Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top (of Hong Kong Buildings)

It is amazing to see what is On Top.

This is what you find on top of Hong Kong residential high rises.CIMG3431

Grass, swimming pools of various sizes, water features, rest areas, trellis, planters with plants, sun bath chairs.

Also, fans for cooling water system etc.

On commercial high rises, there is a different view.CIMG3632

You have antennas and satellite dishes, devices for lifting gondolas for cleaning and maintenance of external walls etc.

For some of buildings, we cannot even see what is on top.CIMG3630




Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument (at Ephesus)

A trip to Ephesus is a trip into the past with opportunity for viewing lots of monuments.

Our trip took us to the Library Celsus of Ephesus in Turkey.CIMG0230

The library is an ancient Roman building with two storeys. It was built in honor of the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus and completed in 135 AD by Celsus’ son. In fact, Celsus used his own money for building this library outside Rome.CIMG0236

The library was built to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a monumental tomb for Celsus

Also of interest is the Temple of Hadrian.CIMG0224

The name “Temple of Hadrian” is not really accurate: it is more a monument than a temple, and was dedicated not only to Hadrian but also Artemis and the people of Ephesus.

Tir n`a Noir

Wanna listen to a beautiful Norwegian song sang by a female Japanese singer in English?

Below is the video  link to one of my favourite songs by Emi Fujita:


This is a beautiful story about a Norwegian who fell in love with an Irish women from his dream in Tir n`a Noir, supposedly a paradise. They met on this mysterious island Tir n`a Noir. Now the Irish women is dead and the Norwegian is old.  He is waiting for death to come and sail back to meet her, maybe in this dreamy paradise.

The  lyrics, based on a poem by Kolbein Falkeid, is as below:

It’s a cold November
As the sea crashes in
But I still do remember
Though the memory grows dim
To a magical summer
With sweet Mary McKear
In the west, in Tirna Noir

Were you there as a dream
Though it all seems so real
With the laughter I hear and the touch I can feel
Far beyond the horizon
Where the fog disappears
You were mine dear Mary McKear

Though my body is broken
And my spirit is weak
My soul is awoken
As I hear someone speak
Please come back my lover
Now your future lies here
Please come back to Tirna Noir

You were good, you were kind
You’ll have all that you earned
For the secrets you kept
And the lessons you learned
So I’ll take you with me
As your pain disappears
I’ll be yours, your Mary McKear

For all who have lived through
A life of regret
Who have need to remember

But try to forget There’s a place in the distance

Who’s future is clear In the west, in Tirna Noir
Were you there as a dream Though it all seems so clear

With the laughter I hear and the touch I can feel?

I can cure all your sorrows And heal all your fears I’ll be yours, your Mary McKear

PS Photo taken in Hokkaido

The Four Seasons

This has got to be the piece of baroque music I listen to most.

In particular, I like Winter.

Of all the Four Seasons records I listened, the one played by Janine Jansen as solo violinist has caught my ears, it was played with so much passion and character. . . . . . and perhaps redefine how this piece of music should be played.

Her music is authentic and her performances so lively,  stunning and full of energy. She is sometimes rather adventurous, with emphasis on emotional accents more than on precision or adherence to the scores. In art, we don’t only want precision.

There are good reasons why she has become the Queen of Downloads for iTune classical music.

Listening to her solo violin has really made this cold winter much more bearable!

Janine Jansen: Vivaldi – Winter – Wild Life

For those who are  interested in actually viewing her phenomenal performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, please also see

Janine Jansen – Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64

A young female violinist star is born!

Clara Haskil (1895-1960)

This winter is especially cold and wet. On a dismal day like today, playing my Mozart records by the side of my (electric) fireplace is all  that I wanted to do.  The fragility, innocence and joyfulness of the piano sounds by Clara Haskil have always given me solace when the world seems crashing down on me.

Clara Haskil, a Romanian-born Sefardic Jewess, was one of the most extraordinary pianists of the 1930- 60s.

It’s hard to avoid the temptation to relate Clara Haskil’s art to her difficult life. She suffered most of her life from various ailments: brain tumour, scoliosis and attendant self-esteem/stage-fright problems. She went unrecognized most of her life but for her last few years enjoyed a glowing international reputation. Her end was also tragic: she fell down a flight of steps in the Brussels railway station where she arrived for a concert with Arthur Grumiaux and died from her injuries. Her unexpected death at the age of 65 had bewildered her friends and the whole musical world. How could it be that, having at last reached the summit of her international glory, she disappeared for ever?

Her difficult life story ( albeit in Korean ) can be accessed on Woman Ahead Time – Clara Haskil (클라라 하스킬) .

She is a pianist with a liquid sound. Just as the Chinese saying, this is like the sound from a fresh flowing spring. Her interpretation of Mozart piano pieces is unsurpassed. I could forever listen to her Mozart Piano Concerto K.466-2, Clara Haskil at Montreux

Karl Schumann described her as “dematerialized and free from anything in the least earthy, … belonging to a different, spiritual world.” Maybe, her piano music can be described as minimalistic; this is what you get by taking all the earthly elements out of it.

An esteemed friend of Haskil, Charlie Chaplin, described her talent by saying “In my lifetime I have met three geniuses; Professor Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Clara Haskil. I am not a trained musician but I can only say that her touch was exquisite, her expression wonderful, and her technique extraordinary.”

It is unfortunate that many of her recordings were made before the age of stereo sound (started in 1957). However, her untimely death was somewhat mitigated by the legacy of her precious recordings that she left us . . . . . the world (and I) would be so much poorer without them!

Love is a Many Splendored Thing

Many of us have heard the song Love is a Many Splendored Thing. Some of us have watched the movie of the same name and others may have even read the novel A Many Splendored Thing.  However, with the passage of time, not many of us still remember  the writer of the novel Han Suyin (韓素音).

Han Suyin

Han Suyin, a Eurasian born in Henan China in 1916 to a Chinese father and a Flemish mother. She graduated MBBS in London and went to Hong Kong in 1949 to work in the Queen Mary Hospital. Her husband, Tang,  died in action during the Chinese Civil War in 1947. In Hong Kong, she met and fell in love with a married man Ian Morrison, an Australian war correspondent, who was killed in Korea in 1950. It was this love that she portrayed in the  book and inspired the song.

The Song

The lyrics of this well-known song captured her beautiful and yet sad story:

Love is a many splendored thing It’s the April rose that only grows in the early spring Love is nature’s way of giving a reason to be living The golden crown that makes a man a king

In the film, their romantic moments occurred on a high grassy, wind-swept hill near 41 Kellet Road, Hong Kong.  In the bittersweet final scene on the hilltop, the song recalled their earlier encounters:
Once on a high and windy hill In the morning mist two lovers kissed and the world stood still Then your fingers touched my silent heart and taught it how to sing Yes, true love’s a many splendored thing

Many artists have covered this song, however the version I like best is the one by Andy Williams:
 Andy Williams – Love is a many splendored (NOT PERFORMANCE)

The Film

This film was set in Hong Kong, between 1949 and the start of the Korean War in 1950. The film, released in 1955, showed many places which we still know of. At the opening, there was an aerial view of the Victoria Harbour, panning from Green Island, then eastward along the harbour front towards Central. The hospital in the film was probably the Matilda Hospital.

In the film, Han Suyin (Jennifer Jones) fell in love with the married but separated US correspondent Mark Elliott (William Holden) in HK.  While they found brief happiness, she was banished by her Chinese community. Elliott was killed by an attacking aircraft’s bomb as the movie reached its conclusion.  At the end of the film, Han Suyin returned to the scenic hillside on HK Island where they had courted, comforted only by late arriving letters from Elliott.

Some extracts of the movies are given in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFsBP1TKfaI

The Book

There are many quotes in the book which still appear to be applicable to the modern HK; a couple of these are given below:

“Hong Kong is a funny place; like a ship, and you never know what is going to happen to people in a ship.

It is true that we never know what is going to happen to HK.

“Everywhere building is going on. Hong Kong’s population is nearly three times what it was, and new arrivals from China stream in at the rate of ten thousand a week. Day and  night, blasting, drilling, hammering is heard. The quiet hills are not exempt from the clang of human agitation. On the promontories, slopes and hillocks jutting from the high center of the island, the rich erect their habitations. Before any building can be done, an approach road has to be cut deep into the hillside to reach the projected residence. The top of the hill must be taken off to obtain a level surface large enough for the foundations. Work is going on at a dozen places in the hills.”

With a father who was a railway engineer, Suyin seemed to know even something about civil engineering!

The Controversial Han Suyin

Since 1956, Han Suyin visited China almost every year. This was her source for her many publications  (nine novels, 10 autobiographical works, seven volumes of history). She witnessed the rise of communist in China, the reign of Mao and even the oust of the Gang of Four. In fact, she was an apologist for Mao.

Suyin is viewed as a controversial figure because of her unpopular views of world powers.  Much of history, she contended, was dictated to us by the powerful.

Suyin was never consistent, and her life and corpus were full of contradictions.  She now resides in Lausanne, Switzerland and is in her nineties. For those who can read Chinese, the following extract from the Economic Journal of HK published in 1984 even argued that she was an opportunist.








《信報》 凌鋒:人在香港專欄 1984.3.17

Despite all these controversies, Love is a Many Splendored Thing is still one of my favourite songs and movies!

Yesterday When I was Young

I have been listening to this haunting and truthful song Yesterday When I was Young since my youth. This song, originally known as Hier Encore (Yesterday Again) in French, was released in 1961. I am so glad that I have been listening to it since I was young so that I was aware of the many pitfalls of life before time quickly passed away. The lyrics, which are reproduced below, deserve a good read:

Yesterday when I was young The taste of life was sweet like rain upon my tongue, I teased at life as if it were a foolish game The way an evening breeze would tease a candle flame. The thousand dreams I dreamed, the splendid things I planned I always built to last on weak and shifting sand, I lived by night and shunned the naked light of day And only now I see how the years have run away.

Yesterday when I was young There were so many songs that waited to be sung, So many wild pleasures that lay in store for me And so much pain my dazzled eyes refused to see, I ran so fast that time and youth at last ran out and I never stopped to think what life was all about, And every conversation that I can recall Concerned itself with me, and nothing else at all.

Yesterday the moon was blue And every crazy day brought something new to do, And I used my magic age as if it were a wand And never saw the waste and emptiness beyond, The game of love I played with arrogance and pride And every flame I lit so quickly, quickly died The friends I made all seemed, somehow, to drift away And only I am left on stage to end the play.

Yesterday when I was young There were so many songs that waited to be sung, So many wild pleasures lay in store for me And so much pain my dazzled eyes refused to see, There are so many songs in me that won’t be sung Cause I feel the bitter taste of tears upon my tongue And the time has come for me to pay for yesterday When I was young.

I am glad that I have not acted with arrogance and pride nor have I always build to last on weak and  shifting sand ( how dare I, as a civil engineer!)

Listening to it now, one must come to terms that time has quickly passed away and we are no longer youthful. However, there are positive messages from this song. . . . . we should not be fear of aging. One is only old when one’s regrets begin to take the place of one’s dreams. We must therefore take each day as a gift and treasure the present moments, as NOW is the essence.

This song was first sung by the American-French singer Charles Aznavour and later covered by many singers. The singer covering this song whom I like best is Dusty Springfield  DUSTY SPRINGFIELD ~ Yesterday When I was Young ~.wmv .

Those who prefer a male soulful voice is invited to listen to the original singer Charles Aznavour “Yesterday When I Was Young”

Borrowed Place Borrowed Time

I came to know about 1997 when I first read Richard Hughes’s Hong Kong: Borrowed Place Borrowed Time in the secondary school. Hong Kong was not returned to China when World World II ended and therefore we lived in borrowed space and time. (Richard Hughes was an Australian journalist who died in HK in 1984. He was also known to be a British spy, or even a double agent. He was the inspiration for the fictional character Dikko in Ian Fleming’s James Bond’s You Only Live Twice and for ‘Old Craw’ in John Carre’s The Honorable Schoolboy).

We seem to have learnt more about time and life from books, songs and movies than from our  schools.

In 1973, Jim Croce’s album Life & Times gave us the unheard  notion of saving time in a bottle in his song Time in a Bottle. . . . . . .” If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I’d like to do is to save every day“. Jim died in 1974 at the age of 40. Of course, it is impossible to bottle up time.

Earl Grant’s If I Only Have Time embarrassed us with our many excuses for not doing the things we wanted to do . . . . . . . . .” So much to do, if I only have time, only time. Dreams to pursue, if I only have time, only time. . . ‘  then as in his song ” . . . times like a wind, goes hurrying by and the hours just fly. . . . ” and again in the same song ” . . . . life is really too short. One whole century isn’t enough to satisfy me. . . . .”. Earl died at the age of 39.

We know time is our most precious asset, but could we beg, steal and borrow time?

Then in 1975 Paul Anka came along with his jingle for Kodak, Times of Your Life. ” Good morning yesterday, you wake up and time has slipped away” and towards the end of his song . . . . .” Here comes the saddest part, the seasons are passing one by one, so gather moments while you may, collect the dreams you dream today, remember, will you remember the times of your life“.  In 2012, Kodak may even collapse.

Then came Stephen Hawking who inspired us with his cosmological view of the world and time in his Big Bang Theory.

The imagination of films have no end. I am beginning to think that we even live in a borrowed skin after watching the recent Spanish movie “The Skin I Lived In”.

Are we just spacemen travelling in time, living in a borrowed place (the earth) and in a borrowed skin (our body)?????

Tin Tin and Star Ferry

DSCF2014I enjoyed watching The Adventures of Tin Tin (3D) ( and other movies for children, including the recent 3D Arthur saves Christmas; think I am starting to revert to childhood!), but two things I have always enjoyed are the tram (Tin Tin) ride on Hong Kong Island and the ferry ride on the Star Ferry.

I enjoyed the “Tin- Tin” sound and watching the busy world just passed me by while taking the tram. The tram allows me to be in close touch with the busy street outside while I can just sit back and watch, continuing to be a rock or an island.

The Star Ferry rides are equally enjoyable, although the subjects of enjoyment may be different from those of a tram ride. The summer breeze, the ever changing HK skyline, the neon signs, giggly tourists on board who seemed to be awed by this wonderful sight. . . . .  I am sorry to say that I may have been a culprit ( or at least an accomplice) for reducing the width of the harbour near Central through leading the design of the”new” ferry piers at Central.

The ferry rides from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui is now shortened so much that by the time you start getting nostalgic the trip is almost over. You have already reached the other side; good times always seem too short.

Yes, we must move on and cross the harbour of life. But for those who want to travel back to the sixties in Hong Kong, you are invited to do the tram and ferry rides of the 60s by clicking the following video link:

Kaze 風 1967 HK tram ride / 1962 city hall