Sunday, June 10, 2007


In the last two days apocalyptic weather conditions have beset Hong Kong: yesterday, at dragon boat practice at Middle Island, the dreaded red tide (algal bloom) was everywhere to be seen: sometimes frothy, sometimes thready, like egg yolks in the water, sometimes red, thick and gloopy and resisting the stroke of the paddle. The official line is that it is harmless to fish and humans, but looking across the bay at the tide of scum floating on the water, catching in the shark nets and forcing the closure of Repulse Bay and Deep Water Bay beaches, it seemed as though we might be the unsuspecting future victims setting out for an innocent paddle at the beginning of a B-movie entitled "RED TIDE".

Today we were in Lamma for their first International Dragon Boat Festival. Huge amounts of effort had clearly gone in to organisation, but there were amber rain and thunderstorm warnings at 7.30 am and conditions did not improve. The setting was spectacular, if determinedly urban, with a massive power station just to the left of the beach and the races running alongside the power station sea wall. After a handful of races in pretty rocky conditions, the heavens opened, the waves thrashed the shore and the races were halted, purportedly until the lightning stopped. I spent the next few hours huddled under a carapace of umbrellas with three other members of the women's team, getting to know them a whole lot better than I'd anticipated as the rain dripped down our necks (this is when you discover the true meaning of "waterproof"). Then the whole thing was cancelled, and we trudged back to the ferry with the rain lashing us all the way.

So familiar does this scenario seem that, as we huddled together for warmth in our umbrella cocoon, and I sat with my head on my knees musing to myself about the vagaries of the weather, I had a hard time remembering that I was not, in fact, on a camping trip in the Highlands, sheltering disconsolately inside a sodden tent.

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