Lin Heung Tea House, Central, Hong Kong

House Soup, Lin Heung Tea House
House Soup, Lin Heung Tea House
(c) A Harrison

This is how dining used to be in Old Hong Kong: chaotic, crowded, fast-paced and delicious. Those preferring plush seats, waiters fluent in English and a table to oneself should best dine in the large hotels.

The Lin Heung Tea House stands on the corner of Aberdeen and Wellington St, in the that part of Hong Kong Island called either Central, Western or Lan Kwai Fong, depending upon which guide-book or map you use. It is a five minute (uphill) walk from Central MTR, and is opposite the Hotel Lan Kwai Fong.

Despite the name, the Lin Heung Tea House is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For a first timer to the Fragrant Isle, the place can be overwhelming, but is well worth the effort. In traditional style, plates and cups are rinsed before use in a bowl of hot water sitting on the table. Tables are communal, and at busy times it is often easiest and quickest to find your own seat. (Locals will often wave you over to join them). Continue Reading →

The Quiet American – Graeme Greene

Under the skilful hand of Graeme Greene, the tone of The Quiet American changes with

Graham Greene
An old map of Saigon

each reading. The soft voice of Fowler contrasts with the violence of the world around him.

After dinner I sat and waited for Pyle in my room over the Catinat

So opens the novel. Not until the novel’s ending do we realise Fowler knows Pyle to be dead, although he pretends to himself Pyle may have escaped the doom Fowler himself helped arrange, if only by proxy. What exactly drives Fowler to this – for he knows what will come of Pyle should Fowler simply stand by a window, reading. Although he pretends otherwise, Fowler himself does not really understand his motives. Despair in the false foundations of Pyle’s good intentions; the hypocrisy which sees innocents die to impress the politicians of home good cause; jealously; fear of being alone; justice – all these play a role, yet even Fowler never knows the predominant emotion. What angers him most is Pyle’s blindness to the hypocrisy and faults of his beliefs, yet anger is an emotion the repressed Fowler can not express. Continue Reading →

Anna Karenina

All happy families resemble one another, but an unhappy family is unhappy after in its own way.


      So opens Anna Karenina, begun by Count Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy in 1873, and widely regarded as the pinnacle of realistic fiction.

Tolstoy believed a novel should start in media res – in the middle of things. Anna Karenina begins with the Oblonsky household in chaos, following the discovery of Stephen’s affair with the governess. From this opening, the characters in Anna Karenina search for their own meaning in the themes of love, marriage, fidelity, jealousy, questions of faith, all against the backdrop of changing contemporary Russian life. Continue Reading →

The Painting Finished By An Angel

Only in Florence


100_0318The Via Dei Servi leads from the Duomo to the Piazza Santissima Annunziata, a pedestrian-only piazza which has always held special importance for Florentines. With its distinctive arcades it remains one of the city’s most picturesque squares. The Grand Duke Ferdinand astride his horse between a pair of fountains decorated with monkeys spitting water at sea-slugs. Up until the end of the 18th C, the Florentine New Year began on the Feast of The Annunciation (March 25th), and each year the feast is marked with a huge festival and a fair which fills the piazza and over-flows into the side streets.

The Piazza Santissima Annunziata was designed by Brunelleschi, who also designed the two main buildings, the Spedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents) and the Bascilica della Santissima Annunziata.

The Basilica is the mother church of the Servite order, (hence the Via Dei Servi) often known as the Servi di Maria (Servants of Mary). This order was founded in 1234 by seven Florentine aristocrats collectively termed the Seven Holy Founders, who, on seeing a vision of the Virgin, retired from Florence to a hermitage in the wilds of Monte Senario. The church was founded in 1250, and originally known as the Oratory of Cafaggio. Continue Reading →

Singapore and the Doctor Fish

Spas aplenty, Singapore
© A Harrison

I’ve never offered up my feet to be eaten before. Being Australian, I’ve had my share of unwanted nibbles and stings when in the surf. (Plus, my great uncle, after surviving WWI, was taken by a shark just off Mosman Bay.) So it took a moment of bravery, and encouraging laughs from the assistants, for me to slip of my shoes and place my feet in the clear water of the tank.

Immediately my feet were covered in hundreds of tiny fish. They swarmed from my daughters’ feet to congregate around mine; I hate to think what they found so attractive. At first they tickled, but as these doctor fish, as they are commonly called, nibbled away at my feet the sensation grew remarkably pleasant. Plus, the fish have no teeth – a definite bonus. Continue Reading →

Butter and the Paradox of Time

I don’t do time.

The Abbey of Mont St Michel

I realised this as I sat eating breakfast while watching the sands of Mont St Michel disappear beneath the waves. Victor Hugo wrote of how the tides move à la vitesse d’un cheval au galop (as swiftly as a galloping horse). A bell tolls as the surge begins for, like many a medieval pilgrim, people still drown making their way across the tidal flats. The force of the rolling waves creates ever-changing fields of quicksand which confuse even the locals. The Bayeux Tapestry shows a trapped rider and horse, with the Abbey of Mont St Michel clearly visible in the background. Other riders are being rescued, with Hic Harold dux trahebat eos de arena embroidered beneath; (Duke Harold pulled them from the sand).

The grey sands literally do vanish; in the time it took to spread butter on my croissant and have a sip of my café au lait, another island of sand had disappeared.

Continue Reading →