The other evening I got a call from my friend, Wanphen in the UK. Beccles, calling! Where ? It's a small market town on the Suffolk/Norfolk border and is within the area of The Broads. And Wanphen, of Thai origin , lives there now after having trotted Mexico, Malaysia , Istanbul and then back to the UK with her late husband, Tony.
Wanphen called to say 'hello' As usual, she takes her time to talk, never hurrying as if to beat the seconds that tick away for a long distance call. When she heard of my son's trip to Tanzania to do some voluntary work, she was glad. 'Let me round up my friends to help donate towards the fund raising for his trip,' she said.
Wanphen left Kuala Lumpur more than 19 years ago. I bumped into her at our daughters' ballet classes. And from there , our relationship blossomed.
If she could wrap her hands round as many people as she could to bring them into her 'fold', she would. That's how I got 'caught' by her easy , friendly demeanour . She needed some help to get some activities going at Selangor Cheshire Home, a home for the disabled. After all, it was just about giving a little time to care and share. So, I joined her company. Others did too and soon there was a big group of ladies who liked her warmth.
Working with her, I found there was always room in her heart to fill it with more love and care for the disabled residents. There was one resident who wanted to hold her hand and walk with her whenever she was around. Somehow, he could not utter any word and saliva dribbled at the corners of his mouth. She always let him and talked to him with kindness as she guided him to his place of activity
It was just natural chemistry to interact with her disabled friends. How did she do it? It was her genuine desire to touch hearts and spread sunshine to others. That's just her.
She cooked and shared her wonderful dishes with as many as her giant wok could feed! That was her birthday party treat for them. Not forgetting her yummy cakes and delicious snacks.
In Beccles, she still radiates warmth. Walking round her her garden, I sense the tender care she exudes for her plants too. What I gave her , a ' keng hwa', as a cutting years ago , she took to Beccles . Mine is doing sweet nothing! Hers is a huge wicker basket of flourishing flowers.
When I was there in November, I was smack in her party planning for her 56th birthday. Her friends , all 10 came for the party. It was Thai cuisine at its best. Her food drew appreciative oohhs and aahhs. After the guests left, we both put our feet up and talked about the great time had by all.
Far from the maddening crowd of Mexico, Kuala Lumpur and Istanbul, she still retains her personal touch. A friend or two always needs popping by and checking to see if everything's alright. I remember we drove by a house to check if her neighbour's lights were on. That was enough to let her know she's ok. There were the times when her kitchen was in full swing to cook and bake for some charity raisers. A friend asked to babysit her dog for the owner to be away. So many little ways she finds to be a friend.
So, be it snow or sleet , girlfriend you shine, as always. Yes, it's always sunny in Beccles.
What A feast!