(5) A Page in a Diary and an Image from a Funeral


(photo by Lee Ka-sing)


(5) A Page in a Diary and an Image from a Funeral

The diaries in the library are not uniform in size, in fact they vary from B5 size to big and small notebooks. They are also not put in an orderly fashion. A few stand between books of similar height, others are stacked horizontally on top of each other. Different sizes are Jigsawed into shoe boxes. By preference most diary covers have dark colours, say black or deep brown. Occasionally a red, a pink and a tiny one with floral pattern. The further it went back in years, the more diaries took the form of notebooks, or even wire-bound yearly planners.

A page was ribbon-marked in the Diary of 2012, which is cocoa brown and made of stain proof high quality faux leather. It was written in cursive English with a gel rolling black ball pen.

"This headache has been hanging around me for several days. I just have little bit of time to lie down and rest my eyes. Joni's music suddenly fills the room. It is the song Down To You, which has long disappeared from my head. Recalling the book Joni Mitchell The Complete Poems and Lyrics I bought some years ago, I urge myself to get up and find it. There it is, on the shelf and squeezed between books - clean and still quite untouched.

It all comes back to me. Joni's music, lyrics, her beautiful minty voice has captured the hearts of many in the 70's and 80's. It would be wonderful if Joni could only know she has large followers in Asia...in Hong Kong, who loved and influenced by her music and poems since the beginning of her career.

At forties, Joni looks gorgeous on the cover. The picture was taken by Herb Ritts, an American photographer. I came to know the names of so many fashion photographers in the 80's and 90's and Herb Ritts was one of my favourites. However, I think the most memorable image Herb Ritts took was of Madonna, a stunning profile image of her on the album cover True Blue in 1986.

I have given up all Joni Mitchell's records to our friend Fai, who moved to Canada ten years before us. He was a music enthusiast. He'd renovated, single-handedly, half of his basement and dedicated it to listening music. When we were there busily flipping through his record collections, he would pull one out, and tell us some incredible story of how he got it. He would then lay the vinyl down on the record player, and with utmost care, swing the tonearm and place the needle on the groove to start playing. The next moment, when the music of Mahler's Symphony No 5. filled the air, he would start another ritual. Brewing black Ceylon tea leaves with evaporated milk and sugar. He was proud of serving his best friends the famous Hong Kong-style milk tea - a tea he excelled at making. This creamy, charmingly sweet and full-bodied tea is given the name 'pantyhose tea', or 'silk stocking tea' for a couple of reasons. First, it is often brewed in a large tea sock that resembles pantyhose; and second, which is quite obvious, for its remarkable smooth as silk texture. We never got tired of the tea and the wonderful time we enjoyed music together, from classical to jazz to pop. After completion of his music room, Fai would spend endless nights there, organizing and digitizing vinyls and work on his compilation of music, transferring them into cds and send out copies to his music loving friends.

Here and now Joni's music still lingers in the room. It came from one of those cds Fai put together for us. My thoughts are sad, Fai has left us, or has he? On the day of his funeral, he had a nice hair cut, dressed in a pink-based yellow stripes shirt, black leather tie, sienna suit jacket - a typical "Workshop" style as in his youthful days. Knowing it was impolite to photograph, I looked at him long and hard, trying to make a mental photograph - a farewell image of our dear friend."