Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
25-31 January 2004
Sun, 25 Jan
My enjoyment of a bracing walk this chilly morning is interrupted on the Mid-Levels Escalator when I see a Filipina make the disastrous mistake of touching a railing with her bare hand.  I look away as a security guard hurriedly detaches her from the freezing metal the only way he can – a blow of an axe to the wrist.  How was she to know, coming from a land where a glass of room-temperature beer with two ice cubes is considered cold?

Despite this unfortunate occurrence, the Year of the Monkey gets off to a good start when I return to Perpetual Opulence Mansions.  Exiting the elevator outside my apartment, I see a small furry creature at my feet, its tail wagging, its little teeth bared in a genetically fixed grin, its shiny black eyes staring up at me through curly brown fur.  So rarely do my neighbours' yapping curs leave their home that this is an opportunity not to be missed.  I circle the diminutive hound.  Eyeing my Hello Kitty earmuffs and fluffy mittens, the creature obviously imagines me to be a giant poodle standing on its hind legs.  Taking advantage of its puzzlement, I swiftly apply a fur boot to its solar plexus.  The dog hits the back of the lift with a yelp just as the doors close.  "Kung Hei Fat Choi," I hiss, as the elevator descends to the lobby without stopping.

Mon, 26 Jan
With the
highest average IQ in the world, will Hong Kong people flock to buy yet another silly little box that makes irritating noises and allows people to disturb them for no reason at any time or place?  On Queen’s Road this morning, I am invited to gaze in wonder and awe upon Hutchison’s new 3G mobile phones.  Pinky the sales girl pushes buttons with wide-eyed enthusiasm, and holds the device up to me with a grin as a tiny image slowly unfolds on the little screen of a man in shorts jerkily running on a field, kicking a ball.  I shrug, as would have John Logie Baird.  "I hate sport," I tell her.  She punches more buttons.  Slowly, a naked young blonde woman with absurdly oversized hair and mammary glands appears.  I wince and shake my head.  After punching more buttons, Pinky conjures up a blurry, postage-stamp-sized movie featuring a lithe and nude but otherwise undistinguishable Asian girl.  "Don’t you think miniaturisation has become self-defeating?" I ask the dedicated Hutchison employee.  "It can tell you the weather," she says defensively.  I pointedly look up at the grey sky.  My fear, as a shareholder in Cheung Kong, her employer’s holding company, is that Hong Kong’s ultra-intelligent consumers will treat this ridiculous contraption with the contempt it deserves, and shareholders’ returns will be next in line for drastic reduction in size.   Then again, they’ve mounted high-IQ stampedes to buy all sorts of worthless investments, fashion wear and toy-like gadgets in the past.  Li Ka-shing and I will keep our fingers crossed.
Tue, 27 Jan
Over lunch of squid salad, I ask Odell the defrocked Mormon missionary where on earth he was over the Chinese New Year holiday.  He sheepishly explains that he had been watching tenpin bowling on TV.  I eye him quizzically.  This is obviously a euphemism for some depraved sexual practice – but what?  "Really," he assures me.  "Just women bowling, like in a suburban mall.  You really get hooked."  I spoon lime juice and chilli over a curled up square of meat. "Are they topless or something?" I ask.  "No, of course not," he says.  "They’re not even babes.  They’re either dumpy-looking Filipino-Chinese women or featureless Korean housewives.  It’s broadcast from Bangkok.  They love bowling down there.  They even have competitions for the blind."   I sense the hand of his Thai wife in this.  I put it to him straight. "Did Mee ground you over the holiday?"  He shrugs, takes a deep breath and burps – a sure sign that he is being evasive.  Slowly, the truth comes out about Thursday night.  Mee, after receiving a tip-off from the Lockhart Road detachment of the Thai secret service’s errant husband patrol, rescued him from the clutches of a nubile
young lady in one of Wanchai’s notorious disco-dungeons.  Being led away by the lipstick-smeared ear was humiliating, he mumbles.  Too ashamed to be seen out, he grounded himself for four days and meekly surrendered possession of the TV remote control to the dominatrix.  I chew on a spicy tentacle in sympathetic silence.  Is there any limit to the cruelty of women?  As someone once said – marriage is not a word, but a sentence.

Wed, 28 Jan
Email the
South China Morning Post to suggest that they produce a daily four-page insert devoted entirely to avian flu, SARS, dengue fever and all the other plagues whose main victims are newspaper readers, struck down with virulent attacks of boredom.  Maybe they could title it Postilence.  Or maybe not.  Either way, those of us with balanced minds and a preference for real news rather than media-created scares could chuck it away along with the sections on sport and TV and the special supplements on lipstick, watches and exciting ideas for Mother's Day gifts.
The SCMP should follow the example of our valiant President Hu Jintao, who clearly fears no poultry-borne disease, judging by the way he bends over and allows a certain cockerel to put its slimy tongue as far as it will go up the imperial backside.  It is amusing to see the French, those self-important, friendless and desperate purveyors of military materiel to absolutely anyone, treat China with such obsequiousness.  As La Rochefoucauld said, "On croit parfois hair la flatterie, mais on ne hait que la maniere de flatter" – we sometimes think we hate flattery, but really we just hate the way it’s done.   Even in Hong Kong, some of us fail to learn that the harder you shine Beijing’s shoes, the harder the eventual kick in the teeth will be.  Obviously, poor Jacques Chirac is seduced by the China-is-different myth and imagines the Chinese do not share the basic human instinct to despise people who grovel.
Thurs, 29 Jan
Breakfast of noodles and congee at the Foreign Correspondents Club with Winky Ip, the shapeliest Administrative Officer in Central Government Offices.  She is being seconded to the Electoral Affairs Commission to help plan the voter registration drive for September’s Legislative Council polls.  "Quite a challenge," she says.  "Obviously, we have to appear to be trying really hard to get as many people as possible on the electoral rolls, but without actually succeeding."  As the District Council polls showed in November, new voters have a disturbing tendency to be pro-democracy voters.  "Simple enough," I tell her as she sips her jasmine tea.  "Get an extremely un-trendy pop star to appear on the TV commercials and posters – someone only old folk like.  Or perhaps Betty Tung."  She nods vigorously.  "Yes.  Subliminal message – voting’s uncool."   "And," I add, "make the publicity so condescending it makes you cringe."  She shrugs.  "We know no other way."  I ask her when the campaign will start.  "April or May," she says.  I lean forward, cupping my ear, as if I hadn’t heard.  "May," she confirms.  "Cut-off date for registration is mid-July, but we won’t labour that point.  And we’ll make sure the downloadable registration
form on the website doesn’t work.  I don’t see what else we can do."
Fri, 30 Jan
Am I alone in perceiving
SCMP columnist Tinnie Chow as a profound and exciting writer?  Some call her City Seen column shallow, dismissing its reports on nightclubs and designer label promotions as vacuous.  Some say it is boring.  "Bring back whatever was on page two of the City Section before," they plead, "though we've forgotten what it was."  And now, these swine mock the pearls of Tinnie's geographical and culinary knowledge.  All because today she writes of former North African restaurant Bohemian Lounge...
"...And for those craving Moroccan treats, they still have a huge selection of tapas and mezze available." 
Do her detractors have cous-cous for brains?  Perhaps they envy Tinnie her insight and her gift for spotting hidden associations.  The Moors once ruled Spain, and their descendents share Lebanon's Arabic heritage.  If she were really daring she would have added prawn laksa to the list – after all, Morocco and Malaysia both begin with an M.  Her genius is wasted on these people.