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out of country

Lunching at Fellinis on the Gold Coast, fruite de mare, sitting by the window overlooking the marina: berthed a little way off a stinkboat of magnificent proportions named Ubiquitous, flagged as Maltese, Vallerta painted on the stern.

A man who could only be the owner appears on the flybridge and climbs with some difficulty into a spa bath positioned in one corner. A man with a bad back recognises the condition in others. An aide hands him a glass of wine. The owner sinks back into a corner, sips. The aide goes away.

Half an hour later the owner climbs out and disappears below decks. Slow going. Back problem still evident.

A young lady appears on the lower deck, takes the gangway and goes ashore. Not crew, they all wear black T shirts, she’s dressed for leisure.

Minutes pass. Lunch is almost done.

The young lady reappears just as the two short blacks are delivered, this time she has company, another young lady wearing what appears to be a pillow gaffer-taped to her back.

Only in Queensland.



I wear my father’s watch, my mother gave it to him in 1937, it loses five minutes a day. A slim Omega with scratched glass and browned face, he wore it during WW2 when he flew Kittyhawks and chased the Japanese away from New Guinea.

Nathan Road, Kowloon. A watchseller on every corner. This one. A smartly turned out fellow leaning back on a rail, scrolling through his Smartphone.

Matey, sez I, looming up alongside, want to buy a watch?

Gents from the sub-continent don’t have the equivalent of ‘what the fuck?’ in their own language but he had the look of the phrase in his eyes as he glanced at my proffered watch.

Negative on the offer.

This is how you deal with these blokes, turn their tables.

Then a young lovely appeared at my shoulder. Pressed a cheap business card into my hand. I’m done with the watch guy so I look at the card and whaddya know, a man can cop a cheap Thai massage on the 15th floor of the Hollywood Mansions building which is just down the road, around the corner and up an alley that’s midnight dark in the middle of the day.

At the corner of Nathan and Hanoi another watch-seller loiters, watches me head over his way. Now he looks eager. I hand him the business card, clap him on the shoulder and walk away.

A woman is crouched alongside a traffic control box on the side of the road, a puddle forming underneath her, liquid draining into the gutter, tourists all around. As I pass by she rises up and covers herself.

Three beggars sit in their abandonment on the cold tiles of a subway entrance opposite the Peninsula Hotel. Brown, thin old men, hands outstretched. Working their despairing beat.

A tourist stops by each one in turn, squats by their side. They are all about the same age. When he is done with them, one by one, they take his hand, meet his eyes.

Only in Hong Kong.



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