Quote of the Day

To often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

I like this one…let’s try it……they cost nothing so what do we have to lose….!!!!


Phai Thien Kong

9th Day of Chinese New Year

On the eve of Chinese New Year we were expecting a lot of firecrackers and fireworks but it was actually relatively calm. The reason is that in Penang there are many people who are Hokkien, a member of a people traditionally inhabiting south-eastern China and the Hokkien Chinese New Year is celebrated on the 9th day of the first month of the lunar calendar.
This special celebration is known to Hokkien people as the “Phai Thien Kong” which literally means “praying to the Heaven God”. This day is especially important to Hokkiens because they believe it is the birthday of the Jade Emperor (Thien Kong) who protected the ancestors of Hokkien people from a ruthless army in ancient China.
During the massacre all of the Hokkien people hid in a sugarcane plantation on the 8th – 9th days of Lunar New Year, coinciding with the Thien Kong or the Jade Emperor’s birthday. This is why the Hokkien people offer thanksgiving prayers to him on this day. Although these prayers are traditionally performed only by Hokkiens more and more non-Hokkien people have begun to join in to pray for a good year ahead.

In the lunar calendar the day starts at 11pm and so all the Hokkiens start their prayers at 11pm on the 8th day of Chinese New Year. However, preparations start well in advance of this. On this night tables are set up (draped in a red tablecloth) full of food which are to serve to the Jade Emperor. Some of the most popular items are sweet cakes (thni kueh), red tortoise buns (ang koo), red-coloured buns (mee koo), prosperity cakes (huat kueh) and bright pink miniature pagodas.

The Hokkiens make piles of kim cua (folded pieces of gold paper) and these papers are hung from sugar cane before being burnt as a thanksgiving offering to the Thien Kong. After these gold papers are set ablaze, the family members then take the stalks of sugarcane from the altars (a pair of sugarcanes are usually used) and throw them into the flames. There will be fireworks and firecrackers that mark the beginning of the ninth day, as well as the survival of the Hokkien people.

So on Friday 24th February ,and the next couple of days, the noise was somewhat deafening with firecrackers and fireworks going off at various intervals well into the night.



Beautiful clear sky in Penang yesterday. After so many years experiencing pollution in Hong Kong and China what a magical sky. We have the same in France and I never tire of looking at it…..I do get some strange looks as I stare upwards but I think many people don’t even take the time to notice…..

Crossword Clues

Three more clues from the Times Quick Cryptic crossword. Slightly easier clues and a good place to learn about how crossword clues are put together.

Drink readily available after close of business (6)

Tremor caused by dessert wine (10)

Bird kept by them usually (3)

Crossword Answers

  1. Answer clear – and dry (4) ARID

Some may find this frustrating. Sometimes a word like ‘answer’ may be abbreviated to A (don’t ask me why!) and another word for ‘clear’ is rid. Put them together and yo uget arid meaning dry.

  1. Tea with nothing added for minister (8) CHAPLAIN

The normal word used for ‘tea’ in a crossword clue is cha and ‘nothing added’ is plain. Put them together and you get chaplain i.e. minister.

  1. Sort of food formula for apes (5,4) MUSHY PEAS

Sorry for including this one but it just appealed to my sense of humour. The answer is ‘sort of food’ and is obtained from ‘formula for apes’. The formula means you are going to use the word ‘apes’ and the key word you need to come up with is one that implies an anagram. I answered this by looking at apes and coming up with peas as a food. That then led me to think of mushy peas. So mushy means you anagram apes to come up with peas i.e. mushy peas. Sorry a little obtuse.

Crossword Answers

Sorry a little late with these:

1. My cold-blooded pet said to be tiny (6) MINUTE

Clues often used the word ‘said’ or ‘sounds like’ as a play on words. So in this instance my cold-blooded pet is said to be ‘tiny’. These answers can be a little obtuse. My becomes mi and cold-blooded pet i.e. newt becomes nute. Put them together and you get minute i.e. tiny.

2. Dismiss clergyman, losing one church (4,7) YORK MINSTER

Recent clues in the Times sometimes use cricketing terms so a little difficult if you don’t like the sport! The answer here is church. Dismiss is ‘york’ which is a way of dismissal in cricket; a fast bowler will aim the ball at the feet of the batsman and bowl him by yorking him. A clergyman is a minister – losing one means taking an ‘i’ out of minister i.e. minster. Put them together and you get York Minster, a church.

3. Criminal made rough arrangement for defence (4,5) HOME GUARD

Cluse are often anagrams and words like criminal can give this away. So the words after criminal are an anagram meaning arrangement for defence. To solve anagrams my preference is to write the letters in a circle and this often helps with the answer. In this instance made rough becomes home guard.