Monday, December 12, 2005

# Memories filled with love

It was a fruitful trip to Wallington last weekend. Huifang and I paid a visit to David and Elizabeth in Wallington, and we had a good feel of English life here.

Wallington is in Zone 5 of London, and it took 45 minutes of train journey from the Victoria station. When we arrived at the station, David was already waiting to pick us up. On our way to their home, I saw the christmas decoration on the street lights that resembled Lavender, and David told us that this area used to be planted full with lavender. Looking at the stretch of houses that we passed by, we were lost in our thoughts about the purple lavender and its beautiful fragance.

Walking into their house brought a similar feeling of many other houses I have been inside in UK. We were then told that this is a common structure of 1930's post-war architecture for middle class houses - 2 rooms on ground floor, 3 rooms on the first floor, narrow staircase, a garage and a backyard. Such design is common throughout England, as the government standardized the housing structure for easier town planning. No wonder most of the houses we saw are so similar!

Being in the house made me feel like an infant - everything in the house is so old! David and Elizabeth told us the stories of their furniture, inherited from different people, each having its own story. There was a three-legged tea table which has elephant head carvings on its legs, and a carving of an Indian god on the table top. There was a few other pieces of furniture like shelves and chairs that were inherited from Elizabeth's late aunt, each having an age more than 100 years!

There is a fireplace in the living room, and I was intrigued by the two cute statues standing at each side of the fireplace. David excitedly told us about their origins - they got these two fellas (more than 100 years old, again!) quite some time ago, and never knew where to put them. They once displayed them above a shelves, but it didnt feel right. Only at one time when they watched a TV show, they discovered that these fellas are fireplace watches, and when they finally put them beside the fireplace, it seems perfectly right. They belong there.

Beside the fireplace sat an old TV box, which contained an old fashioned TV. And in front of the TV there is a little brown bear, which according to Elizabeth, is from her late aunt. Her aunt loved this bear so much; during her aunt's last days, she keeped wanting to see 'Bear', so they put the bear by her hospital bed, and she would pat the bear lovingly everyday...

The more we looked around the place, the more memories seemed to sprung alive.
They were enthusiastic to share with us how they went through all sorts of challenges to get a house, and how they inherited the furniture, piece by piece, from different people, and build their home and memories piece by piece. From nothing, they now have a sweet house, packed with lots of furniture, lots of memories, and lots of love from family and friends.

I realized that British people have quite a lot of meals in a day too. Not too long after we had our lunch, Elizabeth was preparing afternoon tea. I was still trying to digest my lunch! haha... While having the tea, Elizabeth showed us her collections of small ornaments, and we were pleasantly surprised to find many Chinese items such as the 文房四宝, some tiny woodern carvings of 18 Lohans (十八罗汉) and 8 Taoism Gods (八仙), and other beautifully carven ornaments. She also inherited a 'trick box' (in picture) from her mum. This trick box cannot be opened unless we trigger some secret latch inside. We spent a fun time trying to figure out the way!

Just when we thought we have had enough food, it was time for a supper! But this time I welcomed the supper, because there's my favourite ribena (only this time it is served hot), and egg on toast! The picture below shows David, Huifang and Elizabeth during the supper. Daivd was in bow and shirt, as he would be singing in a church choir concert which we would go later.

And then we were off for the choir concert! It was held in a local church, and there were 60 people in the choir singing 12 christmas carols, starting with "Once in Royal David's City" and ending with "Ring out wild bells". They sang "Away in the manger" in a different melody, and had a Japanese woman singing "Silent Night"in Japanese, and they certainly entertained the audience with the light-tuned "Past 3 o' clock". We enjoyed the performance, and we enjoyed more the atmosphere of christmas - the love, the friendship, the tradition!

Christmas is in the air, my friends!


@ロウ 。LOW@ said...

Fireplace watchers! I can only wonder why you need such positions at all! Interesting! I think any piece of furniture created for a reason, it's only us who eventually kept them as decorative antique item.

I guess it's like you walked into any small town in Malaysia, those shop-houses are almost identical to each other. But it's sad that our government didn't do a good job protecting these old buildings and they certainly unable to blend well to existing development.

Anyway i guess you had a good time, my friend! Thanks for the English exprience :)

The Moody Minstrel said... about a house full of dreams! I would love to visit a place like that! The choir concert you described also triggered a surge of sentiment and homesickness in this wayward Yankee minstrel (who can't go home this winter...&%$#).

Actually, it is often said that watching a fire is a good way of coming up with dreams. The famous dreamer/writer/scientist Kepler is said to have had the inspiration for his famous tale of a trip to the moon while gazing at the blaze dancing in his fireplace. I don't know how much need statues have of dreaming or inspiration, but maybe they can transmit them to others?

Happysurfer said...

yd, thank you so much for the insight on an English life. I am also fascinated by the fireplace watchers. I think not many people have things more than a hundred years old. Food for thought, don't you think?

YD said...

The fireplace watchers exuded a sense of joy when i went near them, in fact, I think i saw their eyes twinkle! The art piece is very carefully carved with detailed. There is even a cat hiding below the bench sat on by the lady.

The lad is actually a shoe-polisher, and the lady is a milk maid pouring a jar of milk. shows the peasant life in the past.

I do agree with moody that watching fire spark inspiration, and it makes our imagination run wild too! There was one time back home when the electricity was cut off, I was gazing at the lone candle in my room, and suddenly the flame turned in to a monster! gosh, i MUST have an imaginative mind. (or i m just too bored, or crazy, haha)

hehe... happy surfer, being in their house, my age cannot even compete with any small items like mugs or plates. Everything seems to span beyond 100, and by definition of antique, their house is full of them!

YD said...

oh... before i forget, the bear by the television, and the elephant carvings on the tea table legs, they looked real too.. so stunningly alive..

I wonder do they spring into life and play around during night? like the nutcraker?

Pandabonium said...

Your experiences beautifully expressed as we have come to expect from you, YD. Your description of the items in the house reminds of the things my parents surrounded themselves with. Different items to be sure, but lovingly collected to remind them of special experiences and dreams of their own. Things we put in our homes are like religious objects. They serve to concretize our inner thoughts and emotions into physical objects, and thereby serve to connect us with ourselves.

The choir reminds me of the many years I have spent December nights playing Christmas music in the brass quartet, and the midnight masses we played each year, along with the choir at an Episcopal church on Maui. Even though I'm not a Christian, it was always a beautiful service to me.

As usual, your post comes straight from the heart.

YD said...

Thank you panda. Wonderful description you have written about the items we keep in our house. We keep things that contain memories in them, and displaying them in our home is not only a gesture of our affection and attachment towards them, but like you said, connect us with ourselves.

I am not a christian either, but I love midnight masses too, and I love singing along with my friends the hymn songs. As we sing along, we can really feel the emotion, and love within ourselves.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Panda and YD, I feel refreshed hearing you say that. I've always felt the charm and also the deeper meaning of Christmas and Christmas music go beyond the religious label.

Contrast that with all this "say 'holiday', not 'Christmas'" nonsense going on in the U.S. this year or the time I started playing Christmas songs on a guitar during a visit to Oregon (on December 26th) and one of my friends threw a fit until I stopped. "I'm pagan and have nothing to do with Christmas," he said.

Give me a break.

Judge something by what it does for you, not by the label it carries!

Pandabonium said...

Yes, Moody. Thanks.

We all have rituals in our lives which we use to connect mind with spirit, our world and other people, whether those rituals are religious or simply the way we eat food together or greet each other. We all have labels we apply to things in an attempt to sort them out and understand them, but we should not be divided because we use different labels for the same realities.

I am sorry I don't speak German. I used to play recordings of Beethoven symphonies a lot when I was in college, and I do understand the meaning of lyrics in "Ode To Joy" -

Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!
Deine Zauber binden wieder,
was die Mode streng geteilt:
alle Menschen werden Brüder,
wo dein snafter Flügel weilt.

Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter fire imbibed,
Heavenly, thy sanctuary.

Thy magic reunites those
Whom stern custom has parted;
All men will become brothers
Under thy gentle wing.

Merry Christmas.

Happysurfer said...

MM, your 'Judge something by what it does for you, not by the label it carries!' is very well-said. If people bear that in mind, the world would then have more peace as people would be kinder to each other.

Just the other day, I read about London playing down its Christmas
celebration - reducing decorations and proposed changing the name 'Christmas' to 'Festival of Lights'. Also a school-teacher forbade pupils exchanging cards which the parents protested. All these were because the authorities felt (without conducting a public survey) that the society is now more multi-racial and that maintaining the same degree of celebration would upset the non-Christians. There was a public outcry and everything went back to normal.

Pandabonium, I certainly agree with you about each of us having our own labels for different things to sort them out for better understanding. Sadly, people do not see it that way thus the animosity and conflicts in the world.

Being cultured is a relative term. Who's culture is the yardstick?

Pandabonium said...

Happysurfer, before we talk about who's culture is the "yard stick" we have to decide whether to use a yard stick or a meter stick! Endless argument ensues.

Just a joke to emphasize your point.

Peace, tolerance, wisdom, compassion - the four points on my compass. But some cultures do seem to find it necessary to try to dominate.

As the economist John Maynard Keynes once said, "in the long run, we're all dead." To which I would add, "so what's all the fuss?"

Happysurfer said...

Dear Pandabonium, yes, so true - so what's all the fuss? We come with nothing and we shall go with nothing. Thank you once again for your wisdom.

YD said...

thanks happysurfer for bringing up the issue on the london playing down christmas.

To add on, there were arguments that forbiding card exchange in school before christmas is due to the reason that the authorities wished to build up some suspense for the celebration. But playing down the celebration is certainly the wrong way to approach cultural integration among different cultures. I think the authorities have a wrong concept in handling multicultural society - we don't play-"down" festivals to accommodate for difference in culture, as this create some detachment feeling that somehow seprate the people from different backgrounds. Instead, why don't we think of playing-"up" festivals in such a way that everyone can participate, with more fun, more integration, and more acceptance?

panda, interestingly, the extra part that you added on to Keynes' famous expression is exactly totally opposite as what he proposed in his macroeconomic theories. Good one!