Recently in a
Cambridge gastropub beside a blazing fireAvril and I met a young Lithuanian woman callrd Karolina, who was waiting
tables with charm, enthusiasm and efficiency. As we went through the ritual of
paying we discovered her homeland and her ambitions. It seemed that she had
just finished her first degree and was now saving money to pay for her master’s
degree in Chinese.
Cambridge?’ I ask.
‘No,’ she says, ‘In
China. In Shanghai.’
We applaud this, excited at the thought that there was such adventure still in the world. We talk of how her skill in Mandarin would open so many doors of opportunity in the China-driven world of the 21st Century.
She demonstrates her familiarity with Chinese by showing us ho the tonality of the world ma had three different meanings – ma – MA – ma.
I ask whether she could study for an Master’s Degree in Chinese here in the
‘Oh yes!’ she says, smiling. ‘There are several good courses. But it is much cheaper in
China – only £10,000 instead of
twice as much here. And of course it will be better for me, as it will be there
in the streets. I will learn it in the proper context.’
I find myself telling her about the Chinese girl I met in prison Xioa Xioa who was a wonderful writer and had one of the short stories she wrote with me broadcast on the BBC.
I don’t tell her about the Lithuanian woman whom I met in the same place who was in for a nasty offence to do with the trafficking of other women.That wouldn’t be polite.
Needless to say her English was perfect and we emerged from the pub warm from the fire and the wine, feeling a rare pleasure at the state of the world. Perhaps next time we hear of her she will be the Lithuanian ambassador to
or – perhaps more importantly – to Washington.
|Just a thought, Such encounters as this in my life bed down in the subconcious and become a resource and an inspiration for my fiction. This is often and accidental rather than a deliberate process.This novel - now on Kindle as well as in paperback - has a Chinese-French character at its centre.|