General

Back to Baguio

Francis must have been sufficiently troubled if not upset that I had apparently not written anything for two months publicly, either in this series or through Kingspark News, to have sent me two emails some ten days ago, demanding a coffee session. We did sit down for coffee at the Café in Chater House, but ended up with a wine session rather than a whine session. We both agreed that the venue would be highly desirable and indeed appropriate for a Club Happy Hour, but neither of us discussed who was to take the initiative to organize one.

This is my real brother Francis, as opposed to the brethren I met in another place or the one in my last work place who always called me brother and had gone to great length to explain why he had called me such. Francis is a quiet and sensitive person. He was the whipping boy in the family when we were much younger and he would not stand up to make his points or fight for his causes. Then he went to Brighton to study and we began to find out more about each other through letters. I learnt for example that he was not averse to wine and alcoholic beverages or other delinquent activities. He would send me letters written in very small barely legible scripts and often on soiled paper. Life must have been tough for him, I thought then. I remember I took a side trip to look for him when I went to London on business. We had lunch on the beach and he showed me Brighton. I concluded then that he was having a good time. All these seem rather distant now, and I wonder why we seldom discussed his Brighton days afterwards.

Meanwhile, my young friend Harry continues to send me emails with his views on various subjects, and I detect unasked questions of why I have not been writing. On the eve of the global launch of Rowling’s fifth, I have decided to write.

Retirement is indeed a full time job. I find myself spending more time on things that I have not been paying too much attention to; and I have yet to develop a routine, which may be a reason why I seem to have been unable to find time to do things that were routine when I was working, such as writing letters. I would switch on the computer, check the inbox, delete most of the unsolicited messages and maybe forward an occasional one to my mailing lists, a feat calculated to upset the more irritable. I would say to myself that I have plenty of time on my hand to do the routine, such as writing letters, and that I would do that some other time.

Perhaps the main reason for not writing is that I have been spending a lot of time moving house, and I am still in the midst of it. Now, we began to move out of Seymour Road last month, and we had always planned to do it in phases. A few young and energetic friends volunteered to help and they did. Once again, because we have deliberately not set deadlines to complete the project, the process continues.

We moved to Baguio Villa. We had lived here for nearly a decade in the Eighties. Indeed, we moved to our first flat in Baguio when our daughter was less than three months’ old. It was from here Stephanie went to her first classes. Rosita asked me soon after we moved in this time whether I recalled the image of Stephanie bouncing up and down in the middle of the access road while waiting for her school bus. Of course I remember, and many other scenes too. We wonder whether she does.

Lawrence was born here. We had prepared Stephanie for her brother’s arrival and she was looking forward to meeting him. It was a long wait. By the time we came back with Lawrence, Stephanie was fast asleep in her pretty dress. Lawrence would probably remember a lot less because he was very small. Shortly after he was born, we moved to our second flat in Baguio with a roof garden. I was a rather hard working gardener then. One day, Rosita took Lawrence up the garden. He stood behind his mother, a very well behaved kid indeed, and suddenly screamed on top of his voice. Rosita must be rather shocked and puzzled, for it took her a second to realize that he was bitten by the cockatoo that we had inherited from Rosita’s parents after they emigrated to California. I was in the office at the time. What happened next was that Rosita rushed Lawrence down to the clinic in Baguio screaming and crying all the way. The nurse tried to pacify him with every means, including tucking into his tiny hands a Swiss candy. After the operation and when all was quiet, the candy was still in the hand, squeezed into a lump.

Baguio has not changed that much from where I now look out from the window, even with the Cyberport development. It is cool and breezy most of the time and the sun never gets too hot. It is a bit off town center though, eight km to central, as opposed to walking distance or barely two km from Seymour Road. I find my ageing Lexus clocking up a lot more mileages than ever.

But the main work now is to shift through the stuff – books and documents and clothes – that we have moved into the new flat and decide what to keep. We have ordered a wall unit and sofas for the living room, but until they arrive next week, we can do preciously little. In the meantime, I am struggling with my golf lessons and together with Rosita learning to put up with the new domestic helper.

The latest rounds of chemotherapy apparently are sapping Rosita’s strength and health. We would review the position after the next scan scheduled for early July, and depending on the results might have to decide what to do afterwards.

We wish you well and I would talk to you later.

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