Friday, December 16, 2005

Such a heel

This entry is written to the accompaniment of chanting, clanging of cymbals and banging of drums by a small, but clearly determined, band of protestors outside the Far East Finance Centre.

Consider this proof, if any were needed, of how shallow I am: the great global debates of the day are happening right outside my office and I am thinking about shoes. (Chlőe shoes, if you're wondering.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rough trade

Yesterday, although not for very long, and not in any particularly significant way, I was twice almost at the nexus of the global conflict over trade. From my office window I can see the Convention Centre where the WTO talks are going on, as well as the barriers and closed roads around its circumference. I’m on the 24th floor but I could hear shouting and looking down to the street I could see a ring of Korean farmers staging a sitdown protest outside the Far East Finance Centre.

In the street, on my way home, I was approached by two Icelandic MPs and their secretary, delegates at the conference, who asked me where they could find somewhere nice to eat (specifically not Chinese food). I took them up the escalator and left them in SoHo outside an Italian restaurant. They didn’t speak much English so although I tried, I couldn’t get them to share their views of the purpose or likely outcome of the current talks.

The police are using pepper spray and the papers are full of rather weird shots of what looks like guano being sprayed on protestors’ heads. It sounds callous but we laughed heartily at pictures of Korean farmers jumping in the filthy harbour. After a few mouthfuls of that water, the global imbalance in trade will be the least of their worries.

Of course, there are serious issues here too and you get the feeling that people’s fears are not being addressed by the self-congratulatory elite holed up inside the Conference Centre or being directed to an Italian restaurant in one of Asia’s richest cities while farmers starve or throw themselves in the harbour.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A view with rooms

From the window of the room where I'm writing this, I can't actually see any sky: the view fills with windows into other people's rooms. In Mid-Levels (which is Mid-Way between Victoria harbour and the mountainous Peak) everyone lives in a multi-storey flat.

My friend Peter says I'm an über-urbanite: and having grown up in the countryside with a hay field at my back, I embrace city living to the utmost. You don't get fresh air anywhere in Hong Kong, even in the countryside, so it doesn't really matter where you live, but I'm happy being somewhere where I can buy a pint of milk at 2am.

I met a construction engineer at a drinks party the other night and he said that he welcomes the HK attitude of out with the old, in with the new when it comes to knocking down old buildings to build prestige developments: not just because of his profession, but because it's the way HK has always been and it's part of what makes it a dynamic place to live.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends


I'm after the juice again,
You know, the old elixir,
We used to slug it down,
uncaring where came after.

I'm seeking out that buzz,
bringing, beaded/brimming,
the briny mental fuzz,
or my cheap grin.

Cut glass, our voices up
the cry, the seeker
gone to get his cup,
to dive the deeper

wash of good creation.
Aged and splendid song,
barrelling along the notion
of never being wrong,

I know where you are stored,
past the wary and the slow,
bust out our bursting hoard -
24.99, let's go.

John Pache