I read, I like, I share (17) : Daphne du Maurier

The Writer    [1926]

Not for me the arrow in the air,
Nor the mountain snows,

Nor the dumb ocean,

Nor the wind on the heath,

Nor the warm breath
Of the bare bright sun upon my hair
.

Not for me the mist of the white stars,
Nor the singing falls,
Nor the deep river,
Nor the flung foam
Upon the hard beach,
Nor the other mountains that I cannot reach.

Mine is the silence
And the quiet gloom
Of a clock ticking
In an empty room,
The scratch of a pen,
Ink-pot and paper,
And the patter of the rain.
Nothing but this as long as I am able,
Firelight — and a chair, and a table.

Not for me the whisper in the ear,
Nor the touch of a hand,
And that hand on my heart,
Nor the quick pattering of feet
Upon the stair, nor laughter in the street,
Nor the swift glance, intangible and dear.  

Not for me the hunger in the night,
And the strength of the lover
Tired of his loving,

Seeking after passion the broken rest,

Bearing his body’s weight upon my breast
.

Mine is the silence
Of the still day,
When the shouting on the hills
Sounds far away,
The song of the thrush,
In the quiet woods,
And the scent of trees.  

Always the child who loved too late,
The poet — the fool — the watchman at the gate.
I am the actress mother who must make
A pretended cradle of her arms, lifeless and bare,
Who has never borne a child.  

I am the deaf musician, calm and mild,
Singing a battle symphony, who has never heard the guns,
Nor the thunder in the air.  

I am the painter whose blind gaze defiled
Would conjure an ocean, who has never seen the sea break
On the wild shores of Finistere….  

Not for me the shadow of a smile,
Nor the life that has gone,
Nor the love that has fled,
But the thread of the spider who spins on the wall,

Who is lost, who is dead, who is nothing at all.

 

from The Rebecca Notebook & Other Memories   

It’s just the beginning

“Hello darkness, my old friend  

I’ve come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence.”

This song has been in my head for the past week.  You know how it is when you just cannot shake it off.   And whispers in the sounds of silence.

The year is coming to an end.  Time to sit down and reflect.  I don’t do that often.

Alright, I lied.  For a while, I have been trying to reflect on what has been happening in Hong Kong over the last three months.   I have been trying to record the history that is in the making.  I have been trying to show solidarity.   Apparently trying is not enough.   I haven’t, I didn’t, I couldn’t.

Lucky for me, I have the platform to freely speak my mind, and I didn’t.   I have the freedom to make a note of the most important happenings in the history of Hong Kong, and I couldn’t.  Not a post in nearly four months.

Why?

Words are inadequate.  MY words are inadequate.

I felt inadequate.

The last three months has been a political awakening for many in Hong Kong, especially the younger generation.  The Western media first labelled it the Umbrella Revolution after September 28.  That was the night when the police used pepper spray and 87 tear gas to disperse non-violent protesters in Admiralty.  It marked the beginning of occupying Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mongkok.   It was honourably dubbed the most peaceful, the most polite protest ever, with the most well-mannered activists, fighting for the right to universal suffrage.   Not a burnt car, not a looted jewellers’ shop window in nearly three months of the street demonstrations.

The camp sites in the busiest commercial centres slowly became a Shangri-la, where kindness, generosity, trust and humanity were remembered and enacted.  Expensive mobile phones were entrusted to volunteers’ make shift recharging stations.   First aid stations were manned by doctors and nursing staff in their time off.   A message posted on social media saw emergency supplies promptly delivered.

Lennon Wall multi-coloured Post-it Notes; Lion Rock iconic Banners; the Umbrella Man… and artistic display of imagination and creativity decorated the once traffic jammed city centres.  The humble umbrella became the protest symbol, come rain or shine.

Then darkness came, and clashes with anti-democracy mobs supported by police erupted. I have had many sleepless nights watching events unfold online, feeling helpless and disheartened. Excessive force used to apprehend protesters, first aiders and innocent passers-by has shattered trust in the police.  When the government not only turned a blind eye to police violence, but sugar-coated their actions, the call for the resignation of the corrupted Chief Executive grew louder than ever.   When the promise of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is gradually revoked, the determination to retain some autonomy over HongKong’s affairs by Hongkongers becomes stronger.

“If not now, when?  If not you, who?”

The street camps were cleared, and many unreasonable arrests have been made since.   Police violence does not seem to abate, leaving casualties with both physical and mental scars.

Words are inadequate.

But when Gmail was found inaccessible in mainland China this morning, I felt hopeful that I  could still hear the voices of our younger generation declaring:

“We’ll be back!”

“It’s just the beginning….”

When darkness comes

“To save one’s soul, one needs to read”.

I am reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for the third time.  If you are interested in the story, The Times has a brief summary of the historical novel on the back cover:

“It’s 1946 and author Juliet Ashton can’t think of what to write next.  Out of the blues, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance, he’s acquired a book that once belonged to her – and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence.  When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Soceity, Juliet’s curiosity is piqued and it’s not long before she begins to hear from other members.  As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under the German Occupation, Juliet soon realises that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.”

Hard times.  Some lived to tell the tale, some didn’t.

I’ll read you page 56, one of the letters Eben Ramsey wrote to Juliet:

“Best to say we weren’t a true literary society at first.  Apart from Elizabeth, Mrs Maugery, and perhaps Booker, most of us hadn’t had much to do with books since school.  We took them from Mrs Maugery’s shelves fearful we’d spoil the fine paper.  I had no zest for such matters in those days.  It was only by fixing my mind on the Commandant and jail that I could make myself lift the cover of the book and begin.  It was called Selections from Shakespeare.  Later, I came to see that Mr Dickens and Mr Wordsworth were thinking of men like me when they wrote their words.  But most of all, I believe that William Shakespeare was.  Mind you, I cannot always make sense of what he says, but it will come.

It seems to me the less he said, the more beauty he made.  Do you know what sentence of his I admire the most?  It is, ‘The bright day is done, and we are for the dark’.  I wish I’d known those words on the day I watched those German troops land, planeload after planeload of them – and come off ships down in the harbour!  All I could think of was, Damn them, damn them, over and over again.  If I could have thought the words, ‘The bright day is done, and we are for the dark’, I’d have been consoled somehow and ready to go out and contend with circumstance – instead of my heart sinking to my shoes.”

A chord is struck here.  Dark clouds are looming over the political future of Hong Kong. The bright day is done, and we are for the dark.

Are we going to strive ahead?  Are we ready to go out and contend with circumstance? When darkness comes……

What happened on 1 July 2014?

I have been busy, so I cannot tell you all the goings-on in the world off the top of my head.  Let me take out my iPad and Google it for you, if that’s alright.

  • In Brazil, it was the end of the road for the American Dream, and Messi was nervous over an early exit.  Fear not Argentinian fans, they edged past the Swiss and hung on in there by a thread.
  • At Wimbledon, Nadal was beaten by Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, leading the teenager to set his sights on the World Number One ranking.  Sorry, Sharapova was knocked out too.
  • Iraqi militants gained ground on rebels, civil war rages on in Syria, and the Ukraine crisis is not letting up.  People are still suffering everywhere.
  • Monty Python return to the stage after several decades’ absence.
  • The European Commission slashes mobile roaming fees by 55%, just in time for the  summer vacation season.

You really want to know what kept my hands full?  I was up at half six and stayed online for the whole day until 2 am this morning, despite my bad left eye complaining constantly. Of course, I left laundry and ironing undone, the carpets need vacuuming, and a husband returning from work sat quietly by himself all evening.

First of July, why is it different from any other day, I hear you ask?  Well, where I come from, it is the day that sovereignty was handed back to China.  Though officially declared a public holiday for celebration, people had other ideas; instead, it has become a day to join forces and voice out opinions, push for democracy or whatever you believe in. We do that by stepping out, occupying the streets from Victoria Park to Central. The numbers over the years have varied, topping 530,000 in 2004.

This year, distant thunder rumbled In June.  Beijing’s White Paper on Hong Kong issued on Tuesday 10 June was considered by many as an erosion of the rights being promised in the practice of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, and an assault on the rule of law of Hong Kong. Reactions? 1800 lawyers silently marched through the city in black. The unofficial referendum organised by Occupy Central, aimed at boosting support for universal suffrage by 2017, garnered nearly 800,000 votes in ten days despite historical cyber attacks on the voting systems and various dirty tricks employed by opponents.

Seventeen years since the handover, the gradual influx from across the border (along with bad habits contaminating the quality of life) has inflated ill feeling among the locals. ‘Appointed’ government officials leaning towards the Mainland; allowing developers hegemony thus widening the disparity of rich and poor; the row over the controversial national education programme…. the list goes on. But in a nutshell, discontent and grievances are growing.  The city is dying, it is being said.

So, do you care about what happened on 1 July 2014?  It seems the world cares.  Read these front page headlines:

  • Hong Kong Protesters lifted kicking and screaming from downtown rally (Reuters)
  • Hugh crowds turn out for Pro-democracy March in Hong Kong, defying Beijing (New York Times)
  • Police arrest 511 after Big Hong Kong Democracy Rally (The Telegraph)

Holding my iPad, I watched people coming out in their tens of thousands, many for the first time, braving the heat and rain and road blocks set up by the police.  The government did not want to make it easy for her people.  It was a long and slow walk, one step at a time.  Starting at 3 o’clock, the last man crossed the finishing line an hour before midnight.  They made it.  Official figures put it at 510,000; the police cut it down to 98,600 and a more scientific calculation estimated 1.3 million, chanting hopeful slogans along the way : We Save Our Hong Kong; We Choose Our Own Government.  History was in the making.

Not wanting to lose the momentum, two student groups had prepared to carry out Civil Disobedience after the rally.  The Federation of Students (from various universities) and Scholarism (formed by high school students) planned to sit-in peacefully until 8 am the next morning.  There were several thousand of them in two locations, overwhelmed by the presence of police and their continuous threats.

I am very sad that the students are here again, fighting for democracy and a better future on our behalf.  I could not stop crying. Where are we? Just sitting here, worried sick.  At 3 o’clock in the morning, the police asked the press to leave.  When they refused, the violent clear out began anyway.  The protesters linked hands and laid down. Each one was unlocked and lifted, their arms and hands twisted by four to six policemen. The scene was ugly and sickening, brought to us by livestream video.  The torture was prolonged, perhaps tactically, by the police to stop, and resume after a few arrests.  The few remaining fighters had a lively countdown to 8 o’clock when they considered their mission accomplished.

There were 511 arrests.  Only one telephone line was made available for them to seek legal help.  Nine lawyers who turned up voluntarily were initially refused any meetings. Food was not available… you would hear their stories after their release.

A lot happened elsewhere in the world on 1 July, but all I care about is witnessing a turning point in the push for democracy in Hong Kong.  It is a long long road, we learn that from history.  It all starts with a group of brilliant young students….

Birthday Wishes on April Fools’ Day

You are 53 today.

It is not a joke.
We are not bringing you a cake.
We are not blowing out candles.
We are not going to wish you Happy Birthday.

Happiness is not on the top of your wish list right now.

We wish you are no longer being denied of medical care.
We wish you are getting letters from your husband, hugs from friends.
We wish you are going to the market free from escorts.
We wish you are hearing us.

We wish you well, birthday girl, so notwithstandingly we also wish you Many Happy Returns!

The Nothing that was Something

We do not need reminding.

Twenty four years ago.

Something was happening in Tiananmen Square.  The world’s media was keeping a watchful eye.  There was hope bubbling in the air; hope for social changes, for freedom, for something wonderful.  Cautious optimism was spreading onto the screens in our sitting rooms.

June 4.

Something happened.  It was live for all to see, sitting in front of the television.  Tanks rumbled through the streets.   Screams and gunshots.   Darkness.   Silence.

Hope was being brutally repressed.

NOTHING HAPPENED. NOTHING HAPPENED. NOTHING HAPPENED. The Authorities keep insisting.  Defiances have since been knocked out, or locked up.

Yet it was there for all the world to see.

Something happened.   Something wonderful was about to take shape, and then vanished in the ether.  Someone was there, blocking the advance of troops of tanks, and then was not any more.  We witnessed it all.  The Nothing that was Something.

Something we cannot plead ignorance.  We can’t.  We are witnesses.  History will tell the tale, someday.  One day.

Until then, we do not need reminding.  We mark it every year, with a tiny flame in our palms, with respect for the innocent dead in our hearts.  Not willing to remember, not daring to forget.