Blogs from District Two, Ho Chi Minh City, Southeast, Vietnam, Asia - page 7

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Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two October 8th 2018

Chris Crookes, a former student of Old Swinford Hospital (in Stourbridge, West Midlands), the school where I taught before going overseas, has just written to me about my ‘School Nicknames’ blog, most of which is devoted to the weird and wonderful nicknames concocted by the boys of Old Swinford. He has corrected several of my assertions and given me extra information about Old Swinford teachers between the years 1967 and 1972. I joined the school in 1975, and most of the teachers who were there in Chris’s time were still there when I began. The most interesting thing, however, in Chris’s email was the 1971 staff photograph - taken in front of Founders Building - and a list of teachers' names from 1967. I was astounded by how long some of those teachers had already worked ... read more
Peter Davies - with Trademark Cigarette
Old Swinford Hospital School 1893
Staff Dinner in the Oak Room Xmas 1975, Lance Naylor Centre Left, Ray Milner Centre Right

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two September 25th 2018

Like reading books and listening to music, watching movies has always been an important part of my artistic life. In today’s digital age it is easy to watch any movie at any time, but I am nostalgic for the old days when there were only two ways of watching movies: at the cinema or on TV. Watching a movie back then was a special event, to be savoured and remembered, because it was uncertain when, if ever, the movie might be watched again. It is a sign of the times that I am automatically using the word ‘movie’. This American word has supplanted the English word ‘film’, which for years was the only word I ever used. ‘Pictures’ – as in ‘I’m going to the pictures’ - is another old-fashioned word which I seem to have ... read more
The Graduate
Lolita
One of the Greatest Movies

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two March 27th 2018

Vernon Scannell is a well-known 20th century poet, not in the first rank but the author of some fine poems. Throughout my teaching career I have used his poem ‘A Case of Murder’ with younger students. Round about 1980, when I was teaching in England, at Old Swinford Hospital in Stourbridge, I acquired a play written by him. It was a BBC Schools radio play called ‘A Modern Faust’. Somebody taped it from the radio and gave me the tape; for the life of me, I cannot remember who. The play is an updating of the Faust legend. In the original, Faust sells his soul to the Devil; in ‘A Modern Faust’ a poet sells his artistic soul by signing a contract to write best-selling novels. I used the play quite successfully in Stourbridge and took ... read more
Christopher Marlowe's Play
Andrew Taylor's Biography of Vernon Scannell
Vernon Scannell

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two February 4th 2018

Since the early 70’s the band known as Santana has been part of my life. I discovered them in the late 60’s, but it wasn't until the 70’s that I started buying their records. Their first four studio albums are astoundingly good: Santana (1969), Abraxas (1970), Santana 111 (1971) and Caravanserai (1972). Santana sounded excitingly different from every other band of that era. Their music featured the melodic, bluesy guitar lines of Carlos Santana set against Latin percussion instruments, such as timbales and congas, not generally heard in rock music. Keyboards too were a vital component. I loved the percussion, the uniquely lyrical tone of Carlos Santana’s guitar and the melodies. Santana LP’s were beautifully packaged. The cover of Abraxas was, I suppose, what you would call ‘psychedelic’ – a riot of colourful and intriguing images. ... read more
Caravanserai
Borboletta
Carlos Santana at Woodstock

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two December 5th 2017

I‘ve just paid 25 million VND ($1100) to free my wife’s brother-in-law from gaol. His crime? He was gambling on a cock-fight. The other gamblers fled, but he was too slow, and the police arrested him. He spent six months in a crowded cell, surviving on police rations and the occasional meal from his wife, until I paid the bribe to have him released. Which begs the question: how long would he have spent in gaol if I hadn’t paid up? My wife says two to three years. For a trivial offence like gambling on a cock fight, this is out of all proportion, but that’s the way things are in good old communist Vietnam. It’s only Vietnamese who are barred from gambling in Vietnam. Some fancy hotels here have casinos, where foreigners are free to ... read more
Cock For Sale
The Dreaded Police
Thuy and Huynh Trang

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two October 27th 2017

Of Civet Cats and Coffee Yesterday, as I was waiting for Sao, my xe om (motorcycle) driver, to lock up his mobile cigarette kiosk and give me a lift, I saw that he was holding a strange creature. It was like a cat with a pointed face and a very long striped tail. ‘Raccoon’ was my first thought, but, of course, this is Vietnam, not North America. The creature was completely docile, and Sao was stroking it affectionately. I beckoned my wife over, and she told me the creature’s name: ‘con chon’. Before departing, Sao opened a compartment in his kiosk and locked the con chon inside. Poor thing! I thought. It would be in the dark, in a tiny space, until he returned an hour later. I was unsure what ‘con chon’ was in English, ... read more
Civet Faeces
Civet and Coffee Cherries
Civet Coffee

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two September 26th 2017

RIP Ken Stebbing I first met Ken Stebbing when I arrived at BISC (the British International School of Cairo) in 1985. He'd been the Headmaster of BISC the previous year but had resigned (he told me later he hated dealing with the Board) and was now the Secondary School English Language teacher. I was the Secondary English Literature teacher. A bizarre division of labour. During my interview with Leslie and Eleanor Casbon – in a hotel near Exeter station – Mr Casbon openly queried Ken’s reasons for relinquishing the headship after only one year. I remember his comment: “I don’t know what Ken Stebbing is playing at.” Anyway, Ken and I were the two English teachers, and we got to know each other very well. He was a decade or so my senior and was the ... read more
Ken (Cairo circa 1980)
Ken (Cairo circa 1980)
Ken (Cairo circa 1980?)

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two May 24th 2014

Hier, visite au musée de la guerre du Vietnam. Le premier élément qui nous saisit est l’immensité de l’hélicoptère de combat américain, dont les pales dépassent l’enceinte du musée. Malgré mes élans pacifiques, je ne peux m’empêcher de ressentir une certaine fascination devant des engins tels que ceux-ci. Étant un génie de premier ordre, j’ai décidé de faire semblant de tirer du gun avec une mitraillette qu’on pouvait bouger. Après mûre réflexion, j’ai constaté qu’il s’agissait probablement d’un geste stupide. Le reste de la visite allait me le confirmer. L’exposition suivante a lieu dans une sorte de cachot et il est possible d’y voir des photos de Vietnamiens ayant été torturés (Il est important de savoir que le sud combattait avec les États-Unis durant la guerre du Vietnam). Dents cassées, membres scié... read more
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