Sunday, December 13, 2009

Getting the run-around

I went for a run this morning; well, after I crawled out of bed at eleven, which still counted as morning. just about. Last night I had one gin and tonic, but either my tolerance to alcohol has completely vanished, or the cheap booze they use to give the comedians free drinks is not as high a quality as my kidneys and liver demand. They had been filming in the street below the bar; I'd watched people act badly and pretend to chop a man up with meat cleavers, then lost interest.

As usual on a Sunday, the hikers of Hong Kong were out in force; this included people in corduroy trousers or velvet jeans, which seems a little strange attire given the sunshine and temperatures in the mid-20s. But what do I know? I was wearing skimpy shorts and a technical t-shirt, and suffering almost all of the way through my 13 kilometre run.

The Chinese hikers ignore anybody running in front or behind them, as though you were merely a part of the scenery that they can choose to ignore. After a while you learn to run around them, trying to career off the earth wall to one side of the trail, or not bounce them off into the abyss below on the more exposed parts of the trail. But you can only get so annoyed with these people; they seem to be untouched by the world and this semi-naivete is almost endearing. Who could really get angry with an old man going for a walk in the countryside with a transistor radio for company? (And three old friends, also carrying transistor radios blaring out some Cantonese folk music...)

On the other hand, the Westerners can be a bit odd. I was running up behind one couple, almost heaving my lungs out as I staggered along (the second half of the run was much harder than the first, as it was uphill all the way back along the trail), and I passed by the man without comment. The lady was startled to have a heavily breathing man pass her, and cried out “Jesus Christ!”

“No,” I corrected her, “it's just me.”

I think this provoked further ire from her, as I heard her fume that you shouldn't just run up behind somebody without warning. A fair point, although I'm not sure how fast I could run if I spent all my time chanting “excuse me! excuse me! I'm about fifty yards behind you, do you mind if I pass?”, but again, not worth getting angry about this. Probably worth getting other people angry with you.

For lunch, we went with one of my colleagues and Jennifer's sister to a spectacularly incompetent Vietnamese restaurant called 'Green Papaya'. I know that I don't have any Cantonese beyond “over there”, “straight on” and “thank you” but even so, it seemed strange that food kept arriving at the table completely randomly. A coconut was put down as soon as we turned up, and then vanished again. There was a wholesale ransacking of the restaurant when fish sauce was requested, “no meat” was translated as “a bit of chicken would be lovely” and the waiter greeted the lovely “boys and girls” when I was the only male member of the party.

Afterwards, had ice cream at XTC. I had spicy chocolate flavour, which was rather more painful than enjoyable, but I made up for this by buying Viz at Dymocks.

Then I rounded off a perfectly pleasant day by winning an argument with my girlfriend about whether the English invented the pie or not, and whether pies and tarts are synonymous. Sometimes, I wonder what I'd do without Wikipedia.


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