Reunions and Anniversaries

I had lunch last Wednesday with a group of friends in the Rotary community, all of whom I had known for some 25 year. It was meant to be a mini reunion of the close friends I met when I was Governor of the RI District 3450 (or DG) in the year 2000 when there were only 49 clubs, as opposed to the present-day number of over 110. Nigel Lo – who would be our DG from 1 July 2024 – shared with us the evening before, or 20 February, that Rotary actually had admitted some 150,000 new members in 2023, except that we lost a similar number of members during the period, so that there was no net gain in membership overall worldwide. Back to the 49 members who were presidents when I was DG, three had become DG’s, some had left Rotary, some had passed away and some had become untraceable. Such is indeed the nature of the world in which we find ourselves. I began to organize this particular lunch more than a fortnight ago after talking to Tony – who had since become a DG – and he was agreeable with the date. Unfortunately, he fell sick the night before and had to be taken to see the doctor by his son. In the end, we had eight for the rather enjoyable lunch which went on for more than two hours, with a provisional date agreed for the next meeting – which would be a dinner – on 18 April or some two months away.

As with every reunion, a wide range of subjects were covered, not least on who were doing what, with whom and where, while some were trying to recall names of those who were absent. I had a question on whether I was writing a sequel of my memoir and when it would likely be published. I replied that I had always meant to write one, but had no specific dates yet on when to have it finished or published, at which point I veered off to seek views on whether it was appropriate to mention real names of people in a memoir. As expected, views were divided around the table. There were strong views either way, while others were indifferent. Once again, I recall Mark Twain’s decision to embargo the publication of his full memoirs for 100 years after his death, so that, and inevitably, people he mentioned therein won’t be around. He actually had it enforced and his full autobiographies became instant best sellers.

Su’s absence was another talking point; for people recalled that she had organized the last one in late November 2023 at a rather famous eatery near Prince Edward MTR station. Time flied indeed. There appeared to be a consensus that Su was a very good cook and had successfully kept me younger and more energetic over time. I had no problem with that; and long may that last.

The dinner I mentioned earlier turned out to be a reunion of past governors in the District. It was preceded by a meeting during which Nigel Lo presented the RI theme and an outline of his vision for next year. The theme was the Magic of Rotary and Nigel’s, “Be Humble, Stay Helpful.” Over 20 past governors turned up, with the most senior attending being the DG for the year 1990-91 and a few more attended by Zoom, which was not bad at all. I have pointed out in my memoir and elsewhere that Rotary changes all their leaders every year from 1st July and successive world leaders – RI Presidents – have always placed membership growth as a top priority, so has the next one. Nigel had highlighted the need and urgency to work on membership retention and he said he would bring back “membership attendance” which had somehow fallen from prominence in recent years.

I move from reunions to anniversaries, which are not exactly dis-similar. Traditionally, ABC asks members to book early for the Valentine Day dinner, which I did for a few years by now, and this year, was unaware that it was Ash Wednesday. The Chinese Valentine Day this year was yesterday and I had booked a hot pot dinner at the Middle Island. The food was not much to write home about, but the atmosphere was superb: quiet, exclusive and almost private.

Still on anniversaries, today marked the second anniversary of the conflict over Ukraine. Too many people hold too much different views on the matter. When it began, Putin had suggested that it would be short and swift and had given the impression that it could be over in a week. When I raised the subject at Zetland Hall nonchalantly two months later, I was chastised that we should abstain from any political discussion. Today, even seasoned TIME correspondents acknowledged  that Ukraine can’t win the war, with a latest report that the long-awaited counteroffensive had failed and that Russia had recaptured Avidivka, its biggest war gain in nine months, implying that Russia would unlikely give up any territories gained thereby making any negotiations initiated by Zelensky futile who indeed had quietly acknowledged that the Biden Administration won’t intervene positively until after the US presidential elections. Meanwhile fighting of the worst shape and kind continued over Gaza, except for a slight glimpse of hope just hatched suggesting a hope of a six-week cease fire soon.

I hope to talk to you again soon.

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