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Tiger-Lily has just returned from her school trip to China, said Carrie.

The pugs gave her such an enthusiastic welcome, but not so her younger

brothers.  They were fighting almost as soon as she had unpacked her


What did she bring back? I asked.

Some t-shirts for the boys, a soapstone seal for her father, an ink

block and calligraphy brush set for Scheherezade and a silk scarf for

Ginevra.  She also managed to bring her a bottle of Chinese brandy,

so she is in her good books.

What did she bring you? (We were having some Gunpowder tea to celebrate

Mother’s Day, as some children had forgotten and some husbands

hadn’t reminded them of the significance of the weekend.  The

males were all fixated on the Six Nations Rugby.)

Well, it was rather unusual, but she brought me a carved walnut

shell.  Apparently the Chinese used to keep their coveted singing

crickets inside them and then they could transport them around.

I tried to look impressed.  She appreciates that you have a musical

side, I commented.

Yes, but it was so poignant that I just had to write a little poem.  Tiger

showed it to Scheherezade and she wrote it out for me with her new

brushes on the special rice paper that was part of the writing set.

Carrie bent down, took a cardboard tube from her jute Save the

Planet shopper and unrolled a scroll.

I read the poem.  Thankfully it was in English.

That’s lovely, I said.  You should get it framed with acid free backing. 

I think you can get bamboo-type edging in the frame shop.

And so she did and this is what it said:

Summary Resolution

Imprisoned crickets in carved walnut shells

stridulate in latticed captivity;

but the maggots in the rice do not cry.

Imprisoned crickets in carved walnut shells

survive for years, but silenced females die.

In a land that honours longevity,

imprisoned crickets in carved walnut shells

stridulate in latticed captivity.

Artwork of a cricket making music with its legs.