Tuesday, 31 January 2012

English education, Hong Kong style

Be warned, people of England. Nick Gibb, your Minister for Schools, will soon visit Hong Kong.

Somehow, I suspect Gibb isn't coming here to sniff out models of creative play for the under-11s. Hmm. Maybe rote learning, brain drilling, and rigor? (Possibly just falling short of the mortis kind.)

I bet, following Gove's tour, he's sent here on a mission to snaffle Hong Kong education formula, then apply it like a panacea to your school system.

It could be a matter of celebration or dread; it's up to you.

But it seems logical, does it not, that if Hong Kong education style tops world league tables, then you should be able to lift it up and apply it somewhere else?

I recognise the pattern of thinking that gets you there. It's the same as when I drink a bottle of red wine. I can combine supreme confidence based on complete ignorance. The more I drink, the more confident I become! After the second bottle, everything makes sense.

Well, you'd be right to say I wouldn't know; I'm in no place to talk, since we've avoided HK schools. I'm only forming my opinions about the schooling regime on what I've read, the people I've spoken to, the comments of educationalists who work here, and the friends of my kids who are schooled (the kids who are usually dying on their feet by Fridays, 4pm).

If the news of a Hong Kong schooling regime is fearful to you, you can always hope.

Like, when I'm minister of schools. I'll make a law! Every week, rain or shine, the kids go outdoors, where they'll meet lots and lots of people, and find poetry, biology, geography, art, science, philosophy, politics, and all the thinkings of all the world.

I should let Nick Gibb know the alternative you could have.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Thank you, Kadoorie Farm

I'm told the differential between rich and poor in Hong Kong is much wider than it seems.

A visitor might tour the shopping malls and pass by Baby Dior, but never know the extreme inequalities of wealth that exist here. I'm told that Hong Kong data - richest to poorest - can place this sparkling international city alongside Sudan.

It's easy to see the sparkle and glitz. The super-rich drive this place, and the wealthy families of Hong Kong clearly hold a concentration of power. They stitch the deals, throw up the buildings, and provide our entertainment in the South China Morning Post.

It's all the drama you'd expect. Mistresses (number 1 and number 2) top the character list alongside spurned wives (number 1 and number 2). Then come the righteous offspring (from both sides of the blanket), and controlling figures on executive boards. Together, they set about fighting (literally) for dynastic control, power, and inheritance rights. It's ugly, and not made any prettier when the battles are conducted over the living heads of the elderly men who sired and acquired this noisy lot.

By contrast, the super-poor sink into invisibility; they survive on a meagre few dollars, daily or weekly, maybe none at all. Their stories pop out at Christmas in feel-good captions about gratitude. See them here, lining up with the Salvation Army, where they need only join in a little prayer to secure dinner and bed for the night.

I watch it all. It seems true to me - as shoeless Farmer Chang trundles away with his lettuces, and a passer by casually swings their new Versace coat - that a system which encourages such extremes of wealth is morally wrong. But a wealth distribution constructed by an economy of communism, of the controlling kind that exists just over the dotted line? Downright scary.

Well, I don't have any answers; I'm no statistician, nor economist. I only observe while I pass through. So I'm sure I'll sound naive when I wish that people of wealth and resources would simply feel it is their human duty to be philanthropic. It's not as if Hong Kong has no precedents.

Thank you, Kadoorie Farm.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Doesn't make sense to me either

Some moments, my eyes spill tears.

Not because my children carelessly wish me to be gone from their lives; neither because we have made messes of the last twelve years; nor because the future momentarily opens out, hopeless desolation and despair.

Nothing like that, although in living those states, I think I have earned myself some quiet weeping in a dark corner.

Today's tears (which really I should collect in an exquisite glass jar to place on the mantelpiece for my further emotional conjugation) is in response to a spectacle. An experience of light, sound, colour, and all forms of upended-downended-mind-mish-mashinins.

Maybe they were tears of relief. Because here is a place, as bizarre as the contents of my head, captured for me on stage.

That place in my head is a miserable, solitary place to be. Inside here, trees get up to walk off in an undignified huff, roses spit cruel blasphemies, and the sky sorrowfully collects its blue folds and sulks in a cave, refusing to come out.

Then maybe they were tears of recognition. I can't be the only freak who thinks that a giant claw can grow from a human body, how shells might blow and suck air as they run, how crisp, cut paper edges sway on dancing paper dolls, how an electric stick man can disassemble and reassemble its limbs, or how a human can walk, with fish head and fins.

Seeing my inside chaos come outside, taking external form more beautifully than I could ever muster, is all a little emotionally overwhelming. Worth a few tears.

But here's an educational point (there always is one, trust me). We educate for freedom of thinking. For art, I need to keep the early creativities of the children away from proscription and prescription.

I want to see Tiger draw, model, and stitch her own way through the days, follow her unique creative forms of autonomies, find her own mind, and explore her wilder impulses and streaks of bloody mindedness, so that she can make her own inside thoughts come outside.

I want her to have the wide and dangerous freedom that I hope grows her own recognition and enjoyment of her creative mind; not be placed, as I was, in a position where she must stop her line of exploration and deny her thoughts. I want her not to be set on a course where she can't have the confidence to change; I want her to have the strength and will to make and do, regardless of how wrong or bonkers everyone else might say she is. She needs to explore, until she is ready for structure and instruction, then you can bet I'm choosing that artist to help her with care.

Well, didn't make much sense to me either. Try WOW.

Saturday, 28 January 2012


A few kids in our local home ed group are following (in our case very loosely) the IGCSE curriculum for Geography.

I'm enjoying it. I have a special love for matters geographical: especially the physical bits requiring tramping through landscape.

It seems obvious to say it, but love didn't come from sitting in a classroom, studying black and white photographs in a prescribed curriculum text book.

It started when my mother pushed me outside and locked the door. Then, I thought it was a terrible injustice. Now, I know it was for my own protection.

But soon I was out and off, roaming willingly. Outside offered all kinds of new perils and opportunities. I expanded my unsupervised exploring range. From the back garden to the bank of earth that rose to cultivated fields and the crumbling outcrop of bunter sandstone. I took the skin off my hands, busted my knee, and acquired a whip graze on my cheek.

Then the long, tiny track, running alongside the fields to the iron gate that locked the private estate. Sunk to a ditch by a wall and hooded with brambles, I would hope, by creeping there, that I was breaking the law.

More than once, I came home muddied and bloodied. I can't recall my mother asking how. But I wouldn't have told her. Escape from a hideout where criminals with treasure defended themselves by bows and arrows was my triumph. She might spoil it all by assuming I was telling the truth then calling the police.

I never let on about slipping off to the quarry either. If she told me not to go back, for fear I would fall off the sandstone ridge, then I would never find Stig.

Family outings to beaches, hillsides, lakes and forests, all helped. I was tipped out the car and told to be back for tea or there'd be trouble. Mud didn't count in the charge sheet. Neither did prickle wounds from gorse bushes, leg bruises from sliding on seaweedy rock pools, and a wet bum from slipping down river banks.

It wasn't all neglect. To guide me, I had the injunction be careful. And my mother did sometimes keep an adult eye on proceedings. She stopped me going over that cliff edge in Devon. But it was never fair. She let my brother do it.

It has led me to a belief. Geography isn't a cold photograph in a text book. It's wind in the face, sore legs, split fingernails, a cut knee, and a smack in the cheek with a bramble bush.

Ma Shi Chau. Sand bar, coastal features, and Permian rocks. Or standing at the edge of the sea, waiting for the mountains to fold and the dinosaurs to arrive.

Friday, 27 January 2012

I have what you're looking for

I have been round the Document of Accusation again, aka the Statcounter. This is an activity I engage in once a week to see how less popular I am than last week. (Plenty, so all is healthy.)

However, these features I note.

First, grit's day now enjoys a truly global audience. People flung apart - from USA, India, Brazil, Canada, Scotland, the UAE, Australia and Milton Keynes - join here daily, at this insignificant blog, in the hope of satisfaction.

Mostly for brains sucked out, text to write on a tombstone, hot aunties naked, bali men naked, hot bali men with sexy aunty naked, and outdoor survival in rural fenland.

Pigeon grit
is no longer a search term. I think the 12 people who needed that information have now excluded me from their visits. Thank you.

For all the rest of you dear earth-wide readers who up my global count, I am pleased to accommodate you. You probably arrive in expectation and depart in disappointment.

The second feature I note is how grit's day remains a continuous source of inspiration, encouragement, discouragement and DO NOT DO IT advice, particularly for home education.

When someone is inquiring about home education from England, they mine this blog. Really, really explore it from all angles. They leave me blinking in the flashbulbs with my hands covering my doodah.

Quick guide to answer your three latest inquiries.

No, home educators do not have to mark a child's work.
Not unless you are high on worksheetery, or your child is enthused by red ink. If you choose to home educate, you do not have to show any inspector, LEA official, or any jobsworth that you mark work. No-one is required to ask you to keep a mark book of your child's work. They shouldn't be asking for test scores, grades, results, or evidence mark books, unless you are on some local provision or flexischool scheme where you have already agreed to supply this. In which case you'll know about it. For all normal home ed days, no marking of anything is required of you.

No, home educators do not have to be teachers, nor show any type of certification.
You do not have to have a degree in education, nor a PGCE, nor any certificate in child wrangling. Nor household management, food hygiene, or keeping yourself clean. It is sort of expected that if you choose to home ed you have thought about it, considered your own capabilities, tolerances, and interest levels. There are no grades you need to demonstrate of yourself to lead your children into life and the community. You do not need certificates to prove you can parent, either.

Yes, we socialise.
Home educators do not lock up their children in airless rooms. We do not avoid social contact with other people. We do not pump our kids foie gras style full of Evangelist Bible Studies. (Okay then, maybe one or two families do that, among 200,000, so probably below the indoctrination levels of your normal school-going population. Anyway, you can bet the situation will correct itself come aged 13 when the kids rebel and cross over the forbidden line into normality or Satan worship.)

I hope that is helpful. I should start a surgery, where I am open to home ed questions you have. (Only probably don't ask me anything that is actually useful to have answered.)

PS. Today, for the ongoing visitor delight of Hong Kong, was the dreaded Coastal Defences Museum. For myself, I managed to throw in the Law Uk Folk Museum and a tram trip. No marking was done, and no certificates required. Being out and about in society while Squirrel tries to extract a packet of biscuits from a Cantonese-speaking cafe owner you can count as social contact.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Frocking frenzy

An education in cloth compositing from Fashion Visionaries at Sha Tin Heritage Museum, Hong Kong.

I'm not wearing any of them.

Although the leather lace bodice was pretty smart.

The plastic bones, not so much.

Neither the hat.

But this one by Isaac Yuen is all MINE MINE MINE. Looks classy and together, then on close inspection is composed of complex stitchery, weaving and gathering. Me, me, me. Clearly I am made for this garment, so if it's going free at the end of the show, put my name down.


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The questions every parent should ask of an education

People on earth! I may be a late-comer - and the following wisdoms already discovered and exploited by the world's economic rulers, political leaders, and tele-evangelists - but I feel I must do this job.

Consider the Words of Our Lord John Taylor Gatto; he who brings knowledge on humanity and education for our humble planet via this video link.

I take from his talk (okay, I am only 23 minutes in) that those children set to rule Planet Earth will attain the following 14 wisdoms; endowed with these knowledges, they can grow society, pervert us all, or kick some ass (I bet he says that).

Note! If you send your child to school, Lord Gatto's wisdoms are far better questions to ask of your child's institution than whether the teaching staff meet any government's poxy list of attainment targets. Targets are a smokescreen to keep you fretting. This is the real knowledge your kid should have if you want them to enjoy a life of ruling, perverting, or ass-kicking.

Wave these questions, and demand, Will the school do this?

If you are home educating, then we need only join together in prayer.

Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. These questions are for you.

1. Can you learn what makes people tick?

To my children, I advise, continue observing and experimenting with the buttons on your sister. Some, you already know. Stop pressing NUCLEAR and DESTROY.

Press the other ones. Buttons which are activated by KINDNESS and which provide your sister with consolation and support.

From this knowledge, you will learn better how to empathise. You will learn how to help, or inspire. Even better, you will learn how to reach that place where your sister willingly offers you the last slice of double choc-chip cake, even though she wanted it for herself.

But do not consider these experiments as manipulation. Consider them lessons in human nature.

And attend to five subjects in particular. Without them, we are uneducated, and lost. History, philosophy, literature, theology, and law.

(Leave Mama in charge of law. She controls access to the biscuit tin.)

2. Can you learn how to write and speak?

Not bad spelling and mumbling! No! My children, make it your ambition to possess effective writing skills and good spoke-stuffing.

Think! With these techniques you might persuade your reluctant sister to give up her best clothes/best friend/rights to chocolate cake forever.

Learn how to persuade her with spoken eloquence and proper punctuation! You will reach this goal by:

a) observing the impact of what you say and write,
b) reflecting on your successes and failures,
c) presenting her ideas kindly, maybe in ways that encourage her, or the calm and logical set of practical steps she can follow, especially in giving up the cake.

Essentially, learn how to give back to her what she already said to you, only better. (If you follow that.)

3. Can you develop insights into how institutions work?

Can we discuss what factors drive the justice system, commercial business, political clubs, and military?

(In our case, yes; we need to, because we might yet be up before the Old Bill.)

Please note: Mama would prefer you did not learn the justice system from the wrong side of the dock in the magistrate's court, neither by your active involvement in prison. But if you cannot avoid it, then so be it. You won't be the first family member I visit in the clink.

4. Can you learn some bleedin' manners?

Remember. Graciousness, politeness and civility are the basis of your relationships, even close ones (although thank goodness we can take a few liberties there).

As Our Lord Gatto explains, civility is the means by which you gain access to 'places you might want to go'.

(Let's assume he means places like the Oxbridge Club, and not places like behind the bins on a Friday night.)

5. Can you learn how to work independently?

Have you the self-reliance and ability to be resourceful? To proceed without instruction? Have you the perception to use the work of others? To nick their stuff, then credit yourself with the glory? I think so. Ironically, academic life might beckon.

6. Can you enjoy the grace in your body?

Children, I have noticed that people who endure physical endeavour or who suffer physical misery also develop a confident body. Sports, exercise, climbing trees; they all teach you how to handle yourself.

(Our Lord Gatto also remarks how a commanding physique can translate into power and money. Hmm. As you can see, Mama has the body of a goddess but remains piss poor.)

7. Can you develop 'a complete theory of access to any workplace or person'?

Remember, nothing prevents you from looking to wangle a meeting with a person who can assist you. Never be cowed by title or place.

It may take planning, time, and work, and you may suffer some prejudice. And the result might be less than satisfactory when you achieve it, but it will have taught you something.

8. Can you take responsibility?

Not only take it, but deliver more than is asked for, because by this method you learn leadership.

9. Can you arrive at a personal code of standards?

Okay, don't follow me on this one. I am still working on the dodgy ethics, suspect behaviour and doubtful morals. And don't press me for a result by next Tuesday.

10. Can you become familiar with the arts?

OH YES. Shark, Squirrel, Tiger. We are slowly cracking this one, what with the literature, painting, dance, drama, sculpture.

'The arts transcend the animal materiality of our lives' indeed. (Until you get to Gilbert and George.)

11. Can you develop the power of accurate observation and recording?

Think of the instruction, 'draw what you see'. Drawing is a means of sharpening perception.

12. Can you deal with challenge?

As Our Lord Gatto explains, each person's challenge is different.

Shy, Tiger? Your challenge is public presentation! Loud and opinionated, Shark? Your challenge is to develop a razor-sharp, merciless edge, then use it only when necessary. On another planet, Squirrel? Enjoy it, because this earth-bound one is utterly over-rated.

13. Can you 'develop a habit of caution in reasoning to conclusions'?

I think Our Lord Gatto means, think out the debate from all sides and don't believe what anyone tells you.

(Ahem. Given our politicians in Britain, Lord Gatto, I think we might have reached this point some time ago.)

14. Can you continuously test your own judgement?

Were your intuitions well-founded? Were your assessments and predictions far off, or accurate? Shark, Squirrel, Tiger. You should reflect to better calibrate your ideas, fine-tune your judgements, and develop your capacity for good decision-making.

There. My work here is done. I must now study the remaining two hours of the Lord Gatto's video; and I must steel myself for any comments about how these are the very techniques by which we are better controlled from a ruling elite with their endless merciless mastery over our lives of miserable servile drudge.

After that, I can return to plotting how I might steal secret kisses from the perfectly tiny toy fox terrier that is not even mine, aka, The Dog of Loveliness.


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

I fall in love (and there were fireworks)

I know what I said. DON'T REMIND ME.


If you were invited, as was I, to that lovely apartment where you could meet those dainty paws and delicate legs and beguiling face and expressive eyes and know that adorable and happy disposition, you would fall in love too.

I want a tiny toy fox terrier and I want to live with her forever.

I can only leave the last words to Squirrel. This is humiliating. Get up off the floor. And stop kissing that dog.

PS. There was a view and fireworks over Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong. It is Chinese New Year or something.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Oh God Not the Parade Again

Frankly I dread this moment of obligation.

When all Hong Kong must fetch up at the Chanel end of Canton Road at exactly the same time BY LAW to attend the New Year's Parade.

Lonely Planet once stupidly suggested this event was great, an unnecessarily hyperbolic word which can only suggest the editor accepted a bung.

It is the most tedious horrible celebration of naked advertising that anyone could dream up. A plastics factory output of branded floats trundle by for what feels like decades. At the end of it your brain is saturated by Cathay Pacific and the Jockey Club.

In between the floats, trek the dance troupes, glamour girls and marching bands. To their credit, they endeavour to whip us into a frenzy of hoo-hah, I suppose to wrestle the whole charade into a carnival-type atmosphere, but it is a doomed attempt.

We know, and they know, that corporate sponsorship is far too important to mess with, so beneath the thin skim we can only see fake joy, organised celebration, oiled progress, and professional marketing.

But I enjoyed the event better this year. Mostly because half way through we escaped the crowd control police to find a rice burger and chips. I also amused the juvenile part of my brain by photographing a promotional chocolate milkshake and a pair of sex shoes.

Now, back to the parade with some dragons and a giant fish (the latter probably advertising a restaurant).

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

No, not Enjoy your black hairy algae dinner! But, Happy New Year! from Hong Kong China.

Unfortunately, on this most important Chinese calendar evening, Dig made away with my useful camera. Worse, he used it to record the ongoing achievements of his left foot.

His inability to distinguish between record ON and record OFF, means you, lovely reader, cannot enjoy any temple attending, lion dancing, fire crackering, or much joyous kungheifatchoying from grit's day at all.

However, you can have the contents of my clapped out phone camera if you wish.

The deities of the heavens and the earth granted me my first wish almost immediately: cue a big hug from a passing creative (marred only slightly by the fact that it was a she not a he and also worse the wear from six vodka martinis).

But the gods also delivered a compensatory gift in the form of a sister-in-law. She arrived this evening. They have permitted me to tease her mercilessly for the next three weeks to see if I can provoke her normally becalmed disposition to the point where she commits acts of public outrage on the metro.

I will keep you informed as to my progress.


Edited to add Important! News! Youtube now has video. Thanks to some one who can tell the difference between ON and OFF. And we were really there! It is true! Tiger's terrified face emerging half-way is evidence. (You won't see me. I was hanging about behind the incinerator.)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The message we don't want to hear

There I was, about to compose a post about politics, power, and the exercise of my legal duty under Section 7 ...but!

I saw I have fallen off one of the more important lists of bloggers in a mummy world. Then I wondered ...maybe I should try and worm myself back into the club with some cutting-edge celeb material! I could make my post essential reading for today's modern mama looking to escape the drudge of baby crap. And maybe - with my new breathless style and flog-blog-ability - I could power my return! I could wink at a few PRs with my constant name dropping. I could earn myself enough revenue from the nappy ad to buy a Starbucks biscuit!

And what better way to lever myself back into the mummy blog world? Than right here! My fantastic glamour lifestyle in Hong Kong, international city of cutting edge fashion!

Viva Vivienne Westwood!

Readers around the globe will be clawing their way here for today's hot topic! Which is... How many top nob fashion models do I see in Hong Kong wearing posh gear?

Ladies, the answer is, HEAPS.

Like, I saw that famous one with the forehead striding around the IFC shopping mall. (Oo la la CHLOƉ!) She was so tall she had to stoop. She had that modelly walk where you fix your pelvic girdle two metres ahead of you and bend your calves backward (I can totally do that, no problem). She looked like she was legging it from the paparazzi or something but I can tell you her dress sense was TERRIBLE. It was all shorts and trainers and some crappy shapeless jacket made of nylon. I don't know, say Juicy Couture.

The other bunch of models I saw recently were all in the Elements Halls in Kowloon. Maybe they don't count? At first I thought they were prostitutes. But then! I realised they were about their hard work biz while decked out in something like Christian Lacroix. But I can see the work in a catwalky show! The challenge is do the whole lot together: the modelly walk, pelvic hip thrust, push-out lips and frowny stare. All while perched on 10-inch Louboutin heels.

Those of us in the know can tell you this is to exude confident sexuality. It is not concentrate on staying upright (even if you are wearing the lie-down shoes).

And last night, there was a whole load of the modellys on the Star Ferry! Maybe with Marc Jacobs. He's big round here!

Now, about the Star Ferry. Everyone in the fashion world knows that it is NOT the whole point, if you are a visitor to Hong Kong, to see the breathtaking vista of the urban skyline from aboard one of the original wooden decked boats. That is so yesterday... seeing the giant thrust of a city ascending the mountain into the clouds, all the lights reflecting in the historic harbour, and everyone expecting you to feel that moment of awe; your commanding vision combined with your knowledge of insignificance among the surge of the choppy waters.

But this is not the point at all if you are a six-foot tall modelly type with a trendy hair-do wearing Versace! The point is to spend the journey not looking once out the windows, but occupying all the ferry seats in a large noisy gaggle, elbowing everyone out the way, shouting a lot, and pouting at cameras for 2,365 shots of you aboard the iconic Star Ferry!

Ladies! You need to escape from all the nappies and kid crap to enjoy the celeb! life! and style! You can surely now come to grit's day! and lever me back on the buy-now-mummy blog list, the one where they tell you how to make a load of money from your blog with the nappy ad while promoting the topics that we all want to read about! SEX, FROCKS, CELEBS, and how celebs are getting it WRONG with their BABIES.

Ha! When I am back there, I will do the covert, undercover job I was doing last time!

(Spreading the message that education is more important than shoes.)

Friday, 20 January 2012

Celts in Hong Kong

The spelt flour breadmaking, torc crafting, and Roman thrashing on the Celtic day proceeded extremely well. Except travelling home on the underground. What with the outfits, I made the junior Celts sit a long way away from me.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Slowly I'm finding the virtue of ruthlessness

I don't know what shifty excuses, underhand activities or downright lies you use for the type of problem I have today, but I call it Oh My God the Travelling Aunty is coming to visit.

For a long time I have been respectful of the kid stuff that collects in all the corners, in the drawers, against the walls, over the beds, under the sofa, and on every surface their fingers can reach, but doesn't there come a point?

Round here, the point is, Remember she is a social worker. If she claps eyes on this lot, she'll be calling Childline.

But we have been here before, have we not, dearest readers? You know how clearing up kid crap is handled Grit style.

In the beginning it was all, Aw, I cannot throw out the little pink bead with the threaded wire! It is Squirrel's fairy handbag and I must treasure it forever!

You see? I was so sensitive and respectful of each precious item! Of course Squirrel didn't care about my soft-hearted sensitivities; she had already poured her devotions into 300 miniature paper scrolls describing unicorn laws.

I had to keep them, too.

When the clutter came up to my eyebrows, the need for survival kicked in. The clear out operation became Dig! Pssst! Get the kids out of here for the day and I can do away with their stuff! Even then I boxed up the precious items. I should have been stronger and told myself the peelings of child play were never a substitute for the real thing.

After that, Michelle came round with bin bags. Thank goodness! She saved me from almost complete submergence under a sea of stuff. Under her direction, nearly everything went. Except for those items I snatched from her indifferent hand; cherished items I had already invested with excess love. Like a slice of painted timber, and a hand-made fabric bird adorned with dollops of glitter glue.

Now, in a rented house with a Travelling Aunty soon landing - and no Michelle-type strong woman to lead me to clarity - I must find within myself the gifts of sightlessness and memory loss.

I have to forget these are the paper rooms for the happy match people, this is the cat toy for the hungry leopard, and this is dolly's diary where she writes her angry thoughts.

I must not pick them up, nor handle them, nor recall the play. I must lay down the law of cleanliness and godliness, tell the offspring to preserve only their best and finest, then send any squeamish onlookers out the house on an errand to buy consolation chocolate.

Once the run is free, I can sweep up the remainders, bag them and bin them and, on the way, remember to take a photograph of the paper beads hand-crafted for the disappointing party night.


Wednesday, 18 January 2012


I see Adrian Mole is in the news this week.

That reminded me. Locked away at home in a place we never look is a sealed box. It contains diaries. They're stowed away, safe from prying eyes of partner and children.

Sadly, they're not even mine. The box was dropped off, late at night, by a travelling friend. I'm under strict instructions never to peek. I took an oath. And I won't break it, I promise.

But I wondered, where would I squirrel away secret thoughts or confessions, away from the closest friends, or even from Planet Internet?

Friends have their limits of patience, and t'Internet is okay for shameful parenting and guilty late-night forums sneaking under the name Anonymous. But those are still rather practical places. People might try and help, and offer solutions. That's the last type of reaction I want.

A special book to capture a few of life's irresolvable dilemmas and a couple of enjoyable confessions would be ideal.

So I pretended I was aged fourteen again. I wanted a secret book. I hard-bound, stitched and glued a book in beige suede, and I didn't decorate it, not one bit.

I thought, I'll write some loves, lacks, desires and terrors, sealed inside the secret compartments, then I'll slip this unobtrusive volume quietly on the dustiest bookshelf back at home. It can sit, undisturbed by casually wandering fingers, between Sweet's Anglo Saxon Primer and An Introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics.

In years ahead, when my daughters are packing up their mother's books to donate them all to charity shops, and they discover this unmarked volume, then it would be worth my time, hanging around as a ghostly mist, just to watch the expressions on their faces.

Where would you keep your most secret thoughts? (I promise not to go looking.)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Get ready for the dragon

Did you people in England just make it through the most depressing day of the year?

Pop round here. In Hong Kong China, they're gearing up for the party.

(I can see happiness: drink tea, chuck a few lions about, blow things up.)

We'll aim to be there.

I'm more optimistic than last year, when I wasn't looking forward to the rabbit. Strange, because life is more unstable now. But I think there may be fiery breath ahead.