3. Circles within circles

Psychedelic specs

Hong Kong, how I love you, but sometimes you drive me nuts, to the point where I don’t know whether it’s you or I who are more perfectly insane. Having arranged to meet a writer friend, ‘Verne’ for the first time at a popular arts bar, I’m not too surprised to find it closed for renovation; it was a fully functioning, low-key bar well suited to our purposes after all. I have no phone number for ‘Verne’ so email details of an alternative venue, already inhabited by our co-conspirator ‘Jules’ – still, ‘Verne’ may not have picked up my email so I linger in the heat warning by the entrance of the now-defunct bar, waiting for him. Luckily, we’ve exchanged photos, and I know that ‘Verne’ is shaven-headed and heavily tattooed (so we look pretty much alike, except in place of tats I’m sporting my ‘trademark’ oversized specs). We shouldn’t have a problem. There he is in fact – right on time – coming my way. I intercept him, hastily grab a hand, shake it warmly and apologize profusely for the mess up with the venue.

What I say: Sorry ‘Verne’, place is closed. Lucky we exchanged photos, good to meet you at last.

What he says: Ay, same here. I was just trying to check into that wee hotel across the way there.

What I think: Wow, I know he’s had a couple of books published lately, cause for celebration and all that, but he looks WAY too pissed to be taking part in a workshop tonight.

What he thinks: Who the hell is this guy? Still, he’s friendly enough – must be a mate of my brother’s.

What I say: So I’ve arranged for us to meet ‘Jules’ up the road. We should really head off there.

What he says: My brother’s not coming until tomorrow now, but that hotel wants $1300. When you work out what that is in beer… Where do you live?

What I say: Wan Chai.

What he says: Any places to stay round there?

What I say: Err…not sure. Maybe. I’d say stay at mine but it’s pretty small to be honest. Size of a bed, and we don’t know each other that well (laughs nervously). Let’s have a look on the way to the bar. There might be somewhere decent up in Soho

What he says: Sure, let’s do that. So when did we last meet? Your hair’s looking shorter now.

What I say: Than the photo? Yes, I took the fuzz off. I guess you recognize the glasses though? (waggles them humorously)

What he thinks: Shit, I’m stuck with this bespectacled idiot: still, the night is young and at least I didn’t spend $1300 on a hotel room.

What I think: Who is this guy? How am I meant to introduce him to ‘Jules’ in this state? He’s wearing shorts and doesn’t appear to have any notes with him. We’re meant to be discussing our VERY IMPORTANT WORK. Writers!

What I say: So when did you join the Writers’ Circle then? Must have been a while ago now?

What he says: Circles within circles, lots of circles. Never very far away from anyone, are we?

What I think: True (time passes, we walk and talk).

What I say: I didn’t realise you were up in Guangzhou. How is it compared to here?

What he says: Quieter, for sure.

What I say: But you know Hong Kong?

What he says: Aye a little, and you?

What I say: More than I did. Two years now. I’m always amazed by how safe it feels.

What he says (ominously): Until you’ve had too much to drink.

What I say (trying to ignore his evident drunkenness and apparent homelessness): And you’re a New Zealander? A Kiwi? Is that the right way to put it?

What he says: Irish.

What I say: It’s just that in your emails you mentioned…

What he thinks: This guy is confusing me now.

What I think: This isn’t ‘Verne’.

What I say (very clearly and patronisingly): Are – you – ‘Verne’?

What he says (very honestly): No.

What I say: Then that means … better run back to … nice meeting you … (sweaty handshake) ‘bye!

What he says: See you there!

What I think: Hope not.

What he thinks: It was a lot more fun last time I was here.

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2. Contemplating the future of humanity from Lancashire

I can’t think of anywhere better to do it from, can you? Not when the stars are out and you’re sleeping in the lip of a prehistoric cave, within which a million-year-old waterfall discretely ignores the fact that you’re wearing your best undies under several layers of fleece, just in case he tries to seduce you across endless, unknowable knots of time and man-made fabrics.*

Whereas my words border on cliché, those of Lancastrian author David Constantine (Comma Press) dare to border both Yorkshire and the sublime, which – less generous Mancunians than me might argue – is no mean feat.

In all seriousness, I urge you to listen to one or two of his tales. He reads beautifully from his award-winning collections The Shieling and Tea at the Midland on the Comma Press website here. My personal favourite is below.

If I ever get this good, you can bury me alive with small stones high on a hilltop, overlooking a suitably desolate valley, and I’ll be perfectly happy. As the son of a poet, and someone who began writing poetry before prose, Constantine is an inspiring reminder of how serendipitous that route into fiction can be.

Please, please enjoy!

(*A very loose précis of the Constantine’s The Cave)

1. First dip

If you followed my last blog you’ll know, at least indirectly, that I’m a big fan of Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, the Russian-born novelist whose prose is more imaginative than that of any native English speaker I’ve read (now there’s a conundrum for any word diver, straight off the bat). Our Vlad also nailed a tale about the destructive power of sexuality in Lolita (though from lingering aversions some fifty years on you’d think he’d nailed her). Less controversially, in his leisure time Nab nailed (or rather pinned) countless butterflies as a notorious lepidopterist.

snowdenus exilus

snowdenus exilus

Too effete even to rise to that small brutality I thought I’d share some photos of those that often accompany me on my short and sweaty runs here in Hong Kong, identified in the Latin with the help of Google’s new Nature Translator, designed for those who thought they saw something flapping but ‘…it might have been a drone or something.’

cyleungus flappus

cyleungus flappus

Gentle reader, if only I could promise you that this blog will seek only to entertain you with such mild fancies, but as I try to nail the writing career that has eluded me thus far, there is always a chance I might get radical, rude or rapacious. You have been warmed…

bugus everywhereus

bugus everywhereus