The times they are a-changin

Hong Kong is a sad, browbeaten, political and economic shipwreck but today we celebrate. We can exert ourselves in the country parks without a mask. The Maskstapo have retreated and I can climb The Peak without suffering oxygen starvation and steamed-up glasses. At 6am I rose and went out as the sun heaved itself over the horizon. For the first time since early in the year there was a slight chill in the air. Everything was dew-bedecked and not much stirred in the hedgerows. I walked 12km in total. In my backpack an optimistic ‘bird lens’. It stayed there as I drew a blank on migrants. To be honest the macro lens did not see a lot of use either. My rule of thumb is if I see one new species or make one acceptable photo on my wanderings then it has been a successful outing. Today I found a friendly mantis, Hierodula patellifera. There is a tree that normally buzzes with bees and wasps and hosts a few nectaring butterflies. Today it was empty. However as I started to walk on I felt I was being watched. I turned and looked up slightly to find myself staring at HP. It hardly lived up to its name of Giant Asian Mantis. Quite modest in size but beautifully camouflaged. There was no Fee Fi Fo Fum about this one. I took quite a few photos and left it to resume whatever it was doing. Perhaps like me it was contemplating the destruction of civilisation. Lorelei, the original Rheinstone Cowgirl, lures us towards the rocks of September, which lie in wait as we nonchalantly think we have navigated the treacherous waters of August. I can’t wait for 2020 hindsight and, please, pretty please, the end of the orange supremacist in the White House and his odious family and parasitic entourage.

I came out of retirement almost 2 years ago to work part time for 3 months. That was the plan. Like most best laid plans it went agley. Enough is enough though and I am semi-retiring again. At the most I will do 2 days a week so I can walk more and spend more time with our granddaughter. We have, fingers crossed, a grandson on the way too. Life will never be empty or dreary. I never expected to require a navigation course in Duplo avoidance. I never expected to become the world’s leading authority on Peppa Pig. I hear ‘Baby Shark’ every day and have become an expert in changing batteries in toys to stem the tears of disappointment when they run down after only a week of non-stop use. I have spent more time in Mothercare than a camera shop. I even helped change a nappy (diaper) once. I wonder how today’s parents would cope if nappies still had to be boil-washed and reused rather than discarded. My next challenge is how to pay the school fees that will be needed to keep the grandchildren out of the local schools.

What else is changing? Well the aches and pains become more frequent and soon we will leave our Mid Levels eyrie and live in our own apartment for the first time since we bought it in 2011. Smaller but closer to the grandchildren. What to do with Lulu is a problem as dogs are not allowed. Probably I will rent a small dog-friendly apartment for her and one of our helpers and I will use it as a study, library and photography refuge. We can’t give up Lulu. She is almost 12 years old and has been a faithful if temperamental companion and she deserves to live out her days in comfort.

What hasn’t changed is the pleasure I take from photographing the local wildlife. Here are a few of this summer’s snaps.

Hierodula patellifera

Acherontia lachesis

Spirama retorta

Ascalohybris subjacens - an Owlfly

Sphenocorynes feae -  staring into the abyss


Which one made me happiest, I wonder.


26 thoughts on “The times they are a-changin

  1. Stunning wildlife photos, thanks. And it is wonderful reading about the changes in your life which duplicate ours. We have just had the most wonderful, exhausting and longed-for two weeks with our daughter from America, plus husband and 17-month-old granddaughter and our London daughter, partner and 21-month-old grandson. There is nothing strange to us about tripping over Duplo or singing Baby Shark. I sometimes wake still singing Wind the Bobbin up or Elevator, why won’t you take me up, up, up, up… Re the orange supremacist, if he is not gone by the end of the year our American family will move here, but though I would love that we, too, for the sake of the world desperately hope that he and entourage are gone (ideally taking our UK clown and circus with him).

    • Being a grandparent is a wonderful time for sure. I can remember nursery rhymes I never knew I knew. Leia is being brought up bilingually and chatters away in a mix of English and Cantonese. I doubt if she realises she is speaking 2 languages. The political landscape seems to be universally gloomy unless you live in New Zealand. Some of my American friends fear civil war if the orange supremacist loses. People are buying guns and gold, I hear. HK is now a place of fear and loathing. as long as family stays, we stay but it is not my choice. My refuge is the outdoors and my books. Best wishes to you and your family, Hilary.

      • It is difficult to foresee a happy outcome in HK, look after yourselves. I comfort myself that for our grandchildren these years will be history. On the whole the younger generation seem to be switched on to the dangers and need to adapt to some mighty changes on this planet. I also sense a willingness in them to reach across divisions, which I hope can outlive the current power struggles. Good wishes from us to all of you, Andrew,

  2. I didn’t see your post until today which is 9/4/20. I have not looked at my email for more than a few days. It is good to see a post from you and to see the marvelous insect photos. I hope Lulu is not too traumatized when she will no longer live in the same house with you and Mrs. Ha. I am glad to know that she is still doing ok at 12 years of age. Your granddaughter is certainly pretty and precious and I see that she is an immense source of pride.

    • Hello Yvonne. I hope you have stayed safe during the Covid pandemic. I am quite worried about Lulu. She is too old to ask anybody else to adopt her and any ‘welfare’ organisation will euthanise after a period of time. If she didn’t bark so much we would keep her but that’s sadly not an option. We will keep a flat nearby where one of the helpers will live with her and I will keep my study there and visit daily. She could survive another 4 or 5 years and we want her to be as happy as we can but it is far from ideal. This is not something we want to do but don’t have much choice now unfortunately. I will make sure she is well cared for. Yes our granddaughter is a great joy. She will be back tomorrow and stay all week. Time flies. Almost 2 years old now.

      • I am sorry about Lulu but I am happy to know that you are not trying to give her away. Priorities change with the arrival of grandchildren and I fully understand that. But I am glad that you are providing a place for her and that she will have company. I hope the helper will be loving and attentive to her and keep her spoiled.

        I am faring ok thus far but aging faster because of the heart thing. I stay active in my house but for short spurts to get pet chores done. I have 3 times a week help from my son’s girlfriend who does the lifting of heavy supplies and pet food. I will be 84 in December and I wonder myself where the time has gone. Seems like yesterday that I could still run but that was 10 years ago.

        As you know our country is in a mell of hess and I am very afraid that the current man running the show will win the election again. I will at some point attempt to send you an email.

  3. Cheers to you! Walking outside unmuzzled, contemplating the destruction of civilization, singing “Baby Shark” and replacing toy batteries is certainly some approximation of the good life.

  4. I have a hunch we know which one made you happiest!

    That’s a quandary about not being allowed to have Lulu in your apartment, but it sounds like you have that figured out.

    I am an atheist, but if I wasn’t, I’d be down on my knees praying mighty hard for the removal of that dangerous fool in the White House.

    Nice to ‘see’ you again, Andrew.

    • Yes he is dangerous Yvonne. I am surprised someone hasn’t done a JFK on him and Spence yet. He is the most vile man and his family probably worse. We will do whatever we need to do for Lulu. She is family too.

      • I’ve thought about this and I’m sure that if the roles were reversed and it was a vile Democrat in office, he would have been shot long ago.

  5. I’m so pleased to see your entry, Andrew. I’ve thought of you since your last entry, and wondered how things were going. Maskless is good, and I laughed at your coinage of ‘Masktapo.’ Things in my area are improving substantially, and the edge of hysteria is gone.

    Like you, I count it a good day if there’s one new discovery or one decent photo. So far, I’ve never failed to find that ‘one.’ It makes going out worthwhile.

    • Oh that’s lucky, Linda. I often struggle to find just one shot I like. We are down to under 20 cases a day and sadly almost all the deaths are the very aged. One aged 98 yesterday with multiple chronic illnesses. I do wonder how they know the actual cause of death. But we are partially under control for political reasons I suspect. They have ‘postponed’ elections here for 12 months because the government would certainly have lost control of Legco. Such is life under the heel of the CCP’s boot.

  6. Aww, yes I wonder! Insects and other small creatures offer delight, if only we will take the moment to look, and you help us to do that.
    I’ll add my prayers to your’s that the orange one will be gone. Hopefully, he’ll be wearing an orange jumpsuit by this time next year, if there is any justice in the world. It will suit him. I have never felt so cynical and, to be honest, afraid, as I do right now. You may have heard of the rioting in Kenosha Wisconsin. That is where my art hangs, in a sweet little gallery, and where I often like to go. The 17 year old vigilante is from a neighboring town to me here in Illinois, and was a police cadet in my town! The Kenosha police not only did not arrest him for killing 2 people and injuring a third, they thanked him for being there and gave him a bottle of water!!!! Watching civilization evaporate before our eyes is terrifying.

    • What I find most scary Melissa is that a) people actually voted for him and b) the GOP has allowed this to go on unchallenged. They must be held to account. Some of his policies are arguably overdue but his behaviour and corruption are beyond redemption. He has only one goal. Self enrichment. The nepotism makes my flesh crawl. How Barbie and Jackass have survived in the WH so long is unfathomable. He has to go, willing or not.

      • I couldn’t agree more. He makes our flesh crawl as well. Yesterday, though, I saw a headline claiming that the top military will refuse to remove him should he lose the election and refuse to go. As you say, it is frightening how many people side with him, and how much power he has.

      • Hi Andrew,
        My family is considering moving to Britain…would you recommend this? I remember you and your wife didn’t love it that much when you moved there briefly a few years ago and I wondered what insights you might share with me on the subject.
        We’re growing increasingly alarmed by what we are seeing take shape here in the US and feel it may be time to relocate before it is too late.

      • I am not sure Britain is any better, Melissa. Johnson and Cummings model themselves on Steve Bannon and Trump. If you were to go I would rent for a while. We bought a home expecting to stay and had to sell again after 2 years. Very difficult after Brexit. We had no close social life in Hampshire. Our nearest friends were an hour away and so we missed our social network enormously. Healthcare is decent in Britain and the countries are beautiful. But you will find racism still rife. It is becoming very much a small Island, economically and politically. By all means give it a go but don’t burn your bridges.

      • Excellent advice, Andrew. Thank you. I had wondered whether Johnson and Cummings were a problem there. I hate to see nationalism and fascism rising up around the world once again.

  7. Very good to read that you can stroll unmasked again (sounds like something from the Lone Ranger!). Lovely photo’s.
    Semi-retirement is good. Rather than finance, though, I’ve dabbled with teaching Greek to Y6 (ages 10-11) and this coming year, it will be Latin.
    Good luck, when you find yourself putting together a play kitchen on Christmas Eve!

    • Hello David. I am glad the Classics survive under your tutelage. I may go on a course on toy assembly. I am waiting for the Scalextric to arrive so I can play too. 😀

  8. Great to read a blog again. Pleased to hear that you are winding down, again. Make it permanent this time. Say hi to Lulu, Shirley and the family.

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