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Showing posts from October, 2013

香港日記 Hong Kong Diaries. Part Four

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Strolling through the indoor market by our hotel, looking at the impressive displays of fruit and vegetables it’s clear that the people of Hong Kong like their food fresh. Very. Some of the smallest ingredients in the meat section and nearly all the fish are still alive. 
Walking past little faces staring out with doomed eyes is a disconcerting experience, but then I feel exactly the same way in this part of the world when I see sheep peering out from lorries on their way to slaughter.
We’re not stopping here though, just passing through on our way to the MTR station. Neither of us is a great shopper but since we’re in Hong Kong, we both have a small wish list of things we might like to buy; I’d like some perfume and Tom’s after a bike computer. Away from the side streets and markets, the lavish shopping malls reveal a completely different aspect of Hong Kong’s personality.
On the spotless trains, exquisite girls and sleek boys, straight out the pages of Vogue, are glossy with head-to…

香港日記 Hong Kong Diaries. Part Three.

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Saturday 19 October
We’re on our way by cable car to see the Big Buddha on Hong Kong’s largest island, Lantau. Now that we’ve got our Octopus cards, there’s no stopping us! Gliding upwards in a glass- bottomed cabin, I can see Tung Chung Bay sparkling beneath my feet and the green slopes of the Lantau Country Park ahead.
It might be an obvious tourist attraction, but it’s a good one and reasonably priced too for the breath-taking sky trail which takes the best part of an hour for the return trip. I’m not especially bothered by heights, but can’t help bracing myself whenever the cabin enters a station to turn; the sensation of the ground rushing towards me is quite unsettling!
At the summit in Ngong Ping Village there are plenty of ways for tourists to spend money, but we’re going to climb the 240 steps to see the world’s tallest seated bronze statue of Buddha.  I’m not sure I feel especially enlightened, just hot after climbing all those steps, but both the statue and the views from …

香港日記 Hong Kong Diaries. Part Two.

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Friday 18 October
Why not today?’ asks the concierge smiling patiently. ‘Much better you buy now.’ The debate is about when to buy an Octopus card, the smart card which covers fares on Hong Kong’s mass transit system and a whole host of other purchases besides. ‘But we like walking!’ we insist, ‘we’ll explore on foot today and buy a card tomorrow.’

Confident that we’ll prove that we’re made of sterner stuff than your average tourist, we step out into a beautiful, balmy day. Of course, the concierge knows best. Within a few blocks we’re wilting; the heat creeps up on you here, turning to a pleasant walk into a bit of a trek. Overcoming any slight apprehensions about trying something new, we head for the cool sanctuary of the nearest MTR station and after a quick, easy transaction we have our very own Octopus cards and are ready to go.
We soon discover that this cheap, fast, efficient transport system is the key to our successful holiday. It’s the pulse that keeps the life blood of Ho…

香港日記 Hong Kong Diaries. Part One.

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Thursday 17 October
While I’ve been sleeping, darkness has given way to a milky light. Some forty thousand feet or so below me, mile upon mile of snow-covered peaks rise up like islands through a sea of clouds. Siberia, I realise with a thrill. In a year filled with potent reminders about the brevity of life, Tom’s decided to make one of my long-held dreams of visiting the Far East come true by surprising me with this holiday. So let’s gloss over my initial reaction which, because I’m always worried about money, was as cold as those mountain tops and skip to the present as the plane prepares to land. The South China Sea is spread beneath the wings and I realise that after years of dreaming about it that very shortly I’ll be in Hong Kong.

Success! Our bags have arrived and we’ve been given a free map of the city. Now all we have to do is locate the minibus to the hotel. We’re mysteriously sporting stickers emblazoned with a large orange ‘k’ issued by a desk clerk who has pointed us …

When Fiction Becomes Fact

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It’s always strange when a topic I’ve been writing about suddenly pops up in the news or is reflected by real life. Have I picked up something in the ether or is it coincidence? It’s even stranger though to discover incidents which have shaped my imaginary landscapes taking place in their physical counterparts.

The heroine of my novel, Turning the Tide, Harry Watling runs a boatyard which is not based on any one place in particular but owes a debt to the sleepy backwater on the east coast where we bought our first boat. It’s a proper ‘boaty’ boatyard with a gentle bustle of activity which is all about enjoying being out on the water rather than showing off.

In my novel, Harry wants to preserve and protect her business without selling out, but her problems begin when a property developer buys the old yacht club across the water and turns it into a vast modern restaurant. It was a bit of surprise to see that not only had a number of the old sheds been spruced up as I’d imagined them…

Autumn Break, Last Part: Walking the Past

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‘I don’t know how you managed to find your way around,’ says Ma, ‘I would have been lost!’. We’re at my old university, UEA, making our way up from the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts through the campus, retracing a little of my past. I seem to remember my eighteen-year-old self was quite baffled by the concrete maze I found myself in too! First year students were accommodated at Fifers Lane, a former barracks at RAF Horsham St Faith, a bus ride away from the main camp. A mist, shrouding the place for most of my first week, only added to the sense of isolation, as did the trek to the nearest payphone to ring home. My worldly goods fitted in one small trunk and cooking and laundry (also involving a long and often rainy trek) were more logistical nightmares to overcome.

UEA’s celebrating its fiftieth anniversary and although my memories feel as they belong to another life-time, it isn’t actually fifty years since I enrolled there! Even so there are changes; accommodation blocks ha…

Autumn Break. Part Two: Boats and Backwaters

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‘You’re not going to buy another boat, are you?’ asks Ma, stunned. Like Pondside and Frances, she vividly recalls the problems of the naughty Pig Boat, but for me and Tom (who needs no encouragement) distance lends considerable enchantment to our view of sailing. Oh, I know I was sick half way round Britain on our lovely Veryan, but what about the amazing sights we saw? Steering by a star (Arcturus) though the Looe Channel, following a moonbeam into Salcombe, being surrounded by basking sharks yawning in a still sea off Penzance… just a few of the moments that will always stay with me.

Today we’ve come to look at a fat little boat which might be just right for some gentle pottering. Even better, she’s in the sleepy backwater where sailing all began for me and at the boatyard which worked its way into my imagination.