Friday, 24 December 2010

Chinese takeaway – 2

More snacks
More main courses still to come!

An informal presentation

Hong Kong has a Disneyland, on Lantao Island. I did not go.

On the windy upper terrace around the Big Buddha, also on Lantao, a group of friends, former collegues, made me a souvenir-presentation: a Mickey Mouse key-ring.

I have in my office a small Mickey Mouse puppet, a visual aid that I used to use when I helped train conductors. I would fish it out each year, in conjunction with showing students the passage from the film Fantasia in which Mickey is a sorcerer's apprentice:

So, if I have one in my office, what to do with this one? I certainly do not need any more key fobs in my pockets! Answer: remove the keyring and its chain, affix an inch or so of adhesive magnetic tape to the back – and ecce, a fridge magnet.

As for our little ceremony, none of us could really enact this as we had seen done at the Congress, but no doubt there will be a picture somewhere to tell the story better than my words can.

What's in a name?

A lady selling calligraphies to Western tourists in Stanley Market assured me that my name 'Andrew', when rendered into Chinese characters, means 'Peaceful ancester'.

Yes, of course I was suckered.

In the original Greek the word means 'virile' or 'manly'.

I can think of nothing further to say about any of this.

Watch out – stereotype about

A nice watch store in Stanley Market and a very pleasant lady vendor (aren't they all?).

Attractive wrist watches with a wagging hand on the face. An ideal present to take back with me. Two designs:
  • Mickey Mouse – enough already
  • Mao Zedong (Mao Tse Tung, as we used to say) – how the mighty have fallen: take heed all ye great ones and despair
It just had to be Mao.

'Very good watch,' said the lady, 'Chinese, Japanese mechanism'. What a clincher. Into a nice sparkly, red-and-gold bag went Mao, wagging away furiously.

Last night, got him out to wrap.

Guess what!

Public transport

For years I have said that BKV, the Budapest transport system. must be the best in the world.

Forget it, surely nothing can compete with Hong Kong's MTS.

What to pick out? A few specific favourites:
  • the old double-decker trams, doing sterling service still and, given the unsentimentality of how HK is planned and run, presumably still doing it this better than could modern replacements
  • the Airport Express (q.v.)
  • the jolly little local busses
  • the sheer cleanliness and pride of it all
Ultimately, though, it is the comprehensiveness and integration of the system that counts. Here's a personal example. It was late in the evening, and our little party was waiting at a bus stop for the local bus service to take us round Causeway Bay on Lantao Island, to the ferry dock to catch the 2230 ferry back to Hong Kong. Being British, we were ncreasingly anxious that the bus would not come in time, despite what the timetable said. It was already 2225.

'Don't worry,' said our guide and guru Ivan Su, 'the ferry will wait'.

2227: here comes the bus. Ivan is unsurprised, but to us it still looks to be cutting things fine.

There are no private cars allowed on Lantao so the ride arounds the bay takes all of two minutes.

2229: the bus stops in front of the ferry dock.

2230: on the dot, walk on board.

MTR has just celebrated its 100th anniversary. When I arrived in Hong Kong this time, Ivan made me his own informal presentation, a die-cast MTS driving-car (unpowered), of 10mm gauge (!). I have yet had no time to find out more.

And I found my own diecast souvenir of a tram: Stanley market again:L

There's a moral here. Transport services are planned, engineered services. You can learn a lot from them about how systems work, about how the technical, systemic, human factors incvolved have to be joined up and work together. In Hong Kong, trams, ferries, funicular, underground railway (and the airport), all are basically from British days. MTR tells you something, about engineers' being given their head, with service and effectiveness being the prime outcome measure for success rather that the dictates of penny-pinching, bean-counting penury. Once upon a time Britain could do this too.

There something generalisable here, about the primacy of priorities in the public service.



Blogger Susie Mallett said...

Mickey Mouse coming shortly!

The rest will have to wait until after my Christmas Tree is decorated and the German Christmas celebrated. This starts today at 16.00hr with the children's service at a lovely out-of-town church, followed by White Sausage and potatoes for my German "family", with soup or salmon for me (I do not eat meat). Then we will sit around the tree, sing Stille Nacht and share a few presents.

I should be home, by tram by 23.00hr, (yes, VGN will be running a special longer and more frequent service on the three holidays), when I will have time to search for the appropriate photographs to illustrate the rest of this posting!

Incidentally, I will be travelling each day this weekend across the city by tram, underground and bus (too much snow for my bike) to join different friends for a few hours partying. If I was living in England without a car, as I do here in Germany, I suspect I would have to stay put for three days with no public transport available to visit friends and relatives. The snow not needed as an excuse, the system simply closes for Christmas.

Am I right?

Happy Christmas


Friday, 24 December 2010 at 09:22:00 GMT  
Blogger Andrew Sutton said...

You know the answer to that, so please don't rub it in.

Public transport is closing down here even as I write, for the duration of the 'festivities'. The snow of a week ago, now filthy frozen slush, lies on the pavements undisturbed by broom or shovel, even in town centres. Side streets are frozen quagmires.

The dustbins go unemptied. A phone call about this to 'the council' yesterday elicited a barely literate recorded message about severe weather, public holidays and 'industrial action' (i.e. strikes). The advice was that, if I had put any rubbish out, then I should bring it back in, 'and listen for a message on local radio'.

Bah humbug!

Still, in compensation, tomorrrow I will get HMQ's broadcast to the nation and commonwealth. hey say that she will be speaking about the advantages of competititve games, in building 'teamwork'. Bah, humbug there, too I doubt that I shall bother.

Frohe Weihnachten euch zu.


Friday, 24 December 2010 at 16:56:00 GMT  

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