Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
16-22 March 2003
Sun, 16 Mar
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome sound a bit tautological?  Why not call it Severe Acute Intensive Really Serious and Exceptionally Nasty Respiratory Syndrome? Sanctuary from this latest plague comes from a junk trip hosted by fragrant socialite Rosabelle Lam. Catering (Thai and excellent) by some private chef who is, apparently, world famous on the Peak.  We circumnavigate Hong Kong island.  Coming back into Victoria Harbour in the late afternoon, I borrow the captain's binoculars and climb onto the roof to watch the piles of corpses of SARS victims being bulldozed into mass graves at the West Kowloon reclamation.  Downstairs, everyone takes it in turn to tell stories of Hollywood Road art galleries, fashion designers and stylish apartment renovations. Like Boccaccio's brigata, safe from a world of cruelty, danger and death in their private utopia of duck curry and champagne.
Mon, 17 Mar
Back from an overnight jaunt to Beijing to rub shoulders with the national leadership at a function wrapping up the National People’s Congress, the Big Boss gushes with pride at the morning meeting. 
“I went to the men’s room at the same time as Jiang Zemin,” he announces with great aplomb, looking round at everyone expectantly.  We try our best to look and sound suitably impressed – raised eyebrows and appreciative nods.  Jiang has kidneys, a bladder and a urethra!  Whatever next? 
But even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.  Overcome the temptation to ask the obvious question – does Jiang shake his penis himself, or...?  Perhaps we will never know.
Tue, 18 Mar
Seeking entertainment, I email some kind words to Liberal Party boss James Tien, in the hope of encouraging an idea even more stupid than his last one.  If the HK Executive Council were a swimming pool, James would be the part reserved for toddlers who cannot paddle unaided, let alone swim.  Who else could propose a reduction in foreign domestic helpers’ minimum wage that leaves the middle class employers not a penny better off?  The only people left satisfied were the xenophobic lower orders, who resent the little brown sisters’ youthful cheeriness.  And now he is opposing the increase in car tax on the grounds that the sight of fewer Porsches and Mercedes on the roads will damage Hong Kong’s image of glitz and prosperity.  I urge him to take this to its logical conclusion and propose a government subsidy, rather than a tax, for such cars.  He usually gives me a wide berth, so I don't expect a reply.  I might as well be the World Health Organization asking for help from the Mainland officials who covered up the first outbreaks of Severe Acute Not Nice At All Respiratory Syndrome months ago.
South China Morning Post staff must be dropping like flies from SARS – how else to explain the total lack for two days running of immensely predictable and lame “Special Administrative Region Sickness” jokes?

Wed, 19 Mar
My long-held suspicion that rugby players are limp-wristed mummies’ boys who wear pink frilly panties over their tiny penises appears to be well-founded, judging from the New Zealand team’s
fear of Hong Kong’s latest outbreak of pestilence. It would be heart-breaking if the Rugby Sevens were to be cancelled.  It is a pleasant time of the year, with all the loud, oafish expats herded out of everyone’s way into a stadium for the weekend. On the bright side, abandoning the event would damage Hong Kong’s reputation as a sports venue, raising the welcome possibility of all international competitions being held elsewhere in future, and leaving us to concentrate on more important things. It would also cause untold damage to our tacky hotels and their whiney German and Swiss managers. Life will be wonderful either way.

Taking a break from despatching victims of the
paramyxoviridae virus, the grim reaper casts a beady eye over our embattled Financial Secretary and Lexus car enthusiast Antony Leung, who, it emerges, kept silent while colleague EK Yeoh declared the purchase of a pre-tax-hike car. An outbreak of incurable righteous indignation and fury grips Hong Kong, with an SCMP editorial, ignoring strong French resistance, giving Antony and his family 48 hours to leave the country.  Sir Donald Tsang will be happy to step in until a new finance chief can be found – preferably one who does not have ideas above his station.  Some will say that the departure of the private-sector interloper will make Donald the leading contender to succeed the crop-haired one.  The fools do not notice the voluptuous and resplendent dowager Security Secretary Regina Ip looking on in the shadows behind bow-tie man.  Donald's real challenge.  Seeing off the Olympic-diving fan was the easy bit.  Who needs New Zealand vs Fiji when we have real sport?

Drop into the circus to see the clowns’ latest performance – a debate on war in Iraq.  The legislators’ main hang-up, shared by the ridiculous Greenpeace rabble outside, is US strength – as if becoming the world’s most successful country is a vice or sin. 
Someone grown-up has to run the Gulf.  Let me guess – unlike in 1991, Legco will not vote funds towards the UK’s war effort.  The vote is tomorrow – our legislators’ eloquence will no doubt leave President Bush ashen-faced and visibly shaken, hurrying to call the whole thing off.
Thurs, 20 Mar
Are there any more reliable guides to our fortunes than Shelley von Strunkel and Edwin Ma, the
SCMP’s gifted, all-seeing astrologers?  Ms von Strunkel tells those born under the sign of Taurus (20 April-20 May) “Don’t spoil the beauty of this period by allowing worries to overwhelm you or justifying things to others.” Sage Ma tells those born in the Year of the Ox (1937, 49, 61, etc) “Today you might have a more grounded cerebral approach to things. This shift could bring greater focus to your values and finances.”  The wisdom of these words is surely compounded for those who are bovines in both the Western and Chinese systems.

Fri, 21 Mar
While one tyrant may or may not be resting under the rubble of his Baghdad home, another sleeps all too obviously – upright on a sofa in the penthouse at the top of S-Meg Tower, halfway through the interviews with Doris, Amy, Doris and Doris, applicants for the position of Deputy Assistant Senior HR Manager.  The Big Boss thus has no memory of the interviews with Amy and Doris 2, whose somewhat pendulous breasts and apparent interest in mentally undressing the Company Gwailo made them, in my opinion, greatly preferred candidates.  Full marks for tactfully ignoring the tycoon’s occasional snoring, as well.  Tragically, the Big Boss will choose between the two he recalls – Doris 1 and Doris 3.  Both well-qualified, professional, competent and correct in manner – and, from a strictly corporate point of view, as it happens, far better prospective human resources managers – but prim, flat-chested and to my mind generally disappointing.  Will sulk in my office for the afternoon, adding up the dividends I will be getting from HSBC, Cheung Kong, Swire, Giordano, Henderson and ASM Pacific in the next couple of months, and finishing Death to the French by CS Forester.
28 April 1937