Hong Kong Days
WE stopped over in Hong Kong, one of our favourites cities. We had one trip to Kowloon and another to Stanley but we mainly stayed in the island’s mid levels. On the first day we walked down Hollywood Road with its antique shops to the Zoo. The stars of the show were the monkeys. And the Lord of the Rings was the Orangutang.
There he sat at the very top of his cage. Mournful, sad, huge,the sadness of his fate in evolution etched forever on that heroic face. But he never moved. The Chinese tourists were beside themselves in their efforts to get a response. They shouted , they waved, but still no movement from the giant beast. Is it always thus with them, is it captivity or are they like this in the jungle too, forever sulking because some other feebler species took their place as lords of the universe.
It was hot and the zoo keeper had provided his favourite giant with a piece of sack cloth to protect him from the sun’s rays. As the crowd grew more desperate in their attempts to get him to act a part he suddenly pulled the sack cloth over his face so he was immediately a fully fledged Muslim. Well he comes from Indonesia. It was a deafening response to the tourists’ efforts to get a cheap thrill.
The gibbons in the next cage reacted to their captivity rather differently. They were to the circus born. One hand, two hands, with the feet, on the ropes,on the bars, swinging ,jumping, showing off doing tricks forever on the move. The was the a circus ole ok. How the Chinese school children clapped and laughed, how we all did. All a far cry from one of Putneys favourite sons the historian Edward also called Gibbon. He was supremely short fat and unathletic though like the primates with whom he shares a name, extremely vain.
On the way back to our hotel I stopped in the Foreign Correspondents Club. Here once the great Vietnam War snappers and journos,on R&R, stood at the bar and swapped tales. Their sweat stained pictures remain. Here 25 years ago as a business writer I sat at their feet. That day the FCC, its club memorabilia still shining was nearly empty. Are you a member sir, I’m sorry you cant buy a beer.
How my dear friend Ray Heath too long departed would have laughed. He a wonderfully old school Fleet S treet man who had many years in Singapore and HK , He shared with me a fascination for the Vietnam War. He bought me a Zippo lighter with the Khe Sanh 67-68 legend engraved. It is now in the Musee Festing. Ray of course as real men do, liked the bars and girls of Wanchai as much as the beers at the FCC. Like all the best he went too early and the goodbyes were made at St Brides..Still it was good to go into those hallowed halls once more, even to be humiliated. I was once a contender, like the Orangutang.