Saturday, December 31, 2005

That was the year that was....

As always at this time of year the newspapers review the year and I transfer all the important dates (birthdays etc) from this year’s calendar to next year’s…so I manage to get two completely different reviews of the same year.

At the end of each year I spend a little time reflecting what I have achieved over the past 12 months…usually it amounts to not a lot…this year is really no different..although finding a new job, moving cities and finding a new home probably amount to a few little ant hills conquered. My review will not be as detailed or as referenced as Mia’s (hats off to you Mia…I couldn’t be arsed doing all those links!!! – Guess I’m just lazy at heart!).

On a personal level a rather strange year…although I did spend an inordinate amount of time around one man in particular that really fizzled into nothing except I did discover he makes very good banana cake. Another man turned into what could only be nicely described as a “bunny boiler”, and yes, there are male “bunny boilers”…it is not a wholly female trait! The worst part of the year was realizing that - “The worst way to miss someone is to be sitting right beside them knowing you can't have them.” – was a line that rang particularly true for me on two separate occasions….

March was definitely a high point of the year…lots of friends visiting from overseas, a nice holiday in Thailand and the Rugby Sevens…what more could a girl want?! My brother’s wedding in August was fun - interesting meeting all these friends of his that I have heard of over the years but never met. Introducing my Grand-father to the delights of the British Library and the reading room at the British Museum was a wonderful day out…it was actually pay back time for him…when we were in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna the year before, he announced that the problem in Britain was that we didn’t have such wonderful art and museum exhibits…- nothing that a day trip to London didn’t sort out!!

Learning to feel my away around Manila and all things Filipino has been a learning curve, a curve which is still in its infancy….the longer one spends here – the more interesting it gets…unfortunately there is not enough time for me to read as much as I would like in order to learn as much as would like….I need a private tutor!!

The one thing I did bring into being this year was ‘Madame Chiang’…I started writing in February and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience…I have been asked a few questions about the blog when I have met fellow bloggers in the flesh…

Why ‘Madame Chiang’?….Of my two cats, Chairman Mao and Chiang Kai-shek, …I must admit to having a favourite and that is The Chairman; Chiang Kai-shek has a slightly grouchier, less affectionate character and so in honour of her I named the blog…one must be fair in this life!!

Why did you start writing?….I had been lurking in numerous blogs for a while…some like Hemlock,for much, much longer than others….and I figured it was just worth a shot…not because I have anything specific to say to the world, not that I felt my opinions were worth hearing by anyone other than the cats and not to ‘get things off my chest’….just to try!!!

What were you expecting to get out of writing the blog?….I have no idea!!!!! What I have got out of it though is meeting; either by e-mails or in person; a number of great people who ordinarily I would never have crossed paths with. I have also learnt to think about things from a point of view of writing them down…instead of just observing or experiencing life…I think about how I can best convert it to the written word. I have also learnt to carry my camera with me as much as possible…

In summary, 2005 hasn’t been the greatest year ever for me…I spent most of it wishing I were somewhere else…and a lot of the year in a state of limbo…knowing I was moving, but not knowing when…and then finally when I moved spending my first few months in Manila in a glorified ‘pen’….however, things are beginning to take shape now…and as I sat on my balcony the other evening, glass of wine in hand, cat on the lap and The Seven Pillars of Wisdom open on the table…I realized that home is really where you make it….given of course, you have the afore mentioned wine, cats and books!!!!

And so I go into 2006 no more prepared for life than when 2005 started…and also with absolutely no clue what the year will bring – except I know I will be in Moscow on 10th June….otherwise, I will have my mother to answer to!!!

So out in the big, bad world…what happened....2005 has been a year of great tragedy, mostly as a result of natural disasters; every so often something fun or good happened which was quickly overshadowed by another tragedy...

The good....

London winning the bid to host the 2012 Olympics
Live 8
The Ashes (if you are British!)
The public awareness of the the murder of Robert McCartney
The IRA peacefire

the bad...

Asian Tsumani...technically in 2004 but the news dominated the beginning of 2005
London bombings
Amman bombings
Pakistan Earthquake
Hurricane Katrina
The number of deaths in China from industrial accidents - coalmine disasters, gas...chemicals...
The murder of Robert McCartney

and the totally ridiculous....
Michael Jackson's trial
Janet Jackson's "little slip"
the many 'problems' surrounding Charles and Camilla's wedding
Tom Cruise & the sofa!!

...2006 approaches…a big blank canvas for world leaders to write world history on and us mere underlings to write our personal history on…may it be a peaceful, prosperous and fun year for all of you..

For last year's words belong to last year's language And next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning."
T.S. Eliot


Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy Landings....

Contentment in a cockpit


Why be a hero?

A conversation with my Filipino colleague yesterday....

MC: "Another public holiday?" (please read in an incredulous tone of voice!!). "What's this one for?"

MC's colleague: "In honour of Bonifacio"

long pause whilst MC digests this...then...

MC: "Haven't we just had a day honouring Bonifacio? At the end of November?"

MC's colleague: "Ok, well it's for one of the heroes then".

It turns out that today is the day the Philippines honours the hero of all Philippine heroes...but one wonders what Jose Rizal would make of a conversation like that...

From a quick read yesterday it seems as if the Philippines have made a science out of nominating their heroes...there is/was even a committee for nominating the national heroes....the criteria according to this site are as follows:

1. Heroes are those who have a concept of nation and thereafter aspire and struggle for the nation's freedom. Our own struggle for freedom was begun by Bonifacio and finished by Aguinaldo, the latter formally declaring the revolution's success. In reality, however, a revolution has no end. Revolutions are only the beginning. One cannot aspire to be free only to sink back into bondage.

2. Heroes are those who define and contribute to a system or life of freedom and order for a nation. Freedom without order will only lead to anarchy. Therefore, heroes are those who make the nation's constitution and laws, such as Mabini and Recto. To the latter, constitutions are only the beginning, for it is the people living under the constitution that truly constitute a nation.

3. Heroes are those who contribute to the quality of life and destiny of a nation. (As defined by Dr. Onofre D. Corpuz)

in addition....

1. A hero is part of the people's expression. But the process of a people's internalization of a hero's life and works takes time, with the youth forming a part of the internalization.

2. A hero thinks of the future, especially the future generations.

3. The choice of a hero involves not only the recounting of an episode or events in history, but of the entire process that made this particular person a hero. (As defined by Dr. Alfredo Lagmay)

However, even with this official declarations have ever been made delaring any one Filipino a hero...this gives rise to large discrepancies in the number of Filipinos that are 'heroes'...could it be 42 or the nine listed below..

a. Jose Rizal
b. Andres Bonifacio
c. Emilio Aguinaldo
d. Apolinario Mabini
e. Marcelo H. del Pilar
f. Sultan Dipatuan Kudarat
g. Juan Luna
h. Melchora Aquino
i. Gabriela Silang

and here's a good arguement for a tenth national hero...

And on a final 'hero' note...after an all too brief exhange with Skippy-San...I read this...(via MLQ3)...the heroes of modern day the question remains...are the overseas Philippine workers something the Philippines should be proud of...or something for the Philippines to be ashamed of... (that sounds like a title for a school essay!).


I will maintain my usual fence sitting stance and offer my probably ill informed opinion as this...the fact that doctors retrain as nurses to work overseas and earn more money than they can as doctors in the Philippines - that's an embarrassment...the fact that the overseas workers venture sight unseen into the big bad world beyond and spend all year away from home and family in order that they may feed, clothe and educate their extended family is something to be proud of...the fact that the problem is being perpetuated i.e. the overseas worker paying to educate a child who qualifies as a doctor and then realises they can earn more money as an amah or nurse in Hong Kong...that's an embarrassment....the fact that their remittances home temporarily raise the Peso exchange around Christmas that also could be seen as an embarrassment....having said all of the above...the Philippines has realised that in the country's present state its greatest product is its people and the only place to earn more money to support the ever growing families (don't get me started on that one!!) is beyond its borders so it is taking the only sensible option and filling the world with over qualified nurses and amahs.....being realistic and practical is usually something to be proud of...


Thursday, December 29, 2005


Today I have been given the best news of all...15 days of freedom starting mid-January! Now comes the problem...what shall I do with my time...options so far are:

- obviously Hong Kong - probably over Chinese New Year...
- skiing in Korea or Japan
- a visit to the desert...Dubai, Oman and then over to Jordan
- London - to see the Lawrence of Arabia exhibition..and my family (of course!)
- a very large pile of books and a quiet beach in Thailand
- New Zealand

a quiet few days on a beach in Thailand to catch up on reading sounds of the best holidays I ever had was in Sharm, alone with some books - nothing to do, nothing to see..just reading and sleeping...I came back so refreshed and raring to go. However, Lawrence would be a shame to miss and the desert's whispering call is getting louder and louder... a friend kindly pointed out...Lawrence and the desert will not rest you...Thailand and the biggest pile of books imaginable will...

decisions, decisions....will the huge amount that I was given for Christmas to spend at sway me....possibly....


Those were the days.....

This article from today's Standard reminds me of my morning commute years ago...

I used to live over in South Horizons in the days before the bridge was dual carriageway and in the days when the only bus service into South Horizons was the 590...

I used to start work at about 6:30am so would catch the first bus out in the morning...about 5:30am or the winter I would sit in this moving fridge wrapped up in (and I am not exaggerating)..normal winter clothes - jeans, boots, jumper etc plus...a jacket, a coat, a scarf, gloves and a woolly hat with the wonderful addition of a hot water bottle stuck up my jumper and a flask of hot tea....I looked like a giant, moving pile of clothes...but it was the only way to survive the 25 minute trip...the worst part was getting off the bus into the MTR to go across to Kowloon and then having to take off the many layers because it was so warm down in the lower reaches of the MTR station!!


I couldn't agree more...

things to take note of when ordering wine in a restaurant....from an expert


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Mother Nature.....

All I want(ed) for Christmas.....

What should have been in every body's Christmas stocking..I know I would have liked one in mine!!!!

The ultimate Pencil Holder

From today's Philippine Star...could they not have found a more flattering picture of the fearless leader to put on the front cover of the paper...

And finally.....I was warned that in the run up to New Year's Eve and after the big night I would read about numerous injuries from fire crackers and stray bullets....and so it starts.....70 hurt by ’crackers, 3 by stray bullets


To sleep, perchance to dream...

My first day off for a while and sleep was the order of the day...much against my will I might add...I woke up at 8am and made tea and toast...then not to sure what happened but I woke up later, around 1pm, with cold tea and toast by the bed...marmalade having been licked off by marauding moggies...

After attending to domestic stuff I made my way down to Makati to visit the Ayala Museum

I had a very enjoyable hour or so browsing first the art exhibition and then the dioramas portraying the bloody history of the Philippines. The dioramas are good, but you really need the guide book to make any sense of it all. I knew that the British had 'ruled' the Philippines for a couple of years, but the section in the guide book that described the circumstances surrounding the 'British colony', made me smile....

When Britain and France were engaged in the Seven Years War (1756-1763), the far-off Spanish colony in the Philippines did not know about it. Thus Manila was not alarmed when a fleet of 13 British ships from India appeared at Corregidor on 13th September 1762. Due to delays in communication, no one in Manila was even aware that there was a war in Europe, and that Spain had allied itself with France.
Mistaken for trading ships, the British landed an attack force of over 3,000 men, far outnumbering those assigned to the defense of Manila and its antiquated medieval walls.

When the Seven Years War ended in Europe, it took a year for news to reach Manila.

Continuing round the museum I read a quote from Manuel L. Quezon’s inauguration speech

"We shall build a government that will be just, honest, efficient, and strong. So that the foundation of the coming Republic may be firm and enduring - a government, indeed, that must satisfy not only the passing needs of the hour but also the exacting demands of the future."

One of the greatest blows to the Philippines must be that Quezon's vision didn't come through to present day politics, otherwise things would be slightly different around here...

Having said that, whilst searching for the quote I found this quote from Quezon as well "I prefer a country run like hell by Filipinos to a country run like heaven by Americans. Because, however bad a Filipino government might be, we can always change it." – probably a little more prophetic, although as yet the 'we can always change it' seems to refer only to the leader at the time, not the system of government. I imagine that it is the kind of quote that gets bandied about at times of political unrest...however not having been here long enough I am just presuming….

I found the end of the exhibit rather disappointing…I had been looking forward to learning all about 'People Power'...but the final two rooms were too small and claustrophobic to take in all the information...I would like to have been able to sit and watch the two separate movies being shown without having my ears buffeted by the sound from both TVs...having said that the content looked great and depending on how much material is there would make up a good documentary that I would be very happy to sit and watch at home on a DVD. The videos shown make up the most interesting part of Philippine history (well at least to me anyway); that a country can remove its leaders so quickly and peacefully in such (almost) rapid succession, and still remain operational is amazing.

As a short aside...whilst at the museum yesterday I didn't have either my camera or my pen and did not write down the quote from Quezon's speech...I thought it would be easy to find either a copy of the speech on the net or in a book about him at the book store…no such luck...either the National book store doesn’t stock it/them or there are no books covering the lives and speeches of Presidents of the Philippines – I was thinking along the lines of the little Ladybird books...and as for finding the speech on the,...I eventually had to call the museum and they kindly texted the quote to me...


Monday, December 26, 2005

So that was Christmas...

I think I can safely say that was the worst Christmas I have ever had in my working life...anyway, moving swiftly on....tomorrow is my day off so I shall retire to my nest and catch up on some reading, plus if I can summon enough energy after the last few days I shall pay a visit to the Ayala museum.

And then this time next's a whole new year...


Friday, December 23, 2005

From Jordan...

A culture of hate and death

And a personal look at the events of 9th November

Both articles from Living Well Magazine...a Jordanian publication


Thursday, December 22, 2005

The "State of the Nation" speech that should have been......

Up and about fairly early this morning....had a quick flick through the papers and found MLQ's column for the day.

I am not Filipino, and to be honest cannot profess a love for the country...however, reading this column made me realise how incredibly tragic it is that a nation of people as friendly, welcoming and generally happy and cheerful as the Filipinos...should in this day and age, have to have such a true article written about their capital city/country.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

In haste....

So busy at work at the moment, I don't have time to formulate any non-work related posts over the next few days will be light to non-existant, any posts there are will probably be using other people's posts for inspiration...starting with...

Pictures like this make me feel really mother worked at Marina Cove a few years back..I loved it over there.

I cannot use a better description than MLQ3...A Bibliophile's wet dream

Also via Manolo...something I will have to read into when I have more time (probably sometime mid-January!) hotel/motels being closed - for the love of God, literally. The odd thing is that I took a picture of the entrance to this place a few nights back...(would like to point out that I was not frequenting the joint)

Helen finally gets a result! And she really deserves it!

Flagrant Harbour dissects the latest press release from another group of HKG fruitcakes...

Chocolate is not so bad for you...

And finally...a spotted beagle!


Happity Fortune Cat...

Monday, December 19, 2005

The hopes and fears of all the years....

I am not a religious person at all...with one exception - Christmas. And in all honesty Christmas for me is not so much about the 'birth of Christ' but more about the season of goodwill to all mankind. I find that the commercialisation of Christmas bothers me more and more as I get older. I guess that the fact that I have worked every Christmas (except two) for the last 18 years probably contributes to that, however, I can still pinpoint my three favourite Christmas experiences -

the first was whilst working in London, I had finished work in South Ken about 11:45pm and was walking over to the bus stop when I passed a church having a late night service - I slipped in the back of the church and joined in the Christmas carols and listened to the bible readings...all very peaceful and just how Christmas
should be.

the second, was in Jordan, Christmas Eve - standing looking down over the down town area...the sky was an azure blue and the lights in the old Amman houses, looked like candles the only variation on the blue/white colour theme were the green striplights on the Mosque minarets I just stood there for about 15 minutes breathing in the crisp, cold air and listening to the church bells and the calls to prayer from the mosques I realised that this would be the closest I would ever get to experiencing a really 'Biblical' Christmas

the third experience was many, many years ago...I was about five and we were living in Algeria at the time. Algeria in the early 70's was not really the best place to buy Christmas matter - we lived on the beach, overlooking the Mediterranean, and Christmas presents that year consisted of a plastic bucket and spade for my brother and I...However, being the eldest I was also given reading my stocking I was given a copy of the Bible and a chocolate Santa..When we were younger my brother and I were confined to our bedrooms until such time as my parents woke up and decided to set us free....on this Christmas morning I remember lying on the bedroom floor, reading my Bible and eating my chocolate Santa...and yes, I did get chocolately fingers and I still have the Bible with my Chocolate finger prints all over the first pages of Matthew.

My only Christmassy moment this year was last night at home, cleaning the house and listening to my Christmas Angel Voices...their voices are quite incredible...just beautiful listening. As favourite two carols..."We three kings.." and "O Little town of Bethlehem"

"And Wise Men Came Bearing Gifts" by Tom duBois


Sunday, December 18, 2005

WTO protests...continued...

From the SCMP...

updated at 5.45pm:

About 1,000 anti-World Trade Organisation protesters marched through the streets on Sunday as Hong Kong tried to recover from a night of rioting that marked one of the city's worst spasms of violence in decades.
The demonstrators chanted "Sink WTO" as trade ministers from around the globe wrapped up six days of negotiations at a WTO meeting. The protesters oppose the WTO's efforts to open up markets to foreign competition.

Hundreds of police formed lines, cordoning off streets where the crowd was heading.

Some of the marchers were South Korean farmers who carried cardboard signs saying, "Hong Kong government quickly release our comrades!"

Police said they arrested 900 demonstrators after Saturday's violence, and many were Koreans who went on a rampage just outside the WTO meeting venue. They attacked police with bamboo poles and tried to break into the building. Police scattered them with tear gas and seized control of the area.

Such large-scale violence is rare in this stable Asian financial capital. The last time the city saw such a melee was during 1967 riots aimed at usurping British colonial rule. Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said Saturday's riot was "unacceptable" and pledged to prosecute those involved.

The Koreans began holding a sit-in on Saturday night that blocked off one of Hong Kong's busiest streets. Police began arresting the demonstrators early on Sunday and spent hours loading them into buses.

Sunday's procession was led by Hong Kong activists, who held a giant red banner saying "Oppose WTO." The protesters included Thai and Filipino migrant workers along with Japanese farmers.


Militant French farmer Jose Bove - best known for ransacking a McDonald's restaurant under construction near his home in 1999 - said Sunday's protest was supposed to be the biggest. But he said the size of the crowd was uncertain now because many migrant labourers who planned to join were worried they would be arrested and be deported

To the final sentence...they should be worried...this is not the time to start testing HKG's "freedom of speech" to its limits...the government and the police are on edge and as such 'towing the party line' is something I would strongly advocate..being 'guests' in a country generally means that you have to be on your best behaviour...

More from Flagrant Harbour, with a press release from HK Alliance on WTO - the woman who issued this must be living in La La Land (the real one - not Discovery Bay!). I have already commented under the post so will not repeat myself.


WTO protests...

So the protestors in HKG have upped the ante and are no longer being 'civilised protestors'...the gloves are off and it is now time for HKG's finest to also take off their gloves...

pictures here

and Flagrant Harbour says it all...

From the SCMP

Wan Chai was under siege early this morning after more than 1,000 anti-WTO protesters clashed with police in the worst violence Hong Kong has seen in decades.
Demonstrators broke through police cordons, snatched police shields, batons and helmets, and repeatedly tried, but failed, to overturn a police van. They pulled metal barriers apart to use as weapons, along with bamboo flagpoles, and came within metres of the Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Police responded with tear gas, pepper spray and water cannon.

Some 900 defiant protesters remained on Gloucester Road this morning, but none had been arrested. At least 70 people were injured, two seriously, including 21 Chinese and 33 Koreans.

Police chief Dick Lee Ming-kwai said security at the convention centre, which was locked to ensure protesters did not storm the building, was not compromised. He said he had not contacted the PLA garrison and saw no reason to do so.

He said the 900 demonstrators had been "rounded up" by police and would be "processed in accordance with the laws of Hong Kong".

With the activists remaining in place, having rejected a police invitation to move off the road to another area, they were given a 2.30am deadline to move before officers cleared the area.

Mr Lee said police would step up the use of force if violence erupted again at a rally and march planned by overseas and local anti-WTO protest groups today.

An exploding tear-gas canister illuminates the chaos as protesters flee south along Fleming Road and ranks of riot police hold their ground, with Central Plaza in the distance. Protesters pulled metal barriers apart to use as weapons. Picture by Robert Ng


Christmas present ideas...

For the Scorpion lover..this gives you some options...

Obviously cricket lovers are more difficult to buy for...

A business card holder for the less sqeamish amongst us...

And an extra mouth to feed turkey to...


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Sherbet Dib-Dabs...

I am developing a certain loathing for the taxis in this city...if it is not the contstant asking for money over and above the meter; excuses so far:

It's late
It's raining
There's heavy traffic (when isn't there?)
Your destination is out of my way
My meter is running slow
You have shopping
You are alone (like I'm not penalised enough for that by my mother!)
I let you in the taxi in an illegal place

- then it is the appalling state (and smell) of the taxis.

However, last night was the best yet....I had waited for about 45 minutes for a cab (there are never enough cabs in this city), eventually got one - went through the whole '30 pesos more because it's a month with a 'R' in it'...drove half way round the block slap bang into a traffic jam...whereupon the taxi driver says "I don't have enough gasoline so I drop you back where I picked you up" muttered sentiments would have made a sailor blush....

Most of the taxis seem to drive around town with empty petrol tanks and then, when they pick up a passenger swerve into a petrol station at the first available opportunity and then proceed to leave the engine on whilst the tank is being filled and either have a quick cigarette or use a mobile phone - sometimes all three. Last week my taxi driver was instructed by the pump attendant to switch off his engine - when the driver refused the attendant refused to fill the taxi with petrol so the taxi driver (with me clinging to the back door) drove off at top speed (impressive for Manila!), muttering obscenities and generally not a happy camper.

I hear talk of the buses being regulated and the focus now moving onto the jeepneys...will someone please look at organising and standardising the taxis...just simple things like in HKG whereby the taxi drivers must carry change for HK$100, in Manila getting change from 100 pesos is a major feat...

And I take cold comfort in the fact that my local colleagues assure me that they also suffer the same fate with cabs here....


Friday, December 16, 2005

Sad but true....!!!

I am sure I have mentioned it before...but I loathe cooking - I am not sure if the loathing comes from the fact that it takes too much time...or the fact that it is all just so much hassle...having said that, I greatly admire people who do cook; those who spend all day in the kitchen knocking up a meal for friends to enjoy - that really is a sign of friendship and dedication. Anyone who is foolish enough to come to the residence of Madame Chiang and expect dinner is going to be really, really hungry! I do, however, do an excellent line in cat food.

If push comes to shove and I have more than one day off then I have been drawn in to preparing dinner for friends...but these culinary soirees take on the mantle of a major military manouevre...choosing the recipes, writing the ingredients list, shopping, preparing etc...Unfortunately I am not one of those people who throws open the fridge and/or cupboard and immediately puts together a three course meal of a nice salad, a great pasta dish and a delicate little something for dessert. The reason I don't/can't/won't do this is probably down to the fact that my fridge/cupboard only ever contains a number of different cat foods, some packet noodles, baked beans, bread, Heinz tomato soup and marmalade.

Yesterday, when I got home I caught the last few minutes of Click Online one of the sites they were highlighting was Cooking by numbers...actually, a pretty good click what's in your cupboard or fridge and it comes up with what you can serve - unfortunately my available items produced beans on toast and a baked bean sandwich - nothing I couldn't have worked out for myself!

I would like to add in my defence...I can make good cheese and bacon muffins, an excellent creme brulee and a passable attempt at pear and port crumble! However, beans on toast are definetly my strong point!!


Thursday, December 15, 2005

speaking of Black Adder...

What the favourite exchange of all time....

Blackadder: Now, where the hell are we?

George: Well, it's difficult to say, we appear to have crawled
into an area marked with mushrooms.

Blackadder: [patiently] What do those symbols denote?

George: Pfff. That we're in a field of mushrooms?

Blackadder: Lieutenant, that is a military map, it is unlikely to list
interesting flora and fungi. Look at the key and you'll
discover that those mushrooms aren't for picking.

George: Good Lord, you're quite right sir, it says "mine". So,
these mushrooms must belong to the man who made the map.


9% disgusted...

According to this report from the BBC...Mona Lisa "was 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful and 2% angry"

Wonder what she could possibly have been disgusted about?

so maybe Black Adder was right....

"This is going to be art's greatest moment since Mona Lisa sat down and told Leonardo da Vinci she was in a slightly odd mood"


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Got myself a cryin', talkin', sleepin', walkin', livin' doll

From Inq7

Putin to himself..."I'll bet Clinton never had one of these..."


Something has to give...

As I promised...a little more on my present reading material...Never Learn to Type by Margaret Joan Anstee.

Dame Margaret Anstee served the United Nations between 1952-1993 and in 1987 was the first woman to become Under-Secretary General. Although the majority of her professional life was spent in South America, she also spent time in Manila and the Middle East.

Her descriptions of growing up in war-time Britain are incredibly graphic and it really shows how real the fear of invasion was:

"We really did believe that the Germans would land at any moment, and that those of us who lived near the eastern coasts would be the first to face them. The bells of the village church, fallen silent on the outbreak of war, would announce their coming. Signposts were torn down, so as to give the enemy no help; any stranger in our midst was regarded with utmost suspicion...We really did keep pitchforks, and a motley array of other rustic implements readily to hand, with firm intention of wielding them against the invaders."

However, it is her descriptions of Manila that captivated me...she was writing about the Manila of the 1950's...but it could well have been the Manila of today...please excuse me whilst I quote extensively in this post.

I was told the other day that one of the most regular news stories that occur in Manila are stories about the oddest reasons for people killing each other...Anstee writes...

"...just read about a squabble between to teenagers over a ping-pong game that ended in 16 deaths and a jeepney accident..."

Anyone who has been to Manila will recognize present day buses in this quote:

"At the bus hurtled along the conductor hung out of the doorway, clinging by his little finger and the corresponding digit of one foot, bawling at passers-by a curious, raucous sound resembling the squawk of a startled duck...'Quia-a-apoquiapoquiapoquipo'. It would have been less dangerous, less vocally exhausting for the conductor, and more readily informative to would-be passengers, had the bus carried a destination plate, but that would negate the whole purpose..."

"There was no municipal bus service...It was quite usual to see a couple of buses from rival firms racing hell for order to see which could be the first to pounce upon some unsuspecting citizen..."

And on taxis:

"Despite centuries of Spanish occupation, bullfighting never caught on in the Philippines, but there was so much of the same Death in the Afternoon atmosphere about Manila traffic that driving seemed the local substitute for the corrida. Taxi-drivers stuck up a dog-eared postcard of Christ or the Virgin on the dashboard, as a matador might hang a crucifix around his neck before entering the arena, draped a miniature wreath of everlasting flowers over the mirror, mercifully obscuring whatever might be going on behind, and then drove like the devil, confident that they had made their peace with the next world. The taxi would swerve in and out of traffic, lurch drunkenly round corners on the wrong side, and squeal to an abrupt and unsignalled halt...When the taxi finally arrived at your destination the driver flashed such a triumphant and slightly astonished smile that all the bitter words you had been saving up evaporated."

On the rich/poor divide:

"But the poor lived at the gates of the rich, in a jumble of tumbledown huts cobbled together from corrugated iron, petrol cans and driftwood..,babies...played beside open drains that ran past shack and mansion alike, thick and blackish-green."

And finally...on the rain, roads and lack of drains....

"Every rainy season floods rendered even main streets impassable. Nothing was ever done to prevent this predictable annual disaster. Newspapers blamed the Spaniards for failing to lay a proper drainage system, blithely overlooking the fact they had been gone more than 50 years."

It is incredible that the above quotes describe a Manila of over 50 years ago...and yet I can still see present day Manila so clearly in all of the above.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

don't miss the opportunity...

I can just hear the whispering last the dark-corners of Hong Kong's corridors of power, pro-Beijing legislators grouping together and muttering...."This is our only chance...let's get him whilst we can. We can use the WTO protests as cover to teach this long-haired freak a lesson".
From CNN

"HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- At least six protesters are reported to have been injured in a scuffle with police in Hong Kong near the site of the World Trade Organization meeting.

One person hurt, Reuters said, was outspoken Marxist and pro-democracy legislator "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, known for his flowing locks and Che Guevara T-shirts."


I laughed....loudly....

Reading a BBC article about the WTO in Hong Kong....

A number of other protesters also tried to swim across Hong Kong harbour.

My thoughts on that...if someone is that bloody stupid that they voluntarily want to get into that filthy water...then they are bloody welcome to it...

I have friends working at the CEC and it sounds from their brief e-mails as if they are hunkered down for a war....


The problem with a day off is....coming back to work the next day!

Sunday night at Cafe this becoming a habit? In the company of Expat@Large...if you need a theory - conspiracy or otherwise - he's your man! Reading his post about our little soiree did make me smile - we certainly covered a lot of ground in a relatively short space of time! And just for clarity - only one visit to the Hobbit House...and - he should get on with writing his book - Tolstoy or doesn't matter - just write!

Fortunately I learnt from last week's mistake and did not mix my drinks...consequently my day off was not spent in a hangover cloud!

Events of the day...visited the American War Cemetery and Memorial over at Fort Bonifacio...more (much more) on that later.

In the interests of research I visited Market Market!...research and an incredibly empty this point it was 3:30pm and I hadn't eaten or (much worse)drunk anything all day....

Then onto PowerPlant (where else?) Books, Movies, Apple Martinis all under one roof..

Movie - In her shoes - excellent - really enjoyed it - just my type of movie, and I thought, better than the book - I have always found Jennifer Weiner's books hard going...

Very brief visit to Fully Booked - only one purchase (how did I manage that!)- D.C. Confidential

Book I read a huge amount of .....Never learn to type - Margaret Joan Anstee, more on that later as well!

And home to tune the telly....not an easy feat, then hang three picture frames - crookedly as it turns out! Now have to work out how to get the 'universal remote' for the telly to work...doesn't seem too universal to me!!

And finally....I think they are going to have to update the dream books for the modern era...I woke up this morning what could be the significance behind a dream which involved me sending an important text message and then discovering I never really sent it!!


Sunday, December 11, 2005

"Flops are a part of life's menu and I've never been a girl to miss out on any of the courses."

Rosalind Russell

You scored 23% grit, 42% wit, 23% flair, and 16% class!

You are one wise-cracking lady, always quick with a clever remark and easily able to keep up with the quips and puns that come along with the nutty situations you find yourself in. You're usually able to talk your way out of any jam, and even if you can't, you at least make it more interesting with your biting wit. You can match the smartest guy around line for line, and you've got an open mind that allows you to get what you want, even if you don't recognize it at first. Your leading men include Cary Grant and Clark Gable, men who can keep up with you.

FromThe Classic Dames Test via The Administrator

Hmm...I wonder...!!


And about bloody time....

Boris is back


It was a hot, dull day in December and the clocks were striking thirteen. *

I am finding that one of the hardest things to adjust to in Manila is the lack of winter...for the first time in 18 years I am having a 'warm winter' is not good for the brain...

Gone are the years growing up on and around the equator where Christmas was warm and winter was something we didn't really think about...I am now so conditioned that Christmas decorations means cold weather...and my body thermometer is now completely confused...I should be wrapped up in at least a jacket and scarf by this time...ideally with big woolly boots and mittens (that would be either Jordan or the 590 bus from South Horizons at 5:30am during the winter), the marble tiles in my living room should be so cold that slippers are water bottles should be being dusted off in preparation for incessant use come January...

Every time I go to leave a building and walk outside I brace myself hoping that this will be the time that I breath in fresh, crisp, cool air (I must be seriously losing the plot here!)...but one of my colleagues told me it does get cold in beginning to think that our definitions of cold are poles apart!! The temperature at the moment is 28 degrees...even if we just knocked off 10 degrees I would be happy...after a little research it seems that the lowest temperature I could ever hope for is 21 degrees...

It looks as if my large collection of boots, coats, scarves etc will have to stay in cupboard until such time as I venture to cooler climes...

And reading this post from Imagethief doesn't help matters....

* with apologies to George Orwell!


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Women's Lib...of a sort....

Reading The Administrator's recent post on being a knight in shining armour and changing a tyre for two ladies reminded me of the only time I have ever had a flat tyre (so far!). It was a Friday evening in Amman, I had just driven up from the Dead Sea (which anyone who knows can confirm is the drive from hell...the only way I could describe would be driving round the M25 on a bank holiday eve, with one added are climbing - steeply. The Dead Sea is about 1,300 feet below sea level, Amman is about 2,500 feet above sea level - the distance between the two is about 50km) so was feeling particularly grouchy and fractious, particularly as the roads in Amman were all slushy and slippery after the last snow fall. So we (my ex-boyfriend and myself) dropped off a colleague at his house and then headed to Safeways to do the weekly shop (how domesticated!) we trundled down the hill to Safeways I noticed the car wasn't steering exactly how I wanted it to, once we got into the Safeways car park (a feat in itself - particularly on a Friday evening) I had a quick look at the tyres...sure enough one of them was flat. So I decided to change the my ex had never changed a tyre before (he couldn't drive) and had no idea how to do give you some idea of just how clueless he was on this front, his first question was "where are we going to get a spare tyre at this time of night"..."try looking in the boot under the carpet!"...anyway, as I started to change the tyre with him standing and looking on, we were approached by a Jordanian couple (him in jeans and a jacket, her in full purdah) - the guy offered to help us.. so I thanked him and then expected him to crouch down to where I was working on the was the woman who crouched down...rolled up the sleeves of her black outer layer and set to helping me....between the both of us we sorted it all out pretty quickly whilst her husband and my boyfriend stood around chatting about the state of the weather....

Either two very smart guys or two really clueless guys!!!


Friday, December 09, 2005

The culture of service

The service industry...particularly hotels and restaurants is constantly critised for providing bad service, be the service slow, too fast, arrogant, too submissive, not confident, inept, unwilling or inhospitable - it comes down to two real basics; either a lack of training/knowledge or an in built 'attitude' whether it be cultural or individual.

In Jordan a lack of basic training and knowledge was their biggest drawback, the hotel school there tries very hard with pitiful resources, the teachers try their best but are almost fighting a loosing battle with broken and mismatching chinaware, damaged linen, insufficient equipment etc. Fortunately for them all these are overcome by the Jordanian culture of hospitality - which is second to none...service staff smile willingly and easily and from my experience are really eager to work - their sense of responsibility is huge...a quick example - when it snows in Amman (which it does heavily) the city comes to a grinding halt, nothing moves - during one such snowstorm one of my staff walked 18 kilometers in the heavy snow to get to work - because he didn't want to let us down...others also walked - but the furthest was this particular guy - he arrived tired, wet and pretty miserable but once he was on duty he was all smiles and raring to go...

The other aspect of service work in Jordan is that it is 'work' and it pays money...not great money...but in Jordan any income is better than none. When we were recruiting for our property we had guys travelling two or three days by hitchhiking to come for interviews, guys who had slept outside our office door to ensure that they would get a look in for our interviews - it was tough on them and we really had some hard decisions to make as we would have to choose only a realtive few from the hundreds that we saw...only a few that would go home secure in the knowledge that at some time in the near future they would have a Jordanian rarity - a steady income. Fortunately for the guys we recruited we weren't looking for technical skills (that you can train) we were looking for a positive attitude..and the average Jordanian has that in bucket loads!

So, reading through today's Jordan Times I was very sad to read an article about the lack of interest in the service industry in Jordan's 'youth'. Particularly given that Tourism is one of Jordan's main income earners and also given that there are so many tourism projects coming on line in Jordan with thousands of jobs being created.

Authorities in Aqaba are struggling with the so-called “culture of shame” that hinders young people from seizing the opportunities made available by the influx of investments in the area.


We even saw fathers who refuse to allow their sons and daughters to work in these jobs,” he added.

However, ASEZA is in contact with local community leaders to change this attitude, which puts at risk the raison d'être of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone.

Dahabi said these projects are ensured special privileges in return for employing local residents. The Tala Bay resort, for example, will offer 7,000 job opportunities, which will be filled with foreign workers if Aqaba youth continue to reject them.

Tala Bay Chairman Ziad Abu Jaber said many highly skilled Jordanians worked in the construction of the luxurious resort, but the problem is their rejection of ordinary menial jobs.

An Aqaba resident and one of the workers at Tala Bay, Abdul Latif Mohammad, is the head cashier at the resort's beach club. Only two Aqaba residents work there, out of 18 Jordanians from elsewhere in the Kingdom. Dozens of Asian and Arab workers work for the megaproject.

“I know that the culture of shame is a fact. I have friends who refuse to work in the service or tourism industries. They do not want to work in the kitchen or clean rooms,” the employee said.

He advised his peers to accept such jobs and be ambitious in order to move up in the company hierarchy.

“I myself started with these `inferior jobs' but I proved my capabilities and was promoted to chief cashier,” Mohammad explained, adding that Tala Bay announced the vacancies in local newspapers and promoted them in the Kingdom.

The part about daughters not being allowed to work in hotels I can vouch for, it is not 'seemly' as hotels seem to be seen as 'dens of iniquity' by the lower levels of society, out of a team of about 150 people we had about 6 girls...and I might add - they were great; driven, intelligent, outgoing and I would be happy to employ them anytime - unfortunately at some point 3 of them were 'pulled out' by their parents who had been hassling them the whole time they had worked there and then unfortunately laid down the law and they had to leave.

It seems a crying shame that in a country in which genuine hospitality is embedded in the culture (Bedouin culture), that people are not wanting to 'serve'. Is this the price of progress?


Thursday, December 08, 2005

The passage of time...

Whilst I enjoy taking photographs it is not something I do particularly well...the only decent photographs I ever take are of beautiful or dramatic scenery, never of day to day life. However, since arriving in Manila I see so many scenes that I want to take pictures of, so many different scenes that make me think - it is the first city that has really happened to me in, driving around Manila brings on a thought overload.

Today I went with two collegues to Marikina City, the shoe capital of The Philippines. I started the trip with my nose in the Inquirer reading up on Garci's shenanigans yesterday, but after a few glances out of the window I realised I was in unfamiliar territory and as such better look where I was going.

The scenery was typical Manila; houses piled on top of each other, fast food restaurants, shops, shopping malls and overhead cables all spotted between jammed traffic moving at a snail's pace through the rainy city. However as we went further east the scenery became greener and once we had moved into Marikina city the streets became markedly cleaner and signage etc became more organised (when I questioned my colleagues it seems that Mayor of this city is married to the head of the MMDA (who also used to by Mayor of Marikina)), the whole city seems so much more disciplined than anywhere else in Manila - even the city website is well organised!

Whilst stopped at some traffic lights I looked over to the central reservation and there were two kids playing with two plastic cups full of soap suds, one of the children must have been about 5 or 6, the other about 11 or 12. Both children had old flip-flops on that must have been two or three sizes too big for them and very old and damaged clothes - the usual product of Manila's brutal streets. But with the soap suds they were having so much fun - rolling around in the suds, throwing them at each other, rubbing them in each others hair, all the while surrounded by cars sitting waiting to move on. Looking at the other cars with their passengers, they were all enthralled by the sight of these two kids messing around.

I have no idea if the kids were related but it struck me that one day, the older child will remember that time and no doubt smile...the younger child will probably not remember it.

It just reminded me of times that my brother and I would mess around on the beach or at bathtime, causing havoc - unfortunately my brother doesn't remember the times as he was too young, but I do, particularly when considering the passage of time -

Monday was my baby brother's 32nd birthday.



Whilst in Jordan my flatmate and I used to hang out with two of our male Jordanian colleagues - our Tuesday nights out became something of a fixture...and later a legend! One of the guys was our IT manager - a real Jack the Lad if ever there was one...he used to pick us up in his BMW and we would race around Amman with the windows down and the music playing choices ranged from Arabic Chill out to Kylie Minogue....but my flatmate and I had one song that was favourite...and it is that song more than most that reminds me of the great nights out we had in Amman.

The song was "Wala Ala Baloh" by Amr Diab, and I am happy to say that I have just received this CD so I can listen to the song to my heart's content!


A winner....or at least a finalist

Last night...the Darwin Awards came up in discussion..

We salute the improvement of the human genome
by honoring those who remove themselves from it.

and today a quick look at the BBC tells me that we have another candidate...honestly, who in their right mind would use "threatening words" whilst boarding an aircraft...


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Garci speaks...and other local news

Every one should have their 15 minutes of fame...(except me - I'm not good with stuff like that), however, Garci is taking it a step too far...

Today Garci finally speaks. For a blow by blow account over to Manuel L. Quezon III.

I have to say that reading the proceedings so all sounds a bit like the proceedings at the court presided over by the King and Queen of Hearts with Alice on the stand and the White Rabbit doing his stuff...

Apparently plausible security threats close the US embassy in Manila for the second day running.

When the fertilizer scandal hit the news a week or so back, the story called for a headline that only a Sun headline writer could produce..something along the lines of "Shit hitting the fan" or "A steaming pile of...", however, I have been reliably informed that it is chemical fertiliser and not of the more natural I shall follow the story with a little less 'relish' now...or maybe that's the wrong word to use!

Reading that the Philippines is the third most corrupt country in Asia...makes me wonder what happened to our man from Hong Kong?


A hangover, a rally and some reading material...

Monday being my day off, it was the normal rushing around trying to get stuff done...unfortunately the majority of it being done with the hangover from hell - note to not, I repeat, do not mix your drinks ever again - anyway, more on that in my next post...

the rushing around included time (and money) spent at Fully Booked (no surprises there!) and pictured below is my haul from my time there - two things spring to mind...the first being - when am I going to find the time to read them all, secondly, I now need a third bookcase for my apartment as the other two are completely full and I now have three seperate piles of books around the apartment that need a home before they get mauled by the moggies.

Dinner at Teak again...just so unimaginative I know...but I know it's good food and they didn't let me down - but will someone please tell me why waiters in Manila do not tell you what is not available on the menu when they present it to you...instead of after you have deliberated for 10 minutes, can just about taste what you want to order and then...."sorry, that's not available"...I guess I am just unlucky - but it happens every bloody time...

My mother surpassed herself the other day...apparently one of my ex-boyfriends is getting divorced, I told my brother because there was an anecdote to go with the story that I thought would interest him, he then told my mother, who apparently said "So, would Madame Chiang be interested in him again"....when will she ever learn - wedding bells and I do not go together!

Demonstrations in Hong Kong at the normal there is a huge discrepancy in the numbers that showed up demanding universal suffrage...the police and govt. say that about 3 people showed up...and the demonstration organisers and participants say hundreds of thousands - ok, slight exaggeration...but you get the general idea. From The Standard.
"The mass protest in which 250,000 people marched peacefully for universal suffrage, is the pride of Hong Kong people. We are all thrilled at the show of determination. We are committed to opposing the government proposals and fighting for universal suffrage," Ng said.

Other observers have issued a wide range of crowd estimates.

Students under Hong Kong University's Public Opinion Programme made a preliminary estimate of 80,000 to 100,000 while Hong Kong University's actuary lecturer Paul Yip put the figure at 60,000 to 80,000.

Anson Chan took part in the rally on Sunday, that in itself, is a fairly strong signal that they mean business - whether our friends in high and Northern places will pay any attention is anyone's guess. Whilst on the subject of Anson Chan...she really reminds me of idea why!

Also, in the news...skiing in Dubai, I remember in 1977 when my birthday outing was to an ice-carnival in Dubai - the first time that they had ever had an ice-rink...and it kept melting (well it was in a tent in the middle of the desert!) but still it just shows that Dubai will always be one step ahead.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sign Post...

Yet again, I direct you here..for a little reading to make you think....


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Being Brave....

The other evening saw me doing something so totally out of character that I still can't even believe I did it! I think I have mentioned before that a friend of mine has called me a social nightmare, mainly due to my complete inability to communicate on a social level with people I don’t know...

I was kindly invited to a dinner party...a fellow Manila blogger took pity on me and invited me to meet himself, his girlfriend and some of their friends...and it was a great evening – interesting people, good food and the added benefit of nobody working in the same industry as me. I must admit it was nerve-wracking to arrive at someone's home and not know anyone but I am really glad I did it.

One of the things I found refreshing during the evening was the fact that one of the other Brits at the table, who has lived in Manila for a number of years, was talking about his frustrations with things that happen here...and how agitated he gets (not unlike myself!!) I quoted some Kipling to him...

"And the end of the fight is a tombstone white, with the name of the late deceased,

And the epitaph drear: 'A fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.'

The gentleman in question had also spent a long period of time living in Hong it possible that Hong Kong spoils you for anywhere else in Asia?

One of the subjects of discussion over dinner was the way in which newspaper headlines here never cease to amaze, amuse and stun (not necessarily in that order!)- is there anywhere else in the world where newspaper headlines are so surprising? In HKG you almost know what the headlines will be every day...particularly on the day after a fireworks display and after some sort of protest guessing that Monday's SCMP headline will give the number of people who attend the protest...unfortunately the dinosaurs are gone so we can't be treated to a rerun of my favourite SCMP headline of all time


Friday, December 02, 2005

Thoughts, Dead Dictators and Boney M

A rather peculiar day...

Two events in Singapore made me pause for thought...the first was in the blogosphere - one of the better known Singapore bloggers - Idle Days has died, leaving behind her written legacy, her final post being a sign of what was possibly to come. As Mia wrote, in the blogosphere our links are tenuous and if one of us just stopped posting...the majority would just assume that we had just decided to stop blogging. Yesterday in my search for info on the Trans-siberian (see below) I came across this message -
"traveled with you all in Sept of 1993. I was in Beijing scheduled to travel down to Hong Kong to fly back to the states. But when I found out about your company and trips, I booked a Beijing-Ulan Batur-Irkitsk-Moskow trip and decided to just eat my non refundable plane ticket out of Hong Kong back to the states. After all, who knows when I might get the opportunity to travel the Trans-Sibrian again.

So after you all helped me have the best journey, and getting myself from Moscow to London and back to the states, the irony of this change in plans hit.

I was back in the states for only 3 weeks when I was in A CAR ACCIDENT and I broke my neck at C-5/6. I am an incomplete quadriplegic. I use a power wheelchair to get around now. It would be extremely difficult to repeat this journey."

...Both stories made me think a little more about my life and the way I live it....too conservatively by half...

Also in Singapore the hanging of Nguyen Tuong Van, I agree with Imagethief's take on Singapore's execution policy, particularly in regard to their lack of clemency...and he's right - it all comes down to public image, in Asia we are all familiar with the concept of 'face', saving it or giving it....

I also found a new blog, Manila Journal - a newcomer's views and thoughts on Manila, also being new here I smiled at most her posts with a raised eyebrow of recognition.

And a new Hong Kong blog - Flagrant Harbour

Next year on the 10th June I have a date in Moscow with my family…brother, sister-in-law, parents and grand-father...we will be ‘doing’ Moscow and St. Petersburg..a chance to walk in Lenin’s footsteps (and to see Lenin's body, can add it to my viewing of Mao and hopefully at some time Marcos - Macabre? Moi?!!)– standing on the Finland Station, follow Rasputin’s manic trail and see where the doomed Romanovs lived out their last tragic days.

Fortunately with my sister-in-law being Russian and her parents still living in Moscow we should get the insider’s tour of the two cities.

The question now is how to get to Moscow from Manila – I could fly with a little stopover in HKG or BKK but…I want to take the train from Vladivostok all the way through to Moscow with a few stops along the way – a night in a yurt, some horse riding across the steppes and a few photo 'opps'!

I spent a little bit of Wednesday looking at a few travel books and it seems that my trip would go along the lines of Manila-Seoul-Vladivostok-Ikurtsk-Ekaterinburg-Moscow. My kind of travel itinerary!!! Added to the fact that I may be accompanied by a couple of good a few bottles of Vodka, a couple of friends, vast amounts of reading time – an ideal start to the holiday – now just need to find some kennels for the kitty cats! This is the terrible thing about me and planning holidays – as soon as I have the idea - I want to!!!

It is a while since I planned a proper adventure...the last adventure was probably when I stuck a pin in a map of Canada and it landed on Calgary...I based myself in the area for three weeks and just pottered around Alberta and B.C...and that is going back quite a while! Just thinking that in six months time I will be Moscow bound is fantastic – even better is that in between now and then I will go to HKG and also plan a visit to Oman and on to Jordan for a few days – Wadi Rum is sitting, waiting for me!!

And to finish, I was sent the following little poem yesterday...quite true really….

Life is all about arse;
you're either covering it,
laughing it off,
kicking it,
kissing it,
busting it,
trying to get a piece of it,
behaving like one ....


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Too much sleep and not enough time....

Well another day off bites the dust...unfortunately half of it wasted in unplanned snoozing...I managed to get up early yesterday morning and started to clean the house, at about 11am I sat on the bed to talk to the cats (as you do when you are a mad old crone living with two cats!!) and next thing I knew it was 4pm....obviously I needed it..but what a waste.

Anyway, still managed a quick trip out...decided to go and forage for food at Greenbelt. By the time I got to Greenbelt I had finished the book in my bag (I love the traffic here!) and so had to drop into Powerbooks for a quick top up...I had always thought that the Powerbooks store at Greenbelt was pretty bad, however yesterday I discovered there was an upstairs! Don't ask me how I could have missed the massive staircase at the entrance - I obviously walk around in some weird cloud most of the time. Upstairs is a whole different world - food, design, world affairs and a great selection of biographies. Whilst roaming around upstairs I was convinced I could smell food - then thought maybe it was just the hunger kicking in...but as I rounded a corner I came upon this scene...

..nothing strange about a cooking demo except, this one was 100% silent - I have seen a lot of cooking demonstrations but the whole idea is that the chefs are supposed to be imparting information - at least about what steps they are taking in the cooking, at most little gems of advice from the guys in the white hats...but not this one - complete silence was the order of the day!

In search of food I went down to Cafe Havana, where upon I went off the idea of food and decided that Mango Daquiris were the order of the day - very nice and very strong, when you are sitting reading and knocking back a couple of those you don't realise how strong until you try and lumber out the restaurant dragging your newly purchased library behind again, in search of food to mop up the alcohol I piled into a restaurant just around the corner, sat down studied the menu and made my choice whereupon I am told it is not available (well why the hell didn't you tell me when you gave me the menu?) - this happened twice at which point I gave up...I have too little patience for that sort of I settled for a hot chocolate instead - very, very nice....

So after two daquiris and a hot chocolate - dinner was not necessary!!! As I explored a little more of Greenbelt, I discovered the cinemas, 'Feels Like Heaven' was kicking off in two minutes so decided to give it a's an ok movie with a few humerous moments - but just one question - as a ghost if she can walk through walls and tables, how come she can sit on a bench?

A little retail therapy took me to the SM at Glorietta - so much nicer than the one at MegaMall...and after a little tip off I discovered a more organised taxi queue than the one at Glorietta, however, this being Manila it makes more sense to walk past the taxi queue, stand on the corner and wait for the empty taxis that drive straight past the queue - will someone please explain why they do that - 50 people in a queue and they drive straight past...I have seen this happen a lot here! They don't make any extra money - well, they try, but it doesn't work and they seem to give up asing for the '30 pesos extra because of the heavy traffic' without too much of a fight.

The problem with sleeping through the day is that a midnight one is still bright eyed and bushy tailed...not good for sleeping for work the next day but excellent for West Wing viewing...Season Six is excellent, after the slight drabness of Season Five, Six has definitely picked up the pace.

A quick look at the news...

I see that GWB has decided that 'victory' is the word to use in relation to the America's time in Iraq. I have always agreed that they cannot leave until the violence there is resolved and Iraq is well on the way to rebuilding, however I also feel that maybe the word 'victory' implies that Iraq is going to become another American state.

Still on the subject of Iraq, I see that "one of" Saddam's uniforms is for sale on e-bay.

A few bloggers in the uk have got together to decide which British paper should be awarded the The Press Plagiarist Of The Year Award, this is for papers which cut and paste stories from bloggers side, often without asking permission, payment, recognition - or even all three. I seem to remember one of the HKG bloggers having this problem - but I can't for the life of me remember who it was....

Twice as many men in the UK are paying for sex as they were 10 years ago.

And in Hong Kong, Sir Bow-tie is using atelevision broadcast to gain support for his plans...and this is a great line..."Mr Tsang is still quite new in the job and if the opinion polls are to be believed, much more popular than his predecessor." is not hard to achieve that...the average dead fish would probably be more popular than Tung Chee-Hwa was..

....Makati this morning...shrouded in pollution/mist/cloud/a sheet, or possibly just completely uprooted over night!

Let sleeping cats lie...

and finally, very disturbing - not only did they shoot Bambi's mother but they then turned Bambi into pizza..