Update from Hemlock

Who should I see coming out of the Tribal Car Pet Cave on Hollywood Road this morning but elegant Administrative Officer Winky Ip? Why, I wonder, would she be frequenting the famous purveyors of exotic domesticated animals for trendy and glamorous people to keep in their luxury vehicles? Has she, perhaps, bought a Lexus and is thinking of enhancing it with a tame lion cub in a diamond collar to recline on the dashboard? Or could she be looking for a cute lemur to squat next to the Hello Kitty tissue box on the rear shelf of a new Mercedes and wave to children in passing school busses? Or has she become the proud owner of a truck-size people carrier and now wants to augment this ultimate success symbol among Hong Kong’s public-sector elite with a giant boa constrictor to slink around the seven passenger seats and flick the window contemptuously with its tongue as sweating pedestrians peer through the dark glass of the illegally parked palace to see who is keeping the engine running?

“Actually,” she snaps, “I was seeing the tailor upstairs about some alterations.” She is clutching a file and is clearly in a state of distress. I persuade her to join me for breakfast and a quick look through the newspapers, but no sooner have we settled into our favourite alcove at Yuet Yuen Restaurant and ordered their finest congee than her phone goes.

“Yes – the lost tree registration patrol!” she blurts out to the caller. “Yes I know it’s a disaster! Yes this is a secure line! Yes of course the press mustn’t learn about this at all! Or the unions!” She suddenly looks around, notices that curious faces have turned in her direction and runs out into the street for relative privacy.

It seems the agitated conversation will go on for some time, so I discreetly peruse the Top Secret, Destroy After Reading pale yellow file from the old Environment, Transport and Works Bureau.

What I find within is the stuff of a horror story – perhaps a cross between the Blair Witch Project and the Naked and the Dead, plus a dash of the Marie-Celeste, all with a sort of forestries angle.

It was a job-creation scheme that went terribly wrong. Some years ago, to provide employment opportunities and foster the development of a more harmonious society, the government recruited several hundred long-term jobless on non-permanent contract terms to register and label every publicly owned tree in Hong Kong. All went well until a group of about a dozen mostly Nepalese workers set off into a remote, thickly wooded valley in Shing Mun Country Park. They never came back.

Search parties found that the trail of tagged trees extended nearly a kilometer into the thick jungle and mysteriously stopped, with no trace of anyone. The possibility that the workers were eaten by a tiger is officially ruled out. When the movie is made, they will be abducted by extraterrestrials in a giant UFO emitting a pink-purple glow and an eerie hum. Personally, I would like to think that they have seceded from the Big Lychee and founded an independent Hindu kingdom deep in the woods, and are living off cardamom-scented dhal and venerating a living goddess. The main suspicion, however, is that they defected en masse to illegal but better-paying recycling yards. That, at least, will be the Line to Take.

Winky storms back in as I nonchalantly take a sip of tea. “No, of course not!” she splutters down the phone as she grabs the file from the exact spot on the table where she left it. “It’s with me – absolutely no-one has seen it!”

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12 Responses to Update from Hemlock

  1. Doctor Deciduous says:

    ETWB? This sounds more like a job for Special Branch. Tell Winky to put in a trunk call before the problems take root.

  2. Historian says:

    I’ve only just twigged.

  3. Vile Traveller says:

    The only reason trees get tagged and recorded is so that officials can put a face and a number to the victims of their slope improvement works*. Imagining the screams of chainsaws helps them sleep better at night.

    *a.k.a. pouring concrete over random hillsides.

  4. Pete says:

    I wooden make terrible puns like that.

  5. bluesea says:

    I’ll leaf this well alone.

  6. HK Observer says:

    It’s good to see Hemlock is branching out.

  7. Maugrim says:

    Saps. It would please my mischievous spirit to direct those such as fanatical gweipo’s and tai tai’s who worship all things doggy towards the senseless murder that our fauna suffers on a daily basis. Ahhh, chaining themselves to slope redevelopment works, they’d show our local protestors a thing or two.

    Hemlock has highlighted one thing, the next time you are on a tram or bus, have a look at the types of businesses that often occupy second and third floors of buildings. Amazing, everything from Thai boxing academies to catteries and old folks homes.

  8. Ted Thomas says:

    I live in one of those old folks’ homes (in Wanchai).

    I don’t have to pay rent, I get 3 square meals a day, they do my laundry (who needs an amah ?) and at night you can find me in the pubs nearby.

    In the weekends I live in my own apartment in Sai Kung and 4 times a year I go to ‘visit my daughter’ in the Philippines (actually I go to Bangkok but who cares).

  9. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Not to draw this blog back to MI6 sanctioned topics, but I noted “Media guru” KK Tsang’s appeal to Confucian values in today’s Standard, suggesting that we’d all set a good example to our children if we were to be “more respectful, listen and be thankful” for what little constitutional reform we’ve offered.

    “The question was: What are the traditional values of the Chinese? “Filial piety,” “Respect for teachers.” Right! But it was his younger sister who gave the answers. Maybe she had heard it so many times she was all too familiar with it.

    Are we adults able to adhere strictly to the values that our children are learning? We talk about respect for teachers but we see parents who challenge teachers. If parents don’t respect teachers, it creates a cycle of disrespect which can lead to a lack of respect for senior officials.

    Simply be outrageous during an official’s visit and you’ ll become a hero. Senior officials visiting the city to promote constitutional reform have had insults hurled at them.”


  10. HK Observer says:

    To quote GW Bush, “Is our children learning?”

  11. gunlaw says:

    Cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, collards, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and cole slaw are all the same plant, merely trained differently in its youth. The resulting variety of forms teaches us the value of education in personal development. It is this teaching that is the very foundation of plant labelling in Hong Kong.

  12. Nat King Coleslaw says:

    cole slaw ?

    wonder what the latin name for cole slaw is ?

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