Tuesday, 2 October 2018

brief encounter

I’ve been feeling rather deflated lately. I bought a new bike at the beginning of July—I acquired my old one in Penrith in 1998—and I have to say that it is a delight to ride. I was able to get out regularly in that first month, when everyone was making comparisons with 1976, which I missed because I was working in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, while the heatwave continued for several weeks in the south of England, summer was unofficially over in Penrith by early August.

There hasn’t been a lot of rain, but I’ve been surprised by how often I’ve experienced mizzle in and around Penrith during the past two months. Mizzle is a weather phenomenon that is most frequently experienced on the local mountain tops, and if you haven’t already guessed, it is a portmanteau word combining ‘mist’ and ‘drizzle’. And for the past few weeks, it has been unseasonally cold (ground frost on a couple of mornings recently!), and I’m beginning to suspect that I may not get out on my new bike again until I come back from Hong Kong next summer. You can see my frustration.

However, rather than dwell on the frustrations, I prefer to cast my mind back to positive experiences from the past, especially ones of extremely short duration that left me smiling to myself, like the one I’m about to relate.

*  *  *

I never used to do any cycling on Sundays, because the network of official cycle tracks in the New Territories is clogged with idiots who have hired bikes for the day and haven’t a clue what they’re doing. However, the area northeast of Fanling, which had been part of the so-called ‘frontier closed area’, was opened to the public in 2016, and it is far enough away from the popular cycling areas that a degree of skill is required to get there. Naturally, I wanted to see what it was like (I described that exploration in The Final Frontier).

The village of Ping Yeung—the largest in the area—was never part of the closed area, but it was certainly part of an area I hadn’t yet explored. And although it is connected to the main road network, I wasn’t going to leave by the road if I could avoid it. And avoid it I did! I found a series of paths that led to the main road that runs through the area at the same point that the road from the village reaches it.

One Sunday, I had just left the village on the first of these paths when I spotted an old lady a short distance ahead. Judging from her posture, her gait and the speed at which she was walking, she would certainly have been more than eighty years old.

“How am I going to get past her?” I thought to myself.

You can see the problem from this video still (Paula wasn’t with me on the occasion I’m describing):


As you can see, the path is very narrow, and although not dangerous, there is a drop off the edge, so expecting the old lady to squeeze to one side while I passed was not an option. However, I was already familiar with this path and knew that there was a short wider section around the next corner, opposite the traditional Chinese house you can see in the picture. I therefore slowed right down, timing it so that I would come up behind the old lady just as she reached that wider section. I didn’t ring my bell.

Che che m’goi [excuse me please],” I said quietly.

The old lady stepped to her left and continued walking.

M’goi sai [thank you very much],” I said as I passed her.

M’sai m’goi [thank you not necessary],” she replied.

I think that this is a story that I’m likely to tell again from time to time. Stop me if you’ve heard it before.

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