My eldest son, Baby G, is 3/12 years old. When he had just turned three, his school – a lovely local nursery called BoBo (Treasure Treasure) – arranged a parent-teacher-child away day. Mrs. Passacalle and I dutifully trooped onto a Euro IV coach with baby G and endured the cheerful warblings of Au Sinsaang (Mrs. Au.)
During the course of the excursion, baby G wandered off into a corner to play with his schoolfriends. Naturally Mrs. P and I were thrilled, and were enthusiastically discussing this when a small circle former around him. We looked over to see what had happened. A small group of other parents had formed around him and one of his fellow students. They were grinning.
I wandered over to take a look. Baby G was standing in the middle of a small circle of adults, with a girl under each arm (both were tongxue (fellow-students) of his), with a devil-may-care grin on his face. The daddies in the parent group were elbowing each other and laughing. The mummies – including of course Mrs. P – were staring daggers. 有其父必有其子, they said – suspiciously.
It is 4:27am in Hong Kong. I know this because my eyes just flicked over to the timestamp in the bottom-right corner of my screen.
I woke up around 6am local time last night. If you’re anticipating athletic feats like the guys from the marine police station next door who can be seen braving the uncaring waves in the ungodly hours, you’ll be disappointed. I’m still up because I have been drinking scotch and listening to music.
There is a fictional character – Dan Starkey – written by a Northern Irish author called Colin Bateman. He is witty, charming and a drunk with an utterly messed up life. He is the most honest description of the smart, self-deprecating man’s alcohol problem I have seen in fiction. In a similar vein, watch a Dylan Moran skit for an example of talent soaked in vinegar. There is something profoundly wrong with a world in which Jimmy Carr appears in dull but un-fucked-up show after pointless show and Dylan Moran gives every sign of an increasingly one-sided relationship with the bottle with each brilliant performance.
Not a date to remember, particularly. Still,
I am now on my second and final day of holiday, vacation – maid being on a break – causa. My job grants me twenty days’ holiday every year, which are required to be booked at least 3 weeks in advance and which are subject to cancellation without notice if work demands require it. Work demands being what they are, it is a truism in my industry that taking a holiday is a crap shoot, because there is on any given occasion a better than break even chance that on the day you were supposed to be on holiday, a client of yours will want something done. A pervasive myth endures that your co-workers will cover for you if you are away and they are in; don’t fall for it. In my experience, the more likely scenario is that work will pile up and on your return, fresh and tanned, you will find not only that every task you left behind remains undone but also that your colleagues have thoughtfully ignored your clients so that you can expect to receive an elegant variety of friendly emails in your inbox. These tend to start with “Can you do X,” progress to “You are on holiday so I have asked Bob to do X,” take a detour via “Bob said he doesn’t know this deal from a sink plunger so terribly sorry to disturb your holiday and please do X” before culminating in “you didn’t do X even when I asked you twice, you are a BAD LAWYER and I will probably sue you maybe”.
As it happens, though, I had a quiet two days, which meant quality time with Baby G. I am shamefully proud of his Mandarin lesson last Saturday. Jungleroo is a local nursery popular with both Chinese and Foreign expats and wealthy Hongkongers, and offers a Mandarin class on Thursdays. The Mandarin lesson is a new offering and took the form of a sweet Shandongnese twentysomething taking him and a little Chinese boy through a series of exercises. The first involved the teacher holding up a series of plastic fruits and giving them to the child who could call the name correctly (in Mandarin) first. Three minutes in and the other child was holding his hands out triumphantly for his first fruit, a lemon. Baby G meanwhile had his little arms corralled around a cornucopia of plastic fruits and was busily engaged in trying to call out each new fruit before his little comrade could take the shot. In desperation the teacher tried to restore equality by making each call more difficult (OK children, this time you have to say in Mandarin “I should very much like it if you would be so obliging as to give me that delicious grapefruit,”) but all this did was further intimidate the other kid and further embolden Baby G, who is rather good at repeating stock phrases, with predictable results. Ten minutes in and G has his arms around a pile of fruits whereas the other boy is still forlornly clutching his lemon and looking daggers at my son. Good for G I suppose, but at what cost? Some fretting is warranted. If things continue this way he will end up with a career in confidence tricks or investment banking.
Welcome to this blog. I will periodically write about things I find interesting. That’s sort of the point.
October 31. This day was my Grandmother’s birthday – my Grandmother on my Father’s side. I remember sitting in her cluttered, musty two-up two-down in Hillingdon, squirming uncomfortably in my seat, hoping that Dad would decide soon that it was time to go home and release me to my mother and stepdad, to my home with my shelves full of books and plucky little Amstrad teeming with the potential for games, if only any of the tapes would work properly. Trying to ignore her stale breath and funny smell, ignorant of the desperate love a seventy-year-old can feel for her only Grandson.
Today, I am sitting on the 57th floor of an apartment block in Hong Kong, watching the midnight tide roll out to disappear beneath the pinpricks of light around the base of Kowloon East. I am
It is 4 hours ago and I am jostling through the crowds in Lan Kwai Fong, trying to get a taxi home. A girl in a zombie costume muscles her way over to me; blocks my path, throws slender arms around my shoulders. I can smell gin and campari on her breath: she is a Negroni drinker. Instantly, I approve.
“You’re cute,” she says. “I like you.” She gives me a powerful hug before her friends drag her away.
I get in the taxi and think about tax structuring issues until I’m home.
My wife is sleeping now, and my two sons. After getting home I remember that I haven’t taken out cash to pay the maids, and so I troop tiredly out to the nearest cashpoint to rectify matters. Later I mess around in Total War for a few hours, IM some friends, search out my WordPress password.
Then I write this, and go to bed. World, hello.