Sun, 5 June 2005
A lazy afternoon in the pub with wild American friend Odell. Kevin the Australian barman personally delivers two beers. “On the house,” he announces. This is a first in the history of the pub outside of Christmas and Chinese New Year. Kevin looks a bit embarrassed. “Prices are going up,” he admits. “By quite a lot.” It transpires that the evil bloodsucking scumbag bastard landlord is raising the rent in a few months, and the future of this venerable watering hole is in doubt. Club 64, the haunt of bohemians and pro-democrats, was driven out of the area by a rent hike a couple of months back. Tai Cheung Bakery, nearby egg tart purveyors to the gentry, suffered the same fate a few weeks ago. “Dublin Jack’s closing.” Kevin informs us. “The landlord wants 280,000 bucks a month – that’s 10,000 a day just for the rent. Can’t be done. It’ll be another skin-whitening products place.” He glances out of the door at a group of Mainland tourists strolling past, and his eyes glare. He steps forward towards the entrance. “Will you people fuck off!” he shouts at them. The cluster of middle-aged, nylon-clad matrons and their chain-smoking, ill-coiffeured husbands look up in alarm at the bulky, red-faced foreigner shaking his finger at them. Kevin marches out onto the street. “Fuck off and take your fucking cosmetics stores with you!” he screams, as they hurriedly move on to the next delightful sight Hong Kong has to offer.
Mon, 6 June 2005
Today it is 27 degrees Celsius, or around 80 Fahrenheit – pleasantly warm by Hong Kong’s torrid summer standards. That’s outdoors. In the gwailo’s lair on the top floor of S-Meg Tower, it is chilly. So much so, that at mid-morning I switch on my little electric heater to counteract the air-conditioning. The heater came from a branch of Fortress electronics, owned by Li Ka-shing. The electricity to run both it and the building’s air conditioning comes from HK Electric, owned by Li Ka-shing. The vitamin C pills Ms Fang the fur-clad hunter-killer secretary hopes will relieve her sniffle come from Watson’s Your Personal Store, owned by Li Ka-shing. Today’s newspapers’ vacuous comments about cutting power consumption come from Environment and Transport Secretary Sarah Liao, a member of the Hong Kong Government, which is owned by…
Tue, 7 Jun 2005
Many parts of Hong Kong are at a standstill this morning as residents cower indoors in fear of the troops of deranged, mutant, B-virus-infected monkeys swarming through the streets, mutilating and devouring everything in their path. Meanwhile, on the placid, simian-free Mid-Levels Escalator, Hong Kong’s curious-minded and intelligent middle class bombards me with questions about Dublin Jack’s, the gwailo haunt whose premises are apparently worth 280,000 dollars a month. “It’s an Irish pub,” I explain as we pass over the place. “That means the staff say ‘bless you madam, may all your sons be bishops’, as they serve customers potatoes, baked beans and boiled mutton. Mostly, people go there to read books by Edna O’Brien and drink Guinness.” This brings knowing nods. For generations before the invention of Viagra, working-class Chinese men throughout Britain’s Asian empire swore by the magically restorative powers of the syrupy black beer.
But that’s all of little interest to my neighbours. The rent – that’s the thing. The owner of the building can eject this seedy establishment and its obese, alcoholic Western clientele and ask for over a quarter of a million per calendar month! A quarter of a million for doing what? Absolutely nothing whatsoever! From the street below us, we hear Hibernian-accented howls of anguish – “May the curse of Mary Malone and her nine blind illegitimate children pursue you over the hills of damnation, so far that the sweet Lord Jesus himself can’t see you from heaven!” Like a pack of rabid macaques in heat, Hong Kong’s landlords are back on the rampage. By contrast, the absentee English gentry who evicted the sons of Erin from their smallholdings in the 19th Century were amateurs. Systematically, by the square foot, they gouge every shred of wealth out of a profitable bar and and toss the hollow corporate husk aside before moving on to the next victim foolish enough to sign a tenancy agreement. My fellow commuters and I marvel at their good fortune. So much easy money, and nothing to do to earn it, unless you find it hard to struggle with your conscience about rousing the undying hatred of failed entrepreneurs. Which, wiping the saliva from our chins, we don’t.