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

Thuy and I have just spent 4 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

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

The day before had been a very happy one for Thuy and I. We’d gone to bed, little knowing what was in store. On Thursday August 6th Thuy’s phone rang at 6am, which was unusual. An ill omen. I handed the phone to her and she listened in silence. “A big problem,” she said. Then she got out of bed and began to weep. Her restaurant in Tan Chau had collapsed during the night. The foundations had caved in - after weeks of heavy rain – taking down some of the roof. The two expensive billiard tables had disappeared from view. Her nephew, Viet, who lives in one of our two big houses adjacent to the restaurant, reported that the houses were undamaged and nobody had been injured. If the landslip had occurred during the day, ... read more
My Reading Chair and the View
December 2011: Foundations Being Laid
Our Wedding Rave-Up

Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District Two August 2nd 2020

The other day, I came across a statistic that shocked me: Maturin, in Venezuela, is the 5th most dangerous city on earth with a recorded annual 86.45 homicides per 100,000 residents. Caracas, also in Venezuela, leads the field with 119.87. According to United Nations data, a staggering one third of global homicides occur in Latin America even though the region comprises just 8% of the world's population. There were 27,875 homicides in Maturin last year. 17 years of socialist rule have reduced Venezuela to a shambles. Plummeting crude oil prices have left the country on the verge of economic collapse, inflation is running in triple digits, and food shortages are rampant. This is almost unbelievable because Venezuela has the largest oil reserves of any country on earth - streets head of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and ... read more
5th Most Dangerous
Typical Rutaca Plane

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 July 5th 2020

(I wrote the following in Buenos Aires in 1997 the day after witnessing the event described.) If you are a sports fanatic, like me, it is always a thrill to see your hero in the flesh. On Tuesday evening, September 9th 1997, I made a pilgrimage downtown to the Club Argentino de Ajedrez to see my idol, Garry Kasparov, for the first time. The venue was fitting, because it was here, in 1927, that Alexander Alekhine had defeated Jose Raoul Capablanca to become the new world chess champion. The table, with its inlaid board, on which the two men played their historic match has been lovingly preserved. Garry Kasparov is the greatest chess player in the world (with the possible exceptions of Bobby Fischer, who no longer competes, and Deep Blue, the awesome ... read more
The Famous Old Chess Club
Genius At Work

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




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