Being retired has its advantages, I discover, as I can stretch my breaks away from the office a little more than I used to, ensuring that I return refreshed and eager to contribute once again. Having said that, of course, the emails don't actually stop, and being of traditional upbringing I find it difficult not to respond to at least some of them - even if I am getting better at switching off (me included!) for longer periods of time.
The recent lack of Blog activity has been occasioned by such a winter break. In the UK to begin with, entertaining the seemingly indefatigable Mary with the happy presence of every single one the family who joined us from Hong Kong and Australia. It was then on to the Indian Ocean and in particular South Africa, returning to Hong Kong just in time to catch the tail end of the Chinese New Year holidays.
One of the joys of taking a break includes the ability to catch up with some reading, and on this trip one book was a standout for me. If you have any interest at all in the history of Hong Kong, then may I commend to you a very excellent book by Patricia Lim entitled "Forgotten Souls" - A Social History of the Hong Kong Cemetery.
I know, it sounds macabre and deadly boring but for someone whose holiday reading usually consists of things decidely low-brow if not lighter and totally mindless, this book had me reading every page with considerable care. Published in 2011 by the Hong Kong University Press the book is a wonder of 20 years research conducted by Ms Lim. Reading it, a picture emerges from the swamp that was Hong Kong about the origins of this city, and what life was like for at least a certain section of the community. All gleaned from the records of the day supported by the characters who were laid to rest in the Christian cemetery. A lot of names will be familiar to you - even if you have only been here a short while.
The front cover of the book, showing the cemetery and the racecourse is from the Illustrated London News of 5 May 1866. The picture shown below was painted in 1867 by a Captain Roberts and is almost identical, except for the addition of some buildings on the racecourse.
And so to Africa. One of the things we did there was to visit a school that we have helped financially. It was quite an experience, and in due course I will be happy to share with you what other people are doing elsewhere on this planet to improve the lives of the children who make up our future - whatever their colour, their religion and their circumstances.
And thence to Hong Kong, where we return to catch up with local and international news.
Pictures of Chief Secretary Henry Tang in boxing gear ready physically, it seems, to take on all-comers - but baulking at the idea of debating with his opponent(s) - at least for the time being, he says! Come on Henry, I think we would all like to hear what the candidates have to say for themselves, even if we are not going to get the chance to cast a vote - this time round, anyway. And US Republican candidate Newt Gingrich promising to colonise the moon for the USA. Our own CEO Donald Tsang telling Europe to pull its socks up (quite right too Donald).
But of all the recent headlines I have seen, the one in Saturday's SCMP "Ex-official blames wine for dubious stock buy" was the one that will take some beating for the title of "Poorest Excuse For Breaking the Law" in 2012. I suppose that as the case is in court, and I am relying on the media reports, it would be inappropriate for me to comment too much - but what does it say for the standards of corporate governance in this city when we get non-executive directors like this? A former senior official at that. And if the official concerned had, as the newspaper report suggests, already been made aware of the price sensitive information - then he must have a very short memory as to which boards he was sitting on - and he probably doesn't sit on many.
It doesn't actually matter that the subsequent profit was, apparently, donated to charity. I just hope we may be able to learn which charities were the beneficiaries - just to be certain that is where the money did go - and to know the dates when the payments were made. It was an act that was - on the face of it so far - just plain stupid. Of course everyone under our excellent judicial system is innocent until and unless found guilty, but if this case goes against the official concerned, I have an excellent book for him to read while he has time on his hands. (See above!!)
And if the above story wins the prize for "Poor Excuses", the prize for "Most accurate hindsight" goes to the Fung Shui master who has predicted the Year of the Dragon will be a bad one for the late Steve Jobs. I mean how much worse can it get already - he died in October!
It's good to be back!
Kung Hei Fat Choy.