33. The dips and thongs of spoken word events

5 best things about reading at spoken word events

  1. Captive audience satisfies authorial control fantasy
  2. Audience member accidentally buys your book while trying to order a Penguin Classic the next day
  3. You get to hang out at bars with poptastic ‘80s names like Culture Club
  4. People sometimes buy you drinks (thank you!)
  5. Dutch courage encouraged
Gothic Reading

Reading at the launch of the Hong Kong Writers Circle’s ‘Hong Kong Gothic’, March 2015

5 worst things about reading at spoken word events

  1. Captive audience fails to satisfy authorial control fantasy
  2. Audience member realizes your book is just a mash-up of Penguin Classics
  3. You realize 86% of your literary competitors weren’t even born in the ‘80s
  4. People stop buying you drinks
  5. You end your days raging against the light in a purple hat on a non-stop tour of the deserted bus stations of the mind
Batson and Bateman

And a few years ago in the guise of Batson Bargreaves…

So…looks like a good thing I have someone covering for me this Monday (30th March) when an actor will be performing my monologue ‘Locked in Love’ as part of a Liars’ League event themed Chance & Fate at XXX Gallery, Sai Wan, Hong Kong.

The Liars’ League format (“Writers write. Actors act. Audience listens. Everybody wins.”) has provided raucous entertainment whenever I’ve seen it in action before, capturing the best aspects of spoken word to the delight of the audience (who, let’s face it, are the most important part of the night).

A particularly memorable line-up lit up the Hong Kong International Literary Festival last year when stories by Junot Diaz, Chris Pavone and others were performed at The Fringe Club. There is also an upcoming Liars’ League (London) special on Radio 4 so listen out for that.

‘Locked in Love’ is wedged right in the middle of bill on Monday; perhaps fittingly as it tells the story of an expat stuck in a stinky pub toilet cubicle. After admiring the graffiti and cursing the lack of toilet roll, our hero soon realises he’s in danger of missing his flight home to the UK, and with it a last chance to be reunited with his estranged love…

If you have a monologue you’re dying to let someone else get off your chest you can submit your ideas for future evenings direct to the Liars themselves by heading to their submissions page here. Would I lie to you?

Liars’ League @ XXX Gallery, B/F, 353-363 Des Voeux Road West, Sai Wan (between Whitty St and Hill Rd, eight mins walking west from Sheung Wan)

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32. Dolphins, drones and…dogs

It’s bad enough being a toxic bachelor but in the next couple of years there is almost certain to be a rubbish incinerator located not far from this beautiful island, as reported in the latest edition to Cheung Chau’s print media (pictured). I guess I better enjoy the natural world alongside my preternaturally single status while I can?

Incinerator news

Fortunately, it seems for now at least dolphins are willing to come and fish, in some numbers, off Cheung Chau. I’m no scientist so can only speculate that the trawling ban around Hong Kong, combined with unusually clear waters, tempted them towards the southwestern shores of Cheung Chau over Chinese New Year for a rare visit.

south by southwest

These weren’t the blighted pink variety of which we hear so much – and see so little – around Lantau (a memorable dolphin-spotting trip some years back ended in my ex-wife and I pleading with a floating plastic bag, disguised as a sentient mammal, to transmogrify and forgive us our human sins) but big, muscly, grey-backed things, powering themselves through the water as a handful of tourists and scattering of insouciant fishermen looked on.

Adding to the experience, the two rare beasts I call my parents were beside me, all signs being that the island’s spookily good behaviour (too cold for snakes yet a tree-climbing lizard obliged us by munching on a fat fly in clear view) would continue for the duration of their visit.

Which made the next episode all the stranger. Not used to seeing dolphins whilst I’m floundering around the island, I’m even less used to seeing drones, but the delicate-looking dervishes are as identifiable as they will soon be omniscient, and I had no doubt what type of creature was welcoming us to a usually isolated beach near our viewpoint, a camera slung under its exoskeleton.

While most Hong Kong couples settle for walking, or wheeling, a beloved pooch around at weekends, here we came across a man in his mid-20s taking his drone for an airborne stroll. Unable to fuss over the thing, or adjust its tartan onesie, his partner – sporting impenetrable shades – appeared less than thrilled with her suitor’s devotion to it. Or at least to the giant remote control he was clasping. Because despite the pilot’s concentration it wasn’t completely clear who was master and who was mastered as the mechanical menace hovered around the edges of our photos and videos, emitting a kind of embarrassed whirr as its altitude fluctuated. Perhaps the youngsters looked embarrassed too. The sunglasses, and lack of opportunity to pet their…pet robbed us of any chance to exchange niceties, despite the mutual view of ancient coastline.

Just then a scraggly pack of the island’s much-maligned wild dogs appeared on a rocky outcrop high above us and began to howl, though whether in an effort to reclaim this ownerless territory from man or machine I can’t be sure. Either way, I’ve never been quite so happy to see them.

To find out more about the threat posed to Hong Kong’s islands by the proposed waste incinerator you can visit:

Living Islands Movement

Time Out article, July 2014