My tattoo story

Since I had a post about Pe’a tattoos the other day, I figured it was only right that I share my own tattoo story. No need to worry, Mum and Dad, you’re not about to discover I’ve been keeping a tattoo hidden from you all these years.

When I was 19, a good friend of mine moved to South Africa with her boyfriend (she was a few years older than me.) The last time we hung out together in London, we decided we had to do something to commemorate the occasion and mark her departure.

So we decided to pierce our belly buttons. That is how you say goodbye to a friend, isn’t it?

We picked the first tattoo and piercing parlour we found. It was a small place, underground, but it looked clean enough and the guy inside had an Irish accent. Everyone knows the Irish can be trusted, and at the time that seemed enough of a guarantee that we’d found somewhere suitable. My friend went first.

I waited, flicking through a book of tattoos. I came across a photo of a guy with tarantulas tattooed in his armpits (why?! Seriously — why!?!) I kept on flipping, and thought about the tattoos I’d considered getting. An eye of Horus on my ankle, and…. I’m really quite embarrassed to admit to this next one…. A black panther, ready to pounce. On the top of my right bum cheek — yes, on what is now effectively my muffin top.

I know. I know. What can I say – I was 19. I also didn’t realise at the time that I would, one day, have muffin tops.

I wasn’t as fussed about the eye of Horus as I was about the panther. And the more I looked at other people’s tattoos, the more excited I got about the idea. It would look so cool (or so I thought at the time). It was such a bad girl thing to do and I had never in my life been a bad girl. Maybe on top of the tattoo I’d get a leather jacket and a biker boyfriend.

So after my friend came out with her piercing, I went in for mine and spoke to the Irish guy about my tattoo idea. I just wanted a small panther, I told him. Maybe 3 inches long.

“Won’t work,” he said. “It’s too small and detailed. It’ll blur into a black blotch in five years or so. You either need to make it big, like over your entire bum cheek –” (I paled at the thought) “or just do a big panther head.”

I hesitated. A full bum cheek tattoo was much bigger than what I had psyched myself up for, and I didn’t like the idea of a panther head.

“If you’re not sure then you’re not ready for a tattoo,” said the Irishman.

THANK GOD!! Can you imagine if I now had a frigging black panther tattooed on my arse? I’d be making strippers look classy. Don’t get me wrong I’m quite partial to tattoos, some are beautiful pieces of art. But a black panther on my arse?! That was such a narrow escape from my own stupidity.

If the tattoo artist had just seen a way to take money from a silly girl and not cautioned me, I might have gotten it. And I’d now be bankrupting myself with expensive laser removal sessions. All I can say is that clearly the decision to trust in the Irish turned out for the best.

But, the fact that I even considered a black panther tattoo tells me I am not the kind of person who should be trusted to get inked. Hence why to this day I remain tattooless, and will probably remain that way for the rest of my life.

Oh, and do you want to be grossed out? The tarantula tattoo looked something like this:


Seriously — why????



Love-Hate challenge

Sammy tagged me in a fun challenge: to list out ten things I love, ten things I hate and ten blogging buddies I’d like to involve in the challenge. How could I refuse?

So here are ten things I love:

  • Breakfast in France with hot chocolate, home-made jam, baguette, and a croissant (no surprise for anyone who ready my A to Z posts)
  • Opening a cardboard box that contains a delivery of books
  • Old libraries
  • Drinking Pimms on a sunny summer afternoon in England
  • The smell of popcorn on entering a cinema
  • Early mornings when the air is fresh
  • Exploring new places with the Hubs
  • Badgers
  • Red Velvet cake
  • Sitting around and talking about nonsense with family or close friends

Ten things I hate:

  • People revving their car or honking their horn outside our bedroom window
  • Rudeness or any lack of manners
  • Shoes that hurt my feet
  • Spinach and coffee (not necessarily together. I hate them independently too, although I imagine they’d be even worse together!)
  • People who wear so much perfume/cologne I can taste it when I walk past them
  • Intolerance
  • Being rushed or running late (I’m that person you see at the airport, sat at the gate two hours before the plan is due to take off)
  • Spiders
  • Ironing
  • People who are always negative or complaining

Ten blogging buddies I’m tagging:


D. Wallace









Over to you guys!

Birth of an Internet Hypochondriac

Most days, I’m a completely normal person, and I deal with minor aches and pains like a regular human being. And then every so often, the Google Fever takes over, and then this happens:

I start off with something minor, like a headache. Nothing to be worried about – headaches happen all the time right? I continue with whatever work I’m doing.

A couple of hours pass, and the headache is still here. It’s distracting me from my work, and I’m feeling restless, so to pass the time for 5 minutes, I google my headache.

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 10.47.43

“It could be your eyesight,” Dr Google informs me.

Well, I am mildly short sighted, but I hate wearing glasses. Dr Google informs me that I might be damaging my eyes. Maybe my eyesight is worsening — I need to book an eye test. Click-click-click — glaucoma.  Oh dear, there’s a history of glaucoma in my family. Click-click — glaucoma causes blindness. Dr Google tells me that once the damage has been done it can’t be fixed. What!? I’m going to go blind?

Click-click — research blindness and ways to cope with it. Click-click. Consider sending Poppy to a seeing eye dog school in anticipation of the days I won’t be able to see. Realise that unless Poppy is a superdog with a super long life, she’s unlikely to still be around by that time. Moment of sadness as I imagine life without our Popmeister General. Click-click — the longest living dog died at 29. I’m cheered at the thought of twenty odd years with the Popnoodle.

I get a hold of myself — “don’t be ridiculous, you’re not going blind and Poppy isn’t dying. Get back to work.” I close out the windows, but wait, there is something I missed, telling me my headache could be due to stress. Well, I’ll click on that quickly – only 5 minutes. I mean, I don’t think I’m stressed, but there’s a test that will tell me for sure. I might as well take it.


Oh god! Apparently I am stressed! Maybe stress is getting in the way of my writing. Maybe it’s having other negative impacts on my body — everyone knows that stress is bad for you. Google stress. Click-click-click — nausea. Click-click- bowel cancer.

“Have you been bloated?” asks Dr Google. Well, yes sometimes. “Have you lost weight?” Yes, but I thought that was a good thing. “No, you could have bowel cancer.”


Image from Flickr

Say what now? Anxiety and stress go through the roof (guess that test was right after all). Google bowel cancer. Click-click-click — horrific articles on cancer in general. But what about my headache? Click-click. What if it’s a brain tumour?I did smell burning toast once but no one else could smell it and there was no toaster on. Click-click. A brain aneurism? Click-click-click. Oh my god what if —

Luckily the Hubs calls at this point to say hello. I tell him that although it’s not even 10am, so far I’ve faced my inevitable blindness, signed Poppy up for seeing eye dog school, mourned her death, found out I was possibly chronically stressed, diagnosed myself with bowel cancer, and with a brain tumour, or an aneurism, or possibly both (if this was Grey’s Anatomy, it would definitely be both).

“Or maybe you just need to drink more water and take a paracetamol,” says the Hubs.

Oh yeah, that too. Why doesn’t Dr Google ever start by saying that? Honestly, it always takes you to the most extreme, awful illnesses. We have a little laugh at how ridiculous I was being, and after hanging up the phone, I close down google, get some water and get back to work.

But wait, on my way back from the kitchen, I notice that Poppy hasn’t eaten her food yet. That’s weird, she normally wolfs it down. Maybe I should check with Dr Google, just to be safe….



Full disclosure, I’m not *quite* that neurotic. I’m mildly more normal (but only mildly) — creative license in the name of telling a story and all that. Dr Google has diagnosed me with a number of serious illnesses, mind you, but thankfully I’m still the picture of health. Unless being a hypochondriac is considered a mental illness. Might have to google that… 😉

How about you, have you ever googled your symptoms? Do you find yourself turning into an internet hypochondriac? Or is it just me?

A Long, Tough Winter

It has been one long, tough winter for the plants on our roof terrace. They had to deal with inept gardeners as The Hubs and I took turns overwatering and underwatering them, they had to survive an onslaught by mealey bugs and white flies (horrid little critters, both of them), and then after they’d survived all that, they were subjected to Poppy’s unusual brand of botanical experiments: namely digging up said plants, and seeing how they fared with their roots in the air and their leaves in the ground (the answer to that one: not well). Continue reading

A Battle of Persistence

It’s a little known fact that spiders are the most persistent animal out there. This fact is little known because I just made it up, but it should be true because my god are those critters stubborn.

At this time of year Hong Kong is already hot and humid (gravity might as well not exist as far as my frizz is concerned), and that means spiders are appearing from whatever place they have been hiding all winter. Said spiders are still small at this point but they have a predilection for weaving their webs across hiking trails at face height. Yep.

I go hiking daily, and at the moment this is how it goes:

1. Celine and Poppy arrive at hiking trails stupidly early so no one has been yet. Celine clears the spiderwebs with a stick as she walks. Poppy finds a spot of wet mud and rolls around in it (the latter is unrelated but is a frequent enough occurrence to warrant a mention) Continue reading

C if for… Chocolat Chaud

*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*

This post could also be called How to Prepare the Best Breakfast ever – but this is A to Z and I needed a C, so Chocolat Chaud it is. (This is, by the way, French for Hot Chocolate).

Growing up, my favourite meal was always le Petit Déjeuner (French for breakfast). It still is. And the best Petit Déjeuner of all my childhood was the first one of the summer holidays, having arrived at my grandparents’ place in the South of France. It isn’t just the croissant, the baguette. It’s the ritual of preparing the Petit Déjeuner that I love, a ritual that centers around the Chocolat Chaud.

Allow me to guide you through said ritual.

The perfect Petit Déjeuner begins on wakeup, on a sunny summer’s morning. You go down in your pyjamas to the terrace outside with its already-warm terracotta tiles, the sunlight dappled by the grapevine overhead. There, you say hello to the family already eating. You yawn, stretch your arms overhead, and then go to the kitchen to begin the Preparation.

(As you may have guess by now, as a child the preparation of my Petit Déjeuner was as solemn an occasion as any religious ceremony.)

You retrieve a bowl from the old fashioned crokery cupboard (bonnetière in French) that smells of old wood and wood varnish. Now Chocolat Chaud requires a bowl. Not a mug, not a cup, a bowl. No other vessel will do it justice. Preferably a simple bowl, even better if it’s a bit old with a chip on the side, perfect if on top of that it has some colour (the bowl I liked to use was blue green with a crack down the outside)

Two teaspoons of powdered chocolate go into the bowl and a third into your mouth, because it’s tasty, and because there is a unique joy in eating something powdery off a spoon — it goes all tacky in your mouth. Then milk, then into the microwave.

While the Chocolate Chaud is heating up, you eat a second teaspoon of powdered chocolate and put the pot back in its cupboard (you’ll of course have a third and final teaspoon later.) Then you begin preparing the baguette.

If you’re lucky (and I was pretty much always lucky for that first Petit Déjeuner of the summer holidays), there will be a croissant waiting for you out on the terrace, still in its crinkly paper bag, warm and smelling of butter. (My father would go and get them from the village down the road. The sign that you are grown up, by the way, is when you fetch your own croissant.)

A croissant is great, but not enough on its own. We need a baguette.


Half a baguette, freshly baked that morning. Slice it open. Then butter. Real butter, bien sur. No, I’m not referring to the margarine alternative, I mean salted butter. In Brittany, there is a saying: if it’s not salted butter, it’s not butter. And in Brittany you can get butter with actual salt crystals and it’s delicious beyond words. So. Salted butter.

Petit Déjeuner and childhood is not a time for weight or health concerns (in fact even as an adult Petit Déjeuner is not the time to worry about your cellulite), so it’s a generous slab of butter, followed by several generous dollops of jam that you spread with the back of the spoon (always with the back of a spoon for jam, never with a knife).

(The jam was homemade by Manou, my grandmother, and my favourites were either blackberry or apricot).

By now, the Chocolat Chaud should be ready, but wait. Don’t go yet. The bowl will be hot so take a tea towel. Now, here we come to a point of some dispute. To get the Chocolat Chaud to the right temperature you will have to heat the milk until a skin forms on the top. I’m not sure why it does that — it just does. It is an immutable part of hot milk physics.

The dispute is what to do with the skin.

Me, I think it’s gross. I scoop it off with a spoon and put it in the bin with a ‘yech!’. My father eats his milk skin with relish. Each to their own, but it’s something you have to take a stand on (and by the way, if you are mistaken enough to eat your milk skin, that’s fine but I will judge you a little.)

The milk skin taken care off, you *carefully* carry your bowl to the terrace. Depending on your age, this can be done confidently, or with snail like slowness, gaze fixed on the milk to make sure it doesn’t slosh and spill over the side of the bowl. Then go back to get your baguette, and finally, you are ready to take your place at the table.

Take the croissant out of the bag (bonus if it’s the last one and you get to crinkle the bag up in your hands), and then commence.

Dunk the croissant in and take a bite. The Chocolat Chaud will be too hot and will burn your mouth a little. That is good. The croissant will also soak up too much milk and chocolate so that, as you bite, milk will run down your chin, down your hand, down your forearm. You will stain the tablecloth and your pyjamas. Someone (probably your mother) will sigh and hand you a napkin.

Now, you can avoid soaking yourself in milk if, as you bite, you do a huge ssshhhhhlurp. Of course some will still go down your chin but that’s part of the fun.

The baguette is less messy but the challenge here is how much dunking you can achieve while keeping the baguette horizontal enough so that the jam doesn’t slide off the butter and into your bowl. I am quite the expert at this by the way.

When you are finished, drink the Chocolat Chaud, now at the right temperature and full of bits of bread, croissant, jam and butter.

Then, recline back, full to bursting, and happy as a pig rolling in an enormous pile of elephant dung.

In other words, heaven.

B is for… Betrayal on the Gravel

*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*

I am the eldest of four children, and also the eldest of all my cousins on both sides of the family. The thing with being the eldest, is that you are thought of as being reliable. You can be given responsibility. You can be trusted with things… Things such as, for example, distributing mints given to you by your parents among your brothers (my sister wasn’t born yet) and cousin.

“Go share them with the others,” they said.

The mints were white and hard, and they looked like marbles or rounded stones. I popped one in my mouth. It was sweet, and strong enough to make my throat and mouth go cold when I inhaled, but not too strong.

“Ok, I will,” I said, heading off.

I didn’t want to share the mints. Why should I? The mints were delicious, and my brothers and cousin being boys were less mint-worthy than I was. I went for a long walk around my grandparents’ garden (they had a very big garden), avoiding my brothers and cousin.

They found me as I came around from the back of the house.

“What you eating?” my cousin asked.

I had the mints in my pocket, but the gravel of the driveway gave me an idea.

“I’m sucking on a stone from the driveway,” I said.

“No you’re not.”

“Yes I am, look.” I spat my mint out, now all misshapen and slick with saliva, onto my hand. It did look a little gravel like.

My cousin frowned.

“Why you sucking the gravel?” asked one of my brothers.

“Because it’s nice,” I said. “It’s all smooth.”

And I sat down on the gravel, popping the mint back in my mouth. My brother didn’t hesitate long before sitting next to me and putting a piece of gravel in his mouth too.

“See?” I said. “It’s nice, right?”

“Hmmm,” he replied with a frown.

My other brother followed suit, while my cousin — who was only six months younger than me — looked on.

“You’re all weird,” he said.

I shrugged. “Whatever. You’re missing out.” As I spoke I surreptitiously put a hand in my pocket and grabbed a new mint. Then I pretended to take something out of my mouth and put it on the gravel. My brothers immediately copied me. I then pretended to take another little stone, and popped the new mint into my mouth. This they also did, but of course with an actual piece of gravel.

“Yum,” I said with a smile.

One of my brothers nodded enthusiastically. I could see my cousin hesitating. After a time — such is the power of peer pressure — he sat down with us and picked up a stone.

“See, it’s nice,” I told him as he popped it into his mouth.

We sat peacefully in the driveway, the boys sucking stones, me eating mints. It was sunny and warm. It has to be said that there are few more pleasant ways to spend an afternoon than by eating mints in the sun, while knowing that you put a really good one over your siblings and cousin.

(I realise by the way that it was pretty irresponsible to have my younger brothers putting stones in their mouths what with the risk of choking etc, but I was six or maybe seven and that didn’t occur to me at the time. Just to reassure you, nothing went wrong, this is a story with a happy ending 🙂 )

A is for… Airplane

*The theme for my A to Z is Childhood Stories. Some are real, some are embellished, some are downright fictional but are based on the kind of things I imagined when I was younger.*

I had never been particularly interested in airplanes as a kid, but all that changed when reading a particular Famous Five story. The Five were on a plane that was hijacked (in French they were called sky pirates – doesn’t that sound so much more romantic?). The plane was taken off course and crash landed in the jungle where the passengers were taken hostage. Of course, the Five saved the day as well as the others (and of course nobody died in the crash. I don’t think anyone was even injured.)



I was fascinated. Now that was an adventure. A plane crash, sky pirates, jungle… It blew my young mind, and as a result I dedicated an unhealthy amount of time over the next few weeks imagining how I would fare going up against sky pirates or surviving in a jungle post plane crash.

You can imagine then what went through my head when I found out that, for our yearly trip to the south of France (I’m French but grew up in the UK) to visit my grandparents, we would be taking a plane. That was to be my first plane ride. I was convinced it would be my first proper adventure, too, and I went into paroxysms of excitement and planning — I had to be ready for the sky pirates and/or the plane crash.

I was positively fizzing with impatience as we went through the airport. I looked around at everyone, trying to spot disguised sky pirates as I waited by the gate — and I mean right by the desk where you show your ticket to the air hostess — even though there was the best of an hour to go until boarding.

Finally, we boarded. Of course there was the excitement of discovering the inside of a plane, of checking out the seats, how they reclined, how they snapped forward (and reclined, and snapped forward, and reclined — Celine! Stop that, said my father, apologising at the poor woman behind me.) Then there was the matter of the little table, and then of the pocket on the back of the seat in front, the one that contains an in flight magazine and the security card.

The security card.

As if the prospect of impending kidnapping by sky pirates and plane crashes in the jungle (never mind that there are no jungles in France, that was a minor detail) wasn’t enough, now there was a security card explaining about inflatable life vests. Not only that, but if we crash-landed there would be inflatable slides coming out of the plane doors. Inflatable slides. Talk about fun and adventures.

The air hostesses went through the security demonstration (slight disappointment that they didn’t inflate their life vests but they made up for it by showing us oxygen masks – yet another exciting plane item I didn’t know about), and we were ready for take off.

The plan backed away.

I clenched my fists with excitement and kicked the floor in anticipation.

Please crash, please crash, please crash, I prayed. Please let there be sky pirates. Please let there be sky pirates and a crash.

I repeated my prayer as we taxied down the runway. I whispered it as the plane sped up. I almost shouted it out loud as we took off.

Please let there be sky pirates!!! Please crash!!!


The plane was pirate free.

There were no technical faults, the pilot was competent, and we didn’t run out of fuel. We didn’t crash.

Instead, we landed in Nice safely, as planned. We were on time, and most definitely not in the jungle. When the doors opened and everyone started to get off, confirming that there would be nothing on the adventure front, I felt cheated. The pilot could at least have had the decency to land on the water — the sea was just there. And why didn’t anyone hijack the plane?

Disappointment doesn’t come close to expressing what I felt as we went through the airport to go meet my grandparents. Being a resilient kid (and not the kind of kid to remain disappointed when faced with the prospect of long summer holidays spent with my grandparents), I moved my expectation to the return flight. Surely that plane would crash or be hijacked.  

(It didn’t)


I should say that while I repeatedly hoped for plane crashes and sky pirates for most of my childhood, rest assured that I have long grown out of this phase. So don’t worry if you ever find yourself in a plane with me — I won’t be praying for the engine to fail…

Voices, Faces, Getting Old & a WIPpet

I debated whether to write this blog post. I’m alway so late to the party when it comes to anything new, that there’s never any point trying to share something I discovered and loved. Inevitably, when I do everyone around me is all: ‘yes Celine, we’ve all known about this for months and we all love it. Have you been hiding under a rock all this time?’

The answer is generally that yes, yes I have.

So fair warning, you’re probably already going to know about this, but I’m ploughing on ahead anyway, since this is my blog and it has to be as uncool as I am.

You know how sometimes you speak to someone on the phone, say, and your mental image of them is entirely at odds with their face when you finally meet them? I had a major case of this the other day when I discovered a singer called George Ezra (the cool ones among you are welcome to roll your eyes if you’ve known about him since before he started playing music). Continue reading

A Little Story of Television


Photo from Flickr

I grew up without a TV. While I’m not the only one out there, it’s often a bit of a shocker in this era of a PC on every desk, a Mac in every home and a TV in every living room. Now don’t think for a moment that means I grew up as a well adjusted child with little interest in TV. I was obsessed with it. Continue reading