Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong’s most obnoxious expat

15-21 September, 2002
Sun, 15 Sept
It has rained virtually non-stop since the Number 8 signal was lowered in the early hours of Thursday morning, confirming my belief that the typhoon warning actually repels storms, and the Hong Kong government has therefore inadvertently discovered a way to control the weather but is, of course, too stupid to notice.

Mon, 16 Sept
Strolling down towards Central, I see a Filipino domestic helper using the front page of today's
Morning Post's Features section for her master's dog to defecate on during its daily walk.  This is at 6.30am, suggesting that the family concerned hurriedly dispenses with this section as soon as the newspaper is delivered.  If even people dim-witted enough to own a dog aren't reading it, why is it being printed?  Out of curiosity, I examine the section in detail in the office. There is the pitiful "Karaoke Generation", a column so insipid, childish and devoid of meaningful fact or comment that I have a nagging suspicion it may be a brave but not-quite-successful attempt at a satire on the brainlessness of Hong Kong's middle-class 20-somethings.  Inside, latter-day snake oil salesmen offer hair restoration and removal respectively for men and women for whom the perversion of their bodies' natural state offers a rare source of joy in their pathetic little existences.  Then there is some new age gibberish about holistic healing, yoga, spiritual guides, qigong and other methods of bringing meaning into the lives of the rich and unhappy (invariably the females of the species) – a lucrative business, as happy married couple Lincoln and May, lipstick lesbian Polly and I well know.  Finally, a curious column called "SAR" full of material presumably rejected by Singapore's Straits Times as too bland. It includes a column of what's "in" and "out", with a sad appeal for others like it.  Out of sympathy rather than malice, as their readers are clearly not up to it, I email them the following hastily cobbled-together example of this unoriginal space-filling device:

IN                                                                                                                 OUT
Dog-fur lined gloves                                                                               Pashmina scarves
Sesame ice cream                                                                                                 Tiramisu
The Financial Times Crossword                                                             Computer games
Hari-kiri among disgraced senior civil servants         Official arrogance and buck-passing
Beijing Yellow Pages on-line                                                                                   Google
Refusing offers of places at Chinese University                                       Olympic diving
Shenzhen shopping with wife and kids                                            Mainland mistresses
Drug rehab in Taipei                                                              Crashing cars in Hong Kong
Dripping hot wax                                                                                           Toe-sucking
Vocal sympathy for Tung Chee-hwa           Mute exasperation with the crop-haired one
Preserved mango slices from 7-11                                 Sun-dried tomatoes from Olivers
Elsie Leung                                                                                                  Donald Tsang
This could go on and on, couldn't it?                                                                           Yes
Tue, 17 Sept
Decide to exploit the time-saving potential of this incessant rain by shampooing my hair while walking to the office.  A waterproof cape tightly secured round the neck does the trick.  Give a big smile to the man who brushes his teeth while walking along Queen's Road and to the newspaper vendor who clips her toenails between sales of Apple Daily.  There is quite a community of efficient people performing ablutions (not of the Calcuttan variety, of course) in the street.  

An early childhood fear becomes a reality later in the morning when I find myself trapped between floors in a malfunctioning lift.  In a movie I would have an escaped lunatic eating stinky tofu and wielding a chainsaw for company, but in this particular incident in Exchange Square I find myself stuck with Margaret Ng – the fearless, dedicated and sadly dull legislator who represents our noble legal fraternity – and a copy of the equally scintillating Report of the Panel of Inquiry on the Penny Stocks Incident.  Fearing that Margaret will take it personally if I opt for the report while awaiting rescue, I try to strike up a conversation.  "You know the little stickers schoolchildren attach to your shirt when you make a donation to charity on Saturday morning?"  She nods. "Well, the adhesive often fails in this humidity and the sticker falls off, so I'm waylaid by more schoolchildren and have to make a second donation."  She blinks.  "So can I sue the manufacturer of the adhesive for the additional HK$20 I have to donate?"  I add that I would give larger amounts if I thought the little money-collecting brats could be trusted.  After more blinking, the brain shifts into gear and I get a monotone lecture cut short after 20 long minutes by two firemen prying the lift doors apart.  In essence, such legal action would not be worthwhile. My hunch is that our rapacious charities deliberately use weak adhesive.

Wed, 18 Sept
S-Meg's trading arm has won the contract to supply the Hong Kong Government with bullet-proof brassieres.  It is not a major contract – our iron butterfly, Secretary for Security Regina Ip, is the only user of these items – but the news puts the Big Boss in a good mood at the morning meeting. Apparently, we will not have the chance to inspect these garments before they are delivered, but I am sure Regina will let me have a quick look when she is issued with them.

Will plucky little
Singapore stand up to the evil tyrants of Beijing in its quest to strike a free-trade deal with Taiwan, the freedom-loving country that dare not speak its name? It is all in the increasingly doddery hands of senile old busybody Lee Kuan-yew.  Of the four people I ask during the course of this morning, not one expresses the slightest interest.

Thurs, 19 Sept
Wake in panic and a sweat, followed by growing relief that an awful experience was just a nightmare. True nightmares do not consist of the carnage and terror seen in juvenile
Elm Street-style Hollywood movies.  They frighten us with something utterly believable and normal, yet for some reason unthinkable – more like a David Lynch film.  In this case, an outdoors wedding reception on a sunny day, at which joyful and brightly dressed guests generally ignored me as I helped myself to plentiful food and drink.  The bride: an unknown gwaipo whose face I never quite caught.  The groom: me.
The mid-autumn festival approaches, and so far I have not been subjected to a single mooncake.  While not exactly a fate on a par with marriage, they are nonetheless well worth avoiding, with their barely edible, heavy, lard-based pastry; their cloying, sugary red bean paste filling; and the slightly absurd, salty, preserved egg yolk. As with the revolting Victorian-era pudding and pies the British eat at Christmas, it is surely time to consign this culinary anachronism to history.

Fri, 20 Sept
To paraphrase Dr Johnson, an Asian babe/soft porn star playing the violin is like a dog walking on its hind legs – it is not done well, but it is surprising to see it done at all. Not that I bothered to see Vanessa-Mae's concert last night.  Sad, drooling onanists who have never bedded a woman from further east than Pittsburg or Essex establish websites in her honour.  According to
one, she "moved to London at age four, adopting British nationality." Rather enterprising of a toddler – I think I was over 10 before I could even make my own dental appointments.