Hemlock's Diary

The ravings of Hong Kong's most obnoxious expat
15-21 June 2003
[email protected]
Mon, 16 Jun
Hong Kong is like a dog.  It’s noisy, and it doesn’t smell nice when it's wet.  Also like a dog, it obsessively cleans certain parts of itself.  Every day, the Nepalese street cleaners come down from their camps up in the hills to scrub exactly the same patches of Soho and Lan Kwai Fong, even after the summer monsoon has dumped several inches of rain on them.  The area around Staunton Street bounded by the Kathmandu, Sherpa and Nepal restaurants seems to receive extra-special attention.  You could eat yak cheese and dahl straight off the pavement.
See buxom Administrative Officer Winky Ip, mastermind of the anti-nose-picking campaign, getting into a car outside Central Government Offices.   “I’m just off to the airport to set up a special team of postcard censors at the Airmail Centre,” she reports. “You know the Government’s giving away all these free, postage-paid cards so people can tell the world Hong Kong’s safe to visit?” she asks.  “Oh yes,” I reply, “another infantile, money-wasting project.”  She ignores the comment.  “Well,” she says, lowering her voice, “people are writing really bad things on about 20 percent of them.”  I put on my “shocked and dismayed” face.  “Things like It’s all lies – thousands are still dying and Stay away if you know what’s good for you!” she explains.  “And,” she adds, almost whispering, “rude things about the Chief Executive. They’re writing things like …” she thinks hard.  “He’s not, um, as talented or effective as one might wish.”  I think I get the picture. There are some twisted people out there.
International Depression Meetup Day has been cancelled in Hong Kong, owing to lack of misery and hopelessness.  Eloquent proof that all is well in the Big Lychee.  Who needs childish postcards or desperately unconvincing TV commercials to tell us that the city is bouncing back?

Tue, 17 June
It's a pity – I was so looking forward to dressing up as a clown and buying them a few drinks to cheer them up.  My disappointment vanishes, however, as I pass through Central MTR and find that the mass transit system has taken up my suggestion to ban moronic, slovenly teenagers, excitable domestic helpers and other irritants from congregating in their otherwise pleasant subterranean facilities.  “Please do not meet your friends in the station,” reads the sign at the entrance.  But will they enforce it?  This is the scene Hong Kong expects to see
: 1. Gang of visually offensive, gawky youths with dyed hair, wearing rear-facing baseball caps and baggy jeans hanging around their thighs, lingers darkly near Mrs Fields Cookies.  2. Team of immaculately turned-out officers from the MTR’s Suppression of Vice and Promotion of Virtue Unit sneaks up on them from all sides, and, using pitchforks and electric cattle prods, herds them up the escalator, onto the street, and down an alleyway.  3. Nepalese street cleaners move in to scrub them with disinfectant, high-pressure hoses and stiff brushes.  This would give pointless, money-wasting job-creation schemes a good name.
Wed, 18 June
A call from our enchanting Secretary for Security, Regina Ip.  Beneath the fearsome jet-black mane
; behind the sharp tongue and the calculating eyes; within the confines of her Iron Butterfly® brand bullet-proof bra, is a soft and tender woman tormented by doubt.  Should she stay or go?  I urge her to go – take her daughter off to school in the US, and read poetry or something.  “Single mother puts only child before meteoric career,” I say.  “In her absence, the place continues to fall apart.  A couple of years later, she returns, radiant and vigorous, to rescue her people and take her rightful place at the top.”  She murmurs cautious approval.  Meanwhile, she needs to deliver the final blows to the Article 23 opposition.  “Easy targets,” I yawn.  “Margaret Ng, the Mogadon lawyer.  Martin Lee, clutching at passers-by and babbling like the ancient mariner at the start of Coleridge’s rime. And over in the mental health department, there’s the Falun Gong.  They say ‘Article 23 legislation is the Evil's insane persecution against the Fa’ and they must ‘form an indestructible, diamond-like Fa-rectification group of particles’ to fight it.”  She bursts out laughing.
Drop by the circus to see the clowns vote on a Motion of Thanks to the glorious motherland for so compassionately donating the SARS virus to Hong Kong a few months ago.  Where would Hong Kong have been, asks Legislator Ng Leung-sing, with tears of patriotism in his eyes, without the Mainland’s emergency gift of a million pirated Hello Kitty face masks (slight defect in stitching) and 10 tankers of chicken and ginseng soup?  Sobbing in the public gallery, I go through three packs of Happy Day brand tissues.  So moving are the tributes to the Mainland authorities, that four-fifths of Legco members apparently find the emotional intensity too much to bear and can't bring themselves to attend the vote.

Thurs, 19 June
Returning from gym/lunch, I step out of the lift and find the top floor of S-Meg Tower feeling noticeably slimier than two hours before.  Looking up, I see the reason.  Filipino-Chinese hotshot Bong-Bong Queveco is oozing around, yapping into his gold-plated phone in a mixture of Hokkien, Tagalog and the mid-20th Century American they speak in Manila.  Ms Fang the hunter-killer secretary looks on with distaste as the flamboyant tycoon waves his cigar in dangerous proximity to a Ming vase, already vulnerably positioned in the middle of the reception area at the behest of a demented feng-shui master.  Bong-Bong will spend the afternoon with the Big Boss, indulging in influence-peddling, mutual shoe-shining and the trading of carefully measured favours.  Ms Fang will then phone General Affairs.  Before Bong-Bong’s bullet-proof BMW leaves Central, before the engines on his Gulfstream fire up, hard-working S-Meg epsilons will have shampooed the carpet.

Fri, 20 June
Two emails. The first is from Morris, Scotland’s finest gift to the Hong Kong Police.  Duty to queen and country done in Iraq, he will soon be back.  “I’ll miss the British reporters here,” he writes.  “Guys from the
Times and the Telegraph.  I drank with them every night. We got totally buckled then went off to the Foreign Ministry building to go through the filing cabinets.  Got some great shots of Saddam Hussein, Jacques Chirac and George Galloway (my MP!) doing some sort of male bonding thing in the nude.  Worth $$$, you think?”  Hong Kong will be a safer place with him back in the New Territories, maintaining order among unruly villagers and humanely destroying wild dogs.  The second is from Tim, an old banker friend in the UK.  “Great news!” he announces.  “I’m being transferred to Hongkers for 3 years!  Bit worried about Andrea, though. How do you think the old bird will take to it?”  I email him back the truth…
Tim – the life-cycle of the expat wife in Hong Kong consists of the following, well-documented stages:

1. Goes to Hollywood Rd and buys antique wooden chests of drawers designed to store small quantities of herbal medicines, and useful for nothing else. 
2. Starts buying expensive and dull-looking antique silk dresses to hang on the wall. 
3. Opens an interior design business or art gallery, which loses husband money. 
4. Dabbles in tea-tree oil, crystals, reflexology, channelling, matters Ayurvedic and other cretinous New Age junk.
5. Starts going to the Mainland to rescue maltreated animals from zoos, circuses and markets. 
6. Adopts an abandoned baby girl from a dilapidated Mainland orphanage.  Gives the child a Chinese name so she can stay in touch with her infanticidal cultural heritage. 
7. Consumed by loathing for her own pasty, big-boned frame, attacks the dusky, lithe domestic helper with a knife (this happens earlier if your wife thinks you are sleeping with the maid). 

Being in the office or away on business, you’ll hardly notice most of this, but you should be warned.
1