Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
4-10 May 2003
Sun, 4 May
Dim sum buffet with Polly the lipstick lesbian.  Squid curry, shrimp
har gau, cha siu bao, phoenix claws in black bean sauce, siu mai, all our favourites.  And they're almost giving it away!  A sign of the times.  Afterwards, she drags me off to the disco dungeons of Wanchai, where I note that, in addition to the beer, they are now watering down the soap in the men's room.  Another sign of the times, and a good one.  First, it suggests that those of us brought up to be relaxed about odd bits of pig manure, dandruff or nasal discharge under the fingernails are revising our personal hygiene standards with a vengeance.  Second, it shows that grasping, consumer-screwing capitalism – the life-blood of Hong Kong – is alive and well, whatever the pessimists may say. In the noisy darkness, Polly tries to get herself picked up by plump, short-haired Southeast Asian women who look like ugly men (why doesn't she just go for ugly men?  There's no shortage).  I find myself targeted by a determined lady in her 30s – a domestic helper who, after six months away from her husband, is lonely and wants to make the most of her day off.  "I am hungry," she says, apologetically.  I take pity on her – otherwise she will end up in the clutches of the members of the HK Association of Overweight Gwailo Sexual Predators who are ranged against the bar, leering at the dancing girls. Petrified of SARS, she puts on a mask when we leave and won't take it off until we are safely in Perpetual Opulence Mansions.  But she doesn't like condoms.  Yet another sign of these strange times. 
Mon, 5 May
Just weeks after the 17 of us in Hong Kong who actually pay salaries tax handed over our second instalments, a large pale green envelope appears in my mailbox. I must complete and return the form within one month so the public-sector scum can get ready to bleed me again later in the year.  And with the
beatification of public hospital workers making serious government pay cuts even less likely, the beast will be more voracious than ever.  The paperwork involved in this never-ending cycle of legalized theft is becoming as bloated as the civil service itself.  Back in the days when a can of San Mig was 75 cents, the tax form was in both English and Chinese and barely occupied one sheet of paper folded in half to make four pages.  Today, it takes up six cramped pages in one language alone – our once-pure and simple tax system having been corrupted by “allowances” to enable people encumbered with children, parents, siblings, goldfish and mortgages to sponge off the rest of us.   I don’t mind paying a bit to keep the genuinely indigent out of sight, but why force me to subsidize the nasty fat kid that comes free with every Mercedes?
To my surprise, I find the SAR column  is still appearing in the South China Morning Post.  Always desperate for material, they now want haikus.  “All readers’ haikus” will appear on their website, apparently. Obviously, they would not lie – I look forward to seeing my offering there.
The  S. C. M. P.
Never particularly
Good.  Now terrible
Tue, 6 May
The latest blow to Hong Kong comes from the authorities of vibrant, squeaky-clean, cosmopolitan Yemen, who have
banned us from crossing their exquisitely carved threshold.  Given the high standards of health in the Queen of Sheba’s old kingdom, who can blame them for wanting to keep our diseased millions at bay?

The ill-effects of solitary vices are real, as countless hairy-palmed onanists and consumers of vodka breakfasts know all too well.  We now find that over-earnest blogging can lead to solipsistic delusions.  Thanks to technology, millions of enthusiastic amateurs create and publish whatever they please.  But they run the risk of believing that their ideas, predictable and inevitably replicated independently elsewhere, are unique to them. They then interpret evidence of their unoriginality as manifestations of their genius.  What a sad irony!  I am glad to record that I have helped rehabilitate
one victim, who is bravely coming to terms with the fact that the English-speaking world's leading newspapers might not be plagiarizing him.

With the transit of Mercury taking place
tomorrow afternoon, women will find it even harder than usual to keep their hands off me as I stroll home up the Mid-Levels escalator. Provided none of them lose control completely, there should be no problem, but I will wear old clothes and bring the pepper spray, just in case.
Wed, 7 May
Silent anxiety grips Hong Kong. Will Antony Leung, fresh-faced Financial Secretary and our city's most famous Lexus owner, find his career taking an Olympic-style dive in the circus today when
the clowns vote on the motion of no confidence in him?  Will he and Fu Ming-xia, his pert young wife, clasping her new-born child to her modestly proportioned breast, be cast out from their luxury Shouson Hill home onto the unforgiving streets of our mean city, with nothing but the clothes they wear, a tiny number of luxury cars, and their pet aardvark?  Will the young mother, like so many other newly-arrived Mainland women, be forced to strap her crying infant to her back and rummage for scraps of food on the ground in the market while her ageing Hong Kong-born husband fritters away their last pennies on drink and horses?  Will any legislators still be awake after Margaret Ng, our captivating legal representative, finishes droning on about it all this afternoon?  Will any independent legislators representing business sectors actually turn up in LegCo, or will they mysteriously have sudden, pressing commitments out of town – certain senior civil servants’ normally assiduous lobbying efforts having proved curiously ineffective on this occasion?
Tomorrow is Buddha's birthday.  It's a good thing we don't have to buy him a present – what do you buy a man who has achieved Nirvana?

Thurs, 8 May
Strolling near Perpetual Opulence Mansions, I see a Western man, 40-something, carrying a map and a camera.  A tourist!  Surely the only one in Hong Kong right now.  Despite being intelligent enough to ignore World Health Organization travel advisories, he imagines, like many visitors, that the Mid-Levels Escalator goes another 1,000 feet up a 45-degree slope.  I point him in the direction of the Peak Tram.  “Does anything go on around here?” he asks.  “Well,” I say, “it’s a residential area.  That block over there is famous for defenestrations of lawyers caught by surprise in apartments that aren’t theirs, with wives who aren’t theirs.”  He photographs the place. “And in that one there, a top member of our government – a nice man called CY Leung – spent a million US Dollars, if I recall, on a luxury apartment for his children to stop off at during their half-hour chauffeur-driven ride to school.”  He takes more photographs.   They don’t put these things in guide books.
Fri, 9 May
The Big Boss introduces Doris Pang, the new Deputy Assistant Senior Manager Human Resources, at the morning meeting.  Looking severely middle-aged, in a dark two-piece suit, she has short hair and little jewellery.  Her eyes are devoid of emotion and made all the more intimidating by austere, unfashionable spectacles.  Her mouth is cruel and scowling.  In short, she radiates spite and malevolence – and the Big Boss is clearly besotted.  After telling us how fortunate S-Meg Holdings is to have attracted such talent, he asks her to make a few remarks.  Along with some standard platitudes, she issues her first edict.  “Despite outbreaks of disease, all S-Meg personnel will be prohibited from wearing face masks while at work with immediate effect, so we can tell when they are lying,” she announces, with just a hint – or I am imagining it? – of a Teutonic accent.  The Big Boss gushes and nods approval.   She glances briefly at my neckware, obviously unaware that the company gwailo is exempt from the rule requiring all male staff to wear the official, loathsome, puce, lime green and brown-striped S-Meg tie on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  “Some people do not obey company regulations,” she states, looking round the assembled management.  “This is incorrect and detrimental to discipline.  In order to increase motivation, my first priority will be to implement a clearer and more consistent system…” she looks at my tie again “…of staff punishments.”  The Big Boss starts clapping.  We all start clapping.