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Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two September 17th 2022

Yesterday – September 13th 2022 – I opened an email from my friend Ian Rysdale that read: “Kevin, it’s with immense sadness that I’m writing to let you know that Steve passed away this morning.” This came as an almighty shock. I had no idea that Steve Clayton was ill, let alone fatally ill. Ian went on to explain that Steve had been very sick for the last six months with leukemia, kidney failure and a suppressed immune system. He had kept his condition a secret as, according to Ian, “he just didn’t want to make a big issue of it.”Typical of the man. I first met Steve in August 1998 when I started teaching in Maturin, Venezuela. Teachers at the International School of Monagas were obliged to share apartments, and Steve, a complete stranger, was ... read more
The Cook
The Two of Us
Bittern-Watching from a Hide

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two September 8th 2022

I occasionally post things on the Facebook page entitled ‘The Reading and Thames Valley Area Memories of Another Day’. I am nostalgic for the pubs of my youth in Reading U.K.; I vividly remember the pleasure of drinking fine beer in congenial surroundings with my friends. The following was published as 4 separate articles in September 2022. I can think of no pub that has gone through as many name changes as The Hope and Bear, Cemetery Junction, Reading. It used to be the Abbot Cook. Before that it was the Upin Arms. And, originally, for a very long time, it was the Jack of Both Sides. I grew up in Reading in the 1950s and 60s, when the Jack of Both Sides was a famous local landmark. It was a large pub, prominently situated at ... read more
The Cunning Man
Old Gales Brewery Price List
The Dove

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two September 2nd 2022

Recently, to pass the time, I have been posting on Facebook photos of traditional English pub signs, accompanied by facts about the names. I have always been fascinated by English pubs. While still at primary school, I used to wander round my native Reading writing down the names of pubs. Later, when CAMRA began, I learned to appreciate the taste of good beer and wandered round the country sampling real ales. I love pub names with historical roots, reflecting the English countryside, English history and the agricultural past – ‘The Rising Sun’, ‘The Rose and Crown’, ‘The White Hart’, 'The Plough'. I detest new-fangled jokey names such as 'The Slug and Lettuce', ‘Upin Arms’, ‘The Strawberry Duck, ‘My Father’s Moustache’. Every day on Facebook I posted a short piece about one particular pub name and attached ... read more
The Rising Sun
The Wheatsheaf
The White Hart

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two August 14th 2022

For some reason I woke up this morning thinking about days. We divide our lives into measurable units – years, months, days, hours – and each passing day has a character or identity of its own. Each day is complete in itself, a microcosm of life: we die each night and are reborn each morning. And there are so many days! In my life so far, up to and including August 13th 2022, there have been 25,792 days. This includes extra days for leap years. In the grand scheme of things, Planet Earth is very small – according to Carl Sagan: “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam … a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena … a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.” And, in the grand scheme of things, ... read more
Macbeth's "Tomorrow" speech
Prevert's Poem
Carpe Diem

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two July 27th 2022

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a ‘cover version’ as ‘a new recording of an old song by a different band or singer’. Cover versions, Wikipedia informs me, originally referred to versions of a song released around the same time as the original in order to compete with it. Now, it refers to any subsequent version performed after the original. A common misconception in the music industry is that you need to receive permission from the original composer in order to record a cover version of their song. This is not so. Once an artist releases their musical work, anyone can create and distribute their own sound recording of the work (i.e. release a ‘cover’) as long they secure a ‘mechanical licence’ and pay the owner of the musical work a ‘mechanical royalty’ (currently 9.1 cents per ... read more
Jimi Hendrix
Patti Smith and 'Gloria'
'Concierto' by Jim Hall

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two July 9th 2022

I was born in 1951. Between 1955 and 1970 I grew up in 36 Hatherley Road, Reading. Between 1970 and 2017 I lived there periodically. During all those years, the Hatherley Road area – bounded by Cemetery Junction to the north, Palmer Park to the east, Whiteknights Park to the south, Redlands Road to the west – was my home. Even when living elsewhere, I always regarded No. 36 and the surrounding area as the centre of my universe; it was as if an invisible umbilical cord existed between me and it. That cord was partially severed in 2017, when I sold my house and resolved to spend the remainder of my life in Vietnam. I say ‘partially’ because, although I may never revisit my native heath, it is frequently in my thoughts. When I think ... read more
Reading School
St Luke's Today
Old St Luke's

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two July 2nd 2022

I passed on a Guardian poetry article to my friend, Finbar O’Toole, who is a published poet. Finbar is old school; he adores the poetry of Seamus Heaney, Philip Larkin and early Ted Hughes. For him, poetry is all about craftsmanship - selecting the right words and putting them in the right order. It has little to do with content and nothing at all to do with the personality of the poet. Finbar is cynical about modern poetry. He thinks that these days a poet stands a greater chance of being published if he or she is gay / coloured / ethnically unusual / physically or socially disadvantaged / strange in some way. The more of these boxes a poet ticks, the more successful he or she is likely to be. The quality of the actual ... read more
Pretentious and Incomprehensible

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two June 12th 2022

‘Gone to the dogs’ is one of my favourite idiomatic English expressions. Incomprehensible to most foreigners, it has been part of my vocabulary since I first heard it. I had a vague idea of the phrase’s origin but decided to look it up. There are two theories. The phrase may have its origins in the practice of going to dog - i.e. greyhound - races in order to bet on the outcome, sometimes losing one's money and becoming destitute in the process. However, I prefer the following theory. Criminals and social outcasts were often expelled from cities and sent to live among the rubbish – and the dogs. Such people were said to have 'gone to the dogs' both literally, in that that was where they were now to be found, and metaphorically, in the sense ... read more
Sihanoukville Construction in Progress
Sihanoukville 2022
Ochheuteal Sunset 2007

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two June 10th 2022

I retired from full-time teaching in June 2017. Since then I’ve been earning money by teaching privately - at home, online and in apartments and houses all over Ho Chi Minh City. This suits me fine. After 39 years of school, this old man needs a rest. Teaching one-to-one in the evenings and at weekends is a cakewalk compared to the daily grind of teaching 5 classes. Then, in February 2022, the Head of the European International School, John Veitch, made me an interesting offer. An English teacher had unexpectedly quit her job. Would I take over her classes for the remainder of the school year? I decided it would be impossible to be a full-time teacher and continue teaching privately outside of school hours; I would be spreading myself thin and would be exhausted. And ... read more
Garden Setting
Converted French Villas
Ajay in Action

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two May 14th 2022

Yesterday morning, May 13th 2022, I learnt from the Guardian newspaper that Robert Gillmor, the bird artist, had died. I was slightly shocked. He is probably the most famous person I have ever spoken to. We have several things in common: he loved birds; he was Reading born and bred; he was a teacher (at Leighton Park School in Reading); he knew my mother. I first came across him in Reading in the mid-1960s. At that time my mother was a private nurse, and her latest assignment was caring for Robert Gillmor’s old mother. When Robert learnt I was a keen bird-watcher and a member of ROC (Reading Ornithological Club), he made a point of meeting me. I can’t remember if he gave me anything, but he may have – possibly Xmas cards adorned with his ... read more
Bullfinches
Mute Swan




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