29 May, 2007

Strange Encounters

I’m having a strange stiff correspondence with some admin woman in the children’s prospective new school in the UK. She is one of these very middle class women who clearly has a problem with the fact that I use her first name (and my own first name) instead of keeping everything on a Mrs So-and-So basis, as if we were two Edwardian women with pokers up our arses.

I suppose I should be charitable and just let her have her way, particularly as actually I think it would be rather entertaining to revert to title and surname – it would be like going back in time. But it bugs me that it bugs her. Let’s face it, I’m her customer. I should be able to call her Bogface, if I want to.

It seems to me that if I can call the chairman of Very Big Bank plc by his first name, I should certainly be allowed to call Mrs Uptight School Administrator by her first name. No doubt she thinks it’s all very “American” and cringes every time I do it. All I can say is, Move into the 21st century, woman.

Speaking of strange foibles, I was at dinner with a woman the other day, who on sitting down at table declared that she was pleased that the seating plan recognized her status as the most important person at the table, by virtue of the fact that the United States congress (or senate? Can’t remember) had confirmed her in her current role and she had received her commission from the President himself.

This was obviously meant to be ironic self-inflation, so I asked her if the President, on handing her the commission, also had to hit her over the head with a baton.

And she said, “No. Well, I received the commission from Bill Clinton, who’s a friend.”

Later on, it occurred to me that this was an odd thing to say. She doesn’t need to tell me that she’s a friend of Bill Clinton to impress me. I’m Chinese, for God’s sake. Her being twenty years older than me is all it takes to win about as much cordial interest from me as anyone can reasonably hope to gain in the context of a dinner party.

And why did she go in for the ironic self-inflation line if she didn’t want to go down the ironic self-deprecation route conversationally? Hmm.

Got some alumni bumf through the post yesterday, which led me to the newly-published book of an absolutely dreadful woman that I used to know at college. Praiseworthy review in the Guardian (note to self: time to switch to the Telegraph) and considerably more measured review in the NY Times. Here is an extract:

“But the Christian god will never win, for still, still proudly anarchic, in thunder and cunt, cock and lightning, the raw core of our human spirit is still untamed, full of will, eloquent, complex, kinetic and fleetly wild.”

It’s hard to think of anything I could say which might damn the woman more eloquently than her own prose-style. What I cannot understand is how anyone can read even one sentence of this drivel without reaching for the sickbag, let alone contemplate forking out twenty quid for it.

28 May, 2007

Back From Beijing

Back from Beijing where we luged (sp.?) down the Great Wall at Mutianyu. I am now obsessed with tracking down all available luge sites in Europe – I love luges! Lunch afterwards in a place called The Schoolhouse, set up by a charming couple, him American her Chinese, who retired to their country house in Mutianyu and are now doing their bit to support the local economy via this and other activities like building local holiday homes.

Saturday to the Forbidden City. This was an ordeal as we hiked across the burning anvil of a never-ending succession of huge courtyards, each one designed to bludgeon you into submission: Who’s the best emperor of them all, eh? Many jokes about the Sublime Hall of Get Me the Hell Out of Here, and the Pavilion of the Eternal Queue for the Water Conveniences.

The family as a whole was like a series of illustrations from a medical textbook, with the exception of Larry who continues robustly normal – she is a changeling. Curly had her usual range of eczema-related ailments. LSS somehow managed to scratch his cornea without noticing it and spent the whole weekend with his eye weeping and squinting against any bright lights. (His doctor is beginning to suspect him of Munchhausens, which incidentally was the subject of an episode of House that I watched on the flight back, in an effort to find out why grown women come over all weak at the knees at the sight of Hugh Laurie. Hugh Laurie, for God’s sake!) Mo has suddenly started wetting the bed, presumably brought on by move-related stress. (I wish people would just act stressed, if they’re stressed, instead of coming out with physical symptoms.) And as for me, an innocuous-looking insectbite on my left thigh suddenly blossomed into a horrible oozing lump, which I personally reaped much entertainment from poking and squeezing, while the rest of the family suppressed their retches/ran away screaming/fainted dead away etc.

Also after all that smugness about writing a page a day, I am now 2 ½ days behind!

23 May, 2007

24 Mania

Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Someone has lent me the first 10 episodes of series 6 of 24. LSS has made a great vat of chili and bought tortilla chips. That’s my evening taken care of.


I’m writing a kids book at the moment, although I only manage to do about a page a day, I’ve been doing that consistently for about 3 weeks now, having started it very energetically months ago, and then let it lapse. The Argentinian once told me that the rule is that if you can do something daily for 3 weeks, then it becomes a habit and is easy to keep up.

This is true. I write it in bed before I go to sleep, and I find now that the moment I get into bed at the end of the day, it is automatic to power on the laptop and just get on with it. The secret is not to be bothered if it seems like crap or you have no idea what to write. I have a broad general plan and then I just write something. After all, I can always edit it afterwards. It is a lot easier to edit than it is to write from scratch. I reckon I’m about a third of the way through the first draft now (35000 words).

It’s not a lot, but it makes me feel like Tim Robbins in the Shawshank Redemption, scraping away the wall behind his gigantic Farrah Fawcett poster, until the day he can crawl out into the sewer and escape.

The book is fun too! Well, I think so anyway. And there are a great many attractive people in it. As Diana Wynne Jones says, Books without attractive people are boring. Very true, and something that a lot of proper writers could do with remembering.

22 May, 2007


Oh, dear, I nearly made someone cry today. Not on purpose. All in all, I do not think I have been the nicest person around in the past 24 hours. The thing is, people ask, but they don’t really want to know.

Anyway, LSS tells a funny story about yesterday at the Parkview Park n Shop where a bevy of typical squawky-voiced large-arsed English mums were gathered at the checkout. In swans this 6-foot tall blonde Germanic vision of loveliness, with 2 angelic blonde children in tow. Silence falls. You can feel the hatred pulsing towards her in vibes from the Squawky Mums. The thing is, if she hadn’t had the children with her, they could have dismissed her as just a blonde airhead with nothing to do except devote herself to self-beautification. But WITH the children, there is no option left but to think: She’s just...better than me. AND her children are better than my children.

Depressed at my stupidity. Going to go off and eat lunch and try to forget.

21 May, 2007

Pre-emptive Nostalgia

It was chucking it down all weekend, so no swimming. Still it was a lovely weekend. Went for a run round Lugard Road on Sunday, as I had a headache and there was no Panadol in the house. Lugard Road was blissfully clear of weekend tourists. Went strolling back up, with my 30 caplets of Panadol Extra clutched in my sweaty fist (but I didn't need it in the end as the headache went away on its own), really enjoying the cool damp breeze and all the beautiful greenery and experiencing a moment of missing HK in advance.

Mo said thoughtfully this morning, We didn't care about HK at all when we moved here, and now we're sad to leave.

Very true.

Feeding the Girls

Saturday LSS was down at the club watching the FA Cup final with his cronies. I looked in the cupboard to see what to feed the girls (Mo was at a football party sleepover). There was no food in the house apart from a vast selection of tinned soups, and some tins of dace left over from when we were stockpiling against avian flu.

Baked potato and baked beans? I said hopefully. Yes, please, mummy, said the little darlings angelically looking up from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody on the Disney Channel.

Oh, no, the oven won't light. In fact, it hasn't been working since 2 weeks ago when I tried to bake biscuits for church. I microwave the potatoes which is strictly against my "rules" as I do not understand why it is dangerous for me to irradiated by a leaking microwave oven, but it is not dangerous for me to eat food that has been irradiated by a microwave oven.

And oh no, there are no baked beans either. Replace them with sardines. It's a little unorthodox, but this is how great culinary ideas are born.

Girls wake up very early on Sunday and beg to be taken down to McDonalds for twisty pasta breakfast.

Magic Squares

Helping Mo with his homework on Saturday. He had to do a magic square - fit all the numbers from 2 to 17 into a 4 x 4 square, so that all rows, columns and diagonals add up to 38.

I plunged in recklessly assuming that it must be quite easy to do by trial and error, since there was no clue as to how to do it. It was not easy. Several swearwords, curses brought down on the head of his teacher, and an Excel spreadsheet later, I worked it out (at 5am this morning! when something that someone said to me yesterday gave me a way into it). What the hell was she thinking of setting this problem for a bunch of Y5 students? Mo can barely list the prime numbers below 10, let alone wrap his brain round something like this.

PS Mo still has no clue how to do this. I have a slight tendency to take over his homework, forgetting that the point of it is not to discover the square of 5, but for Mo to learn how to do it.


We were visiting friends in a highly-protected block yesterday. New guard comes out and we tell him the friends' name. He looks puzzled. Which apartment are they in? Actually, we don't know - we just know how to get there from the gate. So we call the friends who tell the guard that yes, they are expecting us. He lets us in. What is the point of that? The people we called could have been anyone. It could have been my mother in KL. If they are going to rely on a call to the so-called occupants of the apartment, then every apartment-owner should know a secret code, which they can say to the guard, to demonstrate that they are indeed occupants of the block.

He's only doing his job, says LSS pacifically.

I don't mind him doing his job. What I mind is people miming doing their job, while actually performing no useful function. Except me of course.

18 May, 2007

Mind Is Wandering

If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Mine would be invisibility, which satisfies the twin demands of security and curiosity.

We are choosing carpet tiles at work. Turquoise, lavender or lime-green? The decision will be purely democratic sudden-death - not French-election style. I lean towards the lime-green - we could have our own mini-golf range in one of the meeting rooms.

I was in a meeting today thinking of one of the participants, Why are you hiding behind those librarian-glasses and that schoolgirl bob and cardigan, when you are secretly very pretty?

16 May, 2007

Workplace Performance

Yesterday LSS had to supervise a table of excitable 7 year olds as they attempted to fashion an Egyptian sarcophagus out of cardboard and sticky tape. He said the top 10% listened to the instruction once: "ok, I measure from here to here, then cut out the template? Done"; the middle 80% got the gist but kept on coming back with questions like, "I've done this wrong, what do I rub it out with? Oh, a rubber? OK"; and the bottom 10% were, like, "Pencil? what's that? where am I? what's my name? will someone tell me what is going on, for the love of God?"

The top performer was a girl called Felicia, who frankly, I am ready to hire right now. Was she by any chance Chinese, I asked? Of course she was. This is no different from my workplace, where, globally, Asia-Pacific gets everything done, materially correct, and on time, while everybody else argues and hires consultants and drops their rulers (Latam) and pisses off for lunch (France).

Visitors and Holidays

hooray! 4th aunt is coming for a holiday in June. Now that we know what her idea of hospitality is like, we can show her some HK-style. Dulwich and Fiance are also popping by at around the same time. After a dearth, a plethora.

Apart from Beijing next week and Kyoto in June, we are also planning a MITH offsite somewhere in France (I have no geography - France, for me, consists of Paris; and everywhere else) with the Merde Alors.


What a curvy lady I saw getting into the lift today! She was all in black, with a top that emphasised her embonpoint, and city shorts, which emphasised her derriere (why are all these words French?). She looked like a lovely big juicy dumpling.

15 May, 2007

Swollen Finger

I seem to have been spending a lot of time in the banking hall lately. Today the teller who was processing a sterling dividend cheque for me (“can’t stage musicals without checkies!”) had a grotesquely swollen middle finger on her right hand – it was like a cartoon finger – and the one next to it looked like it was going the same way. It wasn’t reddened or anything, it was as if something glandular had gone wrong. The poor thing. I wanted to ask what caused it, but I suppose it would have been rude. Surely in this day and age, there must be something they can do to cure this kind of thing?

14 May, 2007

More Time Passes

Yet another wedding banquet on Saturday, this time at the Jockey Club clubhouse in Happy Valley. Lots of deep-fried stuff with extra salt for dipping it in, just to make sure that heart condition is coming along nicely. Wedding itself was at City Hall – the bride was very emotional and could not speak without crying, which I thought was very sweet.

LSS feigning debilitation on both Sat and Sun morning, which mysteriously disappears the minute we walk out the door! Anyway, he made a huge steak pie on Saturday, which was lovely. It’s very important to have the remains of a cold steak pie lurking around in the kitchen somewhere, at all times.

Swimming at the club. Some delightful person had left a used baby’s nappy on the table next to our lounger. There are a lot of uncivilised people in HK and without any evidence whatsoever I suspect this party of being your classic squawky-voiced overweight gweipo who thinks she can get away with any kind of crass behaviour because she is in Asia. Very racist, I know. But, hey, I’m Chinese, I’m supposed to be racist.

Prosecco on the lawn with the Merde Alors. She had just been to a kids’ party at AMC and looked frazzled. Recommended that next time she bring a Snapple bottle with her, filled with whisky.

Reading James Hamilton-Paterson’s Amazing Disgrace (not as funny as Cooking with Fernet Branca so far) and some other chap's Confessions of an Economic Hitman – while I am willing to believe anything negative about the US at the moment, his story is slightly undermined by his cover photo, which makes him look like a mahogany-tanned white-toothed snake-oil merchant.

10 May, 2007


I'm so depressed. Somebody tell me a joke.

09 May, 2007

Manners Makyth Man

My old tutor finally snuffed it and the college has written asking for donations to a memorial fund. The current tutors are donating GBP100 each – because they are academics and poorly paid. Or they are mean buggers. Now should I also be a mean bugger and chip in GBP100? – let’s face it, I barely interacted with the guy, apart from being thrown out of a tutorial on Ben Jonson for failing to be able to name a single character in Volpone. Including Volpone. Or should I be flash and chip in more, which I would only be doing to rub their noses in the fact that they might be Oxford dons and all-round top brains, but I’m still richer than they are? Not in the things of the spirit, obviously, as this little dilemma fittingly illustrates. Just in filthy lucre.

08 May, 2007

My Motto

I'm trying to work up a motto for my own personal crest. So far I have come up with: "I am what I am, and if you don't like it, go f**k yourself."

I think this might sound more impressive in Latin. Does anyone out there have sufficient command of colloquial Latin to offer a rendering?

07 May, 2007

Our Weekend

Didn’t go out on Friday night as had to stay late for a monumentally pointless conference call, which was entirely taken up with NY’s concerns.

But what a lovely weekend otherwise! Saturday was a bit grotty but when we descended from the clouds, the weather was fine enough for a trip to Shek O where we went to the Chinese Thai place on the corner by the roundabout and had: spicy salt and pepper squid, fried rice with salt fish, asparagus and garlic, kangkong belacan, fried kway teow and minced pork and tofu with whole black peppercorns. Ate until we were stuffed and still had to bungkus most of it. Then ho! for the beach. A tiny little old lady, who barely came up to my shoulder, accosted us in the carpark (Free Parking!) trying to rent us deckchairs and umbrellas. When we indicated our assent, she raced away and after keeping us waiting so long we thought she must keep her beach equipment in a godown in Stanley, she eventually re-emerged fully laden down. She had to commandeer the help of another beach umbrella person to help her with the deckchairs etc while we strode majestically over the sand, selecting the optimal spot for our setup. Ah, you don’t get this level of service from pensioners in the UK!

Got home and remembered I’d promised to bake biscuits for post-church bunfest on Sunday. Curly “helped” by eating the raw biscuit dough and licking the golden syrup spoon. The oven helped by going out in the middle of the baking, requiring me to enlist the help of LSS and his advanced firemaking skills to relight it.

Watching Spiderman 3 trailer. Curly sagely advised that there was no such thing as superheros. I told her that there are however people who are much more heroic because they are brave and good and stand up for what is right, in spite of the fact that they have no superpowers to protect them. This was borne out by the sermon on Sunday when the pastor told a cheery story about a Polish priest who starved to death in Auschwitz when he took the place of 1 of 10 people who had been selected at random by the Nazis for death by starvation in reprisal for something or other. They starved them until they needed the cell and then finished them off with carbolic acid. Words cannot express etc. Mo is doing WW2 this term at school. LSS is contributing by watching the World at War with him. So far they have watched edited highlights of the first 4 episodes. As Mo says plaintively: “Why do the British keep losing?”

Noticed a strange thing – when we go down on Sunday morning in the shuttlebus, all the Filipina helpers and I are holding on for dear life to avoid being flung hither and thither as we go round the curves. The children however just sit there, not holding on to anything, their feet dangling from the seat, not visibly tensing up, and they do not move at all. Are they too light to be subject to Newton’s laws of motion?

Sunday breakfast with the Ancient Greeks at the club, who are neither ancient, nor Greek. What nice people! Kept off the subject of American imperialist ambitions in the Middle East. Then swimming. Same hunky tattooed Latin guy was there from last week. I think we will be doing a lot more swimming at the club on Sundays! The entire family lunched off one of their massive burgers and fries. Back home, took the girls down to the Peak Galleria, where we sat out front by the fountain, ate orange ice-lollies and watched the people go by. Lovely. And free. Talked about dogshit:

Me: Do you remember last week when we came down there must have been about 10 steaming piles of dogpoo on the way down?
Larry: Yes, let’s not talk about it.
Curly: We kept on having to walk around it.
L: Yes, can we not talk about it?
C: I hope there’s no dogpoo today.
L: You’re talking about it!
C: I hate dogpoo.
L: Stop talking about it!
Etc etc

Two jokes from Mo:

Q: How did the Romans divide Gaul?
A: With a pair of Caesars.

Q: Where do bacteria go on holiday?
A: Germany.

04 May, 2007

The Child in Me

More yoga today. I notice that the only yoga posture I actually like (despite all the exhortations of the instructors to “enjoy the suffering”) is the Child. In most of the rest of the postures, I am generally standing/lying/squirming there thinking, If this were actually a form of torture, how long would I last before they broke me? Jack Bauer would make a good yoga instructor.

03 May, 2007


Went to yoga today as decided I am getting fat. There was a greying-at-the-temples yet hunky guy in the foyer, but sadly he was going to Power Yoga, while I was going to wimpy Sun Salutations, and I am not yet so hard up for yogic eye-candy that I would recklessly take a Power Yoga class just to have something to look at apart from the pert young buttocks of all the yoginis tying themselves into karmic loveknots.

02 May, 2007


Thank you Communist Party and the People’s Republic of China for yesterday’s holiday. They may be murderous totalitarian bustards but at least I got a lie-in.

Breakfast at the Wanchai Flying Pan with Curly’s best friend and famille. I don’t “get” grits – colourless and flavourless, they are the opposite of their name. I only order them in honour of a decent joke about grits in My Cousin Vinny: “You’re telling me the laws of physics are suspended on the top of your stove?”

Also learned yesterday that a chicken fried steak is not in fact made out of chicken.

And found out about an American invention called the chili slice, which is a burger with a can of chili poured on top of it.

Ah, the wonderful native cuisine of the Americas!

The car is up the spout. I’m beginning to think that automatic transmissions don’t like being bathed in fog for 4 months out of every year. This never used to happen with the good old Proton Wira in KL, although admittedly its engine did have the disconcerting habit of cutting out if you braked too abruptly when approaching a traffic light.

Had to take a taxi down to the HKFC where the kids had their inaugural HK swim of 2007. Feeling nostalgic for Asia already and videoed them romping in the waves. Also enjoyed the sight of a lovely Latin-looking bloke doing the crawl up and down the pool. He had a tattoo – one of those ones that goes around your upper arm like a bracelet. Now, oddly enough, that very day we had been looking at photos of clients outside Jimmy Tattoo’s tattoo parlour adjacent to the Flying Pan (with a name like that, Jimmy’s choice of occupation was pretty much preordained I think) and I had been roundly slagging off those specific designs (“Hideous. Hideous. Hideous.”) and the concept of tattooing in general, whilst formulating a rule of thumb regarding the inverse relationship between the attractiveness of one of these IQ-challenged dunderheads and their tattoo coverage. Now, after the evening’s viewing pleasures a la piscina, I think I’d have to say that it’s really more of a guideline than a rule.