Traditional Chinese Medicine

Paul Wan who gave me unconditional approval to use the original photo he had taken of me for the cover of my first memoir humored me on my threat to write a sequel, suggesting that his experience of sequels – based on movie series – had been such that sequels normally couldn’t match the original. Well, I am keeping an open mind on his view. In any case, I have not written my blogs or started my letters series for applauses; and I knew well from the beginning that publishing is not a profit-making concern for people in my position. Famous authors had advised openly that many writers were motivated to continue writing because they were poor. I hope I would never find myself in such a position.

I know what it’s like to be poor; which is why I had planned from the start to take up a career which offers a good and fair pension, and index linked, for life. I have now retired for more than 20 years during which nobody had offered me any job which paid and I don’t suppose anyone would from now, which is why Su and I had decided to keep me alive and healthy for as long as possible.

The last few weeks had been stressful and somewhat challenging as far as health was concerned – I am still suffering from post-shingles pains, and I have been advised to take more rests. I have rather reluctantly cut down on the gym sessions and have just taken up Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which traditionally would take more time compared with Western regimes. Well, time is all I have now, and in the waking hours, thoughts of the sequel have crept up continuously.

A few options had come up. I can for example pick up where I left off, which would be November 2020 when I wrote my Postscript; I can write from random dates or on random subjects that I would like to cover in greater details, while I can still remember the details; I can write on my favourite subjects such as volunteerism, recalling more details on my Road to Rotary, or on the world of impermanence, a subject so broad that I have never ceased to fathom but could never fully apprehend; or I can write on my friends.

The business of writing on friends would be very challenging, but most interesting. I had struggled with this since I began writing regularly more than 20 years ago, trying hard not to mention their real names to the extent that I had often forgotten who they were. Which is why I am such a great fan of Mark Twain who had embargoed his full autobiography being published until a century after his death; and which his lawyers or designated publishers had managed to so do. But I am not Twain, so that’s not a starter. I am still thinking what to do with my friends who are still alive. In the final analysis, writing on “friends” in this context is but a means of bringing out the changes I have experienced or experiencing all these years in the context of Hong Kong. It means that I would like to write about the changes in Hong Kong I think have taken place or are still taking place. This would be a rather momentous job, requiring some serious research where necessary, but for which I have no intention to start. In any case, I would not and could not be writing from a static point. Still, it’s an area worth further exploration.

Back to TCM, the most difficult process – boiling the medicine – has since been modernized and mechanized, which in turn has made consultations more expensive. All I need to do now is to put one bag of powdered ingredients into half a litre of hot water, bring it to boiling for two minutes and make sure that all ingredients are dissolved. I would then divide the medicine into three portions, take one and leave the other two in vacuum flasks for later use. The directions are: take two portions after dinner separated by two hours and the third the next day after breakfast. I actually bought two small flasks and one bigger for the other medicinal drinks throughout the day, which is laborious, but manageable. The most difficult part, as far as I am concerned, is to observe and follow the list of food I can’t touch, which is so long and detailed that I wouldn’t begin to describe here. How long is a piece of string? In short, I have now been banned from most if not all of the food I have been having, to which I am accustomed and which I enjoy, in particular alcoholic drinks. Very briefly, no red meat, no seafood, no fried food, deep or seared, no cold food, no alcohol etc. etc. Eat light, fish, steamed preferably, and white chicken meat. By now, I have not taken any wine or whisky for a week. My friend Wendy suggested though that I would be cured as soon as I began my whisky protocol. Su has started to explore fish cuisines and tonight, I accompanied her for a glass of red.

I have tried TCM before, indeed a couple of times. My first experience was from a Mr. Lai who was a colleague and who often gave me free advice. I still remember that he encouraged me to have brandy and whisky. That was in the Seventies. Shortly after my retirement, I consulted a Mr. Lee, recommended by my very good friend, the late Alex Kwan, who committed me to a regime which involved daily consultation, taking up a good part of the afternoon and was therefore rather time consuming if not disruptive to life. I stopped after a month or two. Rosita wasn’t feeling well at the time.

I would sign off here. I hope to talk to you on something light next time.

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