While Su Was Cooking

Into the fourth week of my self-declared and unforced alcohol-free world, the world is not exactly any different from before and the mind doesn’t feel as sober as I hope it would. There were people asking all sorts of questions and making snipe remarks, mostly well intentioned, I hope, ranging from “Are you ill?” “How long is this going to last?” to “So this is not to your liking?”

Su helped enforce my abstinence somewhat; and it did help, sometimes. I was able to take the car for dinners these days and I have found that the car can be a very effective excuse to refuse alcohol, though not always economical or environmental friendly. Very often, no questions were asked. Talking of cars, I drove to a lunch recently because I was running late. I was stopped by a Police road block for speeding, when I discovered I did not have my driving license with me. Instantly, I was given a breathalyzer, which was not a problem; and I got away lightly with a first level fixed penalty, namely $320 with no demerit points. The cops were reasonably polite and efficient on that occasion.

Back to sobriety, many years ago, we had a drinking friend whose normal drink was Pernod diluted with plenty of soda, but he got rather high after the first drink. While the rest of us were drinking away whisky, brandy or draught beer, he would continue with his Pernod soda for many more rounds with the same drinking demeanor as if he had only one drink. Then there was Charles, who was, and I suppose still is, quite a drinker. One day, he decided, for reasons he would not share with us, to switch the Lucozade on soda; and lo and behold, after a few rounds, he appeared rather high, as if he had had a few rounds of whisky soda. Therein could lay a few erstwhile thesis proposals, not least, “A person’s sobriety at any given time is not a function of or directly proportional to the amount of alcohol in the liquid he imbibes at the time, but rather to the total amount of liquid intake and to the summation of the alcohol intake of the people with whom he imbibes the liquid at the time.” I am more than happy to find supervisors for this high level academic work.

I had actually not been well for a week. It could be the weather or the lack of alcohol in the constitution, but I had been coughing with upper respiratory tract infection, except that I did not have a temperature. Thank God. I recall the time I was in QMH when the nursing staff repeatedly asked me for samples of phlegm, but which the body could not produce. They would have aplenty if they asked me now. The body is indeed funny, or more correctly, mysterious.

I was sitting next to an 86-yeard old gentleman at lunch yesterday, a Mr. Chan who was from Dongguan but who had resided in Guangzhou for most of his adult life. He came to the funeral of Su’s Aunt, sister of her mother. Mr. Chan was the classmate of David, husband of the deceased aunt, but David could not be at the funeral because he is under institutional care. He was at the vigil the day before; and it was a lot of work for a lot of people to move David to the funeral home and back. Mr. Chan and a number of David’s classmates were at the funeral and at the lunch afterwards, which was why I was sitting next to him. All these classmates were well read and had seen the world and well into their eighties. Mr. Chan, for example, followed his parents to Indonesia very young, but later went back to Guangzhou where he met David and was indeed his roommate in high school. David went back to Indonesia after his studies while Mr. Chan remained in Guangzhou. He said he had lost 99% of his Indonesian language, but he was very healthy, conversational and sociable. He ate more than I did and had beer. He ate, for example, bothe the head and tail of the fish and claimed the chicken”s bishop”s nose, but was adamant that the part was not genuine. He bragged to me about his gastronomical feats. I conceded gracefully, adding that I was not well.

Su holds a theory that people who eats more and in varieties live longer. She also believes that people who are close with their children and grandchildren would have the motivation to live longer. To her first premises, I reminded her that I ate anything she gave me, but pointed out that of late, she had not given me too many varieties of food or in quantities. As to her second point, I told her that was why I married her, adding that we have plenty of grandchildren from other friends.

Yes, our younger friends are having babies; and Su’s brother’s is just over two years’ old. At the same time, people we know are dying. Besides the aunt, I had two ex-colleagues having their funerals on the same day, and I attended the funeral of Stanley’s wife a fortnight ago. A friend who made his career in insurance used to paraphrase a quote in his profession, “Live long, and go to many funerals.”

These days, I also find myself involved in organizing reunions of different sorts and at the same time, responding to reunion emails. I would mention one in particular in which I am one of the two co-organizers for a reunion trip to Ireland and Scotland. Now, I was volunteered into the operation and I am not a travel agent. I made two points as soon as it appeared that we could not reach a quick consensus. First, a reunion trip should focus on the reunion rather than on the itinerary; and secondly, cost should not be a prime concern. As can be expected, not everyone agrees with my parameters, but few would speak up, at least not as candid as I would. Most have said they would go along with the flow, but I can see that they value the itinerary as much as the reunion itself. I see nothing wrong with that, except that I have a life; and now I have a wife too; and I cannot build my life round these friends all of whom must have changed so much since the days we first met, more than 40 years ago. I am confident things would work out, because my co-organizer Gus is a much better and more accommodating person; I believe I told you that he was my Best Man in my first marriage; and will be able to more than compensate my shortcomings.

Even if you don’t feel that, I think I am rambling. I am not on alcohol or drugs. The cough is still there; and I have just woken up from my afternoon sleep. When I began, it was sunny and warm. Now the mist is settling in and it has become cooler. I envy those columnists who have their daily or weekly thoughts published in respectable fashion. I have always wanted to do something similar, except that no one would be brave enough to hire me, even on a token basis. So I would sojourn on. Su is almost done with the food: fish, vegetables and so on; and I can smell it. I had to stop, and I hope to talk to you soon.

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