Thursday, March 26, 2015

A New Toy for The Broad

As part of my regimen for staving off the fall into dementia, I quite regularly challenge my ability to cope with new techie challenges. In fact I find it quite a challenge just keeping up-to-date with all the new gadgets and challenges on offer!

So with a few excuses to myself I have recently acquired a new toy. To be precise a 'Wireless Mobile Phone Monopod'.

"What's that?" asked all three of my boys, to my bemusement. When I told them, each one of them in turn laughed out loud  at me and shook his head. On thinking about it for a few minutes, the eldest of my children -- who is in his 40's decided that perhaps it wasn't such a bad idea after all. But his children, the eldest of whom is Sam age 14, laughed...

The monopod was just challenging enough for me to deal with and feel a sense of achievement at mastering its technology. I learned how to assemble it and how to turn it on and re-remembered how bluetooth works. After initially failing to successfully operate it when I pushed the handy button, I discovered once again how important it is to read the directions. Actually, to be fair to myself, I had a bit of bother finding the directions -- but that was just a momentary lapse on the learning curve! I wish I had had it in Korea. However, it will be very useful on my upcoming trip to the States when all the family will be together. Though I can understand why it is banned in several high profile places!

Yes, fellow bloggers, I am now the proud, if laughed at, owner of what is generally known as a 'selfie stick'! Click!

Monday, March 16, 2015

From Not Writing, to travelling, to Mary

The great urge to write, to communicate never really left me as much as I left it! At least I think that is what happened. Maybe it is all part of coming to terms with grief. Partly that, I expect. I am uncomfortable writing about how things make me feel when the feelings are deeply felt. Overall, life really does go on and I don't want to dwell on matters of 'what might have been' or 'if only' -- so I don't.

I am so glad that winter is finally coming to an end. I have been busy making arrangements for The Man and me to go to the States in April. We leave the  Wednesday after Easter and return to the UK three weeks later. The joint memorial service for my brother and my mother will be on the 18th. Throughout the 3 weeks of our stay we will be seeing close family and friends and travelling from Boston to Vermont, to Connecticut, then to Washington, DC before returning north to Cape Cod and then again to Boston to fly back. The Man will do most of the driving!

The trip to DC will be a nostalgic visit. It is where I went to University, where I lived for 17 years and where I met The Man. I haven't been back there since the 1980s. I have not blogged much, if at all, about my life in the Nation's Capital. It was there I did most of my growing up, had my hippy days, made foolish mistakes, had wonderful times and met wonderful people.

Yesterday was Mothering Sunday/Mother's Day here in the UK. I learned something in church that in light of current affairs and our concerns with things ethnic, in particular, I found very interesting. The service yesterday included children in the Parish and the scouts. The vicar asked them how many times they thought Mary, the mother of Jesus, had been  mentioned in the New Testament. The children guessed figures from 'zero' to a thousand, but the one who came closest said '14'. My guess would have been '10'. The correct answer is '12'. Then the Vicar asked how many times Mary had been mentioned in the Koran. Nobody got that right! The answer is '36'! Not only is she mentioned three times as often in the Koran as in the New Testament, there is even a chapter in the Koran (Chapter 19) called 'Mary'. Food for thought...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Battling the Elements, so to speak...

Yesterday, on my way to tea at a girlfriend's house, The Man took me first to Morrison's Dry Cleaners to pick up my down jacket. I was anxious to get it  because the weather here has turned decidedly chilly -- especially when considering the wind/chill factor. Suddenly, instead of the plus three the thermometer was reading, it was feeling like minus eight. (We are talking centigrade, here, folks!) I picked up the jacket and before leaving the store I took off the padded raincoat I was wearing and donned the much warmer downy replacement and followed The Man who had left a few minutes earlier to wait for me in the car.

Just as well I had donned the down! Several paces from the store a sudden fierce whirlwind took hold of me and spun me around -- I was holding the coat I had been wearing earlier, which didn't help. At the same time a mixture of rain, snow and sleet lashed down upon me making it almost impossible to see. It was difficult to stay on my feet, but I did manage to make my way slowly toward the car. At last, I was nearly there only a few more seconds ...

when what to my wondering ears did I hear, but the car starting up and thrown into gear!

Horror struck and wind blown I watched as the old red Volvo wound its way to the other side of the car park to the entrance of the store I had just exited. Snow and rain and hail, not to mention wind continued to pummel me and I began to try to get to where the car now was. Then The Man saw  me and slowly made his way back to where I was standing. I opened the door -- not easy in the wind and with the elements making their way into the car before me and The Man bawling me out for not waiting for him in the store like any sensible person would do!!!

I closed the car door and the wind stopped, as did the snow, as did the rain, as did the sleet. Then The Man took me to my girlfriend's house, where I had a very nice cup of tea and a delicious piece of cake!

Here are some pictures from my friends in Cape Cod where a blizzard is a blizzard:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Mother, Going with the Flow...

Early the morning of January 9, my dear mother died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 95. Only 11 days before she had moved to a new home to be nearer to my youngest sister in the state of Vermont. Unfortunately, she had  contracted the flu and was no longer strong enough to recover. Last August the same thing happened and despite being warned that she had only hours left, somehow threw off the illness and survived another 5 months. 

As frail as she was before the illness in August, she become much more frail and was wheelchair bound. And she also had long periods of being extremely confused about where she was and who she might be talking about. So, without a doubt, she was ready to 'go home'.At the time of her death, she had not been told that my brother had died.

In the last months of her life she often spoke about being ready for death, but as various ills befell her, she simply replied that, "I'm just going with the flow"! In fact, when my sister visited her on the second day of her last illness, expecting her to be close to death, she had in fact rallied again and was quite lively and chipper, and repeated what had become her mantra of 'going with the flow"...

In April there will be a joint memorial service in Kent, Connecticut in the same church where we had the service for my father. A few days before her ashes will be interred next to my father. It is all being arranged and we all agree. We all know that the tragedies of the past weeks all for the very best, but, of course, we are all very sad.

She was the last of her generation. I imagine them being all back together now and my brother with them. All  are free of illnesses and infirmities. That generation and the one before left our family a legacy rich in love and goodness and they all of them live in my heart.

What startles me is the sobering thought, that I am now the family Matriarch!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

My Brother

December was a very sad month for my family. My dear brother, Bill, died on the 30th of December of congestive heart failure due to Parkinson's dementia. I have written about the onset of his illness. Looking back over my posts in 2014 I am surprised to discover that I did not blog anything about my visit with Bill in April. I had not idea it would be the last time I saw him.

He was living in a nursing home in Raleigh, North Carolina, near his wonderful only son and wonderful daughter-in-law. They picked me up at the airport and I was welcomed with open arms.

When I saw my brother the next morning, he was greatly changed from the athletic 6 foot three inch 'big' brother he had been when I last saw him 20 months earlier. Bill had always stood straight and tall. When I saw him for the first time in the nursing home I was taken aback to see him hunched over on a sofa like a very old man.

He knew me right away and with a little prodding straightened up and was ready for a visit. I had been well prepared for his disorientation and confusion about where he was and what he was doing there. Since his collapse several months before his mind had become seriously re-wired. For example, as we walked along the corridor together he explained to me that this was the railroad station and we were walking along the track. Walking to his room later, he pointed out that several of the rooms were the offices of the CEO of his company. However, he was able to come back with me to his son's home where we enjoyed a barbecue and sat outside in perfect Raleigh spring weather -- no bugs and no extreme heat!

In November Bill had a fall and broke his hip. The prognosis was that we would be wheelchair bound -- probably permanently. In early December my two sisters were able to visit him for the first time and they had a lovely visit, which Bill and they very much enjoyed. His son told me that it was soon after that that he began to fail. He called me on Boxing Day, December 26, to say that his father had become very lethargic on Christmas Day and that his Doctor said to prepare for the end -- probably that night. They were surprised he managed a few days more. He was only 64...

The same day, my mother, suffering from old age dementia and very very confused, was moved from her nursing home to a new place 10 minutes away from my youngest sister. Life throws up such sudden unexpected changes. From one day to the next the world can turn upside down and turmoil reign. But when I stop to examine my life and my family, I see how fortunate I am that we are so loving and kind and caring toward each other and that is truly a great deal in this life.

Monday, November 24, 2014

About the Feast on Thursday...

On Thursday, we are doing Thanksgiving in the UK this year. I haven't done it for a while and hadn't planned to do it this year. Instead I thought I would attend the Restoration Dinner at church on Saturday. They have what practically amounts to a traditional American Thanksgiving day menu and it would be fun, I thought.

But my son and his girlfriend announced with great excitement that she had managed to get the day off work so that she could celebrate Thanksgiving with us! It would have been churlish to say 'no', wouldn't it?  So I've been digging out favourite recipes and deciding who to invite to join us for the occasion. It is now all in hand -- the turkey is de-frosting in the kitchen and the pies are ready to be baked.

In the past, before retirement, we would celebrate on the Saturday following the actually holiday -- which is always the 4th Thursday in November. Now we are free to celebrate on the day and for me I much prefer this. Robert's girlfriend, Cat will be arriving Wednesday night so it will be nice to have company and help during the day. Thanksgiving is a holiday that it is difficult to imagine if you are not American. Many of my British friends have likened it to the way the British celebrate Christmas. But, in fact, it really is not like Christmas at all -- even if the food is similar.

First of all, Thanksgiving is all about the food and friends and family. My tradition is that of  New England -- the weather is always frosty and the sky almost always leaden. The sound in the morning is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and later American football. My mother usually served dinner at 2,00 p.m. Dress was very casual. Guests always brought a dish of some speciality of their own. Besides Turkey and stuffing, there would mashed potato, sweet potato with marshmallows (big yuck from me!), cranberry sauce (two kinds) cranberry relish, creamed onions, and various other vegetables which changed from year to year. My mother always made four pies: pumpkin, apple, apple crumb, and mince. No one ever went home hungry or without 'care' bags of makings for turkey sandwiches made with stuffing and cranberry sauce!

Meanwhile at about 7.00 pm family members could be seen around the bird's carcass going for the makings of their own sandwiches -- and which I enjoyed more than the actual dinner itself! The next day was Black Friday, which in my day was just the Friday after Thanksgiving, and preparations for Christmas would begin. Thanksgiving weekend was the worst weekend for traffic jams. From the air the jam on Wednesday evening could be seen from Washington, D.C., where I lived, to New York City. The New Jersey Turnpike was unbelievable. Sunday night trying to get back to Washington was equally abominable. The last time I was in Connecticut for Thanksgiving I flew in from the UK a week earlier and left a week after. I did not venture out for Black Friday. Most sane individuals say well clear now as it's more of a shopping nightmare...

I see that Britain is advertising Black Friday sales. Somehow, I don't think it will ever be the same -- at least I hope not -- though I wouldn't mind if they adopted the Traditional American Thanksgiving Holiday every year on the 4th Thursday in November!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Golf, Gardening, and Entertainment -- Just Another Day in School!

Well, I've been back in the UK since late last Wednesday, the 5th. All in all it was a very satisfying trip, with lots to take in and think about. I would have liked to have stayed a few weeks longer, so probably I left South Korea at the right time!

The last few days were particularly memorable and enjoyable. Chris and Heejung, left the children behind and we enjoyed the few days without having to give the attention that they, quite fairly, demand! We did, however, go to see the younger boys' school and that turned out to be a very enjoyable and surprising occasion.

We walked around the grounds and Chris pointed out to me the golf driving range in the corner of the playground. In the far distance we could see a large area for the children to plant vegetable and flower gardens.

Driving range target. Golf balls are caught in the net!

The school's garden has both vegetables and flowers...

As we went to venture toward the rear of the school we met the principal, a very welcoming woman. The state run school is a very special place with no more than 10 to 12 students in a class. The principal asked if we would like to visit the boys' classes and, of course, we said 'yes'!

In a few days time, the children were to have an open  house and they had been rehearsing a program to present to parents and visitors. Because I would not be able to attend the children in Louis' class gave us a preview! Louis is the child in front on the far right.


Unfortunately, South Korea has many problems after the children attend primary school. It leads the world in the adolescent suicide rate -- many if not most children attend school from 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and then attend another school for private lessons, not getting home until 10.00 or 11.00 p.m. My son teaches in one of those schools which specializes in English. 

Teachers in Korea do not stay with any school more than two years. After that time they will be assigned to another school -- by the education department. While I can see the disadvantage to the individual teachers and also the headmasters/mistresses or principals -- it does seem a way of ensuring that the quality of education throughout the country is equalized. Somehow, it seems entirely unlikely that this is a policy that would or could be adopted in the West!

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Little Bit of History Never Hurt Anyone!

Those of us of a certain age will probably remember the television show MASH with a great deal of fondness. To this day I enjoy watching the reruns and laugh all over again. However, the historical details of the Korean War never really made an impact on  my psyche. The only city I remembered was Seoul.

En route to Daegu, which is where my son lives, we stopped about 45 minutes away in Waegwan. My daughter-in-law was born and lived there until she was married. Waegwan is on the Nakdong River, the longest in Korea. Historical the river at Waigwan was as far as Japanese tradesman were allowed to go in order to sell their wares at the market. In fact Waigwan means "Japanese Dwelling". During the Korean conflict part of the strategy was to destroy the bridge at Waegwan, including several hundred refugees trying to escape the North Koreans. The Americans believed they were North Korean soldiers in disguise.

Nakdong River at Waigwan
 In 1950 the North Korean Army threatened to overtake the Korean peninsula from the mountain
overlooking the town. From this vantage point, they would have been able to fire mortor on Daegu at the northern point of the Busan Perimeter and from this position cement their possession of the whole country. But for the UN troops entering the fray, the South Korean army would have been defeated. My daughter-in-law's father, a North Korean soldier, was wounded in the battle for Waigwan and may have been treated by an American MASH unit. He never returned to North Korea.

The American army under General MacArthur were able to turn back the North Koreans in Waigwan. all the way to the Chinese border. It was then that the Chinese army, with Russian help, were able to force back the UN forces to what is the present line of demarcation -- back and forth in what was really a war of attrition until 1953 when the demilitarized buffer zone was established -- and which remains to this day. The following link shows the above situation quite effectively ...

"Korean war 1950-1953" by Roke - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

From Fireworks to Silk Worms...

I have now traveled most of the length of South Korea -- from the airport on Incheon Island near Seoul to the second city of the country, Busan (pronounced Pusan). And in between I have visited two Buddhist temples. Today I visited a huge, but typical local market and took many wonderful pictures of the various wares on display. We were there looking for a round pumpkin for my son, who wishes to make a jack-o-lantern. Round pumpkins are more difficult to find -- most of the pumpkins are round and flat.

Once home, I was anxious to have a look at the pictures I had taken, only to find that my memory card was still in the computer and, therefore,  I had nothing to show for my constant snapping away!

Below is Busan waterfront. We were there last Saturday for the International Asian Fireworks Competition -- beautiful setting and hundreds of thousands of people. Unbelievably we were able to find a very good parking place not too far away and in a reasonable position to escape without to much difficulty. The streets immediately beyond our parking went through the market place and our drive was slow enough for me to be able to take more pictures.

The bridge above was the backdrop for the firework display. Underneath the bridge in the background are the lights of cruise ships that have come from Japan to witness the display.

The picture on the left is of a large indoor market and on the right Korean dumplings are bubbling away in huge pots. Korean people love these places and there are multitudes of fast food places offering enticing and not-so-enticing delights. I was completely turned off at the sight of one particular delicacy: silk worms -- piles of them waiting for the frying pan -- and the frying pan sizzling away -- silk worms a-plenty in a spicy sauce! 

Much more appetizing and delicious were the tempura shrimp I had in the market today -- The photos that never were!!