Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong’s most obnoxious expat

14-20 July 2002
Sun, 14 Jul

Odell comes over for a beer tasting.  We sample a Belgian beer flavoured with peach (disgusting - will freeze leftovers to make alcoholic ice pops), Ruddles Wheat (liquid bread – what more do you need?), Bridgeport IPA (excellent) and Bridgeport Porter (interesting).  By this time, the truth starts to emerge about Odell's position in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He faces a disciplinary hearing and possible excommunication, which would involve a one-way ticket back to sunny Utah. But he has other plans, namely to marry one Mee, a Thai lady whose name and limited English skills are a recipe for telephonic confusion. They would live happily ever after here in Hong Kong.

I am speechless.  Mormonism one day, marriage the next. From frying pan to fire.

Most western men who marry domestic helpers are divorced and want a physically attractive, uncomplaining, compliant housewife the second time around.  Escaping poverty, the girls play along. It's a solid economic arrangement.  However, some younger and inexperienced westerners fall for dusky maidens in that state of diminished responsibility known as "love".  Odell is such a one.  It is a recipe for regret, resentment and ultimately a messy separation in which the girl vanishes, complete with title deeds to the jungle-side retirement home. 

The line will be this... Would you marry a Utah girl who is semiliterate and washes dishes?  No.  So why marry one from Thailand?  It will have to wait, but the man clearly needs rescuing.

Mon, 15 July

Hell hath no fury like a Cantonese woman who did not receive the free gift that was advertised. Witness the Big Boss's hunter-killer secretary, Miss Fang, who narrowly failed to be among the first 100 people to attend the launch of a new perfume yesterday and left empty-handed.  Today, therefore, many must suffer. 

I make sure one of them is Tommy, an irritating little runt who has been emailing, faxing and phoning ever since I met him while accompanying the Big Boss on a visit to his dreary government department a while ago.  In Tommy's fantasy world, I will mention his eager helpfulness to the Big Boss, who will in turn mention it to Tung Chee-hwa, who will pluck him from obscurity and make him a big fish. Wrong...

I mention the incessant missives to Miss Fang, who immediately looks set to strangle someone. "You too?  He keeps sending faxes to the Big Boss!" Eyes glaring.  "I throw them in the bin."   Nostrils flaring.  "Right!"  She grabs the phone and calls Tommy's superior to curtly demand an end to this harassment. "...He has no need to keep contacting Mr Hemlock and the Big Boss.  They are very busy...  Please see to it!"  Bang!  I whisper grateful thanks and tiptoe away. 

They say that when Edward II was horribly put to death at Berkeley Castle, the cries of agony could be heard in Bristol, 10 miles distant.  With Central Government Offices barely 400 yards away as the crow flies, I am not surprised as I return to my office to hear a piercing scream as the civil service enforcer roughly inserts the rusty funnel and thrusts the first red hot poker into Tommy's bowels. 

Tue, 16 Jul

Damn.  It must have been some construction worker losing a leg.  What do I find first thing?  An email and two faxes from Tommy, apologising profusely for being such a pest.  Chuck in bin and ignore.
Wed, 17,  Jul

What does Secretary for Economic Development and Labour Stephen Ip have in common with poet Samuel T Coleridge?  Like the writer of
Xanadu, Ip apparently relies on opium as an aid to creative thinking.  How else can we explain his brilliant idea to reduce unemployment – entice factories back across the border to Hong Kong with 70% of their cheap Mainland workers, on condition they fill the remaining 30% of positions locally.  This man is a genius.  The future of Hong Kong lies in... manufacturing plastic flowers.  Why did no-one think of it earlier?  While we're at it, let's ban buses and re-introduce rickshaws. Think of all the new jobs!
Quiz Night at the Foreign Correspondents Club.  As usual, my team holds back to give others a chance. Normally, our charitable approach allows the quiz to be won by Hong Kong Mensa, a team of gifted autists and idiot savants with photographic memories.  Tonight, however, they are pummelled. Maybe it has finally dawned on them that it's a game, and you're not supposed to take it seriously. Or perhaps corporate governance fetishist David Webb, absent tonight, is the only one who ever actually answers the questions. 

Fri, 19 Jul

Accompanying the Big Boss to see Tung Chee-hwa, am left outside the meeting room after only a cursory acknowledgement from the normally affable dynamic Chief Executive.  According to buxom flunky Cecilia, Tung is irritated with gwailos at the moment. "They keep on and on criticising big government and interventionism and cartels," she says, listing half the English-language columnists in town. Apparently, the last straw was the FCC's infantile invitation to recently-deported dissident Harry Wu at the time of the SAR's 5th anniversary. Cabinet members are returning their free membership cards and cancelling social functions with the correspondents.   Even little Hemlock is shunned, lest he gives the crop-haired one yet another gentle reminder of the folly of senior officials' attempts to override market forces – leaving him with no option but to indulge in impure thoughts about the shapeliness of our leaders' assistants.