Hemlock's Diary
23-29 October 2005
Mon, 24 Oct
With the Big Boss out of town for the entire week, the top floor of S-Meg Tower is an oasis of soothing, relaxing calm.  Ms Fang the hunter-killer secretary fills her time between being rude on the phone in English, Cantonese and Mandarin by playing Sudoku – the incredibly tedious number game for people too dimwitted to do
The Times crossword.  The three Stanleys from the mailroom take it in turns to plod across the thick Private Office carpet, bearing inter-departmental communications, lunchboxes and their pleasing, simple-minded smiles.  And the Company Gwailo luxuriates in his cocoon.  The iTunes program on his PC reflects the eclectic and unpredictable range of music available on-line courtesy of mp3-uploading felons – Shake Some Action by the Flamin’ Groovies melds into Holst’s arrangement of Lullay My Liking, which leads on to Samuel Barber’s adaptation of Mathew Arnold’s Dover Beach, which segues rather neatly into Echo Beach – or part of the Martha and the Muffins opus as interpreted by someone, somewhere

Our visionary Chairman is jetting around Southeast Asia, making deals, shining shoes and trading influence with the region’s entrepreneurial, hard-working and impressively grasping Cantonese, Chiuchou and Hokkien diaspora.  Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s dashing Chief Executive Donald Tsang is on a tour of the most important places on Planet Earth – Washington DC, New York and London   His tour kicks off, however, in inoffensive Canada, where he is telling Hong Kong’s middle class refugees that it is alright to come back now.  To prove it is safe, he is accompanied by Albert Cheng, pugnacious, pro-democratic bigmouth and victim of Beijing’s spastic outburst in early 2004 against the unpatriotic putrefaction infecting the Big Lychee.  The failure of that campaign – the Jiang Zemin camp’s dying attempt to terrify Tung Chee-hwa’s wards into trembling and obeying decrees to adore the motherland – set the scene for the rise of Sir Bow-Tie and Beijing’s new ‘benevolent’ approach to the Fragrant Harbour.  Democratic
personae non gratae are allowed to set foot across the border.  Anthony Cheung is to join the Executive Council.  Wong Yan-lung is plucked from the ranks of a lawyers’ anti-Beijing protest and appointed Secretary for Justice.  Long Hair will be Police Commissioner by the Year of the Dog.

GRAZING ON the verges of the information superhighway, I see that
Not The South China Morning Post has roared back to life, with financial assistance from a mystery American donor.  This is surely the will of God.  Meanwhile, British children’s publication The Guardian declares that Third World women should stay at home rather than work (unlike their sisters in the developed world, who can be trendy journalists).  I didn’t realize the newspaper was so determined to keep uppity poorer countries in their place, but that seems to be the hidden agenda behind the fight against ‘emotional imperialism’.  If mothers in Otherwise Developed Nations earn less money, their children will get less schooling and even maybe less food.  Maybe ‘quality time’ with illiterate, emaciated kids is better than I imagine.  And maybe The Guardian’s columnist would like to do my ironing.
Tue, 25 Oct
After intense deliberation, I determine that the Quote of the Decade Award should go to
Fergus Henderson, the British chef famous for his robust embrace of offal
“You want to discipline the parsley…”
The stress, of course, should be on the word ‘discipline’.  The full sentence was, “You want to discipline the parsley with three or four chops, not whip it into submission.”  He is discussing his signature dish.  This is the problem of being idle in the office – I find myself with nothing to do but drool over on-line gastro-porn.  But wait!  One of S-Meg Holdings’ blue-uniformed Epsilons knocks at my door and shuffles in on his knees, bows nine times and, taking care to avert his gaze, deposits a nasty pink-coloured booklet into my in-tray.  As he respectfully reverses from the room, I pick it up.  A treatise by the Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong on the development of a two-chambered legislature for the Big Lychee.  The brainchild of old colonial fogey Sir David Akers-Jones and Shui-On Group’s Vincent Lo, the BPFHK is to politics what the Society for Truth and Light is to sex, drugs and gambling.  Middle-aged, well-off folk drawn from lawyers, business and banking, whose latest fetish is bicameralism.  I flick through the booklet and spot a review of bicameral systems elsewhere.
The [US] Senate … tends to attract middle-aged, well-off candidates who are drawn generally from lawyers, business and banking.
Fancy that!  No sooner does the booklet hit the bottom of the bin than I am leering breathlessly at the Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad.
Wed, 26 Oct
All is silent on the top floor of S-Meg Tower, save for the rustling of paper in the gwailo’s lair as I flick through the news.  Rosa Parks has died at the age of 92.  As in 1950s Montgomery, many people in Hong Kong have a pronounced aversion to sitting next to dark-skinned fellow-passengers on public transport.  Do Indians and Africans find it hurtful?  If I were one, I would think, “Phew – thank God that nasty fat girl’s decided to sit next to the gwailo.”  But then, I always think positive.

The tragic mental disease known as Lok Ma Chau Loop Syndrome has
broken out again, with Executive Councillor Cheng Yiu-tong raving that the huge pile of toxic mud should be developed.  According to psychiatrists, there is no known cure for this ailment.  The best treatment is to take victims to one side and patiently explain that the land is so polluted that cleaning it up would be too expensive, and would anyway contravene international environmental conventions.  In severe cases, it might help to ask them why Hong Kong should pay to clean up a Shenzhen-made and -owned mess.  If they start to babble about using the place for factories, science parks, exhibition centres or a free trade zone, they can be gently reminded that Hong Kong has millions of square feet of vacant industrial property.  Even if this works, there is usually a relapse.  Cheng first started blathering on about the Loop in 1998, when he suffered delusions about a Chinese medicine park rising out of the fetid slime.
What is this – Manila?  A skeleton-in-the-closet problem hits the Big Lychee’s Government as it finds its tax headquarters are now being used to stash dead tourists’ bodies.  Official announcements coyly state that the Thai women’s corpse was found in ‘Wanchai’ – not untrue, but it rather overlooks the fact that we are talking about the Inland Revenue Department.  It wouldn’t happen in S-Meg Tower.
Thurs, 27 Oct
Iran’s sickly looking President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad modestly suggests that Israel be “wiped off the map,” while – at the other end of the humanitarian scale – Singapore considers
ruining its mollycoddled foreign maids by giving them one whole day off a month.   In Hong Kong’s Bowen Road, however, neither hatred nor love for our fellow man has much relevance.  The only life form worthy of consideration is the dog. 

The Asia Wall Street Journal devotes long-overdue Page One coverage to my slightly unusual but totally pro-human acquaintance Ah-Hing, commonly known as the Mid-Levels Dog Poisoner.  As usual with the media, they ask the wrong questions – who is Ah-Hing and what drives him to leave carbofuran-laced chicken in the up-market pet-walking neighbourhood?  He is a public-spirited soul who, as a Ms Sung quoted in the article points out, has made Bowen Road a safer, more hygienic place for people – the species that built it. 

The real questions are more profound.  What sort of inadequate person gains satisfaction in rearing a pack animal to follow him as its leader?  There is something almost perverted about it – like a grown man who can’t handle the company of other adults and prefers to play with children, only a hundred times worse.  Not only do these people rely on the company of impressionable youth for a sense of self-worth, it has to be four-footed and dumb.  They would probably find the friendship of a chimpanzee too challenging.  And what gives these deranged anthropomorphs the idea that they have a right to inflict these malodorous, yapping defecators on the rest of us? 

Cristina Rodenbeck, a founder of something called the Happy Valley Dog Guardians and Dog Lovers Community, says of Ah-Hing’s services to mankind, “It's the same as trying to kill a human being.”  Cathy Hopkins, a teacher, declares, “If I get my hands on him … there wouldn't be much left to punish.”  These people have the same warped morality as Iran’s demented President.  Ah-Hing values our race.  If he is ever caught, he can rest assured of support from many admirers.  But that’s a big if …
Recently, the police have adopted a disturbing hypothesis: Some of the other walkers may silently endorse the killer.
It took the sleuths 10 years to work that out?   Do they think domestic helpers – even with four days a month off – enjoy cleaning up dog excrement?  Do they imagine that gentle old folk like Sung like to scrape canine doo-doo off their shoes after a stroll that was disrupted by incessant, mechanical barking?  Do they believe people take pleasure in shielding their petrified toddlers from huge creatures bouncing around them, baring their slavering fangs?  Then again, who seriously thinks the Hong Kong Police give a damn about some grossly overpaid expats’ mutts?  Everyone’s behind Ah-Hing on this.  Another hundredweight of carbofuran, please.

Fri, 28 Oct
“If you say ‘you must discipline the parsley’ one more time, I’m going to plug my earphones in and drown you out with Kenny G – it’s that irritating.”  Shapely Administrative Officer Winky Ip jabs a fork into a slice of Foreign Correspondents Club breakfast watermelon to make the point.  Sensing that she thinks I am being a…
Bore, n.: A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
Ambrose Bierce   
The Devil's Dictionary
…I ask her what sort of a week she has had treading the Civil Service linoleum in the corridors of power in Central Government Office.

“Well,” she replies, brightening up, “we’re trying to match members of the new Executive Council to policy areas.”  She explains how our dashing Chief Executive Donald Tsang has decided that each non-official in his cabinet should ‘adopt’ two or three ministerial portfolios, for which they can serve as spokesmen.  Preferably, they should have some prior exposure to their subjects in the real world.  “But of course there’s a problem,” Winky goes on.  “Expertise in Exco is weighted slightly towards some areas more than others.”  I choke on my coffee.  They’re all bankers, I remind her.  “Well, that’s an exaggeration,” she replies.  “They’re from, um, securities markets, insurance…  Anyway, loads of them are happy to do Finance.  And they’re all keen to do Constitutional Affairs.”  I nod.  What about Welfare, or Housing?  Winky falls silent, sighs and shrugs. “Still looking for people,” she admits.

As she regales me with more details of this fascinating topic, I glance from the corner of my eye at her black leather Ferragamo handbag, which she has deposited, open, on the chair next to me.  My hand furtively reaches for the iPod.