Fireworks, Wizards and Inflatable Pineapples

Nothing like a recount of the week’s events to cure a bout of insomnia.

Spirits were high this week due to the freak occurrence of two public holidays. The first, being the pithily named ‘National Day of the People’s Republic of China’. This marks 60-something years since the PRC was founded. Obviously, this is not a big deal for Hong Kongers but government-issue festivities go on nonetheless – most notably in the form of the most extravagant fireworks display anyone has ever seen. The Chinese, famous for their invention of gunpowder, also do a first-rate job of blowing the stuff up in an impeccably organised fashion. I’ve been impressed by fireworks displays before, but this was a different kettle of fish. The display, executed over the dramatic backdrop of Victoria Harbour, lasted around 20 minutes. Enough pyrotechnics were set off to make Guy Fawkes need a new pair of trousers – 31,888 to be exact. Over a quarter of a million people flocked to both sides of the harbour to witness the HK$13,000,000 (£1,300,000) spectacle. The light drizzle that fell during the blitz was barely noticed by the spectators, who were already being blinded and deafened by the symbols of Chinese authoritarianism. Still, a nice way to spend a Monday evening.

The second round of celebrations was Chinese Mid-Autumn festival, which I gather is basically like the Harvest Festival but with more lunar emphasis. People go out late at night to parks, light lanterns, eat moon cake and watch performances of music and dragon dancing. Moon cake is sort of like a pork pie, but instead filled with a nutty paste and an egg yolk – certainly an acquired taste. We wondered round Victoria Park, sunk a few cans and soaked up the atmosphere. In the absence of a beer tent, we had to divert to 7/11 for our beverages. It struck me that never, in a million years, would such a major public event occur in Britain without at least one beer tent being hoisted in preparation. Then I realised that the whole social fabric of Britain relies on everyone being slightly pissed all the time. Some would say that this is a damning indictment of our decadent, addictive society. I think it’s fine. After our second fix of Chinese culture for the week, we went to Wan Chai for ladies night.

The public holiday was the day after Mid-Autumn Festival. Ordinarily on a bank holiday I would cut the grass, browse the Economist and maybe take a stroll down the boozer for a jar of Hobgoblin. But in this case, my stroll was a swim, my boozer was a massive boat and my jar of Hobgoblin was as much free drink could fit on said boat. I have to say, floating round the South China Sea in an inflatable pineapple, soaking up the rays  with Tsing Tao in hand, surrounded by friends from all over the world having the time of their lives is probably the most content I’ve been since arriving. Thankfully, things degenerated fairly sharpish. Chilled out sexy vibes all round.

Rugby Union is the greatest sport that has ever graced the Earth. It requires a noble balance of strength, speed, agility, wit, aggression, teamwork and the ability to down a pint in under 4 seconds whilst wearing pants on your head. Just above the legal system and Bobby Davro, rugby is the greatest gift that Britain has bestowed upon the world. Due to its colonial past, Hong Kong is still very much an incubator for the oblate spheroid and my plan was to get on the pitch as soon after arriving as possible. In the nature of the sport I have been warmly welcomed into the University Rugby Football Club, which consists of expats from the likes of Britain, France, Canada, the U.S, South Africa and Australia, along with local players and HKU students. After a shaky start, this weekend saw all three teams win comfortably. The team I was playing for, URFC Wizards, dished out a damn good thrashing to our opposition which earned us a bonus point. The artificial pitches and over 35-degree heat have been difficult obstacles to overcome, but I am beginning to feel comfortable and at home playing Hong Kong rugby and my recent performance on the pitch earned me joint man of the match. The scenery of mountains, sparkling seas and high-rise buildings that surround the pitches certainly makes a nice change from the boggy paddocks of Europe.

Next week I jet off to Japan for ramen and adventure, before the weight of a month’s neglected study comes crashing down upon me.



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