2016年1月1日星期五

Auld Lang Syne

Wednesday 11 November, after an exhaustive work day, I signed off at 7:45 pm. I finished the third dinner at the same fast food restaurant this week and quickly headed to the bus stop, hoping to get home before 9:30 pm.

As I dragged myself along with my mind miles away, I nearly tumbled onto an old man near a minibus stop. I stepped aside reflexively and stopped to ponder momentarily. The man, in his 70s, sat on the sidewalk with his legs apart and stared vacantly at the road. He was nearly bald with a thin layer of white hair on the side of his head. I could see only 2 or 3 teeth from his half opening mouth. His worn light blue towel shirt looked fairly clean under the blue quilted nylon jacket but his grey cotton tracksuit bottoms would need some washing. His tanned feet were chapped and silvery under the fluorescent lights. His nails were neatly contoured by black lines at the opening tip of his blue plastic slippers.


“What on earth is he doing here?” I thought.
“Why doesn’t he sit elsewhere?”
“Is he a beggar,” I puzzled, “or is he a tenant of a nearby old age home?”
“What’s he looking for with the sad gaze in his eyes?”


He ignored my presence by his side and I told myself to mind my own business. I walked on for another 20 feet to wait for my bus. I played with my phone, trying to kill off the waiting time. Yet, I could not help looking back at this old folk again and again and asking myself if I should have done something.
“What thing then?” I grumbled.
“He may want help! He may be hungry! He may be sick! He may be one of those with dementia!” The voice in my mind ruminated. 
I could not focus on my favourite game and kept telling myself that I would look stupid and strange if I went back to him. “He may be waiting for the next minibus,” I tried to silence off the voice.
In the end, I went back to him. “Are you alright?” I asked but he continued to stare at the road.
“Yes,” he mumbled without looking at me.
“Are you hungry? Do you want some food?”
“No.”
“Do you need any help?”
He didn’t answer but waved his hand to signal me to stop talking. He maintained his posture and gaze and I decided to leave him alone.

I went back to the end of the waiting queue but realized that nobody was bothered by or even noticed my stupid actions. They carried on with their smoking, chattering, finger-wriggling on their phone. That put me at ease but I could not stop looking at and worrying about him. As I watched, I was overcome by a sense of loneliness. People continued to stream past this old folk, but nobody gave him a single look as if he wasn’t there.

Then, I thought I found an answer – He must have sat here like this all the time to wait for the minibus, so the neighbourhood knew him well. Yet, I knew I had waited for my bus here for the past 5 years and I never met him before. I kept wishing his minibus to arrive before my bus, but he was still sitting on the sidewalk and gazing at the road when I got on my bus.

Friday 20 November, I finished late at 9:30 pm and missed the last call of the fast food restaurant. I decided to have a micro-wave dinner back home so I hurried to the bus-stop. That was a cooler evening and the street seemed much quieter. At the same spot, I met Mr. Blue Jacket. He wore the same clothes. Again, he sat on the sidewalk and gazed at the road. I made a quick glance as I walked past him. While waiting for my bus, I wished his minibus to arrive first to be sure that he got on one. Once again, mine arrived earlier than his. I told myself to quit such pathetic self-reassuring wish as I stared at him through the bus window. But, he was a sad soul in that cool and empty street, I remarked.


Tuesday 24 November, I was still in a foul mood after work and tried to cheer myself up with a hot curry chicken at the same restaurant. That did not help and I was still mulling over the troubles and grievances at work. My mental vision was only a 5 feet circle in front of my feet as I rushed down to the bus-stop. It was 8:30 pm already and my restlessness grew. I wriggled my finger fiercely on the phone to make the bus waiting time more tolerable. Two minutes waiting and my annoyance beckoned. I turned right to check if the bus was coming. There, Mr. Blue Jacket was sitting on the door curb of a closed food shop 15 feet away from me. I was shocked by his presence and my preoccupation with my little 5 feet world. He was in the same clothes. This time his mouth was not open but his gaze at the road was still fixed and vacant. Looking at him, my preoccupations suddenly shed. I felt better to see him sitting on the curb though the sadness all over him was still intense.


Wednesday 24 December, I promised to leave work punctually as a Christmas present for myself but in the end I left at 6 pm. I decided to treat myself better with a Chinese sausage and BBQ pork rice hot pot, in the same restaurant of course. It did not have much festive decoration but was playing some background music.


“What?” I exclaimed. “Why’re they playing Auld Lang Syne on Christmas Eve?” 
“That’s stupid!”
It was early evening and people might be treating themselves better in other fancy restaurants, so there were not many customers. Right a few tables in front of me, an old man had finished his dinner and he was holding a tumbler of Coke in his hand. He seemed at ease but detached. He looked familiar and I recognized he was Mr. Blue Jacket. But this evening, he was in a dark grey jacket. His presence overjoyed me.
“So, he’s got his money, at least enough for a meal here!” I teased myself. “He also has a new jacket!”
“Do you think he wears shoes or just slippers?”
“That’s none of my business!”


I enjoyed an unusual 40 minutes dinner in this restaurant and Mr. Blue Jacket Turned Grey Jacket was still sitting there with the half tumbler of Coke and staring into his far front. I could not help thinking why he was sitting on the sidewalk the other evenings and what he was gazing at or looking for. Again, I reckoned it was none of my business.
“But, he’s still a lonely soul!”
“MIND your own business!”
“True.”

The slow dinner was delightful and I found the looped background music now surprisingly meaningful and desirable.
On the bus going home in this Christmas Eve, looking at the people on the street, I think over that this is a tiny city in which countless people eat, drink, play, work, live and die together.
We manage to avoid stepping on others’ toes by having our own routines. Many of us squeeze into the lift at the same time each morning, take the same bus to work, have lunch in the same restaurant, order food from the same menu, have the same drink after lunch (mine is iced lemon tea with little sugar) and wait patiently to leave work. We run our own autopilot system. At the same time we mind our own business. We press the close button of the lift even though the hasty steps are approaching; we droop and pretend sleeping when a pregnant woman enters the train cabin; we chuckle at the sleeping man when we leave the bus at the terminus, we step aside in disgust when someone staggers along with a strong smell of alcohol and we only greet our neighbour at the doorstep “Are you going out for breakfast?” even though we heard that she and the husband screamed and sworn at each other until the small hours the night before.

It will be self-deception or worse delusion if I believe I am an exception to these animal instincts. I reckon they are the infrastructures of the massive human colonies, like the city I try to survive in, without which I may be suffocated with disappointments, sorrows and frustrations. But, admitting the inevitability, I cannot help thinking how much of our self should be taken over by the autopilot system? How much business is only our own business or others'? How capable are we to micro-manage between the autopilot and the self-steering systems? How prepared are we going to take the driving seat for ourselves? What should I rely on when my autopilot system fails or becomes redundant one day, say when I am kicked out of the economic niche because of senility or disabilities? And, who is to mind my business when I am shattered by life’s unavoidable disillusions, rejections, inequalities and cruelties?

Anyway, a new year has started, just look for and hang on to those who can sing Auld Lang Syne with you on Christmas Eve.


Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine†;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.



36 則留言:

  1. I hope that there would no longer be loneliness in this world.
    I hope that there would be less miseries.
    I hope that life would be less painful for those who are in pain.

    Anyway, let's try to live on cheerfully and happily. Let's try to stay well.
    Let's try.

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    1. True! Loneliness, miseries and being in pain are three of life's biggest afflictions. I don't think they can be wished away but can always try to endure with a grateful and joyful heart.
      Yes, we have to stay well and so does everyone.

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  2. I didn't know what was the song “Auld Lang Syne” before I checked it in the internet...。:)
    Gravel!多謝您的分享!....其實看了心中有很多複雜的回嚮,但抱歉卻不懂如何回應...。或許每人背後都有各自的故事,但我卻深信人若能彼此多點關愛,多一點施與,少一點埋怨,相信這個世間會顯得更美...。

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    1. 翔流,
      多謝你閲讀這遍文章,你的到訪和留下足印已是很好的回應了。其實我在開始寫時也不清楚自己想寫甚麽,東拉西扯。會否因此令你也感到混亂複雜呢?我的問題了!
      繁華都市,人人忙碌於緊迫生活的每-步,很多時連自己也不會關心自己,更可況關愛身邊的人。這世界真是要多些像你至情至性的人,令生活顯得有趣和可爱!

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  3. In Thomas Hardy’s world, “Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.” This I tend to agree. I would even say that happiness is the mitigation of pain. But this being so, we must all the more be caring and sympathetic to human sufferings and always lend others a hand when the occasion arises. Just be a little bit more altruistic and the world will be filled with more beaming faces.

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    1. Occasional episode in a drama of pain...
      The mitigation of pain...
      Morning dew in the desert...
      The smile of a baby in her starving mother's bosom...
      The thank-you from an old waste-picker when receiving a bundle of old newspaper from a stranger...
      I guess the occasions are all around if our third sympathetic eye is not too tired out by our endless fight for wealth and power. Not many of us care enough about ourselves, let alone being more altruistic to others and the world. Yet, an extra episode of happiness is one episode more.
      Hope this is the New Year resolution of many more people this year.
      Have a great weekend.

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  4. 謝謝Gravel 帶出這篇很多很多聯想的文章。
    題外話,可以的話回家記得食生果,快餐太少纖維了!^^"

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    1. 多謝p Wong 到訪留言!開始寫時不太清楚在寫甚麽,東拉西扯,寫到最後連自己也混亂起來。
      你的提醒真令我感到驚訝,又有点感動,多謝。有的,雪櫃裡甚麽都沒有,生果倒經常有。
      祝週末快樂。

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  5. Wish you have a Happy New Year!

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    1. Gravel 有一片好心腸,這是不容置疑的!
      有時我在街上見到一些無家可歸者,腦海裡都會不期然地在胡思亂想,不竟我可以幫到他們的可能有限,但總會將腳步放慢,向錢包裡掏出一些碎錢,希望能幫到一點吧!

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    2. 唉!小猴,我倒想會令你失望!
      在城市街上的無家可歸者,很多時都令我困惑!看見年老的無家可歸者,甚或精神可能有問題的流浪者,很多時都替他們難過。可惜不時亦看見一些人,把行乞變成為一份職業,倒令人感無奈。

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  6. Gravel你好、人生時常都會遇到一些既微妙又難以得知答案嘅事。你的故事寫得很精彩、在下看後內心也泛起共鳴。謝謝分享!祝新年進步!

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    1. Louis Rick, 很多謝你的過奬,希望你喜敬。
      以你笑看人生的生活態度,人生遇上甚麽也不會難倒你!
      祝週末快樂。

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  7. 每個人背後都有著自己的故事 ,看到一些畫面難免有點感觸! 希望所有長者都能老有所依 , 身體健康!!

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    1. 對呀!每個人都有自己的故事,很多時都不為人所知,更不為別人所理解。
      我也希望長者都能老有所依, 身體健康,因為我都向着那個方向走呢!
      祝週末快樂。

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  8. thanks for your wonderful episode, i understand there are no answer but I still like to think what has happened. we are the gang, ha ha! I used to be noted the lonely old person in the street. sometimes, i will give some money to the old lady's hand who sit lonely along the road. although they are not beggar, i believe they have some long stories.

    one late night of last week, i made a fool decision, when i saw one same old lady, i changed my mind, not give the money, instead of it, i went to buy a bbq pork-rice box, after i bought the rice and walked back there, she was left already... it made me a daze and don't know how to manage the rice. coincidence, i saw another old lady come by, so i give that box to her hands, she felt inexplicable and delight!!!!

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    1. Wow! Wow! Wow! ykk!
      What have you done?
      It is easy to feel sorry for others who are less fortunate or worse off than we are. It is much harder if we can dip our hand into the wallet to give these people some spare changes - if you have been a volunteer to sell "flags" on Saturday morning, you should know what I mean.
      But, to actually run an extra "mile" to buy a bbq pork-rice box for someone you just meet unintentionally in the street because she is hungry is really exceptionally. I must say I don't have such courage but I believe this is the little great thing that makes the world a different one that is worth living in.
      A big well done for you.
      Hope you have a great new week.

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  9. after reading your story, the only reaction I have----Truly thankful with our God's blessing. However, your personal thinking and expression are enhancing others......or every human beings........LOVE is the greatest of ALL. We need to be loved, and we do need to love others in any way. HK's situation is a good way for us to rethink about the future associated with your inspiration????

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    1. Hi uncledan!
      Long time no see la! Hope you are doing well-a belated Happy New Year!
      Quite true we do need to be loved and to love others to make us different from other creatures. But, sometimes it is sorry, sad and disappointing to see so many people, especially the old and under-privileged, to live alone in solitude, living each day like yesterday just gone.
      I'm not sure about the situation in HK. One thing that is pretty certain - the city is ageing very fast and It will be a hard life if you don't have a very supportive (long term) family or a lot of $$$ to be old here!
      Hope situations in your part of the world is better than here.
      Wish you well and happy.

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    2. Our social welfare system seems better than HK for sure. However we still have homeless people in a city.......their choice ? their will ? or something else we don't know at all?
      Joyce responded =====To be honest, I would rather die than live in the old age home.>>>>>>>>>well, it's up to our own judgement and our comfortably level of living in the old age home ( care home ).I feel it is fine to live in a care home if it is needed. of course our care home is fairly good as fancy as living in a hotel room.( one person one room )

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  10. Hello ! Good evening, are you still in a foul mood, Gravel ? Don’t bring the office to home and it’s seriously damage your health.

    "Have you seen the old man in the closed down market...... Let me take you by the hand ......“ the street of London lyric come to my mind as I read your article. And I think that everyone has a different story! What can we do ? That’s a pity !

    I wonder why do you always observe the mentioned people carefully, teeth even ! Your reflection made me upset and I started to feel pretty tired. But I’m afraid to face my aged in the future. I don’t fear dead but worry that I won’t take care myself in my old age. To be honest, I would rather die than live in the old age home. As I learn that it’s no easy matter to face & solve the problem of the aged. That’s a poor !

    Anyway, you seem to be very gentle and you are probably more handsome on the inside through your text that I have read. It’s the truth; I wouldn’t kid you and I seldom lie.

    Thanks for sharing Auld Lang Syne that is the theme from “Waterloo Bridge”. Both of the song & movie are a great favourite of mine. The Christmas Eve gave you a good appetite!

    It’s raining now. Keep warm & dry.

    Have a great fresh week !

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    1. Hi Joyce! I think I'm fairly OK! Thank you for the remind!
      The Street of London... The Street of Hong Kong...They are the same in many ways I think - you have to be pretty rich to live in; you can be pretty lonely even if you are rich. And, it is even more lonely if you are not rich and there is no one you can turn to on Christmas Eve or New Year Eve.
      By the way, you have over-rated me! I am an ordinary Hong Konger who is just being nosy about what others are getting on with their lives from a distance.
      Yes, me too! It is frightening to think about getting old with all the teeth falling out, walking with a stick, and in the very end, wearing a diaper everyday.
      But before those days come, enjoy each and every day. Eat and drink; work and play. And, you run as well!
      You too have a great week.

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    2. 嘿!早晨,Gravel,今日大年初一向你拜年

      新年猴捧壽桃來
      猴獻仙桃祝壽康
      金猴降福福常有
      猴王振臂保平安

      靈猴賀歲,祝 Gravel 和家人在主的恩寵下,康樂常存!

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    3. 多謝 Joyce!
      你真有心大年初一就來拜年!
      我的中文是有限公司,不知怎様回禮你的祝賀,祇能祝你新春主恩常在,福杯滿溢!

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  11. Gravel, it's people whose hearts have not yet turned completely cold and indifferent amidst the pressures of making enough to put food on their dinner table and a roof over their heads which gives me the strength to survive. You have absolutely no idea how how much power you have given me. A man is not what he says he is. A man is what he does. From what you did and intended to do, I know I have a reason to continue living.

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    1. Wow! El, this is not quite the El Zorro I used to know!
      Sorry to response so late.
      Your unusually emotive words here definitely reflect your affectionate and compassionate, and probably the most authentic facade of a man (not woman huh?) who seems to be incredibly logical, philosophical, analytical and emotionally well moderated.
      In fact, what Mr. ykk above here has done is something really praiseworthy. Any way, I thank you for your kind big words though I don't think I deserve.

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  12. 但抱歉我也不懂如何回應...。但願我們 一 顆赤子之心...
    為失意者說 一 句鼓勵的話 ... !
    為困惑者說句啟發的話 ... 為無助者說句支持的話 ... !
    一 個善意的傳遞 ... 為大家散發無盡的喜悅與希望 .... !
    Dear Gravel ... 天氣寒冷,要小心保重身體呀!

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    1. Josephine 你也保重身體呀!天氣真是很寒冷呢!
      大慨因為我東拉西扯吧,手隨意走,我也不知自己實在想説的是甚麽!
      你的分享不就是最好回應嗎?分享一句鼓勵和安慰説話、傳遞一個支持和善意心意、表達一分希望和喜悦 - 可能就是毎個人都想收到的東西! 祗可惜他們往往在我們最需要他們時,他們就不知所踪,所以當我們可以把他們分享給別人時就努力分享吧!
      祝新一星期快樂滿足。

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  13. 祝你新春大吉!身體健康!萬事如意!

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    1. Thanks Janejane!
      我也祝你新春健康快樂!事事順景!心想事成!

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  14. 祝福 Gravel 猴年 一 家闔府安康!吉祥如意! 身體健康!平安喜樂! 福澤綿綿!

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    1. 多謝 Josephine 的祝福!
      你也合家安好!安心自在!平安喜樂!

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  15. Yau 兄、祝你猴年財星高照、身體健康、萬事勝意。

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    1. 多謝 Louis Rick 兄,
      也祝你心想事成!身體健康!財星福星都高照!

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  16. To follow your advice, I looked for someone who could sing Auld Lang Syne with me this Dragon Boat Festival. Finally, I sang it with YouTube.

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    1. Well, there are many versions of Auld Lang Syne in YouTube! Unfortunately, none is easy for me as I have missing notes in my sing voice.
      Try your luck in Ghost Festival!

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Thanks for your sharing...