Aaaaaaand We’re Back!

5 Nov

metronomyWow, that took a while. Sorry for the 12-month outage chaps. Contrary to reports in the media I have not hung up my chopsticks for good, I just couldn’t locate my inner rant. I might well have left it in the back of a Hong Kong taxi to be honest. Well, now your friendly neighbourhood Noodle is back, with all the inevitability of an unloved season, and primed to explode over this city like hot porky broth on a ramen shop floor. (I’m going to be doing some jokes).

To kick things off, though, I found this little gem lurking in the bottom of my tatty porcelain noodle bowl of fun. An interview with arch electro-plinky plonkers Metronomy from back in 2008 – ie before they was as famous as they is now – replete with original line-up and arguably better songs. Stay tuned for original content coming soon…


Metronomy is not a band to play by the rules. In fact, they don’t even know where the rule book is. And if they found it, they’d probably burn it, in a wooded area, next to a no-smoking sign. So it comes as no surprise to find these three deceptively well-spoken and civil young men having a cheeky fag in one of the numerous threadbare rooms inside Camden’s Koko. It’s a couple of hours before they’re on; the nth date on their never-ending tour to promote their unique brand of electro plinky-plonk, perfect pop harmonies, falsetto choruses and affected, meticulously choreographed dance moves.

Here at Canvas we don’t rate the more obscure bands for the sake of their obscurity, but Metronomy are different, we’ve decided; they pretty much provide our very own litmus test of friends and acquaintances. Heard of Metronomy? Yes? OK, thumbs up. Like them? Alright, you can be our friend for life. Which isn’t actually to say that Metronomy are obscure – songwriter and band founder Joseph Mount has remixed everyone from Kate Nash to Goldfrapp.

“It’s nice now because people are quite up for having their stuff remixed,” he says. “KD Lang wanted something quite radio-friendly, so I did what I thought was radio-friendly but it wasn’t really what she expected. Taking entertaining risks is good fun, it’s a nice way to while away a few hours.”

You might have already come across Metronomy in broadsheet articles heralding the so-called Nu Rave scene alongside Late of the Pier and Does it Offend You, Yeah? among others – but it’s about as cohesive a scene as anything invented by a Guardian journalist, ie not at all. “I guess you have to expect that,” muses Mount. “But it’s actually quite nice now because we have people interviewing us and they’re saying ‘ we don’t know how to describe your music’.”

So how do you describe Metronomy’s music? According to the MySpace page, the band hail everyone from Bowie to The Ramones as an influence. In their own words though, they rate Usher and Timberlake for their unique credit-crunch defying dancing skills, Timbers coming in for special praise by virtue of being “like Beatles-lite”, according to Mount. A cross between the Beatles and Nirvana is how they’d like to describe their own music though – ie a combination of Revolution # 9 and Polly, apparently.  Hmmn, maybe you should just go out and buy a record for yourself, or even better, see them live – their unique stage show involves rather large push button lights slung from each band member’s neck, being pushed on and off at regular intervals in time to the music, and statuesque posing behind their keyboards. If you’re very lucky there’ll also be a troupe of dancing girls behind doing a jig in time to the tunes. But don’t let this put you off, there’s a boyish playfulness – a knowing wink to the audience that this is all just a bit of a larf and not some art school pretentious wank – that means they can just about pull it off. But are they worried the gimmick will be a curse as more people discover “that band with the lights”?.

“I went though the paranoia that maybe we should change this idea but actually it’s brilliant – it’s a strong look,” says Mount. “I’d argue that there’s not that many other bands that have something so visual linked to them. So some people may catch us at a festival and not know who we are but remember the show and then stumble across our music a few weeks later.”

The music has evolved a lot since Mount wrote the first album in his bedroom – figuratively anyway. Recruiting school chums Oscar Cash and Gabriel Stebbing for the live shows has led to a more expansive, lyrical and, god forbid, radio-friendly sound. Tunes like Heartbreaker, Radio LADIO and Heart Rate Rapid featuring infectiously catchy choruses and little flourishes which marry perfectly to the band’s cheeky on stage antics.

“It’s been quite a gap between the first album and this and it’s been quite a natural progression, influenced by the fact that we’ve been playing live and me realising what Oscar and Gabriel are capable of … and what they can’t do,” says Mount. “When the first album was done, songs like Trick or Treatz were written by me but the reason I didn’t sing on them was because I wasn’t confident enough to sing like a girl … but that’s all changed now.”

So what’s the ultimate goal for the band? Can they or do they want to reconcile their unique sound and growing band of followers with the mainstream and super stardom? Well, their aspirations are typically modest; Gabriel wants a Saturday morning kids TV slot, apparently, while Oscar would just like it “if a few more people heard of us because we deserve it”.

“It would be a shame if we were dropped by our label because people didn’t pick up on it quickly enough,” adds Mount. “It would just be nice if more people got it, although we’d have to do fucking badly to get dropped by our label.”

So look out for the new album in September kids – “driving music” perfect for 45 minutes in the car, according to Mount. Or better still, catch them at one of numerous London and festival appearances over the summer – you won’t be disappointed, although they might be if you don’t bother coming, and so will we. Not angry, just disappointed.

Kenny G’s Wrong Walk: the Rise and Fall of the Saxophone Revolution

24 Oct

kenny gHong Kong’s noble, determined pro-democracy movement was dealt a potentially fatal body blow this week when easy listening sax legend Kenny G cruelly withdrew his support.

Mr G had seemed pretty sympathetic to the protesters’ calls for universal suffrage when he posed for photos with some of the locals and tweeted a selfie in front of a pro-democracy banner.

With those ever semi-permed shoulder length locks and gaily tossed cashmere sweater, G cut an almost Christ-like presence in Admiralty. In the photo his two fingers are raised as if to say “peace be with you all, my funny little Asian friends”.

Then all hell broke loose.

You see, Kenny’s a bit of a big deal in China, where they absolutely bloody love him. He played four gigs there last month and his easy listening classic Going Home is played – very much like Auld Lang Syne in Japan – as a Pavlovian cue to shoppers and bar go-ers that a venue is shutting for the day/night.

His caché is in fact so strong with Middle Kingdomers that Chinese Marxist thought refers to opium as “the Kenny G of the masses”.

A Foreign Affairs Ministry spokeswoman was forced to denounce G’s apparent love-in with the Hong Kong protesters with the following statement:

“Kenny G’s musical works are widely popular in China, but China’s position on the illegal Occupy Central activities in Hong Kong is very clear. We hope that foreign governments and individuals speak and act cautiously and not support Occupy Central and other illegal activities in any form.”

Rather than grasp this opportunity to stand up and become a figure-head for a movement striving to achieve that basic human right of universal suffrage, he deleted the tweet and posted this bullshit to Facebook:

“Some fans took my picture and it’s unfair that I am being used by anyone to say that I am showing support for the demonstrators. I am not supporting the demonstrators as I don’t really know anything about the situation and my impromptu visit to the site was just part of an innocent walk around Hong Kong. I love China and love coming here to perform for over 25 years. I only wanted to share my wish for peace for Hong Kong and for all of China.”

You looked destiny in the face, you had a chance to make history G, and what did you do? You went and listened to your publicist. The Hoff – who single handedly tore down the Berlin Wall remember – would be ashamed of you.

So there we go. Before it even had a chance to flourish into something intense and irresistible, very much like a Kenny G ballad, the Saxophone Revolution had been cruelly ended. Amen.

Turn off X-Factor love, Hong Kong’s got something to say

2 Oct

HK protestsA few years ago I walked out onto the balcony of my newly purchased flat in SE17 on a wonderfully balmy summer’s evening, glass of chilled Chablis in hand … and watched the London riots unfold beneath me. A few years later all I can do is watch frustrated on TV as a far more worthy, honourable and well-ordered mass of people decide to make themselves heard, on the streets of Hong Kong.

I’ve no doubt that back in 2011 those images of be-hoodied chavs storming Foot Locker on the Walworth Road (but leaving M&S alone, thank the Lord) were beamed gleefully into homes by China’s Communist Party mouth-and-eyepiece CCTV. “Look at what democracy gets you,” I imagine the state-run broadcaster saying, “mob rule – anarchy!”.

The truth is that democracy is a kind of mob rule, but not in the way that unfolded during the London riots. It’s more like an elective dictatorship where the people in power pander not to the majority but to the minority of curtain twitching, Daily Express-reading xenophobes or lobotomised Family-Bucket-in-front-of-X-Factor charvers who live in marginal electoral seats.

But whatever its flaws, democracy’s better than the alternative, as presented by the People’s Republic of Middle Kingdomland. So when Hong Kong was recently told by Old Man China that it would not be allowed the universal suffrage practiced by virtually every democratic country on the planet, but a special version in which all candidates are effectively chosen by Beijing, it decided to do something. And fair bloody play.

When was the last time you saw such an ordered, polite and tidy mass protest? These are the students I once mocked on this blog for having absolutely nothing going on. Live with parents, study way too hard, have no fun. Well, they’ve finally found a cause – something to get excited about. And it’s spine tinglingly good to see them camped out in Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, Central, trying to hold their ineffectual leaders to account, saying that, “actually, we do have a voice”. The government, the police force – which lobbed 80 cans of tear gas in the crowd early on only to realise that they looked like total dicks for doing so and were ordered back – and business leaders look increasingly out of touch, and desperate.

You’ve had your fun now…

With not a single iota of irony, various vested interests tell the media it’s in Hong Kong’s best interests, best commercial interests, if everyone just heads home and allows business to continue as usual. Well, one thing, it is continuing as usual, by all accounts. And two, the only reason your business is around at all, you tai-pan twat, and not a co-opted state-owned enterprise by now is because of the openness and democratic values that founded this frigging place. The government claims that the protests, which are coming up to a whole week now, have  caused “increasingly serious impacts on people’s livelihood”. Well, no actually; according to pollution indicators in Hong Kong I’ve seen, blockading the roads has actually done the air quality a whole heap of good.

The Party, by the way has gone MENTAL, by all accounts, but as of yet has done it in private. This, after all, is the Hong Kong which has been graciously allowed to keep its civil liberties, its unfettered access to the internet and its Rule of Law (nominally, although I hear the judiciary has been packed with pro-Beijing loyalists since ’97) . How’s that for gratitude?

Time for tanks?

The truth is Xi Jinping is in a very tricky position here. He’s a hardliner in the Deng Xiaoping mode with his tough stance on corruption and aggressive South China Sea policies. But he can’t send the tanks in a la Tiananmen Square. These are different times and the world would react far less passively, especially as it would prove that for all the soft power plays and the human rights speak, the Party is as brutal and single-mindedly power-lusty as it always has been. What’s more, according to this excellent article in The Economist, despite all the talk of Hong Kong’s diminished importance economically for China, it’s actually still more vital than it ever has been, maybe more so.

For all China’s apparent strength, its leaders are constantly in fear of revolution, so it will want this little skirmish ended asap before news filters across the border. But how to do it without whipping up more anti-China fervour, whilst not executing a face losing climb-down over electoral rules? Sacking HK’s ineffectual CEO CY Leung would go some way to appeasement, but won’t satisfy the hardcore. No, I reckon Beijing will sit it out and hope that eventually the students will go back to school, pressured by parents worried about their grades.

If they don’t, expect to see some pockets of covertly state-sponsored violence and anti-social behaviour suddenly and incongruously erupting in various areas. That’s all the police need to step in and then it all escalates. Then and only then will world leaders finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief that Big Brother is back in charge – denouncing the “violent” protesters who have befouled the good name of democracy as they do it.

Democracy?  Judging by the turnout at the last UK general election, we’re pretty close to forgetting the meaning of the word.


Hong Kong says goodbye to its dreams, JLaw says ta-ra to her dignity

5 Sep

jlawI’m a bit depressed.

It’s not because August in the UK was a steaming turd of a month. A grey, miserable, disappointing four weeks of anti-climax and ennui. Not even because on the other side of the world friends cavorted on junk boats under cyan skies and swam in seas the temperature of bathwater. Nope.

It was my 37th birthday at the end of August. The beginning of my late 30s. The downward spiral. The end of days. If Alex James did actually say he celebrated his 20s with booze, his 30s with drugs and his 40s with good food then he’s got it wrong, because I managed all three that weekend. Yet even this failed to disguise the very real fact that I was getting older. A lackadaisical approach to facial hygiene meant my beard grew a little (it only ever grows a little, the shit) and presented me with a little gaggle of white follicles. In plain sight they were, mugging me right off.

My Dad, who has a wonderfully anachronistic way of speaking sometimes, narrowed his eyes and asked me if I was “pursuing a beard”. Pursuing a beard? As if I’d just jumped breathlessly into the back of a cab and asked the driver to follow the car in front…the one with my beard in it. No father, I am not actively pursuing a beard, but I’m rapidly chasing down old age. It didn’t help that I fucked my back and got followed on Instagram by my 14 year-old-nephew in the same birthday weekend.

It’s a toss up which is the more traumatic. Initially it was definitely the intense pain of twisting my lower vertebrae, but now that’s subsiding the long term misery of being bombarded with inane pictures of nephew #1 and his mates is starting to sink in. I daren’t even leave an angry comment in case I’m branded an old twat, a paedophile or, even worse, completely ignored like an elderly uncle at a wedding.

So to cheer myself up I thought I’d revive the Noodle, so to speak, and write about something funny that’s happening in China. Except there isn’t really anything funny happening ANYWHERE on the planet, least of all Hong Kong, where the people have finally, definitively been told by Beijing that they can’t elect their own leader. At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all here, what did they think was going to happen? CPC in failing-to-honour-international-agreement-betrays-its-own-to-stay-in-power shocker. Fuck knows what the nightly news is going to report on now. Public backlash over a new waste incineration plant? Another preventable death at the annual Cheung Chau Bun Festival?

It’s not as if things are any better abroad. ISIS* continues to build a terrifying new world order, Putin remains a massive dick, Scotland unfathomably seems to think it would actually like to just bugger off on its own somewhere like a spoilt child, and Dave Lee Travis continues to … well we’ll find out pretty soon. And then some poor old grannie gets beheaded in her back garden in Edmonton. Are we actually playing out our final days here? It does feel like we’re building towards the denouement of something. I might place a bet on who we get invaded by first: Russia, Islamic State militarists, or China.

Then, just when it all looks so horribly, soul numbingly bleak, the internet goes and bloody saves the day by serving me up pictures of JLaw’s snatch. At least it’s not all doom and gloom out there. And I was writing a story on the iCloud hack so I didn’t even need to feel guilty. The Pete Townsend defence in full force for you there.

So, to the Oscar-winning actress and her perfectly hairless foo-foo I say “thankyou ma’am”. Life will always find a way…


*incidentally this is the name of the cleaning company which services my block of flats. They either need to change their moniker or embrace it, perhaps with a new slogan like “declaring jihad on dirty windows since 1997”.

The Elephant that forgets: regenerating SE17

20 Jun

elephant posterIf my 20-year-old self could see me now … he’d probably spit at me, then shake my hand. And then ask for all of the Grand National and FA Cup winners for the next 16 years.

Sitting here with an ice cold beer on the balcony of my lovely little flat overlooking the Elephant I don’t think I’d blame him. This little corner of south-east London that I’ve lived in on and off since 1998 is finally changing into something befitting a Zone 1 neighbourhood in the greatest city on earth. According to the glossy Lend Lease posters there’ll be shiny new buildings, cinemas, market squares, tree lined boulevards – or roads as I like to call them – and more artisan bakers than you can shake an organic French stick at.

Or there will when it’s finished, by which time I’ll probably have moved out to a larger place two buses and an uncomfortable train ride away – somewhere I can hang up all those Nepalese prayer flags and Laotian lampshades.

The Elephant and Castle. An actual elephant could build a castle in the time it has taken a series of ignorant local authorities to decide what to do with the area. Day after day I’d pass the “regeneration” office nearby to see bearded, middle-aged men and women (not all of the women, some had shaved) fiddling while the area sank deeper into a post-crash malaise. To their credit they must have got through a shitload of tea, sandwiches and Hob Nobs, which I’m sure has made a lasting, positive impact on the economy.

You see, now that it’s actually happening, I can’t really decide whether I want the Elephant to change. Couldn’t we have just prettied up the Heygate a bit, smoothed off the edges and renovated the decaying bits? Did we have to spend 20 years um-ing and ah-ing only to sell the land off to a property developer for a ridiculously low sum, on the proviso of “social housing” that doesn’t really do what it says on the tin?elephant regeneration

I couldn’t afford to live in the area if I was looking now. And I can barely afford to live further out as the knock-on effect of this insane house price inflation ripples out through London. That’s not really Elephant’s fault, of course. But it’s come to represent a lot of what’s bad with Britain today: its politicians, its vested interests, and its priorities. Number one on the agenda of any local council regeneration meeting: “Let’s get a fucking Starbucks in guys. Chop chop.”

Then I remember just how grim this area was in the late 90s. I mean, it had nuttin’ going on. Yes, there were fewer payday loans shops and Halal butchers, but the decaying husks of the local businesses that were once on those premises did little to brighten my student days. I think Elephant was the carpeted, mock Tudor-beamed pub capital of the world back then. My early evening stroll back from uni to the council estate flat I shared with two others was rarely a stroll, more like an anxious jog.

I’ve just seen a flat in that estate going for over half a million quid.

Nah, fair play to Elephant. It’s got to change. Like an elderly aunt bricked up in the attic of a stately home, it deserves to be give a bit of lippie and a change of clothes once in a while. There are already more students than nut jobs walking the streets outside, which is no bad thing in my book.

Let’s just hope the sandwich and Hob Nob vendors aren’t forced out of the area.

Return of the Noodle: a bigger playground

30 May

st paulsSo, I’m back. Sorry it’s taken so long. I’ve basically only just sobered up. Two-and-a-bit years in Hong Kong came to a fine finale in early May after a farewell party which ended in my apartment at midday. With a Glaswegian ‘small business’ owner and a random girl who looked like a woodland creature.

Clearing up I found a rolled up 20 dollar note filled with tarragon and a slice of cheese in a wok full of red wine. Standard. I’m not surprised the landlady took HK$800 off the bill, although that was technically to dispose of a £1,500 sofa because it was “dirty”. Gotta love landladies.

So here we are. London, bloody London. It’s just a bigger playground. And it’s all new and fresh and exciting. Like the first time I ever lived here 17 years ago. Except with more money. And no exams. Now, London may well be IMG_3222turning into a gentrified, airbrushed, oligarch’s paradise of chain restaurants, soulless bars and hipster twats, but I can’t get enough of it at the moment. You don’t know vested interests until you’ve seen a handful of property moguls and tai pans hold a city state of 7 million people hostage. London by contrast is a paragon of democratic accountability and multi-culturalism. And Edwardian beards.

The noise is everywhere. Of drunken sill people spilling out of pubs, laughing, joking. Or queuing to get into dingy cavernous basements where world class DJs have decided to play. The soundtrack is not endless car horns, and angry, shouty, humourless conversations. It’s not people running around making money with no time or inclination to enjoy it.

Yes I’m basking in a London honeymoon and I bloody love it. Everywhere the sky; bright and blue and pleased to see me. I swear there must be 200 words for “wet misery weather” in Cantonese. But the best thing about having London for a bride-to-be is that she’ll definitely go all the way.


Goodbye HK friends

Hello again gentlemen!

Hello again gentlemen!


The best of times: bai bai Hong Kong

2 May

HK night viewRight, that’s it. I’ve had a jolly nice time in Hong Kong over the past two years but, just like Fat Pang, I must now make like a pot of Jasmine tea and leave. Hopefully my departure from this Special Administrative Region of China will be a tad smoother and less tear-sodden than that of the British colonialists who bid bai bai 17 years ago. It’ll certainly be less controversial:

Now I’ve read some pretty self-indulgent “leaving China” twaddle from various flacks and hacks since I’ve been here and I have no desire to add to it. So instead here’s an easy-to-digest list of highs and lows.

Love it when you move in and it seems so QUIET!

Hate it when your upstairs neighbour turns out to be a 15 year old girl who spends her evenings screaming at her family. Every freaking night. Oh, and now the bulldozers have started. Brilliant.

Love the MTR – anywhere in Hong Kong for around a quid.

Hate getting stuck behind someone standing on the escalator (wrong side) watching TV on their phone.

Love listening to my neighbours have extravagant noisy sex at 3am; hate it when she leaves at 3.05 with a packed bag and tears in her eyes. She just did that by the way. Poor girl.

Hate it when it looks like you’ll be late for an important meeting because there are no fucking seats on the mini bus.

Love it when, yup, you always get one and actually make it with several minutes to spare.

Hate it when you meet a lovely bunch of people a few weeks before the big off

Nah, there’s no positive here, unless they turn out to be annoying cunts

Hate not being able to see as far as Kowloon on what should be a normal, sunny day. Cheers Shenzhen, you dirty bugger.

Love being able to hike up the peak from my door in just 40 minutes.

Hate not being able to do it for three months straight because it’s still bloody raining.

Hate standing on Wyndham Street with generic house music raping my ears.

Love bunker rave-in-a-cave parties. Shhhhh.

Love  no frills Cantonese food at dirt cheap prices

Hate Greek restaurants serving pasta, Thai tapas and everything else in Soho. Oh and when that local family run Canto joint is forced to close and gets replaced by a poncy jewelry shop.

Hate being cooped up in my tiny flat with the mould and mosquitos.

Love jumping off a boat into sea as warm as bath water. With a Tsingtao in my hand. And a slice of lemon drizzle cake.

HK night view

We can’t fund no education: Hong Kong’s ‘screw you’ to foreign parents

23 Apr

HK clasroomEducation: another depressing postscript to the story of Hong Kong’s sad decline as a world class city. I’ve probably ranted about this in the past, but was recently reminded about the Hong Kong government’s woefully inept decision to phase out subsidies for non-local kids by a new feature in the SCMP.

It all revolves around the government’s English Schools Foundation subsidy – a HK$238m (£18m) annual sum which helps make schooling for kids not fluent in the local lingo affordable for their parents. The alternative is to send them (and there are over 15,000 of them) to local schools – where lessons are taught in Cantonese – or obscenely expensive international schools which all but the super rich cannot afford.

The article explains how one foreign HK resident – Amanda Chapman, who ironically is a teacher herself – is preparing to leave the SAR after 16 years because of the difficulty of finding a suitable, or affordable, school for her bairn.

“English-language education in Hong Kong is increasingly becoming a privilege exclusive to those who can afford it,” she told the SCMP.

“If you don’t speak Cantonese, then you have no choice but to go to international schools. And the government refuses to acknowledge there is a problem and so does nothing about it.”

No, no, no

Her story is echoed all over the former colony. This borderline racist stance from the government has also been criticised in the past for doing little to help even those wanting to integrate more fully into Hong Kong life, especially ethnic minorities.

Although the Education Bureau lists 83 fee-paying, so-called “direct subsidy”, schools as appropriate for “non-Chinese-speaking students”, the SCMP found almost 50 do not actually admit these kids because “either most of their lessons were taught in Chinese, or the subject was compulsory in their curriculum”.

Aside from the ethical implications of essentially removing the right to a free – or non-financially crippling – primary and secondary education for non-Canto speakers, the sheer short-termism of the decision to pull the plug on the subsidy is mind bogglingly stupid.

Hong Kong’s foundations as a free port, an international hub administered by the British crown but fundamentally a world city, are rapidly disintegrating.

It has always prized itself as a gateway to China and indeed much of its trade is derived from this fact, but since 1997 the SAR has also asserted a kind of ‘localised nationalism’ which is making it a less and less attractive destination for foreigners to settle.

empty classroom


For any normal city this wouldn’t matter, but for one so fundamentally dependent on trade and investment, and the settling of non-Cantonese speakers within its borders, it seems crazy to pursue this kind of policy.

It’s also a sad indictment of the current administration given the city-state’s history under British rule, which gave locals at least a decent English language education. Surely that’s one legacy of colonialism that most people would have wanted to keep – one which at least benefits the SAR and its avaricious locals?

Nope, it seems like post-97, Hong Kong is turning inwards, both in its trade with China and in focusing its education system on Cantonese and Mandarin.

When Singapore is a promising alternative, you know things are bad

If Hong Kong’s the loser, Singapore is undoubtedly the winner.

Most if not all lessons in Singaporean schools are taught in English, aside from “mother tongue” classes.

In stark contrast to the SAR government, the Ministry of Education believes “mastery of English is vital to Singapore’s pupils” because it is “the language of administration, education, commerce, science, technology, and global communication”.

Now, I might have nicked that quote from Wikipedia, but you get the point.

Education is one of the key criteria and expenses aside from housing when ex-pats come to decide where to base themselves.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out what will happen to HK post-2016. Now I’m not saying they shouldn’t teach Cantonese in local schools, far from it, but for a government with a budget SURPLUS which topped HK$64 billion (£5bn) in 2012-13 a piddling HK$238m would not be a big ask.

Not that the government cares and there are too few gweilo voters for it to matter anyway, even if they could directly elect their CEO.

The locals, meanwhile, are more focused on preserving their own educational independence from China, which recently almost managed to bully officials into imposing a “national education” curriculum designed to brainwash local kids.

Internatio-no thanks

What we can hear loud and clear from the HK government on this subsidy issue is that you can come and settle here, but if you have kids you’d better get your wallet out.

Christ, have you ever met international school kids? I wouldn’t wish them upon any territory or nation state. Soon these rootless offspring with whiny trans-Atlantic drawl and a misguided sense of their own pre-eminence in the world will be all that’s left of non-Cantonese speaking kids in Hong Kong. That day is drawing shudderingly close.

The hypocrisy is stunning. As Chapman told the SCMP: “The government’s argument that it should not have to support a non-local curriculum is nonsense when you consider that senior civil servants’ children are educated either overseas or in international schools here at taxpayers’ expense.”

Even the Education secretary’s kids apparently went to an Aussie international school here.

It’s almost as if the Hong Kong government only wanted rich foreigners to settle here, which I’m sure you’ll agree is an outlandish and libelous thing to say considering the billions it spends on social welfare and, er, care for society’s most needy…

So, to recap: come to Hong Kong and make shitloads of money, walk around in red chinos and drive white Maseratis. However, if you have kids they are going to international school or you can fuck off to Singapore.

Patten’s last stand: must watch Hong Kong documentary

11 Apr

chris pattenI’ve just finished watching The Last Governor for the second time. The first was in 1997 when it was broadcast following the teary handover of Hong Kong back to China.

Seeing it now, from the comfort of my 6th floor hovel in Sai Ying Pun, has turned what I thought at the time was a rather dry documentary about Chris Patten’s five years in charge of the colony into a fascinating portrait of a soon-to-be-SAR afflicted with what amounts to a massive personality disorder.

The biggest surprise of all was Patten, who emerges from it a genuinely nice chap who literally couldn’t do right for doing wrong. A man of political conviction in stark contrast to the obsequious kowtowing diplomats who preceded him as governor. Watching this I’m not surprised he was greeted on his return to Honkers recently like some kind of messiah.

On the one side he was accused by pro-China dicks of riding roughshod over the Joint Declaration written up by Britain and China in ’84 in trying to force through some very mild pro-democracy changes before the big handover.

On the other side, pro-democrats basically accused him of being China’s bitch and endangering the livelihoods of the locals post-97.

Vitriolic personal insults were hurled at him and his family throughout the five years but the louder his detractors shrieked, the more calm and unflappable he seemed to become.

In fact, Patten only showed signs of slipping once, when in a private scene, after 80 rounds of negotiations with the Chinese over a minor technical point, he calls them “a bunch of wankers”.

The villains of the piece, for me, were not the Chinese – they acted true to form, channeling Sun Tzu at all times to lie, disrupt and discomfort their opponents (the UK).

It was the spineless shower of businessmen who jumped ship when they thought supporting the UK would put them out of favour with Beijing. Pretending to be the true upholders of the Hong Kong way of life this loathsome clique of immensely privileged taipans are truly a disgrace to Britain, Hong Kong and China.

They continue to hold the SAR to ransom even now – making themselves richer still while one fifth of the former colony lives in poverty and spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt whenever their vested interests are threatened.

Watch it now for some spectacularly candid behind-the-scenes moments from the last days of Britain’s last major colony, days when politicians told their press advisors what was going to happen next rather than the other way round.

The final takeway for me (no pun intended) is that the current members of Legco – although they may have lost the clipped public school accents of 17 years ago – are still debating exactly the same issues they were in the late 90s.

That, unfortunately, is what China is going to try and keep them doing until the end of time.

Beijing: Mission Accomplished

3 Apr

chinese flagI finally got to Beijing last month. Now, a few Noodlers may remember that the last time I tried to fly there during summer 2013 I got as far as the airport before I was turned back. So my hopes weren’t high. I’ve also been a little dismissive of its somewhat dubious claims to be a genuine contender for world city alongside the likes of New York and London. Pollution, common rudeness and a somewhat robust approach to civil liberties (and journalists) did not fill me with a great deal of hope for a lovely weekend away.

Well in the end the planes flew on time; the 72-hour transit visa (flying from Macau and back to Hong Kong) worked a treat; and the miserable immigration guard only laughed once in my face, which I think is about as good as it gets in Beijing. The skies were the bluest blue I’ve ever seen in this part of the world, the locals were, well, pretty decent sorts, and the Hutong bars were an eclectic, messy, jumbled-up delight. Add in Peking duck at Da Dong and an overnighter to the Great Wall and you have just about the perfect weekend getaway.

In fact, the whole weekend made me thoroughly unimpressed on my return with the moody arrogance of parochial Hong Kongers, their shitty identikit bar/clubs, and paranoid NIMBY-fied attitude to late night licensing. For the record, I still like dim sum and junk trips though.

Here, as promised, is some gratuitous photo-porn from the weekend.


forbidden city


Lovely hutong: nanluoguxiang

Zhonglou and gulou

Zhonglou and Gulou: Bell tower and drum tower


great wall


The only way to exit the Great Wall

chinese flag