Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
7-13 September 2003
Mon, 8 Sept
Impure thoughts about Article 45 of the Basic Law enter my mind while I am performing my ablutions.  Immediately, I turn the shower to full “cold” and rapidly recite nine Hail Marys out loud.  Gripping the curtain rail, I then focus intensely on how Hong Kong’s GDP would perform if deflation ended and real interest rates plummeted. Gliding into Central on the escalator, the good folk of the Mid-Levels stand in rapt silence.  In deference to our leader, the astute CH Tung, they have banished all notions of politics from their minds and are “concentrating on the economy”.  How long can we keep this up?  Like Victorians climaxing at the sight of bare piano legs, we find unmentionable ideas defiling our wholesome minds whatever we do. The dandruff and Hello Kitty tissues being swept up by Nepalese street cleaners prompt disturbing images of Democratic Party election materials.  Seeking relief through self-flagellation, I turn to the Internet.  You can’t think about democratic reform while looking at middleagedmongolianmamas.com.

A slightly more palatable distraction is to deal with a backlog of emails from family.  In a lengthy report, my mother mentions that she has just bought squid at Tesco’s supermarket.  Squid at Tesco’s!  When we were younger, we were forbidden to set foot in the place lest we catch fleas from the low-income multitudes who depended on its cut-price baked beans for survival.  A note from my sister advises that she might be visiting soon.  I send her back a link to the Hong Kong Hates Vegans section of the Tourism Board’s website.  To show there are no hard feelings, I add a little pun that came to me in a moment of vodka-induced comic genius over the weekend...
If I got bored of holding my trousers up with a strip of leather and made a belt out of herbs, would it be a waist of thyme?
Tue, 9 Sept
Mortification of the flesh continues – I haven’t thought seriously about politics for 48 hours. Rubbing ice cubes into my loins, I focus on the economy.  A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that in real terms HK’s GDP has grown some 15% since Tung took over. Not great for a 6-year period, but hardly the end of the world.  Shouldn’t someone tell Tung?  He is still trying to pull us back to the Third World, asking incredulous Mainland businessmen at a Xiamen conference yesterday to set up factories in HK.  Of course, the more our economic problems recede, the more obsessed he must become with concentrating on them.  It’s pathological – political reform is to Tung as food is to an anorexic. 

No anorexia here.  Successive, desperate phone calls from ex-Mormon Odell, Polly the lipstick lesbian and Jenny the girl from Beijing-but-she’s-got-an-American-passport.  Each one urgently wants the pleasure of my company at dinner several evenings a week – for the next three weeks.  “That’s amazing!” I tell them in turn, “I was going to ask you the same thing.”  It seems we have all been enlisted as reviewers for The Guide 2004,
BC Magazine’s annual restaurant bible, work on which must be completed by the end of the month.  This is the downside to our preference for exclusive circles of uniquely interesting friends.  It would be useful at times to know more people, even if they were slightly mundane.  Now, in our efforts to procure dining companions at short notice, we will be reduced to dragging strangers off the street – giving rise to an outbreak of a strange new crime, in which abductors force their victims to endure elegant three-course meals with decent wine before releasing them unharmed.
Is there space for any more exhibits in the Hemlock Museum of Hypocrisy?  After two decades of media-whoring, hanging around triads, getting in our faces at every possible opportunity and indulging in talentless screeching, Canto Pop bim Anita Mui whines about how the press won’t let her out of her luxury home to get her cervical cancer seen to.  Without the paparazzi, she would be another housing estate resident stuck on a public hospital waiting list.  Perhaps we can find one to swap places with her.

At the other end of the cancer-victim talent scale... RIP
Warren Zevon, 1947-2003.
Wed, 10 Sept
Ten ways laksa can spice up your sex life!!! Continuing its plunge into the depths of depravity, Singapore legalizes Cosmopolitan, the smut-and-fashion magazine that reduced Hong Kong’s secretaries from straight-laced prudes in the 1980s to the insatiable, shameless and promiscuous disgrace they are today.  This just after the Lion City permitted dancing on bar tops, bungee-jumping and Sex and the City.  Thus are Singaporeans herded towards their freethinking, high value-added future.  The logic is impeccable. Westerners bungee-jump. Westerners are good at creativity and lateral thinking.  Therefore, Singapore bungee-jumps.   It’s all part of Project Sodom and Gomorra, PM Goh Chok Tong’s meticulous, finely detailed, 112-point, 7-year plan to stop planning everything.  Hong Kong might as well throw in the towel now.

Thurs, 11 Sept
The mawkish? The hackneyed?  The hand-wringing?  The furtively nostalgic?  To my relief, the media spare us most of it.  During lunch with Jenny the Beijingette-with-US-passport, we look back.  I recall sitting in a Lan Kwai Fong bar, vaguely watching breast-enhanced actress Do Do Cheng introducing
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? when they cut over to New York.  Jenny had been in a bar in her hometown.  “People were watching the airplanes hitting the buildings and cheering,” she says.

The conversation shifts to the weirdness of the capital of the glorious motherland.  “Some time ago,” Jenny relates, “my friend and her husband in Beijing wanted a pet, so they bought a ‘good-smell’ pig.  It was a baby pig, with lovely, shiny pink skin.  ‘Good-smell’ pigs don’t grow much – they stay small.  Anyway, they let this pig sleep on the bed, and after a while it made a noise if wasn’t on the bed being hugged every night.  Then it started to grow and grow.  Now it’s over 100 kilos!  It’s a normal pig!  But it still won’t sleep alone, so one of them has to sleep on the floor every night, hugging it.  They’ve decided to sue the pet shop.  But the shop is saying – ‘you have to prove that it’s the original pig we sold you!’”  Raising my chopsticks, I hold a slice of
cha siu before her eyes and make a suggestive face.  “No!” she says, shocked at the thought.  “They can’t get rid of it now – it’s a member of the family.”  This is surely punishment for cheering that night two years ago.
I can’t believe I have been able to survive a whole year without scrumptious mooncakes.  Ms Fang the hunter-killer secretary does the rounds in S-Meg Tower and finds me hiding in a stairwell, dreading the horrible withdrawal symptoms I know I will suffer for months to come if I give in to temptation and let these addictive morsels pass my lips.  At knifepoint, she forces me to bite into the light, airy pastry, the succulent, flavoursome bean paste and the smooth, refreshing egg yolk.  This is the Big Boss’s revenge – his way of making us wish Mid-Autumn Festival wasn’t a public holiday.