|26 August-1 September 2007|
|Tue, 28 Aug
Nether Drooling – untouched by modern times. Where the gentle billy goat idly chews the cud. The hard-working horse peers good-naturedly at passers-by. The friendly old tractor dozes undisturbed in a forgotten corner of the field. And the enigmatic bison tears at the stubble with his vast, slobbering lips, pausing only to inspect Number-One Nephew Hemlock – the oversize, alien ruminant and the shock-haired little boy each no doubt equally bewildered by the other's presence. Above the ground, the place is also full of interest. Within arm's reach, dragonflies, butterflies and lesser insects swirl, much to the delight of swallows, which swoop down at them, and which in turn attract the small and rare raptor known as the hobby. In an adjacent field, an eccentric neighbour springs into view above the hedgerow at three-second intervals from her trampoline while, across the lane, a remote-controlled aircraft buzzes round in circles. Further overhead, an odd range of manned flying machines take to the sky from the nearby mysterious aerodrome. The local news tells of sheep corpses found at the roadside, unfathomable matters concerning babies' diapers and the menace posed by swarthy, shifty-looking truckers from strange lands. The big event of the weekend is the Fete Worse than Death, at which villagers indulge in ancient pastimes under the watchful eyes of the squire. But all good things must come to a close, and the 2007 filial piety tour ends in just 24 hours in Hong Kong. A planet away – untouched by clean air, capital gains tax and bison.
|Thurs, 30 Aug
Bleary-eyed but back, I start the day with a jetlag-vanquishing cup of hot, brown, water-flavoured liquid at the IFC Mall branch of Pacific Coffee in the company of wild American friend Odell. After I explain to him in great detail Nether Drooling village fair’s success in raising enough funds for a new gibbet, he updates me on Hong Kong’s similarly exciting state of civic affairs. “You haven’t missed much,” he shrugs, sipping his steaming blueberry marshmallow and green tea cappuccino. “Michael Suen, wearing women’s clothing – a white ballroom gown and pearl earrings – managed to overturn the Volvo he was driving on Queen’s Road in Central. I was there! I got a great photo of him climbing out of the car with this shit-eating grin on his face.” He chuckles to himself for a few seconds before suddenly turning serious. “No, hang on… no that’s not right – I dreamt it. Damn. Could have made a fortune with that picture.”
|For more dependable news, where else to turn but the South China Morning Post, which cheers the hearts of millions of readers this morning with the revelation that the much-maligned phenomenon of global warming will in fact submerge Guangzhou – though it adds that patience is required, as this long overdue development cannot be expected before mid-century. Looking closely at the map, I note that our very own plucky little Lamma is doomed to the same submarine fate, leaving (I presume) only the three chimneys of the power station poking through the ocean’s surface as a reminder of what once was.
On my last visit to the famously laid-back if down-market island earlier this year, I distinctly recall it being rather hilly, but something has obviously changed since then if a 30 centimetre-rise in sea level will cover it. Perhaps it will only just do so. Scaremongers about climate change invariably neglect the fact that if the sea rises by a foot, a place of 11 inches elevation will be only an inch below water. Provided the inhabitants adopt appropriate footware – and Lamma-ites’ plastic sandals would be ideal – there is no reason why they can’t carry on as usual, going about their business and splashing their way along the streets. Instead of ‘island life’ Lamma would offer ‘puddle life’, above and beyond the extent to which some may cruelly insist it already does. More than ever, it would be worth the occasional visit. Reasons to fear global warming continue to recede, if nothing else does.
|Fri, 31 Aug
Not content with ruining the innocent and harmless pleasures once enjoyed by aficionados of tobacco, opium, steak-and-vodka breakfasts, high-powered handguns and toys made with lead-based paint, the health and safety Nazis deal another blow to common sense by going into hysterics about human placenta consumption. Late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping himself used to swear by regular injections of afterbirth or, when available, extract of aborted fetuses. The life-enhancing material was flown up to Beijing from Shenzhen with a guarantee of Hong Kong origins – the healthiness of Mainland unborns and newborns being considered lower than those of the Big Lychee in those early days of economic reform. Need more be said than that the sprightly architect of the Open Door policy lived to see his 92nd year, dragging losing opponents under the bridge table by the scruff of their necks right up to the very end?
On a brighter note, the Standard also reports a backlash against totalitarian restrictions on the individual’s right to live dangerously, courtesy of Air Mauritius passengers who would rather fly up and hit the aircraft cabin ceiling during turbulence than strap themselves in with their seatbelts. Ever since seeing a baby launched into the air during a rough flight many years ago, I have personally preferred to buckle up on board, but we have to admire the rugged individualism and can-do attitude of those who are prepared to confront the G-forces produced by a serious bit of clear air buffeting unhindered by artificial harnesses. I would declare them a credit to the old spirit of Hong Kong, but I recall reading somewhere that Mauritius is a favoured destination of tourists from further north, and something tells me these heroic rebels against state-mandated mollycoddling were from over the border. Stern stuff, brought up on placenta, we can be sure.
|More recommended holiday reading.