“Colder, crying on your shoulder
Hold her, and tell her everythings gonna be fine
Surely, you’ve been going to early
Hurry, ’cause no one’s gonna be stopped
No, now, now, now, now if you sing, sing, sing, sing, sing, sing
For the love you bring won’t mean a thing
Unless you sing, sing, sing, sing”

  • Fran Healy ‘Sing’

Confelicity – Pleasure in another’s happiness

I’d never heard of this wonderful word until Wednesday when Susie Dent mentioned it in an interview about her new book ‘Word Perfect’. I love it !

I decided to write a list of people that were happy this week and who’s happiness had made me happy. I deleted it. A lot of the good news that people got or shared was private, so I removed their names and simply re-wrote the list with ‘a neighbour’, ‘a friend’, etc.. and it looked like a fictitious list of imaginary friends. I deleted that one too. It’s a real shame you’ll never get to read it, crammed as it was with weird and wonderful happy thigs, like a first tooth, purple dyed hair, and a terrible photo of a red squirrel…at least I think it was a red squirrel…it really was a terrible photograph..but it made the person who took it very happy.

Before that I’d written two pages about Sting’s ‘Russians’ single and how it gave me hope. But it started to get VERY political and I’ve found to my cost in the past that writing about religion, politics, or Leitrim can vex the gentlest of souls. So I deleted that one.
And now it’s getting late, I’m in the middle of writing a scary story for Halloween for the Haunting Of Rossmore Park, five new Drumlin Giants stories, plus the next chapter in THE book, and I fear I’m running out of things to say that I haven’t said before. It’s making me anxious.
So how about you tell me about someone that gave you , caused you, confelicity this week ?
I’ll pick a winner and they will get one of the extremely rare Drumlin Giant hoodies

Cool ?
Cool !

P.S. Listening to The The’s ‘Uncertain Smile‘ for the piano solo !

P.P.S. This is the second chapter of THE book

Friday June  25th 1900 – Cave 16, Dunhuang , China

Xin Zháng woke with a start. He had dreamt of his father. He had not thought of his father for a long time. Xin came from a long line of Taosit priests. His family had lived in and cared for the Valley of The Thousand Buddha’s for generations. It had once been a busy crossroads on the Silk Road and a prominent centre for learning, but had become as dusty and lonely as the Silk Road itself since Xin’s great grandfathers time. When Xin’s father passed away he took on the mantle of caretaker. His father , Xin felt, had been a man who always seemed to labour under a great burden. He was not unkind, he was in fact a loving man, but there always seemed to be something that preoccupied him, as if he was always looking over his shoulder. He always viewed strangers warily, especially westerners, those in particular he avoided, and if he did have to have any dealings with them he always acted as if he had a much more menial position than he actually held, being second only to the Elders, and feigned ignorance of any questions they asked.
This had always puzzled Xin , as his father had a voracious appetite for knowledge, any knowledge. Mathematics, astrology, physics, religion, all religions and above all history, myth and legend. Second only to his love of attaining knowledge was his love of sharing it with anyone and everyone. Xin had looked on in awe as over many , many years  he had seen his father hold court with both the student monks and the Elders in the monastery  telling them story after story of the origins of China, Da Yu tamer of the great Yellow river, the Emperor Qin, Confucius, Buddha, Abraham,  Jesus, Mohammed, Prestor John, the countries that surrounded us and the adventures of Admiral  Zheng He and his discovery of America and countless other tales.
But at home, when it was just Xin and his mother to hear, he always told fantastic stories of fire people from the far west ocean with who had been brought to China by Xiwangmu, the Queen Mother of the West. He had names for many of these travellers and placed them in almost every story and legend alongside the heroes and emperors that Xin was more familiar with from his friends and school. His mother would chastise his father for filling Xin’s head with nonsense and she would make Xin promise not to make mention of fire people to anyone else.
It was fitting that today, as he and his great friend and brother monk Wang Yanlau were due to break the seal on the new cave they had discovered yesterday, that his father had entered his thoughts. His father who had laboured tirelessly to preserve and restore the holy sites and religious libraries that surrounded Dunhuang  would have been giddy with excitement at the prospect of what awaited them behind the sealed door at the back of Cave
Xin could not get back to sleep it was 5.00 am and  the sun was already peeking around the edges of the window cover , he got up quietly trying  not to disturb his wife. He failed miserably.
“Xin, what are you doing getting up ?” she murmured. “ You’ve hardly slept all night and you kept me awake, talking in your sleep.”
“Sorry my love, it’s this new cave and what waits behind the door. I can hardly wait.”he answered.
“Your father would be so proud of you today,Xin.”
“I know. Go back to sleep. I will tell you all about it when I come home tonight.”
“Ok”, she was drifting back to sleep,” And who are the fire people ?”
Xin froze. Had he heard correctly ? The last time he had heard mention of the fire people was when his father was on his deathbed, feverishly whispering to Xin that he must keep the secret. But there had been no secret, they had only been characters in his father’s stories when he was a child. He had assured his father that he would do as he wished, his father had smiled and breathed his last. He had never mentioned any of this to anyone.
“What did you say ?” he asked his wife gently.
She lazily half opened one eye and sighed “ You kept saying ‘fire people’ in your sleep….”
“It was just a dream, go back to sleep.” Her eyes were already closed.
                                                        He went downstairs and boiled some water to make his black tea and sat looking out the window at the sunrise over Mogao valley as he ate his baozi. He remembered the day Wang  Yanlau had convinced him that it was their duty as the most senior Elders to properly catalogue each and every cave and restore Dunhuang to its rightful place as a centre for religious learning. From the first day they had met in the monastery as young novices Xin had always been swept along by Wang’s zeal and enthusiasm. Xin had always been destined to be a priest and as his father had been the caretaker of the Valley it was accepted by everyone that he would one day fill the same role. Wang always seemed destined for a higher station. Throughout their time as novices Wang had excelled at study, was apprenticed to the most senior monks and was so gracious to everyone he met that they always went away smiling and charmed.
As the years progressed they had risen in seniority and authority together, with Wang leading the way and Xin his trusted second in command.  They had spent their lives together here in the valley, they had even married sisters and their children were best friends.
Over the years they had discovered numerous transcripts and paintings, small ornaments, some old, some Buddhist, some Nestorian, some religious, some historical, but today they both felt would be a momentous day.  When they had cleared away the debris from the back of Cave 16 the previous evening and saw the door for the first time they both knew the contents would be staggering. The back of the cave had been carefully plastered to make it look like the surrounding hollowed out cave walls. The disguise was a work of art in itself and had only revealed itself due to it’s old age and the accidental knocking over of a large wooden cabinet that had fractured the plaster revealing the top corner of an ancient door. It was late and they had agreed that they would tackle it properly the following day.
Xin tidied away his breakfast dishes and headed out to Wang’s house. As he approached he saw that the window covers in the kitchen were open and the front door was ajar, Wang came out to meet him. “Couldn’t sleep old friend ?” Wang smiled, “ The tea is ready, we will have a cup before we enter history.”
They sat across from each other at the kitchen table, sipping their tea, saying nothing and beaming at each other. Wang’s wife came into the kitchen wiping sleep from her eyes, she smiled at Xin.
“Look at you both, smiling like a pair of lucky cats. I suppose my sister got no sleep either Xin ?”.
“Not as much as usual” Xin replied.
“Be off with you both and maybe we can all get some sleep tonight”  she chided. Xin got up , bowed and waited outside for Wang to make his goodbye’s. He came out and they walked up the valley to Cave 16. No one else had arrived. The temple inside had been their pride and joy, it had been a dusty storeroom until they had started to clear it several years ago. The interior was now returned to its proper state as a beautiful Buddhist temple with ornate wall drawings and a carved ceiling. It was at the very back of this temple , to the right of the altar that the exposed doorway now stood.
There was a large table in front of the altar on  which stood their oil lamps and some tools to scrape away the last of the plaster that now sealed the door to its frame. They diligently got to work , not waiting for their novices to arrive. An hour later they were covered in dust , working away and humming old hymns together. They took a break when their novices finally arrived but still sat in the cave staring at the door.
At lunchtime Wang’s wife sent a large pot of noodles and a pot of black tea for them. They shared it with their novices. They were nearly ready to open the door and they were savouring every moment.
At two o’clock , with the lock dismantled and the door a simple hard tug on the ropes away from being opened , they paused. Xin, Wang and the two novices knelt , holding  hands in front of the door and said a prayer  of thanks. Then they stood and pulled hard on the ropes, the door gave way after a few moments, there was a puff of stale air and the remaining plaster work fell away.
They blinked and waited for everything to settle. Xin and Wang looked at each other. Wang broke the silence, as he grasped Xin by the hand “ Together , dear friend.” They turned back to the novices and each took a lit lamp in their free hand and turned to face the cave. The doorway was wide enough for them to enter together. As they crossed the threshold the light from their lamps lit up the room. It was as large as the temple that they had entered from and the yellow light danced over pile after pile of rolled manuscript, ornate box ,upon ornate box. The manuscripts and boxes were piled to the ceiling and looked to be three of four feet deep. There were passageways through the manuscripts and boxes. They looked at each other , laughed, and turned in different directions to greedily start opening the rolls to see what they contained.
“This one is Sanskrit, it must be 500 years old !” Xin exclaimed. He walked around the corner of his passageway…………
“ Mine is Tangut , I think, it’s ancient……this one is Sogdian !” Wang replied.” I’m opening a box here, Xin, it’s velvet lined….there are silk paintings….IT’S THE SHAN-CH’ING….The Three Pure ones….Xian !, Xian ! Come see this it is incredible !”
His friend did not answer. When he went to look for Xin he found him towards the back of the cave, he came upon him suddenly around a corner.
“Xin ! Are you ok ? You scared me.”
Xin did not answer, he pointed straight in front of him.  In the yellow flickering light Wang saw a statue. It was on a pedestal at the back. It was only three feet tall but it was impressive, it was an army general in full Song Dynasty ceremonial uniform in emerald green  brandishing a sword that was studded with rubies, but it was the head that commanded both their attention. Staring at them was the head of a middle aged man with a flaming red beard and bright red hair. He was unlike anyone that Wang had ever seen .
Xin finally spoke – “Fire people. “

Author: paul

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