - and with a huge circle of chums at that - but the first problems to solve are your own. Clearing up other people's woes can become mere displacement. Here are two reasons to get self-centred: your birthday Sun lets you do that polite-but-pushy thing Librans are so good at, and Mars promises a way more contested professional scenario. Compete!

Most "proper" psychologists are dismissive of phenomena such as coincidence, superstition, I Ching, horoscopes and what have you. Jung, on the other hand, treated them as human experineces which are as valid for study as any other. You could, I guess, see him as as forerunner of post modernism, where we all construct our own realities by reading meaning into our interpretations and perceptions of our lives. I like Jung.

All this is a long way round of saying that I read horoscopes. True, I'm fairly selective about the ones I go for (ones of the Mystic Meg ilk "a man in a purple track suit will be significant on Thursday" don't do it for me), and I reserve the right to ignore any news I don't want to acknowledge. Apart from that I treat them as gospel.

This one, as someone invovled in a "helping" profession struck a chord. Ignoring your own issues or needs and projecting them onto other people is a sure fire way of staying stuck in a never ending pattern of martyrdom (I've found).

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

No sleep 'til bedtime....

October 1 is China National Day, and also my birthday. For as long as I'm in China, I will have a day off to celebrate, with fireworks thrown in over the harbour for free. All good.

And so it was that yesterday I set off on a junk with 30-odd friends (that's "about 30 friends" not "30 strange people" although it's sometimes a moot point) to celebrate properly. One of the things I noticed early on about Hong Kong is that it encourages extremes. Especially in the expat community.

The junk mored up at South Bay, where, rather than sun bathing and lounging around drinking beer, everyone launched into some sort of activity. One group took themselves off wakeboarding (sadly curtailed by gale force winds ripping the canopy off the boat), a small flotilla of human fish swam to some distant bay, a heavily pregnant woman elected to row a boat to the beach and I, not to be left out, took a canoe around the island. My English friend currently stationed in Beijing looked on all of this with a mixture of fascination and disbelief.....

Saturday, 29 September 2007

our house, in the middle of our street

Buying property in HK is an interesting process. Expats and locals tend to look for completely different things, which makes for an interesting market. Quirky old properties are a complete anathema to the average Hong Konger, who prefer brand new, high rise properties with lots of (tiny) rooms.

And so it was that I found myself viewing a 600 sq ft appartment that had 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a maid's room and, somehow, a grand piano squeezed into it.

Party like it's 1999

Being a single thirty-something chick is a well worn cliche, and there's really little to be said that hasn't been covered already by the likes of Sex and the City (surprisingly accurate) et al. My parents have largely given up, I think, on ever seeing me married with kids (not that I have - a different story), and they've certainly given up on asking me about my "personal life" ever since, frustrated by their noseyness, I described SATC to them as a documentary rather than a work of fiction.

So, at the risk of treading well worn ground, here we go with some lifestyle observations (perhaps prompted by being a year older, if not wiser, on Monday).

The first is that the grass really is always greener. Many of my friends are now more or less happily married with kids. They have the stability that isn't a feature of my life. Of course, therefore, what they crave is my freedom. What this has led to is the VLP (Vicarious Living Programme). I roll up to see them, often with a dull hangover, and always with a selection of stories from the single side (wild nights in Tokyo fetish bars, unlikely encounters on planes and so on). They lap this up, whilst I play with the kids and marvel at their full fridges and other trappings of domestic bliss.

The trick to this, I've realised, with guidance from modern day gurus like Mariella Frostrup, older single female friend and smug marrieds who tell it how it is, is to truly enjoy what you have when you have it. Nothing is permanent or perfect.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

You and me baby, we ain't nothin' but mammals

One of the things that gets my goat is the assumption that people get things wrong deliberately.

In a previous incarnation, I was a child shrink. My caseload was bad kids - the sort who could get themselves kicked out of nursery for really not fitting in. Whilst some of this was just schools being a bit prissy and not liking the non-conformist kid (who I'd always champion) , some of them were truly disturbed. The one who cut his pet hamster in half with a pair of scissors is a case in point. Needless to say, the prognosis for these kids is not good.

Anyway, a large part of my job was to train parents how to look after their kids in a positive way. So, rather than barking at their kids when they did things wrong/inappropriately/irritatingly etc and then getting more mad when they didn't stop, my job was to teach them to say what they wanted to happen and then reward the kids when they got it right.

Simple principle. Damned hard in practice.

Fast forward 10 years and I'm again in the business of helping people change, only this time the kids are senior execs and so on, the parents are bosses and co-workers, the therapists are consultants and the wages are better. Same problem. Same frustration. Same basic issue that it seems to be easier to criticise than praise, correct rather than pre-empt and knock down rather than build up.

Try it sometime. Rather than "Stop....." try "I want you to......" After all, we're all still just big kids on the inside :-)

Monday, 24 September 2007

it's just a bitter sweet, symphony that's life......

I've begun to notice that certain songs follow me around and pop up at the most opportune moments. You know, just when things are getting too much, or conversely you're surfing life's waves like you've never been knocked over in the swell (been spending too much time at the beach this weekend clearly) a song will appear from no where and remind me of a key lesson learned, unlearned and clearly up for being learned again.

The most poignant for me is the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony", which has a habit of turning up like a charm whenever a big bout of melancholy is lurking around, waiting to pounce and bring me down for a day or so. Although the lyrics are, undoubtedly, mawkish, the irresistable string section pushing the song along plus the message that things might be a bit crap but really all you can do is pull your finger out and get on with it is simple yet effective.

As an example, about a year ago I finally woke up and realised that the "relationship" I was in was 100% no good for me. Why the lying, bullying and infidelity that had been going on for a year or more hadn't alerted me to this reality is best saved for another blog. Anyway, I finally plucked up the courage to DTMFA. After several bruising, angry, hurt conversations he went off to see his therapist and I retired to a bar to get heroically drunk. Finally accepting that the connection I thought we had was nothing, and that the only thing to do was move on, was unbearable.

Several glasses of wine and a torrent of tears later, J got in touch and came to find me. A different man from the angry bully I had left 2 hours previously walked into the bar. He sat down, ordered a drink and for the first time in months I sensed the intelligent, engaged and good man that I had fallen for in the first place. After a couple of minutes of tense silence he looked at me and remarked that he had "behaved without empathy towards me for the past year" and apologised. He was sad and I was sad.

As I left the bar and walked out into the inpersonal madness of London's Oxford Street, I turned my ipod onto shuffle, and, unbidden, Bittersweet Symphony flooded my head.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Living in the City

There are some key things to learn about being an expat in HK that make life easier here.

First, HK is small, really small. Despite having a population of close on 7 million, it's surprising just how limited your social circle becomes, and also how it's impossible to have a social circle that's separate from other spheres of your life. This basic lesson was brought home to me with force on Thursday. Following on from La Grange Poobah's illness (much better now, thanks for asking) I cleared out all client work from my diary. This included moving a lunch with a client, using the reason that I was below par (true). That same evening I'd taken a table at the Room to Read Charity Dinner (if you've any spare cash, this lot are GREAT) and felt duty bound to attend. After a power nap in the afternoon, I slapped on Jodie Marsh-esque amounts of make up, got a grip and headed out. Imagine my horror to run into said client at the do, who revelled in my obvious discomfort. Simply awful.

Secondly, it's the kind of place where anything goes. At various times of the year this includes stuff like pedal kart (pedal a man powered noddy car around a race track for 24 hours), any number of extreme sports events, and, today, Flash Veg. At 5.03 we will gather at the threatened wet market in Gage Street, buy vegetables and wave them in the air shouting "How much!!?!?!" The crowd will then peacefully disperse. Hilarious. This is all part of a campaign called High and Dry, which is standing for sympathetic development in HK. Given that there is no meaningful planning process, public consultation or seemingly interest in conservation here, it's an uphill struggle, but I love what they're doing and so, at 5.03, will be waving my bok choi with the best of them. I'm really up for chaining myself to a bulldozer when the time comes, but I've got some time to prepare for that.

BTW High and Dry is on Facebook, so if you want to check out any of their events.....

Finally (told you things happen in threes, must look into why), HK is transient. I love it here and can imagine staying. There's an energy here that's infectious. However, many, particularly in the expat world, are here on 2 year contracts and live like it's an extended university term. It's also the kind of place where you have to get used to people you care for moving on - often to another expat posting, occasionally back home. In the past year two of my closest friends have moved away, and yesterday a third has started looking at a role in Shanghai. It's bitter sweet really. Whilst OF COURSE as a mature, grounded, proper grown up I'm delighted that they have found interesting things to move onto, my inner 5 year old usually chucks a strop about people I love and care for having the cheek to leave.

Anyway, enough for now. Save the markets!

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Comin' around again

Today "The Week" arrived - a digest of Britain's best journalism and a lifeline to home. One of the few things I miss about the UK is the quality and variety of the press, something that Asia is sadly lacking (the South China Morning Post and its kind are like Jane Austen with the racy bits taken out).

Anyway, an article in this week's Week got me thinking. It's about the lot of women in the UK who grew up post the great war. So many men were killed in the trenches that the entire social fabric of the UK changed, causing, amongst other things, the pernicious UK class system to weaken (no titled men to marry), millions of women to enter the work force (no men to work) and a complete change in the expectations of young women of their lot (er, no ordinary guys to marry either). According to the article, of young women in 1917 only 1 in 10 could expect to marry and have children - and this in a society where gender roles were tightly proscribed. Devastating, I imagine.

Fast forward 90 years and I'm writing this on mainland China's doorstep (HK ain't part of China really - no one here truly thinks so anyway, least of all the HK Chinese). Here the situation is startlingly reversed. There is a dearth of women in China and India due to cultural preferences for boys over girls. At the most sophisticated end of the scale this means selective abortions early in pregnancy. At its most brutal it's infanticide and the abandonment of unwanted girls. The social costs of this are huge. For starters, many men will grow up with no realistic prospect of marriage and children. This might not seem too significant.....but for the fact that marriage tends to have a stabilising effect (especially on men) and large numbers of young men lacking meaningful work and/or relationships is a recipe for trouble.

Anyone fancy a gaze into the crystal ball 90 years hence to see where this trend takes us??

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Being boring....

Today I'm officially ill, and so in a position to ponder the big questions of the day like:
  • why, when using a recyclable mug in Pacific Coffee, do the baristas insist on making the coffee in a paper cup first before then pouring it into the reusable plastic one and chucking the paper one?
  • why, Jodie Marsh? Just why? Back in the UK recently I was struck by the enormous billboards of her in a soft porn bridal outfit, with "who's going to take her up the aisle?" plastered all over what turned out to be an ad for a TV show. Setting aside the fact that "who's going to take her up the aisle" was first (and funniest) used by the Sun WRT Elton John (and given my views on recycling maybe I should approve), Jodie and the whole premise of this show epitomises dumbed down Britain. Add into the mix that the other top stories in the UK at the time were Harry Potter and The Beckhams Move to California (10 points if you can spot the fictional story there) - a fascinating insight into the issues that really capture the public imagination. Apparently the only reason they're on the front pages is that it's what "we" want to read.....
  • why do things always happen in threes?