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Thread: The Last Hurrah.

  1. #16
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Chapter 7.

    Such sweet dreams on a Sunday morning in Taichung.

    I had gone to bed early the night before, but got up at 2am to have a brew of Yorkshire tea.

    But before I actually got up I dreamed. I dreamed about dreaming. I slept about sleep.

    I remembered the location with some clarity. It was a triangular section of a glass fronted protrusion at the end of a building. There was light rain outside and the floor gently rocked and moved direction as I dozed.

    A couple of females were present I remember, one of whom tried to wake me, but I still pretended to be asleep.

    It also struck home with a certain sadness that Michelle was now 70 & myself 75. Lives that could have been.

    After a lazy familiar breakfast at the hotel; for by now I was becoming a long staying guest and merged imperceptibly with both the staff and décor, I eventually got down to writing this piece.

    I’d missed out the week before, despite having gone through the experience of an earthquake located the other side of the island. But then, that had already been adequately covered by the usual serious faced news outlets, along with; bombings, Brexit, and Trumps’ predictable antics.

    No, I needed something nearer to home, and the inspiration, (if that is not too strong a word) came in the Bear Bar off Chaoma Road one night, when Danny the bartender suggested Kung Pao Chicken for dinner after my usual relaxing end of the day sundowners.

    For those of you not familiar with this dish, it is a spicy, stir-fried Chinese dish made with chicken, peanuts, vegetables (traditionally leek only), and chili peppers. A classic dish in Sichuan cuisine, it originated in the Sichuan Province of south-western China and includes Sichuan peppercorns. Also, I might add, it is delicious.

    Which at last, you might eventually grasp, comes the actual story.

    It is to my mind a rather exotic, complicated tale from the Far East, akin the intermittent musings of the late David Carradine to his blond girlfriend, in “Kill Bill” whilst sitting cross legged and gently blowing into a musical reed.

    Once assiduously researched, (as is my wont,) it is quite credible; apart from transitory doubts concerning the main characters and circumstances; namely: a civil servant, a chicken and the Cultural Revolution.

    I’d heard of Beef Wellington, named after the great man, but then I’d been raised in England. So, who exactly was Kung Pao and what was his claim to having a dish named after him?

    It turns out that the gentleman in question was in fact named “Ding Baozhen” (1820–1886), a late Qing Dynasty official and governor of Sichuan Province. His title was “Gongbao” literally: 'Palace Guardian' Thus, by a cunning process of deduction, it is deduced decisively and definitively that he name “Kung Pao chicken” has evolved from this title.

    One hiccup along the way of this important aspect of Chinese history however, is that during the Cultural Revolution, the dish's name became politically incorrect because of its association with the imperial system. Hence the dish was renamed “fast-fried chicken cubes (hongbao jiding)” or "chicken cubes with seared chilies" by Maoist radicals until its political rehabilitation in the 1980s under Deng Xiaoping's reforms.

    But what had Ding done to deserve such a distinction? It appears that he was appointed a government official in the 25th year in the Jia Qing Reign in the Qing Dynasty, in Pingyuan in Guizhou. He had been the head of Shandong Province for ten years, and then the governor of Sichuan Province for another ten years. Apparently in his lifetime, he had been an outstanding government official, contributing a great deal to society and was much remembered in the hearts of the Chinese people. As evidence of this, a TV series on the Mainland captioned “Ding Baozhen” is currently on display attracting the national attention.

    There you have it: a tale written by an Englishman, inspired by the culinary suggestion of a Taiwan bar man, involving a Chinese civil servant with an impeccable reputation in both the Qing Dynasty and todays’ Mainland China.

    What a disparate stream of threads and free wheeling imagination is called upon today to form a tale!

  2. #17
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Chapter 8.
    22nd May 2019. Saigon. 5.13am.

    Things had definitely changed in the four days since he had arrived; though as usual one had to distinguish the ever transient chasmatic gap between material and spiritual. The adaptions of mood, the purging of demons, buried so deep, that even the walls of the Caravelle Hotel had difficulty sorting it's own wraithly inheritences from those of this particular incumbent.

    Across the front of Lam Son Square, to the right of the Opera House, sat the Continental Hotel, still retaining that quiet dignity of the French colonial era. Dwarfed now by an ugly tourist plaza to its rear, it nevertheless possessed its propriety niche in history, gathering its strength in the dawn, to, the (as of yet, diminutive) bustle of scooters and taxis down Dong Khoi. Across the road, as if in supplication, two men swished the sidewalks with short brushes, their frames bent forward in posture to the task at hand.

    He had read recently somewhere back in Taiwan that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. In consequence he had pushed himself hard physically since arriving at this new location. M Hanh had initially sustained, then thrived on the pent up love making. He had started working out again in the gym, swam in the hotel pool during the intense humid heat of a Vietnam summer, and had persisted in said search.

    It was perhaps on the second night that the nightmare occurred and he had awoke abruptly. Hanh's arms were around him, as he had struggled incoherently to fight off an imaginary intruder; with words that would not come and limbs that would not move. He wondered afterwards, whether in fact it was his own struggle, or that of some distant member of the international press corp, stationed in the same room during the Vietnam War. Images of a capital about to fall, the inevitability of another Rome in decline; its provincial borders breached by a foe it could not suppress, a spirit it could never understand.
    Last edited by MANICHAEAN; 05-22-2019 at 01:46 AM.

  3. #18
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Or your Chapter 1.

  4. #19
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Chapter 9.

    It was at Dong Du Street, whilst out strolling, that he occasioned upon the painting in a small art gallery. The humidity had been building up since dawn; and already in the short time since he had left the hotel, sweat had oozed outwards in an uncomfortable veneer onto the countenance of his features. In many ways it was a nondescript side street. The usual themed eating joints; in this case Turkish & Italian, endeavouring to appeal the transient foreigner, was interspersed with squatting street vendor ladies in conical headgear selling cigarettes by the stick, and offering expressions of tough sidewalk reality in unrestrained measure.

    He was drawn into the shop by a combination of hope that it had both: air conditioning, plus wares that differentiated it from the usual tourist tat. The picture was imposing ; in a gilt wooden frame, facing inwards to the shop, as befitted the presence it immediately portrayed. It was composed of the large relief of a Buddha head, viewed from an upward angle, eyes suffused, and at peace.

    Initially; then progressively overwhelmed by feeings of sadness and appreciation, for the state of being it conveyed, he gently took in further, the richness of the red and gold textures and the subtlety of brushstrokes executed by a fellow traveller.

    The next day he rose at 5am and sat watching the dawn progressively take hold of South East Asia. Hanh lay still sleeping. He knew that part of the reason for being here was to restore the motivation of working back in Taiwan this coming Monday. It had been a long journey. His drive since early adolescence had been to make money. Saudi Arabian desert locations in the 70's, when nobody wanted to work there, Iran in the millennium with its deprivations & insecurity, Papua New Guinea with its underlying violence. Now he was at some kind of crossroads. The first million had been a thrill, the second a tad jaded.

    It was ungrateful of him in his behaviour, perhaps even selfish, to be able financially to walk away from anything. Some solace had been found in writing; but then of limited avail, as no writer can be completely detached from ; the emotions, or the relentless curiosity in mankinds habits, dreams and resilience. Perhaps a man's first care should be to avoid the reproaches of his own heart.

  5. #20
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    response to story

    "The next day he rose at 5am and sat watching the dawn progressively take hold of South East Asia. Hanh lay still sleeping. He knew that part of the reason for being here was to restore the motivation of working back in Taiwan this coming Monday. It had been a long journey. His drive since early adolescence had been to make money. Saudi Arabian desert locations in the 70's, when nobody wanted to work there, Iran in the millennium with its deprivations & insecurity, Papua New Guinea with its underlying violence. Now he was at some kind of crossroads. The first million had been a thrill, the second a tad jaded.

    It was ungrateful of him in his behaviour, perhaps even selfish, to be able financially to walk away from anything. Some solace had been found in writing; but then of limited avail, as no writer can be completely detached from ; the emotions, or the relentless curiosity in mankinds habits, dreams and resilience. Perhaps a man's first care should be to avoid the reproaches of his own heart.[/QUOTE]

    These last two paragraphs. Incomparable in a couple of ways. Not normally the kind of insight revealed on Litnet's pages, and an almost entire life's history written out in a few sentences. Bravo.

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