Searching for locations: Harbour Grand Hotel, Kowloon, Hong Kong

The Harbour Grand Hotel, Kowloon, Hong Kong, is a modern, but luxurious hotel, one that our travel agent found for us.

I was initially worried that it might be too far away from central Hong Kong, but a free shuttle bus that runs at convenient times took us to and from the hotel to the Star Ferry terminal.

The luxuriousness of the hotel starts the moment you walk in the front entrance with a magnificent staircase that I assumed led up to the convention center (or perhaps where weddings are catered for) and a staircase where one could make a grand entrance or exit.  Oh, and there’s a chandelier too.

We booked into a Harbourview suite, and it was not only spacious but had that air of luxury about it that made it an experience every time you walked into it.

But the view of Hong Kong Harbour, that was the ‘piece de resistance’

I spent a lot of time staring out that window, and it was more interesting than watching the television, which we didn’t do much of.   Most of the time, when we travel, TV is limited to International English speaking news channels.

This time we had several movies included with the room, but I still preferred to watch the endless water traffic on the harbor.

The lounge area had several comfortable chairs, an area for the bar fridge and tea or coffee making facilities and on the opposite side the usual table and chairs for those who came to conduct business

The bedroom was separate to the entrance and lounge.  Notable was the fact the room had two bathrooms, one in the bedroom, and one out in the lounge, perhaps for the guests who were having friends in.

We dined in one of the restaurants, Hoi Yat Heen, where we experienced Guandong cuisine.  I tried the roasted goose for the first time, and it was interesting to say the least.

There’s no doubt where we will be staying the next time we go to Hong Kong.

It’s still a strange world

I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to turn on the tv anymore.

I get it. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic, and everyone wants to get back to work, but is it worth the cost of lives?

It raises the question, how much is a single life worth?

Apparently, to some, nothing. We see various countries rebelling against the so-called notion we should be social distancing, staying at home, and stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

It seems some countries, and a section of their population, just don’t care.

And the pity of it is, all those that do the right thing will inevitably forgive those that break the rules, even if they spread the disease because of their foolhardiness.

Our citizens will die, but we will be reluctant to call them murderers. They will find some way to hold the more sensible nations to ransom, simply because they have something we all need, something we turned over to them because we were naive. In a sense we still are.

Consumerism and capitalism, and dare I say it, greed, at its very worst.

But, the alternatives, fascism, communism, and dictatorships is unpalatable.

Something else we have discovered because of this world pandemic is our own stupidity in considering that a global economy was the way to go. All of a sudden everything we had moved to China, and elsewhere offshore, has come back to bite us. No whitegoods, no clothes, everything but food. At least we haven’t sold all of that down the river. Yet.

This is one hell of a wake-up call.

We need to address that self-sufficiency we no longer have. We need to bring back manufacturing, we need, in other words, to become self-sufficient again. No matter what the cost. It seems ems that in sending away everything meant that we sent away out national pride as well.

Made in Australia is something of a hollow joke. Now we get labels that no longer say, Made in Australia, it’s now what percentage is made in this country, and that isn’t a lot.

I suspect it’s the same for a lot of so-called western countries, including the United States.

This isn’t going to be the first or the last time this sort of problem will happen. ln fact, it’s only going to get worse. The thing is, are we going to learn from it?

Yes, we need to fit into the rest of the world but, no, we don’t need to sell our souls to do it.

We need to do something about it, now, while we can. This pandemic might just have a silver lining, if only we recognize the opportunity for what it is.

So where is hell?

When we are taught about religion, we are inevitably introduced to heaven and hell.

Heaven is the place we all aspire to go up to, though I’ve never really understood why it is up. Of course, all the pictures of heaven are in the clouds, with a set of pearly gates (just why are they called the pearly gates anyway?) and St Peter waiting to ask us the 20 questions that decides whether we pass through, or get the elevator down.

Yes, hell is down. Why? And, for that matter why is it always depicted a dark and full of fire and hot embers?

Now, just taking a step back and thinking about hell, there is a saying, “it is hell on earth’.

Was this saying coined by someone who had actually been to hell and been sent back? Imagine being a reject from hell … that would take some doing.

For those who saw ‘The Good Place’ which ended recently, the notion of hell takes on something of a different meaning.

But, we often say, when at the very bottom of despair that we are in hell. I gather this means that life couldn’t get any worse, which is quite possible on of the universal definitions of what it might be like in the ‘real’ hell.

Or was hell invented by some clergy a long time ago to frighten the parishioners into being good, because the ‘prize’ if you didn’t was a one way trip to, you guessed it, hell.

Come to think of it, a lot of the religious ‘stuff’ is to keep us penitent parishioners on the straight and narrow, though we are allowed to stray every now and then so we have a reason to go to the confessional, where, after straying, we a forgiven for the price of a few hail Mary’s.

And perhaps the unforgiving stare of the parish priest.

So, when we tell someone to ‘go to hell’, what is it we are really wishing upon that person. A fiery end? A meeting with the devil?

Let’s hope that ‘hell’ is just an invention, and that when were finally make it to the afterlife (which is a whole other question that I take issue with) our lives have been such that we know the answers to the 20 questions St Peter puts to us, and we get the magic ticket into heaven.

And hopefully there will be a Red Lobster up there.

In a word: cue

Another small and sometimes confusing word.

The first meaning that comes to mind is a cue is a prompt, often from someone standing behind the camera in a television studio.

That is to say that a cue is some form of signal, a wave, a nod, or verbal.

A cue can also be where a tape or recording is set to a certain place, ready to play.  One could assume, if playing tracks off an album of songs, and you wanted to play the fourth track, then you would cue it up, ready to go on, of course, the moment you got a, yes, cue to play it.

Then there is a cue used in a game of pool or snooker, that is a long thin tapered piece of wood with a felt tip.  

Not exactly my favourite game, but it’s always the cues fault, not mine.

This is not to be considered with Que which is a shortened form for Quebec, in Canada.

Or que, which for some reason, only in California, is short for barbecue.

Or Queue, as in a long line, or a short one, of people waiting to get on a bus, or waiting to get tickets  

In my experience every queue I get in is always a long one, and then suffer the frustration of waiting hours only to be told the tickets have all been sold.

Almost as bad as being stuck in a traffic jam, which is technically a queue of cars, never to get through the first set of lights, and sometimes not the second.

And don’t get me started on phone queues.  

Queues are for people who have a lot of time on the hands.

Searching for locations: The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong

The sight of the Peninsula Hotel is very familiar to all who visit Hong Kong, if not to stay but certainly if you want to see the last vestiges of British influence in what was once a far eastern colony.

That is, we’re talking about the front building, not the new tower at the back.  In the older days there would have been a great view of the harbor from the Veranda (that area with the blue striped canopy) where today, breakfast is taken.

We had breakfast, lunch, and the famous afternoon tea in the ground floor cafe.

These days you would mostly see taxis, buses, and Teslas, if not a flurry of Mercedes and green Rolls Royces in the small car park below.  There is no clear view of the harbor anymore.

From our room, one facing the harbor we could see the space museum, and on the day we arrived, rain, at times, blotting out the harbor and Hong Kong Island barely discernable in the distance.

As for the room itself, it was excellent, a junior suite, I think, because it had two distinctive areas.  Everything was run from a tablet computer, blinds, lights, television, and most importantly, air conditioning.  This was the first hotel I’ve stayed in where it was neither too hot or too cold, but just rights.

The bed was very large and extremely comfortable, as were the pillows.  Pillows, I’m afraid, are a bugbear with me, as no hotel seems to be able to get it right.  They’re either too soft or too hard, too tall, or too shallow.  Here, they managed to get it right.

The windows were just the right size not to affect the air conditioning, ie. let too much heat in.

I’m not sure I could say the lounge chair was comfortable, but there was only one, which makes it difficult if there are two of you.  I wasn’t going to fight for it.

The desk had a surprise in the bottom drawer, a printer!

And the bathroom, though slightly smaller than expected, had some hint of what it may have been like in the early days.  It had both a shower and a bath.

Every now and then we all get a chance to stop and reflect on life

Funerals are by definition sad occasions.  It is a time to reflect on the life of the deceased, a time when everyone who knew them to come together to celebrate their life.

It is also usually a time when the whole family comes together, like births and weddings, and can take an interesting turn given the right set of circumstances.

And, depending on how old you are at the time, you could start reflecting on your own mortality, and how much or how little time you have left, and, quite possibly, what it is you have or haven’t done with your life.

Perhaps the question should be, are you going to put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

The sad fact is, we all do.  We all believe we will have plenty of time to get things done, with a motto of, old enough to know better and young enough not to care.

What happens when you die at 44?

It’s one of those questions that we face when attending the funeral of the daughter of one of my in-laws.

It’s a well-known fact that a great many of us look forward to retirement, and having reached that age, generally in the mid to late 60s, that we will be settled in our life, all major commitments completed, we will be in reasonably good health, our children will be old enough to look after themselves, and we have an adequate retirement plan to see us through to old age.

Until then, we sacrifice a great deal, spending our time either working or helping our children on their way to an equally successful life.

There never seems to be time for those holidays overseas or doing those things near and dear to us, putting it off till ‘tomorrow’.

No one realizes ‘tomorrow’ never comes.

 

 

In a word: Prize

What you win, first prize in a raffle, though I don’t think I’ve ever won first prize.  Second maybe.  But, aren’t all raffles rigged?  

But despite my unfortunate run of luck, a prize is generally give to someone who works hard, or wins a race

Or I could have been a prize fighter but lacked the size and the strength, and out of curiosity how many prize fighters didn’t win a prize?

And if I had been a pirate, I could have sailed the seven seas to find a prize, namely a ship to attack and take as my own.

And as a prime example, a Chelsea supporter walking into a bar full of Manchester United fans could be called a prize idiot.

This is not to be confused with the word prise

Don’t relatives prise the last dollar out of a dying man’s hand?

Or prise the truth out of a witness, or a perpetrator

Or prise a window open like thieves do when we forget to lock them properly?

I scored a window seat – it’s like winning the lottery

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So, what do you do when you finally win the lottery?

Well, not the monetary one, the airplane one where you get a window seat, and a window seat you can actually see out of?

Because most of them are not aligned with the windows.  I remember drawing a window seat a while back, but …. you guessed it, there wasn’t a window.

I mean, really!

But now you have one, what do you do?

I’ve seen a lot of window seat travelers pull down the blinds to block out the view.  Seriously?  It’s obvious they travel a lot and have seen everything there is to see.  Why they would want a window seat is beyond me.

Like would they be looking for a lightning bolt to hit the wing tip?  An engine falling off?  Another plane flying too close alongside, like a menacing jet fighter?

Not today.  Not flying near a restricted air space, or foreign border.  Just going from one state to another, out of Melbourne on our way to Brisbane.

Of course, this was before COVIS 19 grounded everything.

Me, I look at clouds, check every so often the engine is still there, watch the wings flex, or the flaps move.

The last time I had a window seat we arrived in Brisbane from the ocean and the plane got awfully close to the water on its final run to the runway.

This time it was over the bridges after flying past the city, and over the Brisbane River.

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Sometimes you can see cruise ships.  There might not be another one of those for a long time to come.

And, yes, the engine is still there.

It was an uneventful flight, but I took a lot of photos anyway.  The grandchildren like looking at oddly shaped clouds.

 

We have this sport called Australian Rules Football

In Melbourne, it’s an institution even a religion.  Traditionally it is played on a Saturday afternoon and luckily for us, we were attending such a game.

Of course, this was before last year.  Last year, with the COVID 19 virus everything, including football has been called off.

Now, we’re subject to the off outbreak that sees games transferred to other states, and sometimes without crowds. We just stick to watching it on TV these days.

Except now we have ‘flattened the curve’ football can start again, sometimes with sometimes without the spectators.  Social distancing means we can’t pack the stadium, or rarely even go to a game.  For a while, it was just to be from our lounge rooms, watching it on the TV.

But, as some of the states began to get on top of the virus, football teams moved from Victoria, and played in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and the Northern Territory.

And as the Victorian situation got worse, the decision was made to move the grand final, which had never left the MCG in Victoria, to Brisbane. It was like America never losing the Americas Cup, until they did.

But, below, is the atmosphere that we have been missing, and has returned in a limited sense as coronavirus restrictions eased (but not completely), a game we attended last year:

The stadium is the MSG, one of the biggest and best in Australia.  Shortly after the start, I’d estimate there are about 40,000, but eventually, we were told there was 53,000, spectators here for a clash between the two Melbourne based teams.  It is not unheard of to have in closer to 90,000 spectators, and the atmosphere is at times electric.

For the die-hards like me who can remember the days when there were only Victorian-based teams,  in the modern-day form of the game, to have two such teams is something of a rarity.

However, it’s not so much about the antics on the field as it is the spectators.  They are divided into three groups, the members, the private boxes, and the general public.

But in the end, there is no distinction between any of them because they all know the rules, well, their version of them, and it doesn’t matter who you are, If there is something that goes against your team, it is brings a huge roar of disapproval.

Then there are ebbs and flows in the crowd noise and reactions to events like holding the ball attracting a unified shout ‘ball, or a large collective groan when a free kick should have been paid or by the opposite team’s followers if it should have been.

It is this crowd reaction which makes going to a live game so much better than watching it televised live.  The times when players take marks, get the ball out of congestion, and when goals are scored when your team is behind and when one is needed to get in front.

This is particularly so when one of the stars goes near the ball and pulls off a miracle 1 percent movement of the ball.  These are what we come to see, the high flying marks, the handball threaded through a needle, a kick that reaches one of our players that looked like it would never get there, an intercept mark or steal that throws momentum the opposite way.

This game is not supposed to be a game of inches but fast yards, a kick, a mark, a handball, a run, and bounce.  You need to get the ball to your goal as quickly as possible.

That’s the objective.

But in this modern game, much to the dismay of spectators and commentators alike, there is this thing called flooding where all 36 players are basically in a clump around the ball and it moves basically in inches, not yards.

It is slow and it is ugly.

It is not the game envisioned by those who created it and there is a debate right now about fixing it.

Here, it is an example of the worst sort.  This game is played in four quarters and for the first two, it is ugly scrappy play with little skill on display.  The third shows improvement and it seems the respective coaches had told their players to open it up

They have and it becomes better to look at.

But this is the point where one team usually gets away with a handy lead, a third-quarter effort that almost puts the game out of reach.  The fourth quarter is where the losing team stages a comeback, and sometimes it works sometimes it does not.

The opposition gives it a red hot try but is unsuccessful.  Three goals in a row, it gave their fans a sniff of hope but as the commentators call it, a kick against the flow and my team prevails.

It is the moment to stay for when they play the winning teams song over the stadium’s loudspeaker system, and at least half the spectators sing along.  It is one of that hair raising on the back of your neck moments which for some can be far too few in a season

We have great hopes for our team this year, and it was worth the trek from Brisbane to Melbourne to see it live rather than on the TV

Leaving the ground with thousands of others heading towards the train station for the journey home there is a mixture of feelings, some lamenting their teams, and others jubilant their team won.  There is no rancor, everyone shuffles in an orderly manner, bearing the slow entry to the station, and the long lines to get on the train.

Others who perhaps came by car, or who have decided to wait for a later train or other transport, let their children kick the football around on the leaf-covered parkland surrounding the stadium.

It is an integral part of this game that children experience the football effect.  Kicking a ball with your father, brothers, and sisters, or friends on that late autumn afternoon is a memory that will be cherished for a long long time.

It’s where you pretend you are your favorite player and are every bit as good.  I know that’s what I used to do with my father, and that is what I did with my sons.

But no matter what the state of the game, it is the weekend the football fans look forward to and who turn out in their hundreds of thousands.  It is a game that ignites passions, it brings highs and it brings incredible lows.

And, through thick and thin, we never stop supporting them.

In a word: Toe

A toe is one of five at the end of your foot, and from time to time you wriggle.  It’s also one of the first things to go when you get frostbite.

And when was the last time you stubbed your toe?  It hurts!

It can also mean something at the tip or point, such as the toe of a country like Italy, or England.

What does it mean when someone treads on your toes?   You upset or annoy them.

What if you go toe to toe with someone?  Two people having a ‘robust discussion’.

What about that boss that keeps you on your toes, especially when he’s looking over your shoulder!

And what about a toe-poke, a hard kick of the football with your toe?

Of course, it’s not to be confused with the word tow, which basically means to pull something behind you.

Like a tow truck, pulling a broken down, or smashed up, vehicle.

But, do you toe the line, or tow the line?  Or both at different times?

It seems that to toe the line means to do as you are told, or conform to a standard.

Sadly, that doesn’t describe me!