|18-24 Feb 2007|
|Wed, 21 Feb
The Year of the Pig gets off to a good start on Lockhart Road, the salubrious heart of Wanchai, where I spy what may well be the closest pair of 7-Eleven convenience stores yet discovered by man. The identical outlets are barely 50 yards apart. If this is a world record, it would not be the first for this remarkable neighbourhood. Just to the east of this spot is The Old China Hand bar, which I can also confirm after passing by two or three times and gazing in fascination into its gloomy interior, remains the gathering place for the planet’s mangiest Western men and the most wretchedly untoothsome Southeast Asian females to whom they turn for companionship. Busloads of passing tourists find the scene absorbing. I suppose it is only a matter of time before this unique part of our heritage goes the way of Tiger Balm Garden or Wedding Card Street – it will probably become a 7-Eleven, as the nearest (a third one) must be a whole 15 seconds’ walk away.
Quote of the Day Award (edited for effect, admittedly) must go to the China Daily, which gleefully informs us that “Ronald Reagan was a pig … Not to mention Hillary Rodham Clinton.” According to the Big Lychee’s equivalent of witch doctors and voodoo quacks, the coming year will bring mayhem and carnage. Unlike the last few dozen I can recall. But this traumatic environment will somehow offer an excellent occasion to have a baby. All children born in this Pig Year will become neurosurgeons, test pilots for high performance combat aircraft, world famous cellists and investment bankers, swarming through IFC Mall buying luxury goods to keep their ageing parents in the comfort they deserve. But there is surely a down side to this – a critical shortage of menial labour. With no-one walking around with a mop and a ‘Beware of slippery floor’ sign, the malls will crumble. Without high school dropouts, there will be no-one to serve customers in convenience stores, and the industry will decline. Perhaps The Old China Hand is safe after all.
|Thurs, 22 Feb
The mood on the Mid-Levels Escalator this morning is perturbed, as Hong Kong’s clean-living, industrious and disenfranchised middle class try to come to terms with the indisputable fact that their city’s Chief Executive, the boyish Donald Tsang, has fallen prey to the grip of hallucinogenic or other mood-altering drugs. At first, we all treated the rumours about Donald’s policy blueprint as a despicable exercise in negative campaigning by the ever-desperate pro-democrats. “It’s five asinine questions linked in a circle by arrows as if they are of Sphinx-like profundity – Whence we come? Whither we go?” the detractors claimed.
Rubbish, we all thought. Sir Bow-Tie wouldn’t insult our intelligence – or indeed his own – by coming up with something so vacuous. But to our alarm it appears we were wrong. The question is not whether he is out of his mind on illicit substances, but which ones?
Opium would seem a serious possibility. It is widely available, and it is an important part of the Hong Kong heritage that the locally born Donald respects and admires so much. But then, maybe not. By-products of the poppy are famous for inducing mild euphoria and deep sleep. After composing the first question – Where am I? – he would have grown drowsy.
Could it be LSD? Maybe we are getting closer. A tab of acid stirred into the congee is a well-known aid to creativity among some of the Big Lychee’s more obscure demi-mondes. How else would our property developers’ TV commercials manage to portray 600-square foot rabbit hutches as French chateaux? But no – the Tsang policy blueprint is devoid of vivid imagination. It would ask – Where did all these giant orange bats come from?
Amphetamines? He must be overworked, running Hong Kong and taking part in the election at the same time. He must have had to pull a few all-nighters. But again, it doesn’t ring true. If Sir Bow-Tie were on speed, there would be hundreds of questions, paragraphs long, with no punctuation, many about imaginary enemies.
It suddenly comes to me. There is only one recreational drug that gives the user the impression that something utterly mundane in fact contains deep meaning. Tsang is on weed. And as everyone over 35 knows, that stuff is much stronger these days than it was in our time. That is why the youth of today should do as we preach, and avoid it at all costs. And can anyone find better proof than this? We should just ask our young folk to picture Donald putting the bong down and writing the first question – Where are we? Thinking a bit. Then drawing the arrow. Then looking at it for a while. Then adding the second question – Why are we there? Then sitting back a few moments, and considering his work some more. And then murmuring, “Wow, that’s amazing.”
|Fri, 23 Feb
I thought all those drooling feminine eyes that mentally undress me every morning as I glide down the Mid-Levels Escalator were evidence of my unique and overwhelming appeal to anyone with an ounce of estrogen in their veins, decent vision and taste. That could well have been the case back in 1996, the last full year in the history of Hong Kong in which everything was perfect, including the sex ratio – 1,000 boys to every 1,000 girls. But now in 2007, I may have to reconsider. It could be that the ladies are simply desperate and leer longingly at anything in pants, because we now have a sex ratio of 911 males to every 1,000 females, according to the Census and Statistics Department, which has just released the results of last year’s by-census.
|One of the main reasons for this is that many Hong Kong men are marrying Mainland women, which raises the fascinating question of which local gender is spurning which. And this explains something I saw on the by-census questionnaire when I was interviewed last July, for which I was rewarded with a Lucky 2006 Population By-Census Refrigerator Magnet, which I cherish to this day. About halfway down Part Three, just after the impertinent questions about how many toilets your apartment has, the census taker had to ask either (to men), “Are Hong Kong women scrawny, materialistic, shallow, pouting bimbos who have a tantrum if you don’t buy them things and make you visit their parents all the time, or what?” or (to women) “Are Hong Kong men ill-kempt, gawky, socially inept mamma’s boys who, even in their 30s, collect toys and walk into objects if no-one guides them, or what?”|
|I was shocked at the time. “Not all women are like that,” I responded, “and you may tell your superiors that as a taxpayer and sensitive person I am dismayed to see them stoop to such disgraceful stereotyping.” But now I see why the Census and Statistics Department felt a need to so candidly pigeonhole the sexes. They needed straight answers. The cause of our gender gap, they have found, is women’s rising educational attainment and career prospects in recent decades. A woman in want of a mate whose business card states that she is Vice-President, Regional Derivatives Trading and who collects Ming Dynasty teacups is likely to turn her nose up at, say, a bus driver who likes horse racing. The male Vice-President whom she would consider an acceptable match, however, is meanwhile planning to marry a young, buxom, easily amused waitress whose main skills mentionable here include peeling grapes, giving shoulder massages and not questioning the men in her life. In Singapore, they have a eugenics programme that compels college graduates to breed with each other, but here in laissez faire Hong Kong, we just have to accept that this state of affairs will not go away. The leering will continue.