From Family Campout to Oxford and Einstein

It was an unusual week, with two general holidays sandwiched between two weekends, which makes planning and living rather challenging. I heard that some company entrepreneurs had simply asked their staff to close down for a week to save the overheads, knowing that no one would be geared up for any real work during the funny period anyway. For Su and I, it was a busy week for the constitution and we have been eating and drinking nonstop all week so that we decided to skip dinner last night and allow the system to rest.

We slept in a tent for one night last week, which was not an accident as such, but planned first as a small treat for one 8-year old kid to spend the Mid-Autumn Festival on the well maintained lawn of Kowloon Cricket Club, which the management billed as an annual Family Campout, but turned out to be a party of 12, including five kids. The Club provided us three tents and the family with four kids brought their newly acquired tent and other camping or glamping equipment and accessories just for the night.

The programme began with a poolside BBQ buffet at 7pm. All participants were then free to swim and to watch two children movies in open air, which is quite an experience. The pool closed at 10pm when it became free for all, meaning that people could sneak in food, drinks and alcohol in whatever quantities they could bring or consume. We tried our best; but shortly after midnight, we followed Su’s programme to have congee and noodles at our favourite restaurant next street, by which time the youngest kid had become so tired that he simply slumped on Su, totally exhausted. It must be about 3am when we decided to lie within our tent. The moon did show up part-time and we were blessed with no precipitation at all. It was actually rather comfortable and there were no signs of insects, crawling or flying. It’s a far cry from the last tent experience I had when I went on the full land course of the Outward Bound School in the early 70s, but that would be another story.

We met a couple of families, in particular a Matthew with his wife Diana and three children. Diana is a daughter of my very dear and close primary school classmate who passed away some seven years ago. Matthew said he had been camping out for the past 12 years running so that he decided that it would be Diana’s turn to sleep over instead. I also ran into some young Rotaractors – well, young 20 something years ago when we first met – coming with family and friends, all wondering whether the kids are our third generation.

Coincidentally, and rather interestingly, when we were partying, Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University was delivering her Oration at the Convocation House, her second since she took office in January 2016. She was in the happy position of being the VC of a university that has enjoyed for the second year in a row the top world ranking according to Times Higher Education (THE). When she delivered her Oration same time last year, she made the obvious tongue in cheek remark that when one is on the top there is only one direction one can go. She went on to say that rankings are not necessarily the best or most reliable benchmark for a top university, but acknowledged that it would be hard work to keep the position for seven years, which is the length of her tenure. This year, she made the point that for the first time, the top two universities in the world were British, which reflects the long history Britain has committed herself to higher education. In line with long established traditions, she refrained from mentioning the name Cambridge has made the second place, elbowing California Institute of Technology to co-share the third place with Stanford. By the way, HKU ranks No. 40 on the 2018 list.

My friends who have been following Oxford might know that Professor Richardson was installed the 272nd VC of Oxford in a classic and pompous ceremony in the Sheldonian Theatre by none other than the Chancellor Lord Patten, or more often referred to as Chris Patten, who read his opening statement in Latin with both hands seen visibly shaking. He made an impressive and passionate speech in English afterwards though, complete with quotes from some Chinese adage, Irish scholars and past Oxford luminaries, and making copious reference to academic freedoms and institutional autonomy.

A good friend joined the celebrated Executive Master Programme in Oxford Business School last week and attended his Matriculation Ceremony in Trinity College. I wish him well. He has certainly joined many distinguished characters to become an Oxford alumnus, bearing in mind the university has produced no fewer than 26 British Prime Ministers, 30 global leaders, 50 Nobel laureates and 120 Olympic medalists.

I wish you all a good and sunny Sunday, or the rest of it; and I hope that as you spend time developing knowledge from information, you have due regard for what Einstein said about imagination being more important than knowledge.

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