Monday, 10 June 2013
I wonder how many of you have heard of the Michael Hill Violin Competition? It is a bi-annual one that brings very talented young violinists from all over the world to New Zealand and draws judges of the greatest talent and integrity. And more importantly, it has put New Zealand on the map as a country known not just for its rugby but for finer aspects of culture so crucial for the survival of the human race.
The competition was started by one of our country's great philanthropists who had wanted to be a concert violinist in his younger days, but luckily for many, had to take on the profession of jeweller on which he made his fortune. I have met him, shaken his hand and congratulated and thanked him for this special gift and he proves to be most kind, generous in all ways and happy that the competition has raised the bar, especially amongst young New Zealanders.
So you can go to www. Michael Hill Violin Competition 2013 then archives and see the entire lot, from the heats in Queenstown to the semi-finals and finals in Auckland. Enjoy the music and marvel at the amazing talent. They say that playing a concerto uses 98% of one's brain. No wonder I can't do that. I am only a lowly second.
Now I am giving you the first few chapters in another short story. It's called THE WEDGE and perhaps it comes from my feelings of regret over my own father. Though set in China, the story is universal. I hope you enjoy it.
My father died three years ago. He was sixty two. He had cancer, but I suspect the real cause of death was a broken heart. He lost the will to live the day my mother went to Italy, intending to leave us, possibly forever, if things had worked out for her. That was many years ago.
I barely remember that time. He told me she would be coming back after a few months and his love and care for me increased even more. I remember the love he showed me: a gentle, sad love he expressed with tears in his eyes and in the way he stroked my hair tenderly away from my face. I remember how he sat beside me watching me feed myself, a task he would sometimes take over when it proved too much for me. He would chuckle at my attempts to use chopsticks; watching fondly as I tried vainly to spear a piece of meat or tofu with them, or when I tried to use them, one in each hand, to slice an item that was too large to swallow whole. But underlying his chuckles was a deep well of sadness that I could detect. They were, you see, on his lips only; his eyes were dead in the wash of sorrow. Try as I might, I could not unite his eyes with his lips in a cohesive expression of joy.
He must have spent all his free time with me and I remember I was content and felt safe and warm with him. He did not smile much that I remember. I tried clowning to make him laugh but all I ever got was a wan, listless smile. I tried so hard. He never really laughed again after Mother left but he was always there for me and I loved him so much in my dependent, childish way.
When Mother returned, he withdrew into himself. He turned his study into a bedroom and slept there till the day he died. He refused her entry into his den, and even the home help was forbidden to clean it. I was the only one privileged enough to be allowed in and what I saw and smelled distressed me, even at that age. After forbidding Su Ah Yee entry to clean it, he did not do any himself. Over the years the dust gathered and lay thick over everything that had not been touched awhile. His dirty clothes were piled up in a corner mouldering till he got it into himself to put them into the wash tub for Su Ah Yee to attend to. When he ran out of glasses he would wash them himself or asked me to wash them for him. I was the only witness to his downward spiral into his personal oblivion. At first I would report what I saw to Mother who would shake her head, sadly silently. Eventually I gave up the reportage.
Growing up I was aware of the tension in our house. In front of me their conversation was short and terse; of this and that happening around the campus, the city, the province, the country; a distant polite exchange of news between strangers whose one-time intimacy was now only a memory of pain. I never knew how they behaved behind my back, but in front of me, they were politely cool to each other. I seem to recall Mother making early overtures at normal conversation with Father, only to be rebuffed by a grunt, a rustling of newspapers, and a puffing of his pipe. Eventually she gave up and buried herself into her own work. I was the pivotal point of their relationship; the one each spent time with, although even this tenderness towards me felt strained. Each was building an invisible wall to hide behind, a wall that increased in height and depth as the years passed and I was kept out by both.
My parents explained very little of anything to me. My daily needs were met but I felt bereft. It was as if each had decided to leave the ministering of my emotional needs to the apartments in neat lanes lined by mature sycamore trees, yet inwardly I lived in a world of torn loyalties and conflict. I was never sure to whom I could reach out, so I soon learnt to keep my hands to myself, physically and emotionally.other but forgot to inform the other of this. The result was that nobody administered to me. So there I was; outwardly a privileged girl from a university family living in the quiet staff
As I grew older, I became aware that Mother had suffered some form of trauma in Italy but she never explained what it was and each time I asked, she grew visibly upset. I soon learned not to broach the subject. Father was disinterested in that part of her life or he made a great effort of seeming to be. When she received her Doctorate in Music he offered an indifferent congratulatory nod before retiring to his study and his Moutai Jiu.
I will write soon. Nowadays, I am doing the finishing touches of my second historical novel called A CHINESE ODYSSEY: THE MING ADMIRAL. It will be edited next month. Also I am recording my first MEMORIES IN THE BONE as an audio book for the blind and elderly and trying to find time to write the sequel to MEMORIES IN THE BONE. So if I am a bit tardy with this blog. I beg forgiveness, but don't give up on me. And please, direct your friends to it when they want something to read on a rainy day.
By the way you can request MEMORIES IN THE BONE at your local libraries for a free read or if you want to spend a wee bit of money, it is on Amazon for $3.99 US Enjoy! Take care of yourself.