Monday, December 26, 2016

Aussie Christmas

Thursday night:  Somerville Auditorium, UWA (Open Air Cinema) to see the Spanish film Julieta, directed by Pedro Almodóvar.  Plenty of time beforehand for a picnic of sushi, sparkling wine and mango.

Friday lunchtime: Kailis in Leederville. Menu as follows:
Mezze Tasting Plate serving 2-3
Herb garlic & chilli crusted Scallops, Grilled Octopus ala grec, Crispy Whitebait, Mushroom & parmesan arancini
Marinated Fremantle sardines, charred ciabatta
Kids menu for E: squid and chips.

Saturday evening: JL in charge of the BBQ, cooking rack of lamb cutlets, courtesy of IOSA's meat trade clients. We had Aldi's Bubble and Squeak Pattis and broccoli on the side. Rubbish on TV, including a repeat repeat of Midsomer Murders.

Christmas Day: lunch at Geoffrey's. Ben and Tim had been out for days (early in the morning before work) pulling up their cray pots. Catch of 50 in the freezer! They were delicious! Glazed ham and Scutti's salads for main. C contributed a roasted garlic and goats cheese quiche. For dessert, S had made the traditional pavlova while JL had produced a large fruit salad. Between courses, some of us had a swim in the pool. E stayed in the water for 2 hours. In the evening, enjoyed Andre Rieu's concert, Christmas in London; but why were so many people in the audience crying?

JL enjoying a beer at Kailis

Ellie"s squid and chips

Kailis Mezze Entree

Enjoying the ambience at Kailis

Ellie's Christmas craftwork: a 2-storey house for her toy elephants

Crayfish on the BBQ

Crayfish on the table

Christmas lunch

Millie skydiving above Rottnest: Christmas present from her Dad

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Next door

Crown Towers

We've watched this being built on our left for the past couple of years.  Now its finished and opens this week. Fortunately it doesn't really obstruct our view  and they have done a wonderful job landscaping the grounds. On their video, you can see our apartment block to the far left of the aerial photo.

Photo taken from our balcony at 7.30 pm this evening, showing the city on the right and Crown Towers on the left.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Even bigger families (Ann's 90th)

A great evening was enjoyed by all at the Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, celebrating the 90th birthday of JL's sister. She has 3 sons, 9 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren; babies not invited to the party though!

Arriving  (Disey's photo)

View over Freshwater Bay

John enjoying a drink on the breezy terrace

Brother and sister
John and Shelley

Ann with her cake

Ann with her 9 grandchildren
Guests enjoying their dinner

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Big families

Gang of pelicans near the new stadium building

Q: What on earth is going on behind us? We used to have peace and quiet here!
A:  It's a white elephant. Why don't they spend the money on schools, hospitals and bird sanctuaries?

It's normally very difficult to see baby pelicans, but there may be some young ones in this group

A family of about 12 ducklings. They are huddling together here to keep warm in the cold wind
 near the river. The father stands on guard against potential predators, especially dogs.

We attended the annual Kimberley Society Lecture this week:

The lecture described several techniques which are being developed by different research teams. Previously the only techniques had been used in France, a predominantly limestone area, whereas in the Kimberley the paintings are on sandstone.

The Drysdale river is derived from erosion upstream. Erosion rates are very low. So many paintings just fall off. (1 mm per 1000 years in some places). But there are higher erosion rates in higher escarpments. In rock shelters, where paintings occur, slabs of rock fall off and can be dated before and after the fall.

Mud wasp nests and remnants can be dated from all the organic materials they contain.

Mineral accretions on rocks have quite a complicated composition. When next to a piece of art, the pigment is bleached in banded fringes. Samples of accretions can be scraped off and taken back to the lab for testing and dating.

Using all these various techniques, accurate dating goes slowly, but rock art going back to 20,000 years has been definitely established.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Shopping in Jinli Street, Chengdu

The following photos were taken on the afternoon of 19 September, when we were taken for a stroll down Jinli Street in Chengdu. I had to use my back-up camera, as my iPhone was full. I think they are slightly better quality, though.

Margaret chooses a calligraphy brush

Tea shop


Sunday, October 16, 2016

How the West got China Wrong

On our last morning in HK, I was having breakfast in the hotel when I noticed a man nearby reading this article in the South China Morning Post. I found it very illuminating and emailed the author, Stein Ringen at Oxford, to ask him for a copy:


The western misunderstanding of Communist China has been called “the liberal myth.” With our mindset and experience, it is almost impossible to grasp that a country can fail to open up politically when it opens up economically. “The more we bring China into the world,” said then President Bill Clinton, “the more the world will bring freedom to China.” We have thought that the new middle class would make itself a force for liberalization. But in the socialist market economy, it has instead aligned itself with the Communist Party. We have thought that the internet would forge opening up from below. But behind the Great Firewall, it has instead become another instrument of control from above. Liberalisation has not happened, but we cling to the belief that it will. When Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, it was thought, with no evidence whatsoever, that the time had come for a new leadership of reform. What has followed is ever tighter dictatorship.
The Chinese model is entirely unique, like nothing the world has ever known. We simply get it wrong if we try to squeeze it into our own models. It needs to be understood on its own terms.
For those who deal with China from outside, there is a huge temptation to see it in a good light. It is a big power and economy with which we must get along. It is an ancient oriental culture which attracts interest and fascination. The west is bedazzled by China’s mysticism and bigness. Henry Kissinger, for example (in On China), pays Beijing tribute with his romantic notion of the “civilization state.” The academic literature on China is generally critical, but even much of that criticism conforms in its way with the liberal myth. We observe the absence of rule of law, but take that to be a pathology in a regime that could do better. We observe the censorship, the propaganda, the “thought-work,” and the thuggish “stability maintenance” and criticize the regime for its excesses.
The abuse of the law and the courts and the brutal clampdown on any form of active opposition are, however, not “mistakes” on the part of a confused regime. These practices are logical and necessary, given the regime as it is.
In the Chinese party-state, there is a single supreme determination that trumps all others: stability, meaning the regime’s perpetuation of itself. The post-Mao rulers have had two strategies of self-preservation: the purchase of legitimacy and the exercise of control. During the last decades of rapid economic growth, they could rely on being rewarded for economic betterment. But mega-growth is now over and people’s expectations are outrunning government delivery. The leaders are therefore shifting to relying more on controls. Behind Xi Jinping’s tightening of dictatorship lies a steely analysis of what is needed to avoid the disintegration that has befallen previous Leninist systems, primarily the Soviet Union.
A dispassionate analysis of today’s Chinese system is unavoidably despondent. Not much, if anything, can be expected of reform for the better from within. Dictatorship is here to stay.
However, the model is still, to some degree, in the balance, if only between harder and softer dictatorship. That difference matters enormously for the Chinese people and for the world.
The current leader is flirting with a new ideology of nationalism and chauvinism under his slogan of the “China Dream.” Ideologies are always dangerous and their force should never be underestimated. If the new ideology were to take hold, Xi could abandon all of the pragmatic legacy after Deng Xiaoping and embrace all-out totalitarianism, now of nationalistic rather than Marxist inspiration.
Our misunderstanding of China leads us to confusion in our dealing with the new superpower, as recently for example in Britain’s failed attempt to make itself China’s best friend in Europe. The truth is that we must continue to do business with a regime that is and will remain repugnant. It is safer to do that with open eyes than by pretending that hard dictatorship is benevolent autocracy. It is more productive to be straight with a Chinese leadership that does not believe flattery.
The outside world has very little sway over developments in China. But we do have one lever that could give us some influence to possibly hold China to at least pragmatic dictatorship. The leaders are not content with power but desperate for respect. It is in our gift to award or withhold respect. That influence cannot change China for the better, but it might do something to prevent it from getting worse.
To use this lever to effect we should stand firm on our own values and principles and claim democracy’s moral high ground. We should then engage with China on all levels, economically and politically as well as in science and culture and in other ways. By engagement, China binds itself to international rules and commitments.
We, our leaders that is, should speak out in clear language against China’s breach of human rights and rule of law. That should always be done with reference to China’s own constitution and laws, which are in these respects sound (if ineffective). And we should speak out in clear language against China’s policies of aggression. That should always be done with reference to international law.
The Chinese leaders want respect because they need respect abroad for legitimacy at home. We should let them know that if they want our respect, they must respect their own people and other nations.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hong Kong

(Written on 1st October)

Today is the 67th anniversary of People's Republic  of China, i.e. its National Day, when vast numbers of Chinese flood into HK to see the fireworks. These start at 9.00 p.m. across the harbour. I will not be going, but Val  is tempted. 

Millions of Filipino maids were milling around Central on their day off!  Some were sitting on collapsed cardboard boxes playing cards for money, others were packing up goods to send home and others were piling onto buses to go for a picnic on the beach. We took a bus to Stanley Markets and our bus was 90% Filipinos, all making a terrible din as they shouted at one another to be heard.

The bus route was quite scenic along the waters edge, past Repulse Bay and expensive high rise hotels and apartments. It was hot and humid inside the markets. The only nice things I saw were beautifully made linen clothes in extremely fine linen material, said to be made in Belgium. I later discovered they have their own website and mail order service at Vivid Linen.

HK is an example of urbanisation and consumerism gone mad. The crowds everywhere are horrendous and wearing, especially in the unaccustomed heat and humidity. But our Holiday Inn Executive Lounge is an area of tranquility. Every evening there are free drinks (just had 2 glasses of champagne) as well as lots of delicious nibbles which can replace dinner.

Our two tailors in HK, Joseph and Bowen. Val's family are longstanding customers and they took us out to lunch.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Last day in China

Last day in China

Val and I were up early to go down for a swim before breakfast. The pool was a popular venue for ladies of our age, but they soon cleared out to raid the breakfast bars. These offered more choice than I'd seen for a long time. I settled for porridge with banana and passion fruit, followed by scrambled egg and toast. There were many more Chinese dishes available.

We checked out of our hotel at 10 a.m.  The foyer was enormous but had no seats. Wave after wave of Chinese tour groups were also leaving and it was bedlam!

We spent the morning in the centre of Guilin, firstly at Fubo Park where I had my photo taken with General Fubo. Afterwards we strolled through a pedestrian street with its reconstructed ancient buildings, very tastefully done. Two newly-weds in matching red outfits were having their photos taken. We also came across 4 attractive girls in uniform who were apparently university students doing compulsory military training.

After lunch in town, it was time for a 40min drive to the airport for our 16.30 flight to HK. Val has booked us into the Holiday Inn in Kowloon for 3 nights.

With General Fubo in the park.

Wedding photo.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


On our agenda today was a visit to the Longsheng Rice Terraces, a 2 hour drive into the country, the last half hour up a very winding road with a nail biting steep drop on one side. C would be sick after 2 mins!  Our driver was expert, though the vehicle could use extra power. He relied on mirrors positioned on the roadside at the worst hairpin bends as well as tooting the horn to warn oncoming vehicles.

Then we walked up a country road through the rice terraces, with magnificent views looking down. The terraces are beautiful: the ones looking south have rice just about ready, the ones looking north still green: row after row as far as the eye can see. There were a few other crops such as sweet potatoes, green beans, ginger, tarot; in the village many hens and duc
ks in the ditches between the houses. They seemed to be pretty self sufficient.

Photo at the airport, showing the rice terraces flooded in spring ready for planting.

Local women selling vegetables


Our guide at the village entrance.

Longhi Zhuang Ecomuseum Exhibit Centre

This was an excellent museum of Zhuang minority life. It was in a traditional village in middle of the rice terraces. We had lunch in the village. The tea, served first, was ultra sweet. The highlight of the meal, though, was sticky rice baked in bamboo.

Rice baked in bamboo.

Traditional cooking and eating set up in the museum.

Embroidered flax backpack.

Snake in the grass on the way down.