After putting TLM to bed for the night, I go to my mum's house to set up her insulin pens (this is something my brother normally does for her, but this week he and his family have taken a much-needed break out of town). She hears me coughing and wheezing but - miraculously - does not tell me for the billionth time that if only I'd dressed more warmly I wouldn't be suffering from another cold. Then she offers to administer some fung yeow.
The stuff she's refering to is (mostly) eucalyptus oil, pungent and probably lethal to a range of small insects, sold all over Hong Kong in tiny glass bottles. It's her wonder-medicine that fixes just about every minor ailment. Partly to humour her and partly because I know it actually does help, I let her rub fung yeow all over my shoulders, upper back and neck.
There is a slight breeze outside, and when I leave her house it feels like someone left the fridge door open and programmed it to follow me around (fung yeow literally translates to "wind oil"). But when I get in the car it's even worse in the enclosed space. My eyes sting from the eucalyptus fumes and I drive home squinting (that can't be safe).
I imagine that, one day when I'm older and motherless, I get a whiff of fung yeow on my mum's clothing and remember that it wasn't all bad having her as a mother.