Monday, November 28, 2005

A few home truths...

Words people search for and find Madame Chiang...

quiet peaceful flat in Hong Kong close to trees - not much chance of that mate...

not much magic left when you watch him cut his toenails - Oh, how true....


Odds and Sods....

Today is a public holiday in the honour of the birth date of Andres Bonifacio (actually it should be 30.11 but it was brought forward for some reason...possibly someone knew in advance that it would be a good day to smother the news of Garci's return). Bonifacio is one of the Philippine national heros, second only to Jose Rizal, Bonifacio differed from Rizal in two main ways...firstly, he did not want to reform Spanish rule as Rizal was aiming for but to throw off the Spanish shackles completely, secondly Rizal was a peaceful man who protested peacefully using his pen...Bonifacio led armed rebels against the Spanish..unfortunately for Bonifacio he was not a gifted military leader and he was eventually arrested, tried for treason and executed by firing squad.

Skipping through blogs and linking through to others (as one does) I found Titania..reading swiftly through the opening page I found thispost, in particular this ...about HKG....Almost everyone here takes pride in their dressing, and that is probably the reason why in almost every street and in every corner you turn, there is nothing else other than clothing shops......It seems as if dressing up is a way of's so true...the other day on my day off I remembered I had to pay the delivery man for my furniture and didn't have enough money in the house so needed to pop out to the cash point...I had been cleaning the house wearing my flip flops (haven't had a pair of those for years, but have rediscovered them for the house!!) a T-shirt and a pair of old trousers...anyway, grabbed my purse, shot out the house, got in the elevator and then looked down at my feet...there was no way I was going to face the world dressed like that...even just to go a couple of hundred back up to the apartment, changed my trousers, changed my shoes, put on my sunglasses...picked up a handbag and then left can take the girl out of Hong Kong, but you can't take Hong Kong out of the girl!!

I have a friend in town at the moment...just flew in from HKG last night...he came over to the office for lunch today and brought me my HKG care package...HK Magazine, BC Magazine, the Sunday Morning Post...and most importantly...Season Six of The West Wing....have promised to ration myself this time instead of the usual gluttony that goes on when I get a new Season on DVD!!!!

HK Magazine has on the cover..."113 ways to improve Hong Kong" of my local colleagues said.."If that were Manila it would be 1 million, one hundred and thirteen"...after he read the article he said to me ..."Hong Kong really can't be that bad a place if number 63 on the list is 'Put a mouth on Hello Kitty'" ... couldn't agree more!!

And finally, as I was going home last night I was casting my mind back a couple of years to one of my friends in always strikes me as odd that I can muddle along for months with lots of e-mail contact with him...and then everyso often I need to talk to him..for no other reason than to hear his voice...and then a final convenient - it's his birthday on Thursday!


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bits & Pieces....

Discovered today that I have been linked to by a Jordanian blog 'collective' called "I heart Amman" (sorry, can't do the little heart graphic!). On the list of other new bloggers I discovered one called Cacopolis - his little bit of 'blurb' at the top "Half-random thoughts from a half-Arab who's spent half his life away. And now lives in London, half the time..." struck a note with me (not that I am half Arab or live in London) but it sums up how may of us live our lives - i.e. not in the country of our birth, travelling a lot - either for business or pleasure and although seemingly settled, still a little in limbo.

Still in Jordan, I see from the Jordan Times, that yet another development is going up down at the Dead Sea - >"The Bahraini Grand Real Estate Projects Company plans to build and operate a full-fledged tourism resort on the shores of the Dead Sea at a cost of $100 million. According to the company's representative Jamal Hafez, the project will set up 650 chalets and 24 villas with different recreational facilities. ". I realise that tourism is the second highest revenue earners, I realise that the Dead Sea is an amazing attraction and from a point of view of somewhere to go to relax there are few places on earth to beat it....but I seriously hope that someone will soon put a stop to all this development going on down of the reasons for it's beauty is the fact that it is not over developed. The Movenpick is at least subtle and sympathetically designed, the Marriott looks like a penitentiary and with it's glaring red Marriott sign stands out like a sore thumb, the Dead Sea resort (the original) is more subtle - just because it is older, the Kempinski I cannot really comment on as it was still half built when I left...When I first lived in Jordan in the 80's the Dead Sea area was not developed (not even the road to Amman was built) because the area was still a military zone due to the ongoing 'coflict' with Israel.

Via , Hadoosheh everything you ever needed to enjoy your argeelah!! I remember during Ramadan evenings driving around Abdoun circle with everyone sitting outside the coffee houses and smoking their argeelahs...the smell was wonderful - predominantly apple, with a hint of strawberry and a slight smokey undertone....

Also from Jordan, one of the other websites on the same list is an American exchange student who has some great pictures of her time in Jordan..on her site, click pictures, click on the Wadi Mousa, Petra collection and then go to the second page....Petra by night...a wonderful experience...after sunset you are led down through the Siq which is lit by little tea lights in paperbags and finally out of the Siq in front of The Treasury, again, all lit by tea lights where you sit and listen to a Bedouin tell stories and drink sweet mint tea..the story etc is all a bit touristy but it is well worth it to see The Treasury in candle light....fantastic. I remember taking a friend to Petra (they hadn't been before), I took them on the candlelit walk the first night and then early morning the next day....they couldn't believe how beautiful it was.

All change at the top in Jordan. King Abdullah seems to have decided that it is time to move on from the previous 'middle of the road' philosophy and start having a stronger attitude to terrorism - personally I believe he has felt that all along but both King Hussein and King Abdullah have had to tread a very fine line between what is expected of them by their country, what is expected by the West, what is expected of them by their Arab neighbours and finally, what they expect of themselves - not an easy task in life.

And finally....Wadi Rum....whilst unpacking my books the other day I found a coffee table book on Jordan which a friend gave me when I left..on the inside cover he had written "When ever you have a grey or rainy day...look at Wadi Rum" here you are...a picture of Rum..."Vast, echoing and God like" as Lawrence said...


Saturday, November 26, 2005

It's all in the name

One thing that strikes me when looking at the street maps of Manila are the names of the streets...the older parts of Manila have street names with historical significance – named after people and places which have had a strong influence over the Philippines – such as in the bay area we have Roxas Boulevard and Taft Avenue - although quite who Singalong is I don't know yet, could be a reference to the average Filipino’s genetic programming to, um, sing-a-long!

However, the fun street names start in the newly built up areas...such as Makati and Ortigas. I first noticed this grouping of names before I arrived here and I used to study the maps of Manila in the vain hope that when I arrived I would have slightly more idea of where I was going than if I arrived without once looking a the me, it was a vain hope!!

So, onto the grouping of names...around Valle Verde we have vegetables – Celery Drive, Mustard, Cabbage, Carrots, Cucumber, Asparagus, Radish and Spinach, possibly someone's shopping list the day they were asked to name the streets. Up in Greenhills we move onto American presidents names – Wilson, Kennedy, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Grant, Washington – couldn't find a Clinton though (surprised given his antics with Philippine cigars) and if they do…I suggest that give it a few initials first for when Hilary moves into the big white house in D.C.

Back to the street names – Paranaque City has used all the country names interspersed with school subjects so Poland rubs shoulders with Engineering, Russia with Physics and Chemistry – the countries seem to be in some vague alphabetical order until you see Lesotho next to France. Also in Paranaque City I see that they have 'Better Living' subdivisions – the street names in one of these subdivisions could be counted as better living – Faith , Hope, Love, Grace – then I see the other 'Better Living' Subdivisions include Swaziland, Kuwait, Jordan, (two streets with the same name there!!) Iran and France. Who ever was naming these streets after places definitely has not been paying attention to world affairs – in one small area, all connected – we have Mecca, Israel, Teheran, Bethlehem, Iraq, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – just next to them to keep the peace we have Geneva.

Then for our soap opera fans we have Dallas and Brookside, still looking for Eastenders

Also very common are the planets (who wants to have Uranus as part of their address), precious stones, not precious stones, precious metals, not precious metals, star signs, the saints, inventors, bugs, birds, zoo animals, types of sheep and cows, mountains, colours, the twelve Apostles, flowers, composers, girls names, boys names – the latter two look as if some town planner took the names of his children and friends children.

I haven't decided which my favourite collection of names is but there is one group I particularly like – Bulletin, Pictorial, Highlight, Ads, Crossword, Horoscope, Action, Editorial, Headline, Banner, Lead, Scoop, Society, Font and Masthead – a journalists dream village!!

I could go on for ever...the collections of names are highly entertaining but the one thing that amazes me is that so many of the street names are repeated through the city – often not once or twice, but three, four or five times – a postman's nightmare.

If they need any new subjects I have a few suggestions – start with the words in the dictionary, British Prime Ministers, British Kings and Queens (remember the Brits were colonial invaders for a very short space of time here as well!), spirits, wine chateau, authors, the contents of my fridge, TV shows, sports personalities,

I knew I should have chosen my address more carefully – Wack Wack Road just doesn't cut it...I think I will move to somewhere like Mt. Everest or Asteroid...but I will definitely be avoiding Mt Etna, Brixton, Uranus and Golden Shower


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Madame Chiang's Day Off...

And so another day off...this one spent predominantly housebound whilst I waited for delivery of furniture, cable TV, the plumber, the electrician and various other visitors...all nicely timed to ensure that I could not leave home...I also wanted to get my internet access hooked up but am told by PLDT that I need to give three weeks notice...

Despite being housebound I managed a quick visit to Greenhills...finally, I hear so much about the mall there that I had to pay a flying visit...for HKGers it's a cross between the mall at the station in Shenzhen and Ap Lei Chau..a flea market downstairs and furniture stalls upstairs...some nice bits of furniture but from what I could see not drastically cheaper than what I could buy at the MegaMall...maybe I could be corrected on that...Greenhills itself seems like a really nice area and from what I saw whizzing past in the taxi there were a few promising looking pet stores (cat litter is proving a bit of a challenge to find) and what looks to be quite a good vet's clinic.

The decorations at Greenhills were quite good...

Then back home to wait for the 7pm I was free at I scooted down to Powerplant to see a movie and joy of joys I managed to get a ticket for the movie and 20 minutes in the bookstore...I went to see Prime (Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep)very enjoyable but the ending was totally unexpected...there was an audible "Uh" thoughout the cinema as the ending was shown...left the theatre at 9:20 and Fully Booked was still open...that has to be a good evening out!!! Anyway decided against more books in favour of supper and a few Apple Martinis at Teak first meal here that I have found the food to be good, tasty and hot and the service was efficient and not in your face. Until I found that link above I hadn't realised it was such a new restaurant...if it continues to be as good as it was last night - I shall definitely be going back.

The majority of Manila is not greatly photogenic however, there is one street that I regularly drive along between my house and Rockwell..not sure yet what it's called but it has Bill's Gym on it and looks to me as if it would make some great photos at night...just need to pluck up the courage to go down there at night!!

So I finally have BBC world again..and life is loking a little better! The cable installation here is different to anything I have seen before...what normally happens (at least to me) is that the cable guys show up, plug in some contraption for which you get a seperate remote control and tune in one of your tv's channels to the 'feeder' cable channel from which you then use your special remote control. Not here....what happens is that they do something with the arial or whatever (to tell the truth I wasn't really watching - Chiang Kai-shek had chosen this moment to regurgitate the entire contents of her stomach onto the kitchen floor!!) and then they need to tune in every single channel on your TV to match their cable channels - quite bizarre...anyway...who cares how it's done as long as I have BBC World!

I also tried out Rustan's delivery service to see if the 'system' does...very useful when buying cat food in bulk...although on Tuesday it seems as if there had been a massive run on cat food in SM Supermarket and the cats got tuna instead...I also managed to pop into Cherry's Foodrama on Shaw Boulevard as a colleague questioned my shopping at MegaMall when Cherry's was just down the road...admittedly Cherry's has everything one could ever need, however, it also has an aroma about it that can only described as the aroma one would get if one left a piece of fish in the fridge, switched off the fridge and came back to it two or three days later!!! Will give it another whirl another time to see if was just an 'off' day!

It wouldn't be a day off post without the view from my apartment being logged...this time in the morning....

And finally, anyone want to buy a hotel?


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Now that's a CAT scan....

from the BBC


On this day....

in2003, England win the Rugby World Cup

in1997, Michael Hutchence was found dead in his hotel room

in 1990, the Iron Lady resigned

in1963, JFK was assassinated


Monday, November 21, 2005

Different country....but it still seems she can't do anything right....but at least God is on her side.

From today's SCMP(subscription required). Both articles copied in full for those in the Philippines

Arroyo has time for Mickey but not for us, say workers

Several Filipino workers' leaders were outraged that Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo snubbed their community in Hong Kong, but found time to meet Mickey Mouse and have dinner with the city's movers and shakers.
Mrs Arroyo arrived in a private jet late on Saturday from the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum leaders' summit in South Korea to have a break with her family at Hong Kong Disneyland.

Accompanying her were husband, Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo, two sons, Mikey and Dato, daughters-in-law Angela and Kakai, and three grandchildren, Mikaela Gloria, Eva Angelique and Eva Victoria. Flanked by minders and bodyguards, the Arroyos were given VIP treatment at the park and did not have to queue up.

Dressed in blue jeans and a casual sweater, Mrs Arroyo tried out the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride and the Jungle River Cruise, with her husband at her side. The couple slurped on Mickey Mouse ice-cream bars while watching shows such as 3-D versions of Disney cartoon characters.

They stayed until the Main Street parade was over.

The Philippine first couple are expected to fly back to Manila today on a commercial flight.

Mrs Arroyo began her day with a private Mass celebrated by the Catholic Diocese's chaplain for Filipinos, Father Emilio Lim, at her hotel suite in the Island Shangri-La hotel.

Father Lim had reminded the president in a homily "to do what you can do for the least of your brothers".

There are about 180,000 Filipinos in the city who work as domestic helpers.

Edwina Santoya, executive director of the Bethune House shelter for displaced domestic helpers, said she was surprised when a community dialogue with Mrs Arroyo was cancelled at the last minute, with no explanations given by the Philippine consulate.

"We were waiting for her, but instead she gave first priority to Disneyland," Ms Santoyo said.

Dolores Balladares, chairman of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, said her group had already prepared a list of concerns, such as overcharging by recruitment agencies and the helpers' minimum pay in Hong Kong.

GMA in a tea cup

And also from the SCMP

There but for the grace of God goes president Arroyo believes divine intervention, not luck, has seen her survive host of crises

The heavens still seem to favour President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo, despite record low popularity and continuing calls for her to step aside.
How else to explain the events that have helped Mrs Arroyo maintain her grip on power?

Two of her most formidable political opponents suddenly died of natural causes - actor Fernando Poe Junior of a stroke last year and Senator Raul Roco, who succumbed to cancer in August.

Just as a scandal broke in June when vote-rigging allegations were pressed against Mrs Arroyo, Cardinal Jaime Sin, the only Catholic prelate able to put the heat on the president, died.

By chance, this August also was the turn of the Philippines to assume the rotating chairmanship of the United Nations Security Council summit. Mrs Arroyo used the occasion to immense political advantage by projecting herself to the world as a legitimately elected president.

And this month, when world crude oil prices were expected to hit new highs, they instead dropped, cushioning the impact of Mrs Arroyo's resented tax on oil and power.

Archbishop Fernando Capalla, who has just stepped down as head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines - which governs the nation's largest church body - noted that "the good things are not due to the [Arroyo] administration".

Mrs Arroyo has not gone so far as to claim credit for her own good luck, but she has intimated that destiny was playing a hand. (She once told reporters it was God who made her run for the presidency.)

In speeches last week, Mrs Arroyo reminded Filipinos it was she, not the political opposition, who had God's backing.

"Those opposing said once we have the [value-added tax], the price of gasoline and diesel will shoot up, but this did not happen. Now the price of diesel is even lower than before the VAT was imposed ... this is no coincidence, it's providential," she said.

"I don't believe in coincidences, I believe in providence ... so let us follow God because he is showing us a lot of providential things."

Monsignor Capalla, however, did not see the hand of God in Mrs Arroyo's continued grip on power. Rather, he said, "maybe [the people] are tired" of again resorting to people power to remove her.

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales doubted that people power could gather any steam before December 25. Filipinos wanted to enjoy their Christmas, he said.

But he conceded to the pro-Arroyo newspaper Philippine Star that the president's situation had "become a national security problem ... there is a clamour for change everywhere".

There are indicators that things will come to a head next year. Former president Fidel Ramos, whose backing helped save her government from collapse in July, publicly told Mrs Arroyo to cut her term short by next year to prevent political chaos.

That all was not well between the two allies was recently seen in Mr Ramos' "respectful request" for Mrs Arroyo to clarify if he was under surveillance as a suspected coup plotter.

Mrs Arroyo also has alienated much of the media by branding them "bad boys". Plotting and recruiting by retired military officers is intensifying. Junior officers, many of whom have been agitating for Mrs Arroyo to answer the fraud changes, are particularly vulnerable to recruitment.

Mrs Arroyo is also likely to face increasing political pressure from the church now that the bishops have elected Archbishop Angel Lagdameo as their new leader. He recently advised Mrs Arroyo in a closed-door meeting to take demands for her resignation into account.


It's a start.....

It was an horrific event, the loss of life and the damage was terrible...but if the bombings in Amman can bring any good into the could possibly be with news like this. If more Arab countries thought like Jordan is beginning to think, it is possible that Al-Zaqarwi will be caught...

Half of the problem is that too many people in the Middle East are sympathetic to Al-Qaeda and their operations...remove some of the sympathy and his power may just start to weaken.

I wonder if Amman will be a turning point...


From the news desk...

George Bush...exit stage right, pursued by the press...


Want to suck up some cocaine...go for a quick dip in the Thames.

And a cat fight at Banana Joe's!! What was that line from 'Oklahoma'?....'a lot of tempest in a cup of tea'...


Sunday, November 20, 2005


Today I got to thinking about modern day definitions of treason...strange how my mind works....

I don't know too much about present day definitions of treason...I know that Henry VIII and his cronies managed to cook up a charge of treason against his second wife, Anne Boleyn...her form of treason was bedhopping...the same for his fifth wife Catherine Howard for both queens treason roughly translated to wounded pride and a lack of a son for Good King Hal...

As far as I could remember treason obviously included killing or attempting to kill the monarch, also plotting to kill the monarch and killing one of the monarch's swans....not really a deep knowledge of I decided to do a little reading.

I have learnt the following.....

It is no longer treason to kill a swan in England. That was apparantly stopped in 1998. As the vast majority of the swans in England belong to the crown (there is even a Royal swan keeper), killing a swan was attacking the property of the monarch. There is a 1186 statute stating that the swans belong to the monarch this is confirmed by the Act of Swans of 1482 and the Wild Creatures and Forest Law Act of 1981. Apparently only the Dyers’ Company and Vintners’ Company based in the City (London) can claim swan ownership...and then that is only to specific birds on the Thames. As this story shows, this is not a law to take lightly...

Apparently in George I's reign there was an addition to the act of treason...'if your animal should have carnal knowledge of a royal pet'...this little gem was gleaned from a post about strange laws in England...according to that list the Welsh seem to be in serious trouble...

The treason act of 1351 which remains largely unchanged today lists the following items as acts of treason...

"when a man doth compass or imagine the death of our lord the King, or of our lady his Queen or of their eldest son and heir";

"if a man do violate the King’s companion, or the King’s eldest daughter unmarried, or the wife of the King’s eldest son and heir";

"if a man do levy war against our lord the King in his realm, or be adherent to the King’s enemies in his realm, giving to them aid and comfort in the realm, or elsewhere, and thereof be probably attainted of open deed by the people of their condition"; and

"if a man slea the chancellor, treasurer, or the King’s justices of the one bench or the other, justices in eyre, or justices of assise, and all other justices assigned to hear and determine, being in their places, doing their offices".

So, according to this Will Carling and James Hewitt have allegedly committed treason...

So, there you have it...a few ways in which treason could be or could have been committed...


A rather odd evening...

When I left work last night there were two things that struck me as odd...the first was that it was actually quite cool outside...a very strange sensation..I arrived at work in hot, humid weather and left in cool (almost cold) dry weather, I have to report that this morning was back to being hot and humid.

The second thing that was strange was that even though it was 8:30pm on a Saturday night...the streets in Ortigas were quiet and even odder...SM Megamall was really quiet...there wasn't the usual fistfight necessary to get from one end of the foodcourt outside the supermarket to the other end...just a gentle saunter with no elbows required.

Was there something going on last night I didn't know about?

My trip to Megamall was to finally purchase some electrical goods for the house....vacuum cleaner, fans, toaster I pottered downstairs to the SM electrical appliances department and organised delivery of needed items...staff were very helpful and even put up with my little rant about "How the hell do you choose a is one of these different to the other?" (I mean, seriously, faced with a choice between about 50 fans, - yes, I counted - how do you choose one over the other? They all blow the air around, they all look bloody ugly, they all make a lot of noise and all offer the distinct possibility of loosing a finger (that would be me) or a tail (that would be Chairman Mao and Chiang Kai-shek)). Just as I was finalising the items I said to the sales assistant I am just going to go into the other part of the store and buy some things so it can all be delivered together..."Oh no ma'am, you will need to organise seperate delivery as this part of the store is not connected with the other"....same shop, same name...but not part of it. So I settle up for my electrical goods and wander back into the rest of the shop and there I find...another whole electrical goods department....could someone please explain that to me??!!

And finally, the selection and availability of Christmas decorations here is second to none....I am almost tempted to decorate the house. I say 'almost' because I stopped decorating the house about 6 six years ago after a rather unpleasant incident involving some christmas metallic streamers, a piece of poop and a cat's arse....I don't think I need to be more explanatory than that!! Anyway, the whole experience rather took the edge of Christmas decorating for me!!


Friday, November 18, 2005

From Manila....

One of the stories in today's paper really stood out because it was something that was written about earlier this week by Torn and Frayed.....the people living by the railway lines in Manila. Whilst I was reading the newspaper article I asked one of my colleagues who was sitting next to me what would happen to the people whose houses had been demolised. "They will be returned to the provinces, from where they came"..."but you know, there are professional squatters".... it seems,(from what he told me), that some of the squatters are given land and/or housing in the provinces to encourage them to return to the provinces (or as repayment of having their 'housing' demolished), apparently they then sell up their new land or property and move back to order to repeat the much of this is true I don't know...One thing that did strike me whilst reading the article was the following sentence..."We are clearing certain areas of Metro Manila to make way for what we refer to as an investors route. Clean and attractive zones to be adopted starting from the airport area will encourage investors to put up businesses here in the country," Fernando pointed out"...if that's the case...they have a long and hard job ahead of them.

And a little Garci update..surprise, surprise he could be in Manila, because he never >left...!!! (via MLQ3)

And I see that a Filipino seaman has been detained after a flight from Hong Kong....


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

So that's what they do with them...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

How did it come to this....?

According to a survey by the cutlery manufacturers Arthur Price, a large number of Brits feels that licking one's knife, licking one's plate and burping whilst dining in company are all acceptable behaviour...


A new advertising celebrity for Dell?

Yesterday I managed a day off…it really wipes me out when I have a week with no day off (i.e. last week) so I spent the better part of yesterday morning snoozing!

Once I eventually woke up I decided that today was going to be the ‘last push’ on sorting out my boxes and putting furniture in the right place…so there followed about five hours of pushing, pulling, shoving and emptying… and at the end of it…the apartment looked half way respectable – I still need to organize the basics…gas, cable TV and internet…(not too sure if my Grand-mother would class cable TV and internet as basics…but there you go…I am getting withdrawal symptoms from no BBC World!).

So after all the furniture arranging I decided to venture out to get some bits and pieces for the house a.k.a. retail therapy! Having shopped mainly at MegaMall and Rockwell I decided to venture to new malling grounds and headed to Glorietta…actually a very nice mall, but very confusing with no clear layout as to what shops were where…as a result (I don’t enjoy shopping at the best of times, so need it all planned and organized) I gave up and headed over to Greenbelt for some dinner. For the third time in a row I sat in the restaurant (different restaurants…am not that much of a sucker for punishment!) with the menu (after having made my choice) for about 15 minutes before someone came over and asked if I was ready…what do I need to do raise a flag? In normal restaurant speak if the guest pushes the menu away and starts to read – they are ready to order…anyway, dinner was good but then figured it was time to head home. If I thought the taxi queue at MegaMall was disorganized…Glorietta takes it to a whole new level…no empty taxis allowed up to the door, no designated queuing area…if you want a taxi you head out into the middle of the road and flag one down…dangerous and disorganized…could just about sum up Manila!

Whilst wandering through Glorietta yesterday I saw something in a shop window that made me look twice…it was a one of those shops selling all the religious bits and pieces that seem to be so popular / necessary here….

All I can say is that I hope He saves……

It was nice to come back to an apartment with some semblance of order and homeliness about it…the cats obviously felt a bit more relaxed as well!

Now the house is vaguely organized I need to start working on my extra-curricular activities so will now try to line up a tennis instructor and find somewhere to carry on with my fencing!

A quick look around the what’s been happening over the last few days leads me to Torn and Frayed and a post about using the railways in Manila…to be honest I saw a railway track in Manila the other day and from the look of the track it seemed obvious to me that trains don’t run here anymore…obviously I am wrong.

John Simpson (one of my favourite BBC correspondents) has written a good column on the Amman bombings…the picture they use at the top shows demonstrators waving placards with pictures of King Abdullah and in the background you can just make out a placard showing a picture of the late King Hussein, those sad, knowing and kindly eyes are instantly recognizable….he would be devastated by the recent events in his wonderful Kingdom.

And to finish….another view from my apartment…the light in the distance is Manila Bay…normally a dirty dishwater colour…in this picture shimmering gold...


Sunday, November 13, 2005

From Al-Dustar

Terrorist crimes do not deliver any political message. Their only message is to kill and destroy... However, the Jordanian blood spilled in Amman's bloody night will help dispel the illusions and remove the haze from the eyes of those many Jordanians who sympathise with al-Qaeda and al-Zarqawi himself.

Oh, I really, really hope so....


Saturday, November 12, 2005

From the Jordan Times...

Zarqawi hometown seethes after blasts

ZARQA — In the hometown of the man whose Al Qaeda wing in Iraq says it carried out triple bombings of Amman hotels, neighbours and relatives had one message for Abu Mussab Zarqawi: Repent.

Wednesday's attacks, the deadliest by militants in the Kingdom shattered a sense of immunity from suicide attacks that have bloodied neighbouring Iraq.

Zarqa, Zarqawi's birthplace, was seething on Friday, two days after the bombings.

Some residents said Zarqawi deserved death for attacks on his own country. Others vowed personally to hand him over to the security forces should he ever set foot in his hometown.

“If I saw him, I would tell him to repent and try to learn about true religion that does not kill innocent civilians,” said Hazem Madadha, 34, who said he was a childhood neighbour of Zarqawi.

“I have very bad feelings toward him. He has hurt the name of Zarqa, Jordan and Islam,” he added as he sat in a grocery shop chatting with two cousins of the militant in the Masoum neighbourhood where Zarqawi grew up.


“If Abu Mussab killed children, it is right to kill him,” said Yousef Khalayleh, a 26-year-old cousin.

“If he was involved in what happened in Amman, we want nothing to do with him.”

Another cousin, 30-year-old Amjad Khalayleh, said he would consider Zarqawi “an enemy for all eternity” if it was proved that he was behind the Amman attacks.

Thousands rally in unity against terror

AMMAN — Thousands of angry Jordanians of all walks of life on Friday marched through Amman in a display of unity, condemning Wednesday's triple suicide bombings.

Worshippers poured out of mosques after Friday prayers to join demonstrations called by trade and professional unions and opposition groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood as well as NGOs and civil society institutions.

“This was a criminal, cruel act that Islam has nothing to do with. Those terrorists carried out the attacks to distort the image of Islam,” said Jamal Mohammad, a shop owner, as he marched waving a national flag. “The terrorists wanted to shake our security, stability and economy because Jordan is a peaceful country.

Demonstrators, including women and children, Muslims and Christians condemned Al Qaeda's Iraq chief Abu Mussab Zarqawi as a “coward,” pledged to fight terrorism.

“Zarqawi you're evil, Jordan will not bow for you,” shouted the crowd of 3,000 as it marched through the streets of Amman's downtown, waving the flags and portraits of His Majesty King Abdullah.

And from the editorial...

The day after

It is always hard to deal with tragedies. For Jordanians, it might be even harder to deal with the horror that befell them Wednesday night. It was the first ever suicide bombing operation in this country, and it was a crime of unimaginable brutality.
The almost impeccable record of our security agencies had made us used to viewing terrorism threats as something somewhat distant, though not for a second did we ever think we would be immune to this evil.

No country can ever be prepared to face such difficult times and confront such blind hatred. And we are not the first civilised nation that has to pick up the pieces after a disaster of the magnitude of Wednesday night's


As Wednesday night's wounds are still fresh, messages of solidarity are pouring in, and so are encouraging gestures of confidence.

Tourist groups are going ahead with their holiday plans here. Arab and foreign investors are voicing their trust in this country and their commitment to the partnership for its further growth and development.

They cannot be thanked enough. And they will not be disappointed.

From the Jordanian bloggers...this...

...and finally...Jordanians to al-Zarqawi: 'Burn in hell'


Friday, November 11, 2005

One year on....

on this day in 2004 Yasser Arafat died...

Is he missed? a few thoughts...


Letting others do the talking.....

One of the aspects of Jordanian government/military that is admired worldwide, is their intelligence department. Jordan and it's neighbours have always been 'protected' by the fact that the Secret Police have had a finger on every pulse without exception. I know from experience that within Jordan, no comment or action goes unnoticed by the Secret Police - sometimes with very alarming results. The recruitment process (at least for hotels) involves criminal checks and secret police checks (amongst others). Having said that, the events of Wednesday will have shaken the staunch belief they had in the safety and security provided by the Jordanian is the BBC'scomment.

And a lovely reminder from Mia, about a date and events that should never be forgotten.

From Torn a quick summary on the 'effectiveness' of the Philippine intelligence.

Stefan and Dave have a wonderful clip on the laundry habits of the first colonials...four months to get a clean dress - they must have had huge wardrobes, I get impatient if my dry-cleaning takes longer than 2 days!

And finally, Simon World
mentions two of my all time heros - in one post...


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Amman 9/11

Today has been a flurry of text messages and phone calls....what did we do in these situations before the advent of mobile phones...reassuring text messages from people who are ok, worrying text messages from those who are still trying to contact friends...and in true Jordanian style...the odd humorous message...

Today has also been spent reminiscing about fun times spent at the three hotels, the time my boss and I both fell asleep in the lobby of the Hyatt too tired to talk or the time my flat mate and I sat and debated what type of bubble bath we were going to splash out on as soon as we could summon the energy to remove ourselves from the comfortable chairs at the Hyatt lobby....all great times in a location where, judging by the photos from the Jordan Times today, such carnage has taken place...

I am sure at some stage I shall write more coherently about the events of yesterday but here are a few first thoughts...

Jordan, and by default, Amman have long lived under the threat of terrorism. Many of my friends, when I spoke to them earlier, voiced the thought ‘It was inevitable, just surprised it took this long to happen’.

Terrorism is not new to Amman, however up until now the intelligence forces have been successful at keeping the attacks at bay...the Millennium terror attacks and the foiled chemical attacks.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (Jordan’s most hated citizen) has often voiced his hatred for the Jordanian government and they way they have ‘sold out’ to the West. He was allegedly the mastermind for the Millenium plot, the chemical plot and the murder of Laurence Foley.

A lot of news reports have said that the hotels targeted had American and Israeli Amman there are a high number of five star hotel properties, built to deal with the influx of Israeli tourists after Israel and Jordan signed their 1994 peace treaty, given how the average Israeli is looked at in Jordan not many do visit, particularly since the start of the 2000 Intifada, as a result most of the hotel business in Amman is based around on the people who flow in and out of Iraq, local business (weddings etc) and during the summer the annual influx of the Gulf Arabs seeking somewhere a little cooler.

A quick run down of the Amman hotel properties (please note that the ownership may be a little hazy or incorrect – hotel ownership is usually fairly confusing):

Four Seasons (opened 2003)– Canadian management company, built by the BinLaden group, owned by various Jordanian and Saudi individuals

Sheraton (opened 2001)– American management company, if I remember correctly, the same details as the Four Seasons r.e. construction..but I could be wrong.

Grand Hyatt (opened 1999)- American management company, owned by Zara Holdings; a group of independent investors who put money into Jordanian tourism projects - mainly hotels, including the wonderful Dead Sea Movenpick)

The Inter-continental (opened 1964 ) – Management company with British roots but now more American, the grand-mother of hotels in Amman, this hotel has seen more action than the average hotel!. Owned by Zara holdings (same as Grand Hyatt).

Le Meridien (opened 1987), British (at present) management company.

Le Royal(opened 2002) – owned and managed by GMH a company owned by an Iraqi naturalized Brit by the name of Nadhmi Auchi – has ‘cloudy’ links to Saddam Hussein, Jordanian rumour has it the hotel was built with Saddam’s money, Auchi denies all knowledge of ever having met Saddam – the public jury is still out….

Marriott - another of the older properties in Amman, an American management company, owned by Arab International Hotels, a Jordanian company.

Radisson SAS - European management company, Jordanian Palestinian owners. Another of the older properties of Amman, quite a landmark as by Jordanian standards it is a 'skyscraper' and it stands in a fairly obvious location.

That’s the sum total of the five-star properties, although there is a new kid on the block, the Kempinski. Following the chain five star properties there are a lot of independently owned and managed properties that aim for five star but fall into the low four star, possibly high three star rating…and then there’s the Days Inn…this tiny little property which has …bedrooms and a grotty little coffee shop and a tiny little nightclub which local hotel staff go to (due to a few reasons - location, price and nobody else really goes there – hotel staff like to keep to themselves after hours!)

Reading some of the Jordanian blogs via Jordan Planet - particularly Mental Mayhem, who has this post with a press-statement from the Radisson SAS, and this post, with some other links. In Natasha's comments I found this article link, if it is true it is incredibly disturbing. Knowing how good Jordanian and Israeli intelligence is it is possible that they knew something was going to happen.

A day of mourning has been declared today in order that the authorities have more time and space to clean this up, the borders have apparently been closed in order to control the movement of any involved in this…however, Jordan’s borders are fairly porous, miles and miles of desert are difficult to control and Amman is sealed...theoretically easy to practice a little more challenging.

The Jordanian intelligence and military will find people involved in this crime, however, they will only be the foot soldiers of this band of terrorists..the masterminds (al-Zarqawi and his Al-Qaeda followers)will remain free to continue to unleash their particular brand of evil across the Middle East.

The scar, that the events of yesterday will leave across Amman and its small society, is deep and will be felt for many, many years to come. My thoughts and sympathies are with everyone there.


An update...

As we call around our friends we are starting to get the measure of what has happened in Amman...when you work in the hotel business your friends and colleagues move on and spread out very quickly...I have friends who work at all three properties and have friends that frequent all three ex-boyfriend had his leaving party at the Days Inn...the Radisson was just across the way from our house. The Hyatt Lobby Lounge was where my boss and my flat mate and I used to retreat to in moments of despair...for peace and quiet and a gin and tonic!!

At the wedding at the Radisson SAS hotel, the bomb killed both the bride and groom's parents (both parents), a couple of waiters I knew, the band players and a couple of the DJs..all people I had worked with.

Apparently the city is a mess..although everyone has been expecting something like this for years, when it eventually happens the shock and horror is just too much.

I still haven't formulated my thoughts...still very upset. It has just struck me that I know more people in Amman that I need to call to speak to, than I did in London on 7th July. It is a times like this that you panic when people don't answer their phones.....


No words can describe how I feel....

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Black Tuesday...

Yesterday was a 'challenging day'....not only was it long...started at 4:30am (after about 2 hours sleep) and finished at about 8pm...but it was stressful..but anyway, it's over and the best part about going home last night...I now have a bed...not just any bed, but a proper new bed with base, new mattress and a nice head board to lean against whilst is the simple pleasures in life!!! I also now have two large bookcases so the mammoth book unpacking can start..I think I will need a few more bookcases...but this is good to start with!

A few little reminders of Hong Kong today in a meeting...

first, we were discussing the election process for staff representatives for a company event...the election process is serious with nominations, campaigning and voting...we were told that each department should have more that one serious candidate otherwise it makes the election process a of my Filipino colleagues turned to me and said..."Sounds a bit like Hong Kong choosing its Chief Executive"...ouch!!

secondly, discussing the possible/immiminent/definite (depending on whose point of view) threat of bird flu....Hong Kong was shown as a shining example of how well they 'battled' the threat last time and how effectively they rid themselves of the birds - really? memories of that little episode are slightly different....anyway, it didn't matter...sometimes Hong Kong needs all the praise it can get....


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Wouldn't you like to know....!!!

Had a quick shifti who was clicking on Madame Chiang and found that I had been landed on after someone googled...

"who is spike from hongkie town"


Would make an interesting recruitment ad....

In today's SCMP there is a brief article (subscription required) about a 'professional mourner'...Leung Siu-foon, aged 76 has been paid to mourn at funerals for 32 years.

... she charges $2,000 for the mourning service, which includes four hours of crying at night plus one hour in the morning.

Unfortunately time is catching up with Ms Leung and there is no body to step into her seems time actually caught up with her a few years back, making her voice weaker and therefore unable to wail all the time so she has recorded her wailing...which incidentally she has asked to be played at her own funeral....

"If I die, no one will wail for me. I have already asked my nephews to play my recorded tape for me at my funeral."

Ms Leung started 'helping out' at funerals after she was treated for breast cancer in 1973 and she decided, after all the kind treatment she received from friends and family, to give something back to her friends. Her help arrange funerals and then as an 'added extra' to mourn the deceased.

Reading the article it struck me as a little strange in Hong Kong that with all the customs and ceremony that is attached with funerals that this profession is not being continued.


Monday, November 07, 2005

Mr Men for grownups....

Yesterday I was looking for some Mr Men graphics to use for a training program. Given that I don't have children and don't spend much time around people with children I was surprised at how much the range of Mr Men characters had expanded....

And finally I wonder if this one could be used for teaching kids about bird flu....


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bloody Blogger....

My previous post about foreign workers...I wanted to add the full article but didn't want it to take up the whole page so added this 'link here' thing from blogger...

Now I see that all my posts have that 'link' thing....

I don't want them all to have it...just the ones I choose...any suggestions...ideas as to what I can do?



The unlucky draw....

In today's Jordan Times there is an article about the abuse of foreign workers in Jordan. The article focuses on Filipino and Sri Lankan workers as they make up the vast majority of foreign workers in Jordan.

Jennifer Perez, 23, recently graduated from a teachers' college in the Philippines, but she wanted to travel and work abroad. The dream became a nightmare less than a day after her arrival in Jordan. She is now quadriplegic.

The first official investigation as to how and why she fell from the second storey of the home where she worked as a domestic employee is under way. An argument with her employer three months ago resulted in what her “Madame” claims was a self-inflicted injury. Jennifer alleges it was attempted murder.

The Philippine and Sri Lankan embassies estimate that about 1% of their nationals are abused...UNIFEM chimes in with a horrific statistic of 50% of immigrant workers being abused worldwide.

It seems that immigrant workers (my focus, for obvious reasons, on Filipinos) get a raw deal where ever they end up as domestic it Singapore, Hong Kong or elsewhere in Asia (even, dare I say it, here at home in the Philippines)....but it seems to me that the roughest hand that a Filipino worker could be dealt comes within the Middle East.

Whilst I was in Jordan we had a a Filipina working part time for the company who also freelanced as beauty therapist to the rich and famous..including a few of the royal palaces, she used to do my nails every so often and regale me with the gossip of the great and the good in Jordan - along with gossip the conversation was often more serious telling me about some of the lives of the Filipinas she had heard about kept in horrific conditions and being treated appallingly in Saudi, the Gulf States and in Jordan....the conversations always ended with her saying how grateful she was to be in charge of her own destiny in Jordan - she had her own residence permit (thanks to her palace connections) and basically worked where as she wanted to. Obviously she suffered similar issues to many of the Filipinos working overseas, she only comes back the Philippines once a year, her parents are bringing up her children. She doesn't lead a particularly glamorous lifestyle although she had her own car and lived alone with her dog - she also looked after Chairman Mao and Chiang Kai-shek for a few months for me whilst they were awaiting a quarantine place in Hong Kong!!

Although Jordan doesn't have accurate statistics to see what the real problem is, at least at this stage they are working to try to regulate the the treatment the average foreign worker receives.

Jordan is the first country in the Middle East to address the problem of domestic workers' rights, instituting the 2001 memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Labour and UNIFEM that involves Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Nepal, India and Indonesia. In 2003, a standardised contract for foreign domestic workers stipulated a set salary and medical care. New laws followed to regulate and licence recruiting agencies. There is also a steering committee involving relevant ministries, embassies and NGOs.

However, reports of abuse still continue. Currently, there are 42 runaways at the Philippine embassy and 60 at the Sri Lankan embassy.

The Philippines has discovered that it's people (particularly the female population) are its greatest resource...this article makes for good background reading on Filipino overseas workers. However, until stricter regulations are enforced overseas it seems that the lot of an overseas Filipino is very uncertain...they could have a great employer who welcomes them almost as one of the family or they could be kept in near slavery... I think that a Filipina who go goes to work in the Middle East as a domestic helper is defintely taking part in a a very dicey game of chance, but given their situation at home thousands obviously think it is worth the risk.

Due to the Jordanian Times articles only being kept online for a week, the complete article is copied and pasted through the link below...

The burden of proof: Foreign workers and abuse in the workplace
50 per cent of live-in immigrant workers abused by their employers — UNIFEM
By Sheila M. Dabu

Amman — It wasn't supposed to be this way.

Jennifer Perez, 23, recently graduated from a teachers' college in the Philippines, but she wanted to travel and work abroad. The dream became a nightmare less than a day after her arrival in Jordan. She is now quadriplegic.

The first official investigation as to how and why she fell from the second storey of the home where she worked as a domestic employee is under way. An argument with her employer three months ago resulted in what her “Madame” claims was a self-inflicted injury. Jennifer alleges it was attempted murder.

Like many of the estimated 40,000 to 50,000 foreign domestic workers in the Kingdom, Jennifer came to Jordan for a new opportunity and a better life.

However, some only find abusive employers or recruiting agents. The Philippine and Sri Lankan embassies in Jordan estimate that about 1 per cent of foreign domestic workers are abused.

According to a 2005 UNIFEM study, 50 per cent of live-in immigrant workers were being abused by their employers; 35 per cent study reported sexual abuse or harassment. UNIFEM admits that there is an absence of accurate statistics for immigrant workers in Jordan.

Ray Jureidini, sociology professor at the American University of Cairo, says that the number of domestic workers abused in the Middle East may be much higher than some estimates, which range from 1 to 10 per cent. But there are no official figures.

“I think it's invariably larger than the evidence that we have,” Jureidini told The Jordan Times in a telephone interview from Cairo.

One of the problems in collecting data, he says, is getting access to the workers for interviews. Most of his research includes anecdotal evidence.

Types of abuse

When abuse happens, the “Madame” or female employer is usually the perpetrator, according to Jureidini. Recruiting agents can be brutal, sometimes “bordering on torture,” he added.

Reported abuses by employers and agents include: Hitting, sexual harassment, “devirginisation,” psychological, emotional and verbal abuse, restrictions on freedom of movement, 16- to 17-hour workdays, and the withholding of passports and payment. Jureidini, an expert in the field of immigrant workers, says these conditions could be classified as “contract slavery.”

The US State Department considers this a form of human trafficking called “involuntary servitude.” According to its 2005 Trafficking in Persons report, Jordan is a “special case because full and accurate data on the extent and magnitude of its trafficking problem, which may be significant, is not available.”

While there is relatively little evidence of sexual abuse of domestic workers in Jordan, rape and sexual harassment have been widely reported in the Gulf, said Jureidini.

The business

Foreign domestic work is a booming business. Estimates of remittances by Filipinos last year are around $8.5 billion. For Sri Lanka in 2003, they were estimated at about $1.2 billion. But the financial windfall is felt not by the workers themselves but by the agencies and workers' home countries.

In 1999, there were 700,000 Sri Lankan domestic workers, mainly in the Gulf states, Lebanon and Jordan, according to Jureidini's UN Research Institute for Social Development report entitled “Xenophobia and Migrant Workers in the Middle East.”

An International Labour Organisation (ILO) Bahrain study found that wages are determined according to “the nationality of the female domestic workers instead of their experience.” This type of “market-driven discrimination,” says Jureidini, results in Filipinas being paid more than other workers because of their knowledge of English, lighter skin colour and physical features.

The average salary for Filipino, Sri Lankan and Indonesian domestic workers in Jordan ranges from $100 to $250 per month.

Culture clash?

Some argue that it is the “culture of shame” that prevents many Jordanians from working in blue-collar jobs. This mentality, some experts say, leads employers to look down on the workers because of their position of servility and possibly to abusive treatment.

Others claim it is cultural stereotyping that can lead to abuse.

According to Jureidini, market trends have resulted in the “racialisation” of certain occupations. “The dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs become associated with foreign (Asian and African) workers to such a degree that nationals in these countries refuse to undertake them, despite high levels of poverty and unemployment,” explains Jureidini. Foreign workers generally accept lower wages for these jobs as well.

Shatha Mahmoud, UNIFEM's Human Rights Programme coordinator says that domestic workers face multilevel discrimination.

“Firstly, it's because of her profession as `servant'... Secondly, she is a woman. Thirdly, they are coming from certain countries that are considered by some as the fifth or sixth world,” she said.

In addition to the cultural gap, language plays an important role, such as the worker not understanding the employer's instructions. The employer assumes that the worker is “stupid” when it is often a communication problem, said Jureidini, consequently reinforcing caricatures or stereotypes of certain ethnic groups.

The law

The main challenge of abuse cases is the burden of proof.

“They claim that they were maltreated, that they were slapped by the `Madame,' but of course that depends if the slap was hard enough to leave a mark,” says Philippine Embassy Welfare Counselor Evelyn Laranang. “But then again, it's still a slap. The problem is, if they're going to file a complaint, what will the police say?”

Jureidini reports that the fundamental problem is that there are no national or international laws that protect temporary foreign contract workers, most of whom are domestic workers.

Taleb Rifai, director of the ILO Regional Office for the Arab States in Lebanon, links the problem with the general plight of workers.

“The Middle East has the lowest rates of ratification of workers' rights all over the world,” he told The Jordan Times in a telephone interview from ILO headquarters in Geneva.

Although the region has been paying closer attention to human rights, there is still work to be done and as for Jordan's record, he says that the problem is not country-specific.

“Each country is a story by itself... Regardless of their differences, the Middle Eastern states are all in violation of international labour standards, starting with the very principle of sponsorship in which bringing a worker from one country to another is beginning to look more like ownership of the worker,” he said.

The ILO plans to conduct its first study in the Kingdom in 2006-2007.

Jordan: First steps

Jordan is the first country in the Middle East to address the problem of domestic workers' rights, instituting the 2001 memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Labour and UNIFEM that involves Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Nepal, India and Indonesia. In 2003, a standardised contract for foreign domestic workers stipulated a set salary and medical care. New laws followed to regulate and licence recruiting agencies. There is also a steering committee involving relevant ministries, embassies and NGOs.

However, reports of abuse still continue. Currently, there are 42 runaways at the Philippine embassy and 60 at the Sri Lankan embassy.

“Although we have regulations, there are many difficulties when you go to implement them,” said Mahinda Samarasekeera, employment and welfare counselor of the Sri Lankan embassy.

There is nobody monitoring the enforcement of the contract, says UNIFEM'S Mahmoud, but discussions are under way in the steering committee. Other challenges are its widespread application and employers' awareness of the contract's existence, she adds.

The contract's major flaw, according to Jureidini, is that it infringes upon workers' freedom of movement. The sixth condition states that “the second party shall not leave the employer's residence or be absent from work without the employer's approval.”

Mahmoud admits that there is restriction of mobility but says that the provision seeks to protect the employer's rights. There may also be cases where domestic workers abuse employers, so there needs to be a balance of rights, she added.

“We might think of reformulating the article but to tell you the truth, we are really concerned about implementing the contract,” she said.

There are positive steps. The section in the Ministry of Labour responsible for foreign domestic workers is sending inspectors to investigate complaints and has closed down some agencies, said Etaf Halasseh, director of employment at the Ministry of Labour.

“Everything is ok,” Halasseh told The Jordan Times.

The courts punish those who violate the law, she added.

In 2004, the Jordanian government prosecuted several employers found guilty of abusing workers, closed down three agencies and provided assistance to trafficking victims, according to the 2005 US report.

As for Jennifer, she remains hospitalised and her case is pending in the court system.

“I asked why they treat us this way,” said Veronica, an abused Filipina runaway, “They told me that they have to discipline us. But I told them that we have a heart and a mind... We are human beings, not machines.”

Sunday, November 6, 2005.


Through the looking glass......

One of the blogs that I do read unfailingly is Petite Anglaise. Her style of writing is descriptive and to the point...

Petite writes about her life as a Brit in Paris and her life with her French boyfriend (Mr Frog) with whom she has a daughter (Tadpole). Earlier this year Petite and Mr Frog parted company…Petite met someone else, to whom she gave the moniker “My lover”. When Petite first wrote about ‘her lover’ there was great discussion in the comments of that post as to the identity of this mystery man….….

Her most recent post manages to put all the speculation to just three words....'Go see Jim?'

And the reason for my post…..

….It struck me as odd, how we follow other people’s lives though blogs, generally people we will never meet, possibly never communicate with - other than odd comments left or one or two e-mails – and yet, we know so much about them…what makes them smile, what makes them cry, what are their hidden dreams or fears…often we know more about our fellow bloggers than we do our “real world” people - siblings, close friends, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends...this is a strange, intangible world we inhabit...


Saturday, November 05, 2005

Move along now....

Is it still the Dark Ages in Japan?

Prince Tomohito, a cousin of Emperor Akihito, said Japan should expand its royal circle and reintroduce concubines to increase the chances of a male heir.


Gunpowder, trees, in the plot....

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
gunpowder, treason and plot,
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.

400 years ago, on November 5th 1605, a Mr John Johnson was found in a room underneath the House of Lords. ‘Mr Johnson’ (in actuality Mr Guy (Guido) Fawkes) was part of a Catholic plot to kill King James I, during the state opening of Parliament.

The plot (highly simplified) was to kill the King (Protestant) and the majority of the members of Parliament (also Protestant), then kidnap the royal children, start a Catholic rebellion in the North of England and place James’ daughter, Princess Elizabeth on the throne of England.

Fawkes and his co-conspirators

Fawkes and his fellow plotters worked on their plan from early 1604 and by March 1605 had already managed to fill a room beneath the House of Lords with 36 barrels of gunpowder (about 2.5 tonnes). The plotters had all been sworn to secrecy, however there were some amongst them who were concerned that in the resulting explosion, not only Protestants but also Catholics would be killed (present day Muslim fundamentalists obviously feel that the 70 virgins in heaven remove the need for any similar thoughts). As a result it is believed that one of the plotters wrote to Lord Monteagle who subsequently showed it to the Secretary of State (Robert Cecil – one of the most brilliant minds from the Elizabethan era).

Fawkes and his co-conspirators were aware that Monteagle had received the letter on 26th October, however as nothing was said or heard, they decided to go ahead with the plot.

In the early morning of the 5th November, Fawkes was found by a search party, in a room under Parliament with slow matches, touchpaper and a watch. Further searching unearthed the huge amount of gunpowder hidden further back in the room…..

Fawkes confessed immediately that he wanted to destroy the King and Parliament, getting the names of his co-conspirators required a little more gentle ‘persuasion’. As King James I wrote, "The gentler tortours are to be first used unto him, et sic per gradus ad maiora tenditur [and thus by increase to the worst], and so God speed your goode worke".

Finally, he gave the names of his fellow plotters. In a particularly gruesome end in January 1606, Fawkes and some of his co-conspirators were hung, drawn and quartered…I remember this particularly grisly graphic from my A-level history books…so here, you can now ‘enjoy’ it…

As a rather macabre recognition of this historic event, every year England sees bonfires being built and burnt, fireworks being lit and a 'guy' being made and then ceremoniously burnt on top of the bonfire….all rather gruesome……

And the title of this post....when my brother was younger (a lot younger!)he came home from school having learnt this little piece of poetry....
Remember, remember the fifth of November,
gunpowder, trees, in the plot

Has he been allowed to forget hell he has!!!!

My choice of DVD viewing last night was topical...


Friday, November 04, 2005

Of cats and toothpaste

I couldn’t resist it…Chairman Mao meets his name sake….

That was after he realized that hiding the cupboard was not going to do him any favours!

I have been told before that where a cat decides to hide is normally a place where there is really bad Fung Shui…don’t know if it’s true or not…but thanks to Chiang Kai-shek, I think I need to avoid the end of the bath…..this seems to be her favourite hiding place at present….

gratuitous cat pictures as requested by Friskodude.

Actually, looking at that picture of Chiang Kai-shek, given that she hasn’t the nicest of natures, her fur coat would make a great pair of gloves…

As promised, I tried out the chocolate flavoured toothpaste….in a word….disgusting. Any thoughts of it tasting like an After Eight chocolate are not true. If anyone comes to visit, they are more than welcome to try it…I have kept it in the bathroom.

Dusk on Wednesday evening….will be boring you to tears with the view from my apartment…the weather and pollution cause such huge changes in the scenery…I have to document them.

Yesterday was my day off…had a few things to do….firstly I needed to go to the bank….when I first received my ATM card I could withdraw 50,000 Pesos per day (about HK$7,000), then this week it gave up the ghost and told me I could only have 10,000 and then I had reached my daily limit. Plus the Visa electron thing on my card – which I was told was like EPS wouldn’t let me buy anything over 5,000 Pesos. Now I don’t normally spend vast quantities of money…but I had to hand over the deposit on my flat and pay for some furniture so needed cash. So I went to the bank to speak to my friendly bank clerk (no sarcasm intended, she is genuinely friendly!). I love the bank I use…it is all so incredibly low-tech and lacking in security! Anyway, it seems that the 50K daily limit is stretched to two days at the weekend…i.e. 50K for Saturday and Sunday, not 50K each….and then the situation gets worse during a public holiday as we have just had….50K for Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday..….must remember that. And the highest amount I can have on the Visa Electron is 10K and for that I have to apply specially! Given the long public holiday weekend we have just had…I would have thought it was in the banks (and therefore the country’s) best interests to free up as much cash for people to spend as possible. Obviously not. Anyway I have learned my lesson. The reason I am not using my credit card…..very simple….I limit its use because a few years back after a holiday to Malaysia I received a call from HSBC asking if I had just been to Taipei and filled up a small jet with fuel and bought a Chinese banquet for about 60 people….of course I didn’t pay those charges but the hassle of getting a new card was just too much, hence I keep the limit on my CC fairly low.

Next thing I had to do was to await delivery of my first ever ‘grown-up’ piece of furniture…i.e. not Ikea! A chest of drawers…the deal was that I would pay the balance of the payment to the drivers when they delivered….so I did, later when passing the shop I popped in to check they had received the money…I was greeted with “Good afternoon Madam, How’s your chest?”….now I am aware that my chest is not easy to miss…but being greeted like that is a first!!!...Reminds me of a friend of mine when she was moving house in HKG….she was considering all her furniture and how to get it packed….and then came out with the classic line….”I hope my chest will fit in the elevator”….

Then to the picture framers where I finally, after about 6 years of carting it around in poster form, put one of my favourite pictures in for framing….

El Souk, Friday’s Market
Maher Morcos

To finish the day I went to Rockwell to Fully Booked, which must have one of the best cookery, wine, food literature sections I have ever come across…it is actually a great book store….something like that would do well in HKG…spacious, well lit, huge selection and a good variety of books. After Fully Booked I went for a bit of a grooming session, hair, nails and unfortunately a spot of waxing….categorically the worst waxing session I have ever endured….normally it’s all fairly swift and relatively painless…, this took over an hour and was utter agony….I would have left but with a waxing session it really is best not to walk out half way…..


not a lot changes

The UN says that Israeli jets going supersonic over the Gaza Strip is an abuse of human rights.

When we lived in Jordan in the early eighties (pre-Israel/Jordan peace treaty) we lived down in Safi (where Lot's sancutary is) by the Dead Sea....the Israeli's used to tear up and down the centre of the Dead Sea breaking the sound barrier....not sure about it being an abuse of human rights...but my Mother certainly lost quite a few ornaments that would edge their way off the shelves with each supersonic bang.

We were never too sure if it was the Israeli air-force pilots wanting to see the altimeter readings below sea level or if they were just 'threatening' their little Jordanian neighbours...

A few years back my brother and I were sitting down by the Dead Sea having lunch when two Jordanian jets (sub-sonic) went past...they were so low we could make eye contact with the pilots...


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

All Soul's Day...

1st November is All Soul's the Philippines, this means it is time to go to the cemeteries and pay your respects to the a consequence the papers here have been full of articles about ghosts and famous graves. Here's one of the better articles that I read, originally written in 2001...from Manuel L. Quezon III

The city itself was a ghost town yesterday...(unfortunately all descriptions of the state of Manila yesterday had puns in them....dead and ghostly were just two of the words that cropped up)...Shopping Malls were closed - completely, roads were empty, jeepneys were empty, restaurants were either closed or ideal time to see Manila, unfortunately I was working but my normally speedy ride home was almost supersonic! The only places that were busy were the cemeteries and the roads leading to them. My colleagues told me that for some of them they sat in traffic for about three hours waiting to get to the cemetery.

The concept of visiting the graves and cleaning them up is not really new to people who have spent any time in Asia - in Hong Kong we have Ching Ming which follows the same concept. As a consequence when my colleagues were telling me about what they were doing at the graveside I was only really half the grave, paying respects, eating a meal...heard it all before....the one line that brought me up short....

"Well this year was better than last because the karaoke was banned"

Apparently alongside the karaoke ban, there was also a ban on alcohol and weapons being taken into the cemeteries...

Karaoke at a's enough to make you turn in your grave...


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Reality mimics creativity....

They could save the money on testing this idea and just spend some time in the average HKG apartment....

"The pods can be stacked on one another or laid out in small colonies." ...Colonies* like Hong Kong that would be...?

Following the links on the article, took me to an earlier (Aug '05) article about the same 'homes' and how they were selling for £30,000....

*before anyone says anything I am fully aware thatt HKG is no longer a colony...but you know what I am getting at...