Sunday, March 14, 2010

Finding things out

For the last two weeks I've been searching in vain for my ipod.  I looked in all my many bags, under all the rubbish on my desk at work, under every pile of post and books and DVDs on the table in my flat.  No luck.  I've been troubled by this loss, deprived of my best means of ignoring the world while on public transport.  Luckily nobody has tried to talk to me in the last two weeks, but without the sonic screen of NWA on constant repeat, it was only a matter of time before I'd have to interact with something other than myself.

Luckily, today I looked in a cupboard for the flashgun for my camera, and saw that I'd hidden my ipod there.  I think I'd concealed it because I was worried that my overefficient maid was going to tidy it to a rational location, and since I never behave rationally, it would have been impossible for me to find it again.

(She's lamentably good at this.  Whereas I believe that the boxes that electronic devices are delivered in should be stored for the rest of my life, in case one day (probably exactly 48 hours after the warranty has expired) they should need to be repackaged and returned to the manufacturer, she has no compunction in consigning these cardboard edifices to overconsumption straight into the dustbin.  And not the dustbin of history, no.  This is one Filipina who has no truck with metaphor.  If I hadn't remonstrated with her quite severely, she was\ going to sling the beautiful cardboard wrapper of my camera straight into the dustbin, and that night the lapsap lady would have scurried away with it on her trolley, cackling with joy.)

Unfortunately, since I'd concealed it from my maid, whose sensory perceptions run at an entirely higher magnitude than my own (what with her always seeking to create order out of the natural mess that I believe the apartment should be), it took me fourteen days to find it again, and that only occurred once I'd forsaken all hope of finding it and was getting quite excited about buying something new and shiny.  WHY MUST I ALWAYS BE BESET WITH TRAGEDY?

Having found the ipod, I celebrated by going out without it, and tooling up to Kowloon Tong to talk to a friend about how to take photographs.  I feel a bit of a fraud about this, because my advice can easily be summarised as:
  • Buy a 50mm lens.
  • Whack the aperture as wide as you can get
  • Shoot lots of photos and hope that you get something where the eyes are focussed and the picture isn't composed absolutely dreadfully
Well, there's probably a bit more to it than that.  But I don't think this came out too badly:

Chris Musni

That said, there's a fantastic light coming through the glass windows at one end of Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong - not too harsh to bleach the face of people looking into it, but a wide enough light source to be soft and diffuse, rather than highlighting every blemish on a person's face.  After we'd talked of lenses and aperture priority and 'the right way' to take photographs, we teased a man in Broadway by trying out a 50mm lens that Chris had no intention of buying, and then went to Pacific Coffee where I had a fairly nasty latte and Chris an equally terrible chocolate brownie.

To distract ourselves from these culinary disasters, we took photos with the other lens I'd brought - a 300mm zoom.  Strangely, nobody in Pacific Coffee seemed to be at all disturbed by the sight of two ill shaven men with a very long zoom lens taking photographs - even if it was only of such innocuous things as a pile of coffee cups on the other side of the room.  In London, you'd either be chastised by the staff or have an angry man threaten to fill you in.  Without that edge, is life really worth living?

Eventually I left, to rendezvous with my girlfriend over in Tai Po, where I enjoyed a second delicious repast - a mushroom pocket and a blueberry muffin, courtesy of Starbucks.  The mushroom pocket is an incredible device, and I suspect it's laden with cocaine or something similarly addictive.  It's a half circle of dough, folded over itself and then injected with a strangely coagulated mess of grey half-liquid cheese and reconstituted mushrooms, which the barista will then attempt to 'make hot' for you.  As in "Would you like me to make it hot for you?"

[They never make it that hot, mind you - just vaguely warm.  Whereas in Taiwan, if they "make it warm" for you, you'll be staggering round the coffeeshop with the roof of your mouth melting off from the heat of their muffins/sundry other food products.  But I digress.]

I ate one of these things about a month after I arrived in Hong Kong (Starbucks sell them nowhere else on Earth that I've ever been to, and I've been to a lot of Starbucks around the world) and I thought "what a disgusting thing to try to eat.  I'll never touch one of those again."  And so for the last 18 months, I've eaten on average at least one mushroom pocket every day.  Luckily I didn't do anything to deplete the average today.

Tai Po is much more Chinese than Happy Valley.  Well, they have a similar number of Chinese people wandering around, but there's no dog-grooming parlours or Park n Shop International shops selling hopelessly marked-up Waitrose groceries.  Instead, there's a big open air market, a man playing a banjo, and a Rural Committee Building - right by two thirty storey apartment blocks.  Not quite sure that the rural committee is working hard enough if they've got that much concrete around them, but I'm not one to criticise.

If that wasn't exciting enough, then the Railway Museum ... wasn't either.  I went back to Central, rather than spend the whole afternoon staring at two locomotives and an antique passenger carriage.  Back on the Island, I spent a couple of hours at a Dim Sum Comedy Rehearsal, where my main contribution was to stand around being gormless, and then I took a taxi back to Happy Valley.  Travelling in a car meant I couldn't read more of Shades of Grey, possibly the funniest post-apocalyptic novel I've yet read.  Which was a shame.  It's shaping up to be a rather challenging read, but well worth the effort.

On the way back, I realised that the stereo was playing "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree".  And both the taxi driver and I were tapping our hands to the tune.  I really have to start remembering my ipod.


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