Sunday, 22 May 2016

rhyme cryme

I’m about to set off for the UK, and I shall be offline for a couple of days, so, in line with my usual practice, I’ve put together another of my convoluted connection puzzles in the hope that someone will have solved it before I can get back online. I think that someone should, because this may be the easiest puzzle I’ve ever devised.
What connects the following five ‘clues’?
• a twentieth-century artist;
• an African country;
• an island;
• a goddess; and
• an ancient language, now dead?
If you haven’t seen this kind of puzzle before, you will need to turn what are seemingly vague clues into specific answers. For example, is the artist Picasso? Matisse? Jackson Pollock? Or someone else? Is the country Egypt? Kenya? Angola? Or somewhere else? The overall answer to the puzzle can only be found by comparing lists of answers for the individual clues, but once you have a match between two clues, the rest should fall into place easily. You will have heard of all the individual answers, with the possible exception of the ancient language.

As usual, I will acknowledge all correct answers, but I won’t actually publish the answer for a few weeks, to give other readers a chance to work it out for themselves.

spoiler alert
The correct solution has been submitted below.

similar puzzles
A Hard Question
What’s the Connection?
Odd One Out
All Greek to Me
An English Question

Friday, 20 May 2016

photographic highlights 2015–16

I’ll be heading off to the UK for the summer this weekend, so I’ve compiled a selection of what I consider to be the most interesting photographs that I’ve taken during the past seven months in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, I missed what might have turned out to be the most striking photo of all—on my very first day back in the territory, last October. I was sitting on my balcony enjoying a cold beer after a short bike ride when a flock of 20–25 rose-ringed parakeets suddenly appeared at balcony level on my right, flying in close formation. I have a very clear memory of the scene, but it was gone before I’d had time to reach for my camera. However, if you want to see a picture of these flashy green birds, I included one in last year’s highlights, also taken from my balcony.

I missed a similar opportunity in December while cycling through ‘fish pond alley’, when a flock of common spoonbills suddenly appeared overhead. Again, they were gone far too quickly for me to capture them on camera.

As usual, the collection does not include photographs that I took for use in other posts. On the other hand, although I’ve selected the first photo for its abstract qualities, I didn’t consider it suitable for my photographic abstraction series, mainly because what it depicts is too obvious (tree roots).

When Paula started a new job at the Chinese University of Hong Kong last September, it became possible for her to cycle to work from Fanling—it is, after all, only 16km in each direction. With nothing better to do so early in the morning, I’ve been accompanying her. On several occasions, as we’ve crossed Yuen Shin Road Bridge, which spans the mouth of the river that runs through Taipo, I’ve stopped to take in the view across Tolo Harbour. The next two photos are the most dramatic of several I took at various times from this vantage point.

While I’m on the subject of clouds, the next photo shows an unusual cloud formation as viewed from my roof, looking west. I didn’t see how it developed, because I’d been busy downstairs for about 45 minutes, but it appears to have originated from a single point.

Spectacular sunsets are a rarity around these parts, mainly because the sun disappears into the haze at least an hour before its scheduled departure time. The next photo, also taken from my roof, is the best I could manage.

‘Lotus Garden’ appears to be a common name for Chinese restaurants in the UK, but as the next photo shows, the lotus doesn’t grow in gardens. It grows in ponds. This picture was taken near the far end of what we always refer to as ‘the frontier road’.

Lotus ponds are a rarity along the frontier road, but fish ponds are much more common. A bike ride along this road is a pleasant experience, but it has one drawback: there isn’t a viable continuation once you reach the end, making it necessary to return the way you’ve come. However, last November I thought that I might venture off-road, through the fish ponds, to see whether I could find a contiguous return route. I failed, but not before I’d taken the following three photographs, all of which feature parts of the huge Chinese city of Shenzhen as a background. The birds in the second photo are egrets.

Overall, I didn’t have much luck photographing birds this year, but I’ve included the following picture, taken on the Kam Tin River during the journey to the west, of a small group of black-winged stilts, a migratory species that is common on the river and the nearby fish ponds in December and January.

The nearby fish ponds were also the location for the next photo, which was meant to be a shot of several cormorants perched on the bare tree in the centre of the picture. You probably wouldn’t know this merely from looking at the photo, but I like it anyway.

If you’ve read Maid in Hong Kong, you will know that I take a dim view of the attitude of many employers of foreign domestic helpers towards their employees here in Hong Kong, but the next photo shows a particularly egregious example of what I mean. I’d just stopped to take on some water and to remove my sunglasses (the reason for this is explained in Journey to the West: Part 4) when my attention was drawn to this old woman sitting on a barrow being pushed along by her Indonesian servant. Or, rather, my attention was attracted by the nonstop torrent of vile abuse that was being aimed at the poor woman pushing the barrow.

I was sorely tempted to run up behind and tip the nasty old thrag onto the ground, and I was only deterred from doing so by the thought that such a move would probably have backfired on the helper. However, I know roughly where the old woman lives, because I’ve seen her before, and there is a hill between where this photo was taken and where she lives that is hard work on a bike. Somehow, I don’t think the old thrag would have considered getting off the barrow on that hill. There is only one word to describe such behaviour. Disgusting!

The next photo illustrates why I have such a low opinion of the driving skills of Hong Kong’s taxi drivers. It was taken on the outskirts of Fanling, close to where I live, and shows a taxi pulling away from a taxi rank straight into the side of a public minibus. Admittedly, minibus drivers tear down this road at much more than a sensible speed, especially when the traffic lights are green, but this collision could have happened only if the taxi driver hadn’t looked in his mirrors before moving off.

There are probably thousands of what I have often described as quasi-industrial units scattered across the northern New Territories, although none are visible from my house. However, back in January there was a major fire in one about a kilometre away. I took the following photograph, which shows some of the effects of that fire, from my balcony. The trees and grassy areas in the foreground are all part of a PLA (People’s Liberation Army) base (our noisy neighbours).

You might think that the next photo is intended to highlight the difference between rich and poor in Hong Kong, but that is a simplistic assessment of the image. While it is true that the apartment blocks in the background are parts of an upmarket estate (the clue is the height—downmarket estates are always much taller), the seemingly squalid squatter huts in the foreground have mains electricity and piped water, and it wouldn’t surprise me if at least one of their occupants drives a Mercedes (even though there is nowhere nearby to park it).

I put together this collection on Tuesday, thinking that there wouldn’t be anything more to add. However, on Wednesday, for some unfathomable reason, I decided that I would cycle along Bride’s Pool Road, which includes two of the most gruelling hills on public roads in this area (on the first of these, cyclists are legally required to get off and push, but I ignored the signs). Having finally got back onto flat terrain, I suddenly spotted a couple of feral bulls that were having some kind of head-to-head confrontation. This is probably my favourite photo in this collection.

other highlights collections
A Baker’s Dozen
Another Baker’s Dozen