Blogs from District Two, Ho Chi Minh City, Southeast, Vietnam, Asia - page 3


Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two July 15th 2020

When my friend, Mike, saw my HCMC bedroom for the first time, he described it as my “shrine”. A fitting epithet. The Cambridge dictionary defines ‘shrine’ as ‘a place for worship that is holy because of a connection with a holy person or object’. Well, my bedroom is festooned with photos of holy people – my parents, my friends and myself! I marginally prefer ‘sanctum sanctorum’ (holy of holies) to ‘shrine’ because it has an alliterative ring and sounds grander. But the idea is the same – my bedroom is an extension of my most private self, reflecting my personality and my life. Wherever I’ve lived, I have always surrounded myself with photos and pictures. I know that some people prefer plain unadorned walls, but I find that boring; I want my walls to be visually ... read more
My Bedroom Wall
My Favourite Painting from Egypt
Painting from Venezuela

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two July 11th 2020

How many people can claim to be master of a particular trade or skill? Not many. Certainly not me. I have never been so phenomenally gifted at anything to merit the epithet ‘master’; however, I am, or have been, good at a number of things. Let’s start with sport. In my youth, I played football, rugby, cricket, tennis and table tennis. I hated rugby because it was too physical but enjoyed the rest. My best sports were tennis and table tennis. My greatest table tennis feat was winning the Men’s Singles, Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles Championships of Charles Morris, my university hall of residence, in 1971. Oh, and I won the table tennis championship of the Jolieville Hotel in Luxor, Egypt, when I visited circa 1988. Now on to chess, which is not a sport. ... read more
The Teacher
The Table Tennis Player
With My Wife and Her Parents

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two June 24th 2020

I regard Donald Trump as an abomination - a self-serving, narcissistic, ignorant, corrupt, racist, misogynistic, mendacious, divisive, foul-mouthed President. Much has been written about him, so I do not intend to repeat the obvious here, just mention a few things that have caught my attention or crossed my mind of late. In Vietnam there is a brand of cigarette called ‘Trump’. On the packet is an image of the Statue of Liberty and the word ‘TRUMP’ in golden capitals. Presumably the creators of this cigarette had Donald Trump in mind. I am not a smoker; I came across Trump cigarettes by chance and bought two packets to show my friends. The vendor told me that Trump is an unpopular brand because it has a nasty taste. How fitting, I thought: cheap and nasty just like Trump ... read more
Trump's Bible-Toting Photo-Op
The Bleach Fiasco
Poor America

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two May 15th 2020

I recently posted a blog entitled ‘A Meditation on Public Urinals’ in which the following paragraph appears: Circa 1960, a primitive cast-iron urinal was located at the junction of Addington and Erleigh Roads, hidden behind some advertising hoardings, close to where the No 31 bus used to stop. The bus driver would often leave his vehicle to empty his bladder there. When the urinal – which was most certainly unhygienic – was demolished, I remember the bus drivers complaining. Shortly afterwards I joined a Facebook group called, rather ponderously, ‘The Reading and Thames Valley Area Memories of Another Day’. I decided to post on it the most interesting photos of old Reading in my possession – photos of Cemetery Junction, Hatherley Road, Erleigh Road, the old Cadena Cafe, Eyles the Pawnbroker and so forth. One of ... read more
In its New Home
As it Was Circa 1963

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two May 14th 2020

I’ve just watched ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ for the third or fourth time. It is a magnificent western, which I rate just behind ‘High Noon’. The unifying factor between ‘Liberty Valance’ (1962) and ‘High Noon’ (1952) is Lee Van Cleef, who plays a minor bad-man role in both. 'Liberty Valance' has all the ingredients of a great movie – a compelling storyline, a hero (two actually), a villain, good dialogue, great direction, memorable scenes, strong acting and a central theme holding everything together. The movie boasts three great actors: James Stewart (playing Ransom Stoddard), John Wayne (Tom Doniphon) and Lee Marvin (Liberty Valance). The contrast between them is striking. Marvin is the embodiment of sadistic violence, his face and body language radiating menace. Nobody could have played the part better. Wayne is his... read more
The Steak Scene
Liberty Valance (with Lee Van Cleef to the Left)
Election Scene

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two April 28th 2020

During my time as an English teacher at Old Swinford Hospital School, three whole-school photos were taken – in 1977, ’79 and ’82. These photos – black and white, each one over 40 inches long – languished in a drawer in my Reading house for many years until I decided to display them on my bedroom wall in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. They rank as one of my dearest possessions – a vivid memory of my first school, where I taught for 10 years, from 1975 until 1985, before deciding to go overseas. I remember the photos being taken with an old-fashioned moving camera. We were told to keep still as the camera moved from left to right of the assembled throng – several hundred boys and around 28 staff arranged in 5 or 6 ... read more
Me 1977
Me 1979
Me 1982

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two April 14th 2020

This morning I read Thomas Hardy’s second volume of poems, published in 1901: ‘Poems of the Past and the Present’. It contains 98 poems divided into five sections: War Poems, Poems of Pilgrimage, Miscellaneous Poems, Imitations and Retrospect. 98 is a huge number for a single volume of poems, especially when compared with the slim volumes published nowadays. Philip Larkin’s ‘High Windows' contains 24 poems, Seamus Heaney’s ‘Death of a Naturalist’ 34, Ted Hughes’ ‘The Hawk in the Rain’ 40. Moreover, some of Hardy’s poems are very long, for example ‘The Lost Pyx’ which consists of 19 four-line stanzas. In terms of sheer quantity, Hardy’s volume represents excellent value for money. However, the quality of the poems is variable. I picked out around 30 poems that are worth rereading, including ‘The Darkling Thrush... read more
Thomas Hardy
Hardy's Description of the Darkling Thrush

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two April 13th 2020

The most useful thing about the internet, after email, is Youtube. For me, it is an invaluable source of music, movies, sporting highlights and documentaries. I rarely play music from my large digitalized collection, because everything I need is there on Youtube. I have not subscribed to Netflix because I'm still discovering excellent movies on Youtube, and I've only just begun to tap the vast reservoir of documentaries that Youtube possesses. Yes, Youtube is like a vast reservoir or a parallel universe that one can dip into whenever - like now during coronavirus self-quarantine - one has time to fill up. Recently I’ve been bingeing on old movies. Youtube has a limited selection of modern movies but is full of old black-and-white and early technicolour stuff. Yesterday I watched Walt Disney’s ‘Bambi’ for the first time ... read more
Peter Finch in the House of Commons
Peter Finch and Billie Whitelaw

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two April 9th 2020

In my coronavirus self-quarantine, I’ve been busy reading, writing, listening to music, watching old movies and playing online chess. Today I decided to listen to a H. P. Lovecraft short story, ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, read on Youtube by Ian Gordon. This was the first time in almost 50 years years I’d read/listened to Lovecraft, and it was an interesting experience. I chose this story not because it is my favourite – that accolade goes to ‘The Dreams in the Witch House’ – but because it is quintessential Lovecraft, embracing all his strengths and weaknesses and featuring the central figure of the Lovecraftian mythos: Cthulhu. After the reading, I happened to glance at other listeners’ comments, two of which are: “Jesus, how did we let our language slip to such a bland state? I ... read more
'The Haunter of the Dark' - My First Collection of H. P. Lovecraft's Stories
Artist's Impression of Cthulhu
Montague Rhodes James

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two April 5th 2020

I was moved to write this after watching a brilliant movie today: ‘Locke’, starring Tom Hardy. The movie is unique (as far as I know) because it consists entirely of a man driving a car and having a variety of telephone conversations. No other characters – just Ivan Locke and the people at the other end of the telephone. No action – just a man sitting in a car talking and registering shades of emotion with his voice and face. It doesn’t sound like a good idea for a movie but it works – spectacularly. As soon as the man’s predicament emerges from his conversations, the movie becomes suspenseful and riveting. I am not alone in praising it. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave it four stars. The screenplay, by Steven Knight, won first prize at ... read more
Great Movie
Just a Man at the Wheel of a Car
Ezra Pound's Battle Cry

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