What with the livid, email-writing expat housewife and our own neurologically unsound pestilence now locked up in the attic of the comments section, it’s good to see people going nuts the honest, healthy, old-fashioned way – in real life. What’s more, in the time-honoured tradition of such deranged folk, they even look intensely pleased about it.
They are Hu Wei-hsin and her apparently supportive (too hen-pecked to show embarrassment?) husband. Ms Hu has had a problem with a neighbour who burns incense outside the door of their home in a place called Lai Chi Kok Bay Garden. I have lived with this situation on and off for the bulk of my life, and my strategy is to ignore it, or, as the delicate if slightly dusty plumes of sandalwood seep into my apartment, think to myself, ‘hey – free incense’. Some people like sticking joss sticks in oranges and burning them out in the hallway, and you just become inured to it.
Or you can follow the less-sanity-more-fun approach as Ms Hu is doing and sue the neighbour. Obviously, the crazier you get, the more fun it is. So Ms Hu is claiming HK$100,000, saying that the fumes caused the premature birth of, and subsequent health problems for, her obviously hyper-sensitive baby.
A quick look around shows Lai Wan Fa Yuen to be a rather down-market place – 500 square feet for less than HK$3 million, including yellowy-brown mini-bathroom! The incense-burning Ma household next door say they have been using their smoky method of deity-appeasement for 40 years to keep the family safe and ensure that the son gets home every day in one piece. Trying not to be overly presumptuous or prone to stereotyping, we can hazard a guess that they are former public housing dwellers with modest education who have come up in the world enough to own a private unit in the New Territories.
Ms Hu, on the other hand, has a master’s degree and has lived in the USA. Sadly, we do not know much about her roots, but something tells me that she finds the earthy and unpretentious nature of her neighbours disagreeable not because it is alien to her but perhaps because they remind her of her own rather humble origins not so long ago. I also wonder whether Ms Hu’s wisely unnamed husband was a ‘good catch’ and she feels driven to this extreme behaviour to keep up appearances in his eyes. This is pure, scurrilous speculation on my part, but when you parade yourself grinning in front of the media while accusing the folk next door of harming your baby, you are inviting it – begging, in fact.
Much to their credit, the feisty Ma clan is fighting back, deliberately sweeping extra dust up against the Hu’s front door and uttering ancient voodoo curses designed to ensure the baby grows up never to pass any exams. There is nothing like a bit of New Territories lunacy to brighten up our day, and like the other 7 million people of Hong Kong I look forward to seeing what tomorrow will bring from Lai Chi Kok.