Gaffe Quote

At the risk of this blog becoming simply a facsimile of Quote / Unquote, I could not resist this one from Johnny ‘Two Jag’s’.   Opening his mouth once again to merely change feet our Deputy Prime Minister said:

The Green Belt is a Labour acheivement and we mean to build on it


This of course begs the question of how.   With the threatened Planning Gain supplement no developer is going to be running to build more houses than they need to keep their teams busy, this side of a General Election, hoping for a repeal of the bill next term.    Landowners will be disincentivised to put land up for sale as the rewards are reduced.

And the pundits say we need 30,000 homes per year to meet demand and to control house price rises.

I can see NuLabour has really thought this one through.   Again.

Quaffable Quote

Regular readers will know I am a fan of quotes and Mr. FM’s post yesterday from Winston Churchill, prompted me to share this.   Of the many memorable quotes about wine, this is one of my favourites; on Champagne:

I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad.   Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.  When I have company I consider it obligatory, I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am.   Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.

Madame Bollinger

Happy Thanksgiving

It’s official:  the start of the ‘holiday season’.    We can’t call it Christmas any more as it offends too many people of other faiths.   Odd that the athiests couldn’t give a stuff…. anyway, I digress, for my regular American readers – yes there is more than one of you – I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you may be.

And there’s a little bit of animated Turkey related fun attached too.

Quotable Voltaire

A long time ago at school – yes, I know, it is a scary thought – we had to read Voltaire’s Candide and, as it is his birthday today I thought a few of his quotes would brighten your day.   Good quotes really do stand the test of time…. and these are immortal:

On Religion

Nothing can be more contrary to religion and the clergy than reason and common sense.

If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him. 

If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated.

On Government

An ideal form of government is democracy tempered with assassination.

In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to another.

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

and one for my wife…

I hate women because they always know where things are.

Clever chap Voltaire.. and he’s never even met her!

Wide Load and the Highway Code

All of a sudden, navigating through London, with its collection of crazed mini-cab drivers, mad cyclists and scooter owners, wild white van men, aggressive joe public and diplomatically plated supercars, all driven with scant regard for either other road users or the Highway code, seems rather plain.


This is a fairly typical scene but, on any given highway in an Indian town you can see:   Bicycles, motorbikes, scooters, pedestrians, carts (horse, donkey, camel and even human powered), cows, chickens, vans, tuk-tuks, lorries, buses, taxis, jeeps and elephants.

Right of way is given to Cows first and then a rather practical system based – not on any form of code or rules – but on who’s biggest and likely to cause me the most damage.

If I see them.

If I can’t see them, or alternatively am staring straight ahead, fixing my gaze resolutely at a point in the middle distance and absolutely refusing to acknowledge the approaching vehicle as I cross the road, then they are deemed to have seen me and must slow down / swerve violiently / hit me.   You have to see it to believe it, but trust me, it’s true.

NTHKWS UK Chapter tasting

A long time ago in Hong Kong, a group of wine lovers got together to taste wine and have an enjoyable evening with friends.   At the time, The Hong Kong Wine Society met regularly and they took things somewhat seriously.

On the other hand… Not The Hong Kong Wine Society had a different approach.   There was only one rule:  No Spitting.   I have no proof, but there remains a suspicion that the rule had less to do with the prominent signs on the Star Ferry, than the idea that wine was to be drunk and not swilled and subsequently spat out.

It’s now over 25 years since the inception of NTHKWS and the Society still thrives, both in Hong Kong and the UK.   With the return of members over the years, the UK chapter started meeting and now convenes twice a year, following the traditional format.   A home hosted evening of tasting, followed by dinner and a good catch up on the gossip.  There are now two rules as far as I can tell:  No spitting.   And to be a member you had to be a member in Hong Kong.   Good tradition in my book.

So, thinking we would have long moved house and be settled and ready to host the evening, yours truly said we would do the November event.   And in keeping with all the best laid plans, a month after we actually completed on our purchase, we entertained 18 friends from NTHKWS, at our house.

Amidst the preparation of food, arrangement of accommodation, redecoration of rooms so we could actually put up a few friends I had to think about what we should taste….

I consulted with the Oracle(s) and settled on Shiraz / Syrah from around the world.   One of the aims of the Society has always been to find interesting and good value wines so I sourced alternatives from Bowes Wine, Berry Bros, Odd Bins as well as Waitrose and Captain Cork’s cellar.

Another of the traditions of the Society was that the expensive wines rarely did so well… to the point that we usually preferred the underdog.   Last weeks tasting was no different as, from 8 wines priced between 3.50 and 30 odd quid, the winner was almost the cheapest:

Result    Wine                                                Vintage       Price

1            Dona Paula, Los Cardos Shiraz        2004           6.00
2            EQ Syrah                                          2004          13.60
3            Joan D’Anguera, El Bugader            2001          25.00
4            InyconShiraz                                     2005          3.49
5            Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido                  2000          22.95
6            Rusden, Black Guts, Shiraz,             1999          30.00
7            Crozes Hermitage                             2004          12.95
Domaine des Lises, Maxime Graillot
8            Kanonkop                                         1997          25.00

The Dona Paula is available from an Odd Bins near you.

The Star Ferry

I supposed it had to happen – but it came as quite a shock to read that the Star Ferry Pier in Central, together with the adjacent Queens Pier is to be demolished as a result of reclamation along the north shore of Hong Kong Island.  Both piers will be re-positioned further out into the harbour on newly reclaimed land

Why the nostalgia?   Well, it was my regular transport to work for most of the 9 years I worked in Tsim Sha Tsui and Queens Pier was the boarding point for many of the junk trips to Lamma.

(Looking north towards Tsim Sha Tsui, you can see the Star Ferry Pier on the left with Queens Pier on the right)

The Ferry has a unique place in Hong Kong’s history.   In 1966 a fare increase of 10 cents sparked the 1966 Hong Kong riots and, until the opening of the Cross Harbour Tunnel in 1972, the Star Ferry was the main means of public transportation between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.

The Star Ferry makes a “star turn” in the 1950s film The World of Suzie Wong.  In the beginning of the film, Robert Lomax (played by William Holden debarks from the USS President Harrison (an old American President Line transpacific passenger vessel) and takes the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island, and on the ferry meets Suzie Wong (played by Nancy Kwan who scorns his attentions as unwanted.

The ferry itself is completely recognizable, and the layout of the pier where William Holden debarks in Kowloon is familiar to the resident or denizen of Tsim Sha Tsui, but missing are the giant shopping malls of today.

From Wikipedia (with my edits..):

The Star Ferry is a passenger ferry service operator and its’ principal routes carry passengers across Victoria Harbour between Hong Kong island and Kowloon.   The company has been operating since the late 1880s. It was founded by Parsee Dorabjee Nowrojee as the Kowloon Ferry Company in 1888 and renamed it to Star Ferry in 1898. The name was inspired by his love of Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar”, whose first line was Sunset and evening star, and one clear call for me!

The fleet of twelve ferries operates four routes across the harbour, carrying over 70,000 passengers a day, or 26 million a year. Even though there are now other ways to cross the harbour, by MTR (subway) and road tunnels, the Star Ferry continues to provide an efficient, popular and inexpensive mode of crossing the harbour. The company’s main route runs between the main Central District and Tsim Sha Tsui which is what most people mean by “the Star Ferry” in common parlance. This route is also popular with tourists, and has become one of the icons of Hong Kong heritage in the eyes of tourists. From the ferry, one can take in the famous view of the harbour and the Hong Kong skyline.

(Hong Kong from Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, with the Star Ferry Pier in the Foreground)

Architects and conservationists state that the old piers have important architectural and cultural value to Hong Kong. For the past 50 years, it has witnessed dramatic changes and it plays an important part in their collective memory. Architecturally, the ferry pier is one of the last examples of a Streamline Modern public building in Hong Kong, along with the Central market and Wan Chai market also facing demolition.

Earlier, the Star Ferry Company carried out a technical feasibility study to see whether it could relocate the existing clock mechanism from the old pier. The clock is a precious antique mechanical clock. It was manufactured by the same UK company that provided the mechanical signature to Big Ben of London. However, an expert and specialist clock supplier advised against relocation as there was no guarantee the clock and chimes would continue to work after relocation, due to their age and obsolete components.

Ongoing maintenance of the ageing clock mechanism has also become difficult. Therefore, the company decided to replace the existing clock with a new set of five bells that sound similar to those of the old one.

(Meridian Star (午星號) heading for Central in the late afternoon sun)

Despite the Government’s decision to relocate the ferry pier, there are local community efforts to save the Star Ferry Pier and the Clock Tower. Some members of the public call for the complete preservation of the structures. The Hong Kong Institute of Architects vice-president Mr. Vincent Ng Wing-shun, for example, warned that the government was destroying Hong Kong’s heritage. “If the government moved a [proposed six-lane] road a little bit to the left or right, then we could save the pier,” he said.

Part of the new pier for the Star Ferry will be an existing pier built at the time of the reclamation on which the Hong Kong Station of the Airport Express MTR line and the recently completed IFC (International Finance Centre) are built (i.e. no.7 of the outlying islands ferry piers).

This pier is being rebuilt and expanded eastwards to resemble a replica of the Star Ferry Pier in the early 20th century, rather than the existing, soon-to-be-demolished pier.

The Government accepted a proposal from Star Ferry to adopt a historical heritage design approach. It used the way the piers looked in 1912 as the blueprint for constructing the new piers and clock tower.

Construction began in mid-2003. As these structures occupy a prime waterfront site, the Government took the opportunity to try to develop the piers into a new landmark for public “enjoyment”.

Unfortunately, the Government’s attempt of trying to create a “historic” building has backfired with heavy criticism from the public of the design. This mock Edwardian design has been criticised as “a set from a film studio, and has been described as “dressing up a modern person in historical costume.”

The choice of modern materials and the oversized proportions of the new design contrast with its mock-edwardian style, resulting in a “theme park” appearance. The government does not understand that they cannot recreate history and sense of place by mimicking old styles. The new pier will not stand the test of time as they are fundamentally dishonest, an imitation of the past without capturing the spirit of the past or present.

After the existing clock tower is demolished, the five old bells will be put on display in the new tower’s hall and will be an ironic and sad reminder of its lost past.

By relocating the new piers 300m away, the Star Ferry could lose up to 30 percent of passengers due to its inconvenient location as passengers opt for alternative transport. There is a risk that in the long term, the Star Ferry will slowly be reduced to being just a tourist attraction.

The new terminal at Central Piers 7 and 8 will come into operation in November and tickets for the last ride are now all sold out – even at HK$88 a pop.


This Week…

Posts may be a little thin on the ground this week as I’m in NY for a couple of days…..   I do want to post a couple of things about the weekend.   The first, an update on the NTHKWS (UK Chapter) tasting we hosted on Saturday… the results make interesting reading.

The second, the Avonvale Hunt, start of the season event meet next to us.    Mr FM has posted on this…

A fabulous start to the season, if a little sunny, but a beautiful collection of horses and hounds.   Good Tradition.