You may also like to read When The Future Changed.
I was able to escape after carefully repeating the names of all three books, and writing out the names of all three authors so everyone had the right characters for looking them up in the library indexes. Because I was intending to spend a solid slice of the next two hours in the library, I took myself off to the camellia nook to eat my lunch. Sitting among the plants and the odour of moist mulch was very centring, and I enjoyed it quietly for a little while longer after I finished eating.
( Read more... )
Slinderin Elmsfather had studied, prayed, held vigil, practised, and studied some more. He’d been examined by his teachers and their masters to what felt like within an inch of his life, and finally, he was being presented to his god for approval and acceptance. He knelt at the prayer rail in front of the altar, and said all the proper words he’d been taught for this occasion, but in his mind all he thought was, “Please, take me.”( Read more... )
Notes from Cabbage Tree Flat
Compiled by K. T. Javenlake
All local state schools will resume classes for Semester 4 on Monday, 9 October17, despite the explosions in the boys’ toilet blocks at Trulong High School, St Wenddershin’s Ecclesiastical High School, and the Nugent Abbot Grammar School. The Reverend Dennis MacMichael, pastor of St Wenddershin’s parish has confirmed that the Ecclesiastical will also recommence classes as planned on 9 October 17. The campus of the Nugent Abbot Grammar School is still closed for the police investigation, and school officials have declined to comment to the press.
Last weekend’s first match of the women’s senior cricket season was unmarred for Cabbage Tree Flat and Mowana Cricket Clubs at the Steve Moon Oval by anything other than Miss Beatrice Goodall’s six for Cabbage Tree Flat, off the bowling of Mrs Debbie Dunstable, which hit Mr Jack Bailey’s ute. Mr Bailey’s green metallic vehicle was parked in violation of the Oval’s rules, and Mr Bailey had refused several directions from match officials to move it. Mr Bailey threatened legal action, but was given a severe talking to by his mother, Mrs Pauline Bailey, then sent away to think about what he’d done.
The State Rural Fire Service has issued an official reminder in the lead-up to the bushfire danger period that burning off should not be undertaken lightly or alone.
The Winston Musical and Dramatic Society have announced that their next production will be A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Performances will be held in the Cabbage Tree Flat Public Hall from 1 to 16 December 17, the Draper Pavilion in Winston being unavailable due to complications involving Mrs Doreen Tompkins’ retirement from the Society.
Due to a lively trade in illicit copies of the water main access key used by licensed water carters within Mortland Shire, the Mortland and Strawn Water Board replaced all their access locks within the Shire on 27 and 28 September 17. Licence holders have been advised of the procedure to obtain new keys. Non-licence holders requesting replacement keys may expect to be met with legal action.
Uncle Charlie Brent has made a statement on behalf of the Garrakool Lands Council warning would-be foragers that the bogong moth does not transit the Middle Coast during its migration, and that the similar seeming moths occurring here in spring are completely unrelated species. One of these is the moth of the processional caterpillar, which can cause skin irritations leading to infections. Uncle Charlie’s statement continued, “…This interest in native foods is praiseworthy, but needs to be balanced with knowledge. Make sure what you’ve identified grows here before you pick or collect. Remember – if you eat something you shouldn’t, then you may not have time to get help.”
The Cabbage Tree Flat Netball Club will be holding a cake stall at the gate of Cabbage Tree Flat Primary School on Saturday, 7 October 17 to raise funds for new equipment. Miss Madison Carter, captain of the State Netball Team known as the Blue Waratahs, will be present.
All local Bush Fire Brigades have called for volunteers in the lead up to the bushfire danger period, and remind residents to make a Bush Fire Survival Plan. Planning documents and a app can be downloaded from the State Rural Fire Service website.
The Sparkling Waters Shopping Centre in Trulong will be holding their “Welcome Santa Christmas Parade” on Saturday, 26 November 17 at 10:30am. Any community groups wishing to participate should contact Mrs Edna Prout at the Centre’s Administration Office during business hours.
Professor Anders Garstang of the State University will be conducting a wildlife population study of the regrowth forest on the southern side of Cooranbong Road during the period 5 to 12 October 17. A number of box traps and trap nets will be used in the study, and members of the public who come across animal-occupied traps in the area during this period are asked not to release them. If, however, you come across Professor Garstang or his assistants in any of these traps, your assistance in freeing them will be gratefully received.
We finish with this week’s question from Mr Xasan Guleed Mukhtar, “Who was B. J. Draper and why are so many local things named after him?” Bertram James Draper (1885-1956) was the last descendant of Matthew Collins Draper who received a land grant in 1813 to an area that covered what is now the north-east corner of Cabbage Tree Flat, southern Lower Simpson, and Orchard Fields north of Ferry Road. The Drapers and their property, known as Lanchester Park, prospered until 1897 when, while Bertram and his mother attended her first cousin’s wedding, his father killed Bertram’s younger and older siblings, set fire to an oil soaked rope he’d laid through the house, and then committed suicide. Bertram inherited Lanchester Park and was able to continue running it as a successful business. However, he allegedly did not marry and have children because he refused to continue his father’s bloodline. On his death his will contained provisions for funding the construction of the Draper Pavilion in the Winston Showgrounds, and a trust which pays: four bursaries per year to support students at Trulong High School, annual sums to support the upkeep of physical property for over twenty local community groups including three cricket clubs, six football clubs across three codes, and two churches. Draper Street in Cabbage Tree Flat was originally the driveway that led to the main house at Lanchester Park from what is now Old Trulong Road.
So, here we go:
Notes from Cabbage Tree Flat
Compiled by K. T. Javenlake
Following this last weekend’s early start to the men’s senior cricket season, the Middle Coast Cricket Association has called on the Afternoon Tea Committees of the Cabbage Tree Flat and Mowana Cricket Clubs to aid a quick and peaceful resolution to the matter of the missing serving platters. Both Mrs Ethel Coolidge of Mowana, and Mrs Bea Prout of Cabbage Tree Flat are missing a kookaburra-jubilee pattern serving platter used at the afternoon tea provided for the players at the Steve Moon Oval. Mr George Taylor, on behalf of the Middle Coast Cricket Association, told this correspondent, “No-one wants a repeat of the Tenterfield cake stand incident, and whoever has the plates can return them, no questions asked, to either Club house or the Association’s offices in Trulong.” The plates remain missing as at the time of publication, and no-one this correspondent has spoken to has suggested who may have taken them.
Uncle Charlie Brent has issued a reminder on behalf of the Garrakool Lands Council that the bunyip breeding season in the Simpson and Trulong River valleys will begin with the storm season in mid-October. Residents and business owners with buildings within 100 metres of waterways in these two networks, or within 150 metres of the Craic and Mowana wetlands, should check and maintain their security doors and gates before then. Patrols of the Illawong Creek network will begin in mid-October to ensure that the species does not extend their range in the coming breeding season. Anyone wishing to volunteer for patrol duty may contact Aunty Rhonda Burgess on Tuesdays or Thursdays at the Land Council’s offices in Trulong.
Mr Stanley and Mrs Wendy Crozier of “Dun Roaning” Horse Stud on Old Trulong Road, Cabbage Tree Flat, are delighted to announce the engagement of their second daughter, Miss Leslie Crozier, to Mr Anthony Beacon, only son of the late Mr Alastair Beacon and Mrs Lisa Goodall. The happy couple intend to live at the farm in Culpepper Road, Cabbage Tree Flat, that the late Mr Beacon bequeathed to his son. The groom’s stepfather, Mr Douglas Goodall, is expected to hand over management of the property to his stepson in the leadup to the wedding, which is planned for August next year.
The Middle Coast Group of the Country Women’s Association has announced that their Year Six Study of a Foreign Country Competition for this year will be on Crna Gora. Projects are due to the administration office of the entrant’s primary school by 10:00am on 6 November 2017, and will be collected by the CWA judging committee’s representatives no later than 3:00pm that day.
The State Police Missing Persons Unit has asked that anyone who saw or spoke to Mr Gary Musgrave or Mr Martin Keen, of Creighton Vale, on or after 22 August of this year contact their local police. Mr Musgrave and Mr Keen left Creighton Vale on 22 August to travel to Lomax, but neither arrived nor returned home. Information to hand suggests that they planned the trip believing that the Handley’s Ridge Road through the Simpson State Forest was open to through traffic. This makes it likely that they were in the vicinity of Cabbage Tree Flat, Lower Simpson, and Matersford on 22 or 23 August. They were travelling in a green Bridge ute with the black and white number plate YHB-89U. Neither man is considered dangerous, but fears are held for their safety.
Local citrus growers are warned that orange blossom prices at the Central Flower Markets remain high, and that reports of flower-rustling have been moving south since the blooming season began. Growers should keep their eyes open for suspicious persons and vehicles, then report the same to Sgt Warwick James of the Rural Crime Division at the Trulong Police Station. Sgt James has pointed out to this correspondent that various forms of personal retribution taken against flower rustlers and poachers in the past have destroyed or contaminated evidence that may have made court convictions obtainable.
Mr Craig Jobben has hired the Cabbage Tree Flat Public Hall for the evening of 30 September 2017 when he is holding a public meeting to discuss the reorganisation of Mortland Shire back into its pre-1948 components of Trulong and Winston Shires. Doors open at 7:30pm. Supper, tea and coffee will be available for a gold coin donation.
This week’s closing question comes from Miss Evelyn Bennett who asks, “Who used the cemetery at the western end of Cooranbong Road, and why was it abandoned before it was full?” My inquiries have revealed that the Cooranbong Road Cemetery was attached to the Chapel of the Reformed Congregation of St Joseph. No information was available on what they reformed from, but their leader from the time they arrived to take over the old Wyndotte property in western Cabbage Tree Flat in 1897, was the charismatic Reverend Alan Yates. The community appears to have operated like a commune or a kibbutz with the property held communally, and it seems to have flourished until World War I. Two of the Reverend Yates’ three sons died in the trenches, and many of the survivors from the community chose not to return. Despite this setback, they continued on to Reverend Yates’ death in 1927 when his surviving son took over the leadership as Reverend Hubert Yates. Matters seemed to be going well, but Reverend Hubert disappeared from the community on the night of 24 May 1931. On investigation, he had emptied the community’s bank account the afternoon before he left. The death blow, however, was that the community’s land had been secretly mortgaged to pay his personal gambling debts and foreclosure was imminent. The community subsequently dispersed, the chapel was dismantled in 1936 and moved to Lower Simpson for use by the Methodist congregation, but the cemetery remains.
The pieces were in position, and the die was cast. No-one expected the last of the gods to survive the night. The aljur of the lands beyond the chaos fence, numbering in thousands, had them surrounded in the last sacred grove of the divine immortal home. The gods themselves were down to a dozen, half of them injured, and none of them major divinities. They knew their enemies were enjoying this.
They were preparing for the end, when Emuthain, the trickster lost to Akkardy for the last century, strolled out of a tree, flicking a coin around with one hand, and asked, “What’s up, and where is everyone?”
As it happens, I was asked about Clancy's mother's reaction....
I went to bed after finishing my readings and practicing my new vocabulary words – they say it takes a hundred repetitions to learn a new character, and that method has always worked for me. By the time I was finished I had sheets of paper stacked on my desk, each with one character written many times on them. One of the faults of my handwriting, from a calligraphic point of view, is that it looks like a mishmash of printed typefaces, mainly because I got most of my advanced written vocabulary from books. These words weren’t going to change that. I can admire those beautiful, flowing, handwritten scrolls, but I can’t write like that. Sometimes I’d like to be able to, but my attempts always end in tears and mess. Which is probably why my alarm clock woke me from a dream where I was trying to scrub ink out of floor matting. Let’s just say that even in my dreams my calligraphy was never going to get me my driver’s licence and leave it at that.
( Read more... )
This is now followed by Halfway Through The First Week
I wrote this to the Thimbleful Thursday prompt "A day late and a dollar short."
“Anyone would think,” said the School Governor grimly as she looked at the records before her, “that you don’t want to be here, Uthel. Your work is both patchy and tardy, but your teachers are convinced that you could excel, if you chose to.” She raised an eyebrow and asked, “Why do you not choose to?”
Uthel’s outfit barely scraped into the school uniform code. Her belted tunic was regulation length and she wore shoes, but her legs were bare and her shirt was sleeveless cream silk, not short-sleeved white cotton. “Coming here was what Pretoria wanted. I was happy in the normal school system, but she insisted. Now my twin’s dead I have no reason to stay, but no-one listens to what I want to do.”
“Your sister’s death was a tragedy,” acknowledged the Governor, “but your grief is no reason to throw away your own bright, promising future.”
“Governor,” Uthel hadn’t changed her position, hands behind her back and feet apart, “I don’t want the future Pretoria did. Neither do you. Pretoria was my dominant twin, and being my twin didn’t make her kind. She was, has always been, only interested in what she wants. Death hasn’t changed that.”
“You believe she’s still here?”
“And she wants?”
“Another one. We really should test for that.”
I liked Gai Qiu. I suspected that she might have a crush on Zhang Wong, but as that was his intention, with the way he presented himself I can’t say I blamed her. Zhang Wong’s long-term aim was probably a film or entertainment career so having female fans fall in love with him was probably part of his game plan. I hoped he would be kind to them.
( Read more... )
This is now followed byAn Ordinary Morning .
Thanks to a confluence of atmospheric lows and troughs, the rain front marched across the continent in a steady, soaking line. Out on the black grass plains, where the road builders had not yet ventured, the tracks used by the bullock teams to deliver goods to the fledgling towns of the farm settlers turned to axle-deep, thick, red mud. In the hills that previous, long gone inhabitants had called the Sharp Hills, water filled the crevasses and seeped downwards or ran off over rocks, filling the streams that ran down into the watercourses that were normally strings of lazy waterholes winding across the plains.
Tiny pink shrimp hatched in the rock-bound puddles of the hills and, down in the growing waterholes that were beginning to be joined by flowing trickles of water, the sharp toothed bunyips were preparing to mate. Wise farmer settlers moved their livestock and stockmen to higher ground, away from the homes of those increasingly bold ambush predators of the plain’s rivers, and the little towns built their baby levees a few feet higher. The few land singers left on plains went up onto the old safe places that the farmer settlers had not yet taken, and sang the songs of Diragool and Murrumbudge so that they would not be forgotten.
Water shapes the land. Water has always shaped the land, just as water and the lack of it has shaped the use of the land. Given time, water can get anywhere and change anything. Water is why the Sharp Hills are no longer sharp, and water is what opened what had been the deepest crevasse in the Sharp Hills into a gully. The water cascaded down the orange-brown rock face of the gully’s side at the height of the rain, and scoured out the silt and rubbish that had accumulated at the bottom. It was water that carried old bones, small stones, and the Gift of Tethwandue out of the gully and down into the first of the rush-edged waterholes at the foot of the hills.
And there the Gift lay in plain sight, which had been put away from reach and vision of all by the dream walkers, long before the land singers had come to the plains. Its fact, reason, and fate forgotten, the Gift sat in shallow water waiting for the sun to emerge from the clouds and give it back its natural sparkle. The sparkle that trapped, enslaved, and doomed.
I ate my lunch in the same place as I had the previous day, and then walked back to Earth Sciences to present myself at Room 12 on the fourth floor of Laboratory Building Number 5 (Earth Sciences) a little before noon. It was a large, well lit room furnished with fourteen large desks, each of which had two seats at it. I was the sixth person to arrive and I greeted our tutor, who was waiting at the door with a clay jar in his hands. “Scholar Wu,” I bowed politely.
Wu Gin, for my geography tutor was indeed also my importunate acquaintance from the train to Xiamtian from the capital, bowed slightly in return and said, “Please take a token from the jar, Miss Sung, and then find the seat with the matching mark. That will be your seat for the rest of this year in this class.” My token had the radical character ‘er’ on it, and I found my seat was set in the windowless corner of the room – something that was apparently compensated for by that position having two work or reading lamps allocated to it. I discovered that most of the position had an appalling view of the board behind the tutor’s desk, mainly because my desk was in line with the tutor’s desk, but if I moved to the corner of the table I could see it. That wasn’t quite enough to put me in the lap or line of sight of Chow Jian who sat at the next table, but there was a small enough separation that I reminded myself to be careful.
I didn’t know any of the other students in the group yet. Chow Jian was a jovial, barrel-shaped boy who had cheerfully introduced himself when I sat down, but I noticed that a girl who was probably the one Professor Tian had described as having ‘orange pom-poms for hair’ had the seat on the far end of the room’s diagonal from me, in the corner with two windows. When all twenty-five of us had turned up there was a sole empty desk in the middle of the middle row. My desk mate was Sen Chou who was a tall, serious fellow with a grave bow and didn’t seem at all talkative. The fourth member of our corner plonked himself down in a whirl of bags and shaggy hair at the last minute, then hastily introduced him as Mu Gen just before Scholar Wu began to address us. The elegant girl with a long hair braid directly behind him, something Zhang I thought I’d heard her say, pulled her chair into her desk to get further away from him.
Scholar Wu started by formally introducing himself, “I am Scholar Wu Gin, and I will be your tutor in Physical Geography for this year. In these laboratory sessions we will concentrate on the construction of maps – taking the data and representing it in comprehendible form on paper. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then we will identify the relevant words and then provide the picture. The tutorial session that we have later in the week will concentrate on written tasks, assigned readings, and questions arising from the lecture material. The assessment schedule was covered in the lecture so you already know about the exams, the weekly work from both our sessions together, and the projects you will be doing later in the year. Today we will work on identifying the relevant data for your first map, and I have handouts for both the map data, and the map making materials you will require. You should note that I have annotated the materials list with when you will require each item so you don’t need to get everything all at once.”
The handouts were passed around and I couldn’t help but notice that the materials list was a full double-sided page in length. Fortunately, for the next lab we only needed six items.
I spent the next three quarters of an hour working out what we were supposed to be mapping, the scale, and how many symbols I would need to have in my legend. My classmates did the same, and one of us accompanied his work with a whistled rendition of The Marshal’s Serenade, a folk tune that had been part of the obligatory curriculum cultural units every year of my school life. Our phantom musician had quite a good version, and although there were glances around the room to try and work out where the sound was coming from, no-one complained.
Ten minutes before the lab was due to end, Scholar Wu called for our attention and said, “Starting with the student in the outer seat on the front window desk, please stand, give your name, and tell us what you will be tracking in your map. If someone says something that isn’t in your map data, don’t panic.” He turned to the student sitting at the far end of my row and said, “If you will begin please.”
The student stood, silhouetted against the windows so I couldn’t see any details, and then he bowed. “I am Fat Rang, and I am mapping land use, soil type and settlement location.” The rest of us followed off in order, and I discovered that the elegant girl was Zang Zhang.
When it was my turn I stood, introduced myself with a bow and said, “I am mapping current and previous watercourse paths, with land use, roads and settlements.”
Scholar Wu resumed, “Thank you, everyone. You will have noticed, I’m sure, that only a very few of you are doing exactly the same map. That’s perfectly fine for this exercise, given the data and the instructions you’ve been given. We will spend several weeks on this map, so you’ll have time to consider other interpretations of the data than that which initially struck you or which you decided to pursue. You will also begin to develop your personal library of map symbols – even the standard ones can be personalised, if you wish, and of course different styles of map will require different symbols. We will meet again for our tutorial on the last day of the week, so please make sure you’ve done the readings set in the lecture by then. If you need to speak to me at any other time, my office is in Earth Sciences faculty building and a note into my pigeon hole in the front foyer will reach me if I’m not in my office. Have I covered everything for now?”
He looked around the room, and apparently no-one had any additional questions so he dismissed us. As we filed out of the room, a class of more senior students, who were toting map cases, were waiting to come in.
I had an hour before my statistics lecture and decided to make my way over to the Sung Mah Memorial Building so that I could meet up with Ong Tien. The mathematics buildings, including the graciously proportioned memorial, were in the eastern portion of the university campus near the main gates. Someone had apparently put a great deal of thought into what infrastructure mathematicians required to sustain themselves, and one of the support buildings was a food court arrangement with noodles, dim sum, and seafood options. That building’s two wings turned out to be an old-fashioned tea house on one side, and a tavern or bar on the other. The bar was called The Artilleryman, while the tea house was Views of the Kwaizhu under the Third Moon. Which sounded rather macabre in context, but that sort of melancholy name has a long history in tea houses and, I am told, in mingji and yueji establishments – although I didn’t expect to find one of those in the middle of the university.
I had tea and a snack in the food court before making my way into the memorial building and locating the lecture rooms. I was looking for Ong Tien but she saw me first, and the first I knew of her presence was a tap on the shoulder.
“Sung Nai, that is you, isn’t it?” When I turned around Ong Tien smiled at me with black lips and said, “I’m so glad to see you. My Modern History tutorial is full of earnest, would-be politicians and activists, and they’re all so intense! They look at me as if I’m weird whenever I say something, and can we please just go sit in our lecture and act like normal people?” She shuddered.
I asked, “What do they think is weird?”
“That maybe someone writing analysis on the Chiafu Movement at the time knew more about what was going on and was relevant than Deng bloody Shuo, who was born twenty years later and was writing during the Occupation. They don’t even consider that he might, just might, have been criticizing the Occupation Government that was in power at the time he was writing because he’s their political god, and he could never have done anything other than say exactly what he meant or have been in fear of his life if he did.”
I asked, “Should I admit that I’m not entirely sure who Deng Shuo was? Did he have something to do with drafting the Presidential Constitution? I think I remember something like that from Civics – I didn’t do Modern Studies.” With both Earth Sciences subjects in my timetable I hadn’t had room for any other major disciplines.
Ong Tien laughed. “No, Deng Shuo opposed the Presidential Constitution – he thought we should continue under the original Republican Constitution that was brought in when the Occupation ended. Apparently though he got on really well with Wang Wei, the first President under the Presidential Constitution.”
“I do remember reading that Wang Wei said that being a primary school teacher for almost thirty years had been a good grounding for dealing with Parliament.” My Civics class, only a year out of primary school ourselves when one of us had had to read that out to the class, had found the notion enormously amusing. It had also set an image in my mind of Wang Wei, President of the Republic of Tang-ji and incarnation of the Solar Emperor, as being like Mr Hei at my primary school who had spent his life teaching six year olds how to hold their pens correctly and read basic characters.
Ong Tien replied, “I like the eulogy that Deng Shuo gave at Wang Wei’s funeral where he said that even if the whole Solar Emperor incarnation was, as the Occupiers had claimed, nonsense, in Wang Wei the republic had found a President who had managed to make Parliament do what it was supposed to do.” She sighed. “Let’s go learn about statistics and forget about political history for now.”
We looked again at our timetables and went for the third lecturer’s session. Professor Cao Mian was in the fourth-floor lecture theatre and waiting for students to arrive when we entered the room, so our first view of her was of a small, energetic woman pacing backwards and forwards across the front of the podium. The energy continued when she started talking, and she spoke with both her hands and her body, using continuous gestures and lunges to emphasis her points. It was clear to me, if not necessarily others that when she paused was where we, the students, were supposed to think. My hand didn’t quite wear out taking notes, but we seemed to cover a lot of information in the hour – including examination and other assessment schedules. Professor Cao finished by giving us two lots of readings, one set for background for the lecture she’d just given us and the other pre-reading for next week’s lecture.
Ong Tien commented, “The question is, can I read my own notes?”
“Facts, queries, and population definition. Did I miss anything?” I looked at my own notes and realized that in places I’d inserted a movement diagram depicting what the professor or her hands had been doing at that moment. “I may have to work on the relevancy of my notes.”
“She certainly makes you feel like everything she’s saying is important, doesn’t she?” Ong Tien sounded slightly shell-shocked. “I need to go to the library and get some Water Science reading done, but would you like to have some tea first?”
“Yes, please.” I smiled and added, “I want to go to the Gi Club meeting at four. They’re in a gym up near Physical and Life Sciences, but I’m not sure what to expect given that they didn’t have a stand at orientation.”
Packing up her things, Ong Tien commented, “That’s the sort of thing groups do if they don’t take first year students, but a sporting club? Yes, that is weird.”
We had tea in Views of the Kwaizhu under the Third Moon, and I shocked Ong Tien by ordering from the expensive side of the menu for both of us.
After the waitress left us she hissed me, “What are you doing? I can’t afford that.”
“Buying us good tea,” I replied. “It’s my treat. I need fortification for the Gi Club and you need strengthening for your studies.”
“But that’s a Quimong tea!”
“Yes,” I agreed. “I like Red Dragon First Growth. I’m hoping that this Golden Phoenix will be almost as good.”
“My grandmother doesn’t drink Quimong. She says it’s too expensive!” Ong Tien was looking guilty.
“Your grandmother isn’t paying for this,” I pointed out. “Besides, Master Que always says I have an image to build and maintain, and I choose that image to include enjoying really good tea and sharing it with my friends. If you’re worried about what your grandmother will say, then consider this an information gathering expedition for potential future gift purchases.” I smiled at her and added, “Your grandmother might like a gift of expensive tea.”
“There is that,” agreed Ong Tien. She looked around and asked, “Is it just me or is this the sort of establishment that was originally for men?”
I looked around too and agreed, “It does look like the sort of place that the conspirators are always meeting in all the way through The Rice Paper Scroll novels, doesn’t it?”
“Did you do those too, the year before last?” Ong Tien leaned forward, “I thought they were fantastic but my mother wasn’t impressed that we did them instead of Pursuit of the Sun.”
“My class studied The Rice Paper Scroll series,” I poured Ong Thien more tea, “But the classes for people doing Classic Studies did Pursuit.” I dropped my voice and added, “No less than five sets of their parents complained about the content, and someone’s grandfather wrote a public letter complaining that Pursuit glamorised a level of brutality and lack of compassion that was inconsistent with civilised life.”
“What!” I had Ong Thien’s attention. “My mother talked about it like it was one of the classics that everyone should read.”
“I went to a very working class based school,” I told Ong Thien, “with lots of peasant families. Apparently, Ba Fun spends most of the book treating peasants like they’re not people. I believe torture and enslavement were mentioned.”
“I know that there’s some rebellion that’s put down,” replied Ong Thien. “What else did the grandfather complain of?”
“Scenes of gratuitous cruelty, I think,” I said. “Meanwhile we got lost gold mines, lots of daring do, a perfidious Count, and a missing pregnant concubine.”
“I still like the bit where Rotgut Siew goes into the burning mansion, and then rescues Lady Kou and her daughters who can’t get away fast enough because of their bound feet.” Ong Thien sipped happily on her tea. “I got full marks for an essay that argued that one of the themes was that anyone could be a hero.”
“Then Lady Kou saves Rotgut from being hung,” I nodded. “I like to imagine that they rubbed along happily as sort of friends for years after that.”
“You never know when you’ll need a man who knows how alcohol acts under pressure,” agreed Ong Thien, and we both laughed.
After we finished our tea and parted company, I made my way to the gym where the Gi Club was due to meet.
I arrived at the Gi Club’s gym as someone was putting out the sign announcing that the Club would be in session from four until five with booked practice periods until eight. I bowed, introduced myself, and then asked whether there was anything I could do to help with the setting up.
“Oh, you want to help!” The young man bowed in return. “Most people who come along want to compete – although of course you can do both.” He bowed quickly enough to make his hair untidy. “I’m Tong Nao, and I handle the Club’s equipment. If you’d like to put your things down inside, perhaps you could help me with the mats?”
I would, and I did. Together we got half the sparring mats out before anyone else showed up. I’d found out from Tong Nao while we worked that most of the people who looked after the equipment had graduated the previous year, and that he was trying to recruit a new equipment team. I told him, cautiously, that I might be interested, at least on Tuesday afternoons and evenings, but that I was going to have work commitments that I didn’t yet know about.
“Really?” Tong Nao looked pleased. “Just having one other person that I can rely on coming along to meeting afternoons would make so much difference.” He was interrupted by some more people arriving, one of whom was the Club Secretary, Wu Ching. Tong Nao made haste to introduce me, “Wu, please meet Sung Nai. If her work commitments pan out, she might be able to help me with the equipment on meeting nights!”
“That would be useful,” Wu Ching and I exchanged bows. “Do you want to take part in the intra-University competition as well, Miss Sung?”
“I’m afraid that I’m ineligible for amateur competitions, so no,” I answered apologetically. “I came along to make friends who are also interested in gi. Equipment handling needs to happen, and it is something I can help with without violating any rules.”
Wu Ching and Tong Nao exchanged glances. “Let’s get you signed up before the Club President arrives. Our illustrious leader is also captain of the inter-University team, and he has, let us say, narrow views on the role of the Club.”
I asked, “Narrow views?”
They looked at each other again. It was Tong Nao who said, “He’s not interested in the potential social or research activities of the Club. For Dang Huai, the club is purely a sporting endeavour and it’s going to get him to the national level. His friends who think the same way hold the other committee positions this year – all they’re interested in is the inter-University competition. Wu Ching is Secretary because they don’t want to do that level of administration, and Gai Qiu is the Treasurer because she’s studying accounting as well as being the deputy president’s girlfriend.”
Wu Ching added, “Of that group, Gai Qiu is the only one who sees that we need new members this year, but she and I don’t really get on so we haven’t been able to combine forces effectively on that front.”
I looked at them both and suggested, “Perhaps you should stop trying to warn me off, and just sign me up?”
Wu Ching gave me a wry smile and pulled out his paperwork. By the time anyone else arrived, they had me all signed up and ready to hand my membership fee for the first semester over to the Treasurer. Gai Qiu turned out to be a small, neat woman a few years older than me who had a worry crease between her eyes. It disappeared for a moment when I astonished her by handing her three fifty standard tael notes.
“You really meant that you’re paying for the whole semester straight up?” She looked at the notes in her hand like they might disappear. “Not weekly in arrears?”
“Well, I’ve got the money now,” I answered. “Maybe I won’t later. If I pay you now, then it’s out of the way.”
“And you don’t want to compete, you just want to help and hang out?” Gai Qiu looked up at me and I nodded. “So, what did you think of Zhang Wong in the nationals?”
I laughed and asked back, “His bouts, his fighting style, or those nails and hair?”
“All of it!” was her enthusiastic reply.
“Well, that could have been worse,” commented Clara Fowler as she poured hot chocolate from her thermos into mugs for her niece, Maig Trudhove, and her niece’s Magis Obscura teacher, Miss Crowmeyer. “My third sister, Agnetha, burnt down her high school. That was why St Serpentia’s wouldn’t take me when they reopened, and I had to come here.”
“Instead we just have to get the high school decursed,” said Miss Crowmeyer drily. “I know parent-teacher nights can be bad, but this was…special.”
“And not my fault,” pointed out Maig. “I’m not the one who tried to raise the dead.”
“Yes, you only laid them. Well, no-one expects ancestral possession to turn up in parents when they come to these things,” admitted Miss Crowmeyer. “Mr Batterby, the Agronomics teacher, said he should have realised something was up when he had an intelligent subject-matter conversation with Mr Tattler.”
The three of them considered that for a moment over hot chocolate before Maig’s father, the Magister Trudhove, joined them.
He looked at them for a moment, and Maig wasn’t sure whether he disapproved of the hot chocolate or wanted some, then he said, “Maig, dear, we all appreciate you getting rid of the would-be body snatching dead men, but I thought that we’d agreed that you weren’t going to perform Dark Magic or Necromancy?” He’d just named two of her three affinities, and defined most of Maig’s personal problems.
“It was only technically Necromancy,” said Maig defensively. “It’s not like I summoned demons to take them away.”
“Oh?” Her father looked sceptical. “What did you do then? They were definitely carried off.”
Maig shrugged. “I didn’t want those bozos coming back and bothering my friends like Covetnot Moore and Childofsorrow Tattler, so I petitioned Heaven. Those things that took away Praisethelord Tattler and Saltoftheearth Moore were angels – much more dangerous than demons.”
“Technically Necromancy.” Her father covered his eyes with a hand. “We’re going to have to talk, young lady.”