The Year of the Rat

Carrie Lam has returned to HK for the year of the rat. How fitting. We are fighting the Wuhan corona virus and on a brief outing to Central today 80%+ of the people are wearing masks. Those who remember 2003 and the SARS outbreak know this is serious.

But photography must go on. Starting with the view from our balcony on a rare clear day.

The view over HK from our balcony

Rats look more like mice at this time of year.

TheYear of the Rat has begun

Most stores have closed for the lunar new year.

Even when things are tough HK is bursting with colour

Known simply as “Hong Kong Bank” here or “The Bank” (not HSBC) the venerable institution has become a target for protesters. They froze an account allegedly being used to crowd fund medical care for injured protesters. Retribution was immediate as branches were attacked and vandalised. Now the HO building is a fortress. Boarded up and protected by steel gates. Your friendly local bank no more.

Fortress HSBC

Life goes on elsewhere and even at new year some people want fresh vegetables and I don’t mean a new government. (Margaret Thatcher once reputedly referred to her cabinet as ‘the vegetables’).

Vegetable stall open even at new year

Life in Hong Kong is turbulent to say the least but in the true British bulldog spirit we shall go (unmasked) to the Club tonight for a new year dinner. It will be packed and the sun will never set on this erstwhile corner of the British Empire.

Kung Hei fat choi, San tai gin hong and of course Sun nin fai lok. Feel free to add your own Cantonese new year greeting.

All the fun of the festival

Our trip out to the watercress festival produced a few decent shots. Nothing especially good but some souvenir pictures of Shirley’s first encounter with Morris dancing. Here is my selection. Starting with “Never Mess with Morris”.Morris ManIs it nearly over yet?Watching the festivitiesHappy FeetHappy FeetSqueezeMorris Dancers

Squeeze BoxIs it nearly over yet?BeagleApparently not!BirdbrainThe Male and the FlossCandyFlossGet a move on GrandadGrandadWell I think I know what Grandad needs….PimmsAnd that’s your lot. More watercress anyone?

The Fallen Man

Everyone has a shady secret of some description. Oh yes you do. We all do. I developed mine late in life. About 6 months ago in fact. Of course I had seen the magazine before. At the bottom of the pile, grubby and rather well thumbed. Popping up in the most unexpected places. In the doctor’s waiting room, the dentist’s too and perhaps not so strangely, The Club library. Men!! I am of course talking about Country Life.

It started when we were looking for a home back in Britain. I wanted something rural. Mrs. Ha wanted to live next door to Hermes. In the end we ended up with a fairly rural home 5 minutes from the Sainsbury megastore. I told Mrs. Ha that there was sure to be a Hermes somewhere locally. I was wrong. Too late. My usual Reading Room fare was Private Eye, often accompanied by the FT. Then one day I looked surreptitiously around me, slid Country Life behind my FT and slumped back into the leather armchair.

I started as an occasional user. Just dabbling. The way of the world however is that soon you need a more regular fix and eventually you can’t do without it. This week (The Easter Edition) it contains an article on the gardens at Hereford Cathedral and mentions Bishop Eastaugh or Mark as I knew him, Mark Hereford. He confirmed me circa 1970. We knew him well as my late brother was a choral scholar at the cathedral school. There is also an article on pond building and another on bird nests. Add in a rather sweet picture of Miss Ella Prichard in the kitchen (she of Sugurella Cakes) and you can begin to see how a man can lapse so easily.

I tend to flick over the stuff on paintings and focus more on the dogs. Last week was particularly good with lots of Norman Thelwell drawings of dogs misbehaving. All of course in the best possible taste.

Paradoxically the section which now interests me least is what is euphemistically called Property News. I would call this bit the property adverts. As a soon-to-be new homeowner (Wednesday is the day) I can now gloss over this. Mrs. Ha and I have to decide whether to keep the existing house name. Being of a (very minor) Country Life type there is no house number. I have suggested Money Pit. We went a mere 50% over budget on the purchase price (a little more if you include the government’s poisonous stamp duty) so it is little wonder that on my most optimistic estimate the refurb is also heading towards the same percentage overspend.

My intention is to keep a natural history journal of my discoveries in and around Money Pit. It started yesterday as we walked from the public house (lunch was excellent) over the down to the new house to show my S-in-L where it is. Best sighting was a pair of copulating kestrels. Rather more impressive than educated fleas but possibly just as quick. We should have averted our eyes but we didn’t. I think Country Life may have corrupted me. I hope it is kept on the top shelf in a brown paper cover in future. Who knows where it may lead?