JD was counting the days down to my birthday in excitement at the thought of blowing out the candles on my cake!
JD had a busy, but thoroughly enjoyable, day yesterday. He spent the morning running wildly around the play centre with his two friends, Kaiya and Zayden, while I chatted with their mum Nancy, a university colleague of mine who I get on very well with. Then lunch at "Old MacDonald's" (as JD calls it) and home for a nap. After waking, we were off to Summer's birthday meal. Summer [centre in photo] is the one year old daughter of Kelly [left in photo], with whom I run the Lattitude training. JD was the most enthusiastic singer of "Happy Birthday" once the cake arrived and is already getting very excited about his own birthday in a couple of weeks. First is Jiajia's birthday tomorrow, though. She's in Shenzhen!
We managed to spread JD's birthday celebrations over a whole week, with trips to the museum, the play centre and the zoo, and a present and a card each day. It meant that JD gradually got the birthday idea and was able to enjoy each gift properly before being wowed by the next one.
This evening, we shared JD's birthday cake with MaoMao and her parents, plus family friends "Dancing Lady" and her son. I've never seen JD as excited as when he suddenly saw MaoMao and the cake. He can sing along to the "Happy Birthday" song now and, somewhat inevitably, ended up with cream all over his face!
Happy Birthday to my wifey who turned forty yesterday. She had a record number of cards (all from UK friends and family, mind!) and was quite moved by the kind words in them. Ma bought a cake and JD learned how to say "Happy Birthday" and enjoyed playing with the candles. Sadly, Ava shows no sign of getting over her 6-month old cough and is planning yet another visit to the hospital this week. Having had some twenty tests, five different courses of anti-biotics, steroids, inhaler, Chinese herbs, Buddhist and Christian prayers - all seemingly to no avail - we wonder what else there is left to try. In the meantime, Happy Birthday dahlin' !!
Andy's second surprise was a belated gift for my 50th Birthday - tickets to a Premiership match; Southampton v Liverpool. So Andy, his son Louie (birthday treat for next week) and I braved torrential rain and bitter cold to take our seats and cheer on the Saints. Well, as an Everton supporter, I didn't want Liverpool to win, right? It was a good match with controversial penalty decisions and a stunning first goal. Sadly the best team lost; 2 v 0 to Liverpool. Great fun though.
"What do you want for Christmas?" my wife asked me a month ago. "A new office chair" I hopefully replied. The various pieces arrived just after Christmas Day and I valiantly tried to assemble it. There seemed to be three screws missing - isn't there always? After some to-ing and fro-ing, Jiajia got the company to send more screws. After a week, new screws arrived - different colour and still the wrong sizes. More angry online exchanges. Finally, the correct screws arrived yesterday and my chair is finally built. Sit down, relax, enjoy.
And, after being unable to update my blog for nearly a week because the "powers that be" here recently decide to block Weebly, my wife decided to give me a year's VPN subscription as my birthday present. This is special software which links me with servers that bypass the "Great Firewall of China" and allow me access to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and, most importantly, my blog! So, all being well, look out for my occasional visits to Facebook this year too!
So here it is. I'm 50. "Officially old" as Esme, my niece, pointed out in a video I watched today. Josh, my nephew, added, "I thought my parents were old, but you....!" Neither comment as gutting as my sister-in-law accidently referring to me as her children's "granddad" before swiftly correcting herself with, "err... I mean uncle"! Great!!
My other brother's family sent this more respectful piccie below:
I'm off to the north of Kunming this afternoon to share a Burger King meal and watch "Interstellar" at the cinema there with friends. Less fun was waking up today to find that our water has been cut off again.
And so here ends my list of the fifty craziest things I've found myself doing over the first half-century of my life!
41. Thirty dwarves danced for me
42. I was within an arm's length of a wild hippo
43. I played cards for 24 hours non-stop
44. I sang and danced on a school desk in front of an angry teacher
45. I hit Cliff Richard
46. I wrote a speech which was read out in Parliament
47. I climbed a mountain in 0ºC temperatures to visit a monastery
48. I own part of a windmill
49. I watched a witch doctor sacrifice a chicken
50. I travelled in Concorde
The penultimate list of the fifty oddest things I can recall doing in my fifty years of life so far:
31. I walked into an off-license dressed as a ghost and asked the shopkeeper if he served spirits
32. I watched two stag beetles having a fight
33. I have visited all 5 Disneylands in the world
34. I touched something which had touched the moon
35. I jumped out of a hot air balloon
36. I had two students in my class who were born within a few minutes of each other to the same mother, but weren’t twins…
37. I visited a gallery devoted to art made by the criminally insane
38. I got lost in an aircraft carrier
39. I won a clay pigeon shooting competition
40. I saw a machine gun being fired inside a building
More of the fifty strangest things I've done in my virtually 50 years of life so far...
21. I bumped into a wild elephant
22. I sailed in a 20m yacht which was later attacked by pirates
23. I asked Patrick Moore a question I knew the answer to
24. A landslide once forced me to climb over a mountain
25. I appeared in a Radio 4 play
26. I fell into the Zambezi river
27. I chatted with Rolf Harris as he wandered around my school
28. I sat in the cockpit of a 747 jumbo jet flying to America
29. I have climbed volcanoes in three different continents
30. I saw a world record being set
Here are the second ten in my list of the 50 most unusual "experiences" in my almost 50 years of life so far.
11. I ate bees
12. I saw the first single by a famous 80s band being cut
13. I arrived in Iceland, in Winter, without a coat
14. My bus was narrowly missed by a TV-sized falling boulder
15. I was locked inside a park
16. I paid good money to see a freak show
17. I suffered from “raptures of the deep”
18. I wandered around the Pentagon
19. I fell into a vat of whitewash
20. I ripped my skin open during a 110m bungee jump
With my 50th birthday coming next week, I thought I would reflect a little on my life so far, and came up with a list of the 50 most unusual things I have ever "experienced". Here are the first ten:
1. I was nearly kidnapped by two fake Bolivian policemen
2. I’m a registered homeless person in Florida
3. I was in a bus which forded a metre-deep river in a thunderstorm
4. I visited a travelling zoo whose tiny cages included an eagle, an ostrich and a tiger
5. I was kicked off a Polish train
6. I scuba dived to within a metre of a 2m-long shark …without a cage
7. The inside of an Egyptian pyramid disappointed me
8. I pressed the red button in a nuclear missile silo
9. I showered with 30 naked strangers
10. I sneaked into North Korea
My online weblog celebrates its 9th Birthday today, five of which have been on this Weebly platform. I started it (on a Yahoo blog service) as I joined VSO for a second time back in August 2005 and have averaged an entry every other day since then - over 1600 entries! Thanks to those of you who pop in for a read every now and again. It makes the effort worthwhile. Do add a message in the "Guestbook" above if you have a moment sometimes. Happy Birthday, Blog!
JD seemed to really enjoy his birthday yesterday, perhaps sensing there was something special about the day. We started off by slowly opening all the presents we've received from friends and family over recent days and weeks. He concentrated well and was thrilled by the wrapping paper! But he's received some lovely books, toys and cards as well as some generous Hongbao (red envelope) monetary gifts.
We then played a traditional Chinese game to divine JD's future! Faced with 8 objects representing different possible career paths, he plumped for the abacus (followed by the pen and paper ...and then tried to swallow a dumpling. So, following in his Dad's (maths) and Mum's (art) interests, eh? We'll not go into the dietary side, I think.
JD's present from his parents was a trike which is pushable and steerable by us, but is also convertible to pedals and self-steering as he grows and gets more confident. For now, mastering how the bell worked was his biggest thrill, as can be seen.
Our old friends (that's "long-term" old, not "ageing" old) Peter and Judy are back in Kunming, and kindly managed a long trip across the city to join us for dinner this evening. It was lovely to see them again, introduce JD (who wasn't even "a twinkle" when they were last here) and catch up on each others' news.
They came very laden with gifts. I told them it felt like being visited by the three wise men. Except there was only two of them... and they aren't both men.... and their presents were much better than myrrh etc. They are certainly wise, though. I recall they gave Ava and I an hour's "marriage counselling" before we'd actually got married (and yet we still tied the knot!). And what gifts! Books and sweets and biscuits for JD, fashion mags for Ava, a collectable plate for Ma, sweets and cup-a-soups for me, a birthday gift for Ava, a birthday gift for JD, a British newspaper for me, etc etc! Very kind indeed.
It was International Women's Day yesterday (What do you mean you had no idea? It's huge here!). It was also the wife's birthday. She had a clutch of presents and cards from my family/friends in the UK, and from JD and I [see below]. From her Mum, a shop-bought cake. From her brother, nothing. Not even a "Happy Birthday, sis!" as he scoffed down a slice of cake. (He turned up unannounced a month ago from Laos, where he lives, and has been kipping on our sofa ever since). Jiajia wasn't particularly upset though - she hadn't ever celebrated her birthday before going out with me. And she did get Birthday Wishes in texts from her bank and three airline companies!? It's a strange family I've married into.
It is our good friend Gemma's birthday today and, despite her being off travelling somewhere between Bali and Australia at the moment, we decided to buy her a gift for when she returns. So meet "Gemma", the orange fish above. And when we found out how cheap the fish were (Sorry, Gemma! 2RMB each = 20p a fish!) we decided to buy two more to keep her company. Meet "George" (black) and "Margaret" (white) named after the G & M in Gemma's name - purely coincidental that my parents share the names (...Ava chose them, honest!). Wonder how long they'll survive for (...the fish, that is, not my parents)? Were we meant to buy food or something?
Many thanks to my UK friend Vix, for a postal-delayed birthday present which arrived last weekend. Vix always comes up with unusual presies and unique handmade cards (this year's featuring an "Everton Lane" street sign). Her presie was a selection of comical clothes and hair drawings on sticks which can be held up in front of a camera to alter someone's appearance (without the need for Photoshop!). I thought it was a rather a clever low-tech idea, though Jiajia was not at all impressed!
I'm quite good at keeping presents unopened until the actual day itself, be it birthday, Christmas etc. But not Jiajia; for her, presents get opened on receipt, even when they are not actually hers (she claims it's because she never received any as a child).
So it wasn't a huge surprise to find all my presents unwrapped within hours of her returning from her recent stock-purchasing trip to Shenzhen. Two days early. And MY presents! Still, I managed to hide some cards, and open them (and various e-messages) on the right day. Next year will be the "BIG 5-0", of course, but in the meantime I'll enjoy being a "square number" (7x7) for the first time in a decade, and for the last time before retirement!
I had a nice birthday last week, despite it being a working day and feeling dizzy throughout (I'm back under the doctor after 6 months of good health). Ava, Ma-in-law and I went out for a local Chinese meal in the evening. Ma-in-law surprised me by buying a rather yummy birthday cake [see photo]. Bear in mind that Ava has never once had a cake bought for her by her Mum and doesn't get as much as a card on her birthday. Maybe my charm offensive is working?
Then, on the following evening, Ava and I went out for a Pizza Hut meal, using her friend's special half-price discount card! Food tastes better when it's a bargain. Ma-in-law may have been a bit annoyed at missing out on this meal, as a lot of the cake had been eaten by the time we arrived home. Dorta was blamed, but the evidence seemed a little bit dubious!
My birthday yesterday started fairly quietly with Jiajia in Shenzhen on business and Ma-in-law having taken herself off to hospital. But once I was at school, I had some lovely surprises. Throughout the afternoon, many of the teaching staff came to my desk, one by one, with a single rose and lovely handwritten messages - 35 in all. I still don't know who co-ordinated that. Later, in the evening, while waiting for my students to arrive, I was told there was a last-second change of classroom. A bit annoyed at the short notice I walked to the new room, only to find my students, their parents and the school administration staff waiting for me with a decorated classroom, birthday cake, presents and a live guitarist playing! I was really taken by surrpise - a lovely end to the day.
My wife, it turns out, can't resist opening presents early, even if they aren't presents sent for her! So within half an hour of receiving an intriguing parcel from my parents last week, I found a furry arm poking out of it. Ava claimed she heard bear-like cries for help from inside!
My parents had sent me "Big Ted" for my birthday. I was given him when I was a baby, and he was bigger than I was then. Twice I've tried to take him back to China and twice had to give up at the airport for lack of space and weight allowance. So it was great that he finally made it, and in one piece. Ava also brought me a puppy for "Wolfie", my toy dog. "Baby Wolfie" does indeed bear an uncanny resemblance. I have also had some less soppy presents though - two books, a fiendish puzzle, some curly-wurlies and a 3G phone which is far too complex for me to work!
(I spotted this nice "BirthAday" Chinglish in town this morning!)
Ava will be in Shenzhen for my birthday this year, and so she gave me her home-made card early. "TinTin" is one of the many names she has for me(!) and, of course, Spielberg's "TinTin" movie is about to be released too. I'm not sure the original TinTin had glasses though? She also gave me a new mobile phone to replace the one I had stolen earlier this month.
About the blogger
Past blog entries