Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Hong Kong Twelve Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
 A tall glass of ice lemon tea.


On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
 Two local gods
And a tall glass of ice lemon tea.


On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Three furry friends
Two local gods
And a tall glass of ice lemon tea.


On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Four jolly kids
Three furry friends
Two local gods
And a tall glass of ice lemon tea.


On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

Five chicken wings!
Four jolly kids
Three furry friends
Two local gods
And a tall glass of ice lemon tea.


On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Six trotters dangling
Five chicken wings!
Four jolly kids
Three furry friends
Two local gods
And a tall glass of ice lemon tea.


On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Seven roofs a-towering
Six trotters dangling
Five chicken wings!
Four jolly kids
Three furry friends
Two local gods
And a tall glass of ice lemon tea.


On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

Eight cows a-snoozing
Seven roofs a-towering
Six trotters dangling
Five chicken wings!
Four jolly kids
Three furry friends
Two local gods
And a tall glass of ice lemon tea.


On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Nine strays relaxing
Eight cows a-snoozing
Seven roofs a-towering
Six trotters dangling
Five chicken wings!
Four jolly kids
Three furry friends
Two local gods
And a tall glass of ice lemon tea.


On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Ten monks swashbuckling
Nine strays relaxing
Eight cows a-snoozing
Seven roofs a-towering
Six trotters dangling
Five chicken wings!
Four jolly kids
Three furry friends
Two local gods
And a tall glass of ice lemon tea.


On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Eleven hikers hiking
Ten monks swashbuckling
Nine strays relaxing
Eight cows a-snoozing
Seven roofs a-towering
Six trotters dangling
Five chicken wings!
Four jolly kids
Three furry friends
Two local gods
And a tall glass of ice lemon tea.


On the twelth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
Twelve air-cons dripping
Eleven hikers hiking
Ten monks swashbuckl'ing
Nine strays relaxing
Eight cows a-snoozing
Seven roofs a-towering
Six trotters dangling
Five chicken wings!
Four jolly kids
Three furry friends
Two local gods...
And a tall glass of ice lemon tea.

Thank you for reading Land of no cheese.
I will be back in January!
Happy Christmas to all of you.

All content © Emilie Pavey
 




Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The north wind doth blow

I've been waiting for this moment. The Observatory has issued its first official Cold Weather Warning of the season. Here is an excerpt from said warning. Brace yourself.

           People are advised to put on warm clothes and to avoid
           adverse health effects due to the cold weather.
 
           If you must go out, please avoid prolonged exposure to
           wintry winds.

          Make sure heaters are safe before use, and place them away
          from any combustibles. Do not light fires indoors as a means
          to keep warm.

Ok, I've got out my scarf, gloves, and have responsibly locked away my wooden furniture to prevent myself from creating a spontaneous indoor bonfire in an irresponsible fit of chilliness! Bravely, I turn to face the arctic weather predictions for the next few days:

No, really! Single-digit temperatures! Brr.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Click, snap and be merry

In the name of Christmas cheer (and commercialism), public spaces like shopping malls and MTR stations have brought out the decorative heavy artillery.

The festive installations seem to have a magnetic effect.
People appear convinced that standing in front of them enhances their photogenicity. (Actually, maybe it does. Who wouldn't win an attractiveness contest against Goofy?)


Then again, why not... taking a photo is a way to create a fantasy world. Only I’d rather that Times Square or MTR Corp didn’t have a say in mine.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

有時候

In a not-altogether-justified flurry of optimism, my Chinese language teacher instructed me to write a poem for my homework. My valiant first attempt at Chinese rhyme can be read on her blog.

As the saying (from my textbook) goes, 只要工夫深,鐵杵磨成針 (anything can be achieved with perseverance) although I still have a long way to go before this lump of iron becomes sharp...

Friday, 10 December 2010

Poisson de décembre

Earlier this week, pictures of hundreds of shark fins laid out to dry on a pavement in Western District were posted online. This prompted the SCMP to run a story about the stench created by offending fins (as if the poor mutilated sharks were not attracting enough controversy already). However, the report also highlights the fact that wherever you go in this city, you're rarely far from a shrivelled kipper of some sort:
 
hanging out in the street (Kam Tin)

or unceremoniously dangling in a temple (Yuen Long)
Railings, benches and other forms of street furniture are also commonly occupied by frazzled finned (or de-finned) friends. Maybe they would make nice, fragrant Hong Kong-themed Christmas tree decorations. Hmmm.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

大雪

On Tuesday, I tore off a page of my Chinese calendar to reveal a picture of a young lady in a Father Christmas hat next to the words 'big snow'.


Of course, an almanac calendar that caters meteorologically for the world's largest population can't be 100% accurate. This being the very south of China, the previous fortnight had seen temperature still well in the 20s. The uncanny thing is that the Hong Kong Observatory had been predicting a sudden drop in temperature... also on Tuesday.


(For those of you in the north, this requires explaining: 15 degrees really is a cold snap here, as indicated by the downward pointing arrow and the glacial pictogram.)

I can confirm that the Calendar and Observatory's prognoses were correct. I have finally given in and taken my jacket out of storage.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The curious tale of the abandoned shrine painting

I have recently acquired a most unusual Chinese painting. My friend and I had noticed it a year ago in the old district where we used to live. It stood on the top of a display cabinet in a local mirror and framing shop which also sells fung shui knick-knacks. It was always there. I assumed it belonged to the shop, since it was different from everything else. It was interesting because it looked hand painted and depicted three different Chinese deities.

Walking past the shop after dinner one evening we decided to enquire. It was indeed hand painted - a traditional glass painting in fact - and also for sale, but the various family members in the shop were unable to tell us the price, claiming that they needed to consult then shop's patriarch, who was at that very moment taking a bath.

We returned at a more civilized hour the following week and were given a (somewhat reluctant) quote. However, they only accepted a deposit and told us to return in ten days. It seemed that this painting had been commissioned two years ago, paid for, yet never collected by its original buyer. The shop owners felt it was their duty to attempt to re-contact this former customer first.

The picture is by the entrance, on the left, on the top shelf

At this point, although we wanted the painting, it seemed as if fate, (or 天,)  would decide whether it would be ours or not. Passing the shop a few days later, we noticed that the painting was still sitting on the top shelf, but now covered with wrapping. Was the mysterious customer due to collect?

After ten days, my friend returned to the shop. It transpired that the family had been unable to contact either the customer, or even the local painter (in case the customer reappeared and demanded his painting, they might have been able to comission another one). Both appeared to have vanished without a trace. The painting was ours.

At that point, the shop owner told us that this painting is very unusual, and probably unique, because of the very three deities which had attracted our eye in the first place. They are the bodhisattva Guan Yin, the Chinese hero Guan Yu (the general Kwan which I wrote about earlier) and Bao Gong, another Chinese historical-mythological character promoted to god status, who essentially represents justice. Shrine paintings may feature a single deity, or multiples of three (though anything above six is uncommon, since the different deities may clash). The gentleman told us that although the three gods depicted in this painting get on just fine, it is very rare to see Mr. Bao and Mr. Kwan together.

Back at the flat with the painting, we were faced with a further conundrum: where it should go. Online literature on the subject seemed to rule out every possible location: (if you put it opposite the stairs, you may have an accident; if you put it near the TV, the god may be frightened; for this reason also, take care to polish the frame but never the face) This, added to the fact that the flat is minuscule, left very few suitable options. Right now it's sitting at an angle on the desk (the TV is there but never on!) where it's not really facing anything. I hope it's not draining away my qi or something.

Take a look at the bright, naive art. Bold colours, liberal gold and silver paint, and a ladleful of symbolism painted on the back of a glass pane. Stunning.

Guan Yin

Bao Gong and Guan Yu

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Friday, 3 December 2010

Light work

Can you guess what this chap is up to?
Scroll down for a clue...

Seems like a tall task for a small elf...

Locations: North Point and Admiralty

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Souffrir pour être belle

 “I don’t have the guts for surgery, but I still want to be pretty, so I have to make use of double eyelid tape”...

If you are a HK girl not blessed with a double eyelid, you may choose the sticky option:


Read my complete article here at the excellent Fat Quarter Magazine.
Thank you Katie!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Tricks of the trade

Only in Hong Kong:

An elderly fisher named Chow
Had spent his youth wondering how
To fulfil his one wish
To stay dry as he fished:
This no longer bothers him now.

The secret to skin white as snow
(if style you’re prepared to forgo)
Is upholstery trim
Affixed to your brim
And - voila - an SPF chapeau!

Here are some other headgear-related limericks.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Law, order and geometry

Police buildings in Hong Kong present a remarkable array of geometrical shapes.
Below is North Point Police Station, a veritable fortress complete with boxy turrets sticking out precariously at funny angles. Perhaps these gun-posts would have been a necessary defence measure during the social unrest in the sixties.

The sixties also seem to have inspired the police post in Kam Tin, if not defensively, then at least aesthetically!
This marvelously retro box perched on a raised platform had no source of natural light that I could see except for the frosted glass door window... but I'd like to think that there's op-art wallpaper and a disco ball inside!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Illumination

No local festival is complete without a giant, dazzling, tinsel-trimmed sign, mounted on a bamboo frame, in a prominent spot (ferry pier, marketplace, roundabout).
What I only recently realised is that these signs are entirely handmade:
I hope my intrusive snapping didn't make this artisan spill her luminous orange paint. Sorry... thank you!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Odd one out

信箱 = seun seung: letter box

A couple of wais (walled villages) in and around Yuen Long proved a particularly bountiful snapping-ground for one of my favourite Hong Kong icons: the ubiquitous tin letter box. Can you spot the impostor?

 

Here is another rather lovely one, by the way.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Daisy, daisy

水上單車 = seui seung daan che: water bicycle

There's nothing like a spot of human powered transportation...

especially for a jaunt on a reservoir perched halfway up a mountainside (note: that's only the top half of the high-rise poking out above the wall):

or for arriving in style at a wedding:
on a pedalo made for two.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Curing all ills

貨車

Q: What is blue and white and red all over?
A: The unmissable Hong Kong medicinal oil lorry.

These rather natty lorries are a common sight around town.
I don't think these trucks actually deliver the medicinal product they advertise on the side (if that were the case, based on the frequency these lorries are seen, Hong Kongers would be glugging more medicinal oil than Coca Cola.). Rather, these are general-purpose vehicles with a permanent advert on the side. Or maybe the Chinese medicine company also owns a fleet of trucks.

一. Lorry sporting the classic look:
Yellow panel reads: South Seas Yi Ma Ta (name of company) Four Seasons Peaceful Oil
Blue panel reads: South Seas Yi Ma Ta Golden Dragon Wind* Relieving Oil

二. Variation on the theme:
Product on left: type of soothing herbal throat syrup
Product on right: Hundred-Step Chasing Wind* Bone-Soothing Oil

*most unhumorously, 'wind' doesn't have the same meaning in Chinese and western medicine. In this case, 'wind' refers to headaches rather than the other thing.


四季平安油

I looked into Four Seasons Peaceful Oil, and found that it is quite an extraordinary concoction, therefore it deserves a special mention here. Here is a translated extract from the product description:



一. [...] Very potent medicinal power. For both internal and external symptoms. Primarily treats men, women, old and young. Brings the dead back to life. Awakens your brain. Small dosage needed. Fast acting.

二. Pleasant fragrance like an orchid in a deep valley. Definitely does not have the revolting smell of medicinal oil from the market.

三. Elegant and compact packaging. Much favoured by society ladies.

四. At home or on holiday, at school, in the factory, in mountain, mine or inaccessible village [...] in an emergency, when it's not easy to find a doctor, don't hesitate to use this multipurpose elixir. [...] It is truly a good medicine for the populace.



What more can I say. Get yourself a bottle today! I personally am ordering an entire truckload...

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Taxonomy of malls

Those who live in HK know that, even for infrequent shoppers like me, shopping malls are difficult to avoid. I often find myself having to traipse through one to get to a specific MTR exit, desired transport interchange or as a shortcut to avoid a polluted and congested street.

These artificially lit and ventilated spaces of captivity for humans are fairly horrible yet strangely fascinating. Hordes of people inexplicably congregate in them. They can even constitute an entire weekend's entertainment for some families, where after a fun and stimulating day of shopping, Mum and Dad can treat the kids to a fake Italian meal at The Spaghetti House followed by a low-intellect 3D screening to the aroma of plastic popcorn. But actually, this is just one kind of mall. As the taxonomy below shows, Hong Kong really does have something for everyone:

Category 1 shopping mall
Where to find one: Central, Admiralty, Causeway Bay, TST
What you'll see: Chloé, Cartier, sophisticated modernity with fluid and tactile details
What they say: "From jet-set apparel to ultra-desirable beauty products, you'll shop to your heart's content"
What you think: "Slick, swanky, soulless"
Photo: IFC Mall, Central
 
Category 2 shopping mall
Where to find one: Above an MTR station in a noughties new town development like Tseung Kwan O or Ma On Shan
What you'll see: Giordano, Pizza Hut, handrails painted turquoise
What they say: "Relax and enjoy a magical shopping experience for all the family!"
What you think: "I want to jump out of my 65th-floor window"
Photo: Sunshine City Plaza, Ma On Shan
 
Category 3 shopping mall
Where to find one: old districts like Shau Kei Wan or Aberdeen
What you'll see: Music tuition centres, manga libraries, low ceilings and possibly a shop selling beetles
What they say: "No Soileting"
What you think: "I've found my spiritual home. Or alternatively, a place to get my nails done for under 20(HK) dollars"
Photo: Manly Plaza, (no, really) Quarry Bay

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Going to the ball

I strayed dangerously close to the entrance of Hong Kong Disneyland this weekend. Among the crowds milling about, I wasn't surprised to see little girls dressed as princesses. After all, 'Aurora', 'Belle' and especially 'Ariel' were big favourites of my little primary ones last year. (Although when I'd ask them which story these characters came from, they rarely knew.)
However, grown-up princesses will be sad to learn that they cannot enter Disneyland; at least not in full ceremonial attire, as Finnish artist Pilvi Takala found out in Paris.

Perhaps, like Pilvi, the young lady pictured below was also turned away at the ticket barrier.
In any case, she wisely opted for the better value alternative: a stroll at the free park next to the resort, 'Inspiration Lake'. Could it have been this inspiration that pushed her to combine wedding dress with moonboots in an unparalleled fashion statement?

Monday, 8 November 2010

Efflorescent youngsters

One of the first limericks I learned when I was little went like this:


There was an old woman from Leeds
Who swallowed a packet of seeds
A giant geranium
Grew out of her cranium
And her eyebrows were covered in weeds


Whilst travelling on the MTR, I noticed that this surreal botanic theme also applies to current crop of adverts on display. This time, however, the affliction appears to be plaguing the younger generation:


A six-year old forenamed Maxime
Had a rather unusual dream
He was playing with mum
In a field in the sun
When his head turned to strawb’ries and cream
The fate of young Ted is more herbaceous still:


There once was a kiddie named Ted
Who one morning got out of bed
After taking a shower
He felt full of power
And sprouted a topiary head

I am a little wary every time I pass a toddler in the street now, in case their parents are either HSBC customers or have fed them MeadJohnson formula milk and the onset of their floral development is imminent.

More limericks.