Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
(To be read in the voice of Alan Bennett. For the uninitiated, listen here.)
Complete whiteout; isolated from the din of the city. I set off down the access road to the Tai Tam Upper Reservoir. At seven thirty few people are up and about. This could be the Lake District, the wooded part of the Scottish highlands or Dalby Forest. Only the lack of tall trees tells of a semi-tropical climate. I'm in a bubble of ten feet visibility.
Droplets shower down with each passing gust as moisture-soaked trees sway. The stench of dog shit that usually lingers at the country park barrier is gone. Overnight rain has washed away the crap that lazy dog walkers are too idle to pick up. It’s the amahs who walks the dog around here.
The pigs have wreaked havoc in the bins again. Plastic bottles, banana skins and assorted litter are laid out. It’s all sorted, studied and graded. Anything edible is gone. The efforts of the park wardens to secure the bins once again defeated. This time they've upended the whole container with latches broken. You have to admire their ingenuity.
According to those who know these things, pigs rank above dogs in the smartness stakes. They can play video games with more focus than a chimp.
Weeks ago the plastic bins near the park entrance succumbed to head-butting and chewing. The sides ripped out with ease once the pig got leverage. Fibreglass bins hold up better. Best of all is a wooden stockade-type structure in the BBQ area. Height and heavy wooden planks are keeping the hogs at bay. Anyway, the great unwashed leave enough half cooked meat on the ground. That’s sustained the pigs for a day or so.
In the distance voices. Can’t tell from which direction. The chatter of excited Cantonese arrives first, as a group of elderly walkers emerges from the murk. Of course, one has his radio on full volume. No surprise, he's broadcasting a Chinese opera of the cat strangling variety. A full-throated conversation battles for attention above the caterwauling.
“Jo San” is yelled my way. Only the Cantonese can make ‘good morning’ sound like a declaration of war. Then they’re gone. Screeching opera lingers awhile, then fades. It’s silent again.
Alone, I press on, descending towards the dam. The wind is picking up. It brings the fog and dampness in sideways. No bird song today. The trees thrash around as the breeze strengthens, then eases off.
On the dam top, it’s blowing a gale. My cap needs restraining; otherwise, it will take flight. Funnelled by the valley, the air rushes up from Tai Tam Bay, then blasts against the dam wall. I feel the chill. Don’t linger here. A pack of runners hurtles by heads down. All backpacks and day-glow outfits.
I cut back to ascend to Parkview, taking the forest walk to avoid the road. I soon regret this. After a matter of minutes, I’m soaked as overhanging trees, and encroaching bushes spray me. On the summit the small shelter is empty. No views today out over Tai Tam Bay with the Dragons Back dominating the horizon.
I’m back on the road, as silent figures come and go in the mist. Expats in t-shirts and shorts, signalling they don’t fear the damp. Locals wrapped in the latest Patagonia offering. More a fashion statement than a hike. They’ll soon be sweating. A Chinese boy passes me dressed for full arctic conditions. Is he expecting snow? His helicopter Mum is hovering in the background. In the summer he’s the sort of kid you’ll see with a towel wrapped around his neck against the horrors of perspiration. You know in ten minutes that arctic outfit will be gone either that or he passes out from heat exhaustion.
A few of the regulars greet me. The lanky Brit is striding along with his tawny wife in tow. She's had far too much sun. Mr and Mrs Wong, Stephen with a 'ph' as he told me on first contact. He once had a restaurant in Sheffield.
The cleaners are busy. They gather the debris from last night's BBQ crowd. Of course, the pigs have seen off anything digestible. Working with the ants, they'd soon clean up.
A gaggle of amahs is shepherding assorted poodles and designer pooches. They don’t venture too far down the road. Once Fido has done the business, they’ll loiter to chat. I want to shout "Clean up that shit!" but don't.
The Europeans around here favour dogs of the Heinz-57 variety. The ‘tong gau’ is medium sized, far from handsome but an intelligent mixed-breed. I note a Chinese group dedicated to these mongrels. Glad to see that not everyone in Hong Kong is obsessed with pedigrees.
The rumbling of the Parkview air-conditioning plant tells me I’m back at the barrier. More hill walkers are gathering, awaiting friends before setting off. A child is already complaining that he’s bored. His mother thrusts a mobile phone into his eager hands. He squats to start playing a game. Why bother kid? Even a pig can tackle a video game. Come to think of it; I reckon the pig is more sentient than that child.
Anyway, coffee and toast awaits me.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.