Saturday 30 October 2021


The chapel hasn’t changed much since its last refurbishment. Since my first visit to give thanks in 2009, for surviving the worst and longest of my hospital admissions. 

Usually a quiet spot, quiet enough to hear the hopeful weight of a thousand prayers, today there were two gentlemen on their mobile phones, one in heated exchange with his caller. Three Muslims observed their afternoon namaaz and one man walked straight up to the altar, and communed with his rosary. Is a Buddhist noticeable in prayer? If a Buddhist were to perform prostrations, they would appear no different to a Muslim. A Christian counting rosary beads appears no different to a Hindu with his mala. 

There were no women in the chapel today. Normally that would give me pause, but I wanted to sit somewhere and think about my friend Dr Hong Phuoc Ho. We were always in dialogue from the moment we met in late 2005... we were forced into a sort of silence by the ferocity of his last years with Parkinson’s. And even with the profound physical challenges it brought to his muscle control, Dr Ho still sang a few lyrics when Dad commanded him to this summer, and during our last call, he tried to tell me he had dreamed of me ... but the details I will never know. 

When the news came on Wednesday night, a heavy stone landed on my heart. Grief can be instantly physical. I cried and cried. The next morning I dreamed of rocks falling, threatening to crush the person below. To crush me. Dr Ho had suffered in the prison of his body, and in the prison of his memories of the Vietnam war; in the dream I was afraid of the damage those rocks could inflict, but there was no pain. And I woke up. 

What I do have to hold are all the memories of sixteen years - and the hopeful joy of a friend appearing suddenly in the middle of your life, to challenge and to enhance, to delight and engage the deepest and truest parts of our lives. 

Being in Addenbrooke’s the day after his passing in that very hospital allowed me not only time in the chapel, but also communion with the art on the corridor walls - this is one of the coolest images and will now remind me of Dr Ho - fierce and playful, suffering and equal to the task. 

For some reason, the art up at Addenbrooke's no longer has the name of the artists attached to the art. Perhaps this is a Covid change. I shall update when and if the artists' names are included again. The central piece of the young Vietnamese boy is a silk painting titled 'Fight Till The End' by Cố Tấn Long Châu. Báo Ảnh Việt Nam, 1967.

Tuesday 19 October 2021

HELLO FRESH (a gratitude post)

Some time toward the end of March, I began a subscription to the home delivery food service known as Hello Fresh... you’ve probably seen it advertised between your YouTube videos. For many years I’ve bemoaned the fact that I struggle to cook in my mother’s kitchen, because it is almost entirely equipped with the food she prefers to cook (aka the food my father likes to eat). This sounded like a poor excuse even to my own ears but now that I am cooking every week, and the food is more than edible, is sometimes plate licking delicious, I know I was right.

I started off unsure, and my parents never knew what would befall their palates that evening, but my mother, for one, was just grateful that her not so secret fantasy, of someone else on kitchen duty, was manifesting. Some dishes were an instant success like Prince Harry’s Chicken Pie - no idea why it is so called - but it is comfort food ... and anything with fresh greens and fruit, or fish and potatoes are always welcome.

As summer turned to hospital blues, and sepsis visited first my father and then me and then Dad had gallbladder surgery, after which he struggled to get his sodium levels balanced, Hello Fresh provided a steady security for me manning the household duties alone - I didn’t have to think about meal planning or organising supermarket shops while I did the laundry, the ironing, the watering of conservatory plants and kept cheerful. The giant friendly box arrives on my doorstep once a week and Shy’s Restaurant is back in business. It’s a bit fish and chicken heavy because our own home cooked Indian vegetable dishes are far superior to the cheesy pasta or bland couscous options, but that’s ok - Hello Fresh isn’t for every day. 

Thank you to the universe and to human creativity for the possibilities that counter the other side of who we are. Are we more creative than destructive? I like to think so, or we would no longer be here. Too clever by half, that’s our trouble... and not tasty enough for anyone to want to eat us. Luckily....