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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Christmas Tree.....

I know you've read this before but I'm posting it in remembrance of my Dearest Dad, as I will every year.




They were dirt poor, living in a poor neighbourhood but Christmas was always a magical time for Kit.  There was no money for fripperies but Kit needed a Christmas Tree.

"Joe, make me a Christmas Tree" she said to her youngest son.

"What?  How am I supposed to do that?" he asked.

"Use your imagination" said Kit.

Why did she always demand such things of him, Joe wondered, just for once couldn't she ask one of the others to come up with the impossible.   Oh well, there was no use in sulking, he would just have to get on with it and do his best because his mother would not accept anything less.

On his way back from work that day he decided to take the short cut through the park, as for once he didn't have any errands to do for Kit or the neighbours to whom she so readily offered his services.   Busy wondering how he could fulfill Kit's latest request he was not looking where he was going and suddenly found himself flat on his face having tripped over a broken branch off a tree, which had fallen as the result of the storm the day before.   Drat it, he thought as he dusted himself off, then *ding* a lightbulb lit up in his head - he could maybe do something with the branch!  It was quite a big branch with quite a few forks and twigs attached so he grabbed it by the thickest part and dragged it as carefully as he could along the streets until he got it back home.  

Once home he found a bucket and filled it with stones and soil and planted the branch carefully so that it was secure and standing proud.   He searched the cellar and found some white paint and set to work to paint the branch.  Whilst the paint was drying he searched the house for anything that would liven the tree up; bit of tinsel from a previous Christmas, a couple of paper chains Kit's grandchildren had made at school, a small doll one of the grandchildren had left lying about dressed in crepe paper would make a fairy for the top of the branch.  He carefully moved the branch to the front room and set it in the front window, it actually looked like a Christmas Tree he thought when he'd finished dressing it!

"I knew you wouldn't let me down" a delighted Kit told Joe.

Soon word got round the neighbourhood that Kit had a Christmas Tree, something no-one else had, and that's when the frequent knocks on the door started.  Neighbours arrived asking to see the Christmas Tree bringing little gifts to hang on it - an odd earring, another piece of tinsel, a long forgotten fripperie from more affluent times.  Before long the Christmas Tree was shimmering and sparkling and was truly magnificent.    Kit was thrilled and so were the neighbours who claimed part of The Christmas Tree as their own. On Christmas Eve Kit's family and neighbours gathered in the front room and sang traditional Christmas Carols whilst marvelling at the Tree.  Everyone agreed it was the best Christmas Tree they had ever seen and vowed that every year they would do the same thing again.


This is a true story - Joe was my Dad and Kit my grandmother.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

China Part 3.......

Day three found us on our way to visit Huanglongxi Old Town (Yellow Dragon Town).   I thought you might like to experience our journey through Chengdu to our destination, so I took this short video of the manic traffic.

video

Huanglongxi is an ancient town with a history of more than 1,700 years, it is situated in Shuangliu County, 30 kilometers southeast from Chengdu.

Arriving at our destination we followed our guide into the town, notice the locals keeping to the traditional way of carrying goods.




There is a lovely stream running through the centre of the town, beautifully clean and decorated with traditional ornaments.





It even has a working water wheel!
video

There were some very interesting food stalls.



Traditional birds in cages,
buildings,





and transport.
Two small temples

and an offering tree.
 
There was a magazine photo shoot taking place whilst we were there using traditional costumes.



We really enjoyed our visit to the old town but it was time to board the coach again and travel to Leshan for lunch, before boarding a boat to take us to view the Giant Buddha.

The other way to see the Giant Buddha is to walk down from the top near the head and end at its feet,
 walk across the walkway in front of the Buddha
and up the other side.
Of course we took the easier option!

Begun in the year 713 in the Tang Dynasty, and finished in the year 803, the statue took people more than 90 years to carve. During these years, thousands of workers had expended their efforts and wisdom on the project. As the biggest carved stone Buddha in the world, the Giant Buddha is featured in poetry, song and story.

Facing the river, the Buddha has symmetrical posture and looks which have been beautifully captured in its solemn stillness. It is 71 meters (about 233 feet) high, and has 8.3-meter-long (about 27 feet) fingers. The 9-meter-wide (about 30 feet) instep is big enough for one hundred people to sit on and the 24-meter-wide (about 79 feet) shoulder is large enough to be a basketball playground.  It truly is a  spectacle to behold.
We had really enjoyed our third day in China taking in the culture but it we had to return to the hotel, rather late that day so we ordered room service and enjoyed a burger and fries, a nice change from a Chinese Banquet!  LOL

Please join me in Part 4 when we visit the Bamboo Park and journey to Chongqing.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Dona Nobis Pacem........





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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

China Part 2.....

We had barely caught up with our sleep when Day Two in China dawned and after fortifying ourselves with a hearty breakfast we met up with the rest of our group for our excursion that morning to the Chengdu Panda Breeding Centre.  You can read more about the centre and their work here.



One of the most endangered animals on earth, there are over 80 Pandas being bred and reared here, in surroundings recreated to resemble their natural habitat.   We saw babies in incubators, you can see in the photograph below the back end of a baby with it's head covered, this is because they tend to thrash about and don't settle if they heads are not covered.
When a Panda gives birth to twins at the centre the staff there only give one at a time to the mother to feed, keeping one in the incubator until she has fed the other one.  This ensures survival of both babies as left to her own devices she would just cast one aside.   Apparently the mothers are none the wiser when the babies as swapped.

Slightly older babies are kept in cots in the nursery
and older still in a larger nursery.
video

Pandas can't walk until they are a few months old which is why the nurse in the film is moving them about.   Adolescents live together, eating and socialising.

video
Fully grown Pandas live solitary lives.

The breeding centre also has Red Pandas, which I think look more like racoons.


It's a fascinating place, they have lots of information such as videos showing the breeding programme and the history of the centre.  The Pandas are adorable, especially the babies, and one could spend hours just watching their antics.  Unfortunately we had to leave to go for lunch (another traditional Chinese banquet) before setting off to visit a Silk Factory.
Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photographs in the silk factory but the tour was extremely interesting, starting with how the silk was farmed, woven and made into the most beautiful bed covers, quilts, clothes and scarves.

We made our way back to the hotel for a short rest and a quick freshen up and change for dinner at another traditional Chinese Restaurant.   This time dinner consisted of lots of different Dim Sum and MWM even tried a local delicacy - rabbit's head!    He had to hold it in one hand and pick the meat off the skull with the other, including the brain inside!  I know YUK!    He said it was quite tasty.  I couldn't believe he tried it, this man that heaves at the thought of mashed potato!!!!

Another busy day over we looked forward to a good night's sleep back at out hotel, with it's great views

and the trip the following day to an old town and the huge Buddha carved into a mountain.  I hope you'll join me for Part 3.

Monday, 5 October 2015

China Part 1.....

Well we've been back a week from our China trip and recovered from the jet lag, so let's get going on what we saw and did.

We arrived at our first City, Chengdu, at 11 am local time after a ten and a half hour overnight flight.   No time to sleep just unpack enough for a 3 night stay, freshen up before meeting our group for a visit to Jinli Old Street and dinner.

Jinli Old Street is one of the oldest shopping streets in Sichuan Province, and it can be traced back to the Three Kingdoms Period, over 1,800 years ago. The street showcases the customs of Xishu and the culture of Shuhan (one of the Three Kingdoms from 221 to 263). Most of the architecture here is of the style of the residences in western Sichuan Province.




 Lots of dubious looking street food, some recognisable (rabbits heads) some not.
Fish ponds and little bridges.


Two styles of ntertainment on Jinli Old Street.
video

video

Chinese lanterns.



A huge bell.
Starbucks!



then onto dinner a traditional Sichuan style banquet, approximately ten dishes with rice, tea and beer or soft drinks, which was delicious.

Fed, watered and tired we headed back to the hotel for a much needed sleep to prepare for the visit to the Panda Breeding Centre early the next morning.  I hope you'll join me for China Part 2.