Happy Daddy

Florence's Father's Day card

Florence’s Father’s Day card

For the past three years I have been overseas during my daughter’s school Father’s Day Celebrations. This year had to see the record set straight, and so I put in a special request for the school to host their 2014 “Daddy’s Day Breakfast” today, as I am flying to Amman tonight for the rest of the week.

The children sang all of us Dads a special song, served up croissants and boiled eggs, and then Florence and Martha even made me a coffee between them (with Martha on mixing duty, and Flo doing the more precarious carrying work). All of this on the back of another fun-filled weekend of parties, dancing in monsoon rain, ten-pin bowling competitions, and watching 28 performances at the annual Dance Centre Show.

Leaving to spend the rest of the week in Jordan will no doubt produce some new thoughts to populate the pages of this blog, however after spending quality time at home it doesn’t get any easier hauling myself 1,000 of miles around the region, and having to stage a not-too-dramatic goodbye to the girls.

That said, this morning was the perfect send off.

I was crowned a mini VIP for half an hour, wearing the brightly coloured hats the girls had made for me, and touched by the two wonderful cards they’d prepared the week before (above and below).

Martha's Father's Day card

Martha’s Father’s Day card

And if the wise words on Martha’s card above weren’t thought-provoking enough, I feel today is my day to challenge the most enthusiastic team of Poet Laureates to stir up something more magical and endearing than the poem which I found inside Flo’s card:

Daddy, you are
as smart as Ironman
as fast as Superman
as brave as Batman,
you are my
favourite Superhero
XX.”
Florence

I’ll not stop smiling all week now.

Daddy's Day Selfie

Daddy’s Day Selfie

Cake or Death?

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Hungry for cake anyone?

Excited, beyond levels that normal measuring instruments would find hard to measure, Florence and Martha have been galloping through a recent spate of birthday celebrations.

My 39th last month – pic above – was ushered in with some chocolate and raspberry cup cakes. Martha’s 3rd – last Friday – was awarded double cupcake supplies: first, for a family trip to school and some mid-morning songs and card opening, and second, for an end of the day fancy dress party in Lou’s apartment, where the luminous green cakes were complimented by that reliable choice favourite - the humble pizza.

As you can tell from the photos below, at both events, Martha (playing the part of the Disney movie Frozen’s Anna in the afternoon) was quite “up” for sweet treats, celebrating, and having the day’s limelight opportunities shifted in her direction: Continue reading

Easter in Shanghai

And so it was to Shanghai last Thursday for the Easter weekend.

I am not sure when it was ever the sensible option to plan a stag weekend in Nha Trang back-to-back with a football tournament in Shanghai, allowing me just four days in between of relative calm?

Perhaps it’s best sometimes not to over think these things and, instead, just embrace them.

Am typing this in bed on Sunday, back in Vietnam (although in Hanoi, in fact, with work for the next three days) after being upgraded earlier this afternoon at Shanghai airport by Vietnam Airlines, who I would typically focus my frustrations on due to their often sub-optimal service but today, however, I was close to falling in love with them as they expertly whisked me back in business class, me having successfully competed (unscathed) in this year’s Vikings Cup football tournament, with my local team, Saigon Raiders FC. Continue reading

Short and sweet

Hello.  Now where was I?  On the verge of heading to India about a month ago, I seem to recall…

Well, India, Delhi, the Holi Festival, and the workshop I was running all went off well. Delhi is thriving, the weather was sublime, the food delicious and, as you’ll see from the photo below, I managed to pull off a mean impersonation of some kind of overweight commando at the end of an afternoon of celebrating the first day of Spring, in true Hindu style. Memorable stuff.

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On next to the UK, for some long days of meetings, but intersected thankfully by short snippets of quality time with friends and family.

Some of which took place in pubs and involved pints (I miss pints).

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There was even time whilst I was in London for some swapping of school day photographs on a night out with mates from the Merchant Taylors’ years, circa. 1985-1993.

One I can’t help but post being of our fly-by-night sixth form band, Orange Bud. Watch out music seekers, it’s not too late for a 40 year birthday reunion in 2015.

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And the past week has been back in Saigon, hosting the delightful Hellewell family, over from the UK shires.  Kathryn, James, Leo and Sam collectively took to the heat, humidity and cold beers over here with ease, and provided some wonderful times together (crammed in to my apartment as the seven of us all were!)

So “local” were the Hellewells, that they can now tick off ‘riding Vintage Vespa bikes in the Mekong Delta with the kids’ from their bucket list.

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Tomorrow I am off to celebrate a friend’s wedding up in Nha Trang on a stag weekend, over Easter I’ll be playing in a football tournament in Shanghai, and I’ll be up to Hanoi and across to Bangkok for work after that. On the cards for May currently is Beirut and the Philippines (both work) and planning out Martha’s 3rd Birthday party (very much in the ‘play’ category).

Happy Easter to you all and, next time, I promise some more words and less bullet points.

Chocs away!

Pausing for Thought

Saigon is hotting up once more.  Now I appreciate that, for many of you who drop in on saigonsays from time to time, even when Saigon is not “hotting up” there is a good chance that it still might be considerably warmer here than what other parts of the world have put up with for the past half a year.  Simply put, Saigon is always hot, except for the months we are now descending upon, when it slips sweatily into being really hot.

Time then for me to head West, first to Delhi at the weekend, for a week of work just as the country celebrates “Holi”-  the first day of spring (Monday 17th) – during which it is tradition to get splattered with coloured powder.  All of which makes for a pretty picture to stick at the top of a blog post.  Next Monday is also St Patrick’s Day – divinely timed, should Ireland come away with the Six Nations (rugby) trophy two days beforehand.

My ambition for Monday evening in Delhi next week is therefore to avoid too much pink and yellow hair dye during the day, and to successfully find a pint of Guinness in the evening. It’s not every Monday night you get to blend Hindu and Gaelic culture together in such a colourful way. Continue reading

Year of the Horse, belatedly

My last post on this site was pre-Christmas.  I spectacularly missed the opportunity of writing about my January 1st commitment to stop smoking (achieved so far with flying colours, by the way).  I then reneged on posting suitably colourful and joyous photos of my kids enjoying the Chinese (in Vietnam, ‘Tet’) lunar New Year celebrations last week, as well as the standard picture of my Tet tree in bloom, them performing in their Tet concert, and me pontificating on what the new Year of the Horse might all be about.  On which front I am still none the wiser.

February kicked off nearly a week ago, and my “No Booze Feb” pledge was underway (watch this space, at this rate, next month I’ll convert to Buddhism, take up sunrise yoga classes and become a caffeine-free, vegan) in earnest – and yet I just didn’t get round to documenting this very sobering moment in time.

If I’d had the chance, I would have regaled you sooner with the rather tragic weekend story of how a stomach bug last Saturday ensured my quick demise over a 48 hour period, during which I didn’t eat, and spent as much time in my bathroom in two days as the average person might spend in a year.  It was not pretty.

And then, yesterday, I flew up to Hanoi on business, to find the Old Quarter looking resplendant in Tet decor, and abuzz with a heady mix of local adults drinking Tiger beers from 9am, and kids dancing in the streets (for once, not crowded with bikes and traffic).

All of this I have failed to represent so far in 2014.  Such slackness is potentially, in itself, a fatal start to any new lunar year.  Even my Tet tree flowered 6 days late.  The omens are not good. Continue reading

Walking in a Metrosexual Wonderland

Taking pics of fruit and veg - is this evidence enough I am embracing my inner "Metro"?

Taking pics of fruit and veg: isn’t this evidence enough that my inner “Metro” is alive and kicking?

That I even have a fruit bowl, is the first admission I’ll make on this rather “forgive me Father” Sabbath day journal entry…

Forgive me, for I appear to have rather over-embraced my inner ‘Metrosexual’ wannabe, released as it was yesterday like some kind of bottled up camp genie, deliriously happy at the prospect of all the indulgences available, given I was home alone for the weekend.

The early hours of yesterday began with feet firmly (despite the number of drinks I’d had that evening) wedged into hetro-man world.  I was in town, out with a mate from my football team.  All the raw ingredients for a “boy’s Friday night” were in play: games of pool, booze; sports talk; rock music – life was uncomplicated.

You’ll imagine my surprise then (or some won’t, as it would seem many of you clearly “outed” me as a metro-man many years back) when in a moment of mild panic yesterday evening, I briefly took stock of my day’s activities, which included the following: Continue reading

Colonel Sanders in Saigon

Guest Post by Martyn Barmby

Why would you fly 6,000 miles to Vietnam to eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken?  Twice actually: once successfully and once with the bathetic failure of vegetarian falafel.

It’s not that I dislike Vietnamese food; I love it.  Nor is it that I lost patience with my badly wrapped Banh Xeos (“I would not smoke it, never mind eat it” was the withering review of my efforts).  It is not even the repeated faux pas of mixing the wrong sauce with each gorgeous parcel of fish, vegetables and the most fragrant herbs.  It is more about friendship with a dash of nostalgia and maybe a dipping sauce of stubbornness.

Uncle Cake encounters his first Banh Xeo one hour into the weekend

Encountering my first Banh Xeo one hour after arriving in Saigon

After what might technically count as a long weekend in Saigon I got a second taste of what our dear friends love about the place.  Although crossing the road in itself is as fun as going on your average roller coaster, Tim Bishop tours laid on a number of special experiences. Continue reading