Monday, December 31, 2012

Still Ending

We complete our year surrounded by cats and children though not necessarily in that order. The children are, for the most part, of the very small and demanding variety. A useful reminder that whatever you thought of as really important pales into insignificance at the side of their intense, all-encompassing concerns.

Just completed the maghrib prayer with a cat in attendance. A first for me, and a bit distracting. Not sure of the protocol, so I just got on with things and pretended it was business as usual. The protocol on children being around when you pray is very straightforward: you let them do what they please, even if it involves crawling all over you. A wonderfully sane way to approach the solemnity of devotion, I've always thought.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

An End Of Things

In the second half of the year I've had occasion more than once to reflect on the melancholy fact that I'm now older than Dad was when he died. The strangeness of existence seems to be rendered even stranger as a result.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

On The Cliffs

Felt rather pleased with myself for finishing W.S. Merwin's The Folding Cliffs whilst we were in Australia, though I also felt a bit silly about having taken so long to read it. I have it on a list of must-read material from May 2009 to give you some idea of just how long it's taken me. I think I made at least three false starts on it since then. Part of the feeling of silliness relates to the fact that once you get to the fourth of its seven segments the story becomes very easy indeed to follow and you are left wondering what was so difficult in the first place. Indeed, at times the poem is a model of simplicity in its language and even at the beginning the lack of punctuation was never a hindrance to figuring out sentence structure. In places there are many entirely monosyllabic lines, utilising direct, concrete vocabulary - this is, I suppose, the predominant mode of the poem.

So why the difficulty? I suppose the sense of obscurity at the beginning comes from being plunged into quite an alien world at the back-end of the main narrative strand. You are given a sense of important events having already taken place but can't quite make out the shape of these. It's the odd overall structure adopted by Merwin that creates the problem; the narrative, clear as it eventually is, just doesn't follow accepted structural conventions.

As to why Merwin does this, I'd hazard a guess that he is very much concerned with drawing the reader into the world of the indigenous Hawaiians and making the reader work at grasping the basics of the narrative is important to our surrendering to the world view that comes along with their way of life. It certainly worked in my case, eventually.

Curiously it seemed appropriate to read most of the poem in Australia with its occasional reminders of a displaced, marginalised native people. It was a reminder of the huge importance of the lives of those on the losing end of history and the price they paid for that which worked to the benefit of the world I come from.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Moving Pictures

Watched yet another film on the way back from Australia, meaning I've achieved record numbers of movies actually viewed from start to finish this year. In this case it was pure fluff, some silly stuff about extremely cool bicycle dispatch riders in New York (I think.) If I remember rightly it was called Premium Rush and featured the very engaging Joseph Gordon-Levitt (hope I've got the name right - he used to play Tommy in the brilliant Third Rock From The Sun.) I can't say I would have gone to the cinema to watch it, but it helped pass the time painlessly.

And then today two colleagues, on separate occasions, gave glowing accounts of The Life of Pi, which I must say I quite fancied anyway given how enjoyable the novel was. So it looks like I might just make the effort to catch this on the big screen, though I can't honestly say that 3D does anything for me, except make me feel slightly nauseous. This is in addition to very positive feedback on the movie of Les Miserables (which made Paul's good lady reach for the tissues) and my hankering for Lincoln, based on the reviews and Daniel Day-Lewis chewing the scenery, and the inevitability of a trip to The Hobbit. It must be years since I had four films that I really quite fancied seeing. The problem is, of course, finding time to do the necessary viewing in my time-starved existence, especially when nothing good ever lasts very long at the cinema here. Lincoln might not make it at all.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


I've just been downloading a whole lot of photos from our recent jaunt Down Under, from the rather tasty camera of niece Ayu, who is still with us here until we return her to her family at the weekend. There are those sniffy people who argue that when folks are busy taking pictures they are missing the actual experiences they should really be focusing on (pun intended.) Like many clever arguments this sounds sort of plausible, but is essentially silly. You don't have to observe the rituals of photo-taking long to realise how it adds to the intensity of the experience being undertaken to eventually allow it to be relived in tranquillity. Pictures are a wonderful aid to recollection - something my wife has taught me, over the years. Looking at Ayu's photos, the majority of which celebrate the antics of herself and her cousins, the sheer exuberant fun of being young teenagers comes almost exhaustingly to life in a way that I can only think of as precious.

And something else Noi captured for me today. She was remarking on the friendly helpfulness we'd experienced on our trip from so many Aussies. This was summed up by one particular lady who was driving the free shuttle bus we took to get around the centre of Melbourne on our first day there. Her commentary on the journey was incredibly detailed and useful. She sounded as if she really enjoyed her work - quite a feat for someone who was plying the same route day after day. She actually held up the bus for us before we alighted, obviously recognising our indecision with regard to what we were going to do and quite happy to let us hold her up.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Matters Musical

One of the several joys of being in Melbourne at this time has been the relative lack of cheesy Xmas music in the air. Prowling the city today - a remarkably easy thing to do as all public transport was free - we heard hardly any such music despite spending at least a little time in those shops and hostelries which had remained open on the day in question. This is not to say that I dislike the proper music of the season: give me a Sally Army band playing carols, or Bach's Christmas Oratorio, and my eyes have been known to go a bit watery; and I still remember being taught to sing Hark the herald angels sing in junior school and thinking it the most joyous melody possible, an opinion that time has not severely altered - except when said melody is degraded into muzak. But let the bells ring out for Christmas in every store you visit in December (and November these days) and I rapidly suffer a sickening surfeit.

Another musically related pleasure of the trip has been taking note of Fifi's development of something approaching real taste in what she listens to. We found an excellent CD store on Elizabeth Road on our first full day here and I was more than pleased to buy for her Muse's The 2nd Law, having happily realised she'd been listening to them on the plane over to Tasmania. She was also keen on an album called Conditions by a  band called The Temper Trap. It turned out to be very listenable also - as well as having a rather nice connection to Melbourne, whence one of the  leading lights hails.

There was a refreshingly diverse range of CDs on offer in the store and I could have bought quite a few more than I did, but was cognisant of baggage restrictions and the need not to be unduly greedy. So I settled for: Dylan's Nashville Skyline (never owned a copy) and The Bootleg Series Volumes 1 - 3 (only got on a crappy cassette from Indonesia); The Duke by Joe Jackson (a purchase partly inspired by hearing Jackson's Is She Really Going Out With Him? in a shop in Tasmania and being reminded of what a great tune that was); Gentle Giant's live album Playing The Fool; The Who By Numbers (don't understand why I've never owned this); and Caravan's In the Land of Grey and Pink.

So we've had some groovy sounds playing in the apartment here, all told. Unfortunately, Fafa's taste in music remains understandably primitive, her CD of choice being from some chaps known as One Direction. Ahem.

Monday, December 24, 2012

On The Beach

A bit of a first this Christmas Eve: at least 40 minutes spent on the beach, in this case at St Kilda, near the little fun-park. A bit windy, with the sand blowing all over the place. Not a reindeer in sight.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Waxing Poetic

Found myself reading Sketches by Boz, in one of those very old little hardbacks that Collins used to publish, in the middle of Melbourne as the crowds completing Christmas shopping ebbed and flowed around me (I was sitting on a bench), Noi and the girls having gone off to do some serious shopping of their own. I got my edition second hand  for 30p some time in the last century, but never read it cover to cover, just dipping in at random really. I'm now going through it sequentially, as I've been doing with the various poetry collections on my shelves. Actually it's a bit of a substitute for not having any of the Inimitable's novels to read - having read them all. It's fairly obviously apprentice work with none of the hallucinatory drive of the great fiction, but any Dickens is good Dickens in my estimation (except for the bad Dickens, of which there's a bit somewhere in everything he wrote - even Dorrit, I'm afraid.)

It was interesting trying to sustain images of Dickens's London in the sweltering heat of the distinctly multi-racial Melbourne - in fact, in some ways it was surprisingly easy to do so as one sort of foreignness seemed to make another imaginable.

But this is all a bit off the point, for it was my intention to make note of how much the reading of poetry has dominated this trip for me - when I have been able to get any reading done, that is. The big book has been Merwin's narrative poem The Folding Cliffs which, as I have had occasion to mention in this Place previously more than once, had proved to be seemingly beyond my powers to make any real progress in. I am happy to say I've now got halfway through the sixth of its seven sections and I should finish the whole thing before we leave Australia. I'm also happy to say that this is a truly great piece of writing, proof that sometimes what may seem obscurity for obscurity's sake can be more than worth the demands it makes. More of this when I've got more time.

Oh, and I've also been dipping into Paul Muldoon's Maggot (in sequence, mind you), which might also be accused of a certain wilful obscurity but which, again, offers rewards when you persevere. And that was true of Jo Shapcott's Of Mutability which I finished when I was in KL. Except you don't really finish these kinds of collections because you know you're never really getting the richest possible experience of every poem when focused re-reading will open up further connections, understandings, possibilities.

And now a random apology for yesterday's rather bitchy comments on our current city of residence: the centre of Melbourne is, as cities go, a decent sort of place. It's not Paris, true, but it's several steps up on Manchester. It's the south bank of the Yarra, where we are situated and the big new developments are taking place that the bleakness lies. Follow the money, as they say.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Under Construction

In Tasmania both Noi and I commented at different times on the pleasant lack of building sites. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of houses we saw either being built or renovated. In contrast, arriving at Southern Cross off the bus from the airport here in Melbourne we were confronted by a substantial area under construction. And now looking down from the windows of our very pleasant apartment we are witness to another one.

I'm afraid I have to say it: Melbourne, or at least the bit we are in, is an impressively ugly city. Or possibly, it's simply that arriving from a place that has been built on a human scale, the New Brutality of the modern city is more apparent than usual. I suppose we'll get used to it again.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Still Chilling

It was very cold up Mount Wellington this morning despite it being a hot day in Hobart. But this didn't deter the Missus and various accomplices from having a thoroughly good time at the pinnacle. Splendid photo opportunities are not to be sniffed at, no matter what the temperature.

Next stop Melbourne. Now packing in a relaxed sort of fashion.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


It's Summer here, I'm told, but the weather is more reminiscent of a cool English Spring. This may have contributed to the runny nose from which I've been suffering for the last four days. Despite the chill I'm applying strong sun block every day, though. When the sun comes out it's fierce and I know I'd burn without protection.

Years ago, as a child, the application of what we called sun tan lotion was something of an ordeal. The stuff was essentially liquid, took forever to soak in, smelt strongly, and got all over your clothes. The stuff I'm applying now goes on easily, seems to disappear in a couple of minutes and leaves clothes untouched. Of course, the ordeal of the past was part of summer and something I now miss, in a sense - but a very limited sense indeed.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Small World

We're now in Hobart having travelled from Launceston via Strahan on the west coast over the last couple of days. I've had one or two Wordsworthian moments in the process, especially at Cradle Mountain. We didn't actually climb it, but just looking up from Lake Dove was enough. The problem with such moments is that you can't be sure they're your own rather than Wordsworth's, of course.

There are a lot of dead trees here, one of the features that reminds you you're not traversing an English landscape. I think they are the product of bush fires. Remarkably a fair number might look dead but seem to be showing signs of growth, sprouting bits of green in unlikely places.

No stone cottages or thatched roofs here. Most roofs seem to be made of some kind of corrugated metal but manage to look quite attractive despite this. In fact, generally the houses are highly attractive: the vast majority just comprise a single storey, many are wood-clad and are small and tidy, just as Dickens liked his women to be. (Small and tidy, not clad with wood.) I think he would have approved.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Kids' Stuff

We are having no problems at all keeping the troops amused over here in the land of Oz. Tasmania is distinctly kid-friendly in terms of its tourist attractions. Or perhaps I should more accurately say teenager-friendly now that most of the troops have achieved a certain level of seniority. In fact, our team is now strikingly independent and sometimes more obviously worldly-wise than either Noi or myself. It's certainly not my good offices that mean we get on-line here, except for the attendant opening of the wallet.

Today we found out pretty much everything lavender oil can be used for on a visit to a lavender farm. I never knew such places existed, but if they're all as easy on the eye as this one then they must be a good thing. Can't say I think much of lavender tea though. Then it was on to Cataract Gorge for more dazzling scenery. And finally fish and chips on the sea front, whilst admiring the boats in the harbour. Mind you nothing yet has been quite as good as Tasmazia, a very funky spot we visited on our first day. It's a complex of hedge mazes in the middle of nowhere (of which there's quite an abundance here), one based on the Hampton Court maze, and home to a miniature village named Lower Crackpot. It sounds whimsical in the worst way but turned out to be genuinely charming, eccentric, original and quirky. Above all, astonishingly non-corporate: proof that humour and tourism can mix.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Big Country

A day spent plucking strawberries is a day that can never be considered wasted. And when you've driven through the most beautiful countryside to get there you can double that sentiment. Tasmania's landscape seems uncannily English at times, but subtly different in ways that are definite but difficult to pin down. More roadkill for instance.

Lots of big people here, and I don't really mean that in a good way. Sometimes too much of the good life can be more than enough.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Safe Place

We were a small part of the celebration today for Sharifah and Hamza's daughter's graduation from her Masters course here in Launceston. On such an occasion, in the midst of lots of highly promising young people taking pause before plunging into futures that one prays will see the fruition of that promise, it was difficult to feel anything other than gently optimistic.

And then home to news of the killing of twenty children at their primary school in the States on a routine Friday morning, just days before the excitement of Christmas for them. The Australian commentators to a man, and woman, expressed bewilderment at the easy availability of guns in that benighted nation and wondered whether this appalling massacre would be the one to change things. With pessimistic confidence I'm afraid I'd have to say it won't.

It seems to me that our first and most important duty is to try and provide a world in which we can keep things ordinary enough for ordinary happiness to manifest itself in.

Friday, December 14, 2012

From Down Under

Now happily resident in Tasmania, the very pleasant town of Launceston actually. Birdsong plentiful. Noi drinking Coke Light on the balcony, the variety that comes without caffeine. Why is this unavailable in Singapore and Malaysia one wonders, though not particularly deeply. The girls downloading various pictures of the day's adventures onto various of the devices now so necessary to our lives.

Viewed two films, and stayed awake through both, on the flight over - a record for me. Felt conflicted as I watched The Queen with regard to exactly how much I despise the royal family: with rabid intensity, or just a lot. Was possibly even more firmly republican by the end than when I started, though I assume the film-makers were not counting on such an effect. Felt less conflicted when watching Good Night and Good Luck about the American reporter Ed Murrow and his stand against the egregious Joseph McCarthy, just saddened with regard to the accuracy of the critique of the influence of commercial considerations upon broadcast journalism.

Reading a lot of poetry here. It goes well with our surroundings. Have not read a newspaper for days.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Painful Viewing

When I really should have been organising myself for our trip to the land down under I found myself watching the excellent Inside Job, a documentary narrated by Matt Damon on the culpability of the various players in the financial collapse of 2008. Nothing terribly new here, but it was fun and darkly illuminating to be reminded of the appalling greed and hubris of the brightest and best that America has to offer. Mind you, I must admit to being a little surprised by the complete lack of any accountability regarding conflicts of interest of various academics being paid big bucks by the major financial institutions. There's a lovely moment when some bigwig economic chap from Columbia realises to his horror that he's backing himself into an impossible corner regarding his connections with big business. The rather thin sheen of charm and reasonableness suddenly gets pushed aside and for a moment you see the twerp as he really is. Instructive. I wonder what his students think of him?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Simply Checking In

Have just spent over an hour attempting an on-line check-in with Qantas. Why so long? Their system refuses to accept any of the versions I have come up for the names of my good wife and three nieces. It has no problem with my name, which is a simple 'western' name. However, the other four names I need to key in for simple verification are Malay names which, in case you didn't know, don't follow the formula of 'given name - middle name - family name' quite so straightforwardly. Clearly somehow or other this has escaped the attention of the airline since this the only formula their website will allow.

Wouldn't you think that someone employed by an airline that obviously is highly likely to carry lots of passengers with different ways of forming their names would have had the wit to devise a system that allows a variety of ways of keying-in a name so as to represent the actual names of their passengers correctly?

Monday, December 10, 2012

On Edge

One of the penalties inherent in supporting the greatest football team in the world is that part of that greatness involves said team never doing anything easily. This has been demonstrated time and again this season and, of course, was always going to be a feature of our visit to the noisy neighbours.

I wasn't at all sure I was going to get to see any of the game as we on our way back to the Hall from Melaka at the appointed time, yesterday evening. In fact, I thought the game would be over by the time we got back. So it was with some little delight that I realised I was in time for the second half and we were already two up. And how that delight threatened to blossom further when Young netted again after RVP had hit the post! But as soon as the ref disallowed a perfectly good goal, the sense that it wasn't going to be that easy inevitably blossomed, confirmed doomily just moments later by City's first goal.

About five minutes later I was eerily reminded of the events of the last game(s) of last season when my Mio television service decided not to provide further service - despite the extortionate amount I have to pay for it. All I could do was turn to Sky News, on my Starhub service which doesn't freeze, but hasn't got the rights to the football, to get very sporadic updates to let me know we were still 2 - 1 up to the point that I couldn't take the pressure anymore and switched to the Malay channel so the Missus could watch something and I could pretend I really didn't care all that much about the result.

Once I judged it was all over I toddled off to the computer to check the final score, only to discover that was so bombarded by traffic at that point that the page took forever to load. Once I was able to view the result the sense of relief was powerful, along with the sensation that I had probably gained a fair number of additional grey hairs as a result of the experience of (not) watching the game.

Even viewing the replay today put me on edge, the final conclusive goal seeming quite unlikely given the run of play at that late stage of the game. Football, bloody hell, eh, as a wise manager once summed it all up.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Taking Note

By accident have read Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man again over the last couple of days. Originally I'd intended merely to check some of the notes in the edition we're using next year to teach the novel. I don't think I've ever read an edition before with notes - my most recent readings have been from the old Penguin Portable Joyce edited by Harry Levin - and whilst I don't think they are all that necessary for getting the gist of the text, they did add something to the texture of the novel for me. But the truth is that it doesn't take much to seduce me into any reading of the greatest of the Moderns, and I was more than happy to go from beginning to end.

I always seem to see something new when reading Portrait. This time round Stephen's observation of the birds flying in Chapter 5 and his semi-comic attempts to divine his future from them jumped out at me as it has never done before - especially his sense of uncertainty about that future. In fact, amongst the various 'nets' that Joyce (or Stephen, I suppose) avoids we might add a false sense of closure. Young men are notoriously unfinished, and this one had yet to meet his Nora and bloom.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cleaning House

Our KL house is getting the finishing touches of its latest clean-up, with my redoubtable Missus leading the way, as is always the case - though I've contributed something to the operation, largely in the form of dealing with the books and various other small items. We're off south to Mak's house in a little while, though we'll be stopping off for Noi to get her feet 'scrubbed', a curious operation undertaken by her at an establishment at Times Square for reasons that, whilst probably perfectly valid, escape me.

Actually we've spent the year considering the need to fix or replace a good deal of the woodwork here, repaint the house, and re-lay the car porch. The house still looks good after some ten years of operation in its present incarnation, but it won't stay this way too much longer without a firm helping hand. The problem has been making time to see to all this. In fact, we've 'lived' here for less time this year than any previous, and our forthcoming trip to Australia will take us away at the time we would normally be in residence for the longest period.

I have a sense that we'll need to right the balance next year. I miss the birdsong.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Still on the subject of The Solitude of Prime Numbers and its main characters, part of the undoubted power and drive of the novel lies in its recognition of how easily people can be damaged. I suppose the obvious example is Mattio's twin sister who is literally retarded, but it's difficult to think of a single character depicted by Giordano who is recognisably normal. Even Fabio, initially presented as a rather suave, self-assured doctor seems to have some kind of odd need for Alice, who is clearly not an attractive young lady in the usual sense. The writer is particularly good at conveying how uneasy so many of his characters are in their own bodies - a defining trait of adolescence, well, for geeks like me at least. 

In this respect the book seems to me to deal with an essential truth: people really are not normal. But in its intensity of vision I think it fails to recognise another truth: most people are very good at pretending to be normal, and somehow that's how most of us get through the day. In this respect humour helps enormously, and in retrospect I realise there wasn't much of that in the novel. Nor was it an obvious quality of The Garden of Evening Mists, the other novel I recently finished reading. I suppose that's why I never felt quite comfortable with either text, despite finding much to admire in both.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


It took me a couple of days to read Paolo Giordano's The Solitude of Prime Numbers, one more than Fifi needed. In fact, I read the book because of Fifi. She bought it using the book tokens I got from doing the Lit Seminar this year, the first time she's picked something that might generally be seen as an adult work of fiction. I was intrigued by her choice at the time, and struck by her enthusiasm for the novel, so I borrowed it from her ahead of coming to KL. And now I must say I'm intrigued to ask her in more detail what she made of it.

I suppose that to some degree my response to the novel has been curiously coloured by the fact she read it first. In some ways it strikes me as something that teenagers would respond to, dealing as it does with two protagonists who seem very much stuck in adolescence, even at the conclusion of the story, by which time they'd be around thirty. The focus is very much on relationships, of various kinds. It outlines their rather miserable childhoods in sometimes painful detail - the girl is anorexic; the boy cuts his hands - and we're certainly made to feel for them as lonely outsiders. But there's also a sense of objectivity in their depiction and some very fine scenes dealing with a more obviously adult understanding of the world. (The final argument between the girl, Alice, and her husband, Fabio, is superbly done, and evokes sympathy for the husband in ways you would not expect from the early parts of the story dealing with Alice.)

Also I must admit I assumed that the story would end in the protagonists coming together - and they don't. That in itself demands a deeper reading. I find myself resisting any kind of leap to judgment on this one - except to say that being made to inhabit the worlds of others seems to me in itself a useful exercise, specially when those worlds are painful places.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

At The Doctor's

It's rare these days that Noi and I find ourselves going out of our way to watch a full series on the goggle box together. Even though we enjoy The Voice we're not so passionate that we can't bear to miss an episode or two. But we were determined to watch the episode of Doc Martin broadcast today on Granada (which we get here through the Astro system.) We are fairly sure it was the last episode in the current series (number 5, I think) and I reckon it might just be the end of the whole thing.

If so, it ended well. Very fine acting - Martin Clunes especially, of course - beautifully shot, well-scripted. A bit formulaic, but that was part of the charm.  Very English. Sometimes a good quality.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

On The Go

Now happily ensconced on the restaurant on the hill - using their internet connection actually - and looking forward to arrival at Maison KL once we get moving again. The roti prata (here known as roti canai for reasons that remain mysterious to me) was excellent and the teh tarik not bad at all. Above all, a journey entirely lacking in incident to celebrate.

The Missus is now moving to cleaning mode. I can see it in her eyes.

Monday, December 3, 2012


I feel I've been quite unnecessarily harsh in my comments in this Place on the last couple of books I finished. Mind you, I was only two-thirds into Tan Twan Eng's The Garden of Evening Mists when I criticised his protagonist, and the final third, in part detailing her experiences in a Japanese labour camp, goes a long way towards giving a full sense of the character as being psychologically convincing. And similarly with the general development of themes in the novel. I came to realise just how ambitious Mr Tan is in his exploration of the Japanese psyche and the art that derives from thence and I think he goes a long way to pulling off a quite remarkable analysis.

Similarly on reflection I've come to realise that what seem pretentious in Simon Reynolds's book on the postpunk era, and the behaviour of a number of the musicians involved, can also be interpreted as a refreshing attempt to break away from the mundane and routine offered by commercial interests. At the very least Reynolds is informative about what was going on in his chosen period in a way that I did find illuminating. The chapter on Talking Heads, to cite a single example, was really worth reading and quite a few of the points made have stuck in my mind. And the enthusiasm shown for the period is endearing; it's just that I find it hard to share some aspects of that enthusiasm.

I'm reminded of a simple truth: a full response takes time to develop and any writer deserves that. It's too easy to be glib and there are too many contexts in which there's a strong temptation to be so.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Crossing The Bar

Just back from a birthday dinner for the Missus which, most unusually for us, was actually undertaken on the day itself. Usually we are in transit one way or another at this time of year, so it has been a small joy to stay in one place long enough to celebrate the great day - and it was of especial greatness this year - reasonably fully, building on last week's surprisingly early surprise party.

What do you give to the woman who gives you everything worth having? Tricky one, eh?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Health And (Un)Fitness

Went to my back doctor this morning and was delighted to be officially told what I already knew: the most problematic part of me isn't such a problem at the moment. I will continue to savour the delights of not taking any kind of medication.

Poor Noi, however, was feeling a bit under the weather today, partly because she was stung by a bee yesterday, and partly because she embarked on some stretches recommended by Karen over a rather jolly afternoon cup of tea at Parkway Parade also yesterday, and I think was feeling the after effects today. This is not to suggest there was any folly involved in the stretching, or Karen's advice. Far from it: the truth is we both need to get some exercise on a regular basis if we are to continue riding our good fortune as far as reasonably robust health is concerned.

Another reminder of this truth came in the obviously glowingly healthy shape of young Ian, who accompanied his mum to tea with us, and is something of an exercise nut, in the best possible sense. It was fascinating to hear him expound upon the benefits of what used to be known as calisthenics. But it all made me feel more than a little guilty.

Noi says we'll do lots of walking in Australia, where we intend to spend a couple of weeks later in December, so I suppose that'll make something of a start. A sorely needed one.