Stirrup Dram

My Dear Rotarians and Friends, in particular my Action Presidents,

After I despatched my last letter, I received a message under the subject of “Friends” from a friend who often sent me messages, pictures and jokes he picked up from God knows where. The message was about a father-and-son dialogue over anger and 37 nails in the garden fence, ending with an invite for the receiver to forward the same to friends or people he considered as such, even if it meant sending it back to the sender. I was wary of the chain letter effect and the traffic jam that it could cause. Then I read that it was National Friendship Week. I have never heard of that, but there are so many other things that I have never heard of. So I went for the forward button, selected the mailing lists for my letters and off it went. The results were phenomenal. Within minutes, I got the message back, not once, but several times. The messages kept coming back in the next few days in various shapes and forms, with some prefaced by personalized messages or comments such as “mega ditto,” “deep appreciation” or “thank you”, all very interesting indeed. It could mean that I have a circle of friends, as the message said towards the end.

But tell me more about National Friendship Week, if it does exist, and tell me how you celebrated last week and with whom, but only if you want to share that with me. Regardless of whether there is such a thing, I thank all those who wrote back. I can say last week was a red-letter week for me because I also received quite a few responses to my letter, all very positive and encouraging. Thank you very much.

Last week also saw the beginning of the Ball Season for our District. Traditionally, Shatin normally starts the season, but this year they were beaten by the five clubs under the Hong Kong Island West lineage, by a week. The five clubs staged a Hawaiian Night, complete with trees imported at 2:00a.m. in the morning from I forgot to ask where. Johnny Fan and his lovely sister emceed the evening. Well, I have not appointed Johnny to be Annual Giving Sub-Committee Chairman for no reason. He knows how to make you loosen your purse string, and he did it very well that evening. Then it was Shatin’s 20th anniversary bash last night. They had their sister clubs from Taiwan and the Philippines, and six past governors from the District as well as Governor-elect Johnson. As we assembled ourselves waiting to be ushered in, someone recalled that Dipo Sani and Anthony Hung won the first and second prizes last year, a thinly veiled suggestion that I should buy more raffles. I did. Alas, not only did I not win any prize, but none of those in the head table did either. So, history does not always repeat itself. Nevertheless, let me congratulate the six clubs involved for having organized two very successful anniversary celebrations.

I am glad that the Action Presidents had a great time on both occasions. It is clear that they enjoyed the food and wine, music and dancing, and most important the excellent fun and fellowship. At least two lady presidents went away with prizes last night; and no prizes for guessing right who they are. The next one will be Tolo Harbour’s scheduled for next Saturday, and New Territory’s the following.

On both occasions, the hosts had expected Rosita to turn up with me and were visibly upset when she did not. Believe me, no one could have been more upset than I. It got to a point last night when the wife of the Makati South President kept asking what Rosita was suffering from that I simply said to her blandly that she had a relapse of breast cancer. It kept her quiet for a few seconds, and I had to apologize to the presidential couple afterwards for thrusting them the shock unprepared. They had obviously meant well, and I could have put the message across slightly better.

It is now perhaps an opportune time to update my friends on Rosita’s progress. She has just completed the full course of chemotherapy. It comprised six sessions, each separated by three weeks during which there were weekly blood tests and consultation with the doctor in-charge. The prognosis is that she would get progressively weaker with more dosages of the chemicals administered, before she would get better, if she responds to the treatment. Later in the month, she would undergo tests that would reveal the efficacy and effectiveness of the chemotherapy, before the doctors would recommend the next courses of action, if at all. It is thus that it would be prudent for her to stay indoor and take plenty of rest until the way forward is clearer. If all goes well, we can expect to see her at Rotary functions in November, the earliest, in time perhaps for the 2000 Hong Kong Rotary Institute. In the meantime, we are keeping our fingers crossed, praying hard and trying hard to keep faith. It is useful to know that there are many friends out there, including many of you, who are doing the same and we thank you from the bottom of our heart.

Talking of prayers, I ran into a very dear old friend a few weeks ago walking through a shopping arcade, on my way back to office after lunch. She had come back for a few weeks and was going off to China the next day before returning to Australia. We were very close friends some 30 years ago: we went to the same university, read the same bible, prayed in the same chapel, read in the same library and ate in the same canteen. Somehow, we had not written to each other or seen each other in the past few years. I blame it on inertia and laziness. That day, we chatted literally on the steps of the mall, and soon we began to discuss Rosita’s conditions. She was very supportive and offered a lot of advice, as many of you did when I first broke the news to you three months ago. As we parted, she said she would include our names in her daily prayers. Then she said something that I found really funny, but actually no so. She said with a sigh that the list is becoming longer by the day, adding that perhaps that was natural as one got older by the day. Very sobering words indeed, which could only come from friends.

Talking of sobriety, the Scots had a unique way of sobering up their friends and dinner guests. They would give a departing guest a parting glass of spirits or ale after he had mounted. The drink was called stirrup-dram. I hope you have plenty of glasses of stirrup-dram along your life to keep you sober.

Talk to you soon.

John Wan

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