There’s a solicitors’ firm on the same floor as my office, named after the senior partner, a woman who is apparently very wealthy – and the reason we know this, apart from her general reputation, is that she has a bodyguard, a Gurkha. When she’s in the office he is usually stationed in reception, where there is nothing whatsoever to do, staring disconsolately out at passers-by; and he doesn’t get any activity unless she leaves the office or goes to the toilets on the same floor, at which point he follows her and stands outside. There is a ladies’ toilet and an “executive toilet”, for which only “executives” (including me) have the key; if she’s gone to the ladies, you can expect a stand-off outside as you try to get in while insisting to the embarrassed looking bodyguard that he can’t prevent entry to a public toilet, even if there may, in an extremely unlikely twist of fate, be armed-to-the-teeth mainlanders waiting inside to seize his employer. Standing outside, how can he protect her anyway?
This may seem an absurd over-reaction to an unlikely threat, but since poor old Teddy Wang was whacked in the eighties in an apparent kidnap-attempt-gone-wrong, the denizens of Hong Kong’s wealthier families have all been paranoid about being kidnapped for ransom and bodyguards are de rigeur. It’s also a very effective status symbol, signifying as it does both wealth and importance. I feel very sorry for the poor man, who has obviously never had to combat anything more dangerous than our meek and frankly puny office manager (albeit unusually irate on this occasion) trying to wash her hands.