Monday, 5 June 2017

disappearing world #3: update

At the end of Disappearing World #3, I wrote the following:
Of course, there are unanswered questions that I intend to pursue if possible. To begin with, the first building I’ve described seems to be rather grand to be merely a row of village houses (it has two storeys for a start). And does the existence of the watchtower indicate that this village was once more important than others in the area? If I can find answers to these puzzles, I will post a report.
Two months after my initial visit, I returned to this location to show Paula what I’d discovered here. I took more photos of the friezes over the doorways and the mouldings between the doors, but they weren’t as good as the ones I’d taken originally, so if you want to take a closer look at the decorative features of this building, then the photos in the original report are the best I can do. This is a general view:

The three doorways are effectively barred, but there is a door in the back of the building that provides an entry to the left-hand house. When we investigated, we found that this door is kept closed by a crude bolt, but it isn’t locked. The first photo, of a small window in the rear of the building, provides a reason for Paula’s belief that this was once a prison, but bars on windows were a common security feature of older village houses:

When we entered, we were surprised to find that old agricultural machinery was being stored here:

Other points of interest include the bars that can be slid into place to reinforce the main door, which I would describe as a kind of horizontal portcullis:

All the floors/ceilings have been removed, so it’s possible to see the roof beams from ground level:

And this is a moulding above one of the internal doors:

A few weeks before I left Hong Kong, I heard the history of this ‘rather grand’ building. Apparently, the patriarch of the Pang clan, whose village this is, swore that he would never sell any village land. Unfortunately, his daughter, the youngest of fifteen children, disobeyed her father and sold the land on which this building stands to a developer. The old man was furious and blockaded the site so that it couldn’t be occupied. So, despite its grandeur, this building has never been occupied. What a waste!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

disappearing world #4

I cycled through the village of Chow Tin almost every Sunday last winter, and on a couple of occasions I stopped to photograph architectural features that I noticed as I rode past. The first photo shows the ‘front’ of the village—all the houses face the same way, and it seems likely that there would once have been some kind of defensive wall here. The red arrow indicates the position of the gatehouse.

The next photograph shows a group of traditional buildings at the left-hand end of this frontage. The building on the right has been modernized, but the two in the centre have obviously been abandoned and are now derelict:

The building in the next photo has also been abandoned. Note that the moulding above the entrance is in poor condition, and, bearing in mind the much better condition of the mouldings above other doorways, I conjecture that whoever occupies these buildings at least attempts to preserve the mouldings on their building.

The gatehouse is featured in the next photo, while the following image provides a closer look at the frieze above the entrance.

Further along the village frontage, two more traditional houses have survived. There would once have been a small open-air courtyard behind the door of the house on the left, but I suspect that this has now been roofed in.

…and this is a close-up of the mouldings on the house on the left:

The next two old houses have also been modernized, with stainless steel outer doors that suggest the courtyards behind have also been roofed in.

…and these are close-ups of the mouldings above the doors:

Some time after I’d taken the above photographs, because I approach the village from the left as seen in the first photo above, I noticed several more traditional houses in the first alleyway running parallel to the frontage. The mouldings above the doors appear to be more elaborate than those at the front of the village and are featured here in the order I encountered them from left to right. The second photo is of a painted frieze between the first and second doorways.

There are other villages in the Ta Kwu Ling area that have interesting architectural features, but I won’t be able to report on them until next winter. However, I intend, in the next couple of weeks, to post an update to Disappearing World #3, having recently heard an interesting story about the origins of the building featured in that post.

other posts in this series
Disappearing World
Disappearing World #2
Disappearing World #3

Sunday, 28 May 2017

mellow yellow

Although I’m now back in the UK, I have a couple of posts for which I had prepared the photographs before leaving Hong Kong but had not written the accompanying text. This, the first of these posts, features the various yellow flowers that I encounter when cycling around the New Territories. I stop quite frequently to take photographs, and as you will have noted from the subject matter of recent posts (Jeepers Creepers, A Blaze of Glory, Bougainvillea Boogie), flowers are a common attracter of my attention.

I’m not a botanist, or even particularly knowledgeable about plants, so there are only a few species that I can identify with certainty, so I’ll confine my comments to the images and their contexts. I’ll start with a photo I took at the end of November last year, which shows what an otherwise nondescript bush looks like for two weeks every year—covered in star-shaped yellow flowers.

This bush is located near the start of the long and winding road, but this species is very common on semi-abandoned disturbed ground. An opportunist, in other words.

The next photo was also taken on the long and winding road and is of a bush next to one of the paths traversed on this route.

We pass the location of the next photo on one of the return sections of the journey to the west. Unlike the other photos in this collection, its subject is a cultivated plant. I simply had to stop and take a few pictures.

Despite the poor quality of the next photograph, I’ve included it because this is the only location where I’ve seen this particular ground creeper. It’s next to the car park at the top of the first hill I described in Surprise View. For obvious reasons, I don’t intend to return to try to get a better photo.

A much more common ground creeper is shown in the following photograph:

Uncommonly for ground creepers, this one doesn’t have thorns, but it is dense, which means that where it has taken over a sizeable area of derelict but previously used land, you get a spectacular carpet of yellow flowers at this time of year. The next photo is of an area of open ground next to one of the paths followed on the long and winding road. The only other location that I’ve encountered with a similar display is around the multi-path junction described in Ping Kong Ping Pong.

The extremely pale yellow flowers of another common vine are shown in the next photo:

I often see a gourd-bearing vine, and I’ve taken photos at several locations. My attention is attracted by the oddly crinkly texture of the flowers, although I suspect that these may not be flowers but coloured bracts similar to those found on bougainvillea and poinsettia plants.

These yellow bushes alongside the Sheung Yiu River are actually ornamental trees that grow to 6—7 metres in height, but the Drainage Services Department likes to keep river banks well trimmed, so the trees here never get a chance to grow:

And this is a close-up of the flower buds:

The next three photos are of various herbaceous species. The first picture is of flowers that I spotted along the long and winding road, and I have not seen other examples since I took this photo, not even here.

This photo was taken next to the path to Sham Chung and shows how a plant can take advantage of a recent hill fire to establish itself, although it is likely to be crowded out by other vegetation after a few months:

The plant in the next photo has also taken advantage of a small patch of bare ground to establish itself:

There are a couple of other trees in Hong Kong with yellow flowers. The first is like the cotton trees in that the flowers appear before the leaves, although these trees lack the grandeur of the latter. This photo was taken on a cycle track near the southern edge of Fanling:

The other yellow-flowered tree, the acacia, is much more common. This has been the view from my balcony for the past few weeks:

Finally, here is another species that I can identify with certainty. Someone must have planted this sunflower, which I photographed alongside the frontier road, but I don’t know who.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

a rotten english question

It’s that time of year again: I’m about to head off to the UK for the summer, and as usual I have a puzzle that I hope someone will have solved by the time I get back online, but also as usual you should note that it’s likely to tax your brain cells quite severely. Here it is:
What connects the following five ‘clues’?
• an Irish lake;
• a sedimentary deposit;
• the foundation of Christianity;
• in northern England, a limestone escarpment exposed by glacial action in the last ice age; and
• weightless footwear.
I don’t want to boast, but if you should find this little poser too easy, perhaps I can point out that, to date, no one has submitted the correct solution to An English Question. Knowing this increases my smugness that nobody will succeed in solving this riddle either.

As usual, I will acknowledge all correct answers, but I won’t actually publish the solution at all unless I’ve received at least one correct answer, and that answer will be flagged up with a ‘spoiler alert’ to give later readers a chance to work it out for themselves.

other similar puzzles
A Hard Question
What’s the Connection?
Odd One Out
All Greek to Me
Out of Order
Out of Order #2

To date, neither A Hard Question nor Out of Order #2 have been solved. Be the first to submit the correct answer!