Monday, October 17, 2005

I've seen the future and it hurts

In the cab to Beijing airport the driver was playing some Chinese pop music which was actually really good: Coldplay-ish, I suppose, and shades of U2 and Nirvana (I'm not painting a very attractive picture here, I realise). When we asked what it was, he took the CD out and tried to give it to us. I still have no idea what it was and we refused to take the CD, although he may just have copied it somewhere anyway as it had the generic no-brand label of a CD from a pack of blanks.

I think the music might have sounded better than it really was partly because we are so used to awful Cantopop that it was refreshing to hear a sweet, mellow voice singing in Chinese something that didn't sound trite. It could have been a lament for choked lungs or a meditation on a doomed love affair, or it could have been a song about eating some truly excellent siew long bao (Shanghainese dumplings).

Strongly reminded of it by the city we'd just visited, we talked about the film Blade Runner and about how visions of the future showing the world as a polluted city where only the poor breathe the air is so much more believable than the sanitised, graceful ballet of space stations in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The plane was delayed for an hour and as I was due back in Hong Kong for a very important conference call at 9, I started feeling increasingly anxious. We touched down at 8pm and I left my colleague to carry the brown paper-wrapped painting I'd bought and ran at full speed through the airport - clattering in my high heels and yanking along my little black suitcase on wheels to great amusement from passers-by - through immigration, and on to the airport express train.

It's a sign of the extraordinary efficiency of Hong Kong's airport and transport system that I was sitting at my desk in Central at two minutes past 9, dialling the conference call number with my heart still pounding from the effort.

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