Hemlock's Diary
21-27 August 2005
The Fall of the House of Hemlock
The bookshelves sag ominously beneath the accumulated poor taste in reading matter of 10 generations. 

The grandfather clock, long unable in its dotage to keep track of the phases of the moon, continues its sad decline by developing a bulging midriff.
Meanwhile, in the garden, not one but two greenhouses are on the verge of exploding under the pressure of unrestrained growth of mutant tomato-cucumber-hyacinth life forms.
In the dark depths of the secret tunnel, an ill-treated plum tree that, through no fault of its own, produces inedible fruit, silently plots its savage revenge against the family for alternate years of neglect and physical abuse.
The only feature of the English landscape spreading faster than tattoos and belly-button studs on the flabby torsos of British womanhood – sweetcorn, which has even assumed control of the servants’ outdoor bathing facilities.  It has replaced sprawling acres of bright yellow oil seed rape as the unusable, European Union-subsidized ecological monstrosity du jour.

It is such a senseless squandering of taxpayers’ money, it is a wonder the Hong Kong Government hasn’t thought of it.  Maybe they have!  In just another four days, according to my British look-on-the-bright-side-the-caterers-are-on-strike Airways ticket, I will find out.
Mon, 22 Aug
After packing my bags under the watchful gaze of Great-Great-Great-Grandfather Hemlock, I bid a fond farewell to Stonegallows Hall
I wend my way east to London, to stay the night with former Hong Kong media star Piers Grunge, his vivacious wife Loretta and their three ultra-intelligent but semi-housetrained children.  Mindful that Loretta is recovering from a serious illness and can’t be exposed to undue stress, Piers updates me on the family’s impending financial disaster out of earshot.  The problem, he admits, is that he is selfishly spending money earmarked for food and medicine on expensive toys, the latest of which he rolls out – literally – with great pride and excitement.  It is a foldable piano keyboard that virtually fits into a pocket.  “How could I resist?” he asks, shooing one of his emaciated, half-naked offspring out of the den. 

Tue, 23 Aug

I approach the British Airways check-in desk at Heathrow and put my ticket and passport on the counter.  “I have a special request,” I tell the simpering Passenger Services Director.  “I want to be seated next to a hyperactive Frenchman with bad breath, who can’t sit still for more than five seconds and who coughs incessantly throughout the 12-hour flight.”  The airline minion smiles good naturedly and doubts whether this can be done.  “Why not?” I demand.  “You did it last time.” 

As it happens, the London-Hong Kong journey is uneventful.  My neighbour is an orange-skinned woman with pure white hair who spends most of the time reading holy scripture in some sort of Portuguese-Malay dialect and making occasional signs of the cross.  I actually get some sleep. Could this be because of the melatonin various people have urged me to try, or was it the three pints of cider I had with Piers for lunch?  Either way, it works.
Thurs, 25 Aug
Back home.  As ever, I have ensured a relaxing end to my holiday by having lied about the date of my return.  Those who would instantly clamour for the privilege of my company blissfully imagine that I remain unreachable, thousands of miles away, until after the weekend.  Thus I have time to catch up with the news in peaceful solitude. 

Little seems to have changed in my absence.  China continues its efforts to exterminate Hong Kong’s seven million subversive inhabitants, this time by selling us deadly fish and pork – laced respectively with a carcinogen known as malachite green and a bug called
Streptococcus suis.  Why don’t they just nuke us and be done with it?   Meanwhile, our dashing Chief Executive Donald Tsang has decreed the construction of a lavish monument to big government on the long-empty Tamar site.

A post-handover memory returns.  Switching on the radio one morning, we heard that the Government was suddenly withdrawing this extremely valuable piece of land from sale.  It was almost as if the developer of a nearby office block had phoned Tung Chee-hwa with instructions to prop up office rents in the area.  It was the first sign that we were being led by a panic-prone buffoon.  The Tamar site, overlooked by the military HQ, clearly petrified Tofu-for-Brains almost as much as Government House for the rest of his time in office.  He pondered the construction of a palace for his administration, plus the legislature, complete with a Tiananmen-style concrete square specifically designed for parades.  Then he dithered.  Now Sir Bowtie will squander a mere six billion dollars on this symbol of official might and overweening bureaucracy.  To ‘create jobs’, of course – though for that much money we could bribe 12,000 indigent families HK$500,000 each to go back to their Mainland pig farms. 

How bad will the thing be architecturally? 
The High Court rules that laws banning homosexual acts by men under 21 are unconstitutional.  Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung, everyone’s favourite blue-stockinged spinster aunt, must now sit down and think hard about teenage boys sodomizing each other.  I shudder to imagine the look on her face.  Forget the extra bag of Liptons – this will call for the smelling salts.  The poor old girl still hasn’t recovered from the time they told her where babies come from.
Fri, 26 Aug
In my jetlagged stupor I answer a phone call without pausing to consider how fast word travels in a small village like Hong Kong.   “Hey it’s true!” shouts overjoyed American friend Odell.  “Didn’t think you were back til Tuesday – how about a beer?”  It seems one of his Thai wife Mee’s friends spotted me late yesterday evening prowling around 7-Eleven in my silk pyjamas and Hello Kitty slippers.  “You haven’t missed much,” the ex-Mormon tells me.  “Something about eels and anal sex. The Government has banned it.  Or legalized it.  Whatever.”  After reluctantly conceding that – even though it’s a Friday – 8.30am is a bit early for a few San Miguels, he agrees to leave me in peace for at least a few hours.  With luck, I’ll make the noon deadline for my exclusive expose for the
South China Morning Post, and then get back to bed…
I was Elsie Leung’s toyboy!  There was no feeling.  No tenderness.  It was purely physical.  I was no more than an object to her – something to be used and cast aside, like one of her lavender-scented face flannels.  I was just her personal plaything – there to satisfy her animal urges…
I can’t believe people allow the tawdry rag in their homes.