To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.

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Hong Kong

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I claim lack of motivation for not writing a “serious post” since the end of March, or alternatively a case of writers’ block, hereby purged. On the other hand I HAVE been otherwise engaged and frightfully busy doing this and that and unbelievably developing gout (unreal!)

London 2009 Highlights

Before the "flu" started, I had had visions of visiting London Zoo and some art galleries. Like most people in HK my perspective on infection diseases is coloured by the fact that I lived through the SARS outbreak here and the constant risk of a local H1N5 outbreak. I was therefore surprised at the level of "coughing" on the flight over to London (It is noteworthy there was no coughing on the return flight!). I was shocked by the fact that there were no thermal scanners at Heathrow nor health checks on arriving passengers; On the way from the airport I was distressed by the absence of facemasks and the standards of hygiene demonstrated on the underground. Indeed by the time we arrived in Wanstead we had already decided to avoid further travel on public transport, and stay local avoiding crowds to minimize risks. We even took a mini cab to the airport when we left.

It is clear that the (A)H1N1 is currently not as lethal as initially feared. Nevertheless we watched the health advice given on UK TV with growing dismay. "catch it, bin it, kill it" No mention of cleaning surfaces with diluted bleach or wearing masks - indeed the latter was dismissed as a waste of time. Unfortunately the previous H1N5 scare in Europe was a bust and they never experienced the reality of SARS so its no surprise that people in UK didn’t appear to grasp the seriousness of the situation. According to recent reports the US and UK have singularly failed to control the spread of the virus. God help them if it mutates in autumn or when (not if)there is an outbreak of something else that is lethal. Personally I am relieved to be back in Hong Kong where visitors are scanned and health checked on entry, and where suspected contacts are hunted down and confined to their hotels under police guard and the hospitals have practical experience of managing a lethal epidemic.

That being said restricting our movements in London made for a quiet visit. We didn't frighten the locals or anyone in Stanmore by wearing our masks (although I was tempted). We became regulars at the local Chinese takeaway and had an excellent takeaway from new Indian restaurant which has replaced "Grotty Gotti's" since last year (I got a free beer - my sort of place). We also topped up on soul food at the Lighthouse (fish and chips) and sampled local ethnic dishes at the new Pie and Mash Emporia. Frankly I don't think any of the existing eateries are at any risk from this new establishment.

My only regret was that my daughter in Ireland didn't take the opportunity to visit. Still .. maybe next year, or I might do a flying visit to her in Cork- that should get everyone’s adrenalin pumping!


It's a challenge building and maintaining bridges with family members (some than with others!) It would appear that I have recently achieved a communications breakthrough with No 2 son. We have now swopping regular emails. He has shared his 2009 annual holiday plan with me - he is definitely not coming to HK later this year - more of this later! He has also shared his opinion that I would need a handicap if racing rug rats - what would he know!

Since No 1 Son and his partner haven't committed to visiting HK, I have decided to concentrate on "selling" the concept of a HK holiday to them … well to his partner.. - who is Russian - and it's about time I met her!

Of course no year would be complete without doing some family research and whilst I haven't had time to look at the Microfilm which turned up earlier this year containing whats left of my grandfather (Hawley)s Military records, I did discover records in the 1901 Scottish Census records relating to my other Grandfather and his family. I used to tell a bad taste joke that when my grandparents first came to United Kingdom (Scotland ) they were poor but after a while they moved up market into the slums from the tenements. Well, I discovered that it was no joke. My grandparents really did live in the infamous Gorbels in Glasgow before coming down to the East End in London and several of my uncles and Aunts are true “'Wegies".(Glaswegians)


I have been playing with RSS feeds from HULU and the BBC including from iPlayer for both radio and TV podcasts, and Available on Demand content. Since I am outside both the UK and US, TV content is normally blocked. A lot of BBC radio content not available as podcasts however is available trough the AOD service even outside UK.

Mundane I know but I have been using iPodder under XUBUNTU to capture BBC podcasts. Recently a couple of my American colleagues discovered me in the office early one morning doubled up crying hysterically. Anyone else would have concluded that the pressure of work had got to me and the wheels had finally dropped of my trolley; Fortunately they immediately recognized the situation as one involving a BBC comedy podcast. Last year we had shared a car up to China and I had sat in front listening to a podcast. On that occasion it started with quaking and suppressed giggles, ultimately building up to shudders, repressed laughter and serious tears. (The sort that goes with limp hand waving). As we got closer to the Chinese Border situation started to get fraught; My colleagues entertained the possibility that we might get stopped. I was after all exhibiting symptoms of a person who might either be high on drugs, or seriously mentally ill. Even worse was the possibility that the podcast might be seized and deemed as subversive. Needless to say I managed to get a grip before we crossed over.

Ignoring the legal/ethical issues I haven't got enough time to watch cable TV let alone UK or US TV over the internet. The fact that UK TV content is blocked here is a challenge. (I am not that impressed with US programs!! which in any case I could watch via Chinese sources). So it was for purely educational reasons that I looked at how the TOR/Privoxy software solution works as a way to get at UK content. Interesting but at end of day I found that using a feedreader with the iPlayer RSS feeds as a way of accessing programs was the first time I personally have found a real practical use for a feedreader.

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