8 January 2012

Lilli Farrow

Last night I was told some family history, which I'm putting here in the hope that this will help me to remember it.

My grandmother lived on a farm in a German village in Borodino, then in Romania, now apparently in the Ukraine.  When Hitler and Stalin decided to divide up eastern Europe between them, this part of Romania was given to the Russians.  The germans who lived there decided that it was for the best for them to leave, despite assurances from the Russians that they would be well treated.  They were given a couple of days to leave.  They went to what is now Poland, which was at this point once again German.  The journey was very tough, though until last night, I understood it to be even tougher.

In fact the tougher journey was done in the last weeks of the second world war in Europe.  The Russians were advancing and my grandma and her family were essentially on the front line.  It was not a time to be a german person under control of the Russians after what the Nazis had done to the Russians, so vast numbers of germans distributed over Europe, some having been there for hundreds of years, needed to flee from them.

Hitler didn't allow anyone to retreat, so my family and many others could only leave an area which was suffering the Russian onslaught once the Nazis in the area had left.  They were one step behind the Nazis who were themselves fleeing the advancing Russians.  According to a lady my Dad met a meeting of Borodino survivors a few years ago, my grandmother and her sister Emma were the two able bodied young people in the group and for the several months that this journey took, they would go ahead of their families to search for safe places to put their carts and to stay overnight.  Places safe from the Russian planes that would attack them.  They would also try and find food, for example digging up potatoes from the frozen ground.

The lady said that if it wasn't for my grandma and her sister, she thinks that they wouldn't have made it.  Once they made it clear of the Russians, my grandmothers shoes had to be cut off her as she hadn't taken them off for three months having walked I don't know how far in the depths of the eastern european winter.

Germany was devastatingly poor after the war, of course.  My Granddad was in charge of the NAAFI in Stuttgart having previously done the same job in Cairo.  My grandma worked there and they met and rest is history.  Well, it's all history.  They came back to England where she was warmly welcomed and made a part of the family.

24 October 2011

Thursday 01/09

I woke at hideous o'clock,  Some kind of number with a five in it,  I got a text from Lloyd just as I was leaving - have you checked in yet?  This threw me somewhat.  I don't know if he was playing games with my mind or whether the hourly was doing so with his.

I checked that I had all my stuff, about twenty times in total, shut the front door with a degree of sadness, and took the lift down to Hong Kong!  It was already very slightly warm.  It was the first time I saw the place quiet.  The walk was twenty minutes down what you might describe as a dual carriageway.  I know that word is well defined, but it was early, I told you, I'm not sure...

The walk seemed to take quite a while, I had little idea how far it was.  I walked through IFC2 (I think) and checked my bags in at Hong Kong station.  I then travelled light to the airport, too sleepy to read Tony Blair's autobiography.

The flight was exactly the same as the previous 40 odd hours of flying I'd done that fortnight.  Air New Zealand still hadn't put any new material on their in flight entertainment system but I got by!

At London, I was slightly less disgusted by our country than I normally am when returning home.  I treated myself to the quicker Heathrow Express ticket because I was keen to get back to Em.

10 September 2011

Wednesday 31/08

We all managed to get together on the sofa at about midday.  I'd slept reasonably well despite some crazy DIY going on somewhere upstairs.  We are all feeling obviously very fuzzy, but it was clear that I had largely got away with it.  We pieced together recollections of the evening before.

Lloyd and I took a tram to the City Hall for dim sum.  This is a cool place to go for it; it is well known because the food is brought round on trollies and the room has large chandeliers and I guess a colonial feel.  I was here on my last trip, which was the first time I had dim sum.  As I didn't really know what I was eating at the time, I struggled in the years after to recall what had made it so memorably delicious.

When the food came, it turned out that their food was similar to the dim sum I had subsequently had, just done with a lot more skill.  We ordered too much, but thanks to us arriving so close to the 3pm end-of-dim-sum-time, they simply didn't bother to bring the last few dishes, leaving me on the right side of regurgitating last night's gin.

On the tram back, it became clearer still that I was really going to miss Hong Kong again, mainly for the fact that it is so incredibly bustling.  Everywhere is totally full of people and activity, the details seemingly constantly changing, and with a healthy dose of weirdness thrown in.  The example that sticks in my mind being the shop round the corner from Lloyd's that sells anything deer-related that they can get their hands on - antlers, foetuses, digestive system stones; if i could read chinese I would probably find that the remainder was wronger still.

We had decided to more or less write the day off (thought City Hall Dim Sum was something I had really wanted to do).  We could have gone to Macau but it would have been risky.  Back at the apartment, we instead watched the rest of Inception and ate chilli.   Turns out it's not a film you can watch in sections, especially with a brain as furry as mine was that day.

I suggested a game of Abalone to try and resolve this somewhat.  Did I mention this game before?  Totally addictive.

I packed my bags and went to bed.  That's it, then.

31 August 2011

Tuesday 30/08

Lloyd worked
Wan Chai computer centre
Nirvana bar
Wan Chai

Monday 29/08

2 metro, one bus, one taxi
beers, pasties

steak with jackie

29 August 2011

Saturday 27/08

Nothing happened until 3am.  There was no sign of life.

At 3 we took a tram and then a bus to Stanley.  We walked through a tat market and down onto the beach where we met some people Lloyd knows and some he didn't.  We sent keen minions to go and buy meat and the others went for a swim in the sea.  Probably should have taken some trunks - spent the rest of the day pretty wet.

The water was warm, we spent about half an hour out there, it was easy to more or less just float, surrounded by a view of several islands and more huge ships.  The swim finished when we saw the bbq was going.  We had one of the four on the beach, made out of concrete and surrounded by concrete seats.

We spent quite a while eating tough but delicious lamb and studiously avoiding the chicken.  Wings.  Some of the people there were not in banking or software, we had a beer or two and swam again in the evening.  We got a bus home and found that it had somehow been quite a tiring day.  Perhaps it was the night before that was tiring, but I slept well.

28 August 2011

Friday 26/8

I woke up at 7:30 and surfed til 9:30 when Lloyd appeared.  We watched a couple of TED talks over a breakfast of steamed bun things with chocolate that Lloyd knocked up.  Particularly enjoyable was a talk where Richard Dawkins said some things that I already believed in; his confirmation felt good.

Then we took the subway and a taxi to Kam Sham country park where we did a 4k "hike" - I'm not sure anything so sure can be a hike in truth.  The attraction of this hike is that the area contains a couple of thousand monkeys and we found them as soon as we got there.  Well actually, we had to get a bus back to civilisation (a petrol station) when we realised that we had no water, but when we got the second bus back, we immediately found around 20 monkeys, sitting around doing their own thing.

This was very sweet.  I again regretted leaving my telephoto lens at home.  There were lots of baby monkeys being exceptionally cute and we chilled out and sat around with them for some time.

Also from the petrol station, I bought a pack of sausagey things.  I don't know why, I think I was won over by their exceptional cheapness.  It was a level of wrong I find hard to describe.  They were labelled garlic and chili sausage or something similar.  God forgive me.

Drink waiting for ferry looking out across the water, had a quick shower then met some of Lloyd's friends for drinks.  We went to a place with live music and an outside bar up a skyscraper where the employees kept coming over telling us not to jump off.

After an ill-judged fry up, we got back at 4am.