Social Disharmony

I used to be a huge fan of Glee when it first came out: a bunch of supposed teenagers (the actors are all in their twenties and thirties) leaping about and singing songs of various cheesiness though the corridors and halls of their school. I’m a bit over it now – short attention span that does not last beyond two series – so it’s been all the more annoying the last few weeks to find myself on the set, but without the talent.

All over campus gangs of society gear-clad students (don’t ask me what societies – anything from skateboarding and particle physics to stamp collecting for all I know) have been assaulting my senses with handclapping, footstomping, choral shouting performances. This morning’s blue and white assembly leapt into formation as I emerged from the MTR, forcing baffled and startled commuters to scurry out of their orbit, with shouts of – shouts of what? “Voucher!”? “Batcher!”? Your guess is as good as mine. They were still at it as I rounded a corner 3 minutes up the road and mercifully out of earshot.

My mother has charged me with being crotchetty and old. Unfair, given I am turning 28 on Saturday (the eagle-eyed might spot that this is the same age as last year, but that is because at 27 I still wished to appear older. I am now comfortable with my age). To test this theory I asked my American control subject, a 20-something male classmate (the only American plus a minority male, but beggars can’t be choosers), what he thought about this ritual assault on the senses.

Actually, I didn’t have to ask. We were standing at the bottom of an escalator, innocently having a chat about his desire to study international relations outside the US (heretic, to his American classmates: who on earth would go abroad to study such a thing when the best schools are all at home? It explains a bit about Madeleine Albright, who surprised me on a few fronts in a recent telecast I saw, but I digress) when yet another gang of orange T-shirts and knee high luminous socks came clapping and chanting from around the back of the building where they had been skulking. We remained where we stood, continuing our conversation – me not wanting to appear crotchety and old and very much feeling it – until he broke mid sentence and said “Can we move? I can’t stand this stuff”. “Hallelujah!” cried I. Score 1 for my youth and tolerance.

I had been pondering for at least a week what he might think about these flashmobs. Given my Glee watching fervour in the early days, naturally I thought all high school Americans prance through a youth full of singing and dancing people, therefore maybe he would think it was normal. However I did have a nagging suspicion that, by university at least, even the Americans might be too cool for this stuff.

“Lame” was his word.

So it’s not just me being crotchety and old. Happy Birthday to me, youth preserved.

My Beautiful Life

One of my friends recently remarked that I seem to spend a lot of time running and arguing, so for something completely different I went for a kayak last week and I’m not going to write anything about politics today. However if you are sitting at a desk in the UK my ode to Hong Kong might be even more annoying.

The weather here has been quite stunning the last few weeks, ever since the super typhoon brushed past with barely a raindrop shed. Mid October and 27 degrees with blue skies every day seems almost wrong, but it hasn’t stopped me from working on the roof or at the garden table thus keeping my tan alive.

Last Thursday was a perfect day-in-the-life, following on many days which were also not too shabby. I woke, read my book in my student reading pit and eventually rolled out to greet the blue and green of a day warmed to just the right temperature and dry. Oooh, dilemma: to read in the garden or on the roof? The roof won by a few metres of vantage point but I discovered it really is impossible to read about China’s New Generation of Leaders with a mountain trail behind you and a beach in front. Try it.

In any event I failed and lest I be stuck on the roof all day dithering about whether to go up the hill or down to the sea, I turned to the Coin of Decision. The sea won, which is surprising since I’d have thought The Coin would know how much I hate sand but clearly it spotted a moment of opportunity.

So I packed my beach bag and headed down to the water to get grit in the pages of my book. The beach was utterly empty (as you’d expect in the middle of a working day) but for the little man hawking his kayak hours. In the interests of market research for visitors I grabbed a paddle and headed out to one of the many islands in the bay for even more peace than the beach offered. Shingle beach, blue sky, green islands, book on politics: bliss.

I managed an hour before the sand got the better of me and the (ancient) kayak chap broke my idyll with a paddle-past for a gawk at me sunning myself in my bikini. Most unusual in Hong Kong I have to say but I guess that was his aim since when I whipped on my sun dress he abruptly did a U turn. At least it galvanised me into action.

Back to shore and into town then, where I ambled through the back end of our village for a coffee. Down there the marine mechanic works up to his elbows in black engine grease next door to the Green Earth Society which sells everything from organic pet shampoo to neem bark toothpaste. It seems it is gentrifying a bit, given the interior design shops also squeezing into tiny shopfronts, but the engine man will always have work from the local fishermen, whose wares in turn hang from people’s windows and balconies to dry in the sun.

The place is Hong Kong encapsulated: rammed with tourists, flashy and dirty, luxury goods and grimy services, water and hills and lots and lots of noise and smells. Just perfect really.