Janet's thread

A weblog, mostly about knitting but other topics appear

Changing Colours June 8, 2010

Filed under: China,Colours,Hong Kong,Ireland,Postal history — Janet @ 11:33 am

Changing from red to green – when the British handed over Hong Kong to China on July 1 1997, the colour of the postal service changed from red to green.  I wonder at what point the men (and women?) were out there with their paint brushes all around the Territory.  Would it have happened close to midnight?  I read in wikipedia that these classic pillar boxes which were painted green in 1997 have gradually been phased out of use and replaced with a new design.  However, I did find, again in wikipedia, a green reminder of earlier years.

  classic red pillar box in the Museum Gallery in the Central Post Office, Hong Kong

  part of the ceremony at the Handover   (photo from Wikipedia)

  one of the last colonial post boxes, in Central, a Scottish Crown Type C   (photo from wikipedia)

  Post Office in Stanley

  Central Post Office

  new design of Hong Kong post box

  historic franking stamps in the Post Office Museum Gallery

This transition from red to green has lead me to wonder when it took place in Ireland – presumably following Independence in 1922.   Unlike in Hong Kong, many of the historic boxes still remain.  They just get fresh coats of paint.

  VR pillar box in Kilkenny  (photo from wikipedia)


Another View of China June 6, 2010

Filed under: Ageing,Authors,Books,China,History,Hong Kong,Writing — Janet @ 12:04 pm

Just published this year is a new biography of Pearl Buck by Hilary Spurling.  Pearl lived in China for most of her younger years and she identified strongly with the Chinese people.  Of missionary background, she had conflicting loyalties all her life.  She was born in 1882 in West Virginia.  Her missionary parents returned to China when she was 3 months old.   Most of her years were spent in China until 1934 when she left China for good.  She is possibly remembered best for her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Good Earth.  It topped the best seller lists in the early 1930’s.   However, she had a prodigious literary output and in 1938 she was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

  Burying the Bones by Hilary Spurling

  you can see that the subtitle of the book is Pearl Buck in China.  Most of this biography is devoted to that time in her life.  Much of her writing is indeed autobiographical and derives from her years in China.  When she left in 1934 she was in her early 50’s and lived to the age of 80, writing prodigiously all that time.  The picture shown here is Pearl in 1938 when she won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

  Pearl in 1932 (from wikipedia)

  photo from wikipedia

Pearl died in 1980 and is buried in Vermont.  If she had lived longer, I wonder what she would have thought of the handover ceremony in Hong Kong in 1997.

  Robin Cook, Cheri Blair, Prince Charles, Chris Patton – Hong Kong, 1997   (photo from wikipedia)

In any event, I found Burying the Bones a fascinating biography and I plan to reread The Good Earth and be on the lookout for some of her other writing.


Along the trails in Hong Kong June 4, 2010

Filed under: China,Hong Kong — Janet @ 3:48 pm

In my last post I wrote about the hikers and the trails in the hills of Hong Kong.  I didn’t actually follow any of these steep looking steps myself but maybe next time I visit I’ll try a bit of non-urban walking.  A few pictures from Wikipedia are intriguing:    This red-necked keelback is a character I would prefer not to meet in the forest.

  a fort near Tai Tam   (from WWII?)                                                                         

Hong Kong Camellia

Tai Tam Reservoir

Instead of hiking through the forests, I followed the urban option – coffee at Starbucks and Pacific Coffee; shopping at H&M, M&S, and Zara; browsing in Shanghai Tang, Lane & Crawford; lured inevitably into Dymocks and Kelly & Walsh Book Stores; eyeing the art galleries; riding the double decker tram; craning my neck in awe at the skyscrapers; getting lost in the vast shopping malls.  I never made it to the Sun Yat-sen Museum – another objective for next time.

  bronze statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen


Tai Tam Trails or Tales June 3, 2010

Filed under: History,Hong Kong — Janet @ 5:49 pm

In Hong Kong I was staying in one of the tall towers of a large apartment complex, Parkview Tai Tam.     The complex has its own supermarket, international nursery school, playgrounds for children of various ages, swimming pools, tennis courts, and a dedicated bus to the central area of Hong Kong.      Parkview, photo from wikipedia

  Parkview bus   (photo from Wikipedia)

  Hong Kong Parkview swimming pool  (photo from Wikipedia)

It was easy to venture forth from Parkview.  Take the lift down down down and then either go for a walk or take the bus to town.  As I rode in the bus, I was very aware of hikers coming up the hill to go off on one of the hiking trails.  This area is very popular for weekend hikers.  And also a very handy location for walking the family dogs, in our case 2 Golden Labradors, who need frequent exercising.

 In reading about Sir David Wilson (see my previous post), I learned a bit more about the hiking trails in the hills of Hong Kong.  I saw that Sir David had a hiking trail named after him.   The trail is 78 km.  Now that’s a good hike.  It opened in 1996.        Wilson trail (photo from Wikipedia)


Reading About China

Filed under: China,History,Hong Kong — Janet @ 1:43 pm

I commented a few days ago that I had to keep reminding myself that Hong Kong is now China.  The 150 years of annexation to be a part of the British empire were just a blip in the area’s history. 

In my wanderings I felt I should find a book about Hong Kong.  This is the one I came up with.  Hong Kong by the traveler author Jan Morris.  Jan has written many books about different parts of the world, but I think she is known particularly for her books about the British Empire.  This book, Hong Kong, was written in 1988, almost 10 years before the handover in 1997. 

The book was fascinating.  I found it hard to believe that what I was reading was written in 1988, rather than 2008.  I want to read further though to find out if Hong Kong post 1997 is as similar to the earlier Hong Kong.  I visited Hong Kong myself many years ago in 1965 but my visit was brief and my memory is dim.  I was with my cousin and her parents.  I vaguely remember crowded streets and shopping and bright lights and eating opportunities.  We would have landed and taken off from the old airport Kai Tak.  There is one image which remains with me and that was a visit to an American Baptist missionary family living and working in the hills above the central area.

In 1985-87 we were living and working in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.  The Foreign Minister was our landlord, boss, and friend.   It was probably during the summer of 1986 that we met 2 teenagers who were staying as guests of the Foreign Minister, Lyonpo Dawa Tsering.  These 2 boys were the sons of David Wilson who was soon to be the Penultimate Governor of Hong Kong.  David Wilson, now Sir David Wilson, became the 27th Governor, serving from 1987-1992.  He was Governor during the crisis of the Tiananmen Square riots and also the later influx of refugees to the territory. 

Sir David, Lyonpo Dawa, and I were each born in the mid-1930’s.  Sadly Lyonpo Dawa passed away in 2007.  Sir David is now, among other things, Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  One of his other roles was President of the Bhutan Society of the U.K.    The 2 teenage boys are now grown up; one is a diplomat, the other a Church of England clergyman.

  Sir David Wilson

  Lyonpo Dawa Tsering


On the Subject of Post Boxes and Post Offices May 29, 2010

Filed under: History,Hong Kong,Postal history — Janet @ 1:47 pm

Today I took the bus to Stanley, one of the earliest settled areas on Hong Kong Island.  Stanley is now a popular tourist destination for shopping in the Market.  I travelled down down a windy windy road to sea level.  And pictured below is one of the eating/drinking establishments, the Pickled Pelican,  near the entrance to Stanley Market.  This was a popular spot today, the first hot day I have experienced since my arrival.

I wandered around in the Market itself, only buying a couple of items in the ubiquitous Dymock’s Book Store.  As I was making my way back to find the bus stop I came across the Stanley Post Office, shown below.

I thought about the history of Stanley, where I had read about the last stand made by Hong Kong troops before the territory fell to the Japanese in December 1941.

I thought about J.G. Ballard’s books telling of his experiences in Singapore during the 2nd World War when he had been in an internment camp.  I’m sure the internment camp in Stanley would have been similar.  How many survivors of that experience would still be alive today?

Near where I get the bus in Edinbugh Place in Central Hong Kong is the General Post Office.  I was browsing in there the other day and I came across a plaque listing the Postmasters General from early days up to the present.  Again, very much the British names until 1997 when the handover took place.

History of Stanley

Roots of the India Rubber Trees in Stanley – a sample of the dense and lush vegetation in Hong Kong

Postmasters General in Hong Kong

A bit of postal history in Hong Kong

Another colonial post box in Hong Kong


Roll Back The Years

Filed under: Hong Kong — Janet @ 10:06 am

This is very strange, being in Hong Kong.  I feel as if I am in some sort of time warp.  Although Hong Kong is now a part of China, it was a British Colony up until very recently, 1997.  There are still many reminders of its colonial past.  Not least of these reminders are some of the street names.  The other day, in my search for the Shin Hwa Art Gallery, I was looking for Aberdeen Street.  I traversed other streets with names from Hong Kong’s illustrious colonial past – Connaught Road Central, Queen’s Road Central, Queen Victoria Street.  I waited for the bus at Edinburgh Place.  In the course of the day, I passed other landmarks, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the Hong Kong Cricket Club, St. John’s Anglican Cathedral.  The list could go on and on.

Yesterday Baby Girl was born in Matilda Hospital high above Hong Kong.  Matilda Hospital, another relic from the past.  Matilda, for whom the hospital is named, lived here in the 1800’s.  And when I entered the room where the baby was sleeping I felt I was stepping back in time to the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.  The hospital has been completely modernised but there was just something about the room and its design that made me feel I was in an earlier era.

view of Hong Kong from the balcony of Baby Girl’s room at the Matilda Hospital, the Peak,

The room has nooks and crannies and an overhead fan of antique appearance.

My other “roll back the years” experience today was of a different nature.  It was roll back the years to my years teaching in International Schools – in Bangladesh, Ghana, and Kenya.  There are many International Schools here in Hong Kong and places are at a premium.  Our 4 year old granddaughter has been accepted for a place next September at the Canadian International School.  But today was swimming lesson day and I had a chance to see a bit of the school.  When I was in my early 40’s I taught at the American International School in Dhaka and our 3 sons were pupils.  Now here I am, in my 70’s in Hong Kong watching my 40 year old son guiding our 3 year old grandson having his swimming lesson in the pool at the Canadian International School.  A much bigger school than the one in Dhaka in 1978-83, but still the flavour of an International School for the ex- pat community of this generation.