Invasion of Dragons

Last Sunday morning upon hearing the rhythmic beating of drums I looked up from my desk to see a small procession of Dragon Boats in the distance.

I figured they must be near by, so sprinted (that’s a laugh) down the road to find where they were assembling. In the bright February sunshine I soon found them. Easy – I just followed the sound of the drums. There were about fifteen boats in all and they were due to race all the way to Temple Island and back – that’s a distance of over three miles. Quite a paddle. Although dragon boat racing has been practised for over 2,000 years with its roots in ancient southern China, it only emerged as an international sport in Hong Kong in 1976. In fact the history of dragon boats in competition dates back to the same era as the original games of Olympia in ancient Greece. For competition events, such as the one I saw on Sunday, dragon boats are generally rigged with decorative Chinese dragon heads and tails.

The standard crew of a dragon boat is usually 22, comprised of 20 paddlers in pairs facing towards the bow. One drummer (or caller) is at the bow facing the paddlers, and one steerer (or sweep) at the rear of the boat. The pulsation of the drumbeats produced by the drummer could be considered the ‘heartbeat’ of the dragon boat. Good drummers should be able to synchronise the drumming with the strokes of the leading pair of paddlers, rather than the other way round. Here are a few of the pictures I took.

When I came back from my holiday I found that my very hard-working cleaner – Little Jola – had returned to live in Poland. So it was back to an ad in the Henley Standard for a new one. This, our local newspaper, is so widely read that I had over 30 replies. The economic climate could have had something to do with it – I even had half a dozen replies from men.

Wish I’d had my camera at the ready the other day. Looking out of my studio window I did a double take. Could have sworn I saw a water-skier – minus the boat - gliding around in the mill pool below me. It was, in fact, a young lad balancing on a surfboard and propelling himself along extremely competently with a single paddle. But what intrigued me was that sitting on the front of the surfboard, and really enjoying the ride, was a very happy little Jack Russell terrier.

When I lived in Singapore in the 70’s, my amah’s little girl – Wai Heng – came with us (the family were staying with me over Christmas) to the Tiger Balm Gardens. Here she is sitting on one of the two tigers there. I sat on the other one just two weeks ago.

As it’s her birthday next Wednesday I think I’ll surprise her and put it on my Facebook page. She’s probably forgotten all about it, but as she’s an avid Facebook user I’m sure she’ll see it.

In an idle few hours the other day I started on the design of my next Christmas card. I won’t be giving a preview, but it will be hard to better last year’s Trompe L’oeil design. I like to plan ahead, and even might buy all my stamps soon - before the planned price rise rockets this coming April.

I finally finished my ‘Spitfire over Henley’ painting this afternoon. It’s taken about 350 hours of really hard work. You won’t be able to appreciate the detail of the painting on this blog, as it measures 20 by 28 inches, but I can assure you all the buildings in Henley are there. And a little me is shown about one millimetre high on the bowling green. If you really look hard you can also see my boat and a very tiny young friend rowing my dinghy.