Ethelreddie: Curmudgeon of Fanling

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Merry Christmas! Bah Humbug!

Woe to Hong Kong, Christmas is drear
Should SARS return with fear?
Economy is on the boom
For joy there is no room
For joy there is no room
Perhaps if SARS return, people would care

(sing to the tune of Joy to the World)

The Law of Christmas Decorations - The magnificence of Christmas decorations in Hong Kong is inversely proportional to the state of the economy. i.e. The better the economy, the more inferior the Christmas decorations. Decorations were ho-hum last year. This year, it's not worth the effort to view them.

During the SARs crisis, a number of people died, including 2 doctors. This affected the economy detrimentally so was there an effort made to cheer people up with bright Christmas decorations. Sadly, now that rhe economy is booming, businesses are too busy raking in the shekels to care about a traditional Christmas with carol singing and decorations

I went to the Telford Centre in Kowloon Bay to check out its decorations as they usually are amongst the best. This year they were pathetic with only a garland stretched across the aisle between opposite shops. To paraphrase "Light of Other Days"- Thomas Moore (1780-1852)
- I felt like one who treads alone, Some banquet hall deserted,
- Whose lights are fled, Whose garlands dead, And all but me departed!

Disappointed, I went to Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong where in past years, they were also amongst the best. Theirs were no better than those at Kowloon Bay. So it was off down to the Cultural Centre to see what they were offering. They had only one concert of Christmas Carols to be performed by the HK Baptist University Christian Choir on 18 December at for the whole of Advent and absolutely nothing for Christmas Eve, unlike in past years!.

Next was to see what Central had to offer. Almost zilch at Statue Square where there is usually a feast for the eyes. All they had were 3 cherubs on a naked conical frame representing a Christmas tree. Where's last year's Santa House?

Last stop was the IFC (International Finance Centre) where last year they had an interesting display. IFC was better than what I had just seen, but their decorations were repetitions of deers around some goblets, unlike last year where they had a variegated colourful display.

IFC’s Christmas program had Christmas Carols at 5 pm every day, so I stayed to listen. They started 40 min late. I thought it was partly because they had trouble controlling the little infant class children who were running around like the particles in Brownian motion. I thought they were going to sing but were only an embellishment for the adult choir who had yet to arrive.

The choir by a global financial services firm, who shall remain nameless, finally arrived. I wanted to cat-call out to them “I hope you pay your accounts on time!”. Then the leader of the choir went into a long spiel thanking Uncle Tom Cobbley and all before the choir launched into a lack-lustre performance. I felt like shouting “Can you whistle through your nose, cause you can’t sing!” It seemed that they had partaken liberally of the festive cheer before coming which would explain their lateness. I left after the second caro(ousa)l in disgust

“Merry Christmas! Bah Humbug! “

The best part of the day was when I was stopped by a security guard outside IFC because I had trespassed onto their property which was contiguous with the footpath. I was going to give the guard an earful that if IFC didn’t want people to walk inadvertently on their property they should put up a chain link barrier as I thought IFC’s boundary was along the line of their flag poles.

However, the security guard was very polite and pleasant which took the wind out of my sails. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the Gurkhas who were excellent soldiers and are now security guards since HK was handed back to China by the British. I hope IFC give their Gurkha security guards a decent Christmas bonus.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Tis the season to be Jolly"

So much for Advent and the celebration of the birth of a baby. Yesterday a 14-year old girl threw her newborn baby out of a high rise apartment. The human race does not seem to have much regard for the sanctity of life, either human or animal. It was very sad. Why couldn't she have put it up for adoption?

Surely we've passed the stage of Dotheboy's Hall and the days of the " Homies", when the residents of the Boy's Home in Onehunga were beaten up by their "caretaker". It was bad enough that the "Home" was a jungle for the survival of the fittest. I always felt sorry for them in primary school and only years later that I realised that they weren't all orphans.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Return to ChaGaau Pt2

On the trip across the river, I took compass bearings of the piers so I could find them on the Google Earth photos. I had a bit of difficulty with the compass as I hadn’t used one since Army Daze and because I was trying not to attract attention to myself.

Taking compass bearings and photos of major landmarks and photos of all main road intersections (to the left and to the right, in front and behind) made me feel like a spy. Twenty five years ago it was impossible to buy a map and you couldn’t go anywhere without a minder. If I’d done then what I do now, I would probably have been arrested.

I wouldn't have made a good spy as I had difficulty trying not to speak HK Cantonese in the village and then not to speak village Cantonese once back in HK

When I reached the fork of the road, I stopped at the corner store to ask which was the road to Cha Gaau. I was told that “All roads lead to Rome” so I decided to go straight ahead instead, remembering “Never take the Left Hand Path,”

Left Hand Path to Cha Gaau Village
After about 30 minutes of fast walking, I realised I wasn’t getting near the village, but having come so far, I still carried on to see what was beyond the next bend and the next 2 bends. It was a very hot day and by this stage, I had drunk all my water, so I decided to turn back for the fork in the road.

All the while on that long stretch of road, the words of the song sung by Sir Harry Lauder came to mind. It used to be popular on the radio Request Session in long gone days when songs were beautiful poetry set to music that had melody and harmony.

Keep Right On To The End of the Road
Ev'ry road thro' life is a long, long road,
Fill'd with joys and sorrows too,
As you journey on how your heart will yearn
For the things most dear to you.
With wealth and love 'tis so,
But onward we must go.

Keep right on to the end of the road,
Keep right on to the end,
Tho' the way be long, let your heart be strong,
Keep right on round the bend.
And tho' you're tired and weary, still journey on,
Till you come to your happy abode,
Where the one you love and you’re dreaming of
Will be there at the end of the road.

Sir Harry Lauder wrote this song after his son was killed in action in World War I.

Click on link below to hear “Keep right onto the End of the Road”

I love this song and have always done ever since I first heard it. I have always been enchanted by the skirl of the pipes, the swirl of the kilt and legends of Scotland. (Maybe I was Scottish in a previous incarnation).

The other words that came to mind were the words from Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” that we studied in the 6th form
O for a draught of vintage that hath been
Cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim

I was panting for a long cool drink of lemonade with beaded bubbles winking at the brim.

Also drumming into my brain was the song and words of “Cool Water” that was taught to us by Barry Hogan our High School music teacher. (We were very lucky to have extremely good teachers in those days. Some of our men teachers had been through the war and knew about what was important in life)

Also the words of another popular song “Cool Water” drummed into my brain.
All day I face, The barren waste
Without the taste of water Cool water
Poor Dan and I, With throats burned dry
And so I cry for water Cool, clear water

Keep a-moving, Dan
Don't you listen to him, Dan
He's a devil, not a man
And he spreads the burning sand with water
Dan, don't you see that big green tree
Where the water's running free?
And its waitng there for me and you

Shadows sway, They seem to say
"Tonight we'll pray for water"
Cool water
Way up there, They'll hear our prayer
And show us where there's water
Cool, clear water

Keep a-moving, Dan
Don't you listen to him, Dan
He's a devil, not a man
And he spreads the burning sand with water
Dan, don't you see that big green tree
Where the water's running free?
And its waitng there for me and you

All day I face, The barren waste
Without the taste of water Cool water

Cool clear water
Written by Bob Nolan 1936; Sung by L. Buckingham,

Copy and paste link into browser to hear the song
To hear the song, Press and hold down the Ctrl key and click the following link

Return to ChaGaau Pt1

1. Coromandel and Otago
Hong Kong’s hills remind me,
Mt Te Aroha, I thought was China
At the age of three.

2. Tong saan is Cantonese for China
Descendants of Tang it means,
For mountain, saan is homonym

Hence confusing childhood scenes

3. My words return to mock me
For oft did I say at three,
“I am going to go to China”

Now is real irony

A few years later when we moved from Te Aroha to Auckland, and went to Sunday School, We had a Sunday School teacher whose uncle had been a missionary with the China Inland Mission, Whenever we sang the hymn “From Greenland’s icy mountains” we were reminded “to deliver their land from error's chain”.

How ironic that my brother who wanted to become a missionary to China never got there, whereas I who didn’t want to be a missionary have been back more times than I can remember. Perhaps I can regard my trips as pilgrimages made on his behalf.

This is an account of my latest trip to the village of Cha Gaau 槎窖, where Chan Lay Yung (our father’s niece and our closest surviving relative) still lives.

I wanted to go back to Cha Gaau 槎窖 by myself to make sure that I knew the way, for the time when my nieces wanted to go there. (I like studying maps so I hate not knowing how to get to a place and must know where I have been) The last time I went was with Pui Yam’s father being sandwiched between him and the motorcycle driver, again hanging on like grim death and couldn’t take note of many landmarks. So I wanted to walk for the exercise and because I think more creatively when I walk.

From Ferry Pier (at top left) to Cha Gaau (槎窖) Vllge Rest Area (left of letter “G” of Google)

From SunTong 新塘 (New Pond) to Cha Gaau 槎窖, it is necessary to cross the Dong Jiang (東江East River) by ferry. Crossing the river brought a flashback from my childhood. My new found cousin Pui Yam (pron. Poy Yum and hereafter abbrev to PY) took me on his motorbike to the ferry pier but when I went to pay the fare, I was told, “We don’t accept loos!”.

Loo is an expression I hadn’t heard since NZ changed to decimal currency. As children we called pennies, “loos”. I subsequently found out that it was a local expression as I couldn’t find it in any Chinese dictionary and that it was a variation of the pronunciation of "nu" the word for lady. The lady being Britannia on the obverse face of the coin.

I thought “What! They don’t want clean shiny loos!? :-/ That figures, as I had taken a lot of trouble to collect clean shiny ¥1 coins but they only wanted paper money that looked like used toilet paper. I had just got rid of all the dirty paper money as bus fare the day before and now I need to keep it for buses and ferries.

Fortunately PY had some paper money. I asked him why they didn’t accept loos. He said it was because they were afraid of fakes. They were not used to using loos because they were in short supply as they were difficult and costly to mint. (This should have been a good reason to have coins to eliminate forgeries). He also said that coins were introduced only because they were needed to buy tokens for the subway systems in Guangzhou.

I was told that the heavy power transmission lines were from the nuclear power station at Daya Bay (appropriately pronounced Dire Bay) just across the border from HK.

Ferry heading back towards SunTong 新塘

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About Me

Iconoclast & Curmudgeon of Fanling. Born in Te Aroha and educated in Auckland NZ. Semi-retired unCivil Engineer. Worked in HK where it has been the best and worst years of my life. Still seeking the "Sweet Mystery of Life". Take hypercritical delight in poking the borax at people who are up themselves or are hypocritical religious bigots.