Thursday, 2 June 2011

Rings on his fingers and bells on his toes

Last night my dear, lovely friend John turned up unexpectedly from Hong Kong. I first met him there many years ago when I was travelling around the world with my daughter. Since then I have spent time with him in London, Shanghai and again in Hong Kong.

In addition to teaching English, I did all sorts of weird jobs while I was first in Hong Kong all those years ago: working as an extra on a 'noodle Western' Chinese-language movie whose title I never discovered, hostessing in a karaoke bar (hired, as you will guess if you have ever heard me sing, for my ability to drink half a bottle of the clients' brandy in one sitting rather than for my tuneful voice), supervising children's parties while dressed as a brown bear, sewing fancy dress costumes...

Sometimes when I was working I would ask John to look after Lauren for me. By then she would have been about five years old. He was a musician (he still is) and some days he would take her busking on the MTR, which she thought was a great treat as she was allowed to wear her ballet costume and collect the money. I know it sounds like begging but at the time it seemed like a marvellous adventure.

But then, with John, even the most mundane exchanges are inherently amusing and everything somehow turns into a marvellous adventure. Yesterday I called to confirm that I was on my way to meet him near Leicester Square:

John: You don't have to come if you're busy.
Me: No, I want to see you. I'm on the bus.
John: You're in the bath?
Me: I'm on the bus.
John: Ach, well don't worry about it, if you're not even dressed yet.
Me: John? I'm on my way. I'm riding on a big, red moving vehicle.
John: [long pause] You're...? I don't even... Give me a call when you get out of the bath.

And then, about five minutes after I turned up to meet him, we were surrounded by a Brazilian band playing very jolly music. Was life always like that when I first knew him, twenty years ago? Or have I forgotten the boring bits? Maybe it is just the way things are when I'm with John.


MuMuGB said...

It's great that you stayed friends all those years...what an unconventional babysitter!

Helen Smith said...

Ha! Thanks - but how did those years whizz by so fast?

Donna Fasano said...

May I meet John? Pretty please with sugar on top? (I've already had a bath.)

Helen Smith said...

Donna - yes! Come to England and we'll have an adventure.

Girl Parker said...

ha! Those are the best kind of friends, the ones that come with their own personal musicians in toe. Great story!

squinty said...

aha. I just found this by accident, Actually I thought the fellow with his"last" Big Issue had better lines than the Brazilians (but then my Portuguese is rusty),
Thanks for writing that, it was lovely . ....and didn't we do a good job with Lauren. Is your new series of books really about Brenda's sister?

Helen Smith said...

John, I borrowed Brenda's sister's name for the heroine of my new series. I haven't met her but Emily Castles is such a great name.