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PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:09 am 
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Location: Pak Kok Village
DOWN & UP ~ June 28, '17

by Nick the Bookman, edited by Lamma-Gung

DOWN: It began with a vent...

...Wavy frame dissolve to... The recent weather depression has been playing havoc with Marilena. Simply put, she has a broken neck. A drunken Swede punched her in the face about 30 years ago. Broke her nose and jarred her neck. The second injury led to a deterioration of the C2 and C3 discs at the top of her spine. C3 and C4 is where the executioner puts the hangman's knot. Her x-ray is a horror show. The discs are badly eroded and not complete. Could probably get it fixed in some beneficial, utopian future where 3-D printing of organs and cartilage and bones is commonplace. Inserted into place via nano technology. Funded by a billion dollar budget, no doubt. In the here and now, there's nothing to be done. So she medicates. Quite understandable. Her dosage is inconsistent and fuelled by the fluctuating level of pain. One result is a cyclic pattern of rage. I've sat through some spectacular spat-squalls. Sat on my hands and quietly sucked it up. No point in arguing back. You can't unsay the things better left unspoken. I know it isn't personal, but it feels like it sometimes. Oh well. Husband's privilege right? We married over 20 years ago and I accepted the terms. Sickness vs Health. Better vs Worse. Richer vs poorer. That's what the Partnership contains.

We get by reasonably well. All the bills are paid promptly. Usually they're staggered. Some monthly. Some quarterly. When they all coincide, it gets fiscally frustrating. Like last month. Ended up living below the poverty line. Temporary situation, but exacerbated by Marilena's pain, and bad weather resulting in less opportunities to put "The Bookshelf" out. Also I'm not doing quite so much moving work. Bad legs. Too many stairs. So, we found ourselves in a tight jam - moneywise. And I ended up feeling emotionally worn out. Quite depressed and not wanting much contact with people. I was even considering not going to the Island School 50th Anniversary/Reunion. One night walking home I ended up chatting/venting to Roz. Our food supplies were more than I said we had, but the immediate future wasn't too rosy. (Being night of course). Roz listened and posted a Facebook message...

Within half an hour, Liz called up and said she had a food parcel for us. No arguments brooked. Come and get it from Granny Chan's Store. So I did. It was very generous. She waved away my heartfelt thanks. It's what Neighbours do. Dina the artist also gave us a smaller food parcel the next day. It's what Neighbours do. The weather was good the next day, so I was out with the books. Frasier (and Charlotte) dropped by and gave me some cash and he'd collect his books later, as he was on his way to town. Annie K (happy belated marriage, 'gratters) bought a couple of books and said to keep the change. So did Helena. And Reka. And Gary. A few other people also stopped by. I wrote their names down, but can't remember where. After a few of these occurrences, I asked if people had read Roz's post. I hadn't, but knew of it. The answer was something like this mfrgYdhrlEbrplSwxvt.

So heartfelt thanks to One and All. You're on The Roll Of Honour. You all reaffirmed my belief in the niceness of Lamma folk. Willing to rally around. Year after year. Marilena and I both love living here. It's a great community. Look after the children is Rule One. No kids. No future. There are great support systems in place. Above all: Lamma is Safe. Which is becoming a scarcer value globally. I've started coming out of my depression and am re-thinking my decision not to go to the Island School Reunion...

UP:
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It's 9/6/2017 and my depressive decision not to attend The Island School 50th Anniversary shindig has been well and truly re-thunk. Begone Bad Thoughts. It'll be the first time in three years that Sarah and Melle (my sisters) and I are together. Melle's called a couple of times to make sure I am coming as "lots of people are asking if you're going to be there". My mood improved during the day from "Na-aa-agh" to what the FOREX am I thinking? The Party's gonna rock and roll and weave and bob and chatter and babble and quaff and scoff from about 1800 hrs to the early am of 10/6/2017.

I've arrived at Bowen Road and am slowly and sweatily struggling up the stairs to the Original Island School. The old British Military Hospital - now premises for the St. Carmel Kindergarten (?). Finish a beer and then trudge up the hill to the newer version which was built in the early '70s and is a scene of potential bedlam. There's probably a thousand or so people in attendance. Wonder how many I'll remember? Jackie spots me outside and beckons me through. Knew the beard was good for something.
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I'm in the familiar outside car-park-cum-courtyard. There's a stage running down the right of the courtyard where at least six different groups of students and ex-alumni and jobbing semi-amateur musos are playing some wonderfully varied retro sets. Here Be Party Monsters. Some good bars around the perimeter. I seek refuge mainly in front of the table where very friendly staff are enthusiastically pulling foaming pints of Young Masters. I'll get through about half a dozen during the course of the party. A fine lager. I mention to the staff (whose names are lost somewhere in the alcoholic fug that's passing as my memory) that I live on Lamma Island. And You're All Welcome to come and live on my floor. Like I said, a very friendly brew. When I say I live on Lamma, they mention The Yardley Brothers (Derek and Luke) and how they are awe inspiring in their crafting of several quality brews. Masters, your students and proteges salute you.

So, beer in hand, I find Mike and Melle. Big hugs all round. It's brilliant that Milan and Mike Jones have upped from Oz for this reunion. Our first meeting of the 21st Century. Hell, some of the people I'm meeting tonight I haven't seen since the Summer of 1970. That was my last term at the Original Island School. By September I was on my way to Milton Abbey in Dorset - thanks to the kind assistance of my late Uncle Jeremy. Three years there and a return to Hong Kong at Xmas 1973. Got my first job working as a reporter for RTV (later ATV and now Ex-TV). The first people I catch up with are Barry Connolly and Richard Abrahall. Barry was our first House Master of Da Vinci - one of the six School Houses. And the best of them I thought, but I'm always up for a friendly natter about the respective merits of the other five - whose names have escaped my recall button!
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Can't remember what Barry and I chatted about. It was just a great gush of warmth and jollity. I do remember chatting with Richard about his part in organising The HK Folk Festivals in the late 80's and early-to-mid 90's. Basically right where we are standing. I've repeated to almost everyone my proud boast of only attending the Original Skool. Only went to the present party premises for the aforementioned Festivals. Solo artists like Eric Bogle (twice), Michael Chapman, Adrian Burns (an acoustic blues folkie whose debut was so astonishing, he was signed up for next year's show with 10 minutes of finishing his set). The Oyster Band were probably the best rock folkies. Shooglenifty went world dub with bagpipes. Altan played once. Ditto for Tir Na Nog. So did Eliza Macarthy. Little Johnnie English rocked out. Lindisfarne were probably the biggest name to appear (at the South Island School near Ocean Park). The Barely Works were great. And everyone was all happily squished together in this "carpark" talking and making friends and selling CDs and tapes. Wonderful Memories!

So, I've spent a couple of hours trawling around. Wonderful to see the Mandy's Dwyer and Weldon. Sorry didn't gasbag more with you. Melle's old friend Lianne was here (lovely blond hair hon'). There was Trudi and Alison Allen. Tim Yourieff and Robin Gill - all of DV house together. Tim is near enough to a sailing professional. Happy tanned face and kind eyes. Robin used to play cricket for Hong Kong. Had a brief chat with Paul Speak, whose dad was the first HeadMaster. And Rats Ladharan. He and I and Suresh Gopi used to pall around together. Suresh isn't here today though. Also caught up with Danielle and Bo who I helped move to somewhere near Sok Kwu Wan a few years ago. Never got tired of trotting out my number (71113). It seemed to impress some of the youngsters whose numbers started 88..

Looking around at the number of people who did make it, I began wondering about some old classmates who weren't here for whatever reasons. Some of them aren't even in the splendid 40 Years of Island School anthology which was lovingly and professionally put together by Chris Forse. One of the Island School Principals, but I never met him. Anyway, when the Island School moved from BMH to the present location, a lot of records were lost. Not necessarily a good thing. Not like Sir Humphrey Appleby in "Yes, Prime Minister" when all sorts of embarrassing records were lost in the Floods of ... (whenever). So, here are some other names I've managed to dredge up from those halcyon days of yore:

I've mentioned Suresh. Other people from my years include David Dudgeon (I think he became a marine biologist at HKU). Tim Roper whose dad was a top dude in the Government. Used to deal with snakes and rats and creepy-crawlies as a sort of vermin environment official. There was Geoff Moore, a couple of months older than me and who now lives in England. His and my mate Jeremy (Jez) Allen. There were Michelle and Mo Mueller, the German sisters. Mo won the Ladies Cross Harbour Swim three times. There was Anita Freeman and her younger sister, Sheila. Christine Smurthwaite (we dated), I remember Barry giving Anita, Christine and I Latin lessons at his home in Pokfulam. No smutty innuendos intended by this comment. There was Jane Porte (we dated). Yvonne Mink (we dated). Michelle and Nicole Nossal who were French-Canadian twins (we dated - separately). There was Anne Lusher. She returned to HK in the early-mid 1970's and visited me and flatmates at our house behind the Templar in Stanley. We had a biggish concrete garden with a few trees and a sort of gazebo table in the middle. The Park and Shop Hyperstore is on the site now. Only two of the trees remain. Anne was a bit shy I recall, but turned into one lovely hippie-chick when she came visiting. A fun friend. There was Diane Lawrence (we dated). Sally Miller, a good friend of Diane's. We re-connected briefly when I was at boarding school. Younger friends included Rich Dunning, Donald Gordon, Mike Bull, John (Jay) Penman, Gary Pickford and Jill Aitken. I had a ten year or so relation with Jane Grace (same birthday as Melle). Her middle sister, Brenda, became Head Girl while youngest sister Carol was more the svelte model type. Their dad was Paul Grace, the Deputy Police Commissioner of HK Island. A fine policeman and father. His wife Winnie was a top nurse. I had lots of fun times at their Government flat in Old Peak Road. Jane and I eventually became disillusioned with each other and split up. Not sure what happened to her. Might have died. Other girlfriends included Karen Penlington (not sure if she was Island School, but her dad was a top Judge). Mary Rose Trainor - a sweet Oirish Lass to be sure surr... And then there was Elissa Robertson.

I'm a bit hazy as to whether Elissa and I dated. Everyone else seems to think so and she's cropped up at a number of other reunions over the years. Melle and Sarah kept saying she's here and eventually guided me over to where she was having a chin wag with Mike Jones. I sat down nearby and was rewarded by Elissa chatting to Mike and giving me half-second looks every five seconds or so. In retrospect, I'm not sure if she was doing the bare social minimum to keep me in the conversational loop or indicating that my presence wasn't required and to XXXX off now. So Mike finished his natter and I had Elissa all to myself. A brief retrospective of what I'd done in the past 47 years was dismissed as a brag (warning bells!). She devolved into a dismissal-cum-harangue involving a detailed dissection of all Geoff Moore's grievous flaws. (He Sure Done Her Wrong!) She concluded this tirade with a haughty, yet impressive, double flounce while receding from view. I'm left sitting there stunned and thinking "What Just Happened?" It was a memorable re-introduction after 47 years. I'll have to ask her about this if our paths ever re-cross. Which hopefully, won't be until the SpaceTimeContinuum has morphed from Big Bang to the Heat Death of Everything - a process guesstimated to take about 100 trillion years or so. And then done it again. So, say 200 trillion years. The only connection point I think we'll have is that we both agree that This Is Not Long Enough.

I went inside the Hall where Tommy Banks was just starting his DJ set. He's a good DJ and bloke. We were briefly playing at Rumours Bar in Causeway Bay about 1984. My 30th birthday and someone had kindly made me a "magic" milkshake (being a little bit vague here) and played "Apocalypse Now" over Hawkwind's "Space Ritual". It was a crowded and manic bar. No one really danced, but no one left either. I felt like my LPs were flying off the decks and circling the room and crash-landing back on the stereo just in time for next mix. Keith Hassett got into a mini-brawl with another mate of mine, Piers Williams (whose dad was top honcho at the Jockey Club) and that sort of set the stage for Tommy to do his magic. Great catching up again with you, Tommy.

Time to wrap this up. Chatted to Melle and Sarah and said goodnight. Caught the 2215 bus from the School Drive to The Landmark. Just missed the 2230 ferry. Called Marilena to say I'd be on the next boat home. She was feeling a bit better, so that was one less worry. It was great to catch up with all and sundry. I'm sure a helluva lot of you saw photos of my card and faved page one of my notebook. Keep in touch.

Here's a link from this story (also on the Lamma.com.hk homepage) to the Island School Alumni Facebook Page.
Hope someone can track down the Missing Students. Hope you can keep in touch. Send photos if you've got them. Enjoy this story. Read my others as well. They're worth the time expended. Chat again, further down the Timeline.


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