(Artwork by He Qi: see http://tinyurl.com/jog2q29)
Oh dear what a year. We’ve lost too many special people. Yes the list is too long but some that stand out for me include Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, George Martin, Muhammad Ali. Standing back from it all, in the sadness I give thanks for their lives and the richness that they added.
I won’t get into specifics of politics; just to say, Oh dear Oh dear Oh dear.
So at Christmas time, giving thanks to the creator come among us, I also continue to give thanks for those people and things that remain. My darling wife, my extended family and friends, our cats, our beautiful home.
Over the last few days I’ve been pondering the meaning of hope in the light of the season. Such a strange concept: a couple giving birth in a shed far from home and then having to escape and become refugees (what does hope mean)? An adult life lived under a repressive regime eventually leading to his death (what does hope mean)? Poor followers grow in numbers but so many prominent ones die at the hands of the world power (what does hope mean)? A few years later his nation is crushed and the state disappears for nearly 2,000 years (what does hope mean)? What does hope mean for those terminally ill or growing old, or still single or barren, etc. etc.
I haven’t come to any conclusions but the angels certainly sang of it to the shepherds in the fields. And the scriptures don’t point to ‘pie in the sky when you die’ but somehow link the body and the soul together. I remember Noel Moules saying “you don’t have a soul; you ARE a soul”. There can be no ‘shalom’ if one is sick or suffering injustice. Too much to think about and yet I can still give thanks.
Having written a few blogs on Surprises for and Englishman in China, I’m grateful for Chinese things. My wife’s family, Chinese food (especially food in Changsha, good and spicy), a driving license, internet to keep in touch across 1,000s of miles, a new phone. And Shu Fang has run around doing errands for me, getting things repaired or bought, and being Chinese, getting them at local rather than Expat prices! Currently we’re waiting for the espresso machine repair man to come by. Moka pot coffee is good, but not as good as espresso!
I didn’t expect to have any MORE holidays this year having just returned from 3 months in the UK mid-January, but we did go on a cruise for a week with another Anglo-Chinese couple. I NEVER thought I would go on one of those huge liners having crossed the Atlantic in a little 36 foot sloop 41 years ago, but I was pleasantly surprised. Great food and all sorts of facilities. Yes the idea was to visit Japan and S Korea but you can’t see very much in 5 or 6 hours. It’s really about being on the boat and the shore visits are and excuse for doing it! In the end our boat was re-routed to avoid going through one of the year’s big typhoons! I’m grateful!
I suppose the big thing for us this year was moving into our new home. While interior construction was finished in September last year and we had pretty much done all the furnishings before we left for the UK in October, we only moved in directly on our return from London. The place is so lovely, and in my opinion is the nicest apartment in the whole block. Most new buildings are left as concrete shells once the builders move out, and the individual owners then have to get them turned into something liveable. So while all of the apartments may be identical, what people do with them is completely different. I think our architect did a great job and pretty much all the building work was of a high standard. And we haven’t had too many teething troubles. Early on we did fear that we’d have to dig up the floor in the passage because of a water leak, but after a few weeks it appeared to seal itself, well enough for the builder below to be happy for us not to do any drastic work! I’m grateful.
Right now we’re a couple of weeks into a new singing class. Earlier in the year we did 3 or 4 months of another class, so it feels good to be singing again and learning some more Chinese songs. Even though we ‘studied’ 8 or 10 songs in the first course, I’ve only remembered one of them, BUT well enough to sing it at a KTV – Karaoke place. KTV is huge here and one of the best places we’ve been to in the centre of town has 5 floors and 25 rooms a floor so you don’t have to sing in front of drunken strangers! You have your own private room. It’s popular here, and cheap in the afternoons for the oldies! If I follow Yvonne’s instructions to practice, maybe I’ll be able to sing a few more Chinese songs. I was deeply embarrassed the first time we went, but I’ve got into it in a big way and always look forward to the next visit. The big place we go to have quite a good range of songs in English from ‘my’ era. I know very few new numbers!
This is a link to a video of the Chinese song I often sing to at the KTV. “I’m waiting for you at NaLin Lake” http://tinyurl.com/hl8wzat Don’t worry, it’s a proper singer doing it with professional video cameraman!
Liz visited in the Spring and I’m looking forward to a short trip back to the UK in July. Yvonne says she’ll stay here to look after the cats. There are 4 now! Our two and Shu Fang’s Chilli and 6 month old son Latte that she decided to keep. He’s a gorgeous little fellow with a lovely gentle friendly personality – quite different from his mum, but much more like his dad Chou Dan. His dad is a bit of a star in the cat world and quite the most beautiful British Shorthair that I’ve come across and it was a privilege for him to stay a couple of times. I can’t imagine a life without our fur babies now!
You all know that I usually have my nose in my iPhone, but now I’m trying to use it to learn more about taking and editing photos. I’ve become so reliant on the camera in the phone that I rarely take out the compact dedicated camera that I bought 6 years ago. The iPhone Photography School has taught me that the best camera you have is the one that’s always with you!
A big relief for me was passing the written driving test in August. We’d already bought a Golf back in May and Yvonne had been driving me around. While the things in the test highlighted good practice, there’s precious little of it on the road! One exception is one of Yvonne’s classmates who in my opinion is one of the best drivers I’ve ever come across!
One huge disappointment was loosing my wedding ring. I haven’t a clue where it came off. I thought the shower was the only place likely but we never found it. And it was so special because we had made from some of Yvonne’s unwanted gold jewellery. I’m now grateful that we’ve had another made, again from some of the unused melted down jewellery, and this time it’s a bit tighter than the original. Fingers crossed that it won’t fall off again.
Well that’s about it!
To everyone I wish you Grace, Peace and yes, Hope!
This year’s blogs include:
10 Surprises for an Englishman in China visiting Europe: http://tinyurl.com/zzclkex
10 Surprises for an Englishman in China: Delightful Signs: http://tinyurl.com/zxfqa2x
10 Surprises for an Englishman in China looking back over Recent British Politics: http://tinyurl.com/jqv88zp
10 Surprises for an Englishman in China behind the Wheel: http://tinyurl.com/hat4wzp
11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month: http://tinyurl.com/hyr9p7h
A one & a half minute video slideshow of some of my best photos of the year: http://tinyurl.com/gpthg6q
(For a hard copy of these Witterings, download the following pdf for printing. witterings2016)