My holiday in Australia (written by Florence)

Melbourne
After Christmas Day we flew to Melbourne, and we slept on the plane on our way there. We then met Phoebe at the airport. She drove us to Pobby and Mike’s house (but Phoebe also lives in the house). So does Aggie their dog. Pobby had made an egg and bacon pie, mainly for Daddy. My sister Martha got lots of tattoos from Phoebe.

img_2020

Pobby’s egg and bacon pie

img_2023

This is where we slept at Pobby’s

img_2021

This is Issy, Pobby and Phoebe opening presents.

The next day we went to town mainly to go shopping to Smiggle for me and Martha. The adults went to other shops for some other stuff.

img_2049

We walked down this road. It’s called Brunswick Street.

After that day we went swimming with Phoebe and my sister and my Dad in a 50 metre pool. I swam laps.

Raymond Island
The next day we went to Raymond island for New Year’s Eve. We were seeing lots of people there and we slept in a tent.

img_2091

Me and Sunny playing at Raymond Island.

img_2334

Martha and Hazy at Raymond Island.

After that day we went to the supermarket then we swam in the lake and Bess took me for my first ever sailing lesson. We then played a big game of boules and my Daddy and Max won. That night we watched fireworks and all the kids stayed awake until after midnight.

img_2075

Me and Bess sailing.

img_2095

Playing boules.

The next day was New Year’s Day and we went for a koala walk and I saw 19 koalas.

img_2153

This is a koala.

Then we drove to Mark’s house….

Sorrento
At Mark’s house we had 4 sleeps. We went there with Lulu, Sunny, Hazy and Ella, and also with Max and Quimby, Sam and Matisse and Henry.

img_2159

Mark made us spaghetti bolognese when we got to his house.

The next day Lulu, Sunny and Ella went to Little Nippers in the morning to learn to do life-saving. Sunny and Ella went to one beach and Lulu went to a different beach. Me, Issy and Daddy went to see Lulu that day. Martha and Hazy watched cartoons while we were gone.

img_2259

This is me watching Little Nippers.

The next day was Tuesday and none of the girls had Nippers so we practiced for a show. We did Wizard of Oz. On Wednesday we saw Ella and Sunny at Nippers then we swam in the sea with them and Lulu joined us. That day we performed the show to the adults and I was both the Wicked Witches and I had to melt at the end.

img_2297

Daddy’s favourite picture of the beach.

img_2313

Wizard of Oz Show.

At Mark’s we also did the following things – went to see a field full of kangaroos, me and Martha walked to the Lookout with Mark, we went to Mubbles ice cream shop, we played Rolling Sky and Piano Tiles, and we went to see Lulu, Chloe, Holly, Kiralee and Andrew because they also live there. Every night we went to bed late because it was light until very late.

img_2235

My photo of Martha at Diamond Bay.

img_2179

Collecting flowers with Lulu.

The very next day we went back to Pobby’s house in Melbourne.

Melbourne (again).
When we got back to Melbourne we did some relaxing with Pobby and Mike and I read Harry Potter and we also watched it on TV. And we watched Nanny McPhee.

img_2339

With Pobby watching TV.

We wanted to also go outside and so we went to the zoo with our friends Jasmine and Aleisha. I liked the elephants the best. Their Mum bought everyone slushies. Martha played lots more with Aggie and made her sit and shake hands.

img_2418

Daddy and Issy at the zoo.

img_2550

Eating snacks at the zoo with Phoebe.

img_2551

Drinking slushies.

On our last day in Melboure Daddy, Issy, Martha and me went to the Museum and saw real skeleton bones and animals and insects. We also went for fish and chips as it is my Daddy’s favourite food and we bought some yellow peach ice cream. And we had a swing ball tournament with everyone. I came third and Ella came first and Issy came second. In the evening Pobby made chicken pies and pavlova and we also had calipos.

img_2484

Pavlova with blueberries and passion fruit.

img_2479

Fish and chips was our last lunch in Australia.

On the Sunday we gave Issy her birthday presents and went to the airport. Pobby bought us more presents at the airport. We didn’t sleep on this plane but watched lots of movies and I read my kindle.

In the taxi home we all drank our drinks.

img_2508

In a Saigon taxi.

I had a brilliant holiday. This is one of the pictures I took that Daddy said is very professional…

img_2332

This is Diamond Bay near Mark’s house in the daytime.

img_2320

This is also Diamond Bay but when we went one night time and played goofy on the beach.

Back to the future

img_1075

View from a matatu, Kiboga, Uganda

In the summer of 1996 I arrived in Kampala aged 21. I’d spent the three months previous working in Israel on a kibbutz, had then dropped back to the UK for two days to meet up with a university friend, Flora, before we launched off on a year of teaching in Uganda. Last Friday, I returned to Kiboga, on the back of a week of work in Entebbe, and I re-lived as much of my year as a teacher there 20 years ago as I could squeeze into 36 hours…

As Flora and I walked out of Entebbe airport’s arrival terminal for the first time, back in 1996, and breathed in the fragrant dusty wood smoke that was to become a natural home for each of my senses for the year to come, I felt an innocent abandon about what lay ahead.

It was as if all I had known before then disappeared in that moment.

We arrived later in the night in the district of Kiboga, north west of the capital, deposited in an instant out of the side of a battered up matatu taxi, which had miraculously weaved its way unhinged over pot-holed dirt tracks for the previous four hours.

It was pitch black as we stood there on the roadside with Nathan Mayanja, a decorated local leader with whom I was to forge a twenty year friendship, and who had accompanied us from the airport.

I could feel the heat of adrenaline about what was in store next. The wood smoke scent was thicker here, and there was a constant procession of lumpy shadows and bike headlights bobbing past, as a flow of passers-by went about their evening bustle.      Continue reading

Out of Sight

Perhaps the old adage rings true – it can be hard to keep the flame of familiarity burning after long spells of absence, and “out of sight” all too easily leads to “out of mind.” How often do we find ourselves thinking this at the chink of two glasses once again toasting a re-acquaintance, or, as we scramble to agree over the phone on the specifics of a last encounter?

But then, hands up, there is also the sheer laziness on my part of not tending to this blog for the past four months. This blog being one of the only portals I have of putting down a few etchings of my current life, in the hope of forming some vague picture – for the now, and for some day in the future.

And so, in the spirit of our all too often glossed over 24/7 news cycle, to the headlines…      Continue reading

Wanderlusting

IMG_9870[1]

Sunset on Dili beach, Timor-Leste

I double checked the meaning of Wanderlust – which turns out to be the “strong desire for, or impulse to, wander or travel and explore the world”.

Since running off to Uganda when I was 21 years old, in the absence of having any more concrete a plan for how to handle life after university, I’d say my Wanderlust levels have remained piqued ever since.

No doubt some genetic influence from my parents helped fuel my appetite for getting out and “seeing the world”. In reading Dr Suess poems to my daughters (as well as flying them off to different countries almost every school holiday) I suppose instinctively it feels appropriate to want to pass on that particular piece of DNA, connected to wandering, to them also.

Over the past five years, even without that DNA, the travel I’ve undertaken as part of my job has secured for me a schedule for which any aspiring “Wanderluster” would have been thrilled.

As someone working in international development, I can’t quite settle my mind about how conflated my footprint and actions in the world are. Choosing to direct my career into finding better ways to serve the poor, whilst simultaneously responsible for emitting more carbon in an average month than the output my entire family back in the UK manage in a year (ok, Mum and Dad are relatively guilty on the carbon too, but I wanted the analogy to sound extreme!)      Continue reading

Thai Green*

bkk

Beneath snaking concrete viaduct, baking heat
Cooks sunburnt pores, street vending nooks,
Pungent fried sizzles punch lung deep, an urban Kingdom
Jostling air, space, and conditioned lifestyles.

Bangkok.

Spiced iced tea, rice soup, lychee cocktails,
Mesmerizing Soi-mazed corners
Inhale city sewer flavours,
Pavement tiles uneven, tilting, roasting.

Curbside, rainbow taxi ranks flank
Juice bar pit stops, bamboo bar tops,
High rise scrapers, elevators, shopping centres –
Eastern promise meets Western dream.

And still.

Not far flung from this urban jungle,
Nestled north, enveloped forest,
Lies a calmer version –
Country living –
Breathing, feeling,
Fibrous woodland,
Smoke-filled thatch.

Chiang Mai.

Opening up green borders,
Boundaries,
Walk amongst your past-time inclines,
Sun bleached hills and warbled song birds that
Listen back.

Stop here, stop now and let this touch you –
Nature’s glorious paradigm,
Working.

chiangmai

*A poem inspired by a damn fine Saturday morning, and several elephants

Catching a breath in February

Happy New Year!

2016, and Saigonsays trundles on…

This weekend will mark five years since arriving in Saigon, when these pages first kept track of life and work out here and across Asia. Some defining moments within that particular half decade have been and gone, and the familiar confines of my apartment continue to provide a reliable anchor from which it becomes, then, and with a healthy dose of catharsis, a comfort and a pleasure to spin out these words and images.

Two months back, Boxing Day, and Issy and I were headed down to the coast after a tremendous Christmas Day hosting a cheery hoarde of festive revelers. A month ago I was off in Abu Dhabi meeting up with my best friend (and previous author on Saigonsays) for a weekend of “catching up”.

Last fortnight, and over the Chinese New Year period (called ‘Tet’ here) and I was side stepping down a sled run in France, propping up Flo as she skied solo for the first time in her life. And then this week, I’be been working across our closest border, in Phnom Penh.

Next Sunday I’ll fly to Ethiopia on an exciting new project. Bangkok, Hong Kong and Cairo are on the March itinerary also. Yesterday morning an offer landed on my lap to head to Timor Leste shortly after that. And so it goes on…

Too many details to catalogue since I was last peddling these pages (back in Vientiane in November) however the intention is that, hopefully, these two family videos (our Tet skiing holiday to France, and previous Australia visit back in October) might go a way to capturing some of the special experiences shared on both adventures. The photos below that then piece together December festivities and a window into life here since then, with two increasingly active little girls performing, as usual, for the camera.

Stay tuned for some more regular updates (a New Year’s resolution of mine) here and before you can say “where did the first half of 2016 go?”


IMG_8986

Christmas elf

IMG_8992

Christmas cheek

IMG_8988

Christmas gingerbread making

IMG_9129

Christmas Day

IMG_9113

Yellow!

 

IMG_9111

Dig in!

IMG_9112

Four minute Cinderella panto

IMG_9102

Robin Hood

IMG_9126

Boxing Day treats

IMG_9145

Boxing Day walk (in Vung Tau)

IMG_9506

New Year’s Eve boys (Saigon)

IMG_9170

New Year’s Day girls (Mui Ne)

IMG_9171

The view from…our bungalow

IMG_9310

Birthday girl (@ Park Hyatt)

(null)

With Cake (@Abu Dhabi)

IMG_9399

Another year, another sports day

IMG_9447

Tet celebrations

IMG_9408

Poseur

IMG_9477

The view from…the de Groot balcony

IMG_9474

Layered up

IMG_9475

Catching the first powder and remembering how to ski again

IMG_9472

Mont Blanc (on the left)

IMG_9504

Sunrise back in Asia (Phnom Penh) this week.

 

 

 

A Quick Coffee Stop in Laos

image

The Mekong River at sunrise. Thailand to the left, Laos to the right.

I’m sat with a delicious Saturday morning coffee, in Naked Espresso, a funky cafe in the thick of the Vientiane backpacker area, having completed my daily ritual here of a brisk walk down the Mekong River nearby, which has presented me with picture perfect views this week of Thailand, just metres away over the water.

Since my last post about holidaying in Australia with Issy, I’ve traveled for work to Colombo, Bangkok, Singapore, and Seoul. Squeezing in a weekend of football in Manila along the way. I’m trying my best to be a good citizen of the world, but for sure I am going to carbon hell.

Vientiane represents my penultimate trip of 2015 and, fittingly, last night I kicked off the evening with some Kiwi friends, in a German owned bar, managed by a kind man called Kami from Tokyo, where we tucked into some Laotian pork rolls, washed down with a few drams of glorious Japanese whisky.      Continue reading

A Brief Spell Down Under

Monday. And, so far today, I’ve flown to Singapore and just put in six hours working out of a business lounge and still have another eight to go before I get to kip (am Colombo bound this evening for the week…)

Mustn’t grumble however as, since my last post about our summer holidaying in Europe, Issy and I have also just indulged in a trip over to Melbourne earlier this month for weddings, family birthday partying and some brief flirting with a delicious vineyard and the salty ocean road inhalations on offer down in Sorrento.

As is the form when I get back over to the UK, trips like these are extremely special and also meticulously executed, in order to maximise each and every hour with all the important things in life.  In the case of this particular trip, the important things consisted of: new babies; zany nieces; legendary siblings; old school friends; and then an inevitable immersion in all of the particular shopping experiences and drinking haunts yet to reach the humid back-streets of Saigon.

We fitted it all in, and lapped it up (although, truth be told, for me to be accepted into the funky suburb of Fitzoy I’ll need to grow an exceptionally impressive beard – and this may take me a while.)

Video compilations with be forthcoming however, in the meantime, heartfelt thanks to Mark for the most spectacular day at Yabby Lake, to Phoebe for all the snippets of special laughs and larks, to Pobby for the Aga coffee and the egg and bacon pie on arrival (plus about two dozen other mouth-watering dishes enjoyed throughout the week) and to Mike for a lesson in cryptic cross-wording that I will never forget (I hope the Tuesday Latin tutorials continue to go well).

To all the other family and friends entourage, thank you for making me feel at home and for making me smile, constantly.

And to Alice and Richard Cook-Watkins. For seating me opposite the bride (I have been dining out on that since) and for laying on a seamless day of memories for us all.

So, as Mike would recommend – to anyone curious enough to ask – it is with whisky that one should finish one’s day and so, in spite of the fact that I am long off being asleep, I may just – on this one occasion – take him up on that and bid you farewell, for now…

Until next time.

image

Melbourne skyline. Obvs.

image

Emily, Archie and Ben. Stripey boys.

image

Fitzroy chic. Also obvs.

image

OK, I’ll admit it, the coffee ain’t too bad here…

image

These lot know how to do ice creams.

image

Replica clock-tower from Ben Thanh Market, Saigon. Love it!

image

End of day beer at Naked for Satan. Yeeees.

image

Brunswick Street bakery. Spectacular.

image

‘Knock off’ gin and tonic time in the garden.

image

Pobby’s kitchen. Aga toast – ooooooooooooooooh!

image

Yabby Lake vineyard.

image

The calm espressos before the twelve bottle tasting storm. Happy days.

image

The BEST lunch.

image

Diamond Bay. Hmmm.

image

Issy likes green. I like blue.

image

Everyone likes a good sunset.

image

Pin the tail. Hazy’s 3rd birthday.

image

Squirt the person who is pinning the tail.

image

It’s OK, it’s only Sam!