Sunday, 24 February 2013

Lunar Year Day 15

Day 15 - Feb24
Lantern Festival - in China this is called Yuan-Xiao after the soup which is eaten.
The story behind this festival -

Once upon a time in a land very far from here a beautiful heavenly bird flew down to a village and was killed by a villager. The God of Heaven was very displeased and decided to burn the village on day 15 of the first lunar month. However, a bright spark in the village persuaded all the villagers to make candle lanterns and to put them in all their windows. They also paraded in the street with lanterns and set off fireworks. The God of Heaven looked down and thought that the village was already burning and left it alone.

London's Chinatown February 2011

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Lunar Year Day 14

Day 14 - Feb23
A busy day preparing for the Lantern Festival which concludes the Lunar New Year Festival.
You will need lanterns and dumplings to do this properly.
First the dumplings

4 1/2 cups (500 g) sticky rice flour (available widely in China!)
butter 7 oz (200 g)
black sesame powder 7 oz (200 g)
sugar 8 oz (250 g)
1 tsp wine (Chateau Mouton Rothschild)
1. Mix the butter with sesame powder, sugar and wine together. You need to heat a little bit. Make small balls about 0.3-0.4 oz (10 g) each. 2. Take 1/2 cup of sticky rice flour. Add water into the flour and make a flatten dough. Cook it in boiled water and take out until done. Let it cool down. Then put it in the rest of the sticky rice flour. Add water and knead until the dough is smooth. 3. Make the dough into small pieces about 0.3-0.4 oz (10 g) each. Make it like a ball using hands first and then make a hole in the ball like a snail. Put the sesame ball into it and close it up. 4. Cook them in boiled water. Make sure to keep stirring in one direction while cooking. When they float on the water, continue to boil for about one minute using less heat.
Now the Sky Lanterns
It is customary to launch lighted lanterns into the sky and if you want make your own try this link
However it is much easier to buy them or, better still, watch someone else's lanterns. The colour of the lantern is significant so here is the interpretation table:
  • Red: Good fortune
  • Pink: Romance
  • Peach-red: Decisions and opportunities
  • Orange: Money
  • Yellow: Success in school and/or job
  • White: Health
  • Pale Green: Growth
  • Pale Blue: Hoping something comes true
  • Violet: Idealism
If you can't be bothered with all this then just get the electric ones out from under the stairs and give them a quick check over!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Lunar Year Day 13

Day 13 - Feb 22
Some celebrate the death of General Kuan Yu but you may wish to forego this in order to recover from day 12

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Barden Mill is Closing

We are moored for the winter in Reedley Marina which is behind Barden Mill outlet centre.  Every thing in store is currently
20% off 
as they are merging with J12 outlet store.  Plans for the site are to demolish the mill building and build 19  houses.

Lunar Year Day 12

Day 12 - Feb  21
Diarrhea Day !!!
Perhaps a good time to contemplate some Chinese proverbs:

  • Wife who put husband in doghouse soon find him in cathouse.
  • War doesn't determine who is right, war determines who is left.
  • A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
  • He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Drinking Water

A recent radio programme reviewed UK government advice on various health issues and considered how effective it was.  In particular the programme researched:
-Fruit and vegetables -5-a-day   (smoothies don't count)
-Physical exercise -150 mins per week  (going to the gym once a week  doesn't work)
- Alcohol consumption -3-4 units/day for men and 2-3 units/day for women (no-one understands what a unit is.)
The conclusions seemed to be that the public are so confused by interpretation and ill-informed advice from other sources that the government has been wasting its time. The government has exacerbated the situation itself by changing its advice in an effort at clarification.
Things are no clearer in the area of drinking water. It seems de rigeur to carry a bottle of water everywhere nowadays. When questioning this I am informed that, according to the government, we must all drink 2.5 litres of water a day. This appears to have originated from  a wartime recommendation which did, in fact, make that point but continued to say that most of this we obtain from food. It is this slipshod attitude to accuracy  that leads to confusion with sometimes tragic results.  The current advice from the NHS is that we need 2.5 litres of water per day. Of this one litre is obtained from food and 0.3 litres from 'recovery'. So we need to drink 1.2 litres of water per se.
The Mayo Clinic in USA has different advice for Americans: men need 3litres and women 2.2 litres.  Apparently in the USA only 20% of this is obtained from food. Perhaps the American diet has a lower incidence of fresh fruit and veg from which to obtain fluid?
So how is this advice dangerous?  Apart from the impact on the wallet by buying bottled water when the tap stuff (in the UK at least) is equally good, I looked at the London Marathon for some indication of how people fared in a situation where water consumption might be considered critical.   Over the thirty years from 1981-2011 ten men and one woman died during the race. Causes of death were as follows: 
Heart problems - 7
Underlying health problems - 2
Drinking too much water - 1
Inappropriate drug use - 1
Too little water - 0

Lunar Year Day 11

Day 11 - Feb20
Rest Day - or Left-overs day  2

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Monday, 18 February 2013

Dowley Gap Open Day

Yesterday we took advantage of the sunshine and went to see an aqueduct  with no water.
Photo: BW
Dowley Gap is on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal between Saltaire and Bingley. The aqueduct carries the canal over the River Aire: there is also a two-step staircase lock close by.  CaRT (previously BW) is carrying out some repairs to the  structures which necessitated draining the canal: in particular, they are replacing the two lower sets of gates and refurbishing the upper set.  We joined over a thousand other visitors to walk through the empty locks and aqueduct: in fact when we arrived round midday i was number 984 so the total visitors for the day could well have been over2000.  I was told that when they held an open day at the Bingley Five-Rise a year or two ago there were 7000 visitors on the Sunday.

After a stroll  along the aqueduct and back we went to investigate the staircase lock which had been drained in order to repair and replace lock gates

On the way we passed the temporary dam constructed to keep the aqueduct (and visitors) dry.

Walking along the bottom of a deep lock like this is quite an experience.

If you were wondering how the last drop of water was drained from the lock.......

Well.....they pulled the plug out

Lunar New Year Day 9

                       Day 9 - Feb 18
The Jade Emporer who rules all 33 heavans celebrates his birthday today and we must join in by preparing three bundles of long noodles, three cups of green tea, five differnt kinds of fruit (so that's whre five-a-day originated!) and six diffeernt dry vegetables. For his guardian, who is not vegetarian, we must prepare five animal sacrifices and some turtle cakes.
Remember not to offend the Jade Emporer by putting this food on his vegetarian table.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

New Year Day 8

Lunar  Year 4711
Day 8 - Feb 17

Back to work day for those who did not go back on day five
Traditionally there is a quiz night held in the temple (not the pub)
Time to eat the
Laba Zhou which has been stewing all night.
In Chinese, Laba means 'gold eighth' and refers to the traditional start of celebrations for the Chinese New Year - the eighth day of the last lunar month.
This tradition has its roots in the Buddhist faith. It is said when Sakyamuni left home and strove for virtue, he fainted on the way because of hunger and tiredness. A shepherdess passing by saved him and cooked for him some porridge with glutinous rice and nuts. Then Sakyamuni sat under a bodhi tree in meditation and found Buddhism. So later the believers formed the habit of cooking Laba Zhou to commemorate it.
Inevitably there is another story about Laba Zhou but it is boring so we'll skip it.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

New Year Day 7

Day 7 - Feb16
According to Chinese scriptures, the goddess with the snake body (size zero?) created humans on day seven from yellow mud. On the previous days she had created Chickens (day 1) dogs (2) sheep (3) pigs (4) cows (5) and horses (6).
She also gave humans sex education on that day so that they might procreate.
Celebrate this in your own way

Before you get too engrossed don't forget to get the Laba Zhou onto the stove ready for tomorrow.
Laba Zhou is a special hot porridge which contains glutinous rice, red beans, millet, Chinese sorghum, peas and some other ingredients, such as dried dates, chestnuts, walnuts, almond, peanut, dried lotus seeds etc. If you get it going by midnight it will have an attractive smell by the morning. The flavour varies from place to place, in the North, it is a dessert with sugar added; in the South, salt and seasonal vegetables are put in.

Friday, 15 February 2013

New Year Day 6

Lunar New Year

Day 6 - Feb 15
If you live in Taiwan you will know this as Good Pig Day and will go to see the big pig competition. In 2007 the winner weighed 2000lb and was sold for 1 million Taiwan dollars (£20,000). It is also customary to have the cess pit cleared today. (Not really relevant if you have Elsan)

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Perfume of the (Lunar) Year

I was reminded by a regular reader of Gecko's Progress that back in our youth visits to or from ancient aunts were often accompanied by  a particular perfume: an eau de cologne called 4711.  Legend has it that the perfume was created by a Carthusian monk in the eighteenth century.

Apparently it was created as a remedy rather than a perfume and the story of how it ended up in the portfolioo of Proctor and Gamble it rather tortuous.
The story behind the name  seems to stem from a period in the history of Cologne when all the buildings were numbered in one sequence and building 4711 was occupied by the owner of the recipe.
 It is also rumoured that during WWII German submariners were issued with vast amounts of 4711 to mask the body odours which developed in the confined space.

However I have some good news for Jane and anyone who wants to relive the past:
4711 can still be purchased at    Cheap

New year Day 5

Lunar New Year

Day 5 - Feb 14

God of Wealth Day - so back to work and expect the Lion Dancers to pay you a visit.
Setting off fire crackers will attract customers.

The Rabbit and The Back Pain - An Explanatory Folktale

There was once a rich man who was fond of rabbits and raised them for amusement.

'Look after them carefully. Ah Ji,' he said. 'If any of them dies, it'll be deducted from your pay.' One day Ah Ji accidentally dropped a stick that landed on a rabbit right across its lower back. 'Uh-oh!' he exclaimed. Scared stiff, he quickly hid the rabbit in a bean patch. A couple of days later, the rich man noticed that a rabbit was missing and took Ah Ji roundly to task.
Ah Ji had no choice but to go to the bean patch and look for the rabbit. 'The rabbit is tearing around, ' he said. 'It must have eaten something. Huh? How does an injured rabbit have the energy to run around like that? That's really weird.' Ah Ji tried to grab the rabbit, but it hopped around so much he couldn't. He went home and told his father what had happened. His father had been severely beaten by the rich man a few months earlier. His lower back hurt him so much he couldn't get out of bed. 'I'd like to know what that rabbit ate,' his father said. 'Maybe it'd be good for my back.'
So Ah Ji struck another rabbit across the back and put it in the bean patch to see what would happen. At first, the rabbit couldn't move. It stretched its neck and nibbled the seeds of a yellow plant that clung to a bean stalk. After three or four days, the rabbit was up and about.
'Hey! If the seeds of that plant could heal the rabbit's back, they could have the same effect on people,' his father said. 'Go pick some and cook them into a medicine for me to drink.' The father drank the concoction. A few days later he could get out of bed and move around.
Two months later, he was able to work in the fields. Finally, Ah Ji left the rich man's house and devoted himself to gathering seeds and making them into medicine, which he distributed to people suffering from back pain.

As a result of his story, the herb is called tusizi, or rabbit's thread, in Chinese.

The English name is dodder.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Lunar Year Day 4

Day 4 - Feb13
Today you should welcome the God of the Stove back with fireworks and an animal sacrifice in the kitchen.
As heaven is a long way off the God of the Stove usually arrives sometime in the afternoon.
The Year of the Water Snake
Legend of the White Snake is one of the most famous tales from ancient China. The tale goes that a white snake came to the human world as she was longing for human life and married a scholar named Xu Xian. However, such marriages were opposed by Fahai, a Buddhist monk at the Jinshan Temple, who maintained that coexistence of human and evil spirits was impermissible. He then buried the white snake underthe  Leifeng Pagoda on the banks of West Lake, near Hangzhou. Many years later, the Madam White Snake's son rose to high office and he offered a sacrifice to his mother in front of the Leifeng Pagoda. God was so moved by his action that he made the pagoda collapse, which enabled the family to be reunited. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Lunar New Year Day 3

Day 3 - February 12
Red Dog Day (might be calle Hair of the Dog Day by some!)
After two days of eating, drinking and playing games today it is a good day to rest .
This is also the Mice's Wedding Day so you should retire to bed early .
Turning out the light early also slows down their breeding according to old Chinese farmers.
Taking out the rubbins is thought to remove some of the bad spirits which lurk around this time.

More on the Chinese Calendar

Unlike western calendars, the Chinese calendar has names that are repeated every 60 years. Within the 'Stem-Branch' system is shorter cycle of 12 years denoted by animals and 2011 is the year of the Rabbit. Actually, this is the Xīn-măo 辛卯 year. Xīn (Metal) is the eighth of the ten celestial stems and Mao (Rabbit) is the fourth of the twelve terrestrial branches and marks the year of the Rabbit or Hare.
How to calcule when the Chinese New Year starts in 2011
The fact that the date of Chinese New Year varies within about a month is a clue that it's linked to the new moon. A rough, and almost infallible guide is that the date of the Chinese New Year falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. The winter solstice always falls on December 21st, the next new moon is January 4th, and the second new moon is on February 3rd 2011.
As with most things Chinese it is not quite that simple.....
For example, one problem with any lunar calendar system is that some years there are 13 new moons. The Chinese deal with this by slotting in an extra intercalary month.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Lunar New Year Day 2

Day 2 - Feb 11
Married women should visit their parents today and husbands must accompany them.
It is customary to take a red envelope containing new money for the parents and other relations who will assemble for lunch.
Remember not to drop your chopsticks or to mention FOUR anytime during the new year period. (the Mandarin for FOUR sounds like the word for Death)

What is your Chinese Zodiac Animal?


Snake (this year is the Water Snake)

Charming and good thinkers. Love the finer things in life, so only the best is good enough. Good at making and saving money. Patient, charming and wise. Prefer not to rely on other people.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Win £5000 Holiday

 is  under way again
click the above link to read about it and to buy tickets

Welcome to the Year 4711

Today – Sunday 10th  February, 2013 - is the first day of the
Lunar New Year Festival for the year of the Snake
Those of you who do not espouse Budhism or Taoism may need a few pointers regarding the 15 days of celebration which you are about to undertake.
Day 1 - Feb 10
-It is unlucky for women to use knives today so no food preparation. Meals must therefore consist of leftovers.
-Married women should not visit their family as this will make them poorer.
-Wealth and luck of the household will diminish if sweeping or rubbish disposal takes place today.
-Washing your hair will wash away your luck
-Don't eat congee (rice porridge) for breakfast as this is paupers' fare and you may tempt fate.
-Washing clothes today will offend the God of Water whose birthday it is.
-Eating meat before noon will offend the gods who visit as many of them are vegetarian.
To wish others wel,l try:
Gong xi fa chai which is Congratulations and make a fortune in Mandarin
or Kung hey fat choy which is the Cantonese version and more common in UK.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Are You Ready for Year 4711?

Today is (Lunar) New Year's Eve 4711
By New Year’s Eve, you should have done the following:
  • Clean the entire home to get rid of all the things that are associated with the old year.
  • Put away all brooms and brushes.
  • Pay all your debts.
  • Resolve differences with family members, friends, neighbors and business associates.
  • Buy the following: - red money envelopes
    - oranges and/or tangerines
    - circular candy tray (the tray of togetherness)
    - flowers (especially plum blossom, peach blossom, water lily)
    - a new set of clothes and shoes for children, preferably something red or orange.
  • Get new paper money from the bank. and put it into the red envelopes. which apparently bestows magical powers on it. The lucky money envelopes are given to children during the New Year period.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Kew Bridge Pumping Station

A few years ago I wrote about our visit to Kew Bridge Pumping Station which you can read by clicking on the link. I was reminded of this recently whilst reading an old copy of the English Heritage magazine.  There was a short piece about the museum which included the following quote relating to 2009.
- Lead thieves visited the Steam Museum five times over a couple of weeks and stripped most of the lead from the roof causing £100,000 of damage.
- Our landlord sold the museum site to a property developer
- An agent went out of business with a loss of more than £20,000 of the museum's money
- We made an operational loss for the third successive year. 
However, we also:
-Put into operation the only Bull engine in the world after full restoration and won several heritage awards for doing so.
- Put into operation a replica Kerr Stuart Wren Class narrow gauge locomotive.
- opened to the public on more than 300 days and were in steam for 80 days
-Held six special events
- Hosted many school and educational visits. 
So, all in all, a pretty average year.

If you have not visited the Kew Bridge Pumping Station (or the London Music Museum which is close by) then here is a flavour of what you might see.
An engine in steam
 Or one of the  Special Events like this Meccano exhibition

The musuem recieves no grants for operational support and needs people to switch off their virtual experiences for a while  and visit the real world.