Patrick’s Irish Eyes

It was his eyes that charmed her, she told me. He was older, educated, experienced. A devil with an irresistible smile and those Irish eyes. He stole her heart, she told me.

Years later, he stole off to Soho to live with a young Chinese boy, proving that not everything is as it seems. She told me he worked for the government and he took her to China, Hong Kong, Australia, and finally to Singapore. She said they were still there when the Japanese arrived in—was it 1939 or 1940? She said they lost everything, including their children.

She was fluent in Cantonese and she loved to cook Chinese food, loved all things oriental and her tiny bedsit was hung with painted and embroidered silks and carved wood and lacquered trays.

Everything she had was fascinating to me as a small child, but nothing was so important I couldn’t touch it.

She had bamboo and jade and silver, wind-chimes and trays and pictures and jars, jewellery and scarves and shawls—precious and intricate and incredible things. She had a huge heavy seal ring, she had cushions and pillows and tea boxes, all crammed into her bedsit in an old house in 1960s Tunbridge Wells.

But for all that, she was alone, no Patrick, no smiling eyes.