The diary of Hong Kong’s most obnoxious expat
19-25 May 2002
|Sunday, 19 May
What’s on offer in HMV these days? I rarely venture beyond the classical section, but I am glad I did so today, picking up the Grateful Dead's classic "Workingman's Dead", plus one of a plethora of delightful young ladies listening to dire-sounding current popular music on headphones – "techno", apparently. It would not be exaggerating to say that HMV has a better choice of lonely girls with nothing to do than of CDs. Back to Perpetual Opulence Mansions, and a highly agreeable early-afternoon romp to the accompaniment of the Dead's most relaxing work.
| Goddamn, well I declare
Have you seen the like?
Their walls are built of cannonballs,
Their motto is “don’t tread on me.”
Uncle John’s Band
She said it sounded like the Beatles – a band that has grown ever more tiresome with listening – but I suppose it all sounds the same to her generation.
|Monday, 20 May
How to deposit a cheque at HSBC at 8.15am on a weekday in the heart of Hong Kong:
1. Go to the China Building branch at Peddar Street, secure in the knowledge that indoors on the ground floor is an ATM that accepts deposits – possibly the only one in Hong Kong. Get turned away by educationally sub-normal doorman, standing next to a sign saying the facility is not yet open.
2. Go to ATMs outside on Peddar Street. Insert card and PIN. Note with mixture of hope and suspicion that the screen displays “Deposit” as an option. Punch in requisite details. Out slides the envelope. Insert cheque in envelope. Wait for the advice slip to come out. Wait some more, heart sinking. Learn that “transaction is cancelled”, which is what usually happens at the few ATMs that claim to accept deposits.
3. Resist temptation to kick door–retard to death. March straight through Central MTR, past dozens of Hang Seng Bank ATMs that won’t take deposits on behalf of parent company HSBC, and over the walkway to the IFC Mall. Go to HSBC on top floor. Repeat step 2.
4. Faint in amazement at discovery of HSBC’s other deposit–taking ATM.
Wednesday, 22 May
Drop by the circus to see all but a handful of the clowns indulge in even greater stupidity than usual. They overwhelmingly pass a bizarre law making it illegal to bet via telephone or Internet with any bookmaker anywhere in the world except the Jockey Club. Whoever thought up this piece of legislation must be suffering from severe brain damage and needs help. It will change nothing. Billions of dollars in revenue will continue flowing to triads and overseas bookmakers. The soccer gambling the law will fail to eradicate will, in due course, be legalized when the government can muster the courage to face down a handful of self–righteous puritan bores. The law criminalizes something that is not regarded as a crime provided you do it with the Jockey Club.
The good news is that the law is totally impossible to enforce. The lower orders will continue to gamble away their precious pennies. No law can prevent them from starving their children, putting their women on the streets and seeking refuge from loansharks in charcoal-induced death, if that’s what they want to do.
Friday, 24 May
The company gwailo's main role is to be wheeled out in public on occasions when the Big Boss wants S-Meg to convey the impression of a professional, international business, with a management more concerned with EBITDA than feng-shui. Thus I spend an hour sitting behind a table on a platform alongside real S-Meg managers at a press conference intended to refute Standard and Poor's decision to downgrade the company's already-lame credit rating. Needless to say, I am not – mercifully – called upon to say anything. I am simply there to mutely imply that S-Meg's senior management has a clue. Occasional whispers in the ear from the deputy managing director will make the press people and TV viewers think I am involved, though he is simply asking whether I am getting a satisfactory view of the impressive cleavage being displayed by a buxom reporter from one of the local newspapers.
I nod sagely.
The decision comes despite much effort on the part of the Big Boss to convince the top people at Standard and Poor's of S-Meg’s sound financial position, namely through entertaining them at ridiculously lavish dinners in a private room at Gaddi’s, at which Chateau Petrus flowed like water, sending elaborate gifts (embarrassingly returned) to their spouses, and making insulting offers to pull strings in order to get their offspring into brand–name universities. S&P generously refer to corporate governance and management quality as a “possible concern”. One way of putting it. The only matter discussed at an S-Meg board meeting is the performance of the directors’ jointly owned racehorse.