In the interests of research I have been lurking in the bushes this week.
On my way home from work one day I heard shouting. Hurrying along a tree-lined path, thinking someone was in trouble, I saw a red umbrella pushed in between two trees at a rakish angle, with an elderly lady standing in front of it shouting.
She didn’t appear to be in imminent danger, so I stopped and watched for a while, wondering what on earth she was doing – cat stuck up the tree? grandchild hiding in the trees?
Then she took a step back, did a couple of stretches, moved forwards into the trees and shouted again. It was a strange type of yell – slightly burbling – a cross between Tarzan and a good old gargle with TCP, and certainly not an ‘I am in mortal peril and need help immediately’ type of yell.
As I stood there watching she moved back a second time and spotted me, so I walked forwards, surreptitiously trying to get a good picture of her, and asked her what she was doing.
She explained that she has to get rid of all her excess energy, so she shouts in the trees for somewhere between two and three hours every day.
Maybe I have too much of a Western head to cope with this sort of Eastern thinking, as I immediately thought of a hundred more productive things that she could do with all her excess energy, such as mending some of the pavements that she must have to pick her way across every day in order to get to ‘her’ tree.
But perhaps that’s not the point.
I resolved to do more research on the best ways to get rid of excess energy, and asked a Malay neighbour about the whole tree-yelling experience.
‘She sounds mad to me,’ she shrugged.
So perhaps there’s a problem with being too open to other cultures; you may end up taking lunatics seriously. More research needed here too, I think