Hemlock's Diary
The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat

15-21 August 2004

Sun, 15 Aug
Noting a Hong Kong Government official asking gays to stand up and be counted if they want equal rights, Stuart Wolfendale comes out of the closet in his weekend
Standard column.  Not that he’s ever hidden his homosexuality – or if he has, he’s failed miserably – but I don’t recall him ever affirming it in print.  I like to think I would do the same.  I’m pretty sure I would – the Big Boss couldn’t care less.  What about Polly the lipstick lesbian?  She lives in terror of her employers finding out, and her parents, after a good decade and a half, are still nagging her to get married and criticizing her co-purchase of a one-bedroom apartment with her friend as a problematic investment.

Early afternoon brings a phone call from wild American friend Odell.  His Thai wife Mee has calmed down after Thursday’s half-naked-Nepalese-girl-in-spare-room trauma, he reports – no word on the reparations involved – so let’s go and celebrate.  Could he have chosen a more inappropriate venue to mark this post-transgression reconciliation than one of Wanchai’s notorious disco dungeons, packed full of lusty young female Southeast Asian migrant workers on their day off?  He probably tried to think of one, but this is where we end up.  Within 20 minutes of sitting at the gloomy bar, he is entwined with one Fareeda, a mangy, drunken Indonesian girl smoking clove cigarettes.  Can she actually be a worse Muslim than he is a Mormon?  A disco version of Bizet’s
Habanera, the opening aria from Carmen, is blaring out over the dance floor.  An early middle-aged gwailo with lipstick stains on his shirt appears next to me.  Opening his wallet to pay for a drink, he reveals a photo of a pleasant-looking blonde woman and a small toddler.  His sister, no doubt. 

One of Fareeda’s friends attaches herself to Odell’s far more handsome companion.  In a mixture of barely comprehensible English and Cantonese, we establish that this is her monthly day off.  Her body language indicates that she intends to make the unwholesome most of it.  I wouldn’t mind just going home alone, but I prove to be too much of a gentleman to leave her in this wretched place, at the mercy of the cream of Hong Kong’s heterosexual male expats, in all their balding, tattooed, beer-bellied, predatory glory.
Mon, 16 Aug
A prophecy concerning everyone aged between six and 18 months from Edwin Ma, the
South China Morning Post’s gifted astrologer.  “A group meeting or social event could put you in touch with interesting new people,” he advises the tots, and the other 8.3 percent of the population born in the Year of the Goat (‘91, ‘79, ‘67, ‘55, etc).  He is clearly implying that, as one of the remaining 91.7 percent of the community, I stand no chance of meeting anyone interesting at any gathering today – and indeed past experience over many years would suggest that the visionary Ma is totally correct.  Just how does this great seer know?  Such uncanny clairvoyant power sends a chill down my spine.

Tue, 17 Aug
Hong Kong’s Legislative Council election campaign takes another interesting turn.  Just eight days ago I wrote of DAB Chairman Ma Lik’s colon cancer…
Mainland and pro-Beijing elements are doing all they can to minimize the number of pro-democrats winning seats.  They won’t leave things to chance.  They will stage-manage anything they can get away with … I hear Franklin D Roosevelt’s words – “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”  And I can only conclude that this whole thing is a fabrication – a charade.
Apparently eager to prove me right, Mainland authorities have now jailed Democratic Party candidate Alex Ho Wai-to on a prostitution-related charge.  I have to wonder whether they couldn’t have thought of something more original.  A honey trap is just so easy to pull off – don’t the Dongguan police feel like a challenge?  There are so many more interesting ways to frame people, so many more elegant entrapment techniques.  And the best they can manage is the old ‘photo with a hooker’ trick.  Pathetic. 

But then… am I being naďve here?  I ask myself the basic question – who will benefit from this?  The pro-Beijing camp, as thousands of shocked citizens withdraw their votes from wife-cheating, whore-consorting Democrats.  That’s what we’re supposed to think.  So who will
really gain?  Obviously, the Democratic Party, as outraged voters cast ballots for the bullied and harassed underdog to register their displeasure with Beijing’s blatant and clumsy attempt to cheat in our election.  Party Chairman Yeung Sum, superficially so insipid in personality and lacking in political skill, is actually a cunning genius, manipulating public opinion brilliantly by arranging this fake frame-up.  That explains the corniness of the story.  Caught with a harlot – must be a set-up.  It also explains why Alex Ho is the ‘victim’ – he is a disposable nonentity with no chance of winning a seat, so a perfect sacrifice.  I never thought the Democratic Party had it in them.  I am impressed!

Wed, 18 Aug
The smell of fear permeates Private Office at the top of S-Meg Tower this morning, as the company secretary, the company lawyer, the company gwailo, the company spotty accountant and some other company’s greasy auditor humbly submit the draft interim results announcement to the Big Boss for his majestic approval.  Most companies in Hong Kong are reporting good earnings for the first half of 2004, and after the impact of SARS on profits in 2003, year-on-year improvements look doubly impressive.  But not at S-Meg Holdings.  Last year’s first-half result was dismal.  The spotty bean counter employed exceptional creative flair to make the bottom line look closer to half-dismal.  We then heaped blame upon the totally innocent killer virus, with all the righteous defiance of the Dongguan police sending Alex Ho off for re-education through labour. 

Twelve months on, and the numbers are still dismal.  But there is no pestilence to hold culpable, and the scrofulous accountant’s creative powers are exhausted.  It has largely been left to me to craft an explanation that plausibly exonerates the management and leaves the world with the impression that the company’s visionary Chairman and Chief Executive is expertly steering S-Meg through a short rough patch to assured growth and prosperity – and is not a bumbling buffoon draining the family fortune through an inept, outdated approach to Canto-capitalist wheeling and dealing.  “I am pleased to report to shareholders,” I read out, “that management has continued to overcome some serious external challenges during the last six months, during which time we have taken the opportunity to position the company for the significant opportunities that lie ahead.”  The Big Boss nods silently as I pile the excuses on – intensely competitive environment … serious concerns about interest rates … a possible slowdown in China … the need to consolidate our position … the value we attach to prudence … the slowness of the markets … the dog that ate the homework … the fact that it won’t happen again next time, honest.  It ends on a cheery note – “I therefore greatly look forward to reporting very healthy results for the full year.”  No screaming, no spluttering, no fist banging on table, no embarrassing, hard-to-explain dismemberment of the auditor.  Sighs of relief all round as we creep out of the office.  That’s all over.  For another six months.
Thurs, 19 Aug
Which country’s capital is named ‘house of peace’ in Arabic?  What MTR station comes between Kwai Fong and Tai Wo Hau?  Whom did George W Bush describe on air to Dick Cheney as “a major league asshole”?  What is
Orycteropus afer more commonly called?  Done, done (slight struggle), done and done.  Even after leaving the sport and entertainment questions to the riffraff, my team sailed with ease into a high position at last night’s Foreign Correspondents Club quiz.  There is nothing sadder than taking it seriously and coming first – except, of course, being too ignorant and uneducated to rank in the top handful.  We are the real winners.  The ones with the optimum combination of score and effortlessness. 
On the subject of the FCC, the courageous and dedicated graft busters of the Independent Commission Against Corruption turned up at the venerable institution yesterday with a forklift and two container trucks, asking for barrister Kevin Egan’s bar bill.  It is a privilege to pay the taxes that fund such a fearless and diligent law enforcement agency, a body of men and women ready to sacrifice their personal lives applying their forensic skills deep into the night sifting through reams and reams and reams of documentation in search of the answer.  Which, it turns out, is – 3,407 pints of Carlsberg, 962 gunners, 312 white wine sodas, 89 plates of tandoori chicken, 24 pots of tea and a pack of Marlboro Lights.  But… what is the question?

For lunch, an office picnic in S-Meg Tower with curvaceous Administrative Officer Winky Ip.  On an exquisite tablecloth of corporate interim results pulled from the newspaper’s business section, we enjoy fare from Oliver’s deli – a baguette, wild duck pate, ham, taramasalata, mixed olives, plain yoghurt, goat’s milk cheese, dates and tangy black plums.  Beethoven’s
Pastoral plays on the PC.  Instead of the usual boring vista of Victoria Harbour outside the window, we are treated to an altogether more breathtaking view of an opaque wall of glowing, yellowy-pink air – using the word ‘air’ loosely, perhaps.  The pollution index in Central is 133, on a scale in which 90 to 135 is ‘high to very high’.  Presumably, 136-plus is ‘nice knowing you’.  Winky the loyal, Panglossian civil servant hails the benefits of the nitrogen dioxide murk.  “The UV index is really low,” she points out. 
I ask her for the latest gossip in the halls of power in Central Government Offices.  She scratches her head and shrugs.  Not much happening.  “Mexico is granting visa-free access to Hong Kong passport holders,” she suggests.  I give her my best ‘wow, that’s absolutely riveting’ look.  Suddenly, her eyes light up.  “Still a secret,” she says, leaning closer to me and lowering her voice.  “The Chief Executive is inviting Arnold Schwarzenegger to visit Hong Kong.”  California’s Governor is planning to visit Shanghai and Beijing in a few months, she explains, and the crop-haired one thinks it will be good for our self-esteem if the Teutonic movie star treats the Big Lychee as the equal of the Mainland’s two showcase cities.  My eyes roll.  They’re third world dumps – why should we want to be considered their equal?  I imagine Tung showing Arnie around the pirate DVD stores, looking for the latest Hollywood hit – Terminator vs tofu-for-brains.

It would make a good photo for a
Spike magazine caption competition.  Which suddenly reminds me that tomorrow I will find out whether my witty submission to last week’s contest has won.   The picture showed a scholarly and spiritual Tung Chee-hwa examining an antique Chinese Bible.  What, asked Spike, was Tung learning from the good book?  My offering was a direct quote…
I will also make this city a desolation and an object of hissing; everyone who passes by it will be astonished and hiss because of all its disasters.

Jeremiah 19:8
Fri, 20 Aug
My morning roadside newspaper ritual – picking out and tossing away the sport section, the supplement on lipstick, the exciting gift ideas for Secretary’s Day – has become curiously repetitive this week.  It is as if they are giving me an identical item to discard every day, by way of punishment for lacking any interest in men’s accessories, English soccer or Lithuania’s national holiday.  So I decide to give the rubbish a closer inspection.  And it seems that every morning for a week now, I have been disposing of a free, 16-page Olympics liftout, with a collectable action poster.  Folding it and dropping it through the gaping mouth of the purple garbage bin, it dawns on me that the Athens games must have started.  Another tiresome episode of contrived excitement claims the attention of billions around the globe, obsessively following the antics of educationally sub-normal, steroid-pumped freaks engaging in pointless physical tasks.  The demented fixated by the banal.  I suppose it is good for the people of China, Australia and the Ukraine, with their inferiority complexes and chips on shoulders, to enjoy an occasional sense of self-worth as they see compatriots accumulate piles of debased coinage in the form of gold medals for running in circles, jumping weirdly into water or being 7ft 6 while holding a ball. 
Citius, Altius, Fortius.  Astounding feats of human endurance – much like reading a South China Morning Post pullout, every day, for two weeks.
Much to my embarrassment, I find that I have won this week’s Spike magazine caption competition.  Is this the first time in the history of Hong Kong that someone has won such a contest by submitting someone else’s work and openly attributing it to them?  I suspect so.  An email from Spike publisher Stephen Vines invites me to a grand ceremony at which I will be presented with the tawdry prize – a weekend of frenzied sex in Bangkok – that rightfully belongs to the prophet Jeremiah.  I feel all the more awkward because the antique book CH Tung was examining in the photograph is in fact a New Testament, and therefore does not even contain old Jerry’s ramblings.  My conscience leaves me with no choice but to donate the two days of Thai debauchery to the Community Chest, which I am sure will find a way to put it to good use.