This was while Ming See (look i finally remembered the space between your name) and I were exploring Roger McGough’s collected poems together in the tea house. We were rambling about in chinatown finding a lovely 茶馆 with lovely 茶叶蛋 just like in our primary 4 field trip – went to tea chapter which is at 11 neil rd for a pot of 玫瑰花茶. the hits and misses: don’t order the 点心 except the 茶叶蛋. the rest are quite awful, including the 荔枝冻, the 包s and the ice cream puffs. we spent a good 2 hours pretending to be cultured- daintily pouring the hot water over the teapot and teacups to soak/warm them, daintily brewing the tea, daintily pouring the tea from the teapot into a separate jug so that the tea will become 均匀, daintily pouring the tea from the jug to the tall cup for dainty sniffing, and then daintily pouring the tea from the tall cup to the short cup for dainty drinking. 郭老师 would have been proud of us and our chinese heritage, yo. obviously the various teapots and teacups had lovely flowery chinese names, all of which i have forgotten.
Anyway a lot of the daintiness was rather undermined though when i started reciting roger mcgough’s The Spotted Unicorn in a hick PRC accent in the midst of all the tea pouring. we were delighted to find this racist provocative work innocuously hidden in his Collected Poems, and i will faithfully reprint a portion of what he has written about Chi Wen Tzu (google yields nothing about this presumably made-up chinese philosopher).
***The Spotted Unicorn (Personal comments in italics)
preamble: Having been an admirer of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius for many years, I was reading through Book 5 of the Analects (the choicest pearls of his wisdom) when I was suddenly struck by the above. Who was this Chi Wen Tzu? And what manner of man always reflected thrice before acting? (三思而行) My research led me to the discovery of a number of diaries written by an indecisive (lol) and yet inventive and brilliant poet, whose journal will shed surprising new light on a little-known period of ancient history.
Now imagine my very bad imitation of a PRC accent. and appreciate McGough’s wit! how can a british poet emulate english translated chinese poetry with such fidelity!
8 October 480 B.C.
Tonight, young wife lying naked
on panda-skin rug. Full moon
hanging in sky like Chinese lampshade
(one of those round white ones).
At sight of fragrant body
its hills and valleys
bathed in silver light
am overcome with desire.
Wonder what course of action to take? (here begins the 三思而行)
- Make love, then and there?
- Make tea, then make love?
- Open bottle of rice-wine,
- write up day’s events in diary,
- relax in warm bath,
- then make love?
Wife gone home to mother for fortnight.
Not like being woken up at 4 a.m.
by drunken diarist.
Tonight, house cold and empty
as purse of K’ung Fu Tzu.
Have not eaten all day
so think about what to do for supper:
- Send out for take-away?
- Drop in at Hard Wok Café?
- Crack open third bottle of rice-wine and see how feel later?
K’ung Fu Tzu (or Confucius
as now call himself) pop in
on way to Aphorism Conference.
Over dish of lapsang souchong
he relate long boring parable
about indecision and procrastination.
Fifteen minutes later
he repeat same parable.
Fifteen minutes later
heart sink as illustrious duffer
embark once more on inane ramble.
Consider three courses of action:
- Feign bout of sleeping sickness?
- Allow to finish. He is, after all, old man; then laugh softly like moth alighting on moonlit breast of young wife?
Interrupting, I say:
‘Twice would have been quite enough.’
Innocent remark have strange effect
on esteemed Master
who jot it down on back of hand, rise up and go.
Nothing doing at home
so journey to mountains
to find cave in which to meditate.
All caves full.
China big country
and although many wise men
only so many caves.
Decide on course of action:
- Transcend to higher astral plane?
- Descend to hire private plane?
- Give idea elbow and give young wife nice surprise on panda skin?
Isn’t it brilliant? Although of course you have to be slightly chinese and entirely self-deprecating to appreciate it properly. by the end of my wonderful elocution we were laughing too hard and swigging our tea from the tall sniffing cups rather than the short drinking cups, all rules of tea house etiquette floating out the window. we also bought a bag of 茶叶蛋 herbs to make a huge batch of 茶叶蛋s at our sleepover nxt week.