Update from Hemlock

The mood on the Mid-Levels Escalator this morning is one of unabashed exhilaration, as Hongkongers of all ages glide down the hill to IFC Mall to pay tribute to everyone’s favourite cute and cuddly pickled prehistoric pachyderm. Children, having tossed their Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse accessories aside, sport ‘I love plucky little Lyuba’ T-shirts and carry carrots and boxes of Meltykiss chocolates for the cheeky but adorable 42,000-year-old baby mammoth.

Inside the shopping centre, they crowd round and squeal with delight as the little she-calf performs such endearing tricks as standing on its hind legs and balancing a beach ball on its trunk. For the adults, however, something is missing. Why, of course – it is Thomas Kwok, co-boss of Sun Hung Kai Properties, joint owner of the sprawling complex.

Some of us would like to ask him about the timing of this public-spirited event with its free admission and educational kids’ worksheets. It seems a bit too quickly organized to be designed to divert our attention from his problems with the Independent Commission Against Corruption. But since when has IFC Mall ever done altruism? We would also, while we’re on the subject, like to know more about being arrested by the ICAC. Do the sleuths do a full body cavity search? Do you get only plain congee to eat? After all, it could happen to anyone.

Others among us would like to pose the long-haired tycoon some questions about his fundamentalist Christianity. As a biblical literalist who gave Hong Kong a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark, he must believe that the entire universe is only 6,000 years old, and the carbon dating of the charming Lyuba therefore flawed. Yet his own mall pronounces her to be from the glacial Pleistocene period.

During her delightful visit to the shores of the Big Lychee, Lyuba is currently our favourite well-preserved relic of ancient times. But after she moves on to the next stage of her world tour – captivating young and old wherever she goes with her wit and charm – Hong Kong will still have former colonial official Sir David Akers-Jones.

I notice with sorrow that the Time Out interview with the Pleistocene bureaucrat reveals him to be one of the lost white tribe of Hong Kong gwailos whose glory days were long ago and who now live in obscure semi-poverty. Many are tucked away on Lamma Island or similar far-flung outcrops, where they pass the remnants of their lives as happily pickled as Lyuba, if not more so. Others, more attuned to the urban lifestyle, are clustered around Lockhart Road; to quote the article:

“I spent all my years in the government knocking other people’s houses down, and yet now my own house is being knocked down.”
The compensation paid by the government, according to Akers-Jones, was not enough to buy a new house, so he has been renting a flat in Wan Chai ever since.

It is tempting to nip over there and catch him shuffling towards the Old China Hand for his early morning liquid refresher, gazing into the gloom while Filipino waitresses chatter away in the corner. But the youngsters – the hope of our future – are cheering as enchanting little Lyuba finishes a song, takes a bow and, grinning with joy at bringing pleasure to so many, launches into a impressive juggling routine. Is there any more beguiling way of declaring the weekend open?

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18 Responses to Update from Hemlock

  1. Sir Crispin says:

    “As a biblical literalist who gave Hong Kong a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark, he must believe that the entire universe is only 6,000 years old, and the carbon dating of the charming Lyuba therefore flawed.”

    Don’t confuse Christians with logic and facts; it’s like oil and vinegar. Just leave them to their delusions.

  2. COE says:

    There is nowhere more depressing than the Old China Hand. There used to be a place called Thingummy’s in TST but I think it’s now gone.

    Do they know how sad they all look? Even the ones in suits are rehearsing for the big leap into fetid decay.

    COE stands for clapped-out expat. Look for the canvas shoes, Third World wife and tattoos.

  3. ROE says:

    Akers-Jones on the other hand is an ROE, rich old expat. In England he would have been Assistant Town Clerk of Bolton or Doncaster. In Hong Kong he thinks he is a man of genius as he has been surrounded by yes men civil servants and Filipina maids all his life.

    Look for the ugly and battered old white wife, safari suit (blazer and cravat in winter) and cameo appearances in HK Tatler magazine.

  4. Aghast says:

    I disagree with most of what he says, but Akers-Jones is an honest, well meaning, generous man.

  5. Joe Blow says:

    I am trying to think of something more depressing than OCH: maybe “Horse and Groom” ? Or those worn-out mama-sans on the pavement of Lockhart, reaching out with skeletal hands and hard, hard eyes: ‘you come in my bar, have a drink….”.

    Safari suits, on the other hand, make me feel nostalgic: they convey me back to the time of cheap camera shops on Peking Road, secretaries @ $ 2000- per month, that ‘respectable’ topless bar (forgot its name), Marlboro commercials and c-lais with bad wigs and cheongsams.

  6. Real Tax Payer says:

    “Scientists were able to identify… fecal matter in ( Lubya’s) intestine, including evidence that, like some modern young elephants, she ate adult herd members’ faeces to build up a normal intestinal flora of bacteria to help to digest plant material”

    Seems we have more than a few mammoths in LEGCO who have grown up eating the shit fed to them by the civil servants who pay their salaries

    The other night I caught on the news the Legco “attack” (for want of a better word) on the MTRC CEO re the proposed fare rise : “daylight robbery / blah blah” Then I recalled Jake’s column a few days ago pointing out that MTR fare rises have fallen 20% behind the growth of wages over the past 5 years , but the MTRC is only asking for a 5.4% fare increase. After some statutory ranting and raving LEGCO passed a non-binding motion asking the MTRC not to ask for such a big raise.

    These are the same LEGCO members who want a 100% increase in their salaries

    With LEGCO members like this , no wonder motions get passed to build bridges and railways to Mount Ararat to see where Noah’s ark landed .

    Seems we might do better with a few real Lubyas in LEGCO . They would look just like most of the present LEGCO members : dry, desiccated and still a little hair left , but they would at least not be able to vote .

  7. Mary Hinge says:

    Thomas Kwok’s lawyer:

    “I said that beating the ICAC would require a mammoth task, not a mammoth’s tusk, you f**kwit!!”

  8. maugrim says:

    It always amazed me why people would move to a bustling city like HK only to escape with a pack of one’s own dogs to Lamma or Disco Bay. As to the OCH, I raise you one in the form of the Junk on Jaffe Rd. It makes the OCH look classy.

  9. Incredulous says:

    @Mary Hinge. Worthy of a “Harry” cartoon at least!

  10. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Aghast : I agree with your compliment re Sir David . A fine man who did a lot for HK in his time

    If he has any fault it’s one we tend to suffer-from : we become so afflicted with “lao fa” in our old age that cannot read our own use-by date

    @ Joe Blow : I think the topless bar was called ” Bottoms up” ( But maybe I have confused it with enery’s wine cellar which goes by the same moniker)

  11. maugrim says:

    I wonder also what HK’s other dried up, old elephant, Rita Fan, thinks of the competition?

  12. Aghast says:

    -Real Tax Payer

    CY for one doesn’t agree with you or Jake Van der Kamp about the MTR. Does that make him a shit-eating mammoth?

  13. Cerebos says:

    I’ll see your Wan Chai OCH & Junk and raise you the Island bar on Lamma and the China Bear in Mui Wo where the smack-addled grannies, illiterate TOEFL holders and generally Lithium dependent come gratis.

  14. Regislea says:

    If you think the OCH is bad, try the Hong Kong Club!

    BTW I live on Lamma – best move I’ve ever made! Chacun a son gout – as they say in the Island Bar.

  15. Probably says:

    Thomas Kwok must be confused wondering why there were no mammoths on his Noah’s Ark at Park Island. Or did they miss the boat?

  16. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Aghast: Although Jake is often right where others are often wrong, he is not invariably so ( though I must admit he almost invariably sees another aspect of key issues which have escaped most of the rest of us , e.g. his recent article about the wrongs of the ICAC ‘s latest ” arrest first and and questions afterwards” attitude, while the rest of us were chortling with glee at seeing some tycoons not to mention Mr Hui humbled for once )

    I, personally, am usually wrong , and only occasionally right

    I do hope that CY is his own man and will rise above the petty disputes to make some really good long-term decisions for our common welfare.

    As a China manager for over 30 years with a pretty good success record and very few failures, I often had to make tough calls which hardly anyone else understood, still less agreed with , but which 5 years everyone agreed was certainly the “right thing” to have done at the time.

    I think Tung didn’t have the intelligence to make those kind of tough calls and Donald simply ducked out of those kind of tough calls because he was ( and still is) such a bureaucrat that he didn’t have the same courage to be as bold as he was as FS once he became CE “where the buck stops”.

    (But I also think there are lot of shit-eating mammoths in LEGCO that need to sucked into a muddy bog and get frozen to death. And @ Probably : T. Kwok esq. needs his brain examined if he still believes in Noah . He should be sucked into a bog himself for foisting such rubbish onto HK’s youth)

  17. Chopped Onions says:

    Maugrim, you got it the wrong way round, the Junk is the training ground for the och, it’s for those of us who really should drink in och but still know better not to.

  18. FB3 says:

    Is the Junk same,same as Time & Time again?. aka Line & Line again

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