The ravings of Hong Kong’s most obnoxious expat
Week ending 16 Feb 2002
|Mon, 11 Feb
Call Hongkong Land to complain that the plaza at Exchange Square was not strewn with strips of bright orange plastic yesterday, as it normally would be on a Sunday. The practice – presumably intended to keep the dreaded Filipino menace at bay – reminds me of the work of the Bulgarian artist Christo, who wraps buildings in plastic sheets. Eventually, I get through to a tenant relations manager who tells me that many security guards are currently away, and the normal procedure of smothering buildings in Central in “barrier tape” every Sunday will be resumed after the holiday. What a relief. Hongkong Land has traditionally been one of our most rapacious and uncaring companies, and the idea that it would want to make Central look less ugly or give domestic helpers somewhere to sit is quite disconcerting.
Tue, 12 Feb
“I, chief Tung, go ah?” An anagram of Gung Hei Fat Choi. According to the local witchdoctors, the Year of the Horse will be a bad year for getting married – a safe enough prediction that could be made about any year. Every new year’s day at noon, someone here in Perpetual Opulence Mansions lets off firecrackers just a few feet from my front door. I know it is going to happen, and yet every year I am sprinting half way to the safety of the kitchen before I realize it is not a burst of fire from a pair of automatic weapons. By that time, needless to say, every dog in the building has started yapping. Today was no exception. Later in this otherwise dull day comes a phone call from my mother, whose senility has reached the stage where she leaves awkward gaps in sentences. “The upholsterer has recovered.” “I didn’t know he was ill.” “The sofa.”
Wed, 13 Feb
The day after New Year’s day. The neighborhood is invaded by people from seedier parts of town. They have dressed their children up in brightly coloured clothes and come here to cadge laisee from their rich relatives, but they spend most of the time staring at the unusual surroundings and surreptitiously photographing the exotic foreign residents. “Welcome to Hong Kong island,” I tell them with a big warm smile, “now please go back to Yuen Long.”
Thu, 14 Feb
Valentine’s Day. A day when morons hand over good money to people selling worthless and tasteless flowers, cards and balloons. A day when the emotionally disturbed put stomach-churning messages in the newspapers. And a day of endless pleasure for the seasoned Hong Kong people-watcher. It’s off to Lan Kwai Fong, of course, where I plan to spend the evening staring in a way that is almost-but-not-quite menacing through restaurant windows at happy loving couples as they gaze longingly into each other’s eyes over extortionately priced candlelit pasta, she clutching the “free” rose that came with the meal, he nervously calculating the effect of the service charge on the bill. The punters are all what you would expect: locally born office fodder. He, a holder of a diploma in accounting and business studies, trying hard to look like Richard Li; she, a standard-issue Canto-bim, who obediently buys handbags and shoes as directed by The System. After this amusing anthropological diversion, I repair to an unpretentious bar.
Fri, 15 Feb
Wake up in my bed next to a Chinese lady who may, I suspect, be older than me. Nothing odd or wrong with that, of course, but this one, in the cold light of day, seems to be older by a significant margin. (By about a third, it later emerges.) She mounts me, pins me down and has her way with me with great vigor, not to mention a lot of fearsome noise that brings back vague memories of the same thing happening several hours earlier. What is the biological purpose of such lust in one with little or no likelihood of still being fertile? Maybe it’s just the effect I have on them. She is obviously chuffed with herself at having made such a catch. This one is an all-time record, and not one that I should really be that keen to break, though who knows what may result in the future from the combined effects of alcohol, poor lighting and the way some middle-aged Chinese women keep their looks?