moments of clarity
Stanley market is where you go when you want to buy a desk pad that has a circuit board inbuilt that reproduces the amplified sound of your fingers tapping on any of the array of drum types engraved on its surface.
This child’s toy is sought after by those of us who are unable to restrain themselves from tapping on the arm of a chair whenever a little bit of red-blooded rhythm creeps onto the playlist of a radio station say, or a wise and knowing friend puts a Ginger Baker CD on the player. What is superior about this child’s toy is that your frenzied tapping is recorded and can be enhanced by the judicious over-dubbing of more tapping … and the volume level is outstanding.
Move over, Brian Eno, today’s children have your measure.
Maseratis are common here, in particular the Gran Turismos and they are driven bullishly through the city streets very late at night by billionaire playboys on the nightclub and cocaine circuit. Occasionally one arrives at the hotel I’m lodged in and has to be parked by one of the white-coats who look after such things while the playboy and his extremely attractive, hardly dressed female companion enter the lobby in search of more pleasure.
Terence has the job tonight, the older fore-court employees judged too set in their ways to be able to master the intricacies of the Maserati’s manual gearshift.
Terence hops in, backs the Maserati up ten feet, parks it in a slot then hops out. Then he gives a little shiver of ecstasy as he shuts the car door. Then a grin, and a little skip as he rejoins his colleagues who are shallow in their pretence of not being envious.
A Bentley Mulsanne rolls up, driven by a furious little man who exits the car waving his arms in the air. Terence is told to back up and the car sits idling in the forecourt as the little man strides up to the entrance. As he enters the hotel he checks if his fly is done up.
Mr Ming runs a small jewellery shop downstairs in the Holiday Inn, been there for forty-five years he said. He sat us down and laid a couple of dozen jade bracelets before the little woman. Try getting out of this, I said to her.
Twenty minutes later we left with one bracelet and Mr Ming convinced that I was once a world champion surfer. He watches WSL* from time to time. Thinks we all get barrelled at Kirra on weekends.
On the way out we were gently accosted by Mr Ming’s neighbour, a tailor. He too invited us into his modest establishment but when I told him Mr Ming had all my money he smiled and replied, ‘I only want a little bit of what you have left.’
Three Americans are sitting in an upstairs table of the Pickled Pelican at Stanley having lunch. Big folks, two women and one man. Plenty of laughter and when their food comes and it’s hamburgers chips and deep fried fish. Not for these folks are the chilli prawns, crab cakes or Singapore noodles with shrimp paste ….
He’s wearing a shirt decorated with WW2 bombers, palm trees and impossible waves, all in muted colours and it’s undone at the neck. T shirt underneath.
Lunch finished, I walk over to their table, lean in and excuse myself for the interruption, look him in the eye and say, ‘ It’s a custom from where I come from, when we see the shirt of the day we walk over and shake the hand of the bloke who’s wearing it,’
… and I stuck out my mitt.
.. and he shook it.
.. and they all laughed out loud.
A squat little tout is standing outside his stall. He’s thickset, broad-shouldered with a face that looks like it’s been dragged along a pavement more than once. He scowls at the street.
His stall is full of T shirts … Bruce Lee with killing fingers upraised and an unutterable epithet in Cantonese scrawled underneath. Another of Jackie Chan dealing harshly and bare-handed with a gang of armed Gweilos.
He looks at me as I pass by. I look at him. He gestures at his stock. I pull a 74 year-old upper body flex and he breaks into a big smile.
Brothers are where you find them.
* World Surf League