Friday, July 17, 2015

Osthmanthus:An older and more sedate time!



                                        Osthmanthus fragrans©Am Ang Zhang 2011

In The Cockroach Catcher:


The examinations were finally over and I was back home in the village that I had more or less abandoned for the most of the last five years.  I could not remember skies as bright and temperature as high, but it was a nice interlude from the mad preparations and the nerve-wracking examinations.
         We had an unusually dry May. The worst of the 1966 rains seemed like a distant memory and the crisp blue skies somehow made the heat tolerable. Even back then we seemed to be complaining of the ever rising temperatures in Hong Kong. The way we had been complaining about the rise every year, the temperature should really have reached 110 or more by now. The air-conditioning of offices, followed by that of private homes, necessarily led to the feeling of higher ambient temperatures in the streets.
         The garden was filled with the fragrance of the white tropical jasmines.  That fragrance is only second to that of the Osmanthus (Gui Hua)[1], the flowers of which are tiny and appear more towards winter. We used to collect the Osmanthus flowers, dry them and use them to flavour our best teas.  Jasmine is more a late spring and summer flower and we had a big bush. By nightfall the cooling hill breeze brought with it occasional whiffs that made you want summer to last forever.
         It was a peculiar time for those of us who had lived in or around the university for the past five years.  We left home as school children and now we were back, and with any luck the majority of us would in a few weeks become fully fledged doctors ready to apply our skills.
         We had changed and the rest of the family probably not as much; and yet it was a time to savour – the last of the old before embarking on the new and brave.
         It was good to be reminded of the fine cooking back home, of an older and more sedate time when shopping was done twice a day for fresh ingredients.  This practice of course still continues in some parts of the world.


[1] Osmanthus (Gui Hua) - Osmanthus fragrans is a flower native to China that is valued for its delicate fruity-floral apricot aroma. It is especially valued as an additive for tea and other beverages in the Far East.



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Latest Views on the book:


5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-read for Students of Psychiatry August 10, 2014
Format:Paperback
We all have stories to tell with regard to our experiences as physicians. Zhang is one of our medical school classmates who took it to a different level by writing and publishing a book. The book details how it all started, from the time his family moved to Hong Kong from China, to his years in medical school, to his experience as a child psychiatrist in the UK. The book is full of interesting case studies of actual patients he saw and the challenges he faced dealing with them.
I was captivated by many of the interesting stories in the book. It’s a must-read for all students of psychiatry. It also makes for good reading material for anyone during their leisure moments.

From another doctor friend:

The Cockroach Catcher has evoked many images, memories, emotions from my own family circumstances and clinical experience.

My 80 year old Mum has a long-standing habit of collecting old newspaper and gossip magazines. Stacks of paper garbage filled every room of her apartment, which became a fire hazard. My siblings tricked her into a prolonged holiday, emptied the flat and refurbished the whole place ten years ago. ……My eldest son was very pretty as a child and experienced severe OCD symptoms, necessitating consultations with a psychiatrist at an age of 7 years. The doctor shocked us by advising an abrupt change of school or we would "lose" him, so he opined. He was described as being aloft and detached as a child. He seldom smiled after arrival of a younger brother. He was good at numbers and got a First in Maths from a top college later on. My wife and I always have the diagnosis of autism in the back of our mind. Fortunately, he developed good social skills and did well at his college. He is a good leader and co-ordinator at the workplace. We feel relieved now and the years of sacrifice (including me giving up private practice and my wife giving up a promising administrative career ) paid off.

Your pragmatic approach to problem solving and treatment plans is commendable in the era of micro-managed NHS and education system. I must admit that I learn a great deal about the running of NHS psychiatric services and the school system.

Objectively, a reader outside of the UK would find some chapters in the book intriguing because a lot of space was devoted to explaining the jargons (statementing, section, grammar schools) and the NHS administrative systems. Of course, your need to clarify the peculiar UK background of your clinical practice is understandable.

Your sensitivity and constant reference to the feelings, background and learning curves of your sub-ordinates and other members of the team are rare attributes of psychiatric bosses, whom I usually found lacking in affect! If more medical students have access to your book, I'm sure many more will choose psychiatry as a career. The Cockroach Catcher promotes the human side of clinical psychiatric practice in simple language that an outsider can appreciate. An extremely outstanding piece of work indeed.

From Australia:

I have finished reading The Cockroach Catcher and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Zhang, I particularly liked the juxtaposition and paralleling of your travel stories and observations with your case studies, Of course, I could appreciate it even more, knowing the author and hearing your voice in the text. Because I’m dealing with anorexia, ADD and ADHD students I was very interested in your experiences with patients and parents and your treatment. Amazing how many parents are the underlying causes of their offspring’s angst. It was an eminently readable text for the medically uninitiated like me. Keep writing, Zhang

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