The Dragon – Part 1

It was 5:45 a.m. in the Kwun Tong District of Kowloon. The old lady walked from rubbish bin to rubbish bin, searching for discarded treasures. She walked slowly on wrinkled arthritic legs; legs bent due to years of toil and hard labour. The alleyway she walked through was littered with rubbish that had been thrown carelessly from the windows of the buildings that formed the corridor to the rubbish collection point. 

It was amazing what people threw away, either by accident or on purpose. Lo Geet, as she was known to the local residents, had long since decided that the young people of today had no sense of value. You could tell that by the number of electric appliances dumped in the alleyway on a daily basis. When anything broke down they’d just go out and buy a new one. No one thought of fixing the old one. A terrible waste of money, she thought. 

Lo Geet always started her rounds of the rubbish bins before first light. She wasn’t the only scavenger in the area and the others were younger, could move faster and carry more. Then, of course, the Urban Services would come daily and empty the bins with their huge, smelly trucks. 

So far, the trip this morning looked as if it was going to be fruitless but she was not disheartened. Several months ago, amongst the plastic bags, offal and the occasional dead animal, she had found a real diamond, set in a thin gold ring. She thought it strange that it was in a small plastic bag. She was certain that it had been thrown away by accident. She could imagine the agony of the person who had lost it. 

She had taken it to a pawn shop and the fellow had given her $800 for it. Lo Geet was sure that he had cheated her but, $800 was more than she managed to scavenge in a month of effort so she was happy enough. The $1,200 that the Hong Kong government was giving her through Social Welfare wasn’t enough to make ends meet. 

There were just two bins left to search. The lid of the first one she arrived at was partly open as crammed to overload. It was an easy job lifting the lid with one hand so that she could rummage around with the other. But Lo Geet was not prepared for the sight that greeted her. It was the upturned face of a young woman that stared up at her with eyes that had obviously seen unimaginable horror. 

The vision registered on her brain even as she staggered back in shock. The head had been attached to the upper torso. One arm had been torn out at the shoulder while the other ended at the elbow. 

Lo Geet gasped at the first pain shot through her left arm up into her chest. It was the worst pain she had ever experienced in her 80 odd years. All thoughts of scavenging forgotten, she clutched her chest in the hopes of reducing the pain and turned towards the end of the alleyway. There had to be someone there to help her. She only managed three steps before her vision turned red. She was unaware of falling, unaware of the terrible blow to her head as she hit the filth covered floor. 

Her death came mercifully quickly as the heart attack took her. 

(c) Copyright John Stewart Sloan – 2017 – Not for Distribution 

May The Force Be With You – “This is the End, my only friend, the End”

“This is the End, my only friend, the End”

And finally, the time came when I had to face the end of my Civil Service career. 

The words to Jim Morrison’s song, The End, which was used as the theme music for the film Apocalypse Now, seemed appropriate at the time. Expatriates were becoming an embarrassment to the government, particularly Expatriate Confidential Assistants. In fact, the entire reason for our existence would cease to exist on the 1st of July 1997 so it was with a heavy heart that I faced the music and the shenanigans of the hierarchy. 

When my contract was coming to an end, like many people I applied for another. There was no chance, the Secretariat told me. However, they had failed to consider something that they had insisted upon on my first day of work. 

Tucked away in my Personnel File in the Secretariat of the Central Government Offices was a document they had insisted that I sign. It was a statement that said, quite plainly, that if I were still employed at the time of the handover I would agree to work for the SAR government. I, therefore, requested permission to transfer to local terms and when this was denied I reminded them of the document. However, there was something amiss, afoot alas. The report came back that no such document existed in my file. They wanted me out and I was going whether I liked it or not. 

Having resigned myself to the fact that my days in the government were numbered I started looking for work and was pleasantly surprised when I was offered a fairly well-paid job almost immediately. Employment problem solved but eleven years in the Civil Service had left me soft and unaware of the realities of living in the real world. 

When I received a telephone call from the English Schools Foundation to inform me that my son’s fees hadn’t been paid, things came to light. Hadn’t been paid? Why ever not? 

Then I realised that the government had always deducted the money from my salary and paid it on my behalf. Then I realised that the rent hadn’t been paid either, they used to do that for me as well. And the gas, and the electricity! 

My God, I was back in the real world. 

If life can be described as a journey I was now faced with one similar to that of Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now and Colonel Kurtz’s final words rang true. 

“The horror, the horror.

About the author 

Stewart Sloan has lived all his life in Hong Kong and much of his childhood was spent on the outlying island of Lantau. 

In 1986 fed up with working for a living he joined the Civil Service where he remained until May of 1997. 

He lives in the New Territories with his wife, son and a floating population of cats. He is the author of several books most of which are all set in the territory. 

On a historical note, in December 2001 Stewart was presented with a Commanding Officer’s Commendation for “Attention to duty of a high order displayed in the pursuit of an operation of major security importance”. 

Some pre-publication reader’s comments: 

“Don’t give up your day-time job” C.B.

“What’s really frightening about this book is that it’s all bloody true!” Anon. 

“Ah, those were the good old days”.
A retired police officer who also wishes to remain anonymous. 

Copyright John Stewart Sloan – 2007 – Not for Publication

May The Force Be With You – Part Twenty-One

And a Smashing Time was had by All 

In 1972 I still had hair and most of my teeth. I was young, pretty gormless, thought myriad solar systems shone forth from my fundament and rode a 6-speed 250 c.c. Suzuki motorcycle that had a top speed well in excess of my driving skills. 

In December of that year, I celebrated my twentieth birthday in various establishments in Tsim Sha Tsui and Saikung. One of those establishments was the Go-Down Bistro in Chatham Road, a venue that many old-time residents of Hong Kong will recall with nostalgia. 

During that time, Princess Margaret Edward Road, which leads towards the Cross Harbour Tunnel was undergoing major repairs in the long left-hand bend outside what was then the RSPCA building which effectively turned it into an ‘S’ bend. At around 1:00 a.m. a car containing a driver and three passengers smashed through a road barrier, wiped out the warning signs and then overturned. The people in the car were severely injured. 

Fortunately for them, an expatriate off-duty police officer was walking his dog. This officer witnessed the accident, tied his dog to a lamppost and went to call emergency services. Now you must remember that there were no mobile phones in those days, the only phone available was at the RSPCA centre across the road. 

Queen Elizabeth Hospital was less than five minutes down the road and an ambulance arrived within moments. The officer, having done his best untied his dog and turned in the direction of home and it was at that moment that I arrived on the scene in a shower of sparks and screeching metal. 

Now, in my own defence, I must say that the car that hit the site before me had wiped all of the warning lights out. Without any indication that I was entering a construction site, I went into the corner at 60 mph, heeled over and traveling. By the time I realised I was in danger it was too late. I hurled the bike into the corner, the rear wheel lifted when I grounded the left side footrest and I came off. I hit the ground, flipped over and rolled head over heels until, now traveling backwards, I hit a wooden barrier fence. I came to on the other side of Princess Margaret Road to find myself lying on the ground. I staggered to my feet, not realising that I had an oblique fracture in my right leg. The bone shard burst through my leg just below my knee, and not surprisingly, I fell over bleeding profusely from several wounds. 

The police officer reattached his long-suffering dog to the lamppost and rushed over to help me. Once again he went to call Queen Elizabeth Hospital to report the accident. 

Unfortunately, believing that they had already sent an ambulance just a few moments before they ignored the call. In the meantime, I lay on the ground and bled. When the officer realised the hospital’s error he called them again and this time, within moments they arrived. I recall being lifted into the ambulance and remember thinking how beautifully white and clean it was. I didn’t wake up again for six hours. I had broken both of my legs, the right in two places and my left foot and right hand. 

I mentioned in the introduction that I had not named any officers or civilians by name. In this chapter, I make an exception. I do not know his rank at the time of the incident but the officer’s name was Ian Hyde. 

And he saved my life. 

Copyright John Stewart Sloan – 2007 – Not for Publication