General

A Five-Day Week

Most of us work alternate Saturdays officially, but every Saturday in practice. Our brethren in the Mainland, however, work five-day weeks and appear to be coping rather well. As more and more people are moving towards working from home, the length of a working week actually does not matter. On the other hand, weekends do not necessary mean rest days for many people. Public figures, including district governors and for that matter, many past governors, very often operate even longer hours on weekends and public holidays. Nevertheless, a long weekend presents an opportunity for a break in the routine and enables them to do something else, including some time to think, hopefully.

As I found myself spending the last afternoon of a two-day break from work, I paused to reflect what I had done or could have done. The holidays began with me watching some dragon boat races on TV in bed and feeling quietly happy that I was not out there soaking in rain, as I would need to be had I been the District Officer in Tuen Mun. Halfway through the morning papers, Rosita asked me whether I would join her for brunch with some common friends. Why not? We had some lively discussion on education and the standard of English among Hong Kong students. This is certainly an important and emotive subject. What many people fail to register is that most education systems can only produce graduates. The rest is up to the graduates and how the rest of the people make use of these graduates. For example, on the part of the graduates, have they learnt how to learn, how committed are they to continue to learn and whether they are willing to continue to invest in learning. As to the others, are they ready to accept the inherent defects in these mass-produced graduates, are they willing and able to repair them, and are they willing to help them help themselves.

While still on English, I read from Shanghai Daily that there is a huge demand for application forms for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) in Shanghai such that a 10 yuan form can fetch 400 yuan on the black market. This is due partly to the limited capacity of the three authorized TOEFL centers in Shanghai, but due mainly to the demand of the Chinese youths to study abroad. The Hong Kong youth should reflect on this and count his blessing.

We strolled through a bookstall after the meal. I picked up a comic book and Rosita some stationery. I recall I used to do this with three other friends almost every Sunday, until we all found Jane Austen’s truth, separately. To save you the time and anguish, here is what Austen wrote, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

My father had called while we were having brunch. We had arranged to have dinner with him and he wanted to know when we would pick him up. Rosita said that was probably a signal that we should turn up early. And so we did. I asked my father carelessly whether he was minded to have a drink. His face lit up and we began to attack his slightly used bottle of Contreau, until it was time for dinner, when we shared another bottle, this time a Californian Red, with my brother. We toasted to the health of each other and to Father’s Day.

My friends in Beijing tell me that the Mainland celebrates Father’s Day in as much a capitalistic manner as we do here. The shops are the biggest winners and the fathers, the biggest spenders. According to Dr. Brasch’s Library of Origins, Father’s Day had actually born out of Mother’s Day and in church. It was in May 1909 in Spokane during a Mother’s Day service. A Mrs. John Dodd wondered why no day in the year was set aside to pay tribute to fathers. She talked to the minister afterwards who agreed with her. One thing led to another, and Spokane became the first city in the world to hold Father’s Day, in 1910. As to the date, Mrs. Dodd had in mind 5 June, which was her father’s birthday, but that was too close to Mother’s Day. So Father’s Day was postponed by two weeks to 19 June, or the third Sunday in June. Mrs. Dodd had another suggestion. As mothers were honoured by carnations, people should show respect for their fathers by wearing roses.

Spokane continued to champion Father’s Day and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson actually pressed a button in the White House to unfurl a flag in Spokane to inaugurate that year’s celebration of Father’s Day. But it was not until 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed a Congressional Resolution putting Father’s Day on equal footing with Mother’s Day and giving it legal and national recognition. There are other claims on how Father’s Day became popularized, and it is interesting that Australia celebrates the day in September.

I have actually been waiting for some signals from my children who are both away. When they were young and studying here, they would make special items for this day and Mother’s Day of course. I have kept all these items, though I cannot tell with certainty where they are now. The children are probably busy with whatever they are doing this year such that I have yet to hear from either of them. I did however get a call from a young person who had just done the Great Wall the first time; and such is how life would present itself at times, and for which I am always grateful. Rosita and I would celebrate Father’s Day tonight with some good friends; and we would count our blessings together.

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