08 June 2014

The long hot Whitsun weekend, I got R interested in Happy Valley, in three nightly portions. I know I am a telly addict. My mother always knew,  in her opinion watching tv was common and lazy, and of course I was a weakling, wasting my precious talents. Often enough she would switch the thing off, sending me upstairs to get involved in some academic challenge like reading or homework or piano practice. 
Anyway, now we are hooked.

It helps - massively - to be told by three handsome dentists, after careful examination and the obligatory x-ray, that my ache pain is not related to a dental problem. Also, since it comes and goes I have reasons to be cheerful. That and another medical appointment next Friday to investigate possible connections between vertigo, sinuses and autoimmune disease. As long as I can keep what's left of my shiny white teeth, I don't mind. Honestly. For the time being.

Last night, listening to a program on the world service we were reminded of this week 25 years ago. 
Another gorgeous day in paradise and there I was, sitting in my air conditioned office on the ground floor in the government buildings.  We had a tv set and a video player, so there was always a gang of government drivers lolling on the sofa watching kung-fu videos during their many breaks. It could get quite crowded. 

That morning, my magical twins,  two beautiful shy young men I was supposedly instructing in the skills of capitalism, asked me very quietly if I had a minute.  The priest in their village across the mountains had received a phone call, they told me. Their youngest brother was in trouble and it was decided that I would be the person to ask for help. For all the obvious reasons, namely that I was white, European, filthy rich - in their eyes (we had a car!) - and probably also connected to the powerful rulers of the world. They had seen me talking to one of the government ministers only days ago, right?

The trouble was in China. The youngest brother, apparently most gifted, had recently received a scholarship to study art in Beijing. Together with other African students he was living in a hostel, isolated and segregated because black people in China - well, use your imagination. In the days after the Tianamen Massacre on June 4th, 1989, a mob had set the hostel on fire. Somehow the brother managed to escape, others were not so lucky. All we could figure out was that he was somewhere in China, maybe still in Beijing, alone, without food, without his papers, without money and certainly unable to speak the local language. 

Meanwhile the men and women in charge of this small impoverished African paradise refused to jeopardise their enormous financial ties with China and pretended to be unavailable.

My first thought: Oh fuck this, why me.
But of course it wasn't just me after I managed to get someone from one consulate and another someone from a high commission on the phone and a short while later we were waiting to meet another someone and so on. Very colonial in the end. Just as well, Hong Kong was still British. Six days later, my shy twins introduced me to their equally shy brother, we all cried a bit and that was that. On fb I can see his latest paintings and sculptures. He returned to China eventually, completed his studies there and later in the UK, and has been teaching art in paradise, he is a star. He really is.


  1. This is an extraordinary story, so humbly told. This was a moment of magnificent purpose I think. And it worked.

  2. Great post, Sabine. What a story.

    (Glad too that your current problems are not dental ones .. let's hope they get to grips with the cause).

  3. Whoa! You are part of history.
    May you forever keep your shiny white teeth!
    And watching TV is okay. I promise you.

  4. Wow..... you need to write your life story. Please!

  5. Hmmm ... yes. That does make sense that the tooth pain could be related to sinuses. May the doctor be able to address the pain from that perspective.

    That's quite a moving story about the shy brothers who turned to you for help for their artist brother all those years ago Life is rich.

    Interesting, your mention of Whitsun weekend. There is no equivalent here.

    Yay for Katherine of Happy Valley!

  6. Thank you for sharing that amazing story. And you are a star, too. You really are!

  7. You can read more about whitsun on Wikipedia:

    In Germany, it's called Pfingsten (pentecost) and it includes the Monday which is a public holiday. Just as well because it is very very hot right now and I am glad I don't have to commute or work.

  8. ah, Happy Valley, largely filmed in my home town, starring the awesome and beautiful Sarah Lancashire... everyone around here is talking about it, but alas I cannot watch at the present time - much too violent....

  9. You make me very curious.

  10. Such a wonderful, uplifting story. Amazing what good-hearted people can do with the right connections and a telephone. Makes me wish every intervention was like this one.