On Monday I had a surprise visit: It was South China Morning Post's Aleksander, an old student of mine who now uses the Cantonese he learnt from me in his job as a cameraman! I'm proud of him.
He wanted to interview me about July 1st, 1997 and how I felt on that day. I couldn't lie, so I said 'miserable'. Of course, when it eventually stopped raining torrentially about three weeks later (talk about easy symbolism) I started perking up, but the thought of being ruled by a communist dictatorship didn't appeal to me even when I was young and 'radical'. Something about the grim humourlessness. Oh yeah, and the bloodshed.
Many changes, natural and forced, have taken place in Hong Kong since then. That's only to be expected. But for me the worst by far is the slow and steady eradication of everything Cantonese and 'typical Hong Kong'. Although often called a cultural desert, the place really has a lot to offer, especially for those who like quirkiness. And the language is central to all this. You can't have 'typical Hong Kong stuff' in shrrr shrrr shrrr shrrr grrmrrr Mandarin! It's like the Mona Lisa laughing out loud with hundreds of teeth. Brown teeth, thrown in willy-nilly like the tombs in a Victorian cemetery.
To cheer us both up and ensure absolutely nothing of the interview ever see the light of day, I hoisted the beautiful Hong Kong flag of yore.
Recently I've had a lot of Hong Kong people writing to me saying stuff like "thank you for saving our culture!" That is SO sad. They should be doing it themselves! Still, the more people speak Cantonese, the harder it will be for the faceless bureaucrats to suppress it. Take an intensive course this summer and you'll be fluent by Christmas if you follow my directions.