April Miscellany 2016

On the last day of April, I was able to hang washing outside in my backyard for the first time of the year. It was sunny for a couple of hours and then there was a mini hailstorm. Here’s my April:

Seeing family

A dedication service for our 8 month old niece brought the whole family together. A dedication service is not an infant baptism. The parents promise in front of the church and more importantly in front of God, to raise their child under the authority of Jesus and the bible with the support of god parents, family and church. When the child grows up, he or she can make their own decision whether to become a Christian or not and get baptised in due time.

As a daughter-in-law and Chinese, this family I married into is wonderful. I feel close to them, although I see them very rarely. I can talk to them like friends. I visit them because I want to know what’s happening in their life, rather than out of duty. The fact that a lot of them are Christian is great too – we’re not just family in law, we’re family in Christ. Amazing!

On our way home we paid London a short visit. There was the brand new area around King’s Cross, including a temporary swimming pool. A quiet park promised many kinds of roses. To reconcile me and London (we never liked each other), my husband spoiled me by taking me to the new Japan Centre and three lovely book shops. I would have enjoyed it even more if I didn’t carry bricks of books!

Photography

One of my favourites.
One of my favourites.

My husband and I were honoured to be the wedding photographers for two friends. It started with the quietest morning ever. Everything was done in military fashion: precise, no fuss, punctual. But at the same time, the day was so thoughtfully planned for the enjoyment of the guests, for example, the photo session, the sitting plan, the photo booth, the ice cream and the surprise of the newlywed couple singing and making music on the stage, it was full of fun and laughter! Congratulations again Andy and Joanna!

Book

I finally finished reading and writing a blog post about A Call to Spiritual Reformation. Very helpful. Highly recommend.

I started reading the first book of Game of Thrones this month. I like the vivid character building and the description of the settings. But somehow I don’t care much about their fate and destiny. The world is crazy about the new season at the moment (we had to look at half naked muscly men at a work meeting). I had high expectation but I’m a bit disappointed. Maybe as a Chinese reader and audience, there was never a lack of fiction in which evil reigns and selfish people plot against each other (I was so frustrated at these elements of the book I nearly stopped at 20%). I’m trying to finish it at the moment so I can move on to something else.

A lot of the plots are quite predictable, partly because many characters are stereotypical. Ed Stark listens to people he doesn’t trust because he has no choice. Sansa falls in love blindly and betrays her sister. Arya can’t do needlework so she takes up swords, then runs after a cat and overhears conversation. Bran sees things he’s not supposed to see and nearly gets killed. Jon Snow is kind to the strayed and they love him in return. Lysa Tully is consistently inconsistent. Viserys Targaryen is half-mad all the way through. Daenerys becomes queenly after she is crowned a queen. There’s no surprise. For ideas about scheming and plotting for a throne, English writers really need to watch some Chinese historical TV dramas. There are plenty of historical accounts more cruel, gallant and fascinating than fiction.

Something new I found was BBC Book of the Week. I listened to the Forsyte Saga featuring Jessica Reine and A Shepherd’s Life which were both enjoyable. Now my dilemma is: shall I still read them? They’re certainly interesting and worth reading, but I know all the important plots now.

Magazine

The adventure with STACK started this month. What STACK does is to send one current issue to its subscribers every month out of its vast collection of weird and wonderful independent magazines. I love the idea because 1. I love quality magazines: reading its content, eyeing its editorial design, and feeling the print in hand; 2. I have no access to all the titles available otherwise – creative culture is not prominent in my city; there are not many places where I can find independent magazines. Even if I could buy them online, I wouldn’t know where to start now I’ve realised the scale of boom in print culture. 3. Over one year, I will have 12 curated (hopefully) magazines of different shapes and sizes (let alone the content) at a reasonable price, without the faff of searching and ordering them one by one. 4. I would like to broaden my horizon of knowledge and style in magazine industry.

So STACK popped into my life just the right time: when I want to know everything about magazines, from writing to pinning down target audience, from design to publishing. Print is definitely not dead. Long form of reading is making a comeback too. I have high expectations and I hope it won’t let me down.

Just to confuse the matter, the Stack programme on Monocle Radio focuses on the same subjects and teaches me a lot too. So basically, Stack of Monocle is the seminar. STACK subscription provides the course books.

April Miscellany 2016

I received the first issue of my STACK subscription this month. As promised, it was a surprise. It was a fashion magazine called Pylot with many weird and disturbing photos. I usually read magazines in bed, but I didn’t put this one in my bedside table just in case I have bad dreams… To be fair, I haven’t read it in detail yet. Looking forward to next month’s issue.

Film

We watched Zootropolis, The Jungle Book and a Taiwanese film called You Are the Apple of My Eye. Zootropolis was lovely. I like both the humour for adults and for children. The Jungle Book, as a children story, was more vicious than I imagined. The image and sound was amazing in the new VUE cinema.

TV

I have been watching a Chinese TV series, The Legend of the Condor Heroes (2008). I’m so familiar with the story I know exactly what’s going to happen and even what people are going to say. Like I mentioned last month, it’s a shame that the term “Kung Fu” is simplified to people in funny costumes flying around and love stories in Western films. It talks a lot more than that in good Wuxia novels.

It’s a specific genre, like sci-fi and fantasy, and it’s almost exclusively Chinese. In addition to all the elements of a fiction, it emphasises many traditional values, for example, the character of loyalty, truthfulness and courage. It praises heroes who help the poor and needy and do justice to evil, and ranks them higher than rulers, the rich and people who are masters of Kung Fu but do evil. The stories are often set in times of trouble and wars, emphasising national identity and belonging. The love stories are beautiful too; loyal and self-sacrificing. It also touches on bigger issues about good and bad, life and death.

Gardening

There is also adventure with gardening this month. First of all, I searched and saved every photo of Oudolf style planting on Pinterest. Secondly, I decided on a pink and purple palate. Then I compiled a plant list in a spreadsheet with what I’ve got and what I’d like. It took such a long time, I was amazed that I was still enthusiastic at the stage of ordering plants online. The plants took their time to arrive. I nearly had a heart attack on the day of delivery (or near missing).

My kind neighbour took them in from my front garden for the fear of thieves, but my forgetful husband forgot to let me know about it. I nearly lifted all the paving slabs in search of my parcels when the delivery card said “under water butt” and reported the “missing parcels” on the phone. In the end, I found three huge boxes piled from floor to ceiling in my neighbour’s hallway.

April Miscellany 2016

Talking about the trouble of delivery, I can’t believe after so many years of shopping online, the delivery hasn’t improved at all. The two more acceptable options seem to be name day delivery with a cost, and pick-up points. It’s still largely impossible to order anything online which is bigger than my letter box, if I haven’t got kind neighbours, if my work doesn’t allow personal post, if I care about shopping gone astray. Shall I start a delivery service which delivers in the evenings and weekends only, sends personal text messages to confirm time and actually reply customers’ reply?

Anyway, after I located my plants, I started planting almost straightaway. Stipa gigantea first, then verbena bonariensis around it, then a swamp of echinacea and a swamp of salvia caradonna at the front. Nassella tenuissima next to my lavenders. When I moved onto the next patch of bed, I hit concrete. Now I have a piece of impenetrable unknown concrete two inches under the soil. Any idea?

The planter for the bamboo was finally finished. A piece of art work by my husband. The root ball of the bamboo refused to be split or to be sawed up by any gardening tools or DIY tools. We were told a bread knife would do the job.

Music

One thing I have been keeping quiet for six months, I’m loving my piano!

 

Summer is coming, if you discount all the snow we had in this week (which was the last week of April!). For the first time in 2016, I was able to lie on a sunny grassy bank in my company car park and purr like a cat. I do look forward to summer very much, my booming garden, parties and travels!

 

 

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