Update from Hemlock

The mood on the Mid-Levels Escalator this morning is one of calm resignation. Hong Kong’s industrious and uncomplaining middle class may or may not be on the verge of calamity as Europe’s visionary cheese-eating surrender currency collapses and some rich-kid half-wit prepares to play at governing the city. Their mortgages are largely paid off, their portfolios are overweight in cash, and their kids are already in the right elite kindergarten – what more can they do?

I decide to break the ominous silence by asking my neighbours, Mr Chan the investment manager and Ms Woo the marketing manager, a brain teaser: “What do Canadian singer Celine Dion, Indian musician Ravi Shankar, former Irish Minister for Agriculture and Food Joe Walsh, British author JK Rowling, American film director David Lynch, Panama’s ex-dictator Manual Noriega and Hong Kong’s former Chief Secretary Anson Chan all have in common?”

The pair look slightly puzzled, but not much – as if whatever the answer is, it cannot be very interesting. For example: they’ve never been to the Moon.

“Here’s a clue,” I add, pulling an invitation card from my pocket, “Self-effacing Bank of East Asia boss David Li is about to join them…”


“I suppose,” I continue, “it’s in recognition of his contributions to, er, philosophy, the cinema, literature or maybe neurosurgery – who knows?” Looking through the whole list, you really have to wonder about the French and their rather promiscuous approach to venerating foreigners. And the rank within the Legion de Honneur that Dr the Hon Sir Li JP is being awarded is Commandeur, not just your riffraff Chevalier or lowly Officier.

Mr Chan takes an envelope from his jacket. “Yes, I’ve received one of those invitations,” he says. Ms Woo pulls one from her puce Louis Vuitton handbag. “Me too – came yesterday. One for everyone in the family.”

We are gliding through the rat-infested nether regions of Soho when wild American friend Odell and his Thai wife Mee join us on the world’s most amazing urban transport infrastructure. Recognizing a couple who do not fit into the higher echelons of society when they see them, Mr Chan and Ms Woo melt away behind a group of early-rising Japanese tourists.

“Jeez – I thought I’d worked out a really neat way of getting the retard staff in Starbucks to serve up an organic gingko biloba and oil of tendaberry cappuccino in less than 45 minutes,” the ex-Mormon excitedly tells me. “Bribe ‘em with one of these!” He shows me an invitation to Dr Sir the Hon Duke Li’s investiture. “We got half a dozen each. The Starbucks kids could hang out with this Dr the Hon Admiral Sir David Li, the President of Planet Finance and the guy who looks like a horse. Like really high-class, right? But, um… like, they weren’t interested.”

Mee shows me her collection of the invites. “They already have,” she explains.

A Filipino maid approaches, pulling a basket on wheels. Mee, a former domestic helper with permanent residency through marriage – thus of a less lowly echelon of society – slyly holds her prestigious high-society invitations where the minion will see them and be duly impressed. But as the girl passes, we catch sight of the shopping list she is clutching, a familiar-looking 6-inch by 4-inch cream card, with a dark blue italic request for the pleasure of her company at a January 9 bestowal on the reverse. 

Click to hear Laura Nyro’s ‘New York Tendaberry’!

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9 Responses to Update from Hemlock

  1. Gerald says:

    Good to hear Odell is still around!

  2. maugrim says:

    Ouch. Lol I got one too.

  3. darovia says:

    There’s a MEDAL for LIKING frogs? Yikes. I notice Churchill was not on the list of recipients – Perhaps something to do with his order to sink the entire French navy off Algeria. I traded my invitation to jump the queue for a Vitton bag for the missus.

  4. Probably says:

    Obviously I’m one of the few not on his most awesome excellentness we are not worthy’s Xmas card list. All I got was an invite to the InvestHK shindig at the Grand Hyatt.

    Is it just me and CY leung that haven’t yet made the upper echelons of HK society?

  5. Big Al says:

    Is there anyone in Hong Kong who has NOT received an invitation, other than me? Even if I was invited, I would not be able to attend since I am tentatively scheduled to have my nose hair plucked that very same evening. And, of course, the place will be crawling with the French, like the top left corner of the South Stand. Non, merci!

  6. Big E says:


    I don’t know whether CY has made the upper echelons but he certainly seems to think so. Look at how much effort went into his election campaign. What a self-important a-hole.


  7. Walter De Havilland says:

    CY is candidate 44. That’s double death!! That’s it, game over.

    Can we move on and discuss something more interesting then this farce.

  8. Real Tax Payer says:

    Not sure whether to laugh or to cry

    I wouldn’t accept one of those stoopid awards ( nor gold-plated bauhinnas or whatever) even if they paid me

    What an idiot banker Li is

    But @ Walter : yes you are right about the 44: that’s the first thing that hit me the moment I opened Big E’s link

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    Reading that list of people who have been awarded the order of the frog medal ( oh by the way our own stanley ho ho has one as well – presumably for contributions to gambling, ball room dancing and keeping at least 4 HK ladies warm at night ) I am left wondering what one has to do in life NOT to get the frog gong

    I guess david li sorry DR david li made a correct calculation that only one in a million people would be so silly as to waste a good evening watching him being gonged ( plus enery the ‘orse – of course ) so he had to invite most of the population of HK so as to be sure of getting a quorum of half a dozen people + ‘enery , of course

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