Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong’s most obnoxious expat

9-16 March 2002
Sun, 10 Mar

An email from my sister.  One of her tedious friends is on a round-the-world trip; can I house her for two nights, namely this Friday and Saturday?  Rather short notice, but since it’s a “she” I might as well be chivalrous.  I am sure she will sleep like a log on the 4’ 8” sofa – or she'll be welcome on the one and only bed, which has ample room for two.

Mon, 11 Mar

They say the average man thinks about sex 50 times an hour, or something. But it is the last thing on my mind today after I see the most unappealing, tube-like legs protruding from a mini skirt on the way to the office.  It was as if the creature's legs were each formed of a thigh, a very fat knee, another thigh, and then presumably hooves of some sort under the ankle-length boots.

Mid-morning, I get a call from my wild American friend Odell, who sounds ill.  He definitely thinks about sex 50 times a minute, except when he has drunk too much to think at all.  It seems he woke up at 6.30 this morning sitting on a toilet in a girly bar in Wanchai.  The place was empty and shuttered up, so he had to call the police, who arranged for the owner to come and let him out. "Well," he said, "at least I've still got my wallet and my phone, unlike last time."   As a Mormon missionary, he is supposed to be home by 8pm, so I imagine he has some explaining to do to the other Elders up on Caine Road. 

Tue, 12 Mar

The big boss issues a decree that every male employee of S-Meg Holdings must wear the new company tie, which he personally designed (puce, lime green and brown stripes, with corporate logo on the front), on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I have been issued with two of the things by Ms Tam, the new and rather pert human resources manager.  She has much to learn if she seriously imagines that the company gwailo will conform with this directive.  And little time to learn it, given the average life expectancy of HR managers here. 

Wed, 13 Mar

How was communist newspaper
Wen Wei Po able to publish material from ex-communist Antony Leung’s budget speech, four days before anyone else got to see it?  And is Antony’s past as a Marxist student somehow related to the abandonment of “positive non-interventionism” in favour of central planning labelled “market enabling”?  Everyone is asking.  Can’t resist calling him.  Get through to his assistant, Florence, who answers in Mandarin and says she now wishes to be called Xing Hua – “rejuvenate China” I presume – and who puts me on hold.  After listening to The East is Red for five minutes, I hang up.

Thu, 14 Mar

The Big Boss tells me to accompany Ms Tam to Vietnam on Monday to fire 10 staff.  His long-distance management style requires an occasional unannounced swoop by the angels of death to keep everyone on their toes.  A five-minute job. Think I’ll go on Sunday and have a day to myself on the boulevards of Saigon.

Fri, 15 Mar

Arrive back at Perpetual Opulence Mansions to find one Muriel squatting on the sidewalk outside lending a Third World ambience to the neighbourhood.  Yuck.  I will spare her the “small sofa vs big-but-occupied bed” dilemma and pull out the spare mattress.  British, early 30s, she has beads in her hair, a stud in her nose, an "Anti-Capitalist Convergence New York" T-shirt, and that deathly pale, almost grey, skin so common among vegetarians. She also smokes what looks like a marijuana joint but is in fact a home-rolled cigarette.  Are the British the ugliest people on earth?  It certainly seemed so the last time I was there. A nation of people wearing horrid nylon jackets walking round stuffing large chocolate bars into their faces. 

Sat, 16 Mar

Wish I needed a root canal done or something, but instead I’m stuck with Muriel.  “I don’t eat dead animals,” she announces when I mention lunch.  No, but you can come to the noodle place with me via a market full of large pieces of meat hanging from hooks.  I also steer her past scenes of frenzied fish-chopping and the area where old women deftly cut chickens’ throats.  She looks quite queasy by the time we sit down.  I order dishes by number in Cantonese and tell her I have asked for cat, dog and pangolin.  She orders greens and rice.  Like most vegans, she is clearly suffering from vitamin B12 deficiency, so while she isn’t looking I put some of my beef broth into her bowl.

Evening in Lan Kwai Fong, where I break my previous record and give no fewer than three people the pepper-spray treatment.  The first was an uncouth individual who insisted on repeatedly and noisily slapping a pack of cigarettes against the palm of his hand – wack, wack, wack.  Presumably he was trying to be intensely irritating, and he succeeded.  The second was a gwailo who inflicted mental torture on everyone in the bar by choosing the worst possible songs on the jukebox: John Lennon’s “Imagine”, the wretched “Piano Man” by whoever did that, and – this is when I snapped – Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  The third was an impertinent character who told me my “girlfriend” was “jiu pa”, or pork chop – in other words, not entirely physically attractive. To insult my taste thus – he was referring to Muriel – was too much.