The lyrics from the stage play ‘Oliver’ say it all. And part of the old customs to do with a Chinese wedding is to give food to the family. In this regard, the cupboards are filling up, and so is the floor, with bags of food.
I guess this comes from the old times when food was much more scarce, and weddings were a financial burden on the families involved. Today, the wedding breakfasts are held at posh hotels, with enough food for a small city, but still the old customs continue.
Relatives and friends from the surrounding countryside are rolling up with everything imaginable. Large bottles of oil, noodles enough to feed an army, a huge bag of ginger, some other vegetables that I don’t recognise, peanuts, dried mushrooms, a new wok, and lots and lots of other stuff that is in bags that I can’t see into.
Alex’s father is very interesting to watch. He has relatives all around this area, and they are rolling in regularly. They are mostly older, and only speak the local dialect. So they chatter away, and poke around and see what else has been given as gifts, then they have a good look around the house, go into the bedrooms and see what is there, and then they see me. That sets them back on their heels a little, so I have to be explained. I think they are mostly reducing the explanations by saying I am a teacher or was a teacher at Longyan, and all these people know Longyan.
Alex’s father seems to be another one with generally a fairly solitary existence, but in these small families, have a wedding is a really big deal, and especially the wedding of your only son. Peter and I have been through this four times already and still have one more wedding to come at some time, assuming our youngest daughter finally takes the plunge.
But here, when visitors come to the door, or call Alex’s father to say they are on the way up the stairs, there is a subtle change in him. He gets this little grin on his face which says, ‘I am a little important here’, and he fusses around and gets them chairs and welcomes them in and sees them out. I think he is really enjoying the fuss and attention, and the change although subtle is easily there to see. I am enjoying watching him in his different phases.
Then of course, when the people leave, the gifts and food need to be re-organised and re-sorted, and tut-tutted over.
Alex’s father, (I can’t remember his Chinese name) and I are still having this little ongoing affair with the windows being open or closed. We both win a little and lose a little. Today, against all the weatherman’s dire predictions, the sun is out, the sky is very blue and it’s warm.
A few days ago I found in one of the big supermarkets, some of the magic cleaning pads, the ones that get the scuff marks off the walls. There are plenty of scuff marks here especially around the windows were we often stand to see the local world in action, and I bought some of these pads. The problem was, how to get to use them. I explained to Alex about teaching your grandmother to suck eggs, and I didn’t want to appear to be telling his father how to clean his house, but as he would not know about these cleaning pads I would like to show him how they worked. I have actually surreptitiously been attacking some marks over the past couple of days. (I’m full of diplomacy, and face saving comes into account too.) So I showed him this morning and he was suitable impressed with the results. But the problem is, I am supposed to be the guest, and guests don’t run around the house cleaning it, so he is not happy with me doing the work. So every time he goes out, I toddle around and clean off a few more marks. The house is slowly getting whiter and whiter. I guess he will notice, but not say anything.
I bought a big thick woollen scarf this morning. It is going to be freezing in Suzhou when I go there, and I will need something like that. I can also pull it up over my head and use it as a hat. I certainly won’t need it when I come home, I will leave it with Cindy in Suzhou or maybe with Alex’s wife when I leave.
I will finish for now on a sweet note. Alex’s father is terribly concerned at my excessive sugar intake. Diabetes is a big problem here, I don’t know why, they never have much sugar in their diets. On the other hand, I have two large mugs of coffee a day, and add sugar. He was so worried he talked to Alex about it and for Alex to ask me how I could have so much and not be sick. In reality, I am having much less sugar than I would normally have at home, I get no refined foods, no packaged foods, little cake or biscuits etc. I have a little chocolate sometimes, and the strawberry drinks will have something, but maybe artificial sweeteners. I have also found milo so will have one of those each night before bed after the obligatory gallons of green Chinese tea (sugarless of course). Anyway I thought it was cute that he was so concerned.