I spend a lot of time with just Rufus on the weekends. This, like most things in our life, is because Zadie is such a bad sleeper. To get her to sleep, there must be no visual distractions while she is rocked for an hour and sung to at a precise pitch. And other than the singing, the volume of which must be regulated at all times, there must be complete silence. So when it’s time for her midday nap, we close the curtains and turn off all devices, Joel pulls his socks up, adjusts his shirt, shakes himself off and steps into the breach, and Rufus and I are banished.
(During the week, our helper puts her to sleep in 5 minutes flat. She takes Zadie into her room to do this, and shuts the door behind her. I’m yet to discover if she used sedatives or some sort of Pinoy witchcraft. I’m not bothered either way. I only wish we had such methods to implement on the weekends.)
Yesterday Rufus and I walked around Phoenix Palm, which is a Western enclave down the hill from our village. I know from my own experience on both sides of the fence, no-one cares at all about “environment” shots from overseas, but anyway, this is a NICE PLACE TO LIVE, no?
We bumbled around Phoenix Palm again today, and Rufus asked how to get to the top of the mountains. Where we live is high above Sai Kung, with noticeably “alpine” air (for Hong Kong anyway). (And only when the Kongs aren’t salting fish out the front). But our village is nestled about midway up the mighty Ma On Shan peak, under the MacLehose Trail. So when we’re down in Phoenix Palm and looking back at our house, it appears to be in a basin of mountains. Having just turned 4, and when we’re walking usually more preoccupied with collecting leaves and rocks and shit, Rufus isn’t really up to a mountain hike. But I knew a place I could take him which was higher up anyway – the Lung Mei “cemetery”. Chinese burial places are ideally located on mountains. The higher the resting place, the better feng shui; the better the view from the grave, the happier the departed are and the less likely they are to linger around in the between-world*.
(*Explanation of Chinese burial customs has no basis in anything other than what is in my head, for some reason. It could be right, it could be wrong. I think it’s right, but I would say that, wouldn’t I. In any case graves are dotted all over Hong Kong, and despite having only 12 houses in our village, we have a proper cemetery not 5 minutes’ walk up the hill behind our place.)
So we walked back up to Lung Mei, taking care to do comical high-legged inaudible footfalls as we came within 20 metres of our place because we’d only been gone for 15 minutes and Joel would have only been into the 16th of 17th alto rendition of “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?” by then. Next door to us are the Kongs. Next door to them is the abandoned house. Then two normal village houses, and then the village temple. I haven’t gone inside there yet because I don’t know if I’m really allowed to. It’s a public space and I do live here, but it will be obvious that I’m not a Taoist and have no reason to be there. Except for the one indicated by the camera around my neck.
Then there’s some flat steep steps that take you back into the forested area. It’s dense and dim immediately, with no path at the top of the steps but a rough indication of where people have pushed their way through before. Then it’s a pretty steep but very short climb up only about 30 metres before you reach the cemetery. Here is the view back down over Phoenix Palm.
Rufus marvelled at his achievement of conquering the “mountain”, before irreverently sitting down on part of the – grave?? to eat his Poko sticks*.
(*Some sort of biscuit from the 7/11. You shouldn’t eat anything on a grave, I wouldn’t have thought, but especially not something called a Poko stick.)
It was pretty cold this afternoon. We went right up to the edge of that wavy concrete fence and kneeled down in our tracks and hoodies. I pointed out to him the track we take when we walk to Sai Kung, and the road taxis come down to pick us up. We could just make out the massive inflatable Santa on someone’s balcony. Basil Leaf didn’t piss on anything, which is unusual for him – I’ve never seen a dog lift his leg so often as this one. Even when he’s completely empty, he still does it compulsively. He is from the pound though, and his previous family were Chinese. So now I’m thinking he’s a Buddhist and he knew not to piddle there? Rufus, however, did need to go, so I directed him to a tree set well back from the concrete structure. He is pretty modest these days, so when he looked over his shoulder to see me supervising, he said: “Mama, you just go back over there and look down the world.”
So I went back and looked down the world. There was a sand receptacle built into the wavy concrete which had some burnt-down incense sticks stuck in. When it was time to go, Rufus stuck two of his Poko sticks in there, one for him and one for me. This was a pretty big, almost religious, sacrifice for him, so I let him.