《新心界》: 第八章 「瓢蟲」

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● After hearing 阿綠 Ah Luk’s story about her mother’s painted self-portrait, and how it contained a secret package hidden within the frame, 陳之一 Chan Chi-yat finally gets to speak about his own astonishing news. As she continues to enjoy a cup of coffee in the Cesto coffee shop in Lam Tei Main Street, it is Ah Luk’s turn to be amazed when she hears about the out-of-the-blue email that Chan received after his dismal performance at the 2019 Cantonese Speaking Contest. And then there is a very strange incident involving a ladybird . . .

Soundtrack: Paradise Lost


等緊老闆送上咖啡、食物時,阿綠趁機欣賞掛喺墻上嘅黑白相。相片都係喺舊時「爛地」時代拍攝嘅,對於生活喺色彩繽紛嘅世界嘅阿綠嚟講,就顯得格外懷舊,甚至令佢聯想到佢阿媽年代時所熟悉嘅世界:五、六十年代嘅香港仲未同土地及大自然割席、變得毫無相關。阿綠嘅母親好努力咁透過藝術保育呢種關係。可惜嗰陣時,社會一窩蜂咁進入咗一種廣泛嘅現代化運動,拼命擺脫大地嘅懷抱,走入城市化、機械化、電氣化、數字化、消費化嘅人造「天堂」。不過,阿綠暗自思考:除咗滿足人類物質需要之外,人造天堂係咪有利於個人嘅靈魂,能否滿足人類形而上嘅渴求呢?

咖啡上枱之前,整間咖啡室已經彌漫住一股濃烈嘅咖啡香氣。過咗一陣,等到阿綠感受到咖啡嘅提神作用時,男人細細聲對佢講:「我亦都有一件事想同妳講。」

阿綠對住澳洲男人露出笑容:「對唔住!啱先我太過自我,淨係講自己嘅心事!」講到呢度,綠頭髮女人嘅表情忽然改變,恍然大悟咁問:「唔通你終於收到生父嘅消息?」

陳之一即刻搖搖頭,由外套口袋攞出一張紙。打開張紙時,男人就開口解釋:「演講比賽嗰日呢,我 . . . 我哋兩個 . . . 瞓覺嗰陣時呢,有人發電郵俾我,一個素不相識嘅人。封信寫得好短,好簡單:

約翰 文森 ● 特先生:

對唔住,無論點寫呢封信,我估您一定會覺得好尷尬。我要講嘅事情其實好簡單:您係我嘅父親。不過,無可否認,呢個事實在太過複雜啦!

本來我母親唔想俾您知有我,但係我自己一路以嚟都懷疑有啲事唔對路,又或者係出於直覺。我母親反反覆覆逃避回答我心裏面嘅疑問,最後佢避無可避,結果將事情嘅全部都同我交代。

關鍵係,我想有機會進一步認識您。除咗微妙嘅血緣關聯之外,您可能會覺得,我哋之間嘅關係畢竟係「零」。

因為事情發生得太突然,所以您一定需要時間慢慢消化呢封信、考慮我呢個要求。不過,我真係好唔想錯過呢種難得嘅機會。

我已滿二十四嵗。目前喺墨爾本從事教師工作,向新移民教授英文,作為佢哋嘅第二種語言。

您個仔(!):西夢 ● 約翰敬上

男人譯完封信之後,輪到阿綠好似頭先嘅陳之一咁,擘大個口得個窿。用「晴天霹靂」嚟形容佢詫異嘅面部表情,真係一啲都唔誇張。不過,過咗一陣,染綠頭髮發暗家嘅臉上浮起笑意,睇嚟阿綠對呢件事持正面嘅睇法。

澳洲吊門桔好盼望聽到佢嘅初步反應,所以忍唔住用懇求嘅目光追問:「噉,點算?妳自己會點樣去處理呢封信呢?」

「噉,我覺得封信寫得好唔錯!一方面,好明顯佢想同你有進一步聯繫;但係同時呢,佢又明白到你唔一定會答應佢嘅要求。你個仔真係好識做人,難得咁後生,都識得為人設想﹗更何況,佢而家身處遙遠嘅南半球,你不妨試吓認識你個仔多啲啦。」

阿綠呢段説話俾咗唔少安慰陳之一,雖然佢仍然唔知點樣應付呢件大事,但係阿綠呢種正面態度令到阿一好感動。

最後,佢只好自言自語:「我個仔?西夢?本來冇父親嘅人突然被迫成爲爸爸,真係一種絕妙嘅諷刺!」

話口未完,男人轉眼間伸手,十分溫柔咁摸吓阿綠右邊嘅膊頭,令到佢感到莫名其妙。更加奇怪嘅就係,陳之一粒聲唔出慢慢企起身,轉身向咖啡室嘅玻璃大門行出去。透過玻璃窗,阿綠見到阿一將一隻手指擺喺自己嘴巴前,然後再輕輕呼出一啖氣,好似吹口哨嘅樣子。睇到呢個畫面,阿綠有少少擔憂,心底諗:澳洲男人會唔會因為近排精神上嘅打擊而患上思覺失調。

不過,怪事做完之後,陳之一行返入咖啡室,向阿綠解釋剛才嘅行為:「頭先有隻瓢蟲喺妳膊頭上出現,係一隻紅色嘅小甲蟲!因為根據外國民間傳統,瓢蟲被視為吉祥物,於是我就去放生佢,咁樣就可以為我哋帶嚟多啲好運. . . 」

聽完男人呢番迷信嘅解說,阿綠只好付之一笑,向 Cesto 嘅老闆示意要多一杯濃味咖啡。

Whim

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Here in the light of a garden
my feet wear the sun’s high-gloss shoeshine.
Counterfeit days behind me,
I might just walk out on myself for a change,
ringed pure and simple with Spring air
where ladders of wild red gladioli flowers
lean casual on cloud.
When night inevitably falls
sung in by the bottle cicada’s raw ceremonial,
watch me dance
in a full moon’s vast lemon ballroom.

Driving with Tomas Tranströmer: “Nocturne”

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For the past six weeks, I’ve been driving around the Swedish landscape with Tomas Tranströmer in search of a mystery. Human beings are like fällda bommar = “lowered boom-gates”, he decides. Whenever mystery show itself, the human response is to drop into sleep, completely oblivious of any enigma. There are glimpses of something uncanny at night, and in the shared arboreal silence of the forest and, of course, in dream, or more specifically in that intermediary state between waking and dream. But the final word of the poem is both its key-note and its conclusion: förgäves “in vain”.

We cannot understand, but we must try to deepen our questions. This at least is one of the uses of poetry, our open-ended unanswer to everything . . .

…………………………………………………..

Jag kör genom en by om natten, husen stiger fram
i strålkastarskenet – de är vakna, de vill dricka.
Hus, lador, skyltar, herrelösa fordon – det är nu
de ikläder sig livet. Människorna sover:


I drive through a village at night. Houses loom out
at me in the glare of headlights, awake and thirsty.
Buildings, barns, road-signs, vehicles without drivers — now it’s their turn
to dress themselves in Life. The human beings sleep.


en del kan sova fridfullt, andra har spända anletsdrag
som om de låg i hård träning för evigheten.
De vågar inte släppa allt fast deras sömn är tung.
De vilar som fällda bommar när mysteriet drar förbi.


Some manage to rest in peace; others grimace
as they lie there, tense, as if training hard for eternity.
They don’t dare let go of anything, although slumber is so heavy for them.
They are like boom-gates, lowered when the mystery sweeps on past.


Utanför byn går vägen länge mellan skogens träd.
Och träden träden tigande i endräkt med varann.
De har en teatralisk färg som finns i eldsken.
Vad deras löv är tydliga! De följer mig ända hem.


Beyond the village, the road continues on a long way
through forest trees, all standing there in silent mutual accord.
Their colours are theatrical, the kind you see in open firelight.
How clearly the leaves stand out, following me all the way home.


Jag ligger och ska somna, jag ser okända bilder
och tecken klottrande sig själva bakom ögonlocken
på mörkrets vägg. I springan mellan vakenhet och dröm
försöker ett stort brev tränga sig in förgäves.


I lie down and will sleep. Unfamiliar pictures
and designs graffiti themselves behind my eyelids
on darkness’s wall. In vain, an enormous letter
tries to force its way through the slot between waking and dream.

Liisa Immonen’s Black Butterfly

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To me, poetry at its best, always gets the reader thinking about her own response to things. Resonant in itself, it can also create resonance in others and — by intimating rather than lecturing — allow discoveries to be made of their own accord, as if by magic.

This poem — literally “memory poem” [muistoruno] — is very understated in its presentation. What I take from it is a kind of double death, by which I mean that Immonen commemorates in her poem the death of certain kind of Dark Death, the grim imagery of the “black butterfly” and the “scythe” [viikate]. As she matter-of-factly points out, mutta jatkuvasti kuolee ihmisiä = “people still die all the time”, but perhaps now without that mediaeval terror. The closing lines suggest a more natural-accepting attitude to death: from the butterfly and the cicada, we finish with cornflowers and sedge grass, things that meet the end of their living without fuss and as a matter of course. I think that is why the poem has yhtä | ruiskukan ja saraheinän kanssa or “the equal of the cornflower and the sedge-grass”, a thought that can take one back to Walt Whitman, leaning and loafing as he observes “a spear of Summer grass”.

An innocuous piece of structural language is crucial, I think, to an understanding of the sense of the whole poem. The phrase tälta osin is used with the meanings of “in this connection; to this end”, perhaps also “in this regard”. The opening lines thus read “The time of the black butterfly | is tälta osin over”, leaving us to ponder the question of what exactly in death is over, especially given the contradiction of the line that comes immediately after it, mutta jatkuvasti kuolee ihmisiä = “but people are continually dying”.

I struggled with the what is to me the most striking image in “Muistoruno” presented in lines 4-5: “who have never taken the trouble | to raise their voices above the song of the cicadas”. According to my little Finnish-English dictionary compiled by Aino Wuolle, the verb viitsia = “to care to”, but the only example given for it is en viitsinyt = “I couldn’t be bothered”, which suggests an element of laziness or unwillingness. However, I have chosen (perhaps wrongly) to interpret the phrase as meaning something positive, along the lines of “who have never wasted their time complaining or lamenting about the terrors of death”. Also, from the little research I have done, I get the impression that kaskas is a kind of insect like a leaf-hopper, but a laulukaskas or “song leaf-hopper” is the usual term for a cicada. However, in the case of cicadas, the word “song” seems a bit misleading: “cry” or “screech” is probably closer to the mark.

There is another little piece of vocabulary used in the poem to great effect: yhtä = “equal”. From the short-lived cicadas calling from the tree-tops, we are plunged down to ground level, where the mown flowers lie. This down-to-earth-ness reinforces the kind of attitude Immonen wants to share with us about dying. As Mr Emerson, in conversation with his son, says about Heaven in the novel Room with a View:

“You will never go up […]. You and I, dear boy, will lie at peace in the earth that bore us, and our names will disappear as surely as our work survives.”

This means, death as an equalization with the Earth, and not an annihilation.

“Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting”, said Robert Frost, and then followed this up with “Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it”. I think Immonen melts wonderfully well, and even across the language barrier is capable of carrying any patient reader along with her.

…………………………………………………..

“Muistoruno”

Mustan perhosen aika
on tälta osin ohi,
mutta jatkuvasti kuolee ihmisiä
jotka koskaan eivät viitsineet
korottaa ääntään kaskaiden laulun yläpuolelle
ja lopulta olivat yhtä
ruiskukan ja saraheinän kanssa
viikatetta vailla.


“In Memoriam”

The time of the black butterfly
is over — in one respect,
but people go on dying nevertheless,
people who never once cared
to raise their voice above the cry of the cicadas
and who — in the end —
were the equals of cornflower and sedge-grass,
sans scythe.

Learning Cantonese: Chow Yiu Fai’s Songlines against Despair

“喺我嘅歌詞入邊 | 令到大家覺得有一種嘅同在 | 覺得自己唔係孤單 | 同在嘅話 | 你就可以因此大家不如一齊起翻身 | 一齊同行 | 可以走落去 | 就啫係話,繼續有可能 | I hope that in my lyrics people will feel that there is a solidarity or a “being together”, and that they are not alone. Then, because of this, you can all get up again together, to walk together, to go on walking. That is to say, that there continue to be possibilities.”

In this short RTHK video, 周耀輝 Chow Yiu Fai speaks movingly of the song as solidarity. In the space of a few hundred words, set to three or four minutes of music, the song can speak to us, take us out of ourselves, even set us on a new path, as if we had changed key. Songs which speak to us deeply can also bring us a moment of brief respite from the ugliness of a world, the ugliness of 太多太多經濟及數學 (that is, “too much economics & mathematics”) which pushes up out of shape and cuts us off from all the potential beauty of the world.

There are some minor but very interesting grammar points in this short presentation. The use of “how” in English to form exclamations — How wonderful you look! — is replicated in Cantonese by 幾咁. And so, in the opening, we hear 無論外邊嘅世界 | 幾咁醜陋、幾咁不堪 = “no matter how ugly or how unbearable the external world is”.

In the 2 October post on 鄺雋文 Chun Man Kwong (aka 豬文) in which he spoke about Socrates, we heard the expression 百零二百 in 就好似呢個 hall 入便,百零二百人 = “just like here in this hall of somewhere between one and two hundred people. It crops up again here at 0:22 when Chow says 原來呢,我寫一首詞 | 百零二百字 = “when I write a song, it all boils down to a matter of a couple of a hundred words or so”. It’s obviously an expression any Cantonese learner would want to add to her repertoire!

Please scroll down for my transcription, English translation and notes. You can view the video here (subtitles in Standard Written Chinese only). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

周耀輝:「文字」俾我一種力量 | 覺得我自己可以駕馭到個世界 | 無論外邊世界 | 幾咁醜陋、幾咁不堪 | 至少我筆下呢個世界我可以控制 | 我可以創造出

Caption: 十大中文金曲 | 周耀輝 | 填詞人

原來呢,我寫一首詞 | 百零二百字 | 原來我可以,我可以創造一個自己嘅世界 | 然後,我都將呢個抛出嚟 | 同外邊嘅醜陋世界試吓有佢自己嘅角力 | 原來俾我自己一個創造人覺得自己 | 有駕馭世界嘅能力 | 係重要嘅件事

● 駕馭 gaa3 yuh6 = ① to drive ② to control; to master | ● 幾咁 gei2 gam3 = How (followed by an adjective) | ● 不堪 bāt1 hām1 = usu. “cannot bear; cannot stand” | ● 填詞人tìhn4 chìh4 yàhn4 = (?) lyric writer; a lyricist (lit. “a person who fills in the words to fit a given tune”) | ● 抛出嚟 pāau1 chēut1 lèih4 = to throw out; to toss out | ● 角力 gok3 lihk6 = usu. “to have a trial of strength; to wrestle”

Chow Yiu Fai: Writing [文字] gives me strength. [It makes] me think that I can drive the world. No matter how ugly or how unbearable the external world is, I can at least control the world at the tip of my pen and bring it into existence [創造出嚟].

Caption: Top Ten Chinese Gold Songs | Chow Yiu Fai | Lyric Writer

When I write a song, it all boils down [原來] to a matter of a couple of a hundred words or so, but, as it turns out [原來], I can create a world of my own [with them]. Later, I cast it away [from me] [so that it can] try to test its strength with the ugly external world. As it turns out [原來], it gives me — a creator — the feeling that I have the ability to drive the world. That is an important thing.

我會睇我自己嘅創作 | 係一種狂妄同埋亦都係一種謙卑 | 「狂妄」嘅意思就係話,我仍然覺得 | 我自己所寫嘅字 | 係值得呢個世界上邊出現

● 狂妄 k[w]òhng4 móhng5 = wildly arrogant; presumptuous | ● 謙卑 hīm1 bēi1 = humble; modest

I tend to regard my own creativity as both a kind of arrogance and a humility. By “arrogance” I mean [when all is said and done] [仍然] I think that the words I myself have written deserve to appear in this world [of ours] . . .

【1:00】係值得俾人聽到 | 奢望呢字佢對一啲人係有 . . . 係有用 | 再奢望啲就係呢 [啲] 字可能會影響個世界 | 噉但係如果你又返「謙卑」即係話喺寫嘅時候享受自得其樂 | 嘩,寫得都幾好 | 交得出嚟俾個世界睇喎 | 啊假如呢隻歌有啲人聽 | 有幾分鐘嘅開心 | 喺卡拉OK度唱 | 就係忘記咗世界三分鐘 | 都幾好呀 | 可能我需要有呢一種嘅狂妄同埋謙卑 | 我哋先至可以恰如其分去做翻我哋自己嘅創作

● 奢望 chē1 mohng6 = extravagant hopes; wild wishes | ● 自得其樂 jih6 dāk1 kèih4 lohk6 = be content with one’s lot | ● 恰如其分 hāp1 yùh4 kèih4 fahn6 = apt; appropriate; just right

. . . that they deserve to be listened to. [In my] wildest dreams [I believe that] these words are of use to some people. [In my] even wilder dreams [I believe that] these words can influence the world. But if you then go back to “humility”, this means enjoying the writing for its own sake: “Wow, what I’m writing is pretty good. Let’s hand it over so that the world can take a look.” If some people hear this song and are happy for a few minutes, or if they sing it as karaoke and forget all about the world for three minutes, then what a fine thing that is [都幾好呀]. Possibly we need that arrogance and that humility before we can go back to engaging in our personal creativity in an appropriate way.

我有陣時會聽到一啲聽歌嘅人話翻俾我知 | 原來啫係幫助佢哋 | 自己覺得,,歌詞入邊所寫嘅同我自己 | 有一呼應嘅地方 | 原來呢個世界上邊 | 有第二啲人佢所感應到一啲嘢同我好類似 | 希望喺 . . .

● 有陣時 yáuh5 jahn6 sìh4 = sometimes | ● 呼應 fū1 ying3 = to echo; to work in concert with; to co-ordinate | ● 感應 gám2 ying3 = a response; a reaction; an interaction | ● 類似 leuih6 chíh5 = similar; analogous

Sometimes, I listen to what people tell me about a song: it actually [原來] did help them. So [I] think: well, well — there are some echoes of myself in what was written in the lyrics. As it turns out [原來] there are other people in this world whose responses to certain things are similar to my own. I hope . . .

【2:00】喺我嘅歌詞入邊 | 令到大家覺得有一種嘅同在 | 覺得自己唔係孤單 | 同在嘅話 | 你就可以因此大家不如一齊起翻身 | 一齊同行 | 可以走落去 | 就啫係話,繼續有可能

● 同在 tùhng4 joih6 = to be with | ● 起翻身 héi2 fāan1 sān1 = (?) to get up again

. . . I hope that in my lyrics people will feel that there is a solidarity or a “being together” [同在], and that they are not alone. Then, because of this, you can all get up again together, to walk together, to go on walking. That is to say, that there continue to be possibilities.

Caption: 一路走著 | 一路在生命之中 | 一直失望 | 一樣不斷希望之中 | 《未知道》周耀輝

Caption: Always walking / Always in the midst of life / Forever despairing / And likewise constantly hoping (Chow Yiu Fai, “The Unknown”)

Mayday! Mayday! It’s Situation Haywire Here!

Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com


Boots ate belts —
buckle and all — while bullets crunched
with the greatest of ease
through billions and billions of guns
(later, they used the bayonets
as toothpicks). War-planes ate tanks
and tanks ate planes — no one
had ever taught them the difference
and then submarines — buoyant
with nuclear glory — managed to suck
the whole life out of themselves
through wide-eyed periscopes.
Satellites ate radar
and radar scoffed landmines
while night-vision goggles gorged themselves
on day-blinding flares. Medals
ate mess-tins; tyres
wolfed down trucks; and world-proof
army-issue tents
vanished down the mouths of bolt-holes
and bunkers (or was it
the other way round?) What was left —
countless acres of military rust, rot
and hate — was picked off by —
no, you wouldn’t guess it in a million years! —
was picked off by poppies. Poppies!

What an unforgettable Spring it was for all the flowers that year . . .

《新心界》: 第八章 「藍地」

● 陳之一 Chan Chi-yat walks from Siu Hong Western Rail Station all the way to 藍地 Lam Tei, day-dreaming about various kinds of nonsense as he goes. Later, apart from enjoying the bustling ambiance of Lam Tei Main Street, he also witnesses a scuffle between two traders with stores on opposite sides of the road, which makes him think of the English writer F. D. Ommaney, who described just such a scene in his book Fragrant Harbour (1962). After his walk, he meets up with 阿綠 Ah Luk at the Cesto coffee shop, and finds out exactly what happened that day back in April she was called away unexpectedly during their meal at Tim Chai Ha Kau in Fanling.

Soundtrack: 喜歡美學,喜歡風格更多


陳之一每次喺西鐵兆康站落車,腦海總會出浮現一個諗法:如果將來有朝一日唔想再用「陳之一」呢個名嘅話,就會將自己叫做「頓兆康」,期望為生活帶嚟更多吉兆同埋康樂。換句講,佢同兆康二字之間一定程度上存在住某種關係。其實,唔止同名字本身有聯係——屯門以北都納入為外國男人隨便散步時嘅目的地

就算呢排體力格外虛弱,佢仍然鍾意一個人自由漫步,最唔捨得散步時為佢帶嚟嘅樂趣。一步出車站大堂,必須落樓梯回到地面,然後佢就沿住屯門公路往藍地方向漫步。男人唔知世界上究竟有多少車站係興建喺河流上面?兆康站就正正屬於呢類相當罕見嘅鐵路工程。因為當時潮漲,屯門河道水量比平時多,近處、遠處都有啲企定定嘅小白鷺,喺度覓食,佢哋耐心等候游經過嘅魚仔。成功覓到食物嘅白鷺,一般嚟講,都會突然間用鳥喙往水中拮一下,將我哋人類肉眼見唔到嘅水中淡水魚,迅速拮出嚟,魚嘅身體轉眼間變成一小團不斷躍動嘅閃光。遠離車站之後,剛才男人所見嘅耀眼亮光,一直喺佢嘅視網膜上留下印象。當合上雙眼一會兒,仍然可以見得到,就好似螢光蟲,逐漸消失於内心黑麻麻嘅夜空中。

夾喺公路同河道之間,竟然設有一處草叢實實上只不過係一條十分狹窄嘅無人地帶。因為長期缺乏管理,所以被茂盛嘅野草佔據。加上由市中心沿住公路吹過嚟廢紙、膠袋、廣告傳單等等隨處可見,令到呢片小型「花園」人欣賞。不過,陳之一反而零舍鐘鍾意呢由野草構成嘅市内荒地,覺得可以同麻笏河度嗰一片「雜草王國」媲美,情感上甚至引起一份共鳴感小型草叢裏面雖然缺乏人人讚美嘅花卉,但係一啲小巧玲瓏嘅野花,仍然能夠吸引周圍罕有嘅蝴蝶。當男人行近藍地交匯處之際,就睇到一隻青鳳蝶飛到一朵野花上吸食花蜜。喺呢種滿佈高速公路、充斥交通噪音嘅環境,令十分在意兆頭嘅陳之一,覺得遇到鳳蝶就係奇跡:至少喺西方人眼目中,鳳凰寓意再生,而自廣東話演講比賽以嚟,佢一直期望能夠獲得重生嘅機會。

經過藍地輕鐵站,男人步上天橋,橫過交通繁忙嘅青山公路,喺「季季紅風味酒店」停低步。因為時間尚早,陳之一決定先四圍逛逛,然後返到約好嘅 Cesto 咖啡室等阿綠。所謂嘅“藍地大街”只不過一條又窄又長嘅街道,因為咁,經過嘅車輛通常唔多,車速又慢,方便途人享受漫步嘅樂趣同埋安全感。大街兩邊塞滿林林總總嘅舊式店鋪,包括士多舖、糧油雜貨店同埋茶餐廳,充滿濃厚嘅古樸鄉村風味,令到陳之一諗返西貢德隆前後嘅兩條街,同埋坪洲嘅永安街。宇宙中嘅所有運行嘅引擎聲,暫時被一種人世間嘅寧靜鎮壓。

喺屯門新村對面,距離「綠怡居」唔遠嘅一段路,鋪頭陸續稀少,四圍嘅氣氛變得相當靜穆,環境甚得愛發白日夢嘅男人所喜愛。冇耐之前,呢個地方流行叫做「爛地」,暗示天賦嘅實際地理情況,同人類理想差落好大。不過,吸引澳洲摺友並唔係呢種真假難辨嘅人間願景——佢清楚知道,達到福亨村路,繞過藍地石礦場,過橋跨過洪水坑灌溉水塘,就可以步入一條東北向西南伸延、斷裂而成嘅大欖涌河谷。

喺回程途中,忽然間傳略帶威脅性嗌交聲。有兩個男人喺藍地大街,一人企一邊,互相指罵。爭拗越嚟越激烈,佢哋兩人越行越前,去到大街嘅中央,跟住就你撞我推,吸引唔少途人駐足觀看呢次非電視性嘅暴力「節目」。當陳之一知道到眼前發生緊咩事時,佢便增加腳步,嗱嗱臨以箭步向前走。啱走開嗰一刻,背後就突然聽到「嘭」一聲——好似其中一人已被對手推倒,令到觀衆興奮程度升級。呢一刻,陳之一諗起英國作者奧曼尼一段説話,佢喺《香港》一本書中有一段描寫:

「當華人聚集成群時,尤其如警察都在場,每個人面孔上都毫無表情,佢哋都唔肯出頭上前幫忙。大家都袖手旁觀,無動於衷,拒絕援助。人人都扮作聽不見、睇唔到。佢哋認爲事情係命運注定嘅,千萬不可干預命運不可思議嘅安排,尤其是涉及其他人遭受嘅不幸,因為今次嘅不幸可能係命運嘅報復。如果我哋去干預呢類事,試圖影響到命運嘅安排,衆神一定會憤嬲,甚至會向我哋發脾氣。」

唔想激嬲衆神及群人嘅陳之一行到咖啡室,啱啱見到阿綠由青山公路以緩慢嘅步伐行緊嚟。睇見阿綠當時嘅步姿,外國人敢估計,頭髮染嗮綠色嘅朋友一定係陷入沉思,完全冇注意周圍嘅環境。

阿綠行到陳之一面前,男人忍唔住脫口而出:「我有一件事想同妳講」。不過,與此同時,阿綠講出同一句說話,令到外國人一覺得好怪異,唔通佢哋兩個近排都有出人意表嘅事情發生?!

喺咖啡室一坐低,連嘢飲都未嗌,阿綠就急不及待將母親包裹嘅事情話俾陳之一聽。其實,綠色頭髮嘅女人真係好識講故仔:幾時講詳細啲、幾時講籠統啲,佢好似早有安排,令到男人聽得津津樂道。由發現母親自畫像裏面隱藏嘅文件,到佢阿媽用鉛筆寫嘅兩個「甴」字,之後匡老闆點樣集中精神去鎅開畫後面嘅紙層,同埋自己超乎想像嘅緊張,都一一同阿一講清楚。跟住,佢描述埋,見到「廢紙團」時感到極度失望,打開包裹見到信封同筆記本又感到極度興奮。佢怕陳之一唔明自己刻嘅激動,於是用「坐緊過山車」嚟形容今次一生中最難忘嘅經驗。最後,最後,阿綠忍唔住描述當日返到屋企後,點樣一次、又一次、再一次咁閲讀母親寫俾佢封信,並且一次、又一次、再一次咁仔細觀察張黑白相,拼命嘗試由莊梓臉上出一啲熟悉嘅地方。坐喺佢對面嘅澳洲瘦骨仙越聽越驚訝,驚訝程度可以使用《當代廣東話口語》第三章其中一句話嚟形容,即「浄係識擘大個口得個窿㗎咋」。最後,阿綠仲同佢講筆記本裏面嘅内容,包括《獨行詩》中耐人尋味嘅詩句。

兩人沉默咗好一陣子。企喺櫃位後嘅咖啡室老細深明唔好打擾,知道如果佢哋想叫嘢就會招手揖佢過嚟。

首先開口講話嘅陳之一:「真係好奇妙!原來妳同我一樣係屬於“敞開家庭”嘅人喇 . . . 」

「咩嘢係 “敞開家庭”呢?」阿綠摸不著頭腦問。

「“敞開家庭”就係指被主流社會排斥嘅可憐人,嗰啲唔外向、唔潮爆、唔富有、唔成功、冇權力、唔敢照鏡、唔受歡迎、左㕭者 . . . 」

「哦,我知喇!包括埋發暗家。其實,都係屬於社會嘅另一面,畢竟不可少嘅一班人!」

「噉 . . . 」陳之一開口講嘢,阿綠好似由夢中驚醒:「我而家真係需要一杯咖啡!你想唔想食埋蛋糕呀? 」話音剛落,老闆就好似幽靈般顯現佢哋身旁。其實,呢個老闆根本唔使問外國熟客想嗌乜:因為西人每次都係嗌一樣嘅嘢。真係好奇怪,老細諗緊點解呢個男人生活可以咁單調?不過,今次陪澳洲男人嘅女友啱啱相反,一定係土生土長嘅香港人,佢反而指住菜單,問咗一大堆問題。

2050 (Sky-oriented People)

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com


We — adults of prolonged dry —
have been found out by weather for what we deeply are:
children of rain.
Regardless of the science of the mock-solemn forecast,
when drenching downpours start licking dust off the streets,
instantly, the idiot spectacle rivets us,
the wonder that needs no expert preamble:
water — in effortless vertical seams —
waterfalling down cloud. The sea,
from its Remote Salt Splendour,
sends us — or please RETURN TO SENDER —
these exquisite packages of itself in miniature,
messages to the inland, and to the glittering adventure of rivers, lakes, streams
and creeks
that, profuse and transfusing,
add all their life to ours.
It is a sober attendance watching for showers in cloudless cramped skies,
segmented by air lines, by ambition’s architecture
and at every point crackling
with the irritated heat of engineering’s engines.
Once we deplored those unscheduled interruptions;
the skeletal coldness of flimsy, metal-ribbed umbrellas;
the spatter-animation
of turbulent, rubbish-filled gutters,
but nowdays the nail-biting rain-wait readily consumes us.
It is this fact of life
(like the gift of fresh air,
and like the selfless-active chemical transactions of the trees)
which reminds — against want against wish against wealth against waste —
of Planet Earth’s everywhere unsung elemental battler.

Learning Cantonese: Yvette Wong Lok Yee & Resistance through Song

The Hong Kong lyric-writer 王樂儀 Yvette Lok Yee Wong says some beautiful things in this Ming Pao video about staying strong in difficult times, and finds in songs a way of dealing with trauma. In the end, she says, [我哋] 長期好似受苦難咁樣 | 其實我哋係要慢慢重建翻自己應有嘅一個生活 — that is, “We can’t go on suffering endlessly. Actually, we must slowly rebuild the lives each of us ought to have.”

One feature of Wong’s speech is her code-switching. She often inserts an English word into her Cantonese, words such as “vague”, “term”, “mindset”, “career” and “build up”. Most unusual is her fondness for the adverb “exactly”. Perhaps this adds emphasis, because at 4:12, in the phrase 我嘅意思其實係佢唔exactly係完全輕盈嘅姿態 = “what I meant in fact wasn’t exactly a completely graceful attitude”, we see both the Cantonese word 完全 yùhn4 chyùhn4 = “completely” employed in tandem with “exactly”.

Another feature is the use of the aspect marker 翻 fāan1. It crops up in the following places:

1:05: 佢 [係] trigger你去搵翻你本身有嘅一啲 | 反叛嘅元素、慾望、渴求
3:38: 我而家開始提自己 | 係咪可以遠離翻嗰一堆嘅情緒
4:03: 其實我哋係要慢慢重建翻自己應有嘅一個生活

The first example, used with the verb 搵 wán2 = “to look for” makes perfect sense. Perhaps in contrast to 搵到 = “to find”, 搵翻 suggests that you find something that you once had. In other words, the aspect marker implies a kind of recovery, perhaps like “to re-find” or “to find all over again” in English.

This sense is always fairly obvious in the third example, where the verb is 重建 chuhng4 gin3 = “to rebuild”. Again, 翻 supports the idea of recovery. The second instance may seem a little less obvious: 係咪可以遠離翻嗰一堆嘅情緒 = “whether I can move away again from that jumble of moods”. As an English speaker, my initial feeling was that the aspect maker seemed unnecessary in this case, but I guess it underlines the fact that it is possible to achieve a healthy distance between our general mental state and the negative emotions that can threaten to overwhelm it.

Finally, Wong uses some interesting structural words in her presentation. Firstly, there is 唔淨止 for “not only” at 3:30, instead of the more commonly seen 唔單止; and then at 4:25 there is 未至於, used in the phrase 原來佢未至於破壞你嘅生活嘅 = “as it turns out, it has not yet gone so far as to ruin your life”. These are the kinds of structures that are worth committing to memory.

Just a note about the captions. Throughout the video, there are captions quoting relevant phrases from Wong’s lyrics. I haven’t translated these, mainly because of the difficulty: they are all short poems in their own right.

Please scroll down for my transcription (my apologies, it’s very patchy in places), English translation and notes. You can view the video here (subtitles in Standard Written Chinese only). Since it is a YouTube video, you can slow down the playback speed if you wish: at 0.75 and 0.5, the sound quality is still good. And remember, if you want the standard jyutping romanization or to check any of the Chinese in the text, please consult the Sheik Cantonese on-line dictionary.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

王樂儀:我梗係鍾意香港啦 | 我呢個地方可以嘅嘢 | 係會多好多 | 因此我去荷蘭嘅時候 | 啲同學問我之後會唔會留 [喺嗰] 度 | 已經話唔會 | 特別就係呢兩年嘅事 | 我點都一定會留喺度嘅

Caption: 傳承 | 創新

Caption: 王樂儀 | 填詞人 | 作品《我心中尚未崩壞的部分》《地球來的人》《美麗新世界》等

王樂儀:我係真係幸運嘅 | 因為一開頭都有一個機會 | 就已經 [係個詞人]俾我 | [啫係],耀輝 [好好咁樣] | 邀請我 | 所以我會好珍惜而家有嘅一機會嘅 | 《我變成我》首歌 | 係佢寫俾林二汶 | [我覺得] 嗰首歌 | exactly [都係] 我對佢嘅嗰個感覺呢 | 唔係教你做人 | [係]教你變成你自己 | 既然自己係一個好 vague(虛無)嘅 term(字詞)呢

● 傳承 chyùhn4 sìhng4 = to inherit & pass on | ● 填詞人 tìhn4 chìh4 yàhn4 = (?) lyric writer; a lyricist (lit. “a person who fills in the words to fit a given tune”) | ● 崩壞 bāng1 waaih6 = roughly, “to fall apart”

Yvette Lok Yee Wong: Of course, I’m fond of Hong Kong! I have so much more to give in this place. It’s for this reason that, when I went to Holland, other students studying with me asked if I would stay on afterwards. [I’d] already said that there was no way I would. Especially because of what has happened over the past two years. Whatever happens I will definitely remain here.

Caption: Inheritance of the Old, Creation of the New

Caption: Yvette Wong Lok Yee | Lyric Writer | Works [include] “The Part of My Heart that Has Not Fallen Apart”, “People from the Earth”, “Beautiful New World”

Yvette Lok Yee Wong: I really am very fortunate, because I got my opportunity right at the beginning, given to me by pop lyric writer. Chow Yiu-fai was very good to me. He invited me. And so I will treasure the opportunities that I have now. He wrote the song “People Like Us” for Eman Lam and those feelings are exactly what I feel about him. [He] doesn’t teach you how to become a person. He teaches you how to become yourself. Although “self” is a vague term . . .

【1:00】但係 // 原來佢教你無論你變成點都好 | 你 feel 到嗰個係自己 // | 佢 [係] trigger你去翻你本身有嘅一啲 | 反叛嘅元素、慾望、渴求 | 啫,教你去認識或者開始行到 . . . 去一個你想行嘅路 | 啫,我覺得呢個係一個重大嘅影響 | 同埋點樣去識得溫暖其他人 | 啫,我,我覺得我係一個比較唔係好識得同人溝通嘅人 [呢] | 啫,大人 [冇] 鼓勵你去講自己嘅心事或者情感嘅東西嘅 | 噉但係佢就每次都會好相信你呢 [個] 嘢 | 係有價值 | 啫,我哋成日都話,你要開一個肉麻嘅群組 | 都要講、、好肉麻嘅嘢 | 啫,肉麻係有價值嘅 | 譬如我 // 幾年呢,我係 | 有啲,啫,可以質疑自己叫唔叫做詞人嘅 | 因為冇個 mindset(想法)| 噉去到後期約咗一個前輩

● 反叛 fáan2 buhn6 = to rebel; to revolt | ● 渴求 hot3 kàuh4 = to yearn for; to crave | ● 溫暖 wān1 nyúhn5 = (adj.) warm | ● 肉麻 yuhk6 màah4 = ugly; disgusting; corny; annoying | ● 群組 kwàhn4 jóu2 = the groups of contacts in your email account; groups of members in a forum or a community | ● 後期 hauh6 kèih4 = later stage; later period | ● 前輩 chìhn4 bui3 = senior (person); elder; to older generation

. . . as it turns out [原來], what he taught me that, regardless of what you become, you feel that whatever that is is yourself. He triggers you to find things that are part of you [你本身有] — rebellious elements, desires, yearnings. That is, [he] teaches you to go and recognize and to begin to walk a path you yourself would want to take. I think this is a major influence. Another thing is how to know how to give warmth to other people. I don’t think I am a very good communicator. Adults don’t encourage you to talk about what was on your mind or what you were feeling, but on every occasion he believed that the things you did had value. We are always saying that you have to set up a community for the corny/disgusting [肉麻嘅群組] to say corny/disgusting things. Corny/disgusting things can have a value. In the years when I was starting out, I had my suspicions about whether I could be called a lyric writer, because I didn’t have that mindset. It was not until later on, when I arranged to meet a person from the older generation . . .

【2:00】. . . 出 | // 佢就話,香港好少女詞人 | 你要加油呀咁樣 | 嗰刻嗰鼓勵突然間令我覺得:啊,係 | 我係一個詞人喎,咁樣 | 都係喺嗰個位先至突然間好似有啲責任咁樣

Caption: 學習輕盈面對 | 沉重日常

我梗係鍾意香港 | 我覺得我喺呢個地方可以做嘅嘢 | 或者可以俾到嘅嘢 | 係會多好多 | 噉因此我去荷蘭嘅時候 | 啲同學問我之後會唔會留喺度| 因爲話唔會 | [佢哋覺得我好傻喇] 咁樣 | 啫,因為個 career 可能會明顯啲或者會好啲 // | 但係我好早已經話我會返嚟 | 啫,噉特別就係呢兩年嘅事 | 我點都一定會留喺度嘅 | 就算撇除呢啲嘢 | 我都係,呃,對身邊嘅人一啲陪伴 | 啫,譬如有時會諗,呃,入面嘅朋友

● 詞人 chìh4 yàhn4 = cf. 填詞人 tìhn4 chìh4 yàhn4 | ● 沉重 chàhm4 chúhng5 (?) = serious; critical | ● 撇除 pit3 chèuih4 = to eliminate; to remove; minus | ● 陪伴 pùih4 buhn6 = to accompany; to keep sb. company

. . . [UNCLEAR] he said, “Hong Kong has very few female lyric-writers, so you must go for it [你要加油]. In that moment of encouragement suddenly made me think “Oh, that’s right. I am a lyric writer. And with that position there seem to be, all of a sudden, some responsibilities [that go with it].

Caption: Learning to Face the Serious Everyday with Grace

Yvette Lok Yee Wong: Of course, I’m fond of Hong Kong! I have some much more to give in this place. It’s for this reason that, when I went to Holland, other students studying with me asked if I would stay on afterwards. Because [I’d] already said that there was no way I would, they thought I was foolish. That’s because any career would clearly be better. But a long time back I had said that I would come back [to Hong Kong]. Especially because of what has happened over the past two years. Whatever happens I will definitely remain here. And apart from these considerations [呢啲嘢], I am company for the people nearest me. For instance, I sometimes think, about friends inside.

【3:00】佢哋出咗嚟會見到邊個呢? | 上年更加嚴重嘅 // | // 都會關連自己 [嗰啲] 情緒或者壓力 // | 就算寫愛情都係啲好唔簡單嘅嘢 | 但係我今年開始多咗個自覺 | 即係其實,呃,我嘅生活 | 唔止要將自己變成受難者呢 | ,我 . . . 我哋生活應該都仲可以有好多樂趣嘅 [咁] | 噉所以我 . . . 我而家開始提自己 | 係咪可以遠離翻一堆嘅情緒 | 啫,當然有佢嘅作用 // 作品 | 啫,譬如C AllStar佢《集合吧地球保衛隊》| 跟住,呃,《留下來的人》| 可能你每日咁樣聽 | 你容易去抵抗而家,啫,我哋每個人喺個時代裏面嘅處境嘅

● 自覺 jih6 gok3 = a conscious(ness); an awareness | ● 受難者 sauh6 naahn6 jé2 = a victim (of a calamity) | ● 集合 jaahp6 hahp6 = to gather; to assemble; to call together | ● 保衛隊 bóu2 waih6 déui6*2 = roughly, “a team that defends/safeguards (sth.)

When they get out, who will they be able to see? Last year was more serious. The things that I wrote were all connected with moods of mine or pressures. Even if [I] wrote about love, there was nothing simple about it. This year, however, I am starting to have a new awareness about how, in fact, our lives are not just about turning into victims. My . . . our lives should still be able to have a lot of joy in them. And so for this reason I . . . I have now started to remind myself whether I can move away again [遠離翻] from that jumble of moods. Of course, these songs [作品] have their effects. For example, C All Star’s “Come Together, Defenders of the World” and then “The Man who Stayed”. Perhaps if you listened to them every day, you [could] easily resist the plight that every one of us is facing at this time.

【4:00】// [我哋] 長期好似受苦難咁樣 | 其實我哋係要慢慢重建翻自己應有嘅一個生活 | 啫,譬如頭先提《輕盈》| 我嘅意思其實係佢唔 exactly 係完全輕盈嘅姿態 | 而係你點樣去做一啲好沉重嘅事嘅時候 | 將佢變成日常 | 你其實會容易啲去堅持喇 | 原來佢未至於破壞你嘅生活嘅 | 其實係你點樣慢慢 build up 自己嘅意志力 | 你 . . . 當你越 . . . 有越強大嘅意志嘅時候 | 呢啲嘢其實係可以好輕 // 咁樣去面對

● 苦難 fú2 naahn6 = suffering; misery; distress | ● 重建 chùhng4 gin3 = to rebuild; to re-establish | ● 姿態 jī1 taai3 = an attitude; a stance | ● 未至於 meih6 ji3 yū1 = roughly, “has not yet gone so far as to” | ● 意志力 yi3 ji3 lihk6 = will-power

We can’t go on suffering endlessly [長期]. Actually, we must slowly rebuild the lives each of us ought to have. For instance, in the song “Grace” I mentioned before, what I meant in fact wasn’t exactly a completely graceful attitude but how to transform the doing of certain very serious things into something commonplace. In fact, you will [then be able] to persevere more easily. As it turns out, it [that is, one of the “very serious things”] has not yet gone so far as to ruin your life.  It’s actually about how to build up your will-power. When you . . . you have a stronger will, then these things can in fact be faced with a great lightness.