Monday, 26 January 2009

D-Day and the Ox

Today has been pencilled in my diary for nearly three months for today was the day I had to go and see the dietician again and be weighed. I spent last night trying to sleep, badly. I had dreams with ominous overtones. I kept waking up and sleeping only lightly. I got up feeling drained.

The dietician however gave me some good news. I have lost a stone since I last saw her. That pleasure didn't last long as I had to go to work. By the end of the day I felt completely vacant and miserable. There are moves afoot and people are moving about and the possibility of me being offered a contract draws closer. I know I should be grateful, particularly at this time... I spend my days bored, despite the radio and nice colleagues and come home drained and with very tired eyes.

I know it is the time of the new moon and maybe this has something to do with how I feel today. It is actually a special new moon as it heralds the beginning of the new chinese year. The year of the Ox. I am going to retreat from my current job to times past...

Many years ago my parents took my sister and I to a chinese restaurant. We kept going back and when I was a little older, they offered me a job. I worked there on and off over many years until my move down here. I know if I was ever living near by there would be a job waiting for me. If my life ever took a real turn for the worse the job would include a small cubicle in the flat above the restaurant.

The various people I worked with gave me a fascination with the Chinese way of life. I would not say I know much about it. The average working Chinese person doesn't tend to talk of home too much. This brings back memories of the families at home, wives they send money to, children living with grandparents.

They tried in vain to teach me some Cantonese and I did eventually manage to learn a few words. The problem is, it is a tonal language. This means pitch conveys meaning to and alters a word. Sounds can be low, medium or high and some may rise or fall. So the language is actually sung. It was a long time before I got my ear in enough to be able to hear the things they were trying to teach me. The best pronounciation i ever achieved was when they were trying to get me to remember some word and I couldn't. I came out with the first sounds that hit my brain, which unfortunately happened to be an extremely clear pronounciation of a word for female genitalia. This caused my friends considerable amusement, as they had certainly never taught me that word.

Of course the best area where I experienced a postive cultural exchange, as oppose to friendship was in the matter of food. Working there I used to eat with them after work and one Christmas they invited me to their special Christmas meal. The food they ate was often very different from the food they served. They also appreciated delicacies that most Brits would perhaps avoid, such as kung po eel (eel done in chillis). Although I ate this, I have no idea what eel tastes like as the chillis were all I could taste.

In hindsight I can see that they very carefully educated my taste buds so that by the time they invited me to join them for their special meal, I could enjoy it. They had bought special ingredients in Soho and some had been bought from Malaysia and Hong Kong and saved for this meal. Some of the things I ate are not things I would ever order, on principle. We had abalone, ancient chinese mushrooms, shark fin soup and more. I felt honoured to be invited to join them at the only time they could ever all take time off to eat together before midnight.

One day I was sat with two friends with an interest in such things. In my head there was a gentle image of forest and a river as we talked. One of them turned to me and said, I can see you right now as a Oriental man on a boat on a jungle river wearing one of those large straw hats. The other thought for a moment and agreed. I explained the picture in my head but said I could not see the man. They told me to shut my eyes and look at the reflection in the river. And then I saw what they saw.

So this year of the Ox, what does it mean? Apparently it is a year of honest hard and tireless work. The Ox is apparently the right sort of an animal to clear up messes and boy do we need that right now. No one gets a free ride though... A year without frills doesn't have to be without thrills though I guess, not when you have so much free nature on your doorstep. And weather is the greatest show out! So I guess the year of the Ox is a good year for diets... I hope... can I go and get a Chinese take away now? please?

No comments:

Post a Comment