English Teachers Are Happy To Share

English Teachers Are Happy To Share

Random Thoughts by Pauline

November 2017
Guilty as charged

Call me a foodie or a gourmand or whatever. I love food and the satisfaction it brings to my taste buds and stomach but more importantly to my spirit. A good meal paired with wine in good company is heaven on earth.

Food does not always have to be expensive or exotic but must be made from fresh raw materials, simply seasoned and served at the right temperature. Presentation is important as the eyes are also feasted. But it shouldn’t be overdone. I hate to think of all the fingers going over the food to have it elaborately arranged into a peacock or a panda. As to wine, I am not a sommelier but can tell good wines from the bad. One glass or at most two are all that I can and will consume even among close friends. And such relaxing evenings are not too frequent, maybe monthly.

Company is of paramount importance for a truly enjoyable meal. Bills are usually split but the birthday girl will be treated. So even though there can be one who does not fancy oysters, another can’t stand lamb, each pays the same. There shouldn’t be finger-pointing in restaurant choice. The principle is “if it is good, there can be the second visit or else, it will be one-off”. 

Whenever I dine out, I refrain from any calculation or consideration of calories, nutritional value, health risks etc and just let go. But underneath there is always a twinge of guilt of what I am doing to my health. I usually “punish” myself to have a simple salad the next day to keep the balance. I love fruits and never drink coke or those cartons of sugary water in all kinds of pretentious names.

Once in a blue moon, I cook. I also love watching cooking programmes and restaurant reviews. So before my teeth yield or my health deteriorates, I will keep this love of mine. 


Random Thoughts by Pauline

July 2017
Every Sunday, I pamper myself with facial treatment and body massage. But before that, I treat myself to a set breakfast at one of the fast food restaurants rather than the usual cereal, toast and espresso at home not for the food quality but for a break from the weekday routine.

So this Sunday, I arrived at the food court at around 8. I noticed that the restaurant on this floor which only opens at noon was already bustling with activities. I couldn’t help watching what they were doing.

The two young men in crisp white uniforms were preparing fruit and cream sponge cakes. One was whisking egg whites while the other was applying coats of cream to the cake. They were focused paying no attention to me who was staring curiously at them through the glass divider. That was four hours before the restaurant was to open. I was sure that they were not the only two staff working. There should be even more in the kitchen -  arranging, organizing, cutting, dicing, slicing, peeling, defrosting, boiling, blanching and tenderizing etc.

The French names this whole process as the Mise en place literally means “set in place”. That means all is ready before the actual cooking.  The hours of preparation work are to ensure that the whole cooking process can be smooth and efficient and that perfect dishes can be brought to the customers’ tables at the soonest.

I stood there feeling the greatest respect for them and telling myself not to gobble my food again but to nibble and savour every mouthful! I also learnt a life lesson - preparation is the key to success! The greatest inventor of all, Alexander Graham Bell, had put it so aptly.  “Luck” is but “an opportunity” and for success to be ensured, there must be good preparation! 

The recipe is simple: success = opportunity + readiness!

Random Thoughts by Pauline

July 2017
Sunday morning walks
Sunday is my day for walking and public transport rather than driving. At about 8 in the morning, I walk down Ede Road to Festival Walk shopping mall, go up several floors to the food court to have my breakfast and then walk back to Kowloon Tong Station for the train to Hung Hom. Instead of changing to West Rail Line at Hung Hom, I get off there and walk to Tsim Sha Tsui.

Walks on Sunday mornings are really relaxing. There is not much traffic nor are there many pedestrians. Cornwall Road, for example, can actually be vacant with neither cars nor people. And when I arrive at the footbridge overlooking the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, I would stop and sometimes, even snap a shot of all those lazy-looking traffic lanes. One to two hours later, these would be filled with all kinds of vehicles carrying anxious drivers and passengers. I can also detour to the waterfront and walk along the promenade. There is the Victoria Harbor, though much down-sized, still amazing despite the maze of monstrous-looking mega buildings clustering the waterfront. One thought always comes to my mind as I stand there – we Hongkongers are miracle-workers. With our hands and those of generations before us, we have built this safe, clean and prosperous city we call home.

The footbridge brings me to the fountain in Urban Council Centenary Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui. I love fountains as the water columns transform the place into a fairyland. Sometimes, I would tip-toe closer to feel the mist. I become childish and girly! Well, there are not any on-lookers. The street-cleaners are too busy with their work as to pay any attention to me.

After crossing Chatham Road South, I arrive at Granville Road, one of the popular streets to tourists. But it is too early for shopping sprees. Shops except for some local restaurants offering breakfast, are not yet open. A big garbage truck is parked near the restaurants with cleaners busily removing bags and bags of rubbish from the door fronts and loading them to the truck. At the turn of the street, the newspaper vendor is doing the last bit of tidying up.

By then I would be all sweaty hyper with contentment for having exercised for about 30 minutes. I arrive at Carnarvon Road and only minutes away from my weekly 4-hour beauty session. 

Random Thoughts by Pauline

July 2017
Gym or park
I have a free pass to all the 23 branches of a leading chain fitness centre. That means I should have no excuse not to maintain my exercise routine. Well, I do have one good reason - I prefer jogging in the park and around the neighborhood of where I live to working out in the gymnasium.

Not that I have never visited the gyms. I did make an effort to familiarize myself with those work-out machines like the treadmill, the sky walker, the exercise bike, the vertical climber, the rowing machine etc. They all come with state-of-the art consoles complete with information on my heart rate, my speed, mileage covered and of course, the calories burnt.

To tell the truth, I have never enjoyed any of my visits to the gymnasiums. I don’t like the pungent smell of sweat, the deafening music, the stamping of feet on treadmills, the dazzling big television screens and in fact, the whole combat vibes of a boot camp. After all, I am not preparing for any major sporting events. I just want some physical activities for my aging body. Exercising to me has to be pleasurable and relaxing but it simply isn’t like that in a gymnasium. 

I know, I can talk myself into liking the gym. I can exercise there rain or shine undeterred by weather. I can have whole-body training. I can enjoy various television programmes. Then there are shower and drinking facilities.

But all these can hardly be compared to my jogging in the park. First of all, the air is fresh. When accentuated by the fragrance of the mock lime and the gardenia, it virtually puts me in paradise. If I go in the late afternoon, I can still savour the sun. In the evening, then I can have fun watching the lunar phases with the tune and the lyrics of Teresa Teng’s “The Moon Represents My Heart” vividly playing in my mind.     

As I jog, I meet real people so unlike the combatants in the gym – people walking their dogs though sadly not always the masters but the domestic helpers, couples chatting as they keep in pace with each other, families playing basketball in the nearby court, a man flexing his muscles under the tree, a kind-hearted lady attending to the stray cats or some elderly ladies sitting on the benches catching their breath. We might exchange a few words of greetings and just smile as we pass by one another.

So with my favourite tunes playing and my eyes so richly feasted, I am actually enjoying the jogging as I sweat and pant! How can I be persuaded to give up all these to exercising in the gym? 

Random Thoughts by Pauline

June 2017
The pianist

I was going down the escalator of a neighbourhood shopping mall when I was pleasantly captivated by some beautiful piano music – Somewhere over the rainbow! I quickened my step to get a look of the pianist.

He was a very typical middle-aged bald man. Seated with his face to the big floor-to-ceiling glass wall, he was all absorbed in his own world of music not to be disturbed. I stood and admired from some distance. His fingers were almost flowing effortlessly across the black and white keys while his feet were stepping on and off the pedals with equal lightness! He made my day which otherwise was gloomy and stuffy.

I started imaging what made him sit down and start playing the piano. He could not be showing off because he was not fussing around. Was he too early for an appointment? Did he forget his house key and got locked up? Did he own a piano? Was he simply re-visiting some long gone hobby? He could not be a piano tutor trying to attract some business! For sure, he was not one of those buskers for he would have played in the busy streets of Tsimshatsui or Mongkok! But of course, the piano is too big for street performance. He could not have been a mall employee because otherwise, he would have been all dressed up like one of those performing in the posh shopping arcades in Central!

Well, I had fun lifting myself somewhere over the rainbow way up high!

Oh, someday I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top that's where you'll find me, oh

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dream that you dare to
Oh, why, oh, why can't I, I?

Random Thoughts by Pauline

June 2017
Private kitchen

Last Saturday evening, we four ladies were out for fine dining as we do at least once in a month.

The restaurant is one of those private kitchens that have mushroomed across the city in industrial buildings in Kwun Tong. My friend scouted it in one of the popular dining apps and made reservation the day before. Unlike other private kitchens that keep patrons in suspense of what they will be served, we were given the menu which could be changed according to our preferences. We did ask for the risotto with foie-gras and eel be changed to prawn.

The place was not fancy and could even be described as a bit untidy with the guitar tucked behind the door and the tables, three of them, pushed to one side of the small room. There were some classic posters on the wall. Our table was the only one properly laid with glasses and plates. We were the only guests.

To serve us, there were the chef, a cool guy who never uttered a word in our two-hour stay and the chatterbox waiter who commented on almost all our conversation topics. A bit annoying I must say!

For HK$500 per head, we enjoyed a five-course meal including pan-fried scallop with mango salsa as the starter followed by mushroom soup with black truffle, risotto with prawn, smoked A4 Wagyu and baked banana cheese pizza as dessert. To complement all these, there was a bottle of Semillon Sauvignon Blanc.

The meal was good value for money because the ingredients were all fresh and the chef though looking quite young had all the dishes delicately flavoured, carefully done and presented to us right away. Only the dessert was a disaster. We even began to wonder how this place was able to survive. The waiter who had been overly attentive showed us the lunch menu saying that the place could be full-house during lunch time on week days because prices are much lowered. As to the evenings, like other such dens, they only open when there is booking in advance.

It was an enjoyable dining experience worth re-visiting. I would surely recommend it to other foodies. Such eateries are often dreams come true for young adults and they rely on word of mouth. I shall do my part as a show of support for small businesses. 

Random Thoughts by Pauline

June 2017
One MTR ride

It was Saturday evening. I was on board the MTR on my way to Kwun Tong. The weather with a typhoon lurking around had been humid and stuffy. The compartment was not only packed but also filled with the rank smell of body odour. Close to standing on one foot, I felt suffocated. There was not much space to move.

Suddenly, the man standing next to me shied away from the woman in front of him and started to lean back a little towards me. I looked to find out what had caused the commotion. That woman who perhaps found her t-shirt wet with perspiration too body-hugging had put one hand underneath her shirt to have it lifted from inside! Cooling! I did one very unkind act - taking a photo of her in action. Of course, I made sure her face was not shown.

Then there was a teenage girl with a big rucksack standing near the doors. She was minding her own business – using her mobile phone. But unknowingly she had occupied the space of three passengers – herself, her rucksack and her two outstretched hands! As passengers elbowed their way to get off the train, they all murmured and rolled their eyes upwards.

Earlier, the MTR had issued public announcements calling for passengers with backpacks to unload them when boarding the compartments. There have been many other reminders. The familiar ones include asking passengers to stand behind the yellow line and giving way for passengers to get off first. Others are meant to tackle some problematic phenomena – wearing flip-flops and using the mobile phone when taking the escalators or wearing of thick clothing when temperature in the compartment is warmer than outside during the winter days etc.

We would have taken these to be acts of common sense not worth making a fuss and yet corporations such as MTR will make sure that reminders have been issued for the sole purpose of shirking legal responsibility! 

Random Thoughts by Pauline

June 2017
Booth talk

She virtually collapsed right in front of me burying her face in the seat and murmuring that she would be leaving while apologizing at the same time.

We used to work for the same school and have been friends for three decades. We meet every now and then for festive celebrations or simply to catch up. It was Saturday afternoon. We met for lunch. We were comfortably seated in the booth enjoying some very exquisite cuisines.

It was a simple “How are you? Are you sleeping well” that sent her to tears with face twisted. I was not prepared for this and couldn’t respond. She was one scene of desperation. I was telling myself that if she really stood up to leave, I would have to hold her in my arms. How could I let her leave alone?

I had never seen her like this until then but that was her true self and state of mind! All along, she had appeared to be calm and composed though with a touch of melancholy. She must have been masking! How dumb of me not to have detected!

I know she has been bullied at work by unfounded vicious gossips but I have no idea she is in such pain. I thought that her sleeplessness was once in a blue moon but in fact, it has turned habitual. 

She did calm down but her parting words saddened me. “I better hide myself!” 

Random Thoughts by Pauline

May 2017
Not the usual kind of graduation ceremony

This is the season of secondary school graduation ceremonies. One of the schools I work for held it last Thursday. It was the most touching ceremony I have ever attended. Having served the education sector for decades, I have attended tens of such ceremonies.  There would be always be the school report by the principal or supervisor or both, speeches by the guest of honour and the student representative followed by certificate and prize presentations. Sometimes, there would be student performance.

Teachers and students spend an enormous amount of time and effort to make sure that the ceremony would run smoothly so as to impress the guests but more importantly to create indelible memories for graduates and their parents. Ceremonies can last 2 if not 3 hours and when they come to a close; teachers are relieved while graduates are exhilarated. As to the other guests if they do stay until the end, they must be great friends of the school board, supervisor or principal. Others may have long left.

But this ceremony was not the same. After the routine items came the part of the class teachers presenting their parting words to the graduating classes.  One teacher recalled how her class took care of her when she was not well and how she would be forever grateful. She then sang a song encouraging her students not to fear but be brave in face of life’s challenges. She was all tears while her students cheered her on.

Then another class teacher came up to the stage. He recounted how he and his class practised so hard for the choral speaking and finally they worked miracle - champion of the category beating top schools. He encouraged students to carry forward such headstrong spirit. His class applauded.

I was among the audience. As I listened, images of what these students had experienced kept popping up in my mind bringing tears of appreciation to my eyes. 

Random Thoughts by Pauline

April 2017
Beautiful people

They took such attentive care of me - Peter and Susan, John and Jane that I will remain forever grateful. I was invited to stay in Peter’s beautiful garden home in Sandbach for two nights and then together we stayed in John’s 3-acre manor house in Cumbria, the Lake District.

Peter and John were respectively the Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher of Sandbach School, Cheshire, England. It is the partnership school of Fukien Secondary School (FSS) and was instrumental in supporting drama education at FSS. They have both retired from their posts at Sandbach School with Peter still flying around reviewing schools in various countries in Africa and Russia while John is busy working on his 3-acre manor house, the Carlton Hall. These couples are very endearing with the wives fully supporting their husbands in all their endeavours.

Susan was a nurse but she took early retirement when Peter retired and started his African visits. The couple have stayed in countries like Kenya and Saudi Arabia and Susan has to take care of Peter in an alien land so different from the settled life at home in Cheshire.

John was the brain behind the highly acclaimed Sandbach School Theatre. Upon his retirement, he decided to start a new life away from the crowds. The couple purchased the stately manor house which comes with the extensive woods. John actually painted the eight rooms, walls and ceilings. The live fire warming us during those chilly spring mornings was made with the logs chopped by John who is now the lumberman!

This tour was so special with no “must-see places” or “must-buy things” checklists to tick off but strolls in the vales and terraces, drinks by the fireplace, chats over bar foods of fried fish and sausages and playtime with Max, the most welcoming giant terrier.

Random Thoughts by Pauline

April 2017
What to do in 12 hours?

I will be flying to London tomorrow midnight. It’s going to be a 12-hour flight.

It should not be pleasant - confined to a small space flanked by strangers. In recent trips, I have found passenger seats getting narrower. Or maybe I have grown bigger! The first 5 hours are bearable. I can be flipping through the pages of the Shopping Catalogue or choosing a movie or two to watch.

Soon, the pain creeps in. My neck, shoulders and legs cramp. Time to get up! I pluck up enough courage to do the hateful task of waking up a sound asleep neighbour to stand up for me to get out from my window seat. Sometimes, I wonder whether it is worth all the trouble when after all the maneuvering, there is only that short corridor to stretch out in. I have to be most gentle in my moves to make sure that my hands would not land on somebody’s face.

Toilet breaks are not pleasant either. The washroom is so small that I have to hold my breath and tuck my tummy in to get the door locked. And worst of all, it is not always clean.

Then comes meal time. For Economy Class passengers like me, it takes a lot of balancing skills and focus to finish the task. Once a tour guide said that we should move our arms and fingers like a grasshopper and definitely not sideways. If we want to spread out freely like a bat, then we have to pay for the expensive Business Class or First Class. Poor me, I have always been the grasshopper!

Well, when it is into the 8th or 9th hours, I can actually see my skin crumple with lines appearing all over my face. My eyes might be shut but I am not asleep despite all the fatigue. I put up my hand and ask for water which comes in a tiny cup! Another movie then! But the head is so heavy, the screen so small, the sound so blurred that I cannot follow the storyline.

Usually at the time of the final two hours, I doze off only to be harshly woken up with lights glaring for the window blinds have been pushed up! I am there – end of the ordeal! I have survived!  

Random Thoughts by Pauline

April 2017
Common sense

Common sense says that we don’t use our mobile phone when we cross the street. But why are people still doing it? Don’t they have this common sense of danger?

Why is there the need for MTR to make public announcement telling passengers not to look at their mobile phone when using the escalator?  That is not the only “gentle reminder”. Others include beware slippers get caught when standing on escalator,  loosen clothing when in compartment etc.

Obviously, what makes sense to some doesn’t mean so to others. Besides, what constitutes the “common”? A dozen, a hundred or more people? These people need to have the same history or same likes and dislikes to make up “a mass”. Then they might share the same “common sense”.

This can explain why parents and their children, employers and their staff, teachers and students cannot agree on their respective “common sense”. They have to make deliberate effort to understand the other party, accommodate differences and build  ground for common sense to be nurtured.

So next time before we make a comment using “common sense” as the argument, we have to first  establish if there is anything in “common” .

Random Thoughts by Pauline

April 2017
It’s a different world now!
There was a time when we helped strangers asking for directions most readily. When neighbours knocked on  the door asking if we had an egg to spare, we happily gave a couple. Telephone lines and refrigerators, expensive luxuries then, were generously shared. Grocery store-keepers  delivered rice bags to our doors with the bill settled monthly. That was the world I grew up in. We were not rich but were generous. There were no desires but only satisfaction.

All these seem like fairy tales now!

Strangers wandering on MTR platform shy away from interaction when offered help. In public transport, seats for those in need have to be labelled as though commuters cannot decide for themselves to whom they should offer their seats. Backpackers have to be persuaded to unload. Neighbours no longer greet each other. We dare not knock on doors for help. And yet we know and let friends know about one another’s lives in details. We react with our thumbs and smileys.  There is no human touch at all. We nestle in our own isolated world comforting ourselves that we have tens and hundreds of friends.

Oh! I miss the good old days!

Random Thoughts by Pauline

April 2017
It was yesteryears once more!

“I so wanted to touch your bang then,” said Lily.

“I am sorry, Lily. I would love to let you but it’s already gone!” I said apologetically.

It was the second gathering of the 1981 graduates in nine months. There were 22 of them and two teachers including me, their revered English Language teacher. Though those attending the two events were not all the same, the fondness was abundant in both times.

These students are now in their 50s but once they started talking about the classroom days, they were teens once again. They happily reported to me that they are all successful in their own fields and that they hold their alma mater, Wellington College, a private school closed down in 2001, most dearly. They keep telling me they owe much to their teachers who were all very strict.

Then I was in my early thirties, a trained teacher with only the Advanced Level Examination as academic qualification. I was teaching around 60 periods a week with over 50 students in a class. But in their recounts, I knew I was serious with my duties and they loved me for that. 

That makes me so proud. What matters most in a teacher is not just the credential but the heart that is anchored in the welfare of the students.

Random Thoughts by Pauline

March 2017
Bean Bean lives on

It was around this time of the year when Bean Bean lost the fight against cancer and left us. He was 15.

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, we have this practice of taking a photo with our furry child. So last year though Bean Bean weighing only 3 kilo was almost a bag of bones, we still had the photo taken. He was not the cheery self anymore but lying almost limply in our arms.

We missed him very much and the house was quiet without us yelling his name or him barking for food. We couldn’t have another pet as we worried he might outlive us. Then what would happen to him?

Soon the silence in the house started to depress me. I must have another pet. We agreed that we would not buy but adopt. However, Mervyn insisted that we would only adopt a Pekingese, same breed as Bean Bean. I browsed various animal adoption websites until my heart bled. There were just too many pets being abandoned, starved and tortured. The worst would be those abandoned by breeding farms. And I discovered that dog owners are quite trend conscious. There were lots of poodles, corgis and terriers but no Pekingese.     

Just when I wanted to stop the hunt, sheer luck brought Mimi, a Pekingese to us. Her owner had passed away and the other family members did not want to keep her. She is already 10-year old, overweight with bladder stones, infected eyes and ears.

On January 24 just before the New Year, we adopted Mimi. She quickly adapted to us, the new bed, new pan, new diet and new ball. She takes all medication quietly and complies with all the urination rules. 

Bean Bean lives on in Mimi! The house comes to life again! 

Random Thoughts by Pauline

March 2017 
Unspoken compassion
I walked past the couple every time I took the footbridge leading from Kowloon Tong train station to Festival Walk LG1. Rather humbly dressed, they looked like in their 70s though the man could be a few years older. Using a simple iron cast box placed on a wooden stand as the counter, they were selling a traditional Teochew snack – the crispy candy roll. The wrapping is one flimsy white flour sheet while the main stuffing is crunchy maltose bars.

This small business was run quite smoothly with the woman collecting the money and the man preparing each order upon request. Carefully he took out one sheet of wrapping from the box, laid it flat, put a candy bar in the middle, sprinkled some sesame and coconut shreds on top and then rolled up the whole thing which he put in a small brown paper bag. They even had a speaker on broadcasting “Crunchy, crunchy, you miss out a lot if you don’t try it out”. It was the hoarse voice of the man.

I did try one. Crunchy but too sweet! Business was not exactly good.

Then yesterday as I walked out of Festival Walk LG1, I was amazed to see a queue waiting in front of the stand. But it was not the man preparing the rolls. It was the woman while another woman was handling the money.

The scene brought to my mind the news story that the man passed away last week and that the woman after shutting up herself for a few days crying her eyes out decided to resume business. The news went viral resulting in the queue waiting patiently and silently to be served. The broadcast was still the same familiar coarse voice.