How Much Do I #Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

John in front go Tian'AnMen

John in Beijing

What makes people fall in love? What makes people stay in love as time goes by?

I don’t pretend that I have all the answers, but I’d like to share with you something about the man I fell in love with and why he is and will always be the greatest love of my life.

He is Helpful.

When out and about, if he spotted someone looking lost, he would approach him/her: “Can I help you?” He gave directions, extending a helping hand to the elderly, women and children, anyone in need.

I once joked that when he retired, he could volunteer as a Birmingham (or wherever we are living at that time) Friend, directing lost people and handing out information. Over the years, I have witnessed his kind deeds, to colleagues, friends and strangers alike.

He is Generous.

A fine photographer capturing beauty

A fine photographer capturing beauty

He has a big heart and his generosity is not limited to monetary donations to various good causes. Somewhere in the world when disasters stuck, he would immediately go on-line and send a donation.

There are always a coin or two for a homeless person standing by every time we nip into our local Sainsburys. It could be London Underground, or buzzing streets in Barcelona,  performers and musicians would be rewarded and appreciated by his kind gesture. On leaving the hotels, he would always leave money to cleaners.

Anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas and special occasions, he would give me thoughtful presents. Sometimes when I was feeling down, or when he was overseas, he ordered beautiful bouquets to cheer me up. On the other hand, he is not so good on the receiving end. During his many travels, especially when he is China, where gift-giving is embedded in the culture, when he was given something, be it expensive teas, or fine porcelain or whatever, he would pass it on to the next person he met, perhaps a cleaner, or a taxi driver, often a total stranger. Once we won a bottle of Champaign at a function. He immediately present it to someone passing us by.

He is Funny.

A Walker in Madeira

A Walker in Madeira

He does not usually tell jokes, but he has such a fine sense of humour that he never failed to make people laugh. He is fun company. His observations are acute and his witty comments on people and situations are often sharp-witted and hilarious. He is entertaining both at parties as well as in private. I never laughed as much until I met him, and every so often I would smile and chuckle just thinking about him.

He is a Nature Lover.

He may give the impression of being a hard man with a cool exterior, but he possesses a very sensitive side which loves Nature and cares about the environment. He cycles to work and is keen to promote green, renewable energy.

Food for Birds

Food for Birds

Under his influence, we enjoy going for walks, in many parts of the world. Sutton Park, the reason we make a home here, was our regular walking haven. When we go to Madeira, we always find time for a Lavada walk along the beautiful mountain paths.

He named our resident male swan “Surgio”, and he took many photos of the King of our little lake. Ducks, Canada geese, mallards and seagulls are all his pals. He regularly go to HomeBase for massive bags of bird feed. Only this morning I spotted a cute squirrel, busy with seeds overspilt from the bird feeder on the tree in our back garden.

He is Fair, Loyal and Smart.

Man and Dog

Man and Dog

His Chinese sign is man’s best friend and he displays many qualities of the Dog: fair-minded, faithful and utterly devoted to the people he cares about.

With him, we talk about everything. He’s extremely well informed and is equipped with a wide spectrum of knowledge, from economics, education, music to world politics. I have learnt so much from him and each day I benefit from his intelligence and his firm grasp of world affairs. I often quip that he is a walking human encyclopaedia.

There are so many more good things I want to say about this wonderful man that my heart is overwhelmed with love and admiration. In my journey through life, among thousands of people whom I have crossed paths with, meeting and falling in love with him was the best thing that has ever happened to me. With all my disappointments and trials in life, I was smart enough to say “YES” when he proposed to me on a beautiful spot in the Peak District, during sunset, just like the picture below.

John's favourite place on earth, the Peak District

John’s favourite place on earth, the Peak District

Today is special. Since he’s not so good at accepting gifts, this post is dedicated to him. My public declaration of love, the best gift I can think of.

Happy Birthday, My Love! May you be blessed with a long happy life that you so richly deserve! 

a keen cyclist

A keen cyclist

A great photographer

A great photographer

Happy Birthday to an Earth Dog

Happy Birthday to an Earth Dog

Posted in Health & Sports, Social Media & Photography, True Life Story, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Why Do You Write in #English?

Screen shot 2013-08-06 at 16.09.29Once upon a time, I learnt to write in my first language, Chinese.

I was a quick learner and was able to write at a young age, partly due to the fact that my PoPo, aka, my grandma in my local dialect, was illiterate, as was the case with many women in her generation. She was the only woman I knew who had bond feet and married as a child bride (童养媳 in Chinese). I lived with her the moment I was born, until I was 12 years year old.

Those of you who have read my semi-autobiographical debut The Same Moon can probably see the little me in Pearl Zhang, the protagonist in my Journey to the West trilogy.

Yes, I started my writing career early, shorty after I went to school, probably seven or eight years old. I started writing letters on behalf of my PoPo, to my parents who were involuntarily embroiled in the Cultural Revolution, like the rest of the Chinese population in the 1960s.

My Chinese writing was good and it got better and better as I got older and became more educated.

I wrote stories while studying in a Chinese university and I kept diaries, all of which were later destroyed, gone with the chaotic era and disappeared in the mist of time.

It was also during my university days in China when I learnt to write in another language, English. It was not an easy process, trying to understand and appreciate the many nuances of different writing styles, different sentence structures and ultimately a totally different thought process.

Chinese characters may have more strokes but they are more compact than English

Chinese characters may have more strokes but they are more compact than English

It did not take long for me to fall in love with English, a foreign language which is so vastly different from my Mother Tongue. From the basic learning of 26 alphabet, I was on my way.

IMG_9247I started writing in English in earnest after I arrived in the UK in the summer of 1988. The various postgraduate degrees I embarked upon made sure that I had to be able to produce long essays leading to even longer dissertations. I have arrived.

So when I decided to write novels, which language do you think I picked?

Following the publication of my three books, a number of curious people have asked me: “Why do you write in English?”

Not surprisingly, the query mostly came from Chinese-speaking friends and fans. In other words, they wondered: why didn’t you write in Chinese?

Depending on who was asking and under what circumstances, I would give different responses; some short, others more elaborate.

Really, why do I write in English?

One possible short answer: I feel comfortable and confident writing in English. After all, English has been my working language in the last 26 years, and I live in an English-speaking country.

Writers group in Birmingham - we are from China, Iran, Germany and England, but we shared our writing in English.

Writers group in Birmingham – we are from China, Iran, Germany and England, but we shared our writing in English.

There is a distinctive advantage in writing in English. The geographical spread of my trilogy readers reflects that. As far as I know, apart from the English speaking countries such as the USA, UK, Australia and Canada, I also have readers from Belgium, Germany, Holland, India, Japan, Kenya, Malysia, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, and so on and so forth.My commentators

Thanks to the WWW, my blog has a even bigger coverage and reach. The last time I checked, my stats showed that my visitors spread across the whole globe, the A & Z of the whole wide world, and on any given day, my blog receives hits from visitors from over a dozen countries.

Top 30 countries who visited my blog in 2013.

Top 30 countries who visited my blog in 2013.

Had I written in Chinese, where do you think my readers will be concentrated on?

Most popular languages around the world

Most popular languages around the world


Posted in Author Support, China & East Asia, Politics & History, Reading & Writing, Social Media & Photography, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Laughter therapy: a laugh a day will increase your life span” – A Story of Indian “WC”

Where in  Asia are you flying to?

Where in Asia are you flying to?

In a not too distant past, in India, no public places like railway stations, bus stands, religious and tourist places had the facilities of public toilet complexes. Foreigners used to get discouraged from visiting India. A letter written by a British woman to a local school master in India which is as follows expresses the situation vividly:

In the days when you could not count on a public toilet facility, an English woman was planning a trip to India – She registered to stay in a small guest house owned by the local school master. She was concerned as to whether the guest house contained a WC (Water Closet). She wrote to the schoolmaster inquiring of the facilities about the WC. The school master, not fluent in English asked the local priest if he knew the meaning of WC. Together they pondered possible meanings of the letters and concluded that the lady wanted to know if there was a “Wayside Chapel” near the house. That the letters could mean a bathroom never entered their minds. So the school master wrote:

“Dear Madam,

An Indian Wedding

An Indian Wedding

I take great pleasure in informing you that the WC is located 9 miles from the house. It is located in the middle of a grove of pine trees, surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 229 people and is open on Sundays and Thursdays. As there are many people expected in the summer months, I suggest you arrive early. There is, however, plenty of standing room. This is an unfortunate situation especially if you are in the habit of going regularly. It may be of some interest to you that my daughter was married in the WC, since she met her husband there. It was a wonderful event. There were 10 people in every seat. It was wonderful to see the expressions on their faces. My wife, sadly, has been ill and unable to go recently. It has been almost a year since she went last, which pains her greatly. You will be pleased to know that many people bring their lunch and make a day of it. Others prefer to wait till the last minute and arrive just in time! I would recommend that your ladyship plan to go on a Thursday, as there is an organ accompaniment. The acoustics are excellent and even the most delicate sounds can be heard everywhere. The newest addition is a bell which rings every time a person enters. We are holding a bazaar to provide plush seats for all since many feel it is long needed. I look forward to escorting you there myself and seating you in a place where you can be seen by all.

With deepest regards.
The School master

Junying’s Note: This sort of thing could have happened just as easily elsewhere, such as China, where in many rural areas, facilities are still lacking, despite the gigantic development in recent years.  

Lost in Translation: To Public, not Male

Lost in Translation: To Public, not Male

Many thanks to my colleague Corinne Joy from LinkedIn for passing this on, which was shared by Jack Arias, according to whom that this was a true story. It goes to show just how important cross-cultural communications are and how a simple misunderstanding or mis-interpretation can lead to unintentional outcomes (The woman never visited India – what a shame!). A story like this may be hilarious for us readers, making us laugh or smile, but it would not have been funny at all for those involved, and sometimes, it can be hugely embarrassing or even disastrous!

I Look forward to my visit to India one day

I look forward to visiting India one day

Posted in Arts & Culture, Humour, Reading & Writing, South & Southeast Asia, Travel Logs, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Modern British Art: Bashir Makhoul and his “House of Cards” Exhibition

John taking a shot at IWM

John taking a shot at IWM

Last Friday, John and I returned to Manchester for a very special occasion – we attended the successful launch of Asia Triennial Manchester 2014, and more specifically, we were there to witness the highly regarded artist Bashir Makhoul’s exhibition in various locations in the city of Manchester.

We have known Profession Makhoul for a while now, ever since he took up the post of Pro-Vice Chancellor at Birmingham City University and has direct responsibility for BCU’s International development. So we were very honoured to see first hand his other great achievement as a practising artist, who makes creative work ranging from oil paintings to wonderful, gigantic installations.

High and Mighty Construction

High and Mighty Construction

It was a warm and bright day, rather unusual for Manchester, from my experience of that northern city, making our traffic heavy journey a little more interesting. Our first stop was the Imperial War Museum (IWM North) located in Salford Quays, next to the BBC and ITV. The sunshine was beautifully reflected on the waters right behind the museum.

View of Salford Quays from the IWM

View of Salford Quays from the IWM

On entering the museum, we were greeted by the most impressive art installation I have ever seen: Bashir Makhoul’s spectacular creation of a mock Gaza, which, as I understand it, was first shown at the 55th Venice Biennale Exhibition in 2013, entitled “The Occupied Garden”. The new and current exhibit was a village constructed out of ordinary cardboard boxes, embodying the temporary nature of human dwelling and encampment, created by the occupation of Palestine and her people. We could easily see the amazing amount of work that had been put into this installation by the artist himself and his hard-working construction team.


Whilst at the museum, our brief browsing took us to a painting depicting British medics collecting wounded soldiers from the bloody Battle of Ypres. By coincidence, John’s great granddad was among the wounded there and we visited his grave in Northern France three months ago.

The artist's family and friends gathered to appreciate his art

The artist’s family and friends gathered to appreciate his art

We later met with the artist himself at Granada Studios where his oil painting collection “House of Cards” (The Netflix series with the same title happens to be our favourite TV programme too) and textile objects were on display. All of his works delivers emotionally-charged, powerful messages: occupation and colonisation of cities and countries. The mixture of different colours, the bullet holes in the cardboard boxes and through the textiles brought vivid images of war and today’s politics in the regions where the artist comes from. It was a heady and powerful combination.


"House of Cards" Exhibition

“House of Cards” Exhibition

This Exhibition is open until 23 of November 2014, so pop to Manchester and check them out. There are fabulous works from other artists too, in different venues across the city. For more about Bashir Makhoul and his work, visit his website.

Summer Lin anther friends (BCU students) attended the Exhibitions

Summer Lin with her friends from BCU  

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