Charles Colson: my part in his post-prison life

Many years ago – I am guessing it was the mid-1990s – I was crossing Wyndham Street at the bottom of Glenealy, after heading up the hill from Queens Road en route to an authentic and much-missed bar, Caroline’s. Noteworthy denizens included Caroline, Caroline’s mother, a barman called Alistair who threw soaking sponges at overly loud groups of customers, photographer Hu Van Es, TV presenter Paul George, a trio of ne’er do wells called the Three Daves who sat in what they called Pervs’ Corner by the window, and an elderly Indian couple who were unique in having their order (tea) brought to their table.

It would have been early afternoon on a Saturday, and I would have been planning to have a lunch of salad and chips, a meal that perhaps hints at the establishment’s ambiguous character – a not entirely unhealthy, bohemian, grubby earthiness. Very much Central (when real, owner-operated independent bars still existed); not Wanchai. Booze, but with the Times crossword, not televised soccer. If the TV-presenting PG was present I might be dragged into having one of several straws sitting in a pint glass containing an Evelyn Waugh Lunchtime Reviver*, in which case the rest of the day would be a write-off.

The pedestrian crossing includes a little island between the lane going into Ice House Street and the lane turning down into Central. And as I stood there waiting for the lights to change, I noticed an older white man next to me. He ignored me, but I got a good look at him: squat, sweaty, podgy, with thick lips, a dark suit, distinctive unfashionable spectacles and the air of someone you might not want around young children. My immediate reaction was one of shock. “Good heavens,” I thought, “that guy looks just like Chuck Colson.” Then I felt a twang of sympathy; you wouldn’t wish such a thing on anyone, would you?

I thought no more of it (or probably anything) until the next day, when I saw a photo of my brief companion in the middle of the road in the newspaper. Charles Colson, henchman for Richard Nixon in the Watergate affair and subsequent inmate in a federal prison, was passing through Hong Kong as part of some born-again Christian slimebag tour. To think I could have shoved him under a 10-ton truck. Or invited him into Caroline’s. He would have looked exactly right hunched up in Pervs’ Corner leering at passers-by in the street.

*Gin, Guinness and ginger beer; some, imagining that it is a girly cocktail rather than a sub-category of rat poison, prissily include Cointreau, cranberry juice and lime and probably stick a little paper umbrella in it.


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12 Responses to Charles Colson: my part in his post-prison life

  1. Real Tax Payer says:

    I read somewhere that Chuck Colson became a Christian when in prison

  2. Weedon Grossmith says:

    There’s a guy works down the chip shop swears he’s Elvis!

    Surely you must have greater claims to fame than this?

    You don’t???

  3. AHW says:

    Ah – Caroline’s! Haven’t thought about that place in years. Wasn’t “Caroline’s mum” the woman who died while undergoing very uncomplicated surgery at the Adventist? And then the hospital sent her grieving widower a bill for the surgery & hospital stay?

  4. AHW says:

    Sorry – a friend has just said he believes it was the Canossa. An oxygen bottle contained almost pure notrogen. Apologies to Adventist.

  5. I read somewhere that Chuck Colson became a Christian when in prison

    After which, as an evangelical American Christian, Colson continued to play hardball by propagating an ugly, vicious, mean-spirited war against women as well as people in the LGBT community.. He was a vile man.

  6. Wanchai Dreamer says:

    @ AHW

    I remember this case – about 1989. The deceased lady was Shirley Boyde whose husband, Tom, was a professor at HKU. A very sad case indeed all the more so as not only was it a simple procedure but another operation was going on in the next theatre and the patient was delivered the same incorrect gas mix – fortunately she survived. I remember Caroline’s but cannot recall for sure if she was Shirley’s daughter.

  7. Chopped Onions says:

    Ear, I ad that chuck colson in the back of my cab once, dropped im off in wan chai as he said he wanted to talk to angels…. Dirty ol bugger

  8. Jason90 says:

    The central oxygen supply at Canossa was supplying nitrogen instead of oxygen.
    The Shirley Boyde Trust was established with the money received by her family in compensation.
    The most recent Shirley Boyde Memorial Lecture was at Hong Kong University last month – J Craig Ventner speaking on his area of expertise.

  9. Joe Blow says:

    The defective bottle of oxygen -no wait ! nitrogen !!- was supplied by the company that was (mis)managed by Alf Butler, husband of Diane Butler, who was once a fixture of the social scene (think ‘Tatler’ losers).

    Caroline was the daughter of Shirley. Shirley was operated on her toe.

    I once walked up Wyndham Street around the same time and bumped into Bob Hawke. On another occasion I bumped into Phil Whelan, “the Cliff Richard of Hong Kong”. So there.

    This was the era before the Escalator. ‘Twas a different time then and, NO, it wasn’t better. Oh no.

  10. Probably says:

    What on earth is “civil service morale”? Are we talking about grown-ups or molly-coddled children here? If they are unhappy with their jobs then do what the rest of us would do and leave for greener pastures. There will be a queue a mile long to fill their cosseted index linked pension posts outside of the pressures of the real world wealth creation industry – myself probably included!

  11. Probably says:

    Oops! Posted under the wrong days contribution. Should be for tomorrow’s!

    (How prescient is that?)

  12. chan young man says:

    too bad a passer-by described a ex-con thus.
    i was probably by his side that day, admiring the transformation of Mr. Colson and his pioneering work in prison reform. He was then recovering from stomach cancer but still battling on against the cancer of sin.
    as his interpreter, i remember one of his quotes during that visit. ” It does not matter who rules over HK in 1997, it matters who rules over the hearts of the HK people.”

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