Exactly a week ago, I had breakfast with my brother Francis. He had actually asked me the week before, but both of us were sort of busy and that was the earliest slot we could arrange for breakfast or lunch. No sooner had he sat down and ordered his usual eggs Benedict with Earl Gray tea than he handed me a rather weighty A4 brown envelop. I presently unsealed it and found inside a copy of the book “The Other Wen Su” he had been working on for nearly two years, with “Mr. John Wan’s Personal Copy” printed on the jacket. I was impressed, not only by the seriousness and literary input with which the work was presented, but also by the single-minded determination with which he had rushed its production, in time for the Book Fair scheduled in the following week. Well, the fact that the Book Fair had to be postponed due to the pandemic is neither here nor there, and that would be another story.
Francis has been working on this project for some two years, and he acknowledged my involvement by mentioning my first name once at the end of his book under “Acknowledgement”. The two brothers had been fascinated by the life and works of our Grand Uncle Wen Su after we found out who he was, but by which time the original scroll on which he wrote and autographed a personal couplet as a gift to his nephew, namely our Dad, had already been disposed of as trash. The scroll had adorned a wall of the family’s sitting room since the late Sixties, but little were we aware of its significance or its worth or who the author was, nor had any of the siblings seen it fit to ask our Dad how the scroll came by and who Wen Su was. It was about a year ago, in the midst of Francis’s book project I began to put together the outline of my autobiography which would begin with “My Ancestry” in which I would make reference to Wen Su and the Wan’s clan, but the months-long street violence, followed by the coronavirus pandemic had generated such negative sentiments in me, so much so that I have lost much of the motivation and enthusiasm to continue with my book project, which I had discussed with Francis, on and off, when he discussed his with me.
Undoubtedly, and for whatever reasons, last week’s breakfast did have an impact on me, a positive one I hope, and has given me a fresh impetus to continue my unfinished work; and I am about to work on it afresh. I am very conscious, however, that mine would not be a literary work and would probably have no market, unlike his which has albeit a niche market among the literary and calligraphy enthusiasts circles. HKU’s Fung Ping Shan Library, for example, has billed his book as the Book of the Month in the librarian’s newsletter.
Back on the ground, we found that the coronavirus has spiked and returned with vengeance, such that life has once again been put on hold and renewed and even more rigorous rules for social distancing being introduced. We had accepted an invitation to a black tie event in a hotel in Sha Tin to celebrate some anniversary last night, and had booked a night in the hotel to make ourselves more comfortable and our life less hectic. We found out on Monday that the event had to be postponed, but since our hotel booking was non-refundable, we went ahead to make the trip to the hotel and stay a night, for what it was worth; and we had only just returned to Mei Foo. It was quite an experience; and we took time to spend an unusual evening with another couple over food and wine, which is what life should always be about. Interestingly, we had thought that the hotel we stayed in would be very much deserted, with the new rules on food hours and social distancing, but no, there were quite a few people checking in yesterday when we arrived, and it seemed to be sort of business as usual.
In the past two or three days, a few friends have sent me, separately, a video on WhatsApp subtitled, “Sip your whiskey, nice and slow”, all in block letters and with an “e” in whiskey, implying that it’s of US or Irish origin. It goes something like this, “Sip your whiskey, nice and slow; no one knows when it’s time to go. There’ll be no time to enjoy the glow, so sip your whiskey, nice and slow. Life is too short, but feels pretty long….. Some friends stay, others go away. Loved one are cherished, but not all will stay. Kids will grow up and fly away. No one really knows how things will go. So sip your whiskey, nice and slow. Just sip your whiskey, nice and slow.” I have taken out a few lines in the middle, to make it shorter. I sort of like the video which was shot rather beautifully with voice over by a soft spoken man with a rustic ascent. I was tempted to forward to you with this upload, except that it could be subliminal advertising for Jack Daniel’s. Notwithstanding the ad aspects, the video speaks for itself and rings true in more than one way, which is exactly why we should always learn to listen to the voice from within and sip our whisky, nice and slow.