Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Old Young Man & His Lazarus (Trilogy 1)

I am not sure if this is a Chinese thing, or Chinese thing from by-gone era. But I have always had a thing for old people: I enjoy their company, their wisdom, and their conversation. I have had the good fortune to get to know some remarkable old men over 70 years of age, and I am kinda in love with several of them now.

You must wonder what kinda old men attract someone as "young" as myelf. So here, I am going to start with the first one. The only reason I am starting my eulogy with Richard, is because I have just visited him in Philipolis this afternoon, where he offered me my usual Belverdere Vodka.

Richard is an English Gentleman from the old school. Here I would like to quote an article in the Times:

"Richard Proctor-Sims runs a bookshop and an art gallery in Philippolis. More than a half-century ago, Richard was a roving features writer for Panorama, the only travel magazine around at the time. In 1972, driving down from Joburg to Cape Town in his little Fiat at no more than 70km/h, he left the N1 somewhere near Beaufort West and found himself on a network of farm roads. He stopped the car and climbed out. “I smelled the clean air and listened, hearing silence for the first time in my life. And then I decided: the Karoo is where I’ll spend my last days... ”

Richard, to summarize his long and interesting life in a few quick lines, is a jack of all trades: once a diplomat, publisher, journalist, and now a restauranteur, bookshop owner, gallery owner, bar owner, and soon to be a shop keeper. Richard's love of books is inspiring and he is full of sense of humor.. I love spending time with him to acquire a few gems of wisdom for free each time, often accompanied by a signature house vodka cocktail.

Today, after arriving back at Laohu Valley, I paid an afternoon visit to Richard in town, delivering a few Chinese leafy vegetables that he showed interest last time he visited me at Laohu Valley. To my surprise, I saw his black and white cat, wandering past me with great ease and with a nice clean coat of fur. I was really pleasantly surprised and wondered if this was the same cat that I saw last time, with a matted fur and scared looks. Ricard had to tell me a story of this cat, now named Lazarus, before I could believe his transformation.

Lazarus, one of two cats inherited from Richard's sister who past away last year, was very shy and avoided any contacts with humans, including Richard, for quite a long time. A couple of months ago, Lazarus was diagnosed with an incurable immunal deficiency, which caused the loss of his coat. The vet recommended euthanising him, and his brother, who although not ill would suffer for the loss of his life-long companion (we know cats do!) if Lazarus is dead.

Lazarus' brother was easily given an lethal injection. Lazarus, being so timid and difficult to catch, was eventually given poison in his food. He was then dead. Richard had him and his brother buried in the ground, with great sadness, being a softy for cats of all kinds.

Next morning, a black and white cat appearred outside Richard's restaurant "Oom Japie se huis" (Uncle Japie's House). Richard could not believe his eyes when he saw this Lazarus look-alike, since it was Lazarus proper!

Since then, all sypmtoms of mange disappearred from the cat, and his personality has also changed - no longer terrified of those scary human beings. Hence, "Lazarus" got his new name, after the man whom Jesus raised from the dead - "Lazarus".

Richard, as if inspired by this miracle, worked wonders on his garage, soon to be turned into a shop selling organic local produce.

I confess that I feel, men like Richard, are old in age, alright, but they are young in mind and spirit.

-April 28, 2009 Li Quan from Laohu Valley Reserve

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