General

2015 Year Ender – 19 January 2016

In case you are interested – which is practically a moot point – this is the 168th piece in this Letters series. I hope it brings prosperity and auspiciousness to you and casual readers of this column.

This is to be my year ender for 2015 or the Year of the Lamb. A year ender primarily records the significant events in the past 12 months and the thoughts thereon that the author wants to remember or wants his readers to so do.

As it happened, it began with Su and I going to New York to see my son briefly en route to Vancouver and then Whistler where we now are and where we had some skiing before going back to Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year. Gosh, that sounds pretty repetitive and uneventfully as a start. Let me start again.

Su and I would remember the past year as one in which we made new friends and renewed and strengthened old networks. It began with the New Year Eve Dinner Party at one of our favourite clubs, CCC the facilities of which we are using more. We now attend Latin dancing classes there every week; while I use the gym there regularly, have breakfast with Su almost every Sunday and meetings with others at the Family Lounge. On New Year Day, we were at KCC, the other favourite club, cheering our baby niece running for her first trophies. For nearly two years, I have been using the gym of both clubs, mostly in the mornings after my daily Mass at Ricci Hall, depending on whether I have lunch appointments and where.

Latin dancing classes have brought new dimensions to our lives. Su has made friends with some influential members or their spouse who are classmates and has organized parties with them at Mei Foo and elsewhere. We also renewed networking with a few friends by inviting them to the classes, one of whom spectacularly fathered a son at the age of 70, to his great delight and admiration of some. He already has grandchildren in the teens.

On the personal side, I am glad that I managed to stabilize my weight and essential bio data – blood pressure, cholesterol and blood related readings – for the entire year since I began my weight reduction through exercises and dietary control, which is actually not an easy feat. While I have reduced my weight by over 10%, I need to continue to work off a further 5 to 10% of the reduced body mass to bring myself to the pretty dietician’s recommended target of 120 pounds. I weighed in 147 pounds on Christmas Eve in 2013. A reduced waistline has meant that I can now get into suits I have not used for 20 years and over, or that I have taken to acquire clothing and attires more befitting of the young and more energetic. I now typically wear jeans with patches or broken at the knees and sides, which have attracted snide remarks from my always well dressed friends that I am financially challenged after retirement.

Well, I would like to believe that we are financially stable. The Government travel subsidies for the elderly means that I can go almost anywhere at $2, which has taken away nearly all incentives to run a car. Besides, Mei Foo is so much of a transportation hub such that I can be in Yuen Long in 20 minutes, Central in 30, CCC, Ricci Hall or Zetland Hall in 40 and Hang Hau in 50, all by public transport. These are places that I regularly go to, some on a daily basis and almost always by MTR and buses. I now get so used to take public transport in dinner jacket and I always carry my gym bag everywhere. You may ask why Hang Hau. Well, that is a village close to an MTR station with the same name and where a Masonic brother lives with his family and extended family. This brother is a serious cook and hence gets on very well professionally with Su, who in turn is a great fan of his lovely daughter. Both families have visited each others’ homes, mostly for meals and on food making.

On food making, Su continues to experiment with her culinary skills and has had some interesting breakthroughs. A friend and brother has now designated 1 July as Dumpling Day because on this day, we taught some friends including him how to make dumplings and xiao lungbao. Eating and drinking, wining and dining, food making and tea sampling are all excellent and perhaps essential networking ingredients. Our tea connoisseur friend Peter has inspired Su to acquire a tea table and other ancillary equipment; and we have had many very enjoyable tea sessions after meals under his leadership, often after fine wines. We have also had wine and champagne parties, sometimes mingled with rare and beautiful Chinese white wine, again through friends and friends of friends. Indeed friends often attract friends. Su went to a life skills class featuring a Taoist Qigong Master Zhu Hokting in his very late 80s. Never mind the qigong or life skills the Master had preached, but Su picked up three friends, all very interesting and who love and would live life to the full. One of them is a practicing Holistic Healing Consultant who holds a doctoral degree in dermatology and who is also an acupuncturist. More importantly, she likes wine drinking and is such good sport at parties. Then we have this lawyer friend who Su found out studied in the same University in UK as she and who now runs a few restaurants and has access to rare Chinese wine, paintings and other ancient artifacts. We are happy that our small flat in Mei Foo is flexibly designed and organized to host such gatherings for networking and re-connection which often run into the wee hours.

Still on Mei Foo, we thank God we have moved there. There are so many hidden gems in the area. Among the foremost is the Lai Chi Kok Park and Ling Nam Garden which are just at our doorsteps. Then there is Jao Tsung-I Cultural Centre and Museums which features scenic and leisurely edifices restored from unused public buildings, hostel facilities, walks and a restaurant. There is also an elderly centre within two minutes from our flat, of which I am a subscribing member at $25 a year, and at which I have been invited as an instructor on – you would laugh, but it is true – computer basics. So far I have done four sessions, each lasting two hours. Su has also signed up as a volunteer at the Centre and appears to be making herself very useful and her presence felt. Last but certainly not the least, I found a small shop selling whiskey at cut throat prices.

In between meetings with Rotary and Freemasonry and daily exercises, we have kept up with other networking opportunities, such as attending a fund raiser concert organized by the Wah Yan One Family Foundation, featuring Hacken Lee and Agnes Chan, a 20th anniversary re-union of Rotaractors of that vintage, and a Manila Rotary Institute. I must not forget to mention my siblings and their children in Hong Kong. We are seeing them more; particularly the next generations who are all doing rather well. I wish my parents were here to see that. Unfortunately, circumstances are such that I was only able to meet my son once in New York, but I am keeping in touch with my daughter whom I learnt will be moving to the west coast for a new veterinary job.

I would be missing a chunk of my life if I do not mention that I became Chairman of Convocation Standing committee of the University of Hong Kong in July last year. Such is the nature of life that one often ends up in unexpected places, which is why I often say that life is but a series of rehearsals and more rehearsals to prepare one for the day and occasion that God has willed one to be. I was persuaded to stand for election to be a member of the Standing Committee of HKU in May, was elected in June and then elected Chairman towards the end of July. More excitingly and unexpectedly, the chain of events in the local political scene in general and at HKU in particular has precipitated a first ever Extraordinary General Meeting requisitioned by members under the Constitution and Rules of the Convocation. The EGM which was held on 1 September at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre attracted blanket coverage. As Chairman, I announced the results at a press conference the next day which was carried by all media. I became TV famous for the remainder of the day and that day only. My picture was on TV every half hour on channel TV and even my son in New York texted me to find out what had happened. He was worried that I ran into some terrible problem or scandal.

More interestingly, RTHK has seen it fit to include in the jingles of one of its top rated radio programs two pieces of my sound bites harvested at the press conference. My voice had gone viral for some months. Then as if Convocation had not had enough, the same group of alumni requisitioned another EGM shortly afterwards such that Convocation decided to hold another EGM on 29th November, a second in less than three months, beating all records again. I would not bother you with the details. Those who are interested can go to the Convocation website for the press statements, statistics and results of the two EGMs and they would also find what I have written so far as Chairman of the Convocation, which job I am expected to hold for three years.

Back to Whistler which is where we are, this is the first year we are skiing on season passes and unlimited classes passes, based on decisions made last April, taking advantage of the reduced prices. Whistler had a bad year last year, so it was like buying futures when Su made those decisions in April. It means that we would be having more skiing days in 2016, so much so that we would be making three trips here before April, but that would be for next year’s year ender.

On that note, I would sign off; and as I alluded to in the opening that this issue is numbered 168, I wish you all out there a continuing successful and prosperous path, with boundless health, wealth and happiness in the Year of the Monkey; and I hope to talk to you again shortly.

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