Won Ton Soup
Holy Guacamole, Poucher – this is the big one – six days in Hong Kong, three schools just
bursting to hear more of our adventures and, certainly the highlight, the exhibition at the
glittering Studio Rouge by four famous Aussie artists, Annalise Fairfax, Sandy Pratten, Doffy
White and of course your own Kate, star illustrator and artist extraordinaire. Even better, your
good mates Brooke and Belinda were coming to share the fun. A nice touch to have Annalise
with us, Poucher, because it was Annalise many years ago, with whom I first shared the tales of
We bumped into the Anderson trio at the airport – great excitement until we shared the sad
news that poor Prue Bags had had to drop out at the last minute – rotten news. Then the
Ando’s were told their plane was delayed by two hours. Bill’s travel arrangements are inevitably
mysterious and a delight (to others, anyway).
Still, for Brooke and me there were compensations – Eggs Benedict in the Chairman’s Lounge,
surrounded by dirty old men with blondes young enough to be their daughter – disgraceful!
Next, Qantas must have seen how much we were missing Prue Bags and upgraded us to First
Class – oh boy, Poucher, a bit of OK that was. We shared a sumptuous three-course lunch, and
then Brooke sat down to watch Downton Abbey and I, Django Unchained. Just as well that was
And then big, bold bustling Hong Kong, with its shining towers, mighty apartment blocks and frantic harbour. Bill had booked us all into the Island Pacific. On our last visit, old mate, you will recall he had us in The Opposite House and The Conrad? Boy, was the Island Pacific a different kettle of fish, and I do mean fish. Down the Chinese end of the Island, surrounded by hundreds of shops selling dried fish of every kind, and one nearby hotel offering rooms at $10 for 2 hours, overnight (spelt “nightless”) for $25, and Thai body massages. Seriously, Brooke fitted my ankle with one of those tracking devices..
Still, the beds were fine and there was indeed a bar, where Brooke, always peckish, ordered the won ton Doffy ordered her nightly medicine (half a jug of Grand Marnier) and the adventure began …..soup. And then arrived the gang – Doffy and Tony, Sandy, Fiona and finally the poor Ando’s. Fiona, of course, is my gorgeous Pommy cousin, who would fly across the world for a drink and a good party.
An early start, Poucher my man, but thank goodness for our Sergeant Major, Belinda P. Nobody was game to keep Belinda waiting, knowing well as she does how your Big Guy likes everything on time and otherwise just so. Boy she looked after me well.
As you know, Kate (and I) are preparing a Chinese picture book and there, waiting to meet and greet us in our hotel, was our charming translator, the lovely Angie. Angie whisked us away to our first school, with Kate and our busy helpers, Brooke and Belinda, all ready to share your adventures with the kids. Fiona and Sandy came too, and we feared we might outnumber the kids.
Don’t you believe it – 150 great kids at the Yew Chung International School, pretty much all Chinese, all so excited to hear about Poucher. Angie’s son Jordan was there – boy, the poor guy is clearly infection and accident prone, but a good bloke and you and he would be great mates.
A top lunch at Wang Jia Sha, our menu selected by Angie and then, wait for it son, we went home by TRAIN – three trains actually – you would have been proud of me.
I was pretty stuffed by now, but not your Kate – she DID have an exhibition to prepare for, so off she went to join Sandy, Annalise and Doffy, whilst Brookie and Belinda went shopping, of course. Boy, if shopping were an Olympic sport, these two would be gold medalists. And that’s not all – Belinda chats some bird up, finds out it’s “2 meals for the price of 1” night, and books us in to Soho Spice for dinner.
Big night – Sandy has clearly been ripping into a bit more than the artwork at the Gallery, and gets the award for the best and fairest on the night – no male thigh left unattended. Sensational!
What Belinda had not mentioned was that 2 for 1 applied to the food, but NOT the drinks – a pity she didn’t pass that on to Sandy!
Home just in time for Doffy to enjoy her normal bucket of Grand Marnier.
Our Artists Conquer the World
This is the big day, so off our artists go to prepare. Brooke and Belinda and Bill and I climb on to the top deck of a bus – yes, Poucher, now I’m on a BUS – and wander all the way around the island to Stanley
Markets for another shopping orgy. Bill, you will recall is more of a terrorist shopper – a quick hit and run and he is then off to wait for us for lunch at the Pickled Pelican, a pub style lunch at the waterside where Bill proudly shows us the present he has snapped up for Prue Bags. A delicate silver filigree necklace; beautiful – except that it isn’t a necklace at all, but a G string – and there is only one man in the world who could find such a thing anywhere, let alone Stanley Markets.
Poucher, we went to Bill and Kate’s with the gang a week after our return to watch the Swans thump the Magpies, and Prue Bags actually wore it as a necklace, and very fetching it looked too. Bill, of course, was keen to see it in its natural habitat – he is a one, that boy.
But, hey, it’s Exhibition time – “4 Australian Women” at Studio Rouge. I’m buggered if I know why they call it Studio Rouge, Poucher. Ethereal white space and lofty Victorian ceilings, all beautifully coordinated by maestro Tony Scott and Lee, his mercurial inspiration.
What a huge success – quite magnificent art, the most admiring crowd of guests including a few great Aussie expats, Hong Kong VIP’s and even the delightful Ros Egan who had jetted in just for the night.
I suspect, old friend, that Sandy P had been at it again. She decided to swell the numbers by standing outside and dragooning startled strangers into the affair. Quite a haul, actually, including two very distinguished looking and obviously prosperous architects.
One guest, Celia, a fellow artist, told me and Bill that she made a living painting males in the nude. Had, in fact, just finished one of a well connected 70 year old who was now the envy of all his mates. We have arranged for her to fly down to Sydney to do us shortly, I think to be posed together. Crikey, Poucher, I do hope she has forgotten.
And also there of course were the Hardens, Dave and Sarah, Sarah Vickers Willis as she was, old schoolmate of Brooke and Belinda’s. Boy, what a couple; she pretty much now runs the Murdoch empire, flying all over the world at the drop of a hat for 15 minute meetings; he a marvellous eccentric who writes sitcoms for global TV, probably the ones Bill watches after midnight.
Post exhibition dinner celebration at 208 Duecento Otto – speeches, massive applause from diners at all the other tables. Your Kate a living legend, Poucher, as were Annalise, Sandy and Doffy. And yes, 208 DID serve Grand Marnier for Doffy. Holy G, what a day.
Crikey Poucher, Kate and your mate Big Guy are made of tough stuff. Flushed with the success of Tuesday night, we had to breakfast at 7:00 for an 8:00 departure for the next reading. Picture the
combination of Hong Kong heat, 150° humidity and hangovers (Kate’s, not mine of course) – phew!
But off we went at 8:00 with our hardworking elves, Belinda and Brooke, to the Woodland Repulse Bay Montessori Pre-School, accompanied by Fiona, our own Montessori expert. Amazing – you march into this ultra smart shopping/accommodation complex and there in the middle of it is tucked away the school.
But, hey – BIG challenge – the kids are a little too young to read to, so in all that humidity we are faced with four sessions where we have to TELL them the stories, lie on the floor and hiss like snakes, scratch the armpits like monkeys, sing songs, cackle like kookaburras, prance like all you kangaroos – oh boy!
“Were you a snake in your last life?” one asks. “Of course he was a snake”, Kate answers. “That is his star sign.”
She is a real mate – and she left only one person in the room not entirely delighted with the news.
The all-singing all-dancing Dave Harden had organised the visit, so met us afterwards and walked us to their fabulous Repulse Bay apartment – “just a five minute walk” he says – Ha! Still, a top spot, further enriched by the view, Dave’s guitar teacher, and their dog, who clearly considered peeing on the floor as the best of games.
On then for Kate and I to hold a meeting with our angelic translator, Angie, to discuss the Chinese picture book project. As we contemplated the delights and mysteries of turning you, Poucher, into Pinyin, simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese, we realized what an exciting project this is. And then the excitement grew even further, because the lovely Pia Wong, who had introduced Angie to us, popped in to say hi.
Wednesday evening was junk night, Poucher.
And I don’t mean junk, I mean the mighty Junk Jura, crewed by Billy and Toby, just the ten of us in our own private junk. A chef served us a gourmet three-course meal as we cruised Hong Kong harbour, with all its lights and sights and delights, not to mention smells. Such an adventure and yes, the odd G and T and glass of wine, although I think Doffy had to wait for the hotel to have her nightly Grand Marnier bath.
The School on the Second Floor
Another early departure, and today our gang of four was joined by Doffy and Tony. The Harbour School in Kennedy Town was our destination, again organised by the irrepressible Dave Harden.
We were greeted by a large white rabbit called Captain – left there complete with pen the day before and the school had no idea what to do with him. He looked quite tasty, and I didn’t much like his chances. The kids were REALLY keen for you to move in too, but son, I wouldn’t accept if I were you.
Bit of a tough gig this one, Poucher. I don’t think fantasy plays a large role in the education here. We shared with one class the Disneyland adventure, full of magic and flying carpets.
“There is no such thing as a flying carpet” said one little girl firmly.
“There is no such thing as magic” said another. I asked her whether she had seen the Harry Potter films.
“Many times” she said proudly. Not sure she got my point.
You will recall that we have a bully called Larry in one of the stories and Kate shows the kids a picture of Larry on his horse. It happened to be antibullying day at the school. “Ant-eye” as they pronounce it and as Belinda loudly pointed out to her Mum from the back of the room.
“Anyone here called Larry?” asked Kate. Silence …. Then one boy says helpfully.
“My driver’s name is Larry”. Time you and I had a driver, I reckon Poucher.
No rest for us – on to lunch, all ten of us, at The China Club. Impossibly overbooked, but Sarah H had worked her magic. An amazing place, created by David Tang in the old China Bank building. Full of nostalgia, it’s a look in history’s rear-vision mirror at pre-Revolutionary Shanghai in the 1930s, with a
generous infusion of pop art. Impressed Poucher? Well, to be honest, I am quoting one Michael Gebicki. Sensational tucker, chosen by Belinda and Brooke with the aid of lunching there the day before with Sarah.
And hear this, I catch a TRAM back to the hotel, where there is a crook little episode – the departure of Fiona, flying back to London on a magic carpet of tears, bucket loads of them. So upset are we, in fact, that the remaining nine head off to Olive, a Greek and Middle Eastern restaurant. We eat well, drink better (especially Sandy), and I have a great yarn with Tony about his early years. Apparently, much of his childhood was spent in Kenya riding rhinos. Odd, but having you as my best mate, who am I to comment? You would like him a lot, Poucher. Doffy dives into her GM bucket and Annalise (very generously) pays – the perfect night.
A night not quite finished, I hear later. Brooke, Belinda, Annalise and Sandy walk home and B and B drag poor Annalise and Sandy (oh yeah!) into every bar along the way. Which now explains why those four little ladies were wearing very dark glasses on Friday morning.
Breakfast and Related Matters
Whilst on the subject of breakfast, Poucher, I want to share something with you, but you had better keep this one to yourself. Every morning at brekky, Fiona and Annalise get someone to create a disturbance at the other end of the room. Whilst all are distracted they rush to the buffet and stuff bread, cheese, ham, fruit, you name it, down their fronts and into their bags. Then off they go, the day’s lunch and other snacks all taken care of. Neat trick, eh? Still, I guess they don’t have our privileged backgrounds.
Anyway, the artists were artisting, so Bill, Brooke, Belinda and I took ourselves off by the Star Ferry (now a FERRY!!) to the Peninsula Hotel to see the Rolls Royces and have Eggs Benedict for brekkie. Beautiful, with free refills of coffee and OJ; Bill in heaven. Free refills have their normal impact on me, so for a quick pee I slip up to the very smart bathroom, attended by a very smart attendant. Quick visit, no tip, grumpy attendant. But then I realise that things are getting more serious, and I may have to back the old brown buick out of the garage (nice one, Belinda). I return to the bathroom and being a more serious visit I slip the attendant HK$20. A beaming smile and he says “have a nice day and come back soon”. I trust not.
This of course is departure day, for Brooke, Belinda and me, so Brooke and Belinda dive into an absolute whirlwind of shopping and Brooke and I spend the afternoon trying to squeeze all her purchases into my suitcases. We very sadly farewell the remaining six, and I try to force a GM into Doffy for comfort’s sake. Amazing – she declined.
A better farewell than usual though, because Belinda was going back to her four, Brooke to her five (even though they had claimed they hadn’t realised she had been away) and all of us to you and our Prue Bags.
Adventures with Kate and Bill are always special, aren’t they Poucher, and this one was right up there, kicked up into really high gear by having Belinda and Brooke with us. And Annalise, Sandy, Ros, Fiona and Doffy and Tony just added to the sparkle. It’s going to make a great movie, old friend
Photographs: Kate, Doffy,Sandy, Belinda, Brookie
AUTHOR: BIG GUY