Blogs from District Two, Ho Chi Minh City, Southeast, Vietnam, Asia


Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two September 27th 2023

Yet another nostalgia blog. (Nostalgia: from the Greek nostos ‘return home’ + algos ‘pain’.) As I get older (I am 71), I feel more and more nostalgic for my youth in Reading, U.K. I think I am becoming a latter-day version of Thomas Hardy. The trigger for this latest nostalgia blog is the hoard of old Xmas cards, thank-you cards from students and handwritten letters from friends gathering dust on our bedroom dressing table. Some of them have been there since 2017. I have left them there because I like to look at them. The most poignant ones are Xmas cards from dead friends: Maurice Bradley, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2020, and Patsy Powell, my mother’s best friend, who died in 2021. These bits of old paper are dear to me because they are ... read more
Dad's Diatribe
Cairo Diary 1988
Letter from Mum

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two September 25th 2023

Having just written about my Top 20 Movies, I am in the mood for another list, so here now are my Top 20 Paintings. I have always loved paintings. From my list, you will see that I prefer realistic to abstract art. I have no time at all for the vacuous daubs of Mark Rothko or Jackson Pollock. And I hate the so-called art of Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin and Jeff Koons. I prefer old-fashioned realism to modern expressionism. The only expressionist painting in my Top 20 is Picasso’s ‘Guernica’. Living in Vietnam, I miss the London National Gallery, which was on my doorstep when I lived in Reading. Whenever I took the train from Reading to Paddington, I made a point of visiting the National Gallery. I went there so often it became like an ... read more
'The 3rd of May 1808' - Goya
'The Resurrection' - Piero de la Francesca
'The Travelling Companions' - Augustus Leopold Egg

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two August 29th 2023

The Chess World Cup has just ended. It was tremendously exciting. This knock-out event is held every two years at a different venue. The venue this year was Baku in Azerbaijan. The tournament had 206 players and 8 rounds, with the top 50 seeds being given a bye directly into the second round. Although he has dominated chess since becoming World Champion in 2013, Magnus Carlsen had never won the World Cup or even finished runner-up. The winner in 2021 was Duda of Poland, in 2019 Radjabov of Azerbaijan, in 2017 Aronian of Armenia, in 2015 Karjakin of Russia, in 2013 (when the venue was Magnus’s native Norway) Kramnik of Russia. This year, Magnus was, of course, the top seed. He has a stratospheric classical chess rating of 2838 (over 50 points ahead of World No ... read more
Prag, Gukesh, Vidit, Erigaisi
Prag v. Magnus

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two August 27th 2023

I spent the greater part of my childhood at 36 Hatherley Road, Reading, U.K. Dad bought the house – an end-of-terrace – in 1955, and I lived there continuously until leaving for university in 1970. Thereafter, until selling it in 2017, I stayed in the house at regular and frequent intervals. I wrote a long blog about 36 Hatherley after selling it ( Being the house where I spent my childhood, it is dear to my heart, full of memories of growing up with Mum and Dad. It now occurs to me that I have never written in detail about the back garden. The more I think about it, the more I realize how important that garden was to me. So now let me set down in print the things I remember about it. The garden ... read more
Mum Tending the Flowers
When I Was Young and the Garden was Neat
Mum and Monty

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two August 6th 2023

The inspiration for this blog is a movie soon to be released in Ho Chi Minh City: ‘The Last Voyage of the Demeter’. The Demeter is the ship that sails from Carpathia to Whitby with, unbeknownst to the crew, Count Dracula aboard. What happens during the voyage is described in Bram Stoker’s novel, ‘Dracula’. The movie, the latest in a seemingly endless stream of 'Dracula' spin-offs, is a big-budget Hollywood production and promises to be first-rate. When I came across it yesterday, I was delighted and immediately began thinking about all the vampire stories I have read and watched. From an early age, I've been fascinated by vampires. In the realm of horror, vampires are far more appealing to me than ghosts or werewolves or the Creature in ‘Frankenstein’ or any other monster. As a youth, ... read more
Christopher Lee in 1958
Bela Lugosi in 1931

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two August 4th 2023

I first came across the term ‘peak experience’ from Colin Wilson. Sometime in the mid-1980s, I bought a little book entitled ‘The Essential Colin Wilson’ - a collection of essays extracted from Wilson's voluminous and eclectic output. The essays cover a wide range of subjects - psychology, philosophy, criminality, parapsychology and peak experiences. Later, in 2009, he published a full-length study of peak experiences: ‘Super Consciousness: The Quest for the Peak Experience’. A ‘peak experience’ is a moment of the highest happiness and fulfilment, an altered state of consciousness characterized by euphoria. Wilson did not invent the term; it was coined by the psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1964 book ‘Religions Values and Peak Experiences’. Maslow is best known for his ‘hierarchy of needs’ theory, a pyramid delineating human needs from t... read more
Maslow Quotation
Maslow's Book
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two July 28th 2023

I am an avid newspaper reader. Back in the day, when my parents subscribed to the Daily Express, I devoured the football and cricket news on the back pages, and I loved the ‘Jeff Hawke’ sci-fi comic strip. On Sundays, we read the Sunday Express, and I would immerse myself in the football results and the general knowledge crossword. As a schoolboy, I had no interest in politics or serious world news. When I began teaching in 1975, I often bought newspapers. I rotated between two serious broadsheets: the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. I enjoyed both of them for the quality of their writing and their coverage of the arts and sport. I was not yet interested in politics. I got into trouble because of the Telegraph. One day I was drinking a pint of ... read more
My Tanzanian Article
My Name Misprinted
My Vietnam Article

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two July 23rd 2023

I have just come across a table of statistics on the internet that fascinates me. In 16th- and 17th-century London, in response to recurrent outbreaks of bubonic plague, the authorities published a weekly bill of mortality. The Great Plague of London, which hit the city in the summer of 1665, is estimated to have killed between 75,000 and 100,000 Londoners (out of a total population of about 460,000). The bill of mortality shown here gives the death tally of all city parishes for the week of August 15th - 22nd, 1665, when the plague had infected 96 out of 130 parishes. If medicine was still somewhat uncertain about causes of death, those in charge of totting up deaths for the bills of mortality were even more so. As the Royal Society of Medicine’s website notes, “ ... read more
The Great Plague of 1665
The eerie beaked mask of a plague doctor was stuffed with herbs to purify the pestilential air

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two June 9th 2023

Born in 1951 to working-class parents, I spent my youth travelling by train and bus. We never ventured outside of England for holidays, so it wasn’t until I started travelling by myself to mainland Europe that I boarded a plane for the first time. I can’t remember my first flight. It wasn’t going to Holland and Germany on a school holiday circa 1966, when we crossed the Channel by boat. It wasn’t going to Ireland in 1970, when I was violently seasick on the Fishguard to Rosslare ferry. I have no memory of plane travel until 1974, when I visited Norway with my friend, Julian Russell. We took the ferry from Harwich to Kristiansand but returned to Blighty by air from Copenhagen. An unmemorable flight – just a convenient way of getting home. In 1975, I ... read more
Air Tanzania
Rutaca Egg-Beater

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two June 2nd 2023

I have one photo of Auntie Chrissie, my mother’s elder sister. It is Blu-tacked to the display case in my living-room, coincidentally (and ironically, as you will see) next to a bottle of Laphroaig whisky. I put it there because I like looking at it – a memory of my youth in Reading and a memory of her. Seeing that photo yesterday, I decided to write down my memories of Auntie Chrissie. Growing up in Reading, U.K., with my Irish parents, I was cut off from their families, who lived in Ireland and never ventured abroad. I never knew my grandparents, who all died young, but my father had two siblings, Tommy and Bessie, and my mother two more, Willie and Chrissie. The only time as an adult that I ever met Tommy and Bessie and ... read more
W. B. Yeats 'Selected Poems'
Legion of Mary
Valentia Parade Houses

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