Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat

29 December 2002-4 January 2003
Sun, 29 Dec
Wake with an overwhelming desire for an Indian omelet for breakfast, necessitating a quick trip to Wellcome supermarket for eggs and green chilies. The girl at the check-out produces the world's ugliest, most space-wasting calculator – a huge pink thing with "Fujifilm" printed on it.  "Free," she announces, putting it with my groceries. As if someone would pay money for it.  This is the vengeance of the marketing gods, whose wrath I incurred yesterday when I recklessly spurned an opportunity to own an HSBC Hello Kitty vacuum flask.

A call from Ben, Hong Kong's second most obnoxious expat, in tears of mirth as he reads me extracts from "Meeting Point", the
South China Morning Post's lonely hearts column.  "Chinese professional lady, 34, seeks like-minded Caucasian man for LTR," he announces with glee.  "That's not a mass-transit system – it means long-term relationship." I know.  "Chinese lady," he continues, " 40 y/o, slim, young and pleasant looking, u-grad, seeks professional gentleman below 52.  Why 52?  Mature and caring Chinese lady seeks financially stable, Christian, non-smoker or drinker, preferably British.  Ha!  There aren't any, are there?  She must be mad."  This goes on for several minutes.  "I love it," he proclaims. "I know these women!  They were the ones that turned their noses up at me when they were in their 20s.  They sneered at men for 15 years, no-one good enough for them.  Now look at them.  On the shelf, fertility dropping by the month.  Bloody funny."  It's good to hear him so happy.
Mon, 30 Dec
Will Asia's most bloated police force have to join the real world and trim their numbers?  Will Morris have a job when he gets back from sorting out Saddam?  The respective answers are no and yes, judging by the police unions' pre-emptive PR campaign for exemption from cuts in the civil service headcount. You would expect the boys in blue to have superior tactics to the rank-and-file public-sector sloths, and so they do.  By claiming a special status, they make cuts elsewhere look all the more inevitable.  In which case, it will probably pay us to continue having hundreds of simple-looking constables and flat-chested policewomen milling around on the streets doing nothing.

Tue, 31 Dec
My email last week to the Leisure and Cultural Services Dept on how to deal with young vandals who spray-paint trees on the Tsim Sha Tshui waterfront obviously got garbled.  Wrap the kids in plastic, I told them, and dump them in the harbour.  Simple enough.  Instead, for tonight,
the idiots are wrapping the trees in plastic and urging people not to dump garbage in the harbour.  Why do I bother?
Amateurs' night!  Retreat from Lan Kwai Fong before the rabble turn up for their contrived jollity, counting down to 2003.  Safely in Perpetual Opulence Mansions, I endure an outburst of filial piety, making my New Year phone calls to branches of the Hemlock clan around the world.  Cousin Myfanwy in Australia still can't find a husband, her car's gearbox has a problem, and she can't change jobs because in another year at the current one she qualifies for an incredible six months' paid leave. Get rid of her after five minutes. The British Hemlocks are shivering in their country seat and hurriedly put the phone down after 12 minutes for fear of racking up a large phone bill, though I'm the one that's calling, and it costs pennies.  To be British is to go through life haunted by a dark, lingering fear that someone, somewhere, expects you to pay for something.  The American Hemlocks are having grits for breakfast – Appalachian congee. They are leaving the taps running all night to stop the pipes freezing. Their neighbours have joined a church where people speak in tongues and handle poisonous snakes.  In all, my annual reminder of why I live in Hong Kong.
Wed, 1 Jan
After singing the praises of Potemkin financial centre Shanghai during past weeks, the
South China Morning Post decides it is Guangzhou's turn for bizarrely over-the-top adulation. "Delta hub unveils dynamic new team" screams the page one headline.  Since when has Guangzhou been the "hub" of the Pearl River Delta?  Not since 1842.  And who says its new Communist Party standing committee, now containing sundry vice mayors, is "dynamic"?  Not Xinhua, southcn.com, China Daily or the People's Daily, all of whom ignore the story, preferring to dwell on Shanghai's white elephant maglev train. The SCMP also finds space on the front page for this.  I look forward to trying it out, should I ever want to get from the new airport to Long Yan Road, seven miles from central Shanghai.

Must remember to congratulate our fearless Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa, for delivering such an incredibly short New Year's message to the citizens this year.
Thurs, 2 Jan
With 2002 barely out of the way, my first Lunar New Year card arrives.  The Year of the Small Ruminant –
yeung, in Cantonese.  How much more sensible to have just one name, rather than the unnecessarily complicated English system of distinguishing between sheep, ram, goat and so on.  Better still, why not just call all lactating creatures “mammal” and be done with it?  No more tiresome hair-splitting over whether it’s an elephant, cow or walrus.  Restaurant menus would be much simpler.  A-Hing, the Mid-Levels dog poisoner, would have a new lease on life.    

Feel guilty about throwing away my free ticket to yesterday’s Buddhist prayer meeting in Hong Kong Stadium, which, to the organizers’ disappointment, attracted only CH Tung, some children compelled to go by their schools and a few of the more senile devout. I can think of nothing more enjoyable than watching monks chanting for four hours in the company of people like the 48-year-old woman quoted in today’s
SCMP as saying of 2003, “I hope that less people die this year.”
Fri, 3 Jan
“It would make an interesting change.”  How many men, after imbibing rather more alcohol than is wise, have not set eyes on a pretty but plainly overweight woman and had that thought run through their mind?  Few or none, I suspect. Succumbed last night and therefore wake this morning with a big and not especially pleasant surprise heaped next to me in my bed.  Nice face – but the rest…  Five foot 8 inches and, I guess, around 200 pounds.   Thank God I keep a harpoon under the pillow.  Did anyone see me leave the bar with her?  How could they have missed?  Will counter taunts from petty-minded detractors boldly and assertively.  “They keep you warm at night,” I will say. “You’re just jealous.”