Saturday, February 18, 2012

Leaving again

After almost four years in Hong Kong, it's time for me to clear off, and leave this small, crowded, low-tax-environment island. I'll miss the crowds, the bizarre public service announcements, the heat. Well, I would, except I'll be moving to Singapore, so the only major differences apparent to an outside observer are that it's hot all year round (rather than chilly in January and February) and the air is a bit fresher.

Last night I got so drunk that I don't remember any of last night, which meant I woke up feeling dreadful this morning, and our building isn't a happy place to have a hangover, because it's full of workmen renovating the other apartments.

Well, I say 'renovating' in the loosest possible terms. All they do all day is drill, or go up and down in the lift with buckets of semi-dried cement. The drilling hasn't stopped for over a month, which suggests they're trying to drill to China. From the 13th floor.

Look, I never said they were particularly smart workmen.

The cement is more of an enigma. Sometimes a man gets on at the ground floor with a bucket of cement, and goes up to the top floor. Sometimes a man comes from the top floor down to the ground, with a bucket of cement. There's nothing to suggest that this nets out with more cement at the top of the building or the bottom. Are they really using it for
building work? Is it just a longitudinal study of cement's behaviour at different latitudes? Who can say? I'll leave the country with this particular mystery unsolved.

Our movers arrived in this maelstrom at 9 am, with a van full of cardboard and packing tape, and began to turn our apartment upside down. While not as frenetic as the half-naked hotpant removal company from 2010, they worked at a blistering rate. By 10:30 the apartment was almost impossible to move in because it was filled with cardboard boxes full of stuff, and they kept on packing and packing and packing, while our flat began to resemble a Tardis in reverse.

The drilling continued. Occasionally a workman would get of the lift on our floor, look confused, and then remember that he was meant to be taking his bucket of cement somewhere else. We shifted the few bags we have of clothes that we're flying to Singapore over to our in-law's flat, and then ran away before the industriousness or the noise could
drive us crazy.

Because we'll arrive in Singapore without a computer, and because my wife will be obergruppenfuhrer of finding a place to live, we went down to the Wan Chai Computer Centre one last time, to see if we could
find something for her to get online with over there. There's only a few scant weeks until the ipad3 is announced, so we decided to buy a Samsung Tab instead. Not just because I wanted to be different, but because it's a handier size for her bag, and because I wanted to be different.

With a new toy to play with, I went back to the in-laws' sofa to figure out how Android works, and my wife went to lunch, and neither of us went back to the flat to see how things were getting on.

Packing, like the creation of legislation and the making of sausages, is one of those things everyone wants the benefit of without actually having to be present while it's being done. So I was quite happy to fumble with authentication settings and Google Docs clients, rather than stand in the hallway and watch men in boilersuits wrap every trace of my life in brown paper and then add it to a manifest.

The Samsung Tab 7.7 has a name that is rich with metaphor, excitement and interest, and I'll say a bit more about that in a week or two. Perhaps it will have transformed my life by then. Perhaps I'll have found solace in religion, or taken up clay pigeon shooting. Who can say what dreams may come?

What we can say is that at 4pm the packing was done, and so I was sent back to sign the forms to say this, which I did, and I let the movers go, and then landed myself in hot water. They'd left the sofa and the wardrobe behind. The sofa is perfectly good, except it's from Ikea, and even before it became stained and grubby, was already a horrible colour. The wardrobe is from Ikea too, and in need of burning. And the movers were meant to dispose of them.

Well, they hadn't. I casually mentioned this to my wife, who rang up the movers, tore them off a strip and sent them back to the flat to take the offensive furniture away. I was loitering in the kitchen, stuffing my face with hummus that we hadn't eaten last night, and trying to figure out what we will do with a fridge full of chickpea-based products and vermouth. I felt a bit embarassed to be there with three now-slightly grumpy men, disassembling the wardrobe. I was sort of wasting their time when they wanted to be elsewhere, like a ticket inspector in an orgy.

Something in the hummus is doing weird things to simile, I know. Or it's Mr Driller upstairs. The wardrobe went, the sofa went, and finally, just to complete the circle, the estate agent who found the flat for us arrived, with an enormous spot on his chin that I couldn't stop staring at, and two prospective tenants.

They wandered around the flat, now filthy with cement dust walked in by the countless trips between flat and removal van, listened to the drilling, looked at some of the walls, and then walked out again. I suppose they did get a fairly accurate impression of what the flat is like (noisy, a bit battered) although if they do move in, there shouldn't be a suspicious bearded chap in the corner writing his blog.

And so I remain, and I wait, and soon I'll be gone too. Cheerio, my dear flat. Since I moved in, I've got engaged, I've got married, and I've got a new job. I'm still not quite sure what the next place will do to me. For me. Concentrate now, for me.


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