…on the other side.
In this case, it is literally true.
For someone who grew up in sunshine in a house surrounded by lush green grass, it is astounding that I have survived over 25 years in a London town house with only a sliver of paved patio at the rear of the property.
On good days I think it’s great that there is no grass to tend to. On bad days I think of buying a plot of land in the countryside with a small cottage and a large field with sheep for company.
It’s the grass that I miss, not so much the flowers. Mr Gochugaru and I regularly head out to grand estates belonging to the National Trust where we happily wander round other people’s gardens. After so long without a garden it would frighten me to be tending to plants in the hope that they would blossom.
The gardeners are here today in the KL Home and as with all domestic labour these days, it is foreign. Last night KL Sister asked why it is that Malaysians don’t want to work in the service industry anymore: you hardly get local staff working at food outlets, supermarkets, cleaning jobs…you name it, and if it can be done by someone else, it will be.
Ordinary Malaysians? They are too busy playing the stock market and buying property to rent out for income. And actually, the truth also is that they themselves are working in foreign countries.
The issue with the garden is that my dad is upset that one side of it has green, green growth and on the other there is a bald patch. No matter how many times he has seeded that patch, the grass is fuller and greener on the other side. I now wonder if I should have brought back some English grass seeds. After all if the grass can grow in such dismal weather then surely it would relish the tropical sun and rain.
It has been raining non-stop since I arrived on Sunday night. This is a problem with stagnant water which harbours mosquito larvae, and nearer to home it is miserable for the resident pets which love their twice daily walks.
However the rain is really good for our plants and my parents are very happy with their passionfruit, mint and something very local called the bling-bling tree. I think that’s what it is called. I find the fruit a bit too sour and the only reason I might eat it is if I can turn it into some kind of kimchi-like side dish. So maybe I need to bring some gochugaru (Korean red pepper powder) along with the grass seeds on my next trip.
Wandering around the garden is a high-risk exercise as I was bitten 20 times all over my arms and legs in a matter of five minutes. There are mosquito coils, sprays and repellents but nothing is effective. The trade off for my blood was not so bad as I realised we had curry leaf and kaffir lime leaf trees near the outdoor kitchen area. A large boxful will be travelling back with me to London.
Not so the chilli or bitter gourd which is not so plentiful at the moment.
My dad started his seventh chemotherapy session yesterday. Psychologically I wonder whether sessions 7-9 are easy or difficult. It’s not quite at the beginning of the tunnel where there is some light behind you and it’s not near the end where there is light ahead. In terms of weather it’s like January and February in England where there is the memory of Christmas past and the promise of Spring ahead. Getting through these two months are the hardest for many, although for our family there is Mr Gochugaru’s birthday in January and Chinese New Year in February so we manage mostly to be cheerful if not celebratory.
To remain cheerful then is the object that I need to set for my dad for the next month. To that end I am now heading back to the infamous Study to see if any more paper can be junked, as surely that would let more light in literally and psychologically into this space.
Finally, just to say that for Koreans (as this is my current special interest) it is not grass that they envy but 떡볶이 tteokbokki which is rice cakes. The equivalent of the grass is always greener on the other side is 남의 떡이 더 커보인다 which is something along the lines of the other person’s rice cake always looks bigger.