The Struggle Continues - Part 1 - The Reunion - 2 - The Project
The Mandarin has always been one of my favourite hotels since I first stayed there with Alice in the mid-80s. But every time I visit Hong Kong, it seems to get smaller as the skyscrapers that surround it get torn down and rebuilt much higher and more spectacularly. One day too, the hotel will probably suffer the same fate. But then it will probably emerge bigger, better and even more luxurious. I hoped it wouldn't lose the intimacy, friendship and class.
'When do you go home?' Jacinta spoke and grinned broadly as we walked arm-in-arm away from the hotel to the ferry terminal for Kowloon.
'Not sure!' I replied. 'If I finish all the reports today, hopefully tomorrow or Tuesday.' I remembered that the flights got in early in the morning. 'Wednesday would be very tight for the wedding if there are any delays! It all depends on the seats available. There should be space even if I have to go in the back.'
'You deserve better than that!'
'Perhaps, it'll be punishment for last night!' I laughed. 'At least I'm very tired and I'll sleep well!'
There is nothing to touch the Star Ferry! Except possibly the Mersey, but then I spent four years in Liverpool at University, where I had met Alice! Lots of good memories! Just like Hong Kong! So I'm biased! But then the Star Ferry is not in decline like the Mersey.
During the day every few minutes a dark green ferry rushes out from the terminal and races between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. It's non-stop schedule from early until late across the busy shipping lanes sums up the attitude of Hong Kong. Go for it! And go for it fast!
We were leaning on the rail of the top deck watching the traffic and looking towards the new Convention Centre, that would be the centrepiece of the handover of the colony to China in a few months. 'Do you think the handover to the Chinese will make much difference?' I asked the question, that few were asking.
Jacinta smiled and said nothing at first as all Chinese did at that time. Then perhaps after half a minute she replied. 'Perhaps it will make a difference. Perhaps not! I don't know!' She grinned. 'But then it could be that Hong Kong will spread into China and create a very strong economy everywhere.'
'You may be right!' I cuddled her. 'We'll take this trip in a few years time and see what has changed!'
'I might not be here!' Jacinta spoke. 'I must admit that going to live and work in the UK or Canada appeals! Not the US though! Too racist! Too dangerous! Too much violence!'
'I'll agree with the States! But Canada is so cold!' I replied. 'On the other hand you'd like London, though! A big modern city on a big river. Lot's of life! Good Chinese food! Best in Europe! Outside of Liverpool of course!'
'But all that fog and rain!' Jacinta shook her head.
'Not any more! I was a child in London and we always had foggy mornings in the autumn.' I thought more about that dreadful primary school in Southgate. 'We often used to go home early as you couldn't see your nose. Burt, we don't have them any more!'
'Why?' Jacinta asked the question.
'We don't have coal fires anymore and there's a lot less smoke. The air is very clean now.' I paused. 'But to me, it's climate change as well. We're all getting just that little bit warmer. We must all change our ways! Especially use less energy! And no coal at all!'
She was not impressed at my diatribe.
I kissed Jacinta good-bye as she got on her bus at the terminal by the ferry to travel to the flat she shared with others a kilometre or so up Nathan Road. I would obviously see her at work on Monday and possibly Tuesday, but I doubt there would be a repeat of Saturday night. I smiled at what had gone on. As Jacinta had said we had been very very naughty. But it had been tremendous fun! I laughed and shook my head.
The offices where I had installed the computer system, were just a few minutes walk from the bus terminal towards Kowloon Park. The block looked rather a mess of sixties concrete on the outside but inside the offices were modern, smart, air-conditioned and discrete as befitted those for the investigation and fraud department of a major international bank. Being a Sunday, apart from security and a couple of workmen who were rearranging partitions, desks and furniture, there were few people at work in the offices, as I sat down to finish off the documentation.
I reflected on what had been a good trip to Hong Kong.
It would be very profitable, once I was paid. But then I had worked for the London office of the bank and they'd paid me a large amount of money over the past two years. They'd also paid for me to stay in one of the best hotels on earth. So I didn't expect any problems on receiving payment, especially as it was basically a simple re-structuring and re-integration of the London system, with training thrown in. Now that the installation and handover was virtually complete, I didn't expect any problems. Hopefully, Success would lead to further trips to other interesting and hopefully more exotic places. And of course I'd jump at the chance to get back to Hong Kong!
But the best bit had been the weather! Never in my nearly fifty years had I spent a winter abroad as I'd arrived in the colony just after New Year. There had been some bad rain and some infamous hail storms, but generally it had been so much warmer than London.
I reminded myself to see if I could persuade the bank to install my system in Sydney or Melbourne. Perhaps Cape Town or Jo'burg! Or even Rio! And of course, I'd install it during a cold, miserable winter in the UK.
That would also be good financially, as John Major's Conservative Government was on its last legs in the UK and I'd never trusted Labour, who were likely to win the next election under their new leader, Tony Blair. To me they were now even more untrustworthy now they called themselves New Labour. Years ago, when I'd worked at ICI, someone added a useless and very glittery chemical to a washing powder and called it New Something or Improved Something. It was just the same, but it looked better and more interesting! It also sold a lot more!
Thoughts turned to the unfortunate John Major, who had been left with the duffest and most conspiratorial hand of old farts who masqueraded as MPs after the 1993 election. But then his government was being ruined by the press, just to show who was really in power.
One phrase stood out from when he had addressed the Cambridge Chief Executives Group of which I'd been a member in the early 1990's. 'The Times which used to call itself a newspaper!' This was in connection with the fact that they were saying he dyed his hair. But then he'd said. 'Would anybody chose to dye it this colour?'
By two, I'd written and printed all the documentation I was going to leave behind and after a couple of phone calls I had determined that I could take the Tuesday evening flight from Kai Tak. So I booked it, but because Friday was Good Friday, it would have to be steerage. At least it was BA's slightly up-market class with the better seats and food. That would be adequate for me given that I needed the sleep after last night! And also that I had short legs!
I made a quick trip downstairs to a sandwich bar for lunch of a couple of rolls and a Coke, using it as an opportunity to drop the film of last night's escapade into the developers. Luckily they'd all been taken before we returned to the Mandarin and I hadn't reloaded the camera with new film.
As soon as I'd returned to the office, my mobile phone rang. But it was not Alice. 'Jacinta! What a surprise!'
'Do you need me to come down?' I assumed she was being helpful. 'Is there anything you want to run through?'
'No!' I hoped it was what she meant, as I didn't think I could perform a repeat of last night. 'Thank you! I've put copies of the complete documentation on your desk. If you check it tomorrow, I can update it on Tuesday before I fly out!'
'That sounds good.' Jacinta approved of my plan. 'It's just that I had an energetic night last night and I'd prefer to stay in!' She was giggling.
'I'm glad you enjoyed last night!' I had applied a sarcastic tone. 'I had this dream that you spent the whole night with me!'
'I wouldn't do anything like that!' More giggling. 'I spent the night with a handsome and extremely sexy gentleman! I'm afraid it wasn't you as you're a lot older than he was!'
'Thanks!' I laughed as I put the phone down!
So it had been a fantasy after all! Well possibly! But then I knew the photographs would say otherwise! But perhaps they wouldn't develop and print!
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