“Good Luck and Smooth Sailing” in the Year of the Cat

3 min read

Lunar New Year

Vietnamese Zodiac, Cat vs Rabbit Year 2023

Writing tip, lyrics, backstory on Al Stewart’s hit song

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Chúc mừng năm mới 2023!!

Happy Lunar New Year!

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It’s the Year of the Water Cat according to Vietnamese astrology. The zodiac differs from the Chinese in two years: the rabbit year is the Vietnamese Cat year and the ox year is the Vietnamese Water Buffalo.

My oldest was born in the Year of the Earth Cat and she had received a sweet children’s book on the rabbit. This may have been confusing, but if she explores her Vietnamese heritage she will learn popular reasons for the difference. Many believe the Chinese pronunciation of rabbit resembles the Meo sound associated with the Vietnamese word for cat. The cat was also a friend to the farmer, keeping mice from the stores of rice.

Whatever the reasons, the Year of the Cat as a phrase reminds me of the seventies song with its seductive sound and story. Al Stewart played in Royal Albert Hall in 2015 and talked about the lyrics, how he associated it with Casablanca and a North African love affair in 1975, the Year of the Cat. It is interesting to note that is the year the U.S. had abandoned its mission in Vietnam.

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Writing Tip: In an interview with the BBC, Stewart said the song was a substantial hit but he could walk down Sunset Strip to Tower Records and go unnoticed.

I like to be completely anonymous, frankly, because if you’re going to be a writer, which is more what I am than anything else, you need to be the fly on the wall. You don’t want to be the center of attention – you want to be the one taking it all in. (Songfacts.com)

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Year of the Cat

by Al Stewart

On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolor in the rain
Don’t bother asking for explanations
She’ll just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat

She doesn’t give you time for questions
As she locks up your arm in hers
And you follow ’till your sense of which direction
Completely disappears
By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls
There’s a hidden door she leads you to
These days, she says, I feel my life
Just like a river running through
The year of the cat

While she looks at you so cooly
And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea
She comes in incense and patchouli
So you take her, to find what’s waiting inside
The year of the cat

Well morning comes and you’re still with her
And the bus and the tourists are gone
And you’ve thrown away your choice you’ve lost your ticket
So you have to stay on
But the drum-beat strains of the night remain
In the rhythm of the newborn day
You know sometime you’re bound to leave her
But for now you’re going to stay
In the year of the cat

Year of the cat

Youtube Video link, Al Stewart Year of the Cat

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FOOTNOTE

*Vietnamese Zodiac. Excerpt from “Why Vietnam is Celebrating the Year of the Cat, Not the Rabbit,” (JAN 21, 2023) VOAnews.com

The Year of the Cat is believed to bring good luck and smooth sailing in Vietnam.

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Hoang Thi Huong Giang, an office worker in Hanoi, a city filled with traditional orange kumquat trees and pink blossoms ahead of Tet, said she had never paid attention to the reasons that Vietnamese honored a different zodiac animal to the rest of the world.

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But she believes that those who were born in the Year of the Cat, like her, have things easier than most.

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“It seems to be true that those who are born in the Year of the Cat are often more active, hard-working and easy to get on with,” Giang said proudly.

Jan 27, 2023

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About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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