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Hong Kong Diaries 2: Some like it hot

7 August 15 words: Ben Zabulis
"In Nottingham foxes scavenge the bins by night, here King Cobras enticed by poorly packed human refuse can compete."
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The Dragon Boat Team. Do we really need to point out which person is Ben?
Well, a real Hong Kong phewy lately with daytime sizzlers of 36oC and bloody hard work too. From yer curlies to yer far extremities, wet, wet, wet! Clothes stick and thank goodness we don’t have to dress posh for work or anything like that. Yes, June was the hottest since records began in 1884 and the second hottest? You guessed it, 2014 – one in the chops for the global warming denialists. It’s odd in a place like this, which everybody knows has a bleedin’ fierce summer, that an annual increase of 0.7o, ‘a wide margin’ say the observatory, feels much more pronounced. But it’s raining as I write this, the mercury has plummeted to a mere 29 and yay, it’s reet black over Ming’s mam’s!                                                        
On one swelterer I shuffled off to see pals at the International Dragon Boat Carnival as they call it nowadays with stalls, clowns and drinking competitions to cater for the more discerning family - though maybe not the drinking part. Hadn’t seen the team for some years so it was a handy reunion with gassing, frivolity and yes, drinking. So pleased they’d stuck together, several newbies with the oldies: a little greyer, a little slower or was it just the heat? Could be why our well-muscled Fire Services Dept.  proved the hottest locals whilst mainland Chinese paddled off with a decent stash of silver.  The nice thing is that a ‘pit-lane’ stroll reveals a rich assortment of clubs, some from as far as Canada, USA and Aus. come to pit their skill. None from UK though it would be great to see Notts Anaconda here. Incidentally, the very first World Championships (with national squads) to be held outside of Asia took place in fair Nottingham in 1999. China inaugurated it in 1995 aptly at the place where dragon boating originated, followed in 97 by Hong Kong, birth place of the modern event.  GB as one of the first signatories to the Inters bagged third for Nottingham and not London, quite right too.
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Two days later, a drier team led by George, a racy, pony-tailed Hongkonger delivered some personal effects which had, months earlier, been capably packed and cast upon the high-seas by Ballards of Newark. It was a weird feeling knowing that your stuff was out there somewhere bobbing along, we being as far from Notts as you get before starting to come back around the other side.  Unwrapping some china I realised that in our haste little had been cleaned and ‘Ben, you should be ashamed,’ I could imagine Mum saying as a pile of dust formed rudely on the floor. It got me thinking though, maybe we should gather it up, can it and flog it, after all: Nottingham dust = Sherwood Forest = a bit of Robin Hood, romance they’d love. Not as daft as it sounds, for the 1997 handover some enterprising soul peddled empty tins labelled: Canned Colonial Air/the last gasp of an empire/contents 100% pure pomposity…
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Twisting my melons, man...
So, even with the heat we’ve settled nicely and as a measure of just how fertile this humid rainy combo is watermelons are growing upstairs.  Daft thing is we didn’t even plant them, some discarded seeds sprouted in the compost and off they took.  Imagine that, here I am t’other side of world grown up and messin’ with melons - too exotic for kids in 60s Sherwood though, only knew of them from a sketch in me Yogi Bear comic. Meanwhile the wildlife is gaining familiarity as we live side by side, house geckos are adorable and even those big huntsman spiders aren’t quite as ferocious as first thought;  the only problem is that my favoured method of catching ‘em, an empty cup over, won’t work – ain’t got a cup big enough! Snakes have also entered our daily parlance, they too live rurally. In fact we had a rather too-close encounter on a jaunt to the shops when Hils, clocking ominous stirrings right, skedaddled like a Hanna-Barbera ‘toon: momentarily airborne, legs cycling nineteen to the dozen, before shooting off to safety (me in hot pursuit) as a chubby Burmese Python uncoiled insouciantly towards the nullah, ‘daft humans’ it probably thought. As with all such creatures there’s no threat unless you’re intent on coshing ‘em dead, even King Cobras will only rear up to gleefully frighten the shit out of you - far too hot to bother biting. In Nottingham foxes scavenge the bins by night, here King Cobras enticed by poorly packed human refuse can compete.
Another parlance newbie is ‘parallel trading’. Before, locals on a cheapo hunt would eagerly cross the border to Shenzhen, nowadays it’s mainlanders, a deluge,  down ‘ere buyin’ designer tat for resale up north, big gliders (‘wheelie-bins’ sez Hils) clogging everywhere. Residents understandably take umbrage as the locusts (latest derogatory term) eat up stocks while prices shoot – wots not to get yer back up? Indeed, anti-plague protests ensue and a bizarre incident arose near the border when a 30-year old female was arrested for assaulting a police officer with her breasts. You can imagine the metaphoric field day our media enjoyed. But the poor woman was found guilty of exactly that, the dutiful officer’s trauma however remains unknown…
Yep, phewy, a reet balmy summer we’re havin’!

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