Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong’s most obnoxious expat

21-27 April 2002
Mon, 22 April

The Big Boss tells the morning meeting of his plan to win S-Meg Holdings the unflagging loyalty and deep affection of its junior and middle-ranking staff – a scheme guaranteed to dispel any despondency they might feel after their 14% average decline in salaries and bonuses in the last two years.  Every single one of them will receive a promotion!  All those at Deputy Assistant Manager level will become an Assistant Manager, while all the latter will find themselves Senior Assistant Managers, who in turn will become Managers, etc.  No change in pay or conditions, of course. Ms Tam nods dumbly in agreement with this ridiculous idea.  The pert Human Resources Manager is now a pert, obedient, Human Resources Deputy Assistant Senior Manager.

Tue, 23 April

A mysterious package from an underling at the office of Tung Chee-hwa, our visionary and purposeful leader.  It lists in great detail – "for my information" – the remuneration that ministers will receive under his accountability system of government.  If I didn't know better, I would think I was being invited to apply for one of the positions.  Or am I expected to nominate someone?  Or simply spread the word of the munificence with which the new ministers will be rewarded for their devotion to thankless and politically suicidal tasks?  The basic salary of around HK$3.5 million will not attract much serious talent, but there are some interesting perks.  The free course of human placenta extract injections could certainly be attractive to male pillars of commerce currently inconvenienced by the need to take a monthly trip to Shenzhen for this life-enhancing treatment.  And for the women, there is the personal, on-call masseur and stress-relief consultant, who may be male or female, Western or Chinese. 

The penny drops.  No!  They can forget it – there is no way I am going to service a frustrated female minister over and over for months on end. If my experience with senior female civil servants is anything to go by, all they want is to be pleasured from behind while they lean over their desk barking orders down the phone. I need a bit of variety.
Wed, 24 April

A free afternoon, so it's off to the Wellcome Supermarket on Robinson Road. For what?  Rice?  No.  Beer?  No.  A feeble selection of canned goods and fresh produce?  No.   A lonely housewife?  But of course.  One little-boy-lost inquiry about the freshness of a mango, and a bespectacled Amy Chan – not the first, if I recall – is asking me back for tea.  She enters her building three minutes ahead of me so as not to arouse the interest of the security guard.  The tea has to wait until, like most Hong Kong women her age, she accomplishes a split-second post-coital reversion from insatiable animal to extremely correct married woman.  Shame about the caesarian scar.
In the evening, an anguished call from Secretary of Security Regina Ip, trapped in her car by right-of-abode protestors outside Legco.  "Whatever you do," I tell her, "don't make eye contact.  Read a magazine and giggle a lot."  It'll infuriate them.

Thu, 25 April

Check out the police force's controversial new Lan Kwai Fong "spy camera" system at Central Police Station. Watching the screens, I notice LKF's leading landlord Alan Zeman inspecting the exterior of his latest tacky restaurant.  The constable controlling the cameras zooms in and offers to switch on the infra-red facility, which displays people's underwear.  To our horror, it seems socks are not the only undergarments eschewed by Mr Zeman.  We have great fun examining the charming female Nepalese garbage collectors for half an hour before I pronounce myself satisfied with the new system, which, I am earnestly and repeatedly assured by everyone, will assist greatly in crowd control.

Fri, 26 April

Bump into Percy Ratbone at the memorial service for Peter Sutch at the Cathedral.  Swires are transferring him to some appalling-sounding hole in Papua New Guinea, and I am invited to his informal farewell “do” in the boardroom at Swires.  Just a dozen of his old pals.  Percy retold the story of how he moonlighted as a sperm donor for the local Parsi community when he was in Bombay for several years with the company.  The Zoroastrians apparently felt that their skin had been growing darker over the generations and were in need of some whitening to restore pale Persian tones to the gene pool.  His famous impression of a Parsi lady during coitus made me laugh so hard that I sprayed Pouilly Fume all over the picture of the Queen. I am sure his predecessor in Port Moresby would not have been shot by a drunken policeman if he had been able to recount such an amusing tale.