January 20th: The Hong Kong Musical Family

I’m going to try and write this without it sounding like a tribute to Abba’s “Thankyou for the music”, although of course please feel free to hum along as you read.

The Bride and Groom

The Bride and Groom

In the past, I’ve been to weddings where the bride, groom, or perhaps one of the guests has performed a song, but nothing quite like this before.  Over the weekend, Bron and I have been in Hong Kong to attend the wedding of Heather and Adam.  A wedding where it felt like half the guests contributed to the entertainment by singing or playing instruments. And this wasn’t karaoke style amateur singing – all performers had perfect voices, perfect harmonies and sang without ever straying into vocal gymnastic territory  ( (c) Mark Radcliffe I think). Guitarists playing so effortlessly that it took us a while to realise one of players was quite happily still sat at his dining table, avoiding the attention of the stage.

My personal highlight – “Uncle Danny”, with his five-song-in-one tribute to the newly married couple.  A man so talented he can hum a trumpet impersonation  whilst playing the guitar, and reappear later on on the keyboards.  And the drums.

With the groom sporting a bright yellow Mohican-style hairdo and the bride opting for blue hair, this was never going to be a traditional wedding.  Ending the night in a bright-red rockabilly-style dress (her third outfit of the night), Heather looked fantastic.

Heather, Me and Bron after the do

Heather, Me and Bron after the do

I have never been to a wedding quite like it.  And although some of the music isn’t what I’d choose to listen to at home, it was sang and performed with such passion that even I managed to temporarily discard my musical shackles and enjoy it.  This was a wedding without awkward silences or restless attendees, so enthralled were the guests by superb performance after performance. To be an architect of skyscrapers, a top executive, a millionaire banker: these are jobs people aspire to, skills people long to learn.  But nothing can bring such simultaneous joy to a room full of people as can music**.   As Adam’s Dad (keyboard player extraordinaire) said to me after I revealed I played the guitar “Whatever else you do in life, don’t ever stop making music”.

Shackles are back now though.  Abba, you can b*gger off.

A great reason to visit Hong Kong, with our three night stay compensating for our very brief previous trip (about 4 rushed hours with JB on the way to Macaw).  Carmen entertained us on Friday night with a visit to another great seafood restaurant and an excellent, smokeless* whiskey bar. A balmy 18 degrees meant t-shirt weather for me and a cold-weather warning for the locals.

Hong Kong's Avenue of Stars

Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars

On Tuesday, our favourite loony hyperactive American returned from her extended holiday in the US, so a spicy celebration was in order over at Sichuan Citizen.  Shanghai without Rachel is far too safe and sensible – where else would you find a lady who washes dishes wearing sandwich bags to avoid damaging her hands (but still managed to cut a finger on a glass)?  Rachel describes it as being part of a little Shanghai family.  Definitely a weird family, on extended holiday in a strange but brilliant country.

And with yet another Wednesday evening defeat to JB at pool, Shanghai once again settles into relative normality.

*Take note Shanghai small bar establishments: I will drink more if I can actually breathe.

** One day I’ll do a comparison of my blogs written outside of airports with those written in a heightened emotional state in airport lounges.  Written as my  conscious brain tries to ignore the message of panic being offered up by my primeval subconscious given the journey that is about to take place.  All whilst never quite ignoring the irony that this feeling is known as “fight or flight” syndrome.

December 2nd: Shanghai Islands

The eggtray decorations (with Isaac, Chong and Bron)

The eggtray decorations (with Isaac, Chong and Bron)

Why pay for expensive paintings or photographs with which to decorate your bar when you could instead affix empty eggshell cartons to the wall.  Or maybe a little polystyrene packaging.  This in keeping with the bar pump “just for show” and the world’s wonkiest darts.  But since this was the only bar available to us on the resort of Sun Island (“The only natural island in Shanghai”) we had little choice.  Until 10pm when they decided to close.

Mao Pagoda - acting as a lighthouse in the river

Mao Pagoda on Sun Island – acting as a lighthouse in the river

Isaac, Chong, me and Bron (thanks, auto-timer on camera)

Isaac, Chong, me and Bron by the Mao Pagoda (thanks, auto-timer on camera)

Sun Island is about an hour to the West of Shanghai, and lies in the middle of Huangpu River.  A retreat sort of place, with golf, go-karting, horse riding, spas, etc, at the visitors’ disposal.  We didn’t know we were going there until lunchtime on Saturday when Chong suggested it as a random thing to do on a Saturday in (near) Shanghai.  So yet more hot springs, a bit of swimming and an adventure challenge called “Find anywhere on the island to have a drink after 10pm”.   Another excellent, relaxing weekend away from central Shanghai (although hailing from Ireland, Isaac understandably took some cheering up after attending the Blarney Stone’s closing party the night before – one of Shanghai’s best “local” type bars is to be replaced with yet another Italian restaurant).

Today (Sunday) I’ve spent a few hours playing guitar whilst a German bloke sang.  One of these encounters that could have been horrendous, ending after a 5 minute creative nadir, but instead ended with a few songs taking shape*.  And since The Rolling Stones are (somehow) still going strong, this means I’m not too old to be in a band.  For the record – if a bloke called Felix suddenly starts releasing songs on iTunes and they sound like compositions I’ve been forcing Bronwen to listen to for the last few years, I hereby declare the songs (but not the lyrics) were composed by me.

Other than the weekend, a fairly quiet week for us.  Although somewhat unfair that Bronwen’s trip out of the office on Wednesday was to a building literally 2 minutes from where we live, whilst my trip on Thursday was to the Argos warehouse in the middle of nowhere until 11pm.  Nowt like a warehouse near midnight.

*Jude – this is what you avoided by escaping back to Canada!