Buildings may go down as well as up.
I arrived in Hong Kong to find that there was a problem with the banking network – so I thought – which left me throwing myself on the mercy of the guesthouse until I found that I could get money using my ICBC card. What I discovered the next day was that I’d been trying to withdraw too much money at one go. I also managed to mislay my passport by placing it in the inner pocket of my rucksack and forgetting that that was where I put it; and then I locked myself out of my room. I did not have a good Sunday.
The news in Hong Kong was the collapse of a building the previous Friday which killed several of the occupants because of various (illegal) structural changes over the years. The article on the front page of the Sunday Morning Post gave the numbers of buildings which were potentially at risk in each district. I must admit that as I wandered around Hong Kong, I kept half an eye on the buildings to see whether I could spot, say, enclosed balconies or any other signs that they fabric of the building had been modified. When I was walking down Johnston Road in Wan Chai (湾仔), I noticed that a lot of the buildings overhung the pavement, but I couldn’t tell whether they were supposed to have balconies or not. I also noticed some buildings around my part of Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀) which looked like they might’ve been modded.
There was an absolute dearth of Vanilla Coke in Hong Kong, and I note it seems to be being replaced with Lemon Coke here. I seem to have cleaned out the last of the Vanilla Coke from Trust Mart.
The trip was purely a shopping expedition because I haven’t been to the real world in a year and I needed (some) stuff. Thus I have new trousers and shoes (not absolutely necessary, but I’ve been wondering whether the shoes I bought in New Zealand last year might be contributing to the eczema that was plaguing them at the end of term); the upgrade to Windows 7 which took me three hours to install (Vista SP3, methinks, but I detect signs of an improvement overall; some obvious differences such as the ability to tell W7 to pin various programs to the taskbar instead of dragging them there; a reorganised calculator; I’ll find other things as I explore further); and twelve books or so.
I read Peter Hessler’s River Town, but I was a few years late with that one. It was interesting enough, but I’m already familiar with the territory. One or two chapters in the book seemed to be padding, and I found phrases such as “our China” and “your America”, which reflect Chinese idiom, to be annoying and grating. There is definitely a difference between the students Hessler was teaching and the 90s generation which I’ve largely had to suffer since I came to China, although a lot of what he said was familiar. I wonder what Fuling is like today and how much it differs from the city of 1996.
I also read Dial M for Merde, the latest of Paul West’s adventures in France by Stephen Clarke. Unlike the previous volume in the series, this one is back in France, but set in Provençal and back on target. West is recruited by French police to keep an eye on his girlfriend who is supposedly plotting to assassinate the French president who will preside over the wedding of West’s ex-girlfriend, Elodie, to the rich, coke-addled Valéry. In the end, West saves the president, is awarded a medal, and scores with the hot French police woman who was leading the investigation. His slightly addle-brained friend, Jake, also manages to get a grant out of the French government for his dreadful poetry.
I have 44 Scotland Street to read as well (although I’m beginning to think that Alexander McCall Smith is a little too prolific), and a couple of books by Stephen Hunt which I bought on a whim because I didn’t want to return here just with books about chess. I have no idea whether I’ll like them or not, and there is a third book, although Page One didn’t have it. I’m not sure whether they form a series or not. (Turns out that they do.)
My return from Hong Kong was not so good. I ended up kicking the wall in the guesthouse because of a dream I was having, and then woke up rather sooner yesterday morning than I wanted to to find it was absolutely tipping down outside for the first time. The rest of the week had been grey and cool with very, very slight drizzle, but I had had no cause to use an umbrella until then. Got to the airport and had to wait in an enormously long queue. The arrival of the plane was a little delayed, but it was slight. When we got on the plane, the weather seemed to have worsened again. The clouds had been sitting low on the hills of Lantau Island, disappeared behind a curtain of heavy rain, and then reappeared.
We taxied out to the runway and sat watching huge clouds of water being thrown up as planes came in to land. And there we sat for quite some time, the word being that the weather was against us. Just as I began wondering whether we might head back to the terminal building, the pilot announced that he’d decided to return because the plane needed refuelling. As the ground crew did that, we had lunch and continued to sit around until we left at 3.30pm, three and a half hours after our scheduled departure time. In other words, I spent over five hours on the plane.
I’m pleased to say that the IMDb is viewable once again. Speaking of movies, I watched Avatar the evening I left. How the hell that pile of witless shite made so much money I don’t know, but can only attribute it to the visual effects if you can see it in 3D. It was so long and dull that I went off and had a shower. Technology, bad; Colonel Mecha Gargamel, bad; giant smurfs and creatures with more eyes and legs than they need, good.
I’m not so pleased to note that when I got back yesterday evening, I found that the C-store next to the gate has gone. That’s a nuisance because it stocked things that foreigners want where the shop inside the entrance is basically a Chinese affair. Where am I going to find my Smoovlatté now? The Kedi back along the street where the prices are utterly mercenary?
Anyway, it’s time to go and do some shopping and have lunch.