Happy New Year of the Rat!

You’re never more than 6 feet away from a rat in London! Apparently, that’s not actually true, but it’s sensational enough to be memorable. Rats have a poor reputation but are quite remarkable creatures, having excellent navigational skills and the ability to memorise complicated routes (unlike myself!) Their swimming skills are particularly impressive. These rodents can swim for half a mile across open water and hold their breath for 3 minutes whilst squeezing themselves through narrow pipes! Thus, they can thrive in the sewer systems of our cities. 

January 25th 2020 welcomes the Chinese New Year of the (metal) Rat. The Rat is the first of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, so here we begin a new cycle. People born in the year of the Rat are thought to be quick-thinking, optimistic, energetic, creative, thrifty and successful, but content with a quiet life!

2020 also has a ‘yun’ (leap) month. (I told you about those in a previous post – they happen every few years in the Chinese calendar.) So, you’ll be pleased to know, you’ll get a second chance at April this year, just in case you make a mess of it the first time around!
If you were born in 2008, 1996, 1984, 1948, etc., you are a Rat. This is your year, so get out there and pursue those pipe dreams – may they lead to exciting and fragrant destinations!
Wishing you a happy and successful year of the Rat!

Kung Hei Fat Choi

Kintsugi and the Art of Repairing

Scarf repaired with crystal beads

Dave (@squeakypics) accidentally ripped my scarf while hanging it out to dry!

My sister bought that scarf for me many years ago. It isn’t expensive or made of fine cashmere (I dare say she picked it up for a fiver in Leeds market), but it’s proved to be one of the most useful items in my wardrobe. I’ve worn it with everything, to every occasion – to work meetings, to weddings, to the supermarket – and I ALWAYS take it on holiday. In fact, I seem to have worn it threadbare!

I wasn’t sure what to do with this damaged item as it couldn’t be stitched easily without showing the repair work. It couldn’t be given to charity because it was damaged (and, anyway, if it was wearable then I still wanted it!) If I threw it out I know I’d just try to replace it with exactly the same item in the same colour.

In contemplating its fate I remembered a Japanese art form called Kintsugi – the art of fixing broken pottery. The broken pieces are put back together using lacquer and gold dust, making the pot even more beautiful than before. A missing fragment might even be replaced with a piece from a different pot. I love that the cracks become decorative and more interesting, and the repair is seen as just an event in the life of the pot.

Inspired by this I have repaired my scarf, making a feature of the damage with crystal beading. It will tear again. The fabric is old and the fibres are weak. But each time it happens I plan to add another beautiful scar to strengthen the fabric until, one day, it will have evolved into a completely different scarf.

Happy New Year of the Fire Rooster

Fire Rooster animation

I’m about to astound you with a piece of knowledge that somehow evaded me til now, despite growing up in a Chinese family – the Chinese lunar calendar has a leap month! I know!!

It seems that lunar months are just 29 or 30 days long, shorter than the ones we use in the Gregorian calendar. So some years squeeze in a 13th month. In effect, the lunar calendar has a whole month added every 3 years or so. But its position in the year varies and, to add more confusion, the extra month has the same name as the previous one! No mere mortal can be bothered to calculate when it’s going to happen because it’s far too complicated, so we all just wait until the Chinese calendars are printed and released into the wild. In lunar leap years though, Chinese New Year tends to fall earlier than usual, in January rather than February.

28th January 2017 begins the year of the Rooster, the fire Rooster to be precise. Roosters are thought to be hard-working, resourceful, confident, active and like being centre of attention! If you were born in 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957, 1945, you are most probably a Rooster. More importantly though, 2017 also has a leap month which falls after June. So, whatever doesn’t go well in June you can have another go at in the following month – the ‘yun’ version of June (which loosely translates as enriched or nourished)!

Here’s wishing you a happy and enriching year of the fire Rooster!
Kung Hei Fat Choi
Mo and Dave (aptly aka The Cockburns)