Hemlock's Diary
The ravings of Hong Kong’s most obnoxious expat
30 June-6 July 2002
Sun, 30 Jun
five years ago, not much rain today. The bad news would take longer to relate.  What can you say?  Alright, it's been very interesting.  Now can we have the British back, please?  It's not as if they were a particularly hard act to follow.

Predictably, the day before Hong Kong SAR Establishment Day – the commencement of Tung Chee-hwa's second administration – comprises one insufferable irritation after another.  At the gym, the unbearable music is louder than usual.  At breakfast spot Yuet Yuen, the fried noodles are cold and the congee watery. Outdoors, roads are blocked off to allow President Jiang Zemin to zip around unhindered, and domestic helpers have been cleared from walkways lest Falun Gong terrorists lurk in their midst and unveil embarrassing banners.  A quiet drink is out of the question, as every bar is screening yet another wretched World Cup game (apparently the last).  Surrounded by screaming soccer fans, I appear to be alone in noticing that one player has had a woman's crotch transplanted onto his bald head.  Obviously, he cannot help being Brazilian.  But it is distressing to see that the practice of scalping, barbaric enough when it was introduced to the new world by the Portuguese and Spanish, has evolved in such a grotesque fashion.

Almost, but not quite, getting through the month without wrecking a car, cantopop heart throb Nicholas Tse is in hospital after trying to drive his Audi over, under or through a Mercedes full of lawyers on the wide, empty and generally hard-to-crash-on freeway leading out to the airport. The streets certainly
feel safer this evening. But I am disturbed by the rumour that Tse is taking flying lessons.

Mon, 1 Jul
Only a select few are invited to the SAR fifth anniversary celebrations, though I find myself wondering what I have done to deserve the privilege of enduring the tiresome flag-raising ceremony. Gold Bauhinia Square is festooned with so much tacky ornamentation it looks more like the Mainland than the Mainland. President Jiang, mindful of the effect of Hong Kong's polluted rain on black hair dye, wisely stays inside the Conference and Exhibition Centre.  The police band master's fondness for hallucinatory drugs is all too clearly reflected in the choice of music, and I find myself singing along as we troop indoors to the tune of Friedrich Moller's
Happy Wanderer
I love to go a-wandering
Along the mountain track
And as I go I love to sing
My knapsack on my back.

Valderee, valderah
Valderee, valderah ha ha ha ha ha
Valderee, valderah
My knapsack on my back
Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann
und mir steckt’s auch im Blut;
D’rum wand’re ich froh, so lang  ich kann
und schwenke meinen Hut.

Valderi, valdera, valderi,
valdera ha ha ha ha ha
Valderi, valdera,
und schwenke meinen Hut.
The swearing-in is curiously moving.  The new ministers stand, arms raised, pondering their fate. They know that far abler people turned down their positions to avoid being forever stained with the mark of Tung.  They will be despised in five years, and forgotten in 10.  Their own children will refuse to be seen with them in public and will quite possibly have plastic surgery and change their names.  Looking radiant, the one exception is Regina Ip.  I catch her eye.  It has an amused gleam.  I sense our valiant Secretary for Security is laughing deep down at the thought of how easy an act CH Tung would be to follow.

Tue, 2 Jul
Swire down around 4% in the morning, having been dropped from some Dow Jones indices.  Grab some.  A few more shares in the great and ancient hong never did the Hemlock Fund any harm, especially now the company has moved my old pal Percy Ratbone to Papua New Guinea, where, I suspect, he can wreak little havoc on the bottom line.

Wed, 3 Jul
My favourite shadowy underworld contact Heung Kwok-leung tells me I should be having more sex.  I am inclined to agree, not least because of the tremendous respect I have for his opinion on nearly everything. HKL was born on the wrong side of the tracks and has defiantly stayed there despite carving out a successful career in personal finance, targeting market segments not adequately served by mainstream institutions.  He was born in a Shamshuipo slum, one of 11 children.  He grew up on the streets, and by the age of 18 was heading a group of debt collectors in Tsuen Wan, acquiring truly horrible scars on his face during negotiations with rivals.  Today, he drives a gold Mercedes, sucking on a platinum toothpick, and lives in a 5,000 square foot villa in Kowloon Tong with black leather sofas and a 50-inch widescreen TV in every room.  How can I ignore the advice of someone who has come so far in life from such humble origins?  

Fri, 6 Jul
Bump into Julianna, one of few old flames I occasionally miss.  She is still VP (one of many) at a second-tier investment bank.  She has finally married. A doctor (to her parent's delight), working in a public hospital (to her parent's disappointment).  A "nice" guy, with good prospects and all the rest. Well, almost all the rest. She admits he is a little disappointing in bed.  What can I say?  It's good to know there's still one hard act to follow in this town.