“Hong Kong” is My Middle Name: Fragrant Harbour by F. D. Ommanney (1962)

Gold Coast Tin Hau Earth God Temple 2017

香港黃金海岸天后廟 Earth God Shrine, Tin How Temple, Hong Kong Gold Coast (2017)

Dick Ommanney is a real oddity: a writer who became a scientist and who through science was able to find a way back to his first love: literature.

Born in 1903, he was from the outset an introvert and a natural outsider. As a boy, he wrote poetry, and had dreams of becoming a great literary figure, but his father openly thwarted him in this (the example of Oscar Wilde was very much in his thoughts at the time) and eventually pressured the boy into taking an interest in biology. There was an obvious reason for this: Ommanney’s great-grandfather was Sir Richard Owen, the famous Victorian anatomist and opponent of Charles Darwin’s theories, and of course his family hoped that Dick would follow in Owen’s footsteps. As he recalls in his autobiography The River Bank, science was a real struggle for him, but he persisted in his studies and eventually became an (unlikely) expert on fish. This expertise eventually took him to many parts of the world, including Hong Kong.

He was always fond of “mooning about”, a typical introvert past-time. He describes his boyhood love of wandering around railway stations and spotting trains in the following terms:

The odd thing is that during the hours I spent mooning perfectly innocently about in railway termini no harm ever came to me. No one ever spoke to me or took the slightest notice of me. If anyone had I should have been terrified. The police never questioned me or moved me on. All they saw, perhaps, was the first of the loco-spotters, the shy pioneer of a vast army.

At the end of the Second World War, in August 1945, Ommanney found himself briefly in Hong Kong after its liberation from the Japanese, but it was not until 1957 that he returned there to work for three years as the director of a fisheries research team affiliated with Hong Kong University and as reader in marine biology. Ommanney’s response to Hong Kong is not the usual one: he neither tried to reinvent himself as an Old China Hand, nor did he develop a naturalist’s passion for the countryside of the Territory as you find in the work of contemporaries such as G. A. C. Herklots or G. S. P. Heywood (what an era it was for initials!). Instead, he began mooning about the place, and this mooning ⸺ coupled with his abilities as a writer ⸺ resulted in the unique compilation called Fragrant Harbour: A Private View of Hong Kong.

The subtitle is of vital importance. Ommanney’s book is both idiosyncratic and intensely personal, and there is an unusual freedom in his curiosity, a quality he is capable of focusing on anything of interest to him: the screening of a pornographic movie in 九龍 Kowloon, his attempts to communicate in pidgin English with his servant Ah Yok, his quest through the curio shops of Central to find a replacement teapot-lid, his oyster-breeding experiments in 船灣 Shuen Wan, hours spent hanging around Joe’s Bar in 灣仔 Wanchai, his devotion to Ah Yok’s two small children, his relationship with one of the Joe Bar girls, Linda, frequent visits to a Chinese bath-house, and his growing obsession (reminiscent of the Australian, Ainslie Meares) with the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Kwan Yin.

In other words, the book is a terrific jumble, but you are sure to find something in it to shake you out of any complacency on the score of what a book about Hong Kong should be like . . .

And if you ever happen to visit Shuen Wan in the New Territories, not too far from the butterfly reserve in 鳳園 Fung Yuen, and if you can read Chinese characters, please keep an eye out for the plaque mentioned in the following passage:

A very muddy path led from the village to the high road. It was overgrown with nettles and deep in cowpats. It was the ambition of the village elders to have this pathway paved and they told me through my assistant, since I could not speak their language, that they were making a collection for this purpose. The thin old man in black tunic and trousers, whom I took to be a headman, explained all this and hoped I would help. I gave a donation and in due course I am glad to say, the pathway to the village was paved with square flagstones. On the wall of one of the houses past which the path ran a little plaque in Chinese characters was engraved, recording the gratitude of the villagers to the donors of the path. It gave a list of them and included ‘an Englishman from the University’. So I have a permanent memorial in Shuen Wan, and I pray that it may still be there, and the path may still be in use, long after ‘the Englishman from the University’ is dead and forgotten. (p. 127)

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

  • “Two Cities”

All these lovely things in Hong Kong windows fill one with an indefinable sense of loss, a sense that the civilization that produced them must have had something which we now lack and have forgotten. It must have shown in the daily lives of the people of those times. The same feeling of mourning for a departed spirit comes from contemplating the products of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe. They are as self-confident and self-assured as the products of similar periods in China. But with the Industrial Revolution degeneration sets in. It is as though self-confidence began to ooze out of the toes of people’s boots. Somewhere around the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century in Europe things began to become over elaborate, imitative and bogus. There seemed to be a striving to keep up, as though designers were conscious that what they were designing was not as good as it used to be. [ . . . ] In China much the same sort of degeneration seems to have set in about much the same period. In the big Communist department stores in Victoria or Kowloon you may see the results of the attempts which the People’s Government is making to bring back the lost spirit of Chinese art. About the middle of the nineteenth century Chinese ceramics and paintings likewise became artificially elaborate, self-consciously but not self-confidently, imitative and decadent. It was as though some disease, perhaps that of loss of faith, afflicted both East and West at the same time. Now the Chinese are trying to revive the lost spirit, but in vain. It has fled. The designs of the fabrics, the ceramics, the paintings which you now see in the Communist shops, seem feeble, striving after something which eludes them. What this something is you may still see in the smaller shops in the steep streets higher up the town. (pp. 22-23) Continue reading ““Hong Kong” is My Middle Name: Fragrant Harbour by F. D. Ommanney (1962)”

As one of the world’s most unequal cities, why aren’t Hong Kong protesters angry at the rich and powerful? 香港貧富懸殊於世上名列前茅,為何示威者並未遷怒於權貴?

Jennifer Creery_Occupation of Sha Tin New Town Plaza_Monday 5 AUG 2019

By Toby CarrollCity University of Hong Kong

托比 • 卡羅爾著(香港城市大學)

There have been many explanations for the turmoil in Hong Kong, which is now heading toward its 16th weekend. However, the powerful links between the economic and political elites in the city and the grossly inadequate system of governance they preside over are too often ignored.
香港目前嘅動盪已經踏入第十六個周末,有人對此提出各種成因。不過,仲有兩方面的因素備受忽視,即本港政治精英同經濟精英之間的強大連繫,以及佢哋領導下千瘡百孔嘅管治系統。

In explaining the source of Hong Kong’s unrest, many leaders have predictably blamed the teaching of liberal studies in schools. The notion that students should gain a critical understanding of politics and society – not to mention actively participate in these – is simply too much for those who believe they must make the big decisions.
有唔少社會領袖,一如所料,把香港動盪歸咎於中學嘅通識科課程。通識教育嘅理念,係要培養學生對政治與社會嘅批判性理解。但領導階層覺得,所有重大嘅決定都必須由佢地來做,通識理念所鼓勵嘅批判精神,更遑論鼓勵學生積極參與政治社會活動,實在讓領導階層覺得難以接受。

On the other side, the ire of many protesters is overwhelmingly directed toward China and the Hong Kong government, particularly Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Lam’s actions – first disappearing and then reappearing with equal measures of bureaucratic steeliness and obstinacy – have only made matters worse, as have the actions of a police force once revered by many as “Asia’s finest” and the posturing of Chinese forces. Indeed, the sum total of these efforts has been a hardening localist identity that has become more apparent among the protesters as the unrest has continued.
對於支持呢次社會運動嘅人士,好多示威者嘅憤怒與不滿,針對嘅係中國内地同埋特區政府,尤其係行政長官林鄭月娥。返送中運動期間,佢先係消失咗好耐,到再次出現時,卻係以冰冷且冥頑不靈嘅官腔嚟回應市民。香港警察當年曾經被譽爲「亞洲最精良部隊」,但係本次示威中嘅所作所爲,再加上内地軍事演習,只係火上加油。上述種種行為實際上強化了香港人嘅本土身份,而呢種身份認同喺示威者當中越嚟越明顯。

Moreover, mutual animosity has grown to such an extent that backing down by either side would seem unlikely. Indeed, for the last few weeks it has been much easier to imagine escalation than the opposite.
再者,雙方嘅敵意已經擴大到一個程度,任何一方讓步嘅可能性看來都唔大。事實上,係過去幾個星期,想像暴力升級容易過想像情況得到改善。

Decline without hope 有衰退,無希望

However, the most likely explanation for the unrest lies not in the education curriculum or Beijing’s influence over the city, but rather the nature of Hong Kong government and society itself.
然而,呢次社會動盪最爲合理嘅成因,既非教育課程,亦非北京對香港嘅影響力,而在於香港政府及香港社會嘅本質。

Despite the way the Hong Kong government markets itself to the world – emphasising the rule of law and promoting the city’s high-quality business environment – the city has actually been in decay for decades.
儘管本港政府向國際社會推廣香港時,特別強調法治與其優質營商環境,但實際上,過去幾十年來,香港已逐漸衰退。

Firstly, Hong Kong has been subject to the “hollowing out” processes that have plagued many former industrial economies – a situation in which industry leaves and nothing replaces it.
首先,香港同好多前度工業型經濟體一樣, 深受「空洞化」過程之痛,即各種工業撤走以後,並未有其他經濟活動填補空白。

Importantly, this has been coupled with an inability of those at the top end of town to recognise the vast inequalities this has contributed towards. According to government statistics, Hong Kong’s wealth gap hit a historic high in 2017, with the wealthiest households earning 44 times the poorest.
與此同時,本港嘅最高領導層根本無法意識到,此「空洞化」過程帶來巨大嘅貧富差距。據政府統計,香港貧富差距於2017年錄得歷史新高,最富裕住戶嘅收入係低收入住戶嘅44倍。 Continue reading “As one of the world’s most unequal cities, why aren’t Hong Kong protesters angry at the rich and powerful? 香港貧富懸殊於世上名列前茅,為何示威者並未遷怒於權貴?”

Blind Choir (Nam Shan Estate 南山邨)

Chinaman Creek

Nam Shan Tsuen

Between the concrete wall of a block of flats
and — flightless — concrete stairs
this was no place on Earth we’d ever expect
a Christmas choir. I was caught
as I think I always am
when the once-in-a-lifetime moment comes
in two minds twice unequal to the task.
By the way they looked crookedly through their song
I could tell they all sang blindly by ear
and I realized then how my thin sightseeing power
was stone-deaf to the sonic invisible.
The harmony of so many separate shared voices
none of which carried the main body of music
across the arid hubbub of human noise
braked my heart:
this was the concert of the fragment,
soaringly restored to charismatic wholeness,
rock-solidarity made possible by breath.

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Counting to One

800px-Sandro_Botticelli_-_La_nascita_di_Venere_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited

A steady lack of success may eventually thicken into something not in the least
like failure.

The small feel-toll of “empty” hours,
each one waiting for the wait to commence,
and the constant, constantly renewed frustration
of all and any expectation — this, too, is a quality
akin to achievement’s svelte felted unsung underlay.
In the long run,
the sum
of so many indefinite zeroes adds up —
not with addition’s conventional mathematics
by any stretch of the imagination but
by a stretch of the imagination beyond the reach
of all or any of the twenty-six letters in the English alphabet.
Crows likewise
learn to make music of their garbled black noise,
readjusting the settings of a marathon rasp
to accommodate the work night does before dawn
to the tune of a billion years
and then to the tune of another billion years
as evertheless they go on summoning from the sky
the flash of that one instant meteor-rite’s song.

Repairing the World

Earth from the Moon

We need to be basically broken in ourselves
to be able to heal
whole
nearly everything else on this Earth.
Strange ⸺ that the deepest flaws call forth our doctoring touch!
Strange ⸺ that affinity
amounts to no more than fragilest finity
born of experience sore-raw.
Damage of course universally is a matter of course
and where we meet it
we greet it with unsuspected talents for repair, to mend
or assuage all that has come unwhole.
In this, we can’t always fail
and at least by diverting our fractured attention outwards
a span,
we may manage to outgrow despite ourselves in-growth,
and by knitting back the tissue where the tissue is undone
do for a lifetime of “strangers”
what by nature we cannot do here for ourselves.

《新心界》:第三章

San Sam Gaai 3_Chinatown Pai Lau

 

• 「冇山冇金嘅大金山」

當我哋每次搭飛機飛離地面嘅時候,總覺得似係一種準備為離開世界不再復返而進行嘅綵練,所以心情零舍特別,既不安又興奮,因為我哋根本冇辦法預測「最後嘅離開」究竟隱藏住啲咩神秘經歷。

前往墨爾本嘅飛機夜晚八點鐘起飛,呢個航班時間實在太合適阿綠。日頭佢嘅活動唔會受到太多影響,而傍晚搭機場巴士去到機場、上埋飛機之後就差唔多係佢平時食晚飯嘅時間,食完飯之後仲得閒睇齣戯㖭。雖然飛機上嘅環境唔係太舒服——周圍都迫滿生埗人,機艙座位亦極為狹窄——但係瞓著咗之後,呢啲麻煩都會一律消失。其實,因為工作繁忙嘅關係,阿綠呢排總係覺得身心俱疲,所以佢決定趁機好好唞吓,盡量放鬆自己,準備面對呢次旅行將會遇到嘅重大挑戰。

起飛前,飛機由閘門開始倒行嗰陣,坐窗口位嘅阿綠望住高聳入雲嘅鳳凰山,偶爾諗起香港國際機場下面兩個永遠冇辦法回復原狀嘅兩個島仔:赤鱲角同埋欖洲。據稱,赤鱲角原先叫做「赤肋角」,起源於廣東話「打赤肋」呢個詞語。邊個會諗到,原本處處缺少植物遮蔽嘅赤肋角,喺新世紀嘅開端竟然會被咁多石屎、瀝青、建築物,甚至乎唔同嘅先進設備所覆蓋?唔知早已過時嘅「赤鱲角」會唔會喺不久嘅將來被人忘記得一乾二淨,甚至被「機場島」呢個科技滋味濃烈嘅名稱所取代呢?

唔知點解,阿綠啱啱好喺黎明之前突然由夢境中醒過嚟。成架飛機好似一條又長又幽暗嘅地下走廊,不過走廊人影都無隻,所以帶俾佢一種陰陰森森嘅感覺。阿綠轉過頭望窗口——呢一刻眼前嘅景色令佢驚歎十分!雖然飛機下面依然陷於黑夜之中,但係飛機上面嘅天空已經轉為蔚藍色:係一種喺日頭冇可能見到嘅微妙藍色,就好似係單純、希望、復興、奧祕等等嘅象徵。阿綠凝望住呢片景象,對於四圍嘅環境已經冇嗮感覺,刹那間彷如頓悟一樣。而且,一道橙黃色嘅光線喺藍天同黑夜之間懸浮,光線如絲般細又亮,係屬於黎明嘅顏色,亦都係屬於太陽嘅顏色,同樣係微不足道嘅人類嘅徽章。「哇﹗」阿綠心諗,「原來每一日都可以睇到曙光㗎喎!一生人錯過咗咁多天光嘅時刻 . . . 我為夜生活付出嘅代價究竟係咪值得呢?」

著陸之後,墨爾本同頭先窗外嘅情況啱啱好相反。喺阿綠行出機場接機大堂嗰一刻,即係一冇冷氣保護嗰陣,佢就立即被澳洲十二月嘅酷熱緊緊籠罩住。香港嘅夏天的確好熱好難受,加上亞洲嘅濕熱嚴重到人覺得皮膚都就快生草,但阿綠始終覺得呢種係充滿水分嘅活力。相反,面對墨爾本好似沙漠咁又乾又熱嘅天氣,佢忍唔住感到絕望,好似熱到就嚟放棄人生:佢根本就冇辦法適應枯燥至極嘅氣候!趷高個頭四圍望下嘅時候,一道強光刺痛阿綠雙眼;喺附近有一個長滿枯草嘅所謂「機場公園」,裏面有三五樖細長嘅桉樹被一陣陣乾風吹到左搖右擺——被熱風吹喐嘅樹枝,呢個香港女人聯想起幾個遇難嘅人,佢哋為咗對抗某種無形嘅力量,只好將對手搖嚟搖去,儘量保護自己。

好彩,陳之一提供嘅資料非常有用,等佢可以避免夏季殘忍嘅虐待。喺接機大堂出面,唔使行五分鐘就有一個巴士站,嗰度停泊住一架紅噹噹嘅通天巴士,好似特登喺度等緊佢咁。阿綠知道搭呢架巴士可以直接去到墨爾本市中心嘅南十字星火車站同埋巴士站,因為時間尚早,加上係星期六,所以一路到達墨市都好順利,全程都冇塞車或者慢駛嘅情況。巴士站同沙田市中心好似,氣氛同停車場差唔多,但係當阿綠行到火車站嗰邊,成個氣氛就突然熱鬧起嚟。另外,覆蓋成個車站嘅波浪式屋頂令佢聯想到舉世聞名嘅澳洲沙灘,阿綠嘅心情因此而好翻少少。

不過,行出斯潘塞道嗰陣,熱浪再一次包圍住佢,城市入面嘅炎熱更加令人難受:周圍嘅摩天大樓同埋鋪嗮瀝青嘅路面都散發住熱氣,而且車流絡繹不絕,又嘈又一大陣電油味。即使係咁,阿綠都唔使擔心呢啲問題,因為陳之一幫佢揾嘅酒店就好近車站,唔使十分鐘佢就可以翻到酒店房發呆。到酒店之後,阿綠本來打算休息一下先再出門遊覽「新金山」,不過佢貪新鮮,又唔想錯過行街嘅機會,所以好快就沖好涼、換好衫,準備再冒住炎熱嘅天氣去探索呢個完全唔熟悉嘅城市。

等過馬路嘅時候,一部電車經過阿綠身邊。電車轉彎駛入伯克道嗰一刻,車頂嘅集電桿喺電纜刷出一堆火花,令阿綠諗起佢細個鍾意玩嘅煙花棒。過馬路之後[行到條馬路嘅另一邊之後],佢沿住伯克道慢慢上平緩嘅斜路。呢條路好寬闊,兩邊都種滿參天大樹,加埋周圍多幢摩天大樓,感覺就好似遊走於峽谷之中。阿綠見到一群群麻雀喺街邊揾嘢食嘅時候冇乜特別反應,但當佢望到一群群白雪雪嘅海鷗為咗路邊一盒被人抌低嘅薯條而鬥爭嗰時,就感到頗為訝異:墨市嘅海鷗已經放棄咗海洋,選擇嚟到呢度執垃圾過日子。雀鳥嘅求生方式同伯克道嘅豪華建築物構成强烈嘅對比,阿綠耳邊響起一種無休止嘅低語,將生意人嘅精明、資深律師嘅雄辯、銀行老細對於金錢嘅睿智、仲有地產佬嘅狡猾同耐心融為一體。呢度一早就冇嗮一心只係想餵海鷗或者玩煙花棒嘅人啦!

峽谷入邊處處都係陰涼嘅地方,阿綠可以暫時避開猛烈嘅太陽。到達斜坡上面,佢俯瞰下面嘅景色:山谷一直往前延展落去,最吸引目光嘅地方就係一座十九世紀嘅鐘樓。雖然伊麗沙白道鐘樓上嘅鐘面特別吸引,但同時又喺度提醒佢,置身於呢類城市中,冇人能夠避免時間無情嘅支配。阿綠知道,呢個鐘樓係墨爾本郵政總部嘅一部分,對於好多人嚟講,正正代表住墨市中心嘅正中心。「咦?﹗」阿綠突然間覺得唔對路。「點解我睇唔到墨爾本嘅山坡嘅?」作為香港人,佢已經習慣隨地見山:搭車穿入隧道嗰時,甚至乎喺大樓之間嘅空隙,都偶爾可以望到山,而香港嘅山一般都好好睇,有起伏嘅山脊所畫出嘅曲線真係充滿活力,似係無聲仿有聲咁話俾人知,人間嘅繁榮都離唔開大地。唔通「新金山」嘅土丘已經被當年嘅淘金者移開嗮?

到咗伊麗沙白道,阿綠又見到一部電車駛出。電車向左轉,一直駛到小伯克道。墨市命名街道有一個特點:幾乎每條大道,即係「家姐」,隔籬都有一條平行嘅「妹妹」小街。正因為咁,有條同科林斯道平行的小科林斯道,而倫斯戴爾道旁邊又有條姊妹路,即係小倫斯戴爾道!呢種命名方式令阿綠感到好困惑:究竟係墨市嘅人缺乏想像力,定係佢哋特別喜歡重複同一條街道名,等人易記啲?無論如何,阿綠覺得每條街都有自己嘅特點、獨一無二嘅性格,所以呢種改名方式對阿綠嚟講完全唔符合邏輯。

雖然如此,小伯克道仍然深深吸引住阿綠:接近十字路口嗰刻,阿綠見到對面豎起咗一個顏色奪目嘅牌坊,同四圍環境零舍格格不入。牌坊上面嘅匾額寫有「墨爾本唐人街」六個字,標示住呢度就係本地華人地區嘅大門,亦都係通往第二種文化嘅入口。同其他華埠一樣,呢度多數都係酒樓,不過喺阿綠繼續向前行嘅時候,佢亦都睇到有其他商業活動,就好似賣澳洲特產,例如貓眼石、鮑魚等等嘅舖頭,仲有便利店,同埋傳統嘅中醫診所。雖然大部分舖面嘅裝修都好現代同商業化,但係抬頭一睇,就可以即刻辨認出佢哋保留住唔少舊樓嘅面貌。喺十九世紀五十年代至八十年代,墨市基本上係依靠黃金興建嘅城市,隨住美國「舊金山」三藩市嘅衰落之後,唔少華人嚟到呢邊嘗試揾食。少數人真係透過淘金發達,另外亦有一批人靠為淘金者提供日常生活必需品而過活,同樣都賺到唔少錢。阿綠一邊行,一邊諗起昔日嘅場景,同時又諗起港島特有嘅蘭桂芳,將「老蘭」想像成「香港西人街」,即係一個文化避難所。

* * *

「點呀葉公?你條龍去咗邊呀?」

陳之一每逢禮拜四收工之後都會去上廣東話堂,以提高佢嘅語言能力。不過唔知點解,今日佢好難集中注意力,結果令到嚴太多次用「葉公」呢個花名嚟整蠱佢。陳之一啱啱開始上堂嗰時,嚴太即刻意識到佢係一個非常勤力嘅學生,但係當佢教一啲好受其他學生歡迎嘅題材嘅題材嗰陣,「葉公」反而

會好反感。譬如,有一次,喺介紹一篇關於去日本北海道滑雪嘅課文嗰時,陳之一突然發病,臉色變得十分蒼白,唯有停課休息兩個星期。另外有一次,嚴太因為心情唔好就隨便攞出一篇題為《向上司匯報工作情況》嘅短文,唔到十分鐘,陳之一竟然暈落地下,幾乎嚇到嚴太都爭啲暈低!總之陳之一呢個學生嘅脾氣真係好古怪。

好彩,嚴太份外同情性格古怪嘅人士。其實佢本來係一位中學數學老師,一生致力於數學同埋教學事業,不過有一日,呢股熱情忽然徹底消失!當日有幾個同事邀請佢去沙田文化博物館參觀有關武俠巨星李小龍嘅展覽,當嚴太睇緊展品嘅時候,莫名其妙哋覺得身心疲累,跟住就以去廁所為藉口,離開展覽室出去唞吓。之後佢毫無目的咁喺嗰度游蕩,行到另一間展覽室嗰時,佢無意識咁單靠本能行入去。牆上展出一幅幅水墨畫,顏色特別艷麗,畫嘅題材亦都令到佢特別感興趣:有蜻蜓、有蟬、有小鳥、有薑花,雖然極為樸素,但令佢諗起自己仲係細蚊女嘅時期。畫家趙少昂所描繪嘅境界震撼嚴太,其中有一幅畫特別吸引佢。佢對腳好似扎根入地咁,企喺呢幅畫前面發咗好耐吽哣,最後因為有職員過嚟問佢有冇事,嚴太終於可以暫時脫離呢種藝術嘅魅力。不過,自此之後,嚴太嘅生活方式產生巨大嘅轉變,持續多年嘅數學教學事業亦從此告一段落。

嚴太認為陳之一同佢一樣,性格係比較趨向藝術、文化、宗教等等各方面,所以憑藉直感改變咗教學方式,選擇咗一篇關於葉公嘅故事,試圖激起呢個學生嘅興趣。陳之一唔單止好鍾意葉公嘅故仔,仲明白當中稍帶諷刺意味嘅寓意,將課文改寫過嚟形容自己學廣東話嘅窘境:

「《陳公好廣東話》

陳公因為熱愛廣東話,所以家中嘅書檯、書架,甚至連牆上都放滿有關廣東話同香港嘅課本、辭典、圖片。附近有一位廣東話老師得知陳公醉心於廣東話,於是搭小巴去佢屋企拜訪佢。老師敲門入到屋裏邊同陳公用廣東話講嘢嗰陣,陳公一聽到有人同佢講自己熱愛嘅語言,反而突然間覺得不知所措,大叫一聲,嗱嗱聲匿埋起嚟。由此可見,陳公真正喜歡嘅唔係廣東話,而係嗰啲用廣東話寫嘅課本教材,令到佢冇辦法實現學識廣東話嘅夢想。」

讀完呢篇文章之後,嚴太覺得自己教法係有譜嘅。不過,今日嘅陳之一難以集中精神回答嚴太所提出嘅問題。而且,嚴太所揀嘅語言重點同佢嘅主要心事產生咗微妙嘅關係。譬如,嚴太想介紹吓「賣魚佬洗身」呢個歇後語,陳之一居然諗起佢喺索罟灣留低嘅嗰封信,又喺度諗之後應唔應該繼續寫信俾父親?另外,提到「芝麻綠豆」又即刻聯想到阿綠呢次去墨市見老豆嘅事!出於無奈,嚴太最後故意選用「釣魚」加以解釋,目的係提醒陳之一上堂嘅時候應該認真聽老師嘅教書。可惜效果啱啱相反,唔聽話嘅澳洲學生,思緒又返到索罟灣漁村,同佢一直寫信「海底撈針一場空」嘅結果。嚴太冇嗮符,唯有宣佈落堂。

不過,陳之一準備離開嘅一刹那,嚴太就諗返起一件事。

「葉公,等陣先!有件急事差啲唔記得同你講!下明年五月十八號,香港廣東話推廣協會會舉辦一次廣東話演講比賽,有一個項目係專為外國人而設嘅。當然,我知道你性格內斂,唔係好喜歡喺公開場度講嘢。不過我覺得呢次活動一定會令你嘅廣東話有新嘅突破,加上我可以令你發音發得更加準確,你好好考慮吓啦!下次上堂我哋再研究吓,好唔好?」

陳之一表面上冇乜大興趣,但係佢都求其講兩句,答應嚴太會考慮參唔參加呢個「語言遊戲」。出門嗰時,佢祝福老師一句「聖誕快樂!」就道別喇。

* * *

點樣形容阿綠同父親之間嘅關係?可以舉一個例子嚟解釋。一直以來,父親都會叫佢唯一嘅女兒做「新界的士」,毫無禮貌咁嘲諷阿綠染綠色頭髮嘅習慣。

因此,阿綠到達墨市之後就抽空將頭髮染返天生嘅黑色,以免再次遭受父親尖酸刻薄嘅說話。佢唔介意放棄寶貴嘅旅遊時間——要改善同父親嘅關係,阿綠深知要積極採取一啲積極手段先至可以成功。佢爸爸性格硬頸,世界觀又特別窄,除咗做生意賺錢之外,佢堅信人生冇乜其他目標:金錢即係成功,成功即係擺佈他人,擺佈他人即係享受專制嘅快樂,享受專制嘅快樂亦都可以多賺錢。阿綠嘅母親試圖擺脫呢種惡性循環嘅生活模式,但係經過幾十年嘅努力,佢最終都係揾唔到出路。阿綠到而家雖然未曾徹底獲得自由,但係佢仲未陷入絕望。雖然如此,佢暗暗意識到父親嗰種極端又狹隘嘅思想對佢嚟講會構成巨大嘅威脅。親戚之間嘅陰險敵意深藏不露,令人難以發現。

要同父親食晏嗰日好快就到喇。據稱,墨市嘅天氣好唔穩定,甚至乎連到盛夏都可以遇到「一日四季」嘅時刻!阿綠呢次行好運,呢一日氣溫突然下降,變得格外舒服,因此阿綠決定由酒店一直行到父親所住嘅嘉怡頓區。佢首先行到伯克道一間咖啡吧,依度陳之一推薦嘅,名字叫柏歷堅尼,早喺二十世紀五十年代由意大利人開辦,能夠一直生存到而家,就足以證明係一家非常出色嘅咖啡吧。一入門口,阿綠第一個印象就係:酒吧式嘅長櫃台、一排高腳凳、成幅牆都貼滿玻璃鏡,同埋研磨機刺耳嘅摩擦聲。等到研磨機停止之後,阿綠用一口流利嘅義大利語同服務員落單,嗌咗一杯鮮奶咖啡,然後轉身坐低喺櫃台前嘅一張空凳上。隨便四圍望吓嗰時,佢無意中𥄫到對面有一個黑色頭髮嘅女仔,稍為怕醜咁望咗佢一眼。阿綠對於自己冇嗮綠髮嘅樣子反而覺得有少少尷尬,而家呢個樣嘅阿綠究竟係一個點樣嘅人?誠心定係怯懦?為自己目標而努力定係自我背叛?心裏面忽然響起呢一啲難以反駁嘅聲音。向父親借錢真係好似由石頭搾出血一樣咁艱難!

要前往嘉怡頓,有一個途徑特別令人愜意——離柏歷堅尼唔算好遠,就係規模龐大嘅嘉怡頓大公園。阿綠一行近公園就見到幾片翠綠嘅草坪,無疑係伊甸園嘅象徵,令人聯想到天堂,係一個逃避夏天酷熱嘅世外桃源。公園四圍都鋪有彎彎曲曲嘅沙面路徑,路邊種咗一樖樖巨大嘅樹木,樹葉生得十分茂盛,好似特登營造一團團有陰影嘅地方為行人擋曬,令到阿綠覺得身心涼快。公園入面亦設有花圃,盛開住五顏六色嘅歐式花朵,但係經過嘅時候,阿綠又認出一種類似中國蓍草嘅植物。跟住,佢亦都經過外貌浮誇嘅皇家展覽大廈、維多利亞嘅博物館,同埋任何細路仔都嚮往嘅遊樂場。嘉怡頓公園暫時恢復阿綠失去咗嘅綠色內心,佢一路行,一路掛住暫時獨居嘅蛾鬼,又一路考慮緊點同阿爸提出辦展覽嘅事,越諗越覺得呢個問題好棘手。

相約嘅地方係另一間意大利咖啡室,名字叫做 Ti Amo’s,阿綠一見到就忍唔住發出一陣苦笑。當然,阿綠嘅父親應該唔知道呢個意大利名就係「我愛你」咁嘅意思!不過,阿綠深深意識到佢阿爸有咁嘅選擇就係為咗滿足佢個女,唔係嘅話佢唔會去啲咁不設實際嘅地方,絕對唔會囉。

雖然早到咗二十分鐘,但係阿綠一入咖啡店就見到佢老豆用好心急嘅眼神望佢:佢深知父親嘅脾氣,而「準時係美德」就係老豆嘅口頭禪之一。阿綠坐低嗰一刻,對食物好講究嘅爸爸就即刻問佢想食咩。為咗盡快通過呢一關,阿綠就詐詐諦認真睇餐牌,然後以零舍果斷嘅口氣叫咗一客海鮮意粉同一杯意式起泡嘅檸檬汁。其實,呢間咖啡室嘅氣氛好啱阿綠嘅心水:特意校得暗淡嘅光線令佢好舒服,加上牆上貼滿好多以戲劇表演為主題嘅海報,效果既簡單又活潑,充滿濃烈嘅藝術氣氛,而且冇播放任何音樂,最啱鍾意傾計嘅人。

好不幸,阿綠父親係一個只識話事、唔識傾偈嘅人,加上呢排佢哋之間嘅距離拉得越來越遠,因此阿綠好難同佢阿爸揾到共同話題,對住面前嘅父親感到格外吃力。父親提出嘅話題每個都針對住阿綠嘅種種阿綠敏感嘅弱點。第一,佢阿爸問起佢工作嘅情況,跟住就開始埋怨自己個囡冇野心,冇路數賺取高薪,永遠係一個冇鬼用嘅「一碌葛」,講到「碌」呢個字嗰時,仲故意發出接近“綠”嘅聲音,令到阿綠有少少發𤷪𤺧。第二,父親打聽佢前夫嘅現狀。阿綠同前夫離婚已經有四年幾,但係因為呢個男人做生意做得相當出色,父親總係好似好掛住佢咁,到而家仲視佢為理想嘅女婿。其實呢個人早就去咗瑞典斯德哥爾摩做嘢,同香港冇乜聯繫,真係同阿綠嘅阿爸一個餅印咁!父親唔鍾意女人唔結婚,亦都唔贊成婦女離婚,所以現時滿意自己一個過日子嘅阿綠,對佢阿爸嚟講簡直係一舉犯兩次錯嘅!第三,問起阿綠個女,孚翠,過去幾年佢一直同阿綠嘅前夫一齊住喺瑞典,兩父女同樣對國際金融服務業有興趣。假如阿翠將來決定安頓喺香港,佢唯一嘅目標就只不過係喺銀行揾份工,一步一步咁行向累積財富嘅方向。正因為咁,阿綠同阿翠呢排嘅關係有啲僵。

食完飯之後,兩人各自嗌咗一杯齋啡,然後大家都靜咗落嚟。阿綠察覺到父親嘅心情麻麻,唔係適合而家向佢借錢,但係因為冇其他辦法,加上因為佢好唔想再拖延計劃,唯有單刀直入提出母親展覽會嘅事。

「阿爸,其實我有一件事想同你傾吓. . . . . .」 佢小心翼翼開始講,但係父親即刻就打斷咗佢。

「阿綠,我絕對唔會借錢俾你幫阿媽攪展覽會㗎,你諗都唔使諗!」

阿綠即刻呆咗喺度,瞬間粒聲都唔出,然後怒氣突然間一股股咁湧入心內。

「你 . . . 你點知呢件事㗎?究竟係邊個話你知嘅?」阿綠連忙提問,呢一刻嬲到全身揗揗震。

「阿綠,你冷靜啲先。噉當然係阿翠啦,之前佢已經同我提過幾次。其實佢好關心你㗎,佢好擔心你今次嘅計劃純純粹係浪費時間,白白咁嘥曬啲錢。唔留啲錢喺身邊實在太危險喇,萬一將來中美貿易戰影響埋你,公司要裁員,到時你點算?老實講啊,我覺得你個囡講得啱㗎,佢份人比較現實,對生活上嘅種種問題都認識得比你更加清楚。我真係好佩服阿翠有咁嘅睿智去思考人生問題!」

經歷完第二次嘅青天霹靂,阿綠只好承認自己被阿爸、阿翠徹底咁打敗,佢深知無話可說。於是,阿綠慢慢企起身,執好自己嘅嘢,頭也不回咁離開嗰間名叫「我愛你」嘅咖啡室,絕對冇回望阿爸一眼。

Special Books on Hong Kong: Rambles in Hong Kong by G.S.P. Heywood (1938)

Evette KWOK_Mountain & Building RESIZED_8 APR 2019

• The World is a Good Place

It is said that one of the greatest of the Chinese Emperors caused a miniature mountain to be built for him in an empty room in the Imperial Palace. When affairs of state prevented him from spending his leisure among the Western Hills he used to sit for a while on his own little mountain for rest and meditation. He knew the right place, and there we too can find refreshment for body and spirit. A rucksack and a pair of nailed shoes are a passport to the mountains where our life is fuller and our friendships warmer, and we realize that after all the world is a good place, very fair to look on.

 

Photograph: Evette Kwok (2019)

Climateship

Albrecht Durer_Das große Rasenstück

Sun shines face down in dirt.
Rain sleeps: only
rare dreams of cloud
turn a wind’s dry whine
into water. Parched air
conditions impatience. Heat waves break
against the endless bitumen mirage.
Proud Aussies — with their black
calm bands of coal —
now turn their backs
on that truest True Blue,
on their one and only Great Piece of Turf.

Image: Albrecht Dürer, Das große Rasenstück (1503)