BY THE WATERS OF TAI WAN TO
Alone, by the waters of Tai Wan To, I stood and wept
When I remembered Hong Kong.
I look out to see there on its mast a sail is furled,
Like a wing shorn of feathers.
A cold north wind cajoles us to sing its own refrains!
But how can we sing songs of community?
while a cold, wet, blue-green wall confronts us?
- a banner decreeing our security.
If I forget the ardour and freedom of sunny beach days,
May my fingers freeze to the keyboard, and my heart forget how to love!
Huddling my coat close around me
This cold north wind cannot steal the warmth that glows inside.
And it cannot stop the sun from enlivening this beach once more.
The canvas will fill with wind
and the boat sail with the winds again in this lovely South China Sea.
CENTIPEDES IN THE SHOWER!
Sweeping the floor of my first flat on Lamma before moving in, among an assortment of dead and dried up cockroaches and spiders, I encountered the corpse of a terrifying monster. It was Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans, better known as the Chinese red-headed centipede. Now, I’m usually partial to red-heads, but confronted with this beauty, I chose to back away! A ferocious, fanged predator, it was 13 cm. long, red to black in colour with 21 pairs of legs and protected by 12 armour plates. This, my first encounter, was a warning as this specimen was dead and dried up like an old cicada husk.
But my next centipede meeting was with a truly vivacious beast twisting and scurrying across my tiled bathroom floor. I could actually hear the tippet-tappety sound of its 38 claw-like feet. Vulnerably pink and naked, I had just been stepping in to shower. Shot through with adrenaline, I unthinkingly grabbed a rubber sandal. I whacked it! I whacked it again! But, to my amazement it only scurried faster. Built like miniature tanks, these little beasts require the full weight of a person’s body in a sandal to really slow them down.
The fear quickly passed as it was clear it couldn’t get at me and being as it was in the shower, it had no place to hide. Wonder and curiosity arose instead. I was fascinated by the rhythmic waves of movement of all its little feet as it twisted its way across the floor. Less a beast now, I saw a miraculous and beautiful creature. So, I caught it in a coffee tin and released it in the garden. That was sixteen years ago, and I have never been bitten by a centipede any more than a few centimetres in length. Karma? Perhaps I’m just lucky!