emspace thoughts

What's floating around in Em's brain today?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Welcoming the Year of the Piggy with Fourteen-day Flu...

I'll start my new year review by showing you some of the photos of this year's lion dancing, except doofus here forgot to take her camera with her due to the invasion of my respiratory system by some pretty virulent bugs (more about them later), so all I had was my new phone (yup, I finally have my Sony Ericsson W810i). The pics turned out pretty well though considering I could barely see what I was photographing and they showed the sunshine really well.

As usual, I spent Chinese New Year with my folks back in Liverpool, writing names in Chinese and selling paper dragons, windmills and hand drums to the wonderful people of Scouseland. The mild weather did its stuff as the sun came out and brought the crowds with it, so it was quite a lively and atmospheric celebration this year and for once, I didn't freeze out on the streets. Despite it being quite a long, hard day and we are all totally tired out for the few days following, I do actually enjoy working the stand at the new year because it's one of the rare times in the year where we pull together as a family to do something special. Even my young cousin (who is not so young any more) chipped in this year, proving that yet another of my grandfather's grandchildren has inherited his entrepreneurial genes!

I did take a short video, so with my newly found Youtube skills, here it is:

The day was completed by the young 'uns going out for pizza and cheesecake! Well, all the Chinese restaurants were packed, so we decided to go somewhere a little quieter!

Unfortunately, the last two weeks have been rather dogged by the flu/virus that I had picked up from somewhere. A tickly cough developed not long after returning from Prague and by the Friday, I felt so rough that I asked for half a day off work. The following weekend was spent tucked up in bed with aching joints and hot and cold sweats, drinking litre after litre of water, juice and tea. I could barely open my eyes on Monday morning, so I decided to take a couple of days off work. In my company, they discipline you if you take too much time off sick though, so I just booked them in as annual leave. On the Wednesday, I wasn't ready to go back in, but I wanted to be fit for the new year, so I dragged myself into work and sat all day sniffing, coughing and probably spreading my germs around. Thursday was better, but the virus had moved into my glands and I had very painful jaws for the next few days. The mad thing was that when I finally decided to see my doctor about my swollen glands (I didn't bother before because I knew that she would just tell me to rest, drink water and take paracetamol) she turned round to me and said: "You're okay, go and see a dentist if your gums hurt." I protested that my jaws were very painful and it wasn't my teeth, but she seemed to give the impression I was wasting her time. I ended up giving myself some self-diagnosis and after 20 minutes on the net, drew the conclusion that I had a viral infection of the salivary glands, kind of like mumps but without the fever. As it was viral, antibiotics wouldn't have done much for me anyway, so I just carried on with the paracetamol and water. Finally, by Thursday of this week, it finally subsided. And my teeth are absolutely fine... no need to pay £40 for a dentist to tell me that!

Anyway, that's the reason why I have been missing from here for the past couple of weeks...

Spent yesterday at my directorate's managers' conference at Bolton's Reebok Stadium. Getting up at 7am to get there and then sitting through 7 hours of 'motivational speeches' really took things out of me, so I have been in a state of dopiness since and am in severe need of sleep now. I spent the whole day being intrigued the Bolton Wanderers logo, which my sis had pointed out to me the day before looks like an upside-down Chinese 'Fook' symbol. See above and you'll know what I mean! Cheers sis... kept me amused!

TVB-wise, I have finished watching "The Price of Greed", which was okay as far as cheap and nasty TVB series are concerned but definitely nowhere near high quality. The storyline did not live up to its promise, Kate Tsui was not as annoying as she is currently in "The Brink of Law", but Sammul Chan's performance was pretty poor. The only redeeming factor was Bosco in his cute waistcoat really and the welcome appearance of Ben Wong later in the show. Have started on "Brink" now and it's nothing special so far. Much as I am a fan of Steven Ma and I love Michelle Yim and Elliot Yue, they are let down so badly by Kate, Ron and the youngsters Vin Choi and Yoyo Chen keep my fast forward button busy. I was so annoyed when Kenneth Ma's character died (sorry for spoiler, but it is predictable) because he was one of the more likeable characters in the show. Bernice is... to be perfectly frank, she is not doing anything for me up to now. It has been a disappointing start (I am up to ep 9) and even the 'sophistication' of the guys wearing glasses doesn't help.

May as well continue watching now and see if it gets any better...

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Birthday Weekend in Prague

I usually spend my birthday with my friend Su because her birthday is a couple of days after mine and this year was no exception. We decided to do something a little different this year and rather than visiting each other either in Manchester or London, we thought it would be fun to go and do a girly weekend in Prague instead. A couple of other friends tagged along and on my birthday (Friday), we headed out.

My journey started earlier than the others as I had to fly down to Gatwick to meet the others, so I had to trouble my hubby to take me to the airport at 5am to get the first plane down. One good thing about getting a flight so early in the morning - you get a decent hot breakfast instead of a sweaty sandwich on the plane!

Met up with the girls in London and took the swift flight over to Prague. My first impressions of the city as our shuttle left the airport was that it was still very rural and kind of stuck in a 1970's timewarp with the grey houses and grafitti everywhere, but as soon as we crossed the little tunnel into Prague city, then everything was very different and so much more modern than I had expected. We'd booked a pretty posh hotel, so our room was very nice and a cheeky email got us a birthday cake and a bottle of champagne upon arrival, which was a lovely way to start the holiday! After our afternoon snack of champers and chocolate mousse cake, we went out for a wander and just 2 minutes away was Prague's main shopping area in Wenceslas Square with all the shops having their winter sales. As this was a girly trip, we dived into shopping heaven and must have checked out about 20 different stores in the space of two hours. Dinner was at a restaurant called 'Coloseum' which came recommended by the taxi driver, but took about an hour to serve our food. Their home made ice cream was delicious though.

We decided to do the sights on Saturday, so we had an early start and wandered around looking for some breakfast. We ended up in the wrong direction, but ended up in a small local bakery, where we managed to get a hot drink and dry baked bread/cake for around 50p each. It wasn't the best breakfast ever, but it was certainly the cheapest we have ever had. My friend enjoyed her espresso. Then we followed our plan to get a tram up the hill to see the castle, which was very pretty and a snap decision from Su meant that we hiked up the 287 steps of the South Tower of St Vitus Cathedral to get some superb views of the city. We then rushed back down again making ourselves very dizzy as we counted the steps down the spiral stone staircase again in time to watch the changing of the guard in the courtyard, which I am glad we managed to see. Our descent down to the bridge took us down the castle steps and at the bottom, we decided to grab a quick coffee from the row of quaint coffee shops.

More shopping was in order as we strolled gently past St Nicholas Cathedral and found a row of craft and souvenir shops along the road towards Charles Bridge. The views from the bridge were very pretty and the sun actually came out for us as we crossed another of Prague's main sights. Feeling rather peckish, we went off in search of the traditional Czech meal of Roast Pork and dumplings and we found this in the Old Town Square, where we each had a main course, dessert and drinks for £5 a head. Then we wandered back towards Wenceslas Square again, stopping off at the hotel to drop off our things before heading to our cultural encounter at a concert held on the staircase of the National Museum. They put down a load of cushions on the stairs and the musicians stook on the middle section between the staircases. It was certainly an unusual set up, but the venue was stunning. Music was pretty good too as they played some Vivaldi, some Dvorak, some Mozart and some Brahms. After the concert, we decided to do a bit more shopping (all the shops open til 8pm) and then try the street sausages that had caught our noses on the first night. For about a pound, you get a foot-long meaty sausage in a soft bun and all the sauce you can eat. The sausage is super-stodgy though, so needless to say none of us managed to finish it, but it was an experience! We rounded off the evening ordering some honey and lemon and fruit teas from room service and playing cards until 4am.

Sunday morning was spend sleeping in and recovering from the night before, then we decided to go off in search of a decent brunch and we decided to check out the recommendations for Bohemian Bagel. It was a good 20 minute trek over to the old town and it was well tucked away, but it was all worth it as we tucked into our big breakfasts of eggs, bacon, sausages, pancakes, tomatoes, beans.... mmmmm!!! Then after another stroll (and yup, you guessed it ... more shopping) we headed over to the Mystic Buddha spa, where we had booked in for some indulgence in the form of Thai massage! It was so nice and we were totally zonked. It also brought out my cold though, so I had to get a quick nap before dinner - another traditional Czech meal. I had the roast duck, which was quite nice, but the super stodgy dumplings were starting to become too much. The evening was spent chilling as we were all pretty spaced after the massage and a long day on Saturday.

We finally found a decent breakfast place on Monday morning in the form of a French bageterie. Okay, so it was about five times the price of the one we had on Saturday, but the cheese and ham croissant was delicious and so light. All washed down by the richest hot chocolate ever. Some last minute shopping and sightseeing later, it was time to go home.

My trip was especially enjoyable for a number of reasons. Firstly, I have never been on holiday with Su before despite knowing her for so many years and it was great for us to do this and spend our birthdays together. Secondly, it surprised me as to how modern the city actually is. I was imagining it to be quite retro and in some respects it is with the old-fashioned tram system and some of the remnants from the old days, but in the same way that the big cities in China have opened up, Prague has really taken a big leap into the 21st century. Then there was the shopping, I never would have imagined Prague to be somewhere that I would go for shopping, but I was pleasantly surprised at what was available there and despite the 19% VAT, which is higher than the UK, when you hit the sales, there are some great bargains to be had! Finally, the people there are very welcoming and friendly. They love the fact that you are visiting their country and even if they do not speak English at all, they do not shun you like they do in some other countries like Spain. Instead, you manage to communicate by body language and persistance, which is great! I'll definitely be back to check out the sights that I didn't have time for this time, but will make sure I time my trip to coincide with the sales again!!

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Prague... here we come!

Bags are packed, flights all checked in... wuhoo!
All set for girly weekend in Prague!