Common Sense

Barbara kindly sent me this from Hong Kong.   I’ve seen it before.. but it’s always pertinent:


Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense,who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn’t always fair, and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not children,are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but verbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year- old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the ob they themselves failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Panadol, sun lotion or a Band Aid to a student – but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband, churches became businesses, and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar can sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live after a woman failed to ealize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little inher lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason.

He is survived by three stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, Someone Else is to Blame, and I’m A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. f you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

More Bin Bugs

Well, my post on Bin Bugs rattled someone’s cage as I received a bit of a rebuke… I’ve edited out names….

It is a shame that you believe everything you read in the press, I am suprised that an educated individual such as yourself who has reached such lofty hights is so gullible. Do you really believe that bins can be bugged?. I can only assume that the trip to New York has left you with Jet Lag.   Anonymous

I was going to reply, but thought I post it instead:

Oooh harsh words!   The reference to Bin Bugs is merely the name they have popularly acquired.   Do I believe the more imaginitive tabloids assertions that they can determine the contents of your wheelie bin?   Of course not; they are simply electronic id tags – or bar codes as Electric Pete described them – to enable bin recognition.    My complaint overall was the way they were introduced and that, despite the very detailed booklet that accompanied them, no mention was made.   Given that the Council are now anxious to tell us how beneficial they are, it makes me wonder why we weren’t sold the idea up front – unless of course they do have other plans.   Time will tell.  I remain a tad cynical.

Memory Loss

From Tim in Singapore.. an oldie, but a goodie…

An elderly couple had dinner at another couple’s house, and after eating, the wives left the table and went into the kitchen. The two gentlemen were talking, and one said, “Last night we went out to a new restaurant and it was really great. I would recommend it very highly.

The other man said, “What is the name of the restaurant?”

The first man thought and thought and finally said, “What is the name of that flower you give to someone you love? You know … the one that’s red and has thorns.”

“Do you mean a rose?”

“Yes, that’s the one,” replied the man. He then turned towards the kitchen and yelled, “Rose, what’s the name of that restaurant we went to last night?

Bin Bugs

Imagine my surprise, reading the newspaper this weekend, to find we are one of the 500,000 homes whose wheelie bins have been ‘bugged’.

Well not any longer.   I prised the thing out with a screwdriver and have sent it back to the council.

This does raise an interesting question:   Why have the council decided to bug all our bins?   Is it in order to start to charge us by weight?   Or to check what we throw away?   And will they stop at looking at our rubbish for recyclabes, or will they be reviewing things more ‘forensically’?

They say it is partly to be able to identify to whom a bin belongs (funny, but in the old days a label or roughly painted on house number seemed to work…) and also to ensure they have collected from each house (in the event a householder complains of non collection they would be able to check.

In fact they have made quite a reasonable job of explaining their actions.   But I don’t believe a word of it and the reason I don’t believe it is quite simple….

When the new wheelie bin was delivered a couple of months ago, it came with a detailed explanation if the councils’ new policy on recycling and how we could do our best to support it – for all the right reasons.

Full information was provided on what was acceptable, what was not and, how to dispose of other items – at designated recycling centres in Wiltshire.  Clear guidelines on frequency of collection, recycling bins (free) and tips on rinsing out all bottles prior to disposal (what water shortage?) were uncluded.   In all an eight page full colour booklet ansered all our questions, introduced us to the new rules and sought to steer us in the right direction, openly and honestly.

Except they weren’t honest.   The booklet would have been an ideal and appropriate medium in which to inform us about the bin bugs.   I read it from cover to cover last night and there is no mention of it anywhere.

Shame on you Kennet District council.  Your explanations will amount to nought as your complete lack of credibility and honesty are demonstrated so clearly by your actions.

Which is a real pity, because this ill publicised and ill considered secretive action will serve only to put back much needed recycling efforts, rather than advance them.

Lifes little annoyances

Browsing through the New York Times yesterday I came across a feature on a website called Lifes Little Annoyances.   This is a neat idea… based on the principle of not getting mad but getting even.

I thought about it as I walked down the fire escape at 04.24 this morning onto Park Avenue, where I enjoyed a few minutes of fun chatting to the other 350 guests who had been woken up by a false fire alarm, which was nice.   Thought about it again as I walked down the stairs at 06.55 because the lifts were out.

I think I need to research this website and see if there are any suitable ‘remedies’…..

In the meantime, here is a fun way to deal with telemarketers:

When one calls, what ever they are selling, act sincerely interested (“Wow! is it ever nice you called, my wife and I were just talking about having our furnace ducts cleaned!…: etc)

Just then, interupt the caller and say, “Just a second, I have a pot boiling over…” (or some other “urgent” excuse) and leave the phone for 5 minutes or so..

Come back on line and appologise profusely (sincerely) for making them wait, ask a few questions to reinforce the idea that you are interested. and then have another urgent excuse to leave the phone…

“Whups! my three yr old is playing at the top of the stairs!!” or some such, again leave the phone for 3-5 minutes…

Keep doing this… it wastes the telemarketer’s time, and costs them sales and call speed (both of which are tracked by their bosses).

I managed to waste one carpet cleaner telemarketer’s time for more than 1 1/2 hours. This is a personal record, and I challenge you to beat it.

On a side note, one person at work, who used to be a telemarketer told me that they “rate’ their phone numbers ranging from “Sucker, will buy anything”, to “Troublesome Time wasters”, and doing this to one of them would get your number and info placed on the latter, tout de suite. The various telemarketing companies trade(sell) this information to each other, and so “playing the waiting game” will help to get you placed on THEIR “do not call” list

Enjoy.   And wish me better luck tonight.

Smith and Wollenski’s

I’m in NY for a week’s business, so posts will likely be less frequent and heavily feature restaurant reviews as we will be ‘entertained’ most nights by our US colleagues.

Last night we went to Smith and Wollenski’s, the famous steakhouse in mid-town Manhattan.  These big ‘chain’ restaurants all follow a familiar theme.  Average to rude service, average to poor food, pretty good ambience and very average wine lists.

Last night was as expected, save for the wine, which was good.   A long list – entirely US of course – with a reasonable price spread and some with a (little) age.   We settled on a 1999 Lorca Petite Syrah from Napa.   What a surprise.   Huge fruit, good deep colour, high alcohol at 14.2%, very dry and still tannic, it had a few more years in it for sure.

It was so good we had to have a second bottle.   Well, it’s the best way I know of to deal with the jet lag.

Jack Edwards 1918 – 2006

Jack Edwards, the veteran campaigner for the rights of war veterans widows, died on Sunday in Hong Kong.   A proud Welshman, British Patriot and unrelenting thorn in the side of the British government, whom he believed disgracfully let down the survivors of loyal servants of the Crown, he was also one of the oldest members on the Hong Kong Male Welsh Voice Choir.

I have friends in the choir and was fortunate to meet Jack several times.   The last – at one of the annual Choir concerts – was 2 years ago.   Jack was in the audience, with wife Polly and joined in an impromptu sing-song after the show had officially finished.   Jack was Welsh Choir royalty and the rendition of Men of Harlech, was all for him.

From the Telegraph

Jack Edwards, who has died aged 88, survived the notorious Japanese prisoner-of-war camp and copper mine at Kinkaseki, Taiwan, to become a relentless campaigner for former servicemen and their widows in the Far East.

The greatest triumphs arising from his battles with the British government were the award of pensions to ethnic Chinese veterans and their widows in Hong Kong, agreed in 1991, and the granting of British passports to survivors’ wives and widows in the run-up to the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. Increasingly exasperated by the government’s refusal to give way over the latter issue, Edwards devised a series of elaborate stunts, finally mounting a daily vigil outside Government House in Hong Kong, at which he carried the first Union Jack to be hoisted over Victoria Peak after the Japanese surrender. Eventually he was summoned inside to meet John Major, the prime minister, who was in Hong Kong for final negotiations in early 1996. “Major placed his hand on my arm and said he had some good news,” he later recalled. “I said, ‘Thank goodness for that.'” Jack Edwards was born at Cardiff on May 24 1918.

Having joined the Royal Corps of Signals, he was a sergeant in Singapore when it fell to the Japanese in 1942. On being taken prisoner, his first job was removing from the beaches the corpses of captives killed by the Japanese at sea and thrown overboard.

Later that year he was transferred from Changi jail to the Japanese colony of Taiwan, then known as Formosa. Kinkaseki, in the mountains near Jiufen, never achieved the notoriety of the Burma railway, but is acknowledged to have been among the most brutal of the Japanese camps. Inmates worked the mine daily in tropical heat until they dropped or died in rock-falls. Those failing to meet the steep production targets were beaten viciously by the Japanese and Taiwanese guards. Malnutrition, beri-beri and dysentery claimed many lives. As the end of the war approached, the emaciated survivors were marched to a mountainside south of Taipei, where they were forced to build a new camp in the jungle. Those who made it to the Japanese surrender – 64 out of an original 526 (though some had been transferred elsewhere) – were “walking on the narrow edge between man and animal,” Edwards wrote. “All of us looked ghastly, eyes sunken, mere skeletons, covered with rashes, sores, or cuts which would not heal. Others too far gone to save were blown-up with beri-beri, legs and testicles like balloons.”

Forty years later he recorded his experiences in a book, Banzai, You Bastards! The title, he said, was not intended to be inflammatory, but referred to the only release from suffering, other than death, that the prisoners enjoyed: as the Americans advanced across south-east Asia, bombing raids would force the guards and camp commanders into shelters; the inmates would emerge from their huts and, when no one was looking, cheer on the bombers with borrowed war-cries. On one occasion Edwards was overheard and beaten with bamboo rods.

The book was translated and published in Japan (where Edwards was, in his later years, to make many friends) under the more conciliatory title Drop Dead, Jap! While a PoW Edwards had discovered that a tunnel built into a nearby hillside was to be the prisoners’ tomb: orders had been given that, should the Americans land in Taiwan, the PoWs were to be taken there and shot. After the war he returned to Kinkaseki with war crimes investigators, and gave evidence at the subsequent trial in Tokyo.

Edwards spent a year recuperating in London, then returned to south Wales, where he worked in local government; but he was unable to settle, and in 1963 took up a post in the housing department of the Hong Kong administration. There he became active in the Royal British Legion and the Hong Kong Ex-Servicemen’s Association.

Among the successful campaigns which he supported were the effort by former “comfort women” to force the Japanese government to admit that their enslavement into prostitution was an official policy, not just a by-product of war; and, in 1986, the granting of British passports to Hong Kong ex-servicemen. He was greatly outraged to discover that ethnic Chinese servicemen, and their widows, were not entitled to war pensions, unlike the British alongside whom they had fought. “When I first learned this, I assumed it must have been a mistake, an oversight,” he said later. “When I wrote to the Ministry of Defence and found it was policy, I felt deeply ashamed to be British, though I had always been a patriot.”

On having this wrong rectified in 1991, Edwards turned his attention to winning passports for ex-servicemen’s wives and widows, whom the British government had decided did not qualify to be part of the scheme which gave citizenship to 50,000 Hong Kong residents before the handover. Edwards argued that a clause offering 6,300 passports in recognition of “special services to the Crown” could be used for the women, but he was repeatedly rebuffed. As well as writing letters to the administration and government, he raised the issue with visiting politicians and eventually won the support of the last governor, Chris Patten. At one point, he ambushed John Major while the prime minister was on an official visit to Tokyo.

In 1995, at the parade down the Mall commemorating the 50th anniversary of VJ Day, he carried a protest banner. By the time of Major’s change of heart, Edwards had come to be seen even by some sympathisers as a “difficult” character, with his daily Union Jack vigil outside Government House. But in the wake of the decision, beneficiaries of his campaigns wrote to the South China Morning Post demanding Edwards be given a knighthood.

In the end, he was appointed OBE in the Birthday Honours’ List of 1997, to add to his earlier MBE.

Edwards’s first marriage did not survive the war. In the 1970s he met Polly Tam So-lan, a former member of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army dance troupe. She and Edwards married in 1990, and lived in a flat in Sha Tin new town. Edwards, who spoke fluent Cantonese, insisted on hanging his Union Jack from his window on Remembrance Day. The couple shared a love of dancing, which they practised in their small living-room to recordings of Taiwanese songs.

Jack Edwards, who died on Sunday, is survived by his wife and her daughter by her first marriage.

Joy King Lau

This blog is not turning into a restaurant critic’s homepage, but mention must be made of yesterday evening’s Chinese Supper Club’s visit to Joy King Lau in Chinatown.

I had almost forgotten how much I missed having plates and bowls thrown on the table.   Or how savagely a waiter can tear the wrapper off a pair of chopsticks, or violently pour soup.   And how good Tsing Tao beer is with Dao Miu steamed with garlic and crispy Yue Gaap.

Ho sik.   Ho bau.  Ngoh ho jung-yi chung-kwok chaan.

The Gun

Spent an enjoyable evening at the Gun pub / restaurant in the Docklands on Monday night with David from Tressillian blogspot.  One of his remarkable pictures is below.

From their website:   The Gun is a Grade II listed riverside pub which dates back to the early 18th century. It is situated on the banks of the Thames in Docklands and is directly across the water from the Millennium Dome and a stone’s throw away from Canary Wharf.

About 4 years ago, a terrible fire destroyed much of the interior of the old building and the pub then remained closed until September 2004 when Tom & Ed Martin re-opened the doors. This followed about 9 months of painstaking restoration works in close consultation with English Heritage.

The Gun now has a 40 cover dining room in the main bar, a back bar with two snugs, two private dining rooms and a fabulous riverside terrace that seats 50.

There has been a public house on the site of the Gun for over 250 years. The surrounding area was home to the dockside iron foundries which produced the guns for the Royal Naval fleets.

The pub dates back to the early 18th Century but it took its current name from the cannon which was fired to celebrate the opening of the West India Import Docks in 1802.

In the late 18th century Lord Horatio Nelson acquired a property just up the road, still known as Nelson’s house, and he regularly visited the docks to inspect the guns up until his glorious death at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Lord Nelson would frequent The Gun and to meet Lady Emma Hamilton in an upstairs room for their secret assignations.

The Gun also has a long association with smugglers landing contraband on the site and distributing it via a hidden tunnel. To this day there is still a spy-hole in the secret circular staircase to watch out for “The Revenue Men”.

As the docks on the Isle of Docks flourished so did the pub, becoming the local for dockers, stevedores and boatmen.

The food is modern, without being over trendy and of a high standard.   Slightly daft over sized plates for the starters I thought, but quality was high.  An excellent Halibut over spinach with clams and a salty butter sauce made an excellent main course.  Sensible Reidel wineglasses and a reasonable list, coupled with good service, provided a result and a good reason to return.