The times they are a-changin

Hong Kong is a sad, browbeaten, political and economic shipwreck but today we celebrate. We can exert ourselves in the country parks without a mask. The Maskstapo have retreated and I can climb The Peak without suffering oxygen starvation and steamed-up glasses. At 6am I rose and went out as the sun heaved itself over the horizon. For the first time since early in the year there was a slight chill in the air. Everything was dew-bedecked and not much stirred in the hedgerows. I walked 12km in total. In my backpack an optimistic ‘bird lens’. It stayed there as I drew a blank on migrants. To be honest the macro lens did not see a lot of use either. My rule of thumb is if I see one new species or make one acceptable photo on my wanderings then it has been a successful outing. Today I found a friendly mantis, Hierodula patellifera. There is a tree that normally buzzes with bees and wasps and hosts a few nectaring butterflies. Today it was empty. However as I started to walk on I felt I was being watched. I turned and looked up slightly to find myself staring at HP. It hardly lived up to its name of Giant Asian Mantis. Quite modest in size but beautifully camouflaged. There was no Fee Fi Fo Fum about this one. I took quite a few photos and left it to resume whatever it was doing. Perhaps like me it was contemplating the destruction of civilisation. Lorelei, the original Rheinstone Cowgirl, lures us towards the rocks of September, which lie in wait as we nonchalantly think we have navigated the treacherous waters of August. I can’t wait for 2020 hindsight and, please, pretty please, the end of the orange supremacist in the White House and his odious family and parasitic entourage.

I came out of retirement almost 2 years ago to work part time for 3 months. That was the plan. Like most best laid plans it went agley. Enough is enough though and I am semi-retiring again. At the most I will do 2 days a week so I can walk more and spend more time with our granddaughter. We have, fingers crossed, a grandson on the way too. Life will never be empty or dreary. I never expected to require a navigation course in Duplo avoidance. I never expected to become the world’s leading authority on Peppa Pig. I hear ‘Baby Shark’ every day and have become an expert in changing batteries in toys to stem the tears of disappointment when they run down after only a week of non-stop use. I have spent more time in Mothercare than a camera shop. I even helped change a nappy (diaper) once. I wonder how today’s parents would cope if nappies still had to be boil-washed and reused rather than discarded. My next challenge is how to pay the school fees that will be needed to keep the grandchildren out of the local schools.

What else is changing? Well the aches and pains become more frequent and soon we will leave our Mid Levels eyrie and live in our own apartment for the first time since we bought it in 2011. Smaller but closer to the grandchildren. What to do with Lulu is a problem as dogs are not allowed. Probably I will rent a small dog-friendly apartment for her and one of our helpers and I will use it as a study, library and photography refuge. We can’t give up Lulu. She is almost 12 years old and has been a faithful if temperamental companion and she deserves to live out her days in comfort.

What hasn’t changed is the pleasure I take from photographing the local wildlife. Here are a few of this summer’s snaps.

Hierodula patellifera

Acherontia lachesis

Spirama retorta

Ascalohybris subjacens - an Owlfly

Sphenocorynes feae -  staring into the abyss


Which one made me happiest, I wonder.


The Year of the Rat

Carrie Lam has returned to HK for the year of the rat. How fitting. We are fighting the Wuhan corona virus and on a brief outing to Central today 80%+ of the people are wearing masks. Those who remember 2003 and the SARS outbreak know this is serious.

But photography must go on. Starting with the view from our balcony on a rare clear day.

The view over HK from our balcony

Rats look more like mice at this time of year.

TheYear of the Rat has begun

Most stores have closed for the lunar new year.

Even when things are tough HK is bursting with colour

Known simply as “Hong Kong Bank” here or “The Bank” (not HSBC) the venerable institution has become a target for protesters. They froze an account allegedly being used to crowd fund medical care for injured protesters. Retribution was immediate as branches were attacked and vandalised. Now the HO building is a fortress. Boarded up and protected by steel gates. Your friendly local bank no more.

Fortress HSBC

Life goes on elsewhere and even at new year some people want fresh vegetables and I don’t mean a new government. (Margaret Thatcher once reputedly referred to her cabinet as ‘the vegetables’).

Vegetable stall open even at new year

Life in Hong Kong is turbulent to say the least but in the true British bulldog spirit we shall go (unmasked) to the Club tonight for a new year dinner. It will be packed and the sun will never set on this erstwhile corner of the British Empire.

Kung Hei fat choi, San tai gin hong and of course Sun nin fai lok. Feel free to add your own Cantonese new year greeting.

Manic Monday?

Every day it seems has to have a tag. Bloody Sunday. Black Monday. Ruby Tuesday. Wobbly Wednesday. Mrs. Thursday. And so on…….

Today then is Wind down Monday. Of course in a perfect world it would be Wednesday but alas we managed to unpack in 3 days and ruined the script.

It was on a Friday morning the removal men came to call, they delivered not just one box but brought them one and all. 297 to be precise. All present and correct. The only missing item was the dog. We put her into Dogotel to spare her and us the trauma of her raging against the intruders bearing boxes great and small.

The challenge was moving to a floor area roughly half what we had in England. Much of what he we have is still in plastic crates. We have fitted them together like the wooden puzzles we had as children, hoping that as and when we want something the pile won’t come crashing down when we pull out the crate near the bottom.

The worrying aspect is the fact that we had already disposed of a vast amount of stuff. Yes, stuff is what we have. Piled high. Clothes maketh the man, said Erasmus (later borrowed by Polonius) although of course he said it in Latin. Well in that case we have enough to make an army. And possibly a navy and an air force too. If that is true then shoes clearly maketh the woman. Although I am reasonably sure that the First Sea Lord wouldn’t be seen in Manolo Blahnik, at least not in public. What he gets up to behind the doors of his cabin is his business.

And books. I somewhat misunderestimated, George Bush (43) style. So now they are piled everywhere and I wonder why I have so many. Why on earth do I have a small collection of cookery books? My forte is fresh Waitrose pasta. I don’t think Delia or Nigella would be very impressed. An entire shelf of P G Wodehouse is understandable. So are two floor-to-ceiling bookcases of miscellaneous tomes on birds, moths and photography. Another 2 shelves of New Naturalists. Stacks of business and investing books might be ok. Then there are Dickens and Hardy novels. So what am I to get rid of? Maybe the gardening section could go? I don’t think I shall need Monty Don again. I have already discarded Alan Titchmarsh. Not a moment too soon many would argue. I am unlikely to use the Butterflies of Hertfordshire again. So that would be at least 5 to go. Only another 3995 to go. Roughly.

On the bright side my study or man-cave is almost palatial. I have installed my espresso maker, 2 printers, 2 laptops and a dry cabinet to protect lenses against humidity. Why do I need two laptops? Because the world sees fit to stop me using DVDs from different regions on one laptop. You can actually change region five times and then it locks. So my newer MacBook is for HK DVDs and general work. The old one is the exclusive domain of UK DVDs, currently rerunning Kenneth Clark’s magnificent Civilisation series. I am thinking of sending a copy to the White House.

I remain challenged by how to set up the TVs, which are British bought and need something called a digital decoder. Search me, guv’nor. I have no idea. As there is absolutely nothing worth watching on HK TV this is no hardship for me but Mrs. Ha likes the Korean dramas they show. I think that is why she became addicted to Pointless in Britain. I watch little TV anyway. I prefer 1970s rugby when Wales won everything. I have barely progressed past Steptoe and Son and Ena, Minnie and Martha in the Snug.

At least we have reached a point where we can sit and look at the chaos rather than be overwhelmed by it. Later today we will bail Lulu out of Dogo-jail and she can chase the robot vacuum cleaner round the apartment.

The true sign of having settled in though is the arrival of our first moth. Mrs. Ha suspects this is her late father come to inspect her new home. Unless her father was called Cirrhochrista brizoalis I think this is unlikely. But you never know.

To be continued (maybe).