Lunch in Newcastle with a retired Chinese female paramedic from Malaysia. But before that a visit to an English funeral directors to deliver an empty ash urn. My companion took a healthy interest in our funereal arrangements, briskly scouting out the chapels of rest and the hearses. Modern sleek and shining, we have those. Horse and carriage with black feather plumes, humm. Motorbike and coffin side-car? No comment. Total incomprehension!
With the bemused secretary escorting us out my friend spoke matter-of-fact about ambulance driving and the one time she took out the fire engine. Because there was nobody else to drive it, and then fighting the fire too. Might as well help out.
The day continued in a free flowing, free wheeling way. In and out of Chinese supermarkets. Thankfully no mournful fish eyes gazing out of crinkly packets. A pit stop for lunch and chop stick practice. Then onwards to shop for an early Chinese New Year present. It was an exhilarating day out, she'd say we went outstation. Just one of the many expressions I reconnected with from my time in Malaysia, June 2005.
Best of all was reconnecting with the energy and bright spirit of Chinese Buddhism.