Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A blog on a plate

Don't you find with blogs that often you can simply not remember how you came across something which has now become required reading?  That is certainly the case with Asia Vu, a wonderful blog about expat life in Seoul by Caroline, an American raised as an expat herself and now living with her husband and younger son in an apartment block in Korea.  It's a great read, funny, sometimes plangent, intelligent, open-minded and even educational.  I know nothing at all about Korea but I didn't realise how profoundly ignorant I was until I starting reading Caroline's blog.  At least now I know how little I know.

Now she has asked me to take part in a meme.  I don't normally do these because I have been blogging for so long that I can't believe there are five things that you might not know about me, if you have been determined enough to stick with me for a bit.  This one is a bit different,however, as Caroline herself has come up with the questions and they are different to the ones she answered herself.  I am touched to be asked so here goes:

1.  Where is the one place you have lived that you remember most fondly and why?

From the age of eleven until I was nearly eighteen we lived in the South Island of New Zealand, having emigrated from a grimy Lancashire mill town.  I am pretty sure that the impact it had on me was heightened by my age but that period is very vivid in my mind.  The colours were bright, the sea and sky were singing blue and green and we did all sorts of things (camping, climbing, sailing) that had simply not been on my horizon in cold and grey Rochdale.  I would absolutely love to go back to see it with adult eyes. I even feel that I need to look at it again as part of making sense of myself.  Not going to happen this year!

2.  Is there anything you don't/won't cook?  (I, for example, loathe liver and just don't cook it.  Ever.)

Ah, small bone of contention here.  I don't cook Bird's custard (horrible pallid instant imitation custard, for non UK people who have been fortunate enough not to come across it).  Ian likes it and so does his dad so he makes some pretty much every time I am away, which is a good outcome as far as I am concerned!

3.  Have you heard the song, "Let it Go" from the movie 'Frozen' and, if so, do you like it?

The short answer is no, I hadn't heard it or even heard of the film.  I think this is a reflection of a stage in my life when I don't have to do Disney so I never do.  The longer answer is that I listened to it following your question and I am slightly puzzled to find that I don't know if I like it.  I am a decisive type generally.  There things about it that I like and I would expect to like something which encourages you to be yourself but there is just a touch of smug entitlement about it somehow which gets under my skin.  It's like all those L'Oreal "because you're worth it" campaigns.  Perhaps the world would be a better place if the West were less obsessed with individual self fulfilment and had a stronger sense of the importance of other people.  That's an oddly sober and probably completely off the wall response to a Disney song.  Must be turning into a grumpy old woman.

4.  What is one political or social issue that drives you crazy when people talk about it? (you don't have to give your opinion, just tell what the issue is.)

In the UK we are currently being encouraged by our media and politicians to be obsessed with the supposed threats to our jobs and way of life posed by immigration from other European Union countries. Much of the press peddles a fine line in xenophobia with a complete absence of fact or analysis.  Drives me nuts.  Whoops, might have inadvertently given  away my personal opinion there!

5. Have you ever made a friend first through blogging/online and only afterwards met her(him) in person? If so, how did you finally meet?

I have made quite a few friends from blogging and met lots of them.  Mostly they are connected either with a website now sadly defunct called purplecoo which was basically a chat place for rurally based women.  There are also friends who are connected by an interest in gardening who I met in person at the Malvern Spring Show a few years ago when there was a garden bloggers' meet up.  I can't imagine my life without my blogging friends now and there is not a single one that I have met in person who wasn't just as I expected them to be from their writing.  In fact reading someone's  writing is an excellent way to get to know a person. You reveal yourself in your writing, even if you try not to!  Once you get over the inevitable initial surprise that some are taller or shorter or older or younger or more beautiful than you expected, you can't imagine them being any different.

6.  Do  you speak more than one language fluently? If so, how did you learn it? 

Fluently, sadly, no.  I speak French in a hesitant way, read it better, understand it ok.  I learnt it at school eons ago and have never really used it enough to get fluent.  I speak Welsh a bit and again understand more than I speak.  I learnt Welsh as an adult, starting about five years ago.  I felt that it was not OK to live in a country with a language of its own and not engage at least a little bit with that language.  Without at least a bit of the language so much of Welsh history and literature would be a closed book to me.   I really need to do something like a Welsh bootcamp week to give my spoken Welsh a kick.  I don't use it enough in every day life and find that even with  my local friends who are Welsh speaking we are inclined to spend a few minutes talking Welsh and then turn with relief to English.  My Welsh simply isn't good enough for really interesting conversation.  This is the only language I have ever tried to learn where everyone who speaks it also speaks English so you never have to throw yourself in as the only way of communicating. It would probably be better for me to go to Patagonia and speak Welsh with people whose other language is Spanish!

7.  If you grew up in a religious household, do you still practice the same religion you grew up with? If not, do you practice a different religion, or no religion at all? 

I am not sure my family household was religious but I certainly had a Christian,church going upbringing.  We went to a Methodist chapel most Sundays although when I married for the first time I married in a Church of England church.  These days I would say that I feel culturally Christian.  I love the language of the King James Bible and catch its references in literature and life.  Do I practice any religion in terms of attendance at a place of worship?  No.  Am I a Dawkins type atheist?  No.

8.  Do you get regular mani/pedis? If not, do you:  a)get them occasionally; b) do your own or c) settle for keeping your nails neat and clean without worrying about painting them.

For a very long time I would have been firmly in the "neat and clean" camp but I have recently discovered the joy of pedicures.  This is partly because when you do yoga you need bare feet and I found myself envying those with lovely toes.  Now I have a pedicure done every six weeks or so.  If I did it myself  I would not expect it to last six minutes.

9.  Where was the most awful vacation/holiday you have ever taken? What made it so awful  - the location, or the circumstances? Would you go back and try it again under different circumstances?

I haven't had any really awful holidays.  On my first honeymoon we went to Tunisia and the food in the hotel was awful but we escaped to local towns and ate out instead, and it was a honeymoon so the food wasn't of the first importance. When the children were in their early teens we had a holiday in a campervan in France where the van, which was both accommodation and transport, broke down and we had to live in the awning and a series of pup tents until it was fixed. Even that I remember quite fondly for the kindness of the campsite owners who took pity on this stranded English family and kept finding things for us to do that didn't require a car!

10.  Have you been watching the Olympics? If so, which events do you enjoy watching the most?

Not really.  I did watch Lizzie Yarnold win gold in the skeleton bob and found it absolutely terrifying.  How anyone has the bottle to hurl themselves downhill at eighty miles an hour on a teatray I shall never understand.

11. Where is one place you haven't yet visited but would absolutely love to go someday?

I have been to all sorts of places through work and would mainly love to go back to places (see New Zealand above!) but the place I haven't been to at all even though it is not that far away is Scandinavia.  I would love to go to any of the Scandinavian countries but Stockholm would be my city of first choice, all that water, the Venice of the North.  I would also love to go to Denmark and see if I can understand why the Danish are apparently the happiest nation in the world!

Thank you Caroline.  That was quite fun to do and of course it meant that I didn't have to come up with an idea of my own for a blog.  I think I perhaps won't pass it on as my brain fails me just now.  The chances of coming up with interesting new questions are slim.  What would be really fascinating is if you fancied taking just one of the questions and letting me know your answer in the comments. It would be interesting in itself to see what questions people chose and also to find out more about you!

23 comments:

  1. For years now I've wanted to visit Puerto Angel in Oaxaca. A photographer who lived there on and off described it to me a a small village on a pristine beach with mainly Europeans as tourists. I've heard that for some reason the town was passed up for a major hotel that went further down south and so the town remains untainted and rather rural. A secluded place.

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    1. Didn't even know where Oaxaca was until I went to find out just now! Now I am intrigued...

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  2. Highly enjoyable post! Also, if you want to practice a little Welsh without investing a lot of time, have you tried The Big Welsh Challenge? I love it! http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/learnwelsh/bigwelshchallenge/

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    1. What a great idea. Thank you. Always after ways of keeping the Welsh up.

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  3. Really interesting post. My family emigrated from Manchester to Canada when I was 14 years old. We are all still here 48 years later! What made your family return to the U.K.? I love Bird's custard but I would die before I would eat peanut butter-makes me gag just thinking about it!!!!

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    1. My Dad's father was very ill and he wanted to come back to the UK to spend some time with him. That sort of morphed into a family conversation about what to do and led to us all coming home. It was a bit of a shock to the system! Eventually after my grandad died we settled in Devon rather than the north of England. My NZ upbringing seems to have left me with a love of being outside. I am often out when all my family are in!

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  4. That was interesting. I didn't know any of it and wasn't tempted to skim any of it either. It's interesting about your holiday that went wrong(ish). Sometimes it's disasters we remember with the most pleasure because there's more substance to them, more to talk about than 'we lay down and rested and did nothing else for a week'.
    A separate thing - a couple of years ago you started following a horse chestnut tree for a year; then stopped. (I think it didn't 'do' enough!) I'm gearing up for tree following this year. Would you be interested in having another bash at it? There's info. on this page of Loose and Leafy http://looseandleafy.blogspot.co.uk/p/what-is-tree-following-and-list-of-tree.html and, currently, a linky box on the most recent post. From March there will be a linky box for each month. This should make it easier for tree followers to keep in touch with each other. The more of us who do it the more interesting it will be.

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    1. I am not quite sure why I lapsed with the tree following. Yes, I would like to have another go. I think I drifted away because some months there seemed to be nothing to record. I suspect I need to look down as well as up!

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    2. That's great! I'll add you to the list. When you know what tree you will be following, I'll add that too. And you are right - looking down can be as interesting as looking up . . . then there are the insects that walk around on its leaves or hid in its bark, the diseases and galls and leaf miners . . . the birds that eat its seeds . . . plants that grow nearby . . . maybe fungi . . . there's loads going on with a tree!

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  5. Fascinating post!
    I will play safe and go for the bad holiday.
    We decided to splash out on a big one for the millennium. The day before, hubby came down with the flu. The first plane was seriously delayed at Heathrow so we almost missed a connection in Paris. Only made it by racing across the airport in five minutes while they held the plane.. you find out just how big CDG is when you have to run from one end to the other, one of you having the flu. Our luggage didn't make the second plane, so we turned up in the tropics with only the clothes we were standing in. It had been snowing when we left home.
    Got to the hotel to find that we were the only guests.. over Christmas. Checked out and eventually found an alternative. Mad calls back to England to get medication and, in my case, contact lenses, sent out. I had to eek out the lenses I had soaking them overnight in the bottom of champagne glasses which had been sterilised with steam from the cappuccino machine in the bar. It didn't work. I got an eye infection, then hubby's flu..
    I could go on.
    And then at the end, salvation. The plane that would have taken us back to Paris broke down at the airport and (small local airline) it took them three days to get a replacement. During which time we were put up for free in a rather nice hotel.
    Would I go again? Definitely. But contact lenses have travelled in my hand luggage ever since.

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    1. Now that is the classic bad holiday story! I am really keen on travelling light but that is quite different from travelling without anything at all. That would freak me out I suspect.

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  6. So, these Olympics. I haven't watched any of it and am unlikely to. But, the interesting thing is that I used to think that was an acceptable position (and more than defensible) but now I feel slightly embarrassed about it. I took the same line on the proper Olympics here. I wouldn't go so far as to say I felt left out at the end of it but I was sorry about something that I couldn't quite put my finger on. Was it that this is now our secular religion, bringing us together and giving us feelings of hope and generosity?

    I'm not about to change my ways, no sport has ever meant anything to me unless I actually do it myself (tennis, lacrosse, skating, roller-skating, cycling). But it's odd that I don't feel so pleased with myself about it any more.

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    1. Think you put your finger on with the words "hope and generosity". We don't do communal life through churches any more. Shopping, in some ways the new religion, is not an activity which brings people together. Sport can and does. The Olympics really felt like a great coming together and it seems we miss it and like it when it does happen. Hard on those who don't like sport I suppose!

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  7. Interesting post, Elizabeth. I am sitting here with a late morning cup of tea before tackling the kitchen floor (this is much more fun!). Like you, I have always been drawn to Scandanavia and, finally, it has fallen into my lap, with the boat currently in the Baltic. I loved Copenhagen last year and we are heading up the coast to Stockholm this summer - hope you get there soon!

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    1. Now going to Scandinavia by boat is very cool! How wonderful to sail into Stockholm.

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  8. That's much more fun than their standard set of questions. Since I don't want to rant, and because there's a sort of link to your own answers, I'll go for somewhere I'd love to go. New Zealand! It would have been Africa, but I was lucky enough to make it there. New Zealand was second on the bucket list. Mountains, sea, amazing plant life, an outdoorsy culture, English speaking (which answers another question). We were supposed to go with sil and bil, but then we got ill, so now it isd extraordinarily unlikely to happen. So if we ever do meet up I will bend your ear about it!

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    1. I have never been to Africa but that would be on my wishlist, after New Zealand!

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  9. Very interesting questions to answer - a change from the usual memes. I living in the North Island of New Zealand, and I would say that really not a lot has probably changed - still lots of green (except in summer droughts), big blue skies and plenty of opportunities to find your adventurous self. If you lived in Christchurch, you will notice a big difference - this weekend marked 3 years since the big earthquake, still lots of rebuilding to happen there.

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    1. Hi Julie, we did live in Christchurch. I saw the damage with a lump in my throat. Hope the rebuilding is well on its way.

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  10. Elizabeth, thank you so much for 'playing along!' Most of the questions I asked because they had been on my own mind lately and I wondered what others were thinking. New Zealand is definitely at the top of my list -not only because of Lord of the Rings - mostly because of the stunning landscape. I asked about 'Let it Go' because it has been ubiquitous - all over FaceBook as well as the rest of the internet, sung by everyone and his/her brother and spoofed endlessly. My little girls at school are enchanted and sing it every chance they get (4th-grade girls singing the English words with German accents - priceless!) I probably agree with you more about the focus on self now that I've lived in Asia again for almost 3 years. Everything here is focused on community and the group (uniforms of every kind abound, and couples loooove to wear matching outfits!) and while I occasionally find all the uniformity/conformity a bit tiresome, it does contrast pretty heavily with the American/Western preoccupation with oneself and one's life/meaning/passion/desires/wants being paramount. I think both cultures have some valuable things to learn from the other. I've only watched a little bit of the Olympics, but I do think that one of the things that the proliferation of cable TV and other on demand viewing options has done is removed quite a few cultural reference points (used to be everyone tuned into a certain show on a certain night and talked about it the next day - no more.) I think the Olympics was a bit of a return to that, with the whole world watching - just for a couple of weeks. And now, it's gone again. I think I liked the idea of everyone watching more than the act of actually watching, if that makes any sense! No terrible holidays I can think of, except the trip we took back to the USA from Taipei when I was 10, which was actually a move, not a holiday per se. I'd lived in Asia for as long as I could remember with no trips back and was wildly excited to see the US (which I'd envisioned as something sort of like Disneyland) for the first time in living memory. I got food poisoning on the flight over (which lasted about 24 hours) and was violently ill for several days in the hotel when we arrived in the US. My sister was also ill with what we later learned was amoebic dysentery (bonus from living in Asia, I suppose.) I remember very clearly being absolutely miserable, but in retrospect, it must have been a nightmare of unbelievable proportions for my mother with 2 awfully sick children. Ah, perspective....

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    1. Interesting perspective on the East/ West cultural divide Caroline. Thanks for asking me to do this. I enjoyed it.

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  11. Whatever you do.....don't go and listen to that song. I just did and it's stuck in my brain! I need to get rid of it right now! x

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    1. A friend told me that the phrase for that phenomenon is an ear worm. Great term!

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