Monday, 25 March 2013
Blessings Everyone. I hope this finds you all as happy as I am. This weekend is Easter, the birth of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of autumn down here in Godzone-Aotearoa- New Zealand. Now why am I happy, you may ask. Well, I am because I have just decided to give myself a project for Easter. A play. Yes, I am going to write a play over Easter. Not that I'm a playwrite, but I have that great story in MEMORIES IN THE BONE and think I shall take the section set in the Maori village in North Otago,(the part where my protagonist Zhou Yu finds solace but where eventually the tentacles of revenge catches up with him). It will be a powerful one hour play and if I win the competition it is meant for, will get as prize, a director, actors and dramaturg to work with me on my script. And that will be a double whammy. MEMORIES IN THE BONE --the novel and MEMORIES IN THE BONE - the play.
So that's my ramble. Now for the final of A HANDKERCHIEF IN THE RICE PADDYS.
Grandma and Mama, when she visited, were perplexed at the sudden change in our relationship, but they left us to sort it out. We lived in our sea of guilt and recriminations. I could no longer look him in the eye. Our Saturday excursions were no more, our homework sessions ceased and afternoons dragged. When we were alone, he would plead, “Please, Lingling, forgive me. If you don’t, I’ll kill myself.” I refused. He didn’t, but I often heard him weeping in his bedroom at night.
I missed our innocence, missed our Saturdays but held on to my hatred and my shame. The pain between my legs healed before too long. My grades dropped, but miraculously, his didn’t.
At the end of the year, his father visited. “Swee has passed his seventh form exams with excellent marks, Lingling. I’m sending him to medical school in Sydney.” He looked at me with something more than paternal pride. “He wants to marry you upon his graduation. That would make us one big family. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” My screams as I ran out of the house flummoxed the elders.
I discarded every one of his letters. After two years, they stopped coming but I got snippets of news from Grandma who kept banging on about what a great opportunity I was missing – to be a doctor’s wife. Then at eighteen I was accepted into Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand – not quite Roy Rogers’ country but close enough. Graduating with a degree in economics, I applied for and was offered a job in local government, and settled in New Zealand. Soon after, I married Damian, one of my tutors.
Over the years, news about Swee drifted to me. He had married a nurse whom he met during his internship at a Sydney hospital and they had migrated to Canada -– to a remote part of the country where only migrants were prepared to go –- near the Tundra, where there was a settlement of Inuits and Native Canadians.
With time, the incident in the rice paddies melded with other memories into the backrooms of my mind – cellared against the better things in my life. Then one day, a slim parcel from Canada arrived in the morning post. Inside was a letter from Swee’s wife informing me of his death eight months previously. He was kayaking to a settlement upriver for his weekly clinic when his kayak was overturned in a sudden squall. His body was found a day later. He had left the enclosed packet with other important particulars in a bank safety deposit box with instructions that it was to be sent to me, wherever I was, in the event of his death. Saddened, I opened the slim, long packet:
There it was – the lace handkerchief, cleaned and ironed, neatly folded over, enclosing a golden sheaf of rice.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed this short story. Next week I shall post the first part of another one.
Till then, Adios,
Monday, 18 March 2013
Hello for this week from Auckland New Zealand.
Yesterday I recieved the news that a library here has bought 3 copies of my first historical novel
MEMORIES IN THE BONE from the US distributor, Baker & Taylor's magazine/website.
You can't imagine my joy that at last I know the advertising I paid for works! I hope more libraries will buy it and I shall have a launch in one of the big ones here by April or May. It certainly encourages me to press on with the tweaking of my next one, also China based.
Also at last the worst drought in 70 years is broken. Had rain 2 days in a row and already everything is greener. How well nature heals itself. And for the farmers let's hope for more rain.
Now for the second installment of my story A HANDKERCHIEF IN THE RICE PADDYS a story of a child's trust betrayed. Enjoy it.
Life continued. Mama left for a better job in a bigger city, leaving Swee and me with Grandma. I jumped grades, thanks to his coaching and he did well at school too, because soon he had made up for lost time and was in the same grade as his peers. “Aren’t we two clever monkeys?” He beamed.
“Clever monkeys! Clever monkeys!” I danced around him.
On my twelfth birthday, Grandmother cooked a special dinner for me and gave me a ‘hong pao’ – money in a small red packet – which was traditional.
The next evening in our paddy field, Swee said, “For you, Lingling, you’re a big girl now. Happy birthday.”
It was a beautiful lace handkerchief, embroidered with pink and white flowers at one corner. “I tried to get you lace lingerie like the one Roy Rogers gave Dale Evans, but I couldn’t find one. Besides, you’re a bit young for that. Later, when you’ve grown a bit, eh?”
How delighted I was! I caressed the handkerchief against my cheek pleasurably as he stroked my arms. Somehow, my pubescent body stirred with a new emotion. In the film Dale Evans had kissed Roy Rogers for his gift. I wanted to do that too. As Swee’s stroking increased in urgency and he moved closer, “Kiss me,” I said.
It was the most exciting sensation I had ever felt. Our kisses were long and increasingly ardent. He moved on top of me. It was so natural for our bodies to gyrate together as our desires increased, that I did not realise he had removed my panties. How I thrilled to the touch of his hand.
Then a moment later, I screamed with pain.”Stop! Stop it! Stop it!”
But he wouldn’t stop till he had released himself and slumped on me. Sobbing, I pushed him off. The pain was intense and I felt warm, sticky fluid between my legs. I wiped myself with the handkerchief; hysterical at the sight of blood on it. Flinging it down, I ran, crying, from the paddy field.
“I’m sorry!” he cried out as I fled.
more next week. Meantime keep well.
Sunday, 10 March 2013
March 11th 2013
A HANDKERCHIEF IN THE RICE PADDIES
Well, gooday. I've been thinking --- and have come up with the conclusion that perhaps you might like a story. Because as you know, I write stories- historical based stories, Chinese based stories. Long ones, like Memories in the Bone, now out on IUniverse.com, Amazon or if you are in New Zealand you can email me and get a copy.
But I also write short stories and even though the shortest is a mere 1500 words, it's too long to put one in a weekly blog. I mean, you've got to actually curly up in your sofa to read it, wouldn't you?
So now, I think I shall split up a story into 300 word sections, week by week. This week I shall begin with A HANDKERCHIEF IN THE RICE PADDIES which I have set in Malaysia circa 1950s. So here is the first part.
A Handkerchief in the Rice Paddies
I was seven the day my lover and nemesis walked into my life. I stood on the veranda watching him alight from the flatbed of the rusty old truck, a skinny gangly boy straight from the country. He pulled a brown wicker basket down after him and then a black bicycle followed. Grandma went out to meet him, calling out to Mama that Swee had arrived.
By the time Mama emerged from the bathroom, Swee and Grandma had ascended the steps. He lugged the wicker basket as she chattered happily; the bike was left resting on its side against the railing, for the time being, unimportant to matters at hand.
He was quite handsome, I decided there and then -- comparing him to Roy Rogers, my heart throb. His hair was slicked back, lacquered on but with a little puff at the front just above the brow, and his short-sleeved grey shirt hung loose over his khaki shorts which stopped at his knees. He was deeply tanned, like someone who worked in the fields -- not a good colour I thought, as my childish estimation of masculine good looks -- Roy Rogers, was pale. But when he smiled at me, “Hello, Lingling,” his teeth gleamed white and part of the battle was won.
The previous day Mother had explained that the son of her foster brother was coming to live with us to go to a good town school.
“Does that mean for a very long time?” I had asked.
“Yes, a very long time, as long a time as you are old now.”
That was beyond my understanding.
It took no time at all it seemed, for him to become part of the household. He was two years older than the other boys in the mission school as his country education was rated below the level for his age. If it bothered him, he didn’t show it. At home he did nothing to upset Grandma’s equilibrium, nothing to bring out the hot temper that I well knew was brimming under the surface of her controlled demeanour.
After a few days, he asked, “Would you like me to help you with your homework, Lingling?”
“Please!” I whooped, and made room for him beside me at the dining room table.
One day he returned from the post office with a wad of money. “My father’s just sent me my allowance,” he said, “shall we go to the pictures tomorrow? You like Roy Rogers, his newest film has just started at the Hollywood cinema.”
He bicycled out, with me sitting on the front bar, to the first of our regular Saturday afternoon matinees to see Roy Rogers or whichever cowboy displaying their prowess with lassoos and horses. After, we stopped for noodles at hawker stands on the way home.
In my childish imagination, I was Dale Evans to his Roy Rogers, riding on two-wheeled Trigger. I was too young and unquestioning to wonder why a boy of thirteen would be interested in me, a seven year old girl. It did not occur to me to be flattered by his attention. I simply loved it all and Saturday afternoons were the highlight of my week.
Our house was close to some paddy fields, which were drained at harvest time and allowed to fallow before the next crop was planted. Swee and I spent ages there most days between homework and dinner. We would lie down on the field with golden stalks shielding us, munching something, giggling, tickling each other, talking -- I can’t remember what about precisely; though the smell of the sun-dried paddies in the warm evenings remain with me still. But I do remember feeling very happy, safe and content with him.
to be continued.
Sunday, 3 March 2013
Or Good day, hello in Maori.
Yesterday I played with the Auckland Symphony Orchestra at a charity concert for the Music Therapy Centre, which helps disabled children through music. It is an annual event that starts the year for the ASO. Whilst waiting, I noticed that 90% of the school's orchestras, be they symphony, chamber, choir or brass band, are made up of Chinese and Korean kids. Now this is New Zealand and most of these kids would be first generation immigrants. This makes me ask why are there no NZ kids doing music these days. I have been told by teachers that the only students propping up school orchestras are Asians. So what are white or Maori children doing? How do they fill their recreation hours?
I see many on skateboards, many girls hanging out in shopping malls and then I question what is going on in adult society that produces children of such shallow, materialistic expectations. And I think the answer is MONEY. Since the greedy 1980s everything has to have a bottom line. Education is a big money-making institution. The schools and universities are out there to cream it. The emphasis is no longeronb humanities, the classics or arts, but marketing, economics and law. The students have to pay so much, borrow so much that they have to keep their own eyes on their own bottom lines. To have the kind of paper qualification that will lend them a well-paid job so that they can repay their student loans. So tragic.
Also tragic is the country's preponderance of giving out multi-millions to Maoris. New Zealand's Treaty of Waitangi, signed by Victoria's representatives and most of Maori chiefs over a hundred and fifty years ago, propounded an equal development of the country by the two. But since the 1980's it's all been going one way. All money for education and training and awards have been given to Maoris. This has resulted in the backward slide of European New Zealanders and those from minority groups do not stand a whistle's blow of attention. There is never sufficient funding for general health, education, etc. but for the Maoris millions can be found. But where are the results? Most are still on welfare, prisons still have the greater proportion of Maori offenders. Child abuse is still sadly more noticeable in that community. The country is sliding backwards. Everyone pays, but only a minority benefits, for no other reason than their ethnicity, and believe me, that is not pure. It seems anyone with 1/32% of Maori blood in them can qualify for special treatment.
So now I see the only solution is for everyone to intermarry with Maoris and the whole nation can claim Maori blood, to set justice on its feet again.
Depressing, isn't it? If I were younger, I would emigrate. I know there is no perfect country, but as an expat, one doesn't need to be involved.
So sorry to be so pessimistic this week. Next blog will be much merrier, I promise.
Till then think positive. It is still a wonderful world.