“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」

我哋每次搭飛機飛離地面嘅時候,總覺得似係一種為準備離開世界不再復返而進行嘅綵練,所以心情零舍特別,又不安又興奮,因為根本冇法預測「最後嘅離開」究竟隱藏著怎樣嘅神秘經驗?

去墨爾本嘅飛機係夜晚八點鐘起飛,呢個航班時間真係太合適阿綠,白天嘅活動唔會受到太多影響,搭機場巴士前都有充足嘅時間食飯,甚至睇一部電影。雖然飛機上嘅環境唔太舒服——周圍迫滿生埗人,而機艙座位亦極為狹窄——但係瞓著之後,呢啲不便嘅狀況都會一律消失。其實,呢排因著工作繁忙嘅關係,阿綠覺得身心超級疲倦,應該趁機好好唞吓,盡量放鬆自己,準備面對呢次旅行將會面對嘅挑戰。

飛機起飛前由閘門開始倒行嗰陣,坐窗口位嘅阿綠一路望著高聳入雲嘅鳳凰山,偶意諗起香港國際機場下面永遠無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」,起源於廣東話嘅「打赤肋」呢個意思。邊個會諗到,原來處處缺少植物遮蔽嘅赤肋角喺新世紀嘅開端時會被咁多石屎、瀝青、建築物、先進設備等所鋪蓋?唔知「赤鱲角」呢一個早已過時嘅名稱會唔會喺不久嘅將來被人忘記得一乾二淨,而以具有濃烈科技味道嘅「機場島」所代替?

唔知點解阿綠咁啱喺黎明之前由夢境突然間醒過嚟。成架飛機好似一條既長又幽嘅地下走廊,不過走廊毫無人跡,因此帶某種略略陰森嘅感覺俾女人。佢往窗口轉頭望過去:嗰刻見到嘅景色令到佢驚歎!飛機下面雖然依然陷於黑夜之中,但係飛機上面嘅天空已經轉為蔚藍色,係一種喺日頭時冇可能見到嘅微妙藍色,好似係單純、希望、復興、奧祕嘅象徵,令到阿綠只能凝神盯住,佢對於四圍環境已經冇嗮感覺,刹那間好似得到頓悟一樣。而且,喺藍色天空同黑夜之間懸浮一束橙黃色嘅光線,光線如絲般又細又幼又亮,係黎明嘅顏色,亦都係太陽嘅顏色,因此,又係微不足道嘅人類嘅徽章。「哦﹗」阿綠心裏面諗,「原來每日都可以睇到曙光喎!一生浪費咗咁多天亮時刻!為咗夜生活付出嘅代價究竟係咪值得?」

著陸後嘅墨爾本同窗外嘅印象啱啱相反。阿綠行出機場接機大堂門口嗰一刻,即係一冇冷氣保護時,就立刻被澳洲十二月嘅酷熱緊緊籠罩。雖然佢仍然覺得香港嘅夏天熱得好難受,縱使亞洲嘅潮濕熱浪會令到自己覺得皮膚上,好快就會冒出嫩葉,但畢竟係充滿水分嘅活力。反而而家,面對墨爾本沙漠般嘅乾熱,佢忍唔住感到絕望,好似自己嘅生命已經放棄佢:佢根本冇法適應枯燥至極嘅氣候!眈高個頭睇睇四圍嘅時候,刺眼嘅強光拮痛阿綠雙眼,而喺附近有一塊長滿枯草嘅正所謂「機場公園」,裏面有三五樖細長嘅桉樹被一陣陣乾風搖晃。

好彩,陳之一為佢提供嘅資料都非常有用,讓佢能夠避免夏季嘅殘忍虐待。喺接機大堂出面,步程唔使五分鐘就有一個巴士站,有一架紅噹噹嘅通天巴士停泊,好似特登喺度等佢咁,阿綠知道搭呢路巴士就可以直接去到墨市中心嘅南十字星火及巴士站。因為時間仲好早,加上係星期六,到達墨市都好順利,冇遇到塞車或慢駛嘅情況。巴士站就同沙田市中心好似,氣氛同停車場差唔多,但係阿綠行到火車站嗰邊,成個氣氛就突然熱鬧起嚟,而且覆蓋整個車站嘅波浪式屋頂,令佢聯想到舉世聞名嘅澳洲沙灘。阿綠嘅心情因此好翻少少。

不過,出門行到斯潘塞道時,熱浪又一次漂到佢身邊,而且城市入面嘅炎熱更加難受:四圍嘅摩天大樓以及鋪嗮瀝青嘅路面亦都散發熱氣,又有不斷駛嚟駛去嘅車流,帶嚟嘈音同埋電油味。儘管如此,阿綠唔使為此擔心,因為陳之一幫佢揾嘅酒店就好近車站,唔使十分鐘就可以喺自己間酒店房發呆。到酒店之後,阿綠本來打算先休息一下,再出門遊覽「大金山」,不過佢貪新鮮又唔想錯過行街嘅機會。沖咗涼、換咗衫,阿綠準備好,再冒著炎熱嘅天氣,去探索呢個完全唔熟悉嘅城市。

等交通燈過馬路時,一部電車經過阿綠身邊,轉彎駛入伯克道一刻,車上嘅集電桿由電纜刷出一啲火花,令到阿綠諗起佢童年鐘意玩嘅煙花棒。橫過馬路後,佢沿住伯克道慢慢上平緩斜路。呢條路好寬闊,兩邊都種滿參天大樹,加埋多幢巨大摩天大樓,就感覺遊走於峽谷中。阿綠注意到一群群麻雀尋覓街邊食物時冇乜特別反應,但就睇到一群群白雪雪海鷗為一盒抌下嘅薯條鬥爭嘅時候,就頗感到訝異:墨市嘅海鷗已經放棄海洋,嚟到呢度選擇執垃圾過活嘅日子。雀鳥嘅基本生活方式同伯克道嘅豪華建築物構成明顯嘅對比,阿綠耳邊響起一種無休止嘅低語,將做生意嘅精明、資深律師嘅雄辯、銀行老細對於金錢嘅睿智、同地產物業商嘅狡猾同耐心容納為一體。呢度早就冇嗮單純諗住餵海鷗或玩煙花棒嘅人士啦!

由於峽谷入邊處處都係陰涼嘅地方,阿綠可以暫時逃避好猛嘅太陽。到達斜坡上面,俯瞰下面嘅景色:山谷一直往前延展落去,最為吸引眼光嘅地方就係一個十九世紀嘅鐘樓。伊麗沙白道鐘樓上嘅鐘面雖然顯得特別吸引,但同時又提醒佢,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,正正代表墨市中心嘅正中心。「咦﹗」阿綠突然間覺得唔對路。「我點解睇唔到墨爾本嘅山坡?」作為香港人,佢已經習慣隨地見山:除咗搭車穿入隧道時,甚至乎喺大樓之間嘅空隙,都偶爾可以瞥到山,而香港嘅山一般都好好睇,有起有伏嘅山脊所畫出嘅曲線真係充滿活力,似是無聲仿有聲咁話俾人知,人間嘅繁榮離唔開大地。難道「大金山」嘅土丘早被當年嘅淘金者都移開嗮?

到咗伊麗沙白道,阿綠又見到一部電車駛出,向左邊轉彎,一直行到一條叫做小伯克道。墨市街道命名有一個特點:幾乎每條大道「家姐」隔離都有一條平行嘅「妹妹」小街。正因為此,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自己條妹妹路,即小倫斯戴爾道!呢種命名方式令到阿綠感到困惑:咁樣嘅情況係出於墨市人缺乏想像力,定係出於佢哋特別鐘意同一街道名而重復,等佢哋易記啲?無論如何,阿綠相信每條街應該都有自己嘅特點,獨一無二嘅性格,呢種改名嘅方式對阿綠而言係唔符合現實。

雖然如此,小伯克道深深吸引阿綠:接近十字路口嗰刻,對面豎起一個顏色奪目嘅牌坊,同四圍環境顯得零舍格格不入。牌坊上面嘅匾額寫有「墨爾本唐人街」六個字,宣佈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。同世界其他華埠一樣,多數舖頭都係酒樓,不過喺阿綠繼續向前行嘅時候,佢亦睇到有其他商業活動,包括賣澳洲特產嘅舖頭,便利店,同埋從事傳統中醫服務嘅診所。雖然大部分舖面嘅裝修都好現代商業化,但係抬頭一睇,即刻就可以辨認出其保留唔少舊樓嘅原先面目。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,隨著美國「舊金山」三藩市嘅衰退之後,唔少華人嚟呢度嘗試發財。少數人真係透過淘金發財,另外亦有一批人依靠為淘金者提供日常生活所須,都賺到唔少錢。阿綠一面行,一面諗翻一啲昔日嘅場景,同時又聯想到港島特有嘅蘭桂芳,將「老蘭」想像成一個「香港西人街」嘅文化避難所。

* * *

「葉公!你條龍跑到邊呀?」

陳之一每逢禮拜四放工後,都會去上廣東話堂,以提高水準。不過唔知點解,佢今日好難集中注意力,結果嚴太多次運用「葉公」這個花名嚟整蠱佢一番。陳之一開始上堂時,嚴太即刻意識到佢係一個十分勤力嘅學生,但係嚴太教其他學生一些好受歡迎嘅題材時,反而會令到「葉公」反感。譬如,有一次,喺介紹一篇有關去日本北海道滑雪嘅課文時,陳之一突然有病,臉色變得蒼白,只好停課休息兩個星期。另外一次,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,嚴太對於性格古怪嘅人士感到份外同情。佢本來係中學數學教師,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!當日有幾個同事請佢去沙田文化博物館參觀一次有關武俠巨星李小龍嘅展覽。佢睇緊展品嘅時候,莫名其妙地感到身心疲累,跟住以去廁所為藉口,離開展覽室出去唞吓。之後,毫無目的咁喺嗰度漫步亂行,行到另一間展覽室時,佢無意識咁單靠本能行入去。牆上展出嘅係一幅幅水墨畫,顏色特別艷麗,畫上嘅題材亦都令到嚴太特別感有趣:有蜻蜓,有蟬,有小鳥,有薑花,雖然都極為樸素,但令佢想起屬於自己細蚊女嘅時期。畫家趙少昂所描敘嘅境界震撼嚴太。其中有一幅畫特別吸引嚴太,佢對腳好似扎根入地咁,企喺呢幅畫前面發咗好耐吽哣,最後因為有位職員過嚟問佢有冇事,嚴太終於可以暫時脫離這種藝術性嘅魅力。不過,自從此刻,生活方式發生巨大嘅變化。

憑藉直感,嚴太改變了教學方式,認為陳之一同佢一樣係趨向藝術、文化、宗教各方面嘅性格,從而選擇一篇關於葉公嘅故事,激起呢個學生嘅興趣。陳之一唔止好鐘意葉公嘅故仔,仲明白其稍帶諷刺滋味嘅寓意,將課文改寫過嚟形容自己學廣東話嘅窘境:

「《陳公好廣東話》

陳公因為鐘意廣東話,所以家中嘅書檯上、書架上,連牆上都放滿有關廣東話同香港嘅課本、辭典、圖片。之後,附近有一位廣東話老師獲知陳公真係好鐘意廣東話,於是搭小巴去佢屋企拜訪佢。老師敲門入屋時,同陳公用廣東話講嘢,不過陳公一聽到有人同佢講自己熱愛嘅語言,突然間覺得不知所措,大叫一聲,嗱嗱聲匿埋起嚟。由此可知,陳公鐘意嘅唔係真正嘅廣東話,而係嗰啲介紹廣東話嘅課本教材,令到佢無法實現佢學識廣東話嘅夢想。」

讀完這篇文章之後,嚴太覺得自己教法係有譜嘅。不過,今日嘅陳之一難以集中注意力回答嚴太所提出嘅問題。而且,嚴太所揀嘅語言重點同自己嘅主要心事之間發生微妙嘅關係。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,又諗此後應唔應該繼續寫信俾父親?另外,提到「芝麻綠豆」又馬上聯想到阿綠同埋佢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時係應該認真留心老師嘅教學,可惜效果啱啱相反,唔聽話嘅澳洲學生,思維又回到索罟灣漁村同佢一直寫信而收尾「海底撈針一場空」嘅結果。嚴太只好宣佈落堂。

不過,見到陳之一準備離開嘅一刹那,佢就諗翻起一件事。

「葉公!你稍微等吓。有件急事差啲唔記得同你講!明年五月十八號,香港廣東話推廣協會要舉辦一次廣東話演講比賽,有一個項目專為外國人而設嘅。當然,我知你性格內斂,唔鐘意喺公開場合開口講話。不過,呢次活動一定會幫你嘅廣東話取得新嘅突破,加上我可以幫你提升你發音嘅準確性。你好好考慮!下次上堂我哋就再討論吓,好唔好?」

陳之一表面上冇乜大興趣,但係佢搭訕講一句,答應嚴太會考慮參唔參加這個「語言遊戲」,出門時向老師祝一聲聖誕快樂!就道別喇。

* * *

點樣形容阿綠同父親嘅關係?可以舉一個例子解釋。一直以來,父親會叫佢唯一女兒做「新界的士」,毫無禮貌咁嘲諷阿綠用綠色染頭髮嘅習慣。

因此,阿綠到達墨市之後就要抽空去將頭髮染翻其天生嘅黑色,以免再次遭受父親刻薄嘅諷刺說話。佢唔介意放棄寶貴嘅旅遊時間,只要改善同父親嘅關係,阿綠深知要採取一啲積極手段先至可以成功。佢爸爸性格牛頸,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。阿綠嘅母親曾經掙扎擺脫呢種惡性循環嘅生活模式,但係經過幾十年嘅努力,佢最終都揾唔到出路。阿綠到而家雖然曾未徹底獲得自由,但係仲未陷入絕望。雖然如此,佢暗暗意識到父親嗰種極端嘅狹隘思想對於佢嚟講,係會構成巨大威脅嘅。親戚之間嘅陰險敵意因為藏而不露,所以難以發現。

要同父親食晏嗰日好快就到。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,這一日氣溫突然下降,變得格外舒服,因此阿綠決定由酒店一直行到父親住嘅嘉怡頓區住所。首先行到伯克道上一間咖啡吧,係陳之一推薦嘅,名字叫柏歷堅尼,係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,就足以證明係一家出色嘅咖啡吧。一入門口,第一個印象就係:長酒吧式嘅櫃台、一排高腳凳、整幅牆上都貼上玻璃鏡、同埋研磨機刺耳嘅摩擦聲。等到研磨機停止後,阿綠用一口流利嘅義大利語同服務員嗌一杯鮮奶咖啡,然後轉身坐低喺櫃台前嘅一張空凳上。隨便四週觀望時,佢無意瞥到對面有一個黑色頭髮嘅女仔,稍為怕醜咁望佢一眼。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:誠心定係懦怯?為自己目標而努力定係自我背叛?心裏面忽然響起一啲難以反駁嘅聲音。問父親借錢真好似要由石頭搾出血一樣咁艱難!

有一個愜意嘅途徑到達嘉怡頓。離柏歷堅尼唔算好遠,就可以行到規模廣大嘅嘉怡頓大公園。當阿綠行近公園嗰一刻,便見到幾塊翠綠嘅草坪,無疑係伊甸園嘅一個象徵,讓人聨想到天堂,一種逃避夏天酷熱嘅世外桃源。公園四圍都鋪有彎曲嘅沙面路徑,路邊種著一樖樖巨大嘅樹木,樹上嘅葉子冒得十分茂盛,好似特登帶來一團團有陰影嘅地方,為行人擋曬,令到阿綠覺得身心涼爽。公園入面亦設有花圃,盛開著五顏六色嘅歐式花朵,但係經過嘅時候,阿綠又認得出一種類似中國蓍草嘅植物。跟住,佢就經過外貌浮誇嘅皇家展覽大廈,維多利亞嘅博物館,同埋一個使任何細路仔都嚮往嘅遊樂場。嘉怡頓公園將阿綠已失去嘅綠色內心得以暫時恢復。佢一面行路,一面掛住暫時獨居嘅蛾鬼,又一面考慮點同阿爸提出辦展覽嘅事,而越諗越覺得呢個問題好撠手。

相約嘅地方就係另一間意大利咖啡室,名字令到阿綠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」嘅意思!不過,阿綠深深意識到佢阿爸咁樣選擇就係為咗滿足佢女,唔係嘅話佢絕對唔會接近如此不設實際嘅地方,肯定唔會㗎。

雖然早到二十分鐘,但係阿綠一入咖啡店就見到佢老豆,用著心急嘅眼神望佢:佢深知父親嘅脾氣,「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,阿綠就詐諦認真睇餐牌,然後以零舍果斷嘅口氣叫一個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:特意暗淡嘅光線,令佢感到好舒服,加上牆上貼滿好多以戲劇表演為主題嘅海報,效果又簡單又活潑、又有濃烈藝術氣氛,而且冇播放任何音樂,適合鐘意傾計嘅人。

好不幸,阿綠父親係一個只識話事、唔識傾計嘅人,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,對住面前嘅父親格外吃力。父親提出嘅話題個個都針對阿綠嘅種種敏感弱點。第一,佢阿爸問佢工作嘅情況,跟住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」呢個字時,仲故意發出接近“綠”嘅發音,令到阿綠稍微𤷪𤺧。第二,佢父親打聽佢前夫嘅現狀。阿綠同佢前夫離婚已經有四年多喇,但係因為呢個男人生意做得相當出色,父親總係好似好掛住佢,到而家仲係將佢視為理想嘅女婿。另外,呢個人早就去咗瑞典斯德哥爾摩做嘢,好似同香港冇乜聯係,真係同阿綠嘅阿爸一個餅印咁!父親唔鐘意唔結婚嘅女人,亦都唔贊成離婚嘅婦女,因此現時滿意於一個人過日子嘅阿綠,對佢阿爸嚟講係一擧犯兩次錯嘅!第三,問起阿綠嘅女兒,孚翠,她過去幾年一路同阿綠嘅前夫一齊住喺瑞典,兩父女同樣對於國際金融服務業有興趣,假如阿翠將來返到香港安頓嘅話啦,佢唯一嘅目標只不過係喺銀行揾份工,一步一步咁行向累積財富嘅方向。正因如此,阿綠同阿翠嘅關係呢排搞得好唔順利。

食完飯之後,兩人各嗌一杯齋啡,大家都冇開聲講嘢。阿綠已經察覺到父親嘅脾氣好唔適合借錢,但係因為冇其他辦法,而且因為佢好唔想再拖延,只好單刀直入咁同佢提出母親展覽會嘅計劃。

「阿爸,有一件事想同你傾吓. . . . . .」佢小心翼翼開始講,但是父親立刻就插嘴打斷佢。

「阿綠,我絕對唔會借錢俾你為你阿媽攪展覽會,絕對唔會㗎!」

阿綠即刻感到驚呆,瞬間粒聲都唔出,然後怒氣突然間一浪浪咁湧入心內。

「你,你點知呢件事?係邊個話你知嘅?」阿綠連忙提問,此時全身嬲到震。

「阿綠,定啲嚟!當然係阿翠,佢同我講過幾次。其實,佢好關心你,好擔心你今次嘅計劃純屬浪費,白白咁嘥曬啲錢,唔留啲錢喺身邊就太危險,萬一將來中美貿易戰影響到你自己身上,公司只好裁員,到時你點算?老實講,我個人覺得你個囡講得啱,對於現實生活嘅種種問題,認識得比你更清楚。我真係好佩服阿翠思考人生問題嘅睿智!」

遭受第二次青天霹靂嘅打擊之後,阿綠只好承認自己被阿爸、阿翠徹底咁打敗,佢深知無話可說啦。於是慢慢企起身,執好自己嘅東西,就離開嗰間名叫「我愛你」嘅咖啡室,絕冇回頭望佢阿爸一眼。

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)