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Living it up: Chasing the dragon for a little bit of luck.

"Here we have Tina Turner," a Rolf Harris look-a-like announces from the little stage in front of the blue kitchen door. A short-haired version of the diva presents Simply the Best for the eating audience.

For the tenth time Tony and Ling Ho celebrate the Chinese New Year at their Cantonese restaurant in Edgbaston. This year it is something special, since we are entering the Year of the Dragon.

"The dragon is strong and brings luck", Tony Ho explains.

The staff at Ruby's have spent more than eight hours preparing the 11-course meal for their guests. And they do this three days in a row. This New Year special is a salmon and asparagus dragon claw catching a fire ball of chicken, and prawns wrapped in red pastry.

Forty-three-year-old Amriot Owen from Droitwich has stepped down to the lounge with her 15-month-old son Ryan to rest a little from the party. She is here for the third year with her husband, Andy. "We basically only come to Birmingham for this", she confides.

Professional singer Nicky Moran has taken to the stage and performs Tonight, Tonight from West Side Story. The karaoke microphone is not left alone at any time.

The atmosphere gets higher and higher reaching the climax when the dragon is about to appear after the dinner.

But first money has to be given for the privilege of seeing it - a Chinese tradition.

From the stage the Rolf Harris look-a-like thunders: "Put money in the red envelopes. Give to the dragon. More money, more luck".

Andy Owen donates about pounds 2. "It doesn't matter how much you give", he says.

The money goes to the staff who work really hard on these nights.

The dragon enters the room. Inside the dragons head is Tony, who makes it fling wildly in all directions. The head has spikes from the forehead to the neck. Inside the dragon's red silky back is one of the staff bending down. The dragon is accompanied by loud noise. A crashing cymbal follows all the dragon's moves and a gong rings a hypnotic tune.

The dragon attacks one table after another. A hand in its mouth grabs the red envelopes. Sometimes the dragon jumps on a table in its white trainers. People shudder and laugh as the dragon comes close to them.

"The dragon is made in China in the colours we want," Tony Ho explains. "It costs pounds 550."

"This year has been better than ever," Amriot Owen says. "We are booking tonight ready for next year".

According to Tony Ho that is wise. He keeps a list of people hoping for cancellations.
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Author:Eskildsen, Words: Kristian
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 12, 2000
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