Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Cluck Cluck Cluck"

My hen night.

With an emphasis on Evelyn Waugh-like genteel debauchery. Boys were invited to fit the unconventional format and I went in drag just to make things tidy.

It was a Brideshead Revisited afternoon, starting with a champagne tea at the Orangery in Kensington Palace, in my finest approximation of a Sebastian Flyte costume and all others looking devastatingly beautiful.

Then boating on the Serpentine with Katy reading extracts from her University diary that recalled our Cambridge days and my first encounters with my almost-husband.

Then to Lucy's flat where Lucian, Nick and Lorna joined us for an indoor picnic complete with teddy bears, plovers' eggs in a nest and strawberries with cream (I think there was asparagus too but was too busy with the pink champagne to notice). This warranted a different dress.

Once we had eaten all we could, we took off in a cab to Milk and Honey and drank Brandy Alexanders and a curious concoction called a Honeymoon Cocktail. It was appropriately bittersweet. This required a different dress and a Cuban cigar, which we smoked in our velvet-curtained booth.

For the full photoset, click here.

I love you all who organised this wonderful, magical afternoon and evening and I love you more for being there, not just tonight but always, when I'm having the best time of my life and, just as importantly, when I'm having the worst time. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"You wouldn't understand... we do things differently."
I speak only in English with my sisters and my brother. I speak only in Cantonese with my parents. My sister is pregnant with her first child and this child will be brought up in France. Like us, the child will speak one language at school and with his friends (French) and another at home with the parents (English). There'll be an extra language to deal with - the child will have to speak Cantonese in order to communicate with the grandparents. How lucky for this child to be given three different languages, three different cultures to mix and match through life. It is in no way a bad thing but...

While Prandial ponders reality, truth and magic, I am stuck between the three myself and not enjoying the sensation of swinging madly between these frequently incompatible states. All major personal events such as weddings mean over-exposure to family and friends but this particular event I'm involved in has over-exposed me to my own mixed-bag reality and truths: I'm British on paper but I'm Chinese in my genetic make-up and in reality... I'm more confused than I've ever been.

I have never experienced culture clash this badly before.

Growing up in the very heart of London has meant I can look back on a childhood that was so nonchalantly multiracial and so casually "fusion" style, I had culture shock going to Cambridge. Whilst there, I discovered I was a novelty for some of the people I was meeting because they hadn't met anyone as British as themselves and yet I ate with chopsticks when I went home to see my parents and spoke in a different language with my family and could tell long amusing stories about hilarious mistranslations and cultural misunderstandings that only someone of my first generation immigrant background could tell.

But since I've entered the last stretch of organisation for this wedding I've felt something I've never felt before: an alienation from my own Chinese background that has upset me more than I can express. I've always felt enormous pride in my Chinese background and the particulars of being British-born Chinese. I've always felt very comfortable and firmly entrenched in Chinese culture and customs. I'm interested in what goes in my community and endeavour to promote cultural practices, customs and arts.

But I'm essentially not Chinese enough when it comes to my own personal life. I'm beginning to feel that all my Chinese-ness so far has been academic. It's not natural to me. As my mother keeps telling me, I should leave all the planning for the Chinese parts of the day to her because I wouldn't understand and I should let her and my father, my numerous relatives, family friends and the restaurant staff do all the planning and organisation because they know how it works. And I couldn't possibly get it right.

And yet... trying to organise a "Western" wedding has baffled me too. I wasn't intending to have a hen night, I think it's a very odd thing to do but was cajoled into having one by my all-British friends. I put together a guest list and included all my male friends - I had no idea this isn't the done thing. Hen nights are for girls and stag nights are for boys. But where is the fun in that? Segregating my friends would make a miserable night out for everyone. So I invited both male and female friends without giving much thought to what is "traditional"and then fielded several emails from amazed and intrigued men who were apprehensively confirming their attendance. Other things left me reeling with incomprehension and frustration especially when we were considering a church wedding in the very early stages - how could I ask my non-English speaking relatives to attend a church ceremony with hymns and standing up and sitting down and readings and so on? How could I go through with a ceremony that means so much to me knowing that it means absolute gibberish to half the people I invite?

I feel as alienated from my Britishness as I am from my Chineseness. I don't understand how things are done on either side and even though I'm constantly told to just do things my way, I don't know what my way is. It isn't half British, half Chinese. It isn't even British-Chinese. I don't know what it is or what I want it to be.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"I am old, I am old, I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled." - T S Eliot

I'm 26 today.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"Thank you so much!"
I've just been visited by my lovely Korean girl who did loads of training where I work and who I spent a lot of time with between January and March, taking her through her options as an arts management student in the UK. She came to collect the last of her paperwork that I've been preparing for her to present to her sponsors and for the next lot of training she needs to undertake - she's got offers from three excellent universities for arts management, policy and including an offer from my former post-graduate seat of learning.

She slipped into the office in a lemon yellow cardigan that looked like spring itself, beaming a big smile and looking more relaxed and happy than I've ever seen her...

I gave her the paperwork that may not be part of my usual work remit, but I was happy to do and didn't give much thought to it as it was hardly back-breaking labour. She was so grateful and genuinely impressed by what I had done for her, she gave me a big hug and put a basket of yellow pansies into my hand. I was so moved - and surprised - I almost blubbed into my mug of cold coffee. We made promises to keep in touch, and I hope we do because I think she's a got a very interesting career ahead of her. And I'm certain she'd make a good theatre companion.

that is what a day job should be like.