13 February 2007

Anticipating the auspicious pig

It's nearly Chinese New Year here in Hong Kong, and the Year of the Dog is shuffling off, to be replaced by the sparkling new Year of the Pig. Lively cartoon pigs juggling stacks of pretty gold coins are on posters everywhere, and the entire city is planning to pay close attention to the prohibition on setting off celebratory fireworks. And then completely ignore it, in order to set off loads of fireworks.

Atop the hill on Lamma, the my cousin Alex and his family live in Tai Ping Village – a jamboree of old and new low-rise apartment buildings, nothing more than three storeys. Alex & Sarah have bought a great apartment with plenty of space plus a roof area that currently serves as an open-air play area for their little girls, decked out with toys, plastic slides and a mini-trampoline with a safety net. The family needs a bit of space, as the house must accommodate Alex, Sarah, Lily (4), Charlotte (14 months), Jasmine their household helper from the Philippines, Bella the shadow-chasing dog and two fluffy pug-faced felines. (And a guest from New Zealand). It's a lovely lively place.

On my first full day in the Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region (to give it its formal title), Alex had the morning off from work, so we strolled down the hill to Yung Shue Wan near the ferry dock and had a tasty breakfast and coffee at Green Planet, an organic vegetarian place on the main thoroughfare. Plenty of people stopped by to say hello to the Wilsons, particularly ex-pat families with small kids; Lamma has that small-town feel about it, where everyone seems to know everyone else.

After breakfast we loaded Charlotte in the stroller and walked to Pak Kok Pier on the northern tip of Lamma to catch the ferry to high-rise Aberdeen. As the ferry neared the city pier it had to negotiate a narrow channel full of dozens of tied-up fishing boats, with the odd puttering sampan thrown into the mix. Giant apartment blocks loomed over the bay on all sides, with fluttering laundry hung out to dry a hundred metres up, secured by pincer-sharp pegs.

We collected Lily from her pre-school in Aberdeen and took a bus into the middle of Hong Kong, where we bade farewell to Alex, who went off to work. I accompanied Sarah on some city errands, acting as a spare pair of hands and chief pram-minder and bottle-washer. Then we loaded everything onto the 3.15pm ferry back to Lamma, which was chock full of excited squeakers just out of school.

After some reviving down-time back at Casa Wilson, we met Alex and went for a nice curry at an Indian place down by the water. The food was excellent, and even more importantly, the sound-system was playing a stylish mix of Manchester and Britpop sounds (Loose Fit by the Happy Mondays, Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode, There She Goes by the La's, and Connected by the Stereo MCs). Tune!

As a nightcap we started to watch the French free-running movie, Yamakazi ('Les samourais des temps modernes'). The opening scenes of the seven chaps free-climbing a 20-storey apartment block ( i.e. no ropes) was very impressive, but the storyline itself was rather pants. I half expected the irascible police chief character to fume, "Bah! I'll catch those pesky kids if it's the last thing I do!". And then bite a piece out of the police-station doorframe. Despite their nifty stunts, we gave up on the limber Parisians and called it a day.

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