Song of the week: 22nd March 2014


I’m sitting in the airport (again) and am on my way to Australia for the first time.  I’ve bought a bottle of Southern Comfort that *should* last me my month and a bit there.  I’m off to see friends old and new – Jess, who I’ve known since school, possibly before, Ruby, former flatmate and marvelous Aussie, Ruby’s extended family who are hopefully putting me up for a bit.  I might bump into David, who I met coming off the last plane and who needs to earn more about Australian TV.  I’m definitely going on the Neighbours tour – hat self respecting fan with two board games and two best of DVDs wouldn’t?  (I really don’t think it matters that I’ve not really seen it in 5 years…)

 

So my songs this week have been prepping for the oncoming country.

The first is from Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, two brilliant musicians I’ve been lucky enough to be taught by.

The Drover’s Boy came up in a lecture I’ve been listening to from La Trobe University about picture books for children and I’ve known it for a long time as this wonderful song. You should also look out for The Outside Track and Dance to your Daddy/The Flaming Drones, actually just get yourself the album. (No video available of The Drover’s Boy so here’s Dance to your Daddy)

 

As I’m also going to Sydney I have to include an ABBA song – it’s Fernando – simply because Muriel’s Wedding is an awesome film and I love the trip to Hibiscus Island where Mariel (as she has renamed herself) and Rhonda become friends.  Ruby and I are off to Fiji later in the year and I fully intend to dress up in ABBA costumes and perform Waterloo before collapsing at the foot of a tree laughing and hoping that life is as good as an ABBA song.  I’m also really tempted to go and try on wedding dresses and pretend I’m marrying Tim Sims, but I’ll rein myself in.

When I get on youtube again I’ll also give you a little bit of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and some The Fast Show that also help sum up what Australia means to me.  Comment below if you want to guess what those clips might be….

 

And here they are:

What a piece of work is man


Warning: This post contains images and information you should find disturbing and upsetting.

I took GCSE history and in that we covered world events that took places from 1945 to 1989, essentially The Cold War but we focused on Britain, the USSR and America, because there’s a lot to fit in in a short amount of time.  We skimmed over the Korean War, Vietnam War and learned nothing about the Khmer Rouge and their treatment of their own people.  Why is this?  Perhaps, again, it’s a case of time constraints, perhaps it’s because Britain wasn’t overly involved and if it doesn’t contain our own, we don’t really care.  We have too much going on of our own.

For example, news reports.    Whenever there is a disaster of some kind, for example a plane crash, the report might say something like ‘Two hundred and eighty seven people were killed in the crash, including 4 Britons, 2 Americans and 1 Australian…’ Now I know that the fact that British  people died will be important information for their families, but I feel that by pointing out the nationalities of 7 people makes it seem that the other 280 don’t count, they aren’t worth mentioning further but now that we know our countrymen were affected, we’ll sit up and listen.

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Mud, mud, glorious mud!


Ahhhh I’m so behind, so let’s take a few posts and catch up…

 

On the 11th, after a long night bus from Hanoi, I arrived at Easy Tiger hostel in Phong Nha National Park.  I’d been looking for somewhere to go to that was a bit remote, but given that I’ve not planned this part of the trip particularly well, I’m having to just do highlights.  A guy I met in Vientiane, Alastair, recommended the Phong Nha Farmstay as a good place to go as it’s halfway down the country, in the National Park and they do tours.  Plus it’s a lovely place to stay.  They were booked up but suggested I try Easy Tiger.

Designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site to protect it’s amazing cave system, under it’s geological categorisation, but also has amazing bio-diversity and as the British caving Association and local explorers attempt to study and uncover more caves they are also finding more new species.  The area is also home to the world’s largest cave, which was ‘discovered’ only 5 years ago in 2009.

I hardly slept on the bus, so had a long nap and a bit of a rest while watching the new Jonathan Creek episodes.  Then I got up for a wander around the village – it’s not big, I took a leisurely pace and had finished within about 20 minutes. I passed houses, loads of locals looked both bemused and entertained to see a red faced white girl wandering past.  One handed me her child and laughed saying ‘100 thousand!’  The child didn’t seem too entertained, but people walked out into the street to laugh with her.  I walked over a rice paddy and heard the unmistakable sound of a school playground.  Following the noise I came upon the primary school, to be met by loads of children running up, waving and shouting ‘Hello!’  somehow they all managed to get in time with one another so for a little while it got a bit Midwich Cuckoos, but then I headed back to the hostel.

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The lady at the hostel wrote a note in Vietnamese for me explaining that I was a teacher and could I visit and they let me in.  The chairs are tiny, as always, they don’t seem to have any tables, but otherwise, just like any other primary classroom.

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The teacher, Thanh Huyen, was very helpful despite our language barriers and let me look around.  The parents seemed quite surprised to see me there when they came to pick up their kids.

Yesterday was the big trip to Paradise Cave, Highway 20 and Dark Cave.

Highway 20 is so called because on the 15th November 1972 the Americans carpet bombed this area of Vietnam as it is the narrowest part of the country and they were attempting to cut off supply streams and movement options for the Northern Vietnamese.  8 people were sheltering in the cave known as 8 Lady Cave and were trapped by a falling rock and died of starvation 9 days later, the local villagers powerless to help them.  The majority of those killed in the cave were 20 years old.

The highway, crossing over the border to Laos was built and maintained by local Vietnamese, many of whom were too young to be in the army, so around 5 years old, so our guide Chrissie (Joss Stone look-alike) told us.  They were given enough supplies to last them as long as they were expected to survive in the area.  how long was that?  2 days.  15 year olds, working on a road because they couldn’t join the army were expected to live for 2 days.  If they found someone dead on the road then they would collect their supplies and keep moving on.

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Offerings to spirits

Offerings to spirits

8 Lady Cave where 8 people were entombed by a falling rock after a bombing raid.

8 Lady Cave where 8 people were entombed by a falling rock after a bombing raid.

The names of those killed in the cave and those who were manning the anti-aircraft posts.

The names of those killed in the cave and those who were manning the anti-aircraft posts.

The smoke of offerings burnt to send to the spirit world.

The smoke of offerings burnt to send to the spirit world.

Chrissie, our guide

Chrissie, our guide

We took some time to look around and the other guide spotted a couple of monkeys scampering across the mountain.  Luckily my camera has a pretty good zoom so this is what I saw through the viewfinder.

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As ‘Joss Stone’ kept on talking, briefing us on the history of the area, I spotted a tornado of butterflies across the road.

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Soon it was time to move onto Paradise Cave (Thiên Đường Cave)  31km long cave which gets is a bit of a walk up the hill to get there.  We could only go through the first 1km, on a raised wooden walkway, but that was enough for me.  There are amazing examples of stalagmites and stalactites, as well as helictites, which I’d never heard of before.

But the main part of the day was reserved for Dark Cave, so-called because it is formed from basalt instead of limestone.  We were to kayak to the entrance, then walk through mud filled passages, swim through a pool in the cave to reach the main part.

I was sharing a kayak with Gill, who has a bad shoulder, and neither of us has kayaked before.  So essentially I was doing most of the paddling and just as we set off, a random Vietnamese girl jumped in the back with no paddle.  We eventually made it to the cave in a beautifully choreographed movement of circles, back paddling and attempting to follow the others (who all looked very professional) in a straight line.  There were some locals fishing who were pissing themselves with laughter and beckoning us towards them.  I really would have been good at kayaking if I could have been, but, unfortunately I have to admit, I was crap.

As I’ve not tested out the waterproof case for my camera and it would have been pointless in the mud, I have no pictures of my own, but have found some on Google.

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The mud was thick and slippery, making farty type squelchy sounds as we walked.  I am not a particularly physical or active person and I always worry about my knee dislocating (it has 15 times before) so this was a struggle for me.  There was one section where you had to go up a steep mud bank, which I didn’t manage, but behind it was just a mud pool where a bit of a mud fight broke out.  The others in our group were not quite this covered but this is a good illustration:

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Next we clambered back through the muddy tunnels, slightly easier this time because I knew roughly where I was going (albeit backwards) and I just sucked it up and slid around on my bum a bit.

Then we reached the shore of the cave pool, headed straight in, pretty cold, but I adjusted to it, and swam across about 70m before reaching a pebbly bank and then swimming again through a narrow passageway and under a big rock.  We had a bit of a talk about this cave then swam back, me at the front, this time without the lights on our helmets on.  It’s quite a strange experience, swimming in the dark with a teardrop shaped beacon of light signalling the outside world to you.  The water, by the way, is definitely colder second time in.

We headed back towards the boats and Gill and I had the brilliant idea of swimming back to the jetty instead of taking the kayak.  I was really pleased I did this as I didn’t take the opportunity to swim in the River Kwai (no-one else was and I didn’t want to feel like an idiot in my swimming costume) or in the River Ping, near Chiang Mai.

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It was a long and exhausting day, but in a good way, and my legs have not yet recovered from the mud and the steps, but I think that when I get back home I will start to try messing about in boats a bit more.

Taking stock of what I have and what I haven’t what do I find?


“Taking stock of what I have and what I haven’t
What do I find?
The things I got will keep me satisfied
Checking up on what I have and what I haven’t
What do I find?
A healthy balance on the credit side
Got no diamond
Got no pearl
Still I think I’m a lucky girl
I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night
I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night
Got no mansion
Got no yacht
Still I’m happy with what I got
I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night
I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night
Sunshine 
Gives me a lovely day
Moonlight 
Gives me the Milky Way
Got no checkbooks
Got no banks
Still I’d like to express my thanks
I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night
I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night
And with the sun in the morning 
And the moon in the evening
I’m all right”

I Got the Sun in the Morning – Irving Berlin

 

It’s the last couple of days in Asia before heading off to Australia and so it’s time to take stock a little.

I’ve been to 5 countries, 2 of them only very briefly, taken thousands of photos, eaten tasty food, been to waterfalls, museums,temples and churches (so far I’ve covered lots of Buddhist, Taoist, Catholic and Protestant Churches, Hindu and been outside a couple of Mosques) grave sites, learned to dive, been caving, visited a school, stumbled upon a photography festival and a national protest, met an actor, had massages and pedicures (and one failed manicure), avoided being sick on boats, buses, trains and planes, not been sun burnt (quite an achievement I can tell you) met some lovely people and only a few who were dicks.

I’ve also ticked some more off the cities list.

 

Australia and New Zealand will be a different experience because for the most part I’ll be with people I know and I’ll also get to go to some music festivals, and I do love taking photos of musicians at work.  I might even get to do some singing too!

Lonely Planet Top 200 Cities

001 Paris, France  
002 New York City, USA
003 Sydney, Australia
004 Barcelona, Spain 
005 London, England 
006 Rome, Italy
007 San Francisco, USA
008 Bangkok, Thailand
009 Cape Town, South Africa
010 Istanbul, Turkey
011 Melbourne, Australia
012 Hong Kong, China
013 Kathmandu, Nepal
014 Prague, Czech Republic (2013) 
015 Vancouver, Canada
016 Buenos Aires, Argentina
017 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
018 Berlin, Germany
019 Jerusalem, Israel & the Palestinian Territories
020 Montreal, Canada
021 Edinburgh, Scotland
022 Venice, Italy
023 Hanoi, Vietnam
024 Amsterdam, The Netherlands
025 Singapore, Singapore

026 Tokyo, Japan
027 Florence, Italy
028 Dublin, Ireland 
029 Mexico City, Mexico
030 Krakow, Poland
031 Toronto, Canada
032 Cairo, Egypt
033 Budapest, Hungary 
034 Chicago, USA
035 Havana, Cuba
036 Madrid, Spain  
037 Munich, Germany
038 Athens, Greece
039 New Orleans, USA
040 Vienna, Austria
041 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
042 Marrakesh, Morocco
043 Sarajevo, Bosnia & Hercegovina
044 Seville, Spain
045 Kyoto, Japan
046 Las Vegas, USA
047 Perth, Australia
048 Shanghai, China
049 Los Angeles, USA
050 Lisbon, Portugal

051 Stockholm, Sweden
052 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
053 Damascus, Syria
054 Luang Prabang, Laos
055 Seattle, USA
056 Phnom Penh, Cambodia
057 St.Petersburg, Russia
058 Cuzco, Peru
059 Dubrovnik, Croatia
060 Delhi, India
061 Moscow, Russia
062 Salvador da Bahia, Brazil
063 Beijing, China
064 Helsinki, Finland
065 Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India
066 Santiago de Chile, Chile
067 Fes, Morocco
068 Auckland, New Zealand
069 Manila, Philippines
070 Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
071 Chiang Mai, Thailand
072 Varanasi, India
073 Cartagena, Colombia
074 Zanzibar Town, Tanzania 
075 Innsbruck, Austria

076 York, England 
077 Mumbai, India
078 Hamburg, Germany
079 Oaxaca City, Mexico
080 Galway, Ireland
081 Siena, Italy
082 Esfahan, Iran
083 Wellington, New Zealand
084 Ljubljana, Slovenia
085 Seoul, South Korea
086 San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico
087 Taipei, Taiwan
088 Tallinn, Estonia
089 Lhasa, Tibet
090 Bled, Slovenia
091 Hobart, Australia
092 Jaipur, India
093 Brussels, Belgium
094 La Paz, Bolivia
095 Quebec City, Canada
096 Valparaiso, Chile
097 Naples, Italy
098 Memphis, USA
099 Heidelberg, Germany
100 Dhaka, Bangladesh

101 Amman, Jordan
102 Monaco, Monaco
103 Washington DC, USA
104 Quito, Ecuador
105 Christchurch, New Zealand
106 Glasgow, Scotland
107 Muscat, Oman
108 Panama City, Panama
109 Dakar, Senegal
110 Bratislava, Slovakia
111 San Sebastian, Spain
112 Bern, Switzerland
113 San Juan, Puerto Rico
114 Aleppo (Halab), Syria
115 Dubai, United Arab Emirates
116 Riga, Latvia
117 Asmara, Eritrea
118 Kabul, Afghanistan
119 Bath, England
120 Copenhagen, Denmark
121 Macau, China
122 Sofia, Bulgaria
123 Hoi An, Vietnam
124 Marseille, France
125 Zagreb, Croatia

126 Manchester, England 
127 Antigua, Guatemala
128 Reykjavik, Iceland
129 Yogyakarta, Indonesia
130 Carcassonne, France
131 Lubeck, Germany
132 Tel Aviv, Israel
133 Hiroshima, Japan
134 Mendoza, Argentina
135 Nairobi, Kenya
136 Beirut, Lebanon
137 Vilnius, Lithuania
138 Montevideo, Uruguay
139 Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)
140 Arequipa, Peru
141 Bucharest, Romania
142 Apia, Samoa
143 Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro
144 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania 
145 Kyiv, Ukraine
146 Bukhara, Uzbekistan
147 Male’, The Maldives
148 Caracas, Venezuela
149 Tirana, Albania
150 Suva, Fiji

151 Tiblisi, Georgia
152 Agadez, Niger
153 Ushuaia, Argentina
154 Kampala, Uganda
155 Bogota, Colombia
156 Bridgetown, Barbados
157 Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
158 Abuja, Nigeria
159 Christiansted, US Virgin Islands
160 San’a, Yemen
161 Livingstone, Zambia
162 Alexandria, Egypt
163 Belfast, Northern Ireland
164 Savannah, USA
165 Nuuk, Greenland
166 Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
167 Johannesburg, South Africa
168 Kairouan, Tunisia
169 Austin, USA
170 San Salvador, El Salvador
171 Cardiff, Wales
172 Minsk, Belarus
173 Thimphu, Bhutan
174 Khartoum, Sudan
175 Anchorage, USA

176 Mecca, Saudi Arabia
177 Aswan, Egypt
178 Yerevan, Armenia
179 Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
180 Georgetown, Malaysia
181 Maputo, Mozambique
182 Baku, Azerbaijan
183 Belize City, Belize
184 Essaouira, Morocco
185 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
186 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
187 Pyongyang, North Korea
188 Lahore, Pakistan
189 Cayenne, French Guiana
190 Almaty, Kazakhstan
191 Mombasa, Kenya
192 Valletta, Malta
193 Antananarivo, Madagascar
194 Miami, USA
195 Bamako, Mali
196 Saint-Denis, Reunion
197 Granada, Spain
198 Beira, Mozambique
199 Madang, Papua New Guinea
200 Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Song of the Week: 17th March 2014


Sorry it’s a bit late, but I’ve been trying to fit as much into the last few days as I can, as well as getting on with writing and trying to rest my back. 

 

This week I’ve been in Vietnam and so I was thinking of listing the Original Cast Recording of Miss Saigon, but I can’t stand Jonathan Pryce as The Engineer, I can manage him as Peron in Evita – he even signed my book and video case – I just think he’s not that good in this.  Plus that seems like an obvious choice and I don’t want to be doing that. I also thought about Billy Joel’s Goodnight Saigon, but that didn’t seem right either.  Although Vietnam is synonymous in many minds with war, that’s not how the country feels to me.  So nothing actually connected to Vietnam. 

 

Instead, I’ve been thinking about the journeys, long bus trips I’ve been on over the last two and a half weeks.  The songs (yep, can’t choose again) I’ve picked are both Elton John, both feel like they should be listened to as you drive along with the sun setting and turning the sky a selection of inky blues, reds and oranges with the wind blowing through your hair. 

Here is a lovely version of ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ by Sara Bareilles:

And the ultimate bus song, thanks to Almost Famous, Tiny Dancer.

 

Enjoy..

…put your hands all over my body…


This post is probably not what about what you think it’s about, but the lyrics in the title seemed fitting, even though, thanks to Jackie Oates and Eliza Carthy, all I can think of with this song is ‘Bill Oddie, Bill Oddie, put your hands all over my body’ instead of the Madonna classic.  I’m not telling you why the lyrics got changed (it’s not dodgy, don’t worry) but now that’s all you’ll ever hear for this song.  You’re welcome.

No, this post is about my first experiences of professional massage. See how the title makes sense now?

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside


Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

From the outside news reports the protests in Bangkok in February 2014 were more like riots, clashes with the police and sadly people died.

Inside, this was not the case everywhere. The protests were spread across a large area, with tents, music, food, I was given free water and invited to write on the pro-democracy walls.

A ten minute walk into the protest site I found these children dancing.

Out of reach, so far…


I’ve got a bit of a problem.  I’m totally in love with Mark Darcy and I can’t get him out of my head. There is a good reason for this, I’ve had a fair bit of bus travel lately and so have binge-read Bridget Jones’ Diary and am now over halfway through Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (book is far superior to the film, to me the film never existed).

Am now though thinking, and writing, about self as ‘self’, starting to wallow in self pity at lack of boyfriend and wanting to resort to urban family for support.  Unfortunately, urban family is spread across 3 different continents, a number of time zones, many are no longer singletons (although in no way smug about it) and I should be doing other things instead of pining about something that it totally impractical anyway.

So, reasons for being currently in love with Mark Darcy:

1) Is helpful in the kitchen and thoughtful at birthday (v.good)

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Tony Benn and Roy Bailey


A kind, thoughtful, intelligent man who stood up for what he thought was right. 88 is a good age and being with family is a good way to go but I’m afraid we don’t have many people left who are actually looking out for what’s best for the people rather than themselves.

And also, take a look at this: