Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hong Kong

It is over two weeks since I returned from Hong Kong, one of my favourite cities. Hong Kong always feels to me to be quite a homely place. There are reminders of Britain at every corner whether it is just driving on the left, the electric plugs they use or the names of the streets. That said Hong Kong is also a Chinese city and developing ever closer links with its ruler, the People's Republic of China. Therefore Hong Kong is a unique blend of British, Chinese and a number of other influences too. Below are a collection of photos from my latest visit. I hope they give a flavour of the place and its variety.

A shopping centre at Causeway Bay.

Shoppers, office workers, tourists and others all mingle near Central District.

Shoppers prepare to cross the road on a rainy evening in Causeway Bay.

Another working day in Central, the Business District.

Temple in the mist, on Lantau island near to a giant statue of the Bhudda

Overlooking Hong Kong Park towards the "Mid-Levels" residential district

Sky-scrapers loom over Hong Kong Park- I won't mention the small advert at the top of one of them !

The IFC (International Financial Centre) tower disappears into the clouds.

A busy Sunday in Central. Many of those crossing are Phillipino workers or others from South East Asia enjoying their one day off each week. The streets are clogged on Sundays with such workers having picnics on the pavements.

Taxis pull into Stanley Market, on the south of Hong Kong island.

Boats off Stanley.

A shopping trolley is pushed past a temple in Stanley.

Work underway to extend Hong Kong island further into the harbour. At this rate it will soon link with the mainland side (Kowloon).

"Revellers" drinking after work in Lan Kwai Fong, Central.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Jade's Reality

In the time that my blog was effectively dormant for most of the year to date, one tabloid story spread into the broadsheets, the BBC and no one in Britain could have missed it.

That "story" was the couragious fight by Jade Goody against cancer, a fight she lost last Sunday.

It is a healthy thing to be proved wrong from time to time but I found myself both surprised and in a strange way delighted that I have been proved so wrong about Jade Goody.

In a time that feels almost a lifetime ago but is in fact only just over two years ago, Jade Goody became something of a hate figure in Britain. It is with no particuclar pride that I remind myself that I got caught up in watching the circus that is "Celebrity Big Brother" and wasted more thana few posts on the show that proved so unexpectedly entertaining.

My "excuse" for watching was a sense of nostalgia that Dirk Benedict of the A-Team was appearing. The A-Team was a firm favourite when I was a boy. However Dirk Benedict became a supporting actor in the story that was a battle between Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty.

For flimsy reasons Jade was accused of racism. At the time Jade seemed an easy pantomime villain to the princess -ike Shilpa.

When Jade left the Big Brother House in 2007 her "career" as a celebrity seemed finished. However time, a raprochment between Jade and Shilpa combined with a refusal to be beaten by Jade meant she was back on the road to her brand of stardom before too long.

Then one day last summer she was diagnosed with cancer and her chances of survival gradually fell with each passing day. When her disease became "terminal" Jade got married to her boyfriend, also a contestant on Big Brother. The ceremony was performed by a priest who lives in South East London. Days from death she got her two sons christened along with her.

Throughout her entire battle Jade seemed to show a tremendous courage that many of us can only stand back and admire while at the same time doubting that we would exhibit such behaviour if we faced Jade's circumstances.

Jade Goody who became known through "reality TV" did more than anyone to expose how unreal the Big Brother house is. No one faces reality in the Big Brother House. When reality comes knocking the people have to leave there. Jade however did face a very powerful and dreadful reality and behaved heroicially.

She left behind the trivia and nonsense of celebrity news and in a real way faced the frontier between life and death. In facing this she seemed to have made her own conclusions about eternity and wanted to do what was best for her sons, her husband and herself.

If facing certain death is a test of character, which it must surely be, then Jade passed with flying colours. She died an inspiration.

She died ensuring her sons will never know material poverty and she did her best to ensure that they will have spiritual wisdom too.

You can sometimes be really wrong about someone. In some cases it is refreshing to be reminded about how wrong you really were. Heroes and heroines sometimes spring from the most unlikely places. Jade Goody died aged 27 as a heroine and an inspiration.

The great Daniel Hannan

Thank you to my blogging friend Joanie, who brought this speech to my attention from the other side of the Atlantic. Maybe a case of a prophet being without honour in his own country.....

I have heard Daniel Hannan speak in the past in Kent and he is a rare breed, someone unafraid to take a lonely path or court controversey in pursuit of what he believes in.

He has really become the man of the hour at a time when Britain seems to be becoming buried in its own debt. Daniel Hannan has undoubted gifts as an orator and he offers hope of a challenge to the status quo. If only he could assume a greater role in his party.

He is great in this speech and it is no surprise it has become a youtube hit with over a million views (comparing very favourably to the usual number of views his speeches get as a Conservative MEP for South East England !) . I encourage anyone who has not seen it, to watch it. It is in the European Parliament and Gordon Brown, despite only being shown once, is present and is the intended audience !

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Preparing for lockdown

Apologies for the long absence from here. I have been travelling on a rather long journey which was work related and took me from London to Hong Kong, to Shanghai then back to Hong Kong, back to London and out to Dubai and then finally to Abu Dhabi.

Three weeks were spent in a collection of taxis, planes, trains, hotels and offices. It was rather fun although I am not sure my wife would agree. ! I also learned that jetlag, in the broadest and least defined sense of the word, can be a scary thing that can suddenly catch up with you despite the best of intentions to the contrary.

Anyway I am now back in a London that has struggled to Springtime only to fall back to its wintery ways now that the clocks are about to go forward to summertime.

London is preparing for the G20 next week but more so it is preparing for protests. The protests are expected to focus on the City of London, the financial heart with the Bank of England at its centre. The "day of rage" is said to be Wednesday, April 1st or April Fools Day.

Maybe it is all going to turn out to be an April Fool. Britain has a long history of failed revolution after being one of the first countries to experience real revolution. It is so conservative at its core that it even after beheading its King, it is the nation that brought back its monachy.

After Karl Marx published the communist manifesto in London in 1848, the Chartist movement rallied and fear stalked the city that revolution was about to come to Britain. In actual fact the numbers of people who had joined up as special constables dwarfed the numbers who had come for revolution.

I suspect this April Fools Day will follow the same trend. Some of the protestors plan to storm banks and city institutions. However every office is now making plans similar to those being made in my office. It is officially "business as normal" but everyone is being instructed to come in dressed casually to avoid the small minority who want to "burn a banker".

It is difficult to imagine real political violence being turned on City workers. However in a time when the windows of former bank bosses are generally seen as fair game, no one can rule out that an extreme few will "push the envelope" out to doing something more radical.

A legion of private security guards is being hired to supplement the police. The battlelines on Wednesday are expected to be drawn first at the City railway stations- Moorgate, Liverpool Street, Cannon Street and London Bridge.

Whether self-conscious jean-wearing City workers will have to run a gauntlet of street fighting anarchists remains to be seen. I think it will be relatively peaceful although somewhere in the City the mandatory Starbucks looting will probably occur. Looting of a Starbucks seems a "tick the box" on all political protests these days. Rather bizarrely a Starbucks near the Israeli Embassy was looted when the protestors couldn't reach the Embassy during the last Gaza conflict.

My office has a group of ex-Ghurkhas acting as security guards so I suspect we stand a good chance of riding things out.

Nonetheless next week looks set to be quite a memorable week for London and the G20 and the travelling roadshow of protestors come to town.