Friday, March 30, 2007

Foreign lesion

I went to have my moles scanned again today at the unwieldily-titled Hong Kong Skin Cancer Diagnostic Unit (HKSCDU) in Des Voeux Road, Central. Unlike last time there was no feeling of euphoria when I left: it was a different nurse who immediately made me feel uneasy as she seemed so unsure of what she was doing. Initially she said tentatively that she wasn’t sure if she could identify the moles that were previously scanned. She couldn’t work the camera and we had to give up on getting my five suspect moles photographed; and when she scanned my moles and tried to mark where they were on my body on the body outline provided in the software, she kept marking them as being on my right arm instead of my left so we had to go through the whole process again for each one (scan the mole with the little handheld scanning “gun”, press too hard so it hurts and arguably distorts the mole, wait aeons till the software loads the photo, mark where the mole is on the electronic representation of my body for easy identification). She casually described one of my moles as “suspicious”, which didn’t inspire much of a sense of well-being; and she had such an air of timidity that I began to wonder if she’d ever done this before. (I had to bite back the sarcastic remark “First day in the job?”)

The problem was that I was feeling increasingly disagreeable, and I knew that I was intimidating her, and as I intimidated her, she became more nervous, and as she got more nervous she made more mistakes (at one point the poor women said “I’m not having a good day”). I just couldn’t help it, though: it’s bad enough subjecting yourself to the uncertainty of submitting your moles for examination in case one of them has decided to mutate, and seeing your potentially-cancerous “lesion” appear on screen at 1000 times its usual size – the size of a small plate, in fact - and the magnification making the hairs on my arms appear like big black cables, without having someone ineptly squeezing K-Y jelly (used for the scanner) all over your arm as they fumble with the technology and nervously chit-chat about how suspicious my moles look.

As I write this I feel somewhat guilty about my absolute inability to empathise with her muddling and wonder whether someone reading this might immediately conclude that I’m a bad-tempered curmudgeon. But I think that professionals should be, if nothing else, professional. Not only that: I am paying HK$2000 per mole to be reassured. That aside, I resolve henceforth to comport myself with better grace under pressure.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Next, please

Always too eager for the future, we
Pick up bad habits of expectancy.
Something is always approaching; every day
Till then we say,
Watching from a bluff the tiny, clear
Sparkling armada of promises draw near.

How slow they are! And how much time they waste,
Refusing to make haste!
Yet still they leave us holding wretched stalks
Of disappointment, for, though nothing balks
Each big approach, leaning with brasswork prinked,
Each rope distinct,
Flagged, and the figurehead with golden tits
Arching our way, it never anchors; it's
No sooner present than it turns to past.
Right to the last
We think each one will heave to and unload
All good into our lives, all we are owed
For waiting so devoutly and so long.

But we are wrong:
Only one ship is seeking us, a black-
Sailed unfamiliar, towing at her back
A huge and birdless silence. In her wake
No waters breed or break.

Philip Larkin

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Eton trifles

As anyone who knows me will testify, I am unashamedly partisan towards Scotland. As long as a public figure (usually in either sport or politics) is Scottish, they can do no wrong in my eyes (not you, Tony Blair, you’re just pretending). Lantern-jawed automaton David Coulthard; petulant boy genius Andy Murray; premature pensioner Colin Montgomerie; and last but not least in a very long list, po-faced PM-in-waiting Gordon Brown (despite his apparent attachment to ruinous PFI projects).

I was on a flight from London to Edinburgh at Christmas two years ago and Gordon Brown and his family were in business class (with British Midland, this is nothing special: you get a slightly more comfortable seat and a curtain separating you from economy). When we got off, with no personal security or accompanying minions in sight, Gordon went to the carousel with everyone else to pick up his family’s bags. And somehow that really impressed me.

Overwhelming pro-Scottish bias on my part aside, I can scarcely believe that any British voter seriously thinks that lightweight old Etonian nepotist David Cameron is a viable Prime Minister. Only the most shallow trend-driven unthinker could possibly be considering voting Conservative in the next election. This is all you need to know about David Cameron.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, in the first decade of the 21st century, hundreds of women in India are being accused of witchcraft and either murdered or assaulted and dispossessed by their ignorant, superstitious neighbours.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Differently Alber

There's something about Alber Elbaz'z designs for Lanvin that I find absolutely beautiful: and I'm drawn to the Lanvin racks in Lane Crawford to run my hands over the silk and admire the precise cut, economy of style, and perfect use of texture and colour (different shades of black have never melded so well).
Despite the ill-advised black fright-wigs the poor models were given to wear at his recent A/W ready to wear shows in Paris (was this a fashion anti-statement or a simple mistake?), the shoes are astonishing (viz. the wobbly red heel in the second picture) and the dresses are inviolable.
Pink Crocs anyone? (The previous post was nearly titled Croc of Shit, but I thought better of it.)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Having tried and failed to post pictures of jaw-droppingly wonderful Lanvin dresses at the weekend (watch this space), and with my head full of pleasant thoughts of the new season which, despite veering off towards the unwearable (sky high spring heel shoes, lucite wedges and violent blue patent leather everywhere you look), has shown some interesting signs of being more than just a barely-disguised copy of, sorry hommage to, the 60s, the 80s, let-them-eat-cake, whatever, I was walking through Hong Kong's International Finance Centre this morning. Imagine my distress when I passed a man in a formal, dark blue pinstriped business suit wearing a pair of pink Crocs.

Not a clog, not a flip-flop, not a water shoe - it's a fully fledged abomination and the hands-down, top-ranking, toe-curling candidate for ugliest footwear ever designed.

Yet this guy had this smug look on his face, the look of a self-proclaimed iconoclast: (a) hey! check out my cool shoes! (b) They're the funky sting in the tail of my formal attire! (c) Baudrillard's not dead!

All I can say is: (a) Yes I have (though I dearly wish I'd never set eyes on you). (b) No they're not. They are a scourge of humankind. (3) Yes he is.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Another country

Perhaps I'm toughening up - hallelujah! - or maybe I'm already as hard as nails without even realising it. I'm pleased to report that the work disasters of the last few weeks have passed by me on the waters. The advice I give to anyone in trouble - "just step over it" - which in turn I was once given by one David Beaumont in the hallowed, and drug-steeped, environs of a bar called La Sorbonne in the Grassmarket in Edinburgh in, good grief, 1985 - seems to have worked for me, too.

It does seem hugely self-indulgent of me to complain about work, in any case. I wanted responsibility? I got it. Now shut up and get on with it.

I could say the aforesaid David Beaumont - a rakish, good looking individual who must, I admit, take some of the blame for the fact that I decided to do a law degree, as he'd just completed one at Aberdeen - meant well, but clearly he didn't, and the insouciance and quasi-contempt with which he delivered the lines really stuck with me. Yes - I kind of liked it.

No need to talk about why he gave me this advice, at least not this time.

The past is another country. They do things differently there.
L.P. Hartley