How We Started the Year of the Ox

For as long as my memory serves me, it was probably the one year we did not have a family year end dinner in any shape or form. Actually one had been planned for Laguna City at Su’s parents’ place, but was canceled a week before, in deference to appeals from health authorities to avoid too many people partying in one place. Su and I ended up having a quiet dinner for two at home, splitting a bottle of New Zealand 2013 Tom Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot to go with her homemade rump steak. Not bad. I then retired early, to prepare for an early session with my priest at Ricci Hall the next day.

The sky had yet to light up when I set out on the first day of the new lunar year, shortly before 7am. There was hardly any traffic; and I heard on the radio that PRC had decided to ban BBC World News from airing in all Chinese territories from the day, which attracted immediate and expected knee-jerk response from all media worldwide. Interesting development indeed. I arrived Ricci Hall early and after the private session, went to say hello and offer Lunar New Year greetings to the resident priests at Ricci Hall. This has been our annual ritual for many years and was a reason why we always tried to stay in Hong Kong to start a Lunar New Year, attending the 7:30am Mass followed by a sumptuous albeit not-so-healthy breakfast, meeting the usual suspects and their children, including our godchildren. Not this year though. There were fewer people and children and not as much food, so that I left early and was back in Mei Foo shortly after 9am, to find Su just leaving the bed. Well, she had no motivation to get up early to start with. Her parents had asked us not to visit them; and Margaret had told us earlier that there won’t be the usual gathering for the Wan Clan at her place on the day. We ended up having a long breakfast during which we called Su’s parents and Margaret to send our New Year greetings. We then called up Ko Ying, our dear old friend; and an hour later were in his place with some goodies Su had saved up for Pat. We had a very pleasant session during which we washed down plenty of everything with single malt. Uncle Ying had started narrating the outline of his memoir that he had asked me to participate to compile. We got back to Mei Foo well before 8pm, almost ready to retire.

Meanwhile, we went through the hundreds of graphic messages on the social media, mostly repetitive and recycled materials, but I am sure the senders had meant well. It took a bit of time though. Refreshingly, I received feedback in some messages and emails – including some first-line responses – on the book some friends had taken home earlier and were beginning to read, most of them having listened to the stay-home appeals. They are mostly supportive and I feel good. One or two friends actually encouraged me to continue to write; as if I need encouragement.

In between meals and sleeps, I have begun reading Obama’s A Promised Land, this 1085 pages in large print first volume of his autobiography. It is good stuff; and somewhat compulsive reading. Critics have already pointed out that this is the third genre in his biographic series, beginning with Dreams From My Father in 1995, The Audacity of Hope in 2006, and this latest one published on 17 November 2020, following the very popular book by his wife Michelle, Becoming, published on 13 November 2018, billed as an intimate, powerful and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States, and which became an instant New York Times Bestseller. Obama’s three books are indeed all different, because they were written at different times, to difference audience and for different purposes. But they are all good and well written. I was touched when he said in an early chapter of this latest one, in response to a question from Michelle on how he would meet the expected increased household expenses if he got elected to the Senate, “I would write another book and sell more copies,” or something to that effect. He did; and The Audacity of Hope indeed sold well and paved his way eventually to the presidency. Even I bought one after reading an early chapter of his autobiography.

Still on A Promised Land, the book is organized in Seven Parts with 27 Chapters, and covers the stories of his early life, relations with key family members, his education and ambitions up to 4 November 2008 when he was elected the 44th president of the United States. The book ended with the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden in May 2011 in Pakistan under his command, his first and only military operation he commanded while in the office of POTUS. Part Two bears the title “Yes We Can” and runs to nearly 200 pages. It is about his journey from the Senate to the White House, which details how he and his team had worked so hard and untiringly for extended periods, day after day, following punishing routines, flying from city to city. Many of the details are so fascinating and heartrending in places. My mind flashed back to my last job in Government when I started up Invest Hong Kong with Mike Rowse; and we had adopted “Yes We Can” as a catch phrase and had printed it on our promotional materials. I don’t know whether Mike Rowse was consulted when Obama and his team picked up that slogan around 2007 and 2008. I might ask Mike later.

So that was how we spent the first few days of the Lunar New Year, watching the US Senate acquitting Trump on the impeachment charges and listening to McConnell’s condemnation afterwards that Trump was culpable in inciting the storming of Capitol on 6 January 2021. We certainly haven’t seen the last of Trump who seems intent to cause maximum confusion and lawlessness in his country. We would see. As for Su and I, we didn’t have any family gatherings so far, so that we are still keeping most of the red packets undistributed, and we tried every day to get some sun and exercises in the Park which became rather crowded though. Today, for example, there must be at least 5,000 people in the Park around 4:30pm, taking photos, eating, chatting and holiday making. I hope they are all safe.

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