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

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Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City November 27th 2020

I read a lot of Somerset Maugham novels when I was in my twenties. One of them was ‘The Razor’s Edge’. I recall somebody – probably my devoutly Roman Catholic Aunt Chrissie – saying it was on the Vatican’s list of proscribed books, which, naturally, was a huge incentive for me to get a copy. Another one was 'The Moon and Sixpence', which Philip Thody, our French professor at Leeds University, referred to in a lecture, inspiring me to read it. I have just reread these two novels back to back. Both are easy and enjoyable reads. Somerset Maugham seems to have gone out of fashion, but he is an excellent story-teller. His style can be a tad pedestrian and repetitive at times, but he has a flair for social comedy and dialogue and for creating ... read more
Graham Sutherland's Portrait of Maugham
Somerset Maugham
Great Quotation

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two November 26th 2020

Diego Maradona is dead. One of the greatest footballers of all time – perhaps the greatest – died yesterday, November 25th, in Buenos Aires at the age of 60. Nine ambulances arrived to try and revive him after he was found lifeless, apparently from a heart attack, shortly before midday at his rented home. Maradona had been recovering from brain surgery. The Argentinian President has decreed three days of national mourning to “honour the memory of Diego Armando Maradona … the best football player in the world and a person who made Argentinians immensely happy.” At least one million people are expected to march past Maradona’s coffin tomorrow while he lies in state at the Casa Rosada Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires. The life of Maradona has been documented to the nth degree, so I am ... read more
World Cup Winner 1986
Dribbling His Way Through England 1986
Winning the Scudetto with Napoli 1987

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two November 21st 2020

I have just counted my shirts. I possess 66. A ridiculous number. Is 66 symbolic – the Mark of the Shirt Beast? My shirt collection stretches back into antiquity. I have one white cotton shirt which I bought in Silver’s, a posh menswear shop in Reading, in the early 1980’s. I bought it in a sale. A posh-sounding label - ‘The Paris House Collection’ - is sewn beneath the collar, and it has a unique feature (unique, that is, to my shirt collection): after you do up the buttons, they are hidden from view. Ancient it may be, but it remains my best white shirt. I wore it a couple of weeks ago at a friend’s wedding. That is my oldest shirt, and the fact that it has lasted all these years attests to its quality. ... read more
Blue Polo: Nha Trang 2007
Orange Polo: Accra 2008
Green Polo: Nha Trang 2007

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two November 3rd 2020

In his poem, The Municipal Gallery Revisited, W. B. Yeats revisits the Dublin Municipal Art Gallery and contemplates the portraits of people he has known – Augusta and Robert Gregory, Hugh Lane, John Millington Synge and a few others. He concludes: You that would judge me, do not judge alone This book or that, come to this hallowed place Where my friends' portraits hang and look thereon; Ireland's history in their lineaments trace; Think where man's glory most begins and ends, And say my glory was I had such friends. I have always liked this poem, especially the idea that a person should be judged by the quality of his friends. It reminds me of what my mother used to say: ‘Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are’. Well, my HCMC bedroom ... read more
Chris and Yvonne
Derek in an Aswan Spice Shop
Graham Burgess in My Reading House

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City November 1st 2020

Sean Connery has died aged 90 - a good innings, so we shouldn’t feel too sad. However, he means a lot to me, and I want to share some personal opinions and a few things that may not feature in the obituaries. Sean Connery has a connection with Vietnam. When I visited the Furama Resort, a beach hotel in Danang, around 2005, there was a sign telling us that Sean Connery reckoned it to be the best hotel he’d ever stayed in. I tried, today, to verify this on the internet but found nothing. However, I have a clear memory of Mr Connery’s fulsome endorsement. Sean Connery has a connection with me! On at least five occasions, a stranger has remarked on my facial resemblance to Sean Connery, which I have taken as a huge compliment. ... read more
In 'Outland' 1981
Canoodling with Shirley Eaton in 'Goldfinger'
A Very Old Connery

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two October 30th 2020

Most good short story texts can be found on the internet. Two exceptions are ‘To See the Sun’, Kingsley Amis’s brilliant vampire short story, and ‘Mysteries of the Heart’ by Nigel Hinton. I came across ‘Mysteries of the Heart’ years ago, before the internet age, in an English text book. It impressed me so much I copied it out word for word on to my computer. It is perfect for young teenagers, and I have used it many times in my teaching. To this day, the text of ‘Mysteries of the Heart’ cannot be found on the internet, so I have decided to post it here – in the hope that an English teacher stumbles across it and decides to use it. Hinton is prolific – the author of over 20 texts, mainly teenage fiction – ... read more

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two October 17th 2020

Thuy and I have just spent four days on Phu Quoc Island. I knew it would be wet; I knew the sea would be unswimmable; I knew there would be little to do with the rain falling; but I needed a break from the monotony of city life. Phu Quoc would have fresh sea air, trees and flowers, no Russian or Chinese tourists (thanks to Covid); it would be a relaxing and therapeutic break after my labours of the previous two months – working every day at the European International School and, to boot, teaching 13 hours of English per week in the evenings and at weekends. I was knackered and in need of a mindless rest. I was looking forward to peace and quiet at our carefully chosen hotel, the Phu Quoc Eco Beach Resort, ... read more
Thuy Posing
Posing Again
The Infinity Pool

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two October 7th 2020

I worked 39 years as a full-time English teacher and never sought to increase my income by giving private lessons. I was more than happy with my salary, and I treasured my free time. Only once – when I was teaching in England circa 1981 – did I tutor someone privately. He was a weak English student, so weak he was studying CSE English (now obsolete), not English ‘O’ level. As I recall, I took him on out of sympathy. I did my best, but he failed miserably despite my brilliant coaching. I retired from full-time teaching in 2017, at the age of 65, after 39 years on the chalk face. I was tired. The plan now was to earn money as a supply teacher and as a private tutor. Our apartment in District 2, HCMC, ... read more
A Favourite Text: 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas'
My Job at EIS Was a Silver Lining in the Covid Cloud
I Welcome Cash Cows!

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two September 22nd 2020

Last night, September 21st 2020, my wife’s brother-in-law, Sang, died. When Thuy's phone rang at 10pm, we feared the worst and, sure enough, it was Sang’s wife, Ngoc, Thuy’s youngest sister, breaking the terrible news. We had been prepared for this. Earlier the same evening, at around 8pm, Thuy had made me look at a live video stream from Sang’s mother’s house showing Sang in bed in a parlous state with Ngoc in attendance. He was on his back, not moving, eyes wide open and vacant, staring at the ceiling - a living corpse - unrecognizable from the strong and healthy man I had last seen in February 2019. Thuy predicted he would be dead in a couple of days. It took just two hours. We have no idea what Sang died from because he did ... read more
With His Beloved Son
Sang and Son
Last Photo of Sang Tet 2019

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City August 16th 2020

I don’t propose to mention all the doctors and dentists I have encountered during my 68 years on earth – only the more memorable ones. I have enjoyed a largely illness-free life, but there have been occasions when a doctor or dentist has come to the rescue and made a long-lasting impression, not just on my body but on my memory too. As a primary schoolboy, I was sick most years with either bronchitis or pleurisy. I would be laid low for a week or two, looked after by Mum. In those days – the 1950’s - it was normal for a family doctor to visit the patient at home, so Dr Gledhill and Dr Walford, whose practice was in Denmark Road, a 10-minute walk from our house, would visit me in my bedroom. As I ... read more
The Royal Berkshire Hospital
Columbia Asia - My Clinic Since 2004
Dr Ngoc




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