The Zen Kick: The story behind the song

The Zen Kick - 2012 Shenzhen China/2008 Lhasa Tibet

Gary Hurlstone

The October Lijiang Snow Mountain Music Festival was to blame. Too many good bands, celebration, fun times—too much cold weather and … By Christmas, Dr. Santa and his merry helpers at the Futian Women and Children’s Hospital, confirmed our suspicion. We were going to have a baby.

Friends reactions ranged from the stoic, ‘don’t worry, you will cope,’ to the more apocalyptic, ‘life will never be the same again.’ Some still insisted it was the best thing that could ever happen to us. We tended to sway between muted excitements interspersed with periods of reserved panic. Two L plate parents, green as grass, taking on the big responsibility. Condominium’s, cars and careers paled by comparison.

We registered with the Hospital— no lift no lights on the stairwell, paint peeling. Rows of bottom-lip tugging youngsters sat doe-eyed in reception. Every child had a drip. Drips seemed compulsory, de rigueur. Helpful staff handed us a library of leaflets, encouraged us to fill in a swathe of forms. There were tests for everything. At approximately one-hundred and forty BPM, an ancient heart-monitor made our baby’s tiny little life-pump sound as if it was performing toddler-techno. To my relief, I discovered that ultrasound scans often distort a baby’s features. Think goggle-eyed extra-terrestrial, hiding behind blips of sonar light on an air traffic controller’s monitor. You get the picture.

‘Yep, definitely looks like you’ family confirmed when they saw the scan results. I was shocked. Does my face really resemble a dreamy mix of amniotic fluid, set against a backdrop of distorted Daliesque shadows? I resolved to go to the gym more often and drink less. The least I could do.

After five months’ the ‘bump’ appeared. To begin with, the pronounced rounding could possibly be attributable to a few too many trips to the dim-sum trolley. When people start to stand up on buses though, reality hits home.

As a mark of solidarity, we acknowledged all the pregnant women we met, making them unsuspecting contestants in the ‘biggest bump in town,’ competition. Shenzhen seemed awash with proud, back rubbing expectant mothers’— a fecund harvest of life, duck footing its way to the delivery room. We were part of the crop.

Our baby’s first kicks reminded me of that scene from, Alien. You know the one. Strangely beautiful, they served to convince me that some things in life are completely beyond my comprehension. Quickly, they became symbols of our growing interdependence. We waited for them, anticipated them even. Lulls in activity created tension, broken only when the unborn started exercising. At three am in the morning, this can be quite startling. But small things can also be very rewarding. And this was one of them.

On the seventh trip to our beloved utilitarian, Soviet style hospital, we were shocked to find instead, a simmering mound of dust and concrete rubble. The understated splendour of the former building was due a makeover. It had arrived—unannounced, overnight.

‘Shit, the hospitals disappeared.’ I mouthed in a sort of semi-relieved way.

We searched for an alternative, somewhere with lifts, and lights, and kids without drips. In Shenzhen, the choice ranges from Public facilities, where standards of care seem fine, although waiting in queues can take longer than the confinement itself to unreal five-star theme-park baby hotel/hospitals. Several were very expensive, and not terribly reassuring in terms of number of babies actually born in them. We settled for a private room at the Shenzhen, Far East Women and Children’s Hospital.

Forget privacy, consultation is mostly a group affair. However, the advice given was good and, patience not withstanding, you get there in the end. At two-fifteen am, on the morning of 22nd July, two hours behind schedule, our baby girl, Zen was born. I was in the Delivery Room until the final minutes, when politely asked to leave. In truth, I would have preferred to stay. At 4:30am baby, exhausted mother and ecstatic father lay down together. Above the hub of excitement, all I could hear was, ‘this is the best thing that could ever happen to you.’ For once in my life, I agreed.


The song, The Zen Kick, was written following this experience and is a song about the bonds that grow between parents and their unborn offspring and the fragility of life at this stage of the child’s development. The foto above is the bar in Lhasa where the Tibetan shepherdess sang (2008), Her vocal was recorded for the original recording of the song (The Zen Kick album below). The Idioms re arranged the work in 2015 and is part of their current set.

The Zen Kick

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