One of those mom tales … Christmas

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We had a rather eventual Christmas. Of all things, we had to be busy with the septic tank. The tank is full and the sewage pipe was blocked. Dirty water (from the toilet and shower and kitchen sink) seeped into our shower cabin.

I had to look for someone to clear the pipe and empty the tank in the middle of the night, at 11 o’clock, on 23rd. The guy we used to get for the job said he was fully booked. Desperate me suddenly remembered seeing some posters with phone nummber at the back lane. I went out to look for them and I really found some.

This new guy said his schedule for emptying the tank was also full. But he could come and do some initial clearing of the pipe. And with that, hopefully the matter could be esaed. The tank could be emptied on Christmas Day. An angel.

We felt relieved for the night, knowing someone would come on the next day. The guy did come and did some clearing, but alas to no avail. So, not that much peace at heart on Christmas Eve. And with high expectation we waited for Christmas Day.

The septic tank is at our neighbour’s backyard, five houses away, where the steps come down. And they are having a garden party today. The poor house owner was very much disappointed that it had to be done on the day of his party. I told him I had considered not using the bathroom and cleaning up the back lane (where the dirt flows out) for another day and ask the cleaning agent to come tomorrow (26th) . But then I am afraid we might have to take the risk of the tank overflowing in the middle of the merry-making..

A good thing he is a reasonable man. To pacify him, I gave them a Panettone meant for our Christmas celebration, with a note to explain the cleaner was coming not at noon but at 1:30.

The cleaning team arrived puctually at 1:30. Yes, quite extraordinary for HK standard. Yesterday he even called to say he would be one hour late.

At around 2:30 pm, we handed the backyard back to our neighbour. He was happy. So were we.

No merry Christmas as such, but yes, a happy one. 🎄

A Christmas with a functioning bathroom and toilet! What luxury!

Wish All a Happy Christmas!



A Little Christmas Carol for Natasha_08_Sword-Bridge

2017.12.17 A Little Christmas Carol for Natasha_08_Sword-Bridge_F.png


膽 琴心 邀新歲
頭 柳鬢 迎青舟

sword-bile harp-heart invite New Year
bridge-head willow-sideburn welcome green boat

On Monmon entering Cambridge (sword-bridge 劍橋)

A Little Christmas Carol for Natasha_05_The Story of Two (ii)

The Story of Two (ii)

Düsseldorf, Tuesday, 12.10.1999, 10:02 pm

Cont’d from (i)

After teaching Toshie, I rushed to the supermarket to get glucose and castor sugar for the syrup. REWE was closed already. I drove to OTTO MESS. It was still open. Got my stuff and dashed home to my chestnuts.

What a wonderful picture! All these naked chestnuts of different shapes and sizes. I began to put them into the big pot, taking very much care not to break them and feeling very proud of myself that out of so many I had only broken seven or eight.

On one hotplate simmered the chestnuts, on another I prepared dinner. A big Kohlrabi for only 39 Pfennig, plus the rest of the brown mushrooms I bought for our never-appearing guests last week. To make it a fine dish, I added some sour cream. Macaroni fried in olive oil and chives. A nutritious and economical dinner. All ready in 20 minutes.

Now, Otmar the non-vegetarian could not do without meat.

I looked into the big pot. Some chestnuts were breaking up. I turned off the fire, wanted to pour out the water but decided to warm up some minced meat for Otamr instead. The chestnuts could wait, or so I thought.

Dinner lasted only two minutes. But even then it was already too late. The chestnuts looked as if they had gone through an earthquake. Only two survived!

I refused to give up, digging out whatever that could be saved and put these pieces into the syrup as planned.

The rest was made into ‘chestnut chutney a la maison’. Instead of vinegar, I put in some red wine and cherry brandy. To make it something special I chopped up my last piece of ginger and mixed it with the chestnut and syrup.

Otmar was tasting my chutney when I asked him what his daily happy incident was today. We have started doing that for some days now. I think it fun to look at the half-full part of the glass of Life together. A few days ago he told me how he was eating a folded up pizza in the sun; and another day: he got praised by his boss and his colleagues. I was thinking today he might say: trying out this hard-earned product of mine made from the chestnuts we picked together.

Well, today his happy incident was eating out with this colleague whose wife gave birth to triplets some time ago. He got treated to a yum yum curry chicken sandwich by the proud father.

He did not ask me what my happy incident was. Probably he was thinking that with me feeling so sad about all the chestnuts being kaput, I might not have anything happy to tell…

But if he had asked me, I would have told him that my happy incident for today was that I found two whole chestnuts among the debris.

:):) 🙂 :))::):): ): ):):): ):):) 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 :):) 🙂 :):) 🙂 :):):):):): :):):)

2017.12.12 A Little Christmas Carol for Natasha_04_The Story of Two

A Little Christmas Carol for Natasha_04_The Story of Two (i)

The Story of Two (i)

Düsseldorf, Tuesday, 12.10.1999, 10:02 pm

I have already been thinking of making some sweets out of the 202 chestnuts we picked up from the park last Sunday, but it was Eric, my French ‘son’, who gave me the last push last night. He was telling me how expensive these glazed chestnuts were and how they would melt in one’s mouth…

It is a big challenge to make glazed chestnuts, according to Eric. The reason why these whole chestnuts are so expensive is that chestnuts break very easily. But it is not to show myself I could do it that made me want to try out the recipe which I had found in an old cookbook. It was more that I would like Eric and, above all, Otmar (my now ex) to savour this specialty made from self-picked chestnuts.

I spent half an hour snipping the tip off the chestnuts and five hours peeling them. I even skipped lunch. I simply swallowed one of those big apples brought by Andreas before I dashed off to teach Toshie at four.

A handful of chestnuts had landed in Eric’s oven but it was still a long and complicated process peeling the rest of them. The problem is that they have to be peeled hot. After two hours trial and error, I found out the most efficient way. When I finished, my finger tips looked as if they had big blisters but I did a neat job.

The process I devised ran like this:

Two saucepans of water boiling on the hotplates.
Put chestnut A into the first saucepan, after a while chestnut B.
After one or two minutes, when A is hot and the shell no longer hard, take it out.
Put chestnut C into the same saucepan where B was and move B to position A.
Take off the shell of A and put into the second saucepan.

Now B is ready. Take it out.
Put chestnut D into the first saucepan, move C to the ‘front’.
Take off the shell of B and put into the second saucepan.
Meanwhile A is ready for peeling. Take it out of the second saucepan.
Peel A.

Now C is ready. Take it out.
Put chestnut E into the first saucepan, move D to the ‘front’.
Take off the shell of C and put into the second saucepan.
Meanwhile B is ready for peeling. Take it out of the second saucepan.
Peel B.

Now D is ready. Take it out.
Put chestnut F into the first saucepan, move E to the ‘front’.
Take off the shell of D and put into the second saucepan.
Meanwhile C is reading for peeling. Take it out of the second saucepan.
Peel C.

I have always thought that chestnuts were more or less smooth as their shells. I never knew they kind of look like walnuts when they are without their peel. And so many different shapes in their half roundness, so many crevices.

I had to think of what Eric said about the non-existence of uniqueness in people and things. I wish I could show him all the peeled chestnuts.

2017.12.12 A Little Christmas Carol for Natasha_04_The Story of Two
(To be cont’d)


A Little Christmas Carol for Natasha_02_ Holes

2017.12.03 Holes


If it had not been for this apple pie which Otmar baked, I would have forgotten that these holes existed in my mind.

Such a thick top he put on the apple pie that it was possible for the fork to poke in deep holes…

And such deep holes I once looked at with big eyes when I was small. Deep holes on tea biscuits. I used to look for holes which would go through. I think I never found any…

Tea biscuits. Special tea biscuits which we bought from a factory where an aunt of ours was working. Mother used to take us there. It was a rare treat for us because we could take the ferry to cross the Harbour– in those days there was no Cross-Harbour Tunnel. It was always a day trip.

The tea biscuits were special because they were the left-overs from the packaging department. They were broken tea biscuits. It was shortly after the War, and, believe it or not, in those days, one could buy broken biscuits. In any case, they were the only kind we could afford then.

I remember half tea biscuits which we would kind of hate; I remember bigger than half biscuits which we would consider acceptable; I remember considering biscuits with just one corner broken to be priceless. Above all, I remember with fond memory finding those almost-impossible-to-find biscuits with only one tiny tip of a corner missing!

And I would be running my fingers over my ‘perfect’ tea biscuit, feeling its deep holes…

Düsseldorf, 1999.12.15
Re-published, in response to Storyhucker Stuart M. Perkins
Hong Kong, 2017.12.03

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