Analysis UP THE CHINA RABBIT-HOLE - The TV Docudrama Series

Sleezy

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So do I.

Funny thing is ... I’m sitting, as we speak, in Pro Drinkers Corner working on Episode 6.

It’s overdue, I know, so I’ll be posting half of it tomorrow, hopefully ... the rest to follow.

I’d promised to copy the first (Vietnam) segment of Episode 4 into the Peter Chant thread yesterday, the sixth anniversary of the thread’s creation ( Ford Fairlane ) but wasn’t in the mood. Maybe tomorrow, too.

I love footy too much. It runs ... ruins, at times ... my life.
My girlfriend steals my phone and tells you all I love footy. And sports.

I love her a lot. It is very frustrating.
 

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UP THE CHINA RABBIT-HOLE - The TV Docudrama Series


EPISODE 6

The Alberton Papers


Theme music:

‘Walk Don’t Run’ (The Ventures - with Russell Ebert on drums)



SCENE 37 -
Early March 2017, Allan Scott Power HQ, Alberton.


Camera catches Ugo Alsthom driving to work, unable to resist flicking an eye at the screen on his phone, checking a text, as if he can’t believe what it says, as if he’s terrified it will disappear if he doesn’t, having been dangled before him only to be deleted without trace by some evil dastard with a personal hatred of him, some evil Liberal Party dastard going hard at it to bring him down. Camera follows Ugo as he crosses the line between postcode 5015 and postcode 5014, parks, jumps out of his car, bursts through the not-easy-to-burst-through glass main door of PAFC HQ. Camera follows him as he bounds up the single flight of stairs. Does he pay attention to the receptionist? No. Does he acknowledge her greeting, spot her ‘nothing new, just Ugo being Ugo’ headshake? Of course not.

Camera follows Ugo down the corridor into the main PAFC office, follows him as he performs a balletic slalom along one row of desks into the next (every twist and change of direction timed to coincide with the decisive twang of a twangy guitar or the smash of cymbals in a drum sequence care-of the theme music).

PAFC’s workers are looking up one after the other, looking astounded, looking at him as he speeds by. This is not the sort of Ugo physical momentum they’re accustomed to. They’re not used to any. Something has happened, something absolutely critical to Ugo’s world ... his reaction to it translating into anything from atomic bomb to arachnophobia.

Everybody is now standing up, staring at Ugo as he races to the open door of Rick Mattinson’s office, grabs hold of the jamb with his left hand as if it’s there for life-support, thrusts his head around it and -

ALSTHOM: “Premier Li! Premier Li! We’ve got Premier Li! He’s going to come to the SCG for round 1! He’s going to come down to the changing rooms and say hello to the players and the coaches and ... ! Premier Li, Rick. Premier ... Li!

MATTINSON (finally looks up): “Who’s Premier Li?”

Ugo, breathless, steps all the way into Rick’s office, closes the door behind him, throws himself into one of the two guest chairs in front of Rick’s desk ... lunges at Rick and proceeds to spill the beans, revved-up like the Rolls-Royce engines on the superjet to wherever in the real world Ugo Alsthom is off to: direct flight, non-stop, no breaks, no detours, no diversions.

Camera view is from outside Rick’s office, through the clear glass window. No sound whatsoever. The office has gone dead quiet. A dropped pin would echo, even a blink would resound. Every pair of eyes is wide open, trying to interpret Ugo’s animated body language, Ugo’s Mambo Italiano-style hand signals, his overflowing effervescence, his unbridled enthusiasm - all of it rendered into raw contrast by Rick’s passive pillar-of-salt rigidity ... then his slow, gradual, frame-by-frame comprehension of what he’s being told Ugo-style about the Politburo pecking order in Beijing ... and its sudden consequences for PAFC.

Rick Mattinson now looks excited, too. He’s caught the bug.

He’s been Ugo’d.

Voice of Narrator:
This morning seems to be going crazy rich Asian down Alberton way. That’s what you think? You’re right. A China madness has infected the customary subdued hard-at-work atmosphere inside Allan Scott Power HQ. What can be going on? Ugo ... what the hell has he gone and done now?


Let’s find out. Let’s really find out. Let’s travel back in time again, identify some different sliding doors and lucky breaks and stuff like that. It’s going to take time to do that properly. It’s going to take attention. There’s not a niche anywhere for impatience. And, no, I don’t see the need for an editor. James Clavell’s only instruction to his editor when he thumped on his desk the mighty manuscript for ‘Noble House’ was: “Don’t you dare alter a thing! Not one single comma!” I’m not Clavell. For one thing he’s gone, left us for his stool at the Pro Drinkers Corner in the sky. I just like to think like Clavell used to think ... when it comes to editors.

So ... here comes a long short story, the one that kick-started the story that has been built upon it. I apologise not one tiddly little bit for telling it in full.


SCENE 38 - (Flashback - forty-six years)
October 1971, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong.


Theme music:

‘Early Morning Rain’ (Peter, Paul and Mary)



Voice of Narrator:

One Hong Kong dollar.

Doesn’t sound much, does it. One Hong Kong dollar is nothing today, but it could be a small fortune way back in 1971.

Enough, in fact, to buy myself a future - one that is still going on. Slowing down measurably, for sure, but nevertheless going on.

Remember what I’ve said about coincidences and omens? This next one is what my mother, in her antique speak, would call a ‘corker’. This anecdote of how I came to be recruited by Arnhold & Co. in December 1971 ... how that scenario was set up, directed and enacted with the assistance of two new-found Hong Kong friends of mine, is one more fluke - no more and no less a fluke than any of its predecessor and/or successor flukes.

The guest stars in this cameo are 1) a diminutive Chinese bartender in the Miami Bar, one of the hundreds of Hong Kong ‘girlie’ bars in business at the time, this one in Cameron Road, Tsimshatsui, and 2) an always-speak-in-a-low-voice Queenslander who was one of an adept commune of sub-editors employed by the South China Morning Post. We’ll call the former Johnny, the latter Barrie; it’s easier that way because those are their real names.

Time for me was getting short. My time was running out. I was searching desperately for a job that would keep me in Hong Kong. My six-month visa was facing expiry and my funds were expiring with it.

By the time I landed the position with Arnholds, and reported for duty with them on that Monday just before Xmas in 1971, I was down to a single red note in my wallet. One-hundred Hong Kong dollars.

So how did I land the job? That’s what’s essential for you to discover at this particular juncture in the saga. For all we know, it might’ve determined the distant future of the Port Adelaide Football Club. It certainly determined the birth of the China Strategy forty-two years later ... consequently whether or not Premier Li Keqiang is going to bestow the blessing of the Politburo upon the SCG, and consequently upon PAFC and their China adventure, in round 1 of the 2017 AFL season.

And this will all have hinged on HK$1.00. One solitary Hong Kong dollar.


Theme music:

‘Computer Number 9’ (Andy Fisher)



Setting:
The Miami Bar, Cameron Road, Tsimshatsui, alias TST. The Wurlitzer is putting out a song Road had heard on jukeboxes in other bars when he was in Hong Kong on R&R for a few days and nights in May, 1969, two and a half years ago. It’s a vocal take on part of the melody to Dance of the Hours in Walt Disney’s Fantasia - another one, corrupted with phrases and one-worders, unlike Alan Sherman’s ‘Hullo Muddah, Hullo Faddah’. LR’s never heard this song anywhere else, never since May 1969 on AFVN Radio Saigon, certainly not on radio back in Australia. He absorbs the lyrics, thinks they’re still as ridiculous as they used to be, wonders why he’s invested a coin to listen to them again when cash is so tight. But he’s got himself in a situation others would consider ridiculous, so the haphazard lyrics fit his mood. Who knows, there might be a clue to the solution he’s seeking, the way out he’s searching for, somewhere among the nonsense.


‘Computer Number 9’? What the hell was a computer doing anywhere in 1969? And just like back in ‘69, once he’d heard the dopey lyrics, he couldn’t get them off repeat inside his head. This was back in the days before the onset of severe bilateral tinnitus, which might or might not have been the more preferable ordeal.

‘ ... yellow bluebird ... shaving lotion ... chicken farmer ... sex promotion ... ‘ Hell, words, get outta my skull! ‘ ... automatic ... philharmonic ... antistatic ... electronic ... supersonic ... telephone line ... ‘ Just. Get. Outta. My. Head! ‘ ... television ... intermission ... love tradition ... in the kitchen ... there is no sense ... in this nonsense ... it’s a love song by Computer No. 9 - ‘

JOHNNY THE BARTENDER: “‘Wan’ ‘nother one Carlsber’?”
ROAD (sigh of relief): “Thanks, Johnny.”
JOHNNY: “You talk Barley?”
ROAD: “Barrie? This morning. I phoned him. He’ll be here in a few minutes.”


Notes:
Johnny had taken a liking to LR, because LR was the sort of customer the bar needed during the quiet hour - a regular. He was staying in a rented room in a guest-house in Chungking Mansions, a high-rise, down-market, curry-and-pot stinkfest Greenwich Village a few blocks south on Nathan Road in the direction of the harbour. For every Carlsberg that LR bought, two dollars per can, Johnny gave him one for free without being asked. It was important to have somebody occupying at least one bar stool at all times.


This was about Americans on R&R.

The war in Vietnam was still going on, the American military was still coming to Hong Kong on leave. Americans hung loose and spent loose, liked to hang and spend in friendly, cosy bars. An empty bar did not look friendly or cosy to a GI doing a recce between the scarlet curtains, so LR filled a role as a natural sit-in decoy who enticed customers to come in, sit around him, thereby risking duck hunters being in the vicinity without knowing it. That gave the bar girls, sitting in privare cubicles down back, drinking cha from Duralex glasses, chain-smoking, fanning themselves with hands of thirteen-card poker (a mah jong variation) their chance to make some fast money - which is exactly why they’d walked out on their demeaning penny ante factory jobs for the lure of the R&R bars in TST and Wanchai. Any chance to make fast money made them happy. If the Miami Bar girls weren’t made happy regularly they took it out on Johnny. A couple of dozen fast-money-mad Cantonese bar girls ganging up on an emaciated little character like Johnny, assaulting him from all sides with stereophonic guttural Cantonese slang derogatives, is not a pretty sight. Sure ain’t a pretty sound.

“Diu lay lo mo ahh! Diu lay lo mo chow hai! Pook gai ahh! Hum gaa chaan a’lay!” Screw your old mother! Screw your old mother’s malodorous nether region. I wish you fall down die! I wish your whole family die!

The Miami wasn’t a classy establishment. It was ... basic. It wasn’t a big place, lucky for Johnny. The big girlie bars, especially those on prime Wanchai corners like the Ocean, the Pussycat, the United or the Candlelight had up to 200 girls on their roster, in their late teens, some older, some as young as fourteen, plus live music at nights to allow their worn-out Wurlitzers some R&R. Discotheques were the ‘in’ thing, large and loud and libidinous. But to make money in a disco a girl had to be adept and comfortable making her moves in the perpendicular as much as the horizontal, and speak classier English than the one-liners which were all that was needed to survive valkyrie-like in a basic TST bar.

1554816830428.png


Crowded Hankow Road, TST, looking north during twilight 1971, just after John Doyle hung his distinctive, revolutionary ‘Bottoms Up’ shingle. (It would hang there for twenty years, until the authorities developed the shakes a few years before the 1997 Handover and had it removed.) Doyle hired ex-Windwill girl Pat Sephton to manage the velvet, incense and multi-mirror establishment’s four fully circular bars, each bar with its own colour scheme, each bar with a ‘climb-over-here-and-see-me-sometime’ lounge in the middle on which lounged one or two (once even twins) multi-cultural lasses serving cocktails topless. Doyle and Sephton made a profitable pairing. Bottoms Up was an instant TST icon.
 
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Topless bars were just starting, in TST to begin with; ‘Bottoms Up’ was opened by ex-journalist Aussie John Doyle in Hankow Road where ‘Gaslight’ used to be, and now the Tsai family, think-on-their-feet entrepreneur Shanghai stock, were following up with their own riske chain: ‘World of Suzie Wong’ alias ‘Basement 18’ next to Doyle’s establishment; ‘Club Kokusai’, which went underground for an entire block from its topless bar below Nathan Road through its Japanese-style nightclub below Lock Road; the ‘Danshaku’ in Peking Road ... now, ‘Club Maze’ at the top of the escalator from the ground floor of Chungking Mansions.

If anybody was myopic enough to ask a twenty-four-year-old rocks-off driven LR why he’d fallen in love with Hong Kong and never wanted to leave, he’d point in any direction, all directions, and reply: “Go find out for yourself. It won’t take long if your genes are up to the shock.”

One afternoon Johnny had asked LR a different question.

JOHNNY: “Why you have no job?”

Voice of Narrator:
I told him, beginning my history with my having a first taste of Hong Kong on R&R in May 1969, returning for two weeks on my pre-discharge leave in September 1969 - when I made initial contact with Dean Barrett and knew from that moment on, with a passion, that Hong Kong was the place for me, day-job and nightlife both. I told Johnny how I’d resumed my public service career, saved money, which wasn’t an issue as I was on a very good screw, was handed promotions and extra earning opportunities, such as overtime, whenever they occurred. I was the dreaded golden child of the era.


You see, by ranking fifth in the state of 150 who sat for the Commonwealth Public Service entrance exam, basically an IQ test, the department I was assigned to start work at on the first business day in January 1964, in my last month of being sixteen, was Repatriation Department, Pulteney Street next to McLeod’s, across the road from the Somerset. It is now elsewhere in the city under the moniker of Department of Veterans’ Affairs, alias DVA.

Damned ironic that ... you think?

This was me in October 1969 - honorably discharged national serviceman, infantry, NCO, nine months active service in South Vietnam, six years total federal government service (therein lies a twist), fit, sporting, suntanned in summer thanks to my resumption of surfing down south, intelligent, good-looking enough on a dark night, pushy, ambitious, egotistical ... hang on, tone down that last bit ... Most of all, I was there, I was on the spot. I was thus put on the fast track for greater things, like being appointed Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation before I made thirty-five. Shows to go you. At age twenty-four and a half, when I chucked all of this in by insisting (yes, I had to insist - to defy an embargo suddenly imposed by Canberra on ‘special leave’) on a year’s leave without pay so I could fly away and chase my dream in Hong Kong, I walked the Repat corridors with the title of Secretary, Procurement and Contracts Board. No, cobbler, I was not a glorified pimp. I was purchasing officer for the entire department, including RGH Daw Park, the Repatriation General Hospital.

Let’s return to that twist I mentioned. When I was called up, I fundamentally was transferred, via the Department of Labour and National Service, from one Commonwealth Government department to another. A part of Pig Iron Bob Menzies’ sales pitch for reintroducing the ballot in 1964 was that any national serviceman would after two years not only be restored to the job he’d been wrenched out of, he would not suffer any loss of income because of his Army service. The disadvantaged employer, you see, was supposed to compensate for any shortfall in the draftee’s earnings, with the support of Canberra, upon claim. I put Pig Iron Bob’s election promise to the test.

As I’d not, in reality, changed employer at all, as Canberra paid my salary both sides and throughout my period of conscription, I put in a stronger than the norm claim for lost earnings. My Army pay was less than half what I’d been taking home at Repat. It was a try-on, indeed it was. But it worked. By that I don’t mean that I got a juicy cheque cut with my name on it. Canberra would never go for that. It would set too expensive a precedent, correct as the precedent might be. Instead, my direct Repat superiors put their empathetic heads together and privately ruled that I had a case. I was given compensation in kind, via preferential treatment when it came to, as I’ve mentioned, promotions, overtime, special duties that came with danger money such as carrying the loaded Colt .38 once a fortnight as I moved floor to floor, then out to RGH Daw Park with the paymaster and his burlap bag bursting with banknotes, coinage and comptometer (yes, comptometer) print-out paper rolls, plus any other special opportunity that showed up for a golden child like me.

Shows to go yer, as I’ve already said. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

JOHNNY: “But if you so smar’ ... if you smar’ like you say, why you leave school so young? Why you don’ go university? All smar’ young guy mus’ go university. Why no’ you?”
ROAD: “In fourth-year high school ... that’s called ‘Leaving’ ... the student who sat next to me had a sports car.”
JOHNNY: “Red spor’ car?”
ROAD: “White. Rusty white. More rust than white. It was an old Singer Sports. It was useless, broken down all the time. But it looked good, and I felt good when I sat in it. I decided I wanted a sports car.”
JOHNNY: “Your paren’ not happy ‘bout that.”
ROAD: “My mother always called me a ‘determined child’.”
JOHNNY: “Tha’ good or bad?”
ROAD: “It was not good in her mind. But when she said it, it meant that she had admitted defeat. We did a deal that I study accountancy at night school.”
JOHNNY: “You do tha’?”
ROAD: “I tried. Twice. Not really tried. I gave up. It bored my arse off.”
JOHNNY: “Why you mother like ‘countancy so much?”
ROAD: “Because of Dean Barrett. She admired him, wished her sister, my Aunt Elaine, had married him.”
JOHNNY: “Who he Dea’ Barlett?”
ROAD: “The boss of China Light and Power.”
JOHNNY: “Jung Gwok Deen Lek? You joke me.”
ROAD (nodding): “CLP.”
JOHNNY (eyes wide): “Wah. Why Dea’ give you no job?”
ROAD: “I’m not qualified.”
JOHNNY: “Ha. Now we go back where we start. You say to me why you really leave school early. No spor’ car bush-shit.”


Voice of Narrator:
He was right, smart little Johnny. Tom Rijpstra’s Singer Sports was only the clapped-out cherry on top of the chocolate nut sunday of my alluva sudden age-sixteen urge to be different, to be an individual, to refuse to follow the crowd, to reach out for the independence of earning a salary.


Now what was the clue among the lyrics of ‘Computer No. 9’, as they came out of the Wurlitzer in the Miami Bar on Cameron Road, Tsimshatsui?

What was the lyrical lightbulb moment I was in dire need of?

1554817484910.jpeg


Actually there was none. The clue was in the title. Computer No. 9. Take a look at Arnholds’ listing in the 1971 edition of the annual Hong Kong Dollar Directory. That’s right, the 1,592-page brick of information every institution paid to broadcast their data, called the HK$ Directory. A Hong Kong dollar. Their listing on pages 132 and 133 reveals Arnhold & Co, Ltd. as ‘Engineers and Contractors’, their address as ‘No. 9, Ice House Street’.

Engineering + No. 9 = Computer No 9.

‘Computer’ in Cantonese is ‘deen lo’ (electric brain). ‘Electric’ = China Light & Power. ‘Deen lo’ could be phonetically romanised as ‘Dean Lo’ = Dean the Man. This brings in CLP and Dean Barrett. See? It was all in the song title.

1554817554981.jpeg


JOHNNY: “Wan’ ‘nother one Carlsber’?”
ROAD: “Thanks, Johnny.”
JOHNNY: “Here he come now Barley. Hey, hi Barley!”
BARRIE: “G’day Johnny.”



Theme music:

‘Crockett’s Theme’ (Jan Hammer)



Notes:
To the theme music, the Post alias Nam Wah Jo Bo sub-editor named Barrie, having completed his shift across the harbour in Quarry Bay, enters the Miami Bar, Cameron Road, TST, Kowloon, Hong Kong ... to meet up with the hitherto voice on the phone that goes by the name of Lockhart Road.


They shake hands. Exchange one-liners. Barrie also orders Carlsberg.

BARRIE: “Apologies if I sounded gruff on the phone.”
ROAD: “I prefer gruff to bullshit.”
BARRIE: “So do I. But when you said that you’re looking for a job writing for a newspaper but have no qualifications apart from credits in English and Latin in your exams, it struck a sore spot.”
ROAD: “Apologies are mine. I’m learning all the time. Thanks for suggesting we get together, even after I spoke to you like a freshly-bored arsehole.”
BARRIE: “You stuck up for yourself. I have to admit that I’ve never before been demanded by a stranger to explain to him what my qualifications are.”
ROAD: “That’s just me. I won’t get where I want being a pushover.”
BARRIE: “What I said about forming the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association to keep fly-ins like you out of the game is true. Hard but true. In this town you’ll be taken to the cleaners, taken advantage of, underpaid like hell, if you don’t have a journalist’s proper qualifications and the HKJA therefore can’t represent you in any labour dispute.”
ROAD: “Fair enough. As I can’t see myself gaining journalism qualifications in a hurry, looks like I have to look elsewhere for a salary.”
BARRIE: “How hard have you been looking?”
ROAD: “Can’t say. I’ve nothing to compare it with. I haven’t been sitting on my arse, that’s for sure.”
BARRIE: “Got a copy of your resume?”


LR hands it over. Barrie scans it, suggests some improvements.

ROAD: “Thank you. Could I have my own copy of your business card? Johnny loaned me his and wants it back.”
BARRIE: “No problem. Johnny’s a good little Viet Cong.”
JOHNNY (taking the card back from LR): “I no Viet Cong. I Chinese dinkum bloke.”
BARRIE: “You look Viet Cong, Johnny. Gotta take care, mate. Dive in your spider hole lickety-split. Here come the Yanks.”


Four young westerners with flat-top Marine haircuts, enticed by the sound of English conversation, flick apart the scarlet curtains, and follow each other in. The bar girls rise up as one, like the next wave at a surf beach, move in from down back, flitter and chatter around the newcomers like moths checking out a just switched-on light bulb on a hot summer night. A round of ten-dollar ‘Hong Kong teas’ is just the start of a well-worn process known to culminate in any or all of the girls being rented for a week, fully paid in advance. Marines, GIs, any Americans on R&R are like that: flush with funding plus an impatience to spend it all in one hour in one place, an impatience born of justifiable uncertainty as to their immortality back in Vietnam.

BARRIE: “There’s one thing you gotta do ... “
ROAD: “All ears.”


Voice of Narrator:
This is it.


Set aside the last chance for love, eve of destruction ambience. Cantonese bar girls in midsummer moth mode, set them aside, too. The Hong Kong tea ceremony and rent-a-body-cum-tour-guide routine aside. Sound-pumping Wurlitzer and ‘Computer No. 9’ aside in particular ... afoot is the dinky-die lightbulb moment. LR and Barrie are destined for the dinkum mate sort of mateship. What Barrie is about to instruct LR to do, to do tomorrow, is the clincher ... even though it’s going to need a month or so to manifest itself.

BARRIE: “Go to Union House in Central, the corner of Chater Road and Pedder Street. Go up to the office of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce. Tell them you want to place a classified advertisement in the ‘Positions Wanted’ section of the next issue of their monthly bulletin. It’s distributed to all Chamber of Commerce member companies ... there are a great many of them ... believe me the bulletin, all of it, gets read by serious business people.”
ROAD: “I can do that.”
BARRIE: “Let’s draft your ad now. Johnny, you got a pen?”


They agree on something professional, a thirty-word summary of LR’s c.v.

BARRIE: “Lodge it tomorrow. If you miss their deadline, you lose a month, and from what you’re saying you can’t afford to lose a month.”
ROAD: “First thing in the morning. Nine a.m. What’s the damage?”
BARRIE: “For thirty words ... one Hong Kong dollar.”
 
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SCENE 39 -
Next morning, nine o’clock sharp.


Camera follows Road as he disembarks from the ‘Star’ Ferry, climbs the ramp, walks through the concourse, up on to Chater Road, turns right, walks past the rear entrance to the Mandarin Hotel, crosses narrow Ice House Street, passes St. George’s Building - alias the control tower of the Kadoories, who own China Light & Power, one publicly-listed darling of the investing public in a portfolio of darlings. Union House looms large and next ...

Road knows this route by heart.

Union House. It’s been redeveloped into what nowadays is Chater House.

Camera trails Road into Union House, follows him to the west wing of the lobby to check out the office directory on the wall. Union House is a broad structure. It has separate elevator lobbies serving its east and west wings. Road gives up on the west, crosses to the east, checks the directory, spots what he needs and rides up to the 9th floor. He puts weight on the door of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, it swings open, metaphorically slides open. He steps in with a smile and a “Jo sun”! (Good morning) to the easy-on-the-eye efficiency-exuding Chinese receptionist.

In 1971 the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce is not alone on the 9th floor of Union House.

Voila ... 9th Floor.

Computer No. 9 strikes again.


Theme music:

‘Counting By Nines Song’



Voice of Narrator:
I knew the route because a couple of months earlier I’d landed a temporary job as admin officer with the Australian Trade Commission whose premises were also 9th Floor, Union House, in the west wing. It lasted six weeks, the interval between the sending home of a clerk my age who was caught DUI and the arrival of his replacement. I’d made a cold call, as I’d been doing at offices big, small, in-between all over the city, on both sides of the harbour, armed with my c.v., such as it was. That intense, concentrated employment search was a crash course on how Hong Kong’s corporate wheels spun and meshed. It was an invaluable high-pressure orientation. Some upon whom I cold-called reacted with a stuck-up Karl Krupp-style brush off, others used thirty minutes checking the clock, until the opening of the Members’ Bar in the Hong Kong Club gave them cause to politely adjourn the exchange.


I particularly recollect riding high up in Prince’s Building to the office of a director of Jebsens, a Scandinavian operation, HK agents for Siemens, Volkswagen, Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk Line. Petersen was his name, still is for all I know. He announced he’d decided to be Saint Nick that morning and give me sixty of his precious seconds to deliver the gift of his advice minus Xmas stocking. “Get on Qantas and leave tonight,” he told me. “Hong Kong is localising. There is not a place left for an unqualified foreigner like you. Never will you get a job in this city. I promise you that.”

My next appointment that same morning was in Shell House a block or so along Queen’s Road, with Bob Gaff, senior partner with accountants and auditors Coopers & Lybrand. Bob’s advice was the exact opposite. “You’ll get a job in Hong Kong, I promise you. Your written English is excellent. The locals can’t write well enough in English to make as much money as they’d like to be making. Keep at it. You’ll get what you’re after. Someone will hire you. Go talk to these people. Tell ‘em I sent you.” Bob handed me a list he’d had typed up consisting of a dozen names and contact data. The concrete jungle had more than a pulse; at times it had a heart. Bob Gaff wasn’t the only interviewer human enough to do a kindness like that for me. Many years subsequently, in 2001, when I was researching and writing the history of PricewaterhouseCoopers for their imminent centenary, I interviewed Bob long-distance - he’d retired to the south of France - and reminded him of our meeting in Shell House, and his kindness, thirty years earlier.

A year or so after I’d started in the job that Computer No. 9 foretold care-of its hidden message, I came up behind Director Petersen of Jebsens waiting for a red light to turn green. He’d had a skiing accident in Europe. One leg was plastered thigh to ankle; he was on crutches. I had to physically clamp down on an urge to stretch out a surreptitious shoe and flick a crutch into the traffic on Des Voeux Road. Karma. Enjoy it privately, LR, I told myself.

Many many years later, in 2011, when I was working on the history of the Hong Kong Country Club - a bastion for billionaires for whom I picked the title ‘A Place of Social Resort’ - I obliquely wrote into my back-flap profile the moral of my 1971 encounter with Mr. Petersen, who had been Country Club chairman at some intervening stage. Karma, it was again, in writing this time. ‘Always seek a second opinion,’ is what I wrote.

During the course of my quest for employment in 1971 I’d come very close to landing an assistant’s position with a textile import-export operation in Kowloon called Lark International, co-owned by an urbane American called Ira Kaye, who saw something in me. His Chinese partners, however, didn’t go along with it; they didn’t want another gwai lo (foreign devil) to appear on the payroll.

Desperation is the mother of downsized ambitions. I’d applied in writing for all sorts of vocations: a police cadet (eyesight failed me on the spot), TV newsreader, nightclub bouncer (two years infantry, what else?), sub-editor for UPI, reporter for the English-language press (Hong Kong published four such dailies, most prominent being the Post) the pursuit Barrie disabused me of) ... then back to ‘go’, virtually, via the Australian Trade Commission and a Commonwealth Public Service-issue desk, in admittedly a different hemisphere, that had become temporarily vacant.

This time, armed with an introduction from somebody, when I called on the Trade Commission, 9th Floor, Union House, I’d been taken eastward down Chater Road to lunch at the Hong Kong Cricket Club (the following year I’d be a member myself) by the senior admin dude, Bruce Denham. He read to me the riot act - which wasn’t at all unreasonable considering the downfall of my predecessor, and the fact I was resident in the infamous Chungking Mansions - and recruited me as ‘local’ staff on HK$2,300 per month. What got me the post was, of course, my instant availability, plus the employer’s insurance that I was still on Canberra’s books as absent on ‘special leave’ and could be checked up on, even intimidated.

My six weeks under Bruce Denham’s wing and watchful eye brought with them a couple of fond memories. There was the morning I was sitting by the rail of the ‘Star’ Ferry as it filled up at the TST pier to carry a boatload of commuters and tourists across Victoria Harbour to Central. My row wasn’t occupied, apart from me, until a familiar silhouette loomed from the right and lumbered with the help of a walking stick down the row towards me. It was Pig Iron Bob Menzies, followed by his better half, Patty.

They sat right next to me. Menzies nodded, said “Good morning,” as he’d seen that I’d recognised him; Patty sweetly said something similar. I said nought. Here was the very prime minister of Australia who’d brought back the draft, who had drawn my birth date out of the barrel and sent me off to war (actually I’d sort of volunteered, but don’t mention that). Here was the super-mega-politico who’d slid open the first of my adult sliding doors, to have me, after twists and turns and forks in the road, being sat there on the ‘Star’ Ferry right up next to him. For a long time I sat, thinking on all this, as the ferry putted and churned across the harbour, trying to come up with a flash of brilliance. Finally, when the journey was all but over, I had it. I knew exactly what I should say.

“My father hates your guts.”

Pig Iron Bob did not react. He hadn’t heard what I said. That’s probably due to the fact I didn’t say it out loud. However, I did think it at max volume.

As the ferry passengers disembarked at Central pier, I watched as Menzies was helped into the back of a black limo, no doubt arranged for him by the young lady who’s next up in this story of mine. A month or so later, at home in Melbourne, Sir Robert Menzies was to suffer a massive stroke, resulting in severe and cruel paralysis which sentenced him to a wheelchair in public for the seven years he had left to live. Clearly, I was already having a telling effect on the people with whom I was rubbing shoulders.

But the memory I value most from my six weeks as a local employee of the Oz Goverment in Hong Kong in 1971 is eighteen-year-old Christina Hui - the meet-and-greet girl, the ‘first impression’ girl, the PR girl ... all five feet ten inches of incomparable northern Chinese metabolism. She was, I believe, a daughter of the senior marketing manager at the Trade Commission.

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That’s me in the middle.


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That’s still me in the middle.


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Looks like I got squ...eeeezed out.

Christina grew up, into a big girl, became a top catwalk and photographic model in Hong Kong, tried her luck in Hollywood and was chosen as a Bond girl. She appeared in Playboy. But, male sports fans, I’d met her when she was eighteen, starting out, cute and very human. We’d ‘worked together’ much too fleetingly. Neither were the same thereafter. Well, I know I wasn’t.

I invested the first month’s $2,300 at Kenny’s - the Indian custom tailors in Carnarvon Road a block from Chungking Mansions. It was the best bar in town. Free beer every beer, not every second one. I bought two suits, one a subtle-striped middling grey, the other a plain darkish green which I put on for my interview with the gentleman - the real gentleman to whom I would, years later, dedicate my first internationally published novel - who was to respond to the classified advertisement that I placed, on Barrie’s top notch advice, in the ‘Positions Wanted’ section of the monthly bulletin published by the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce.

For one Hong Kong Dollar.

But you already know about that.
 
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SCENE 40 -
Thursday afternoon, December 1971.


Setting:
The phone call comes in to the apartment-size guesthouse on the 14th floor of Chungking Mansions. The standard black Bakelite rotary-dial gives out its standard ring. Thursday afternoon, about three p.m., drizzle outside, chill north wind coming down from China. Road has caught a change-of-season dose of ‘flu. Winter is here; these days Hong Kong still has what can be called a winter. LR is flat on his back in his room, suffering, telling himself he has no time to suffer, he has to get up, get out, get going, keep going. The Chinese owner of the apartment that he’s subdivided into rented rooms picks up. He knocks on LR’s door.


The phone and its ring may be standard ... the call is not.

It is Road’s turn for a cold call. A cure for his cold, in fact. A cure, looking back on its effect, for all his ills.

VOICE ON PHONE: “Good afternoon, my name is Maurice Green. I have seen your advertisement in the Chamber of Commerce bulletin, and I think that we may have something to talk about with you, if you are still available. I am the chairman of Arnhold & Company. We are an engineering company - “
ROAD: “I’m not an engineer.”


Voice of Narrator:
Now this was a bad start. I knew I’d made a blue. Never but never introduce a negative. Never but never but never start off with a negative. All I needed to say was: “I see.” Nine out of ten people would’ve hung up on me at this point. But Maurice Green was a thorough gentleman. He had never hung up on anyone in his life. He had never raised his voice in his life. He had been a thorough gentleman all his life. Not only had I been impossibly lucky having somebody, anybody, catch sight of my ‘positions wanted’ cry for help, I was doubly impossibly lucky that the person who did was Maurice Green.


Mr. GREEN: “I don’t need an engineer. I need somebody to help make life easier for my son Michael so he can spend all of his working time being the managing director of this company ... “
ROAD: “I see.”
Mr. GREEN: “We are starting to grow fast. A construction boom is just starting to get moving. We import and supply top quality, many of them famous, brands of plant and equipment to the construction and engineering industries ... mainly from British manufacturers.”
ROAD: “I see.”
Mr. GREEN: “Excellent. I need ... my son needs ... somebody to write his letters for him ... to look after all the visitors we’re receiving, all the visiting principals who are now coming to Hong Kong all the time. This is using up too much of his time. He needs to have time to be managing director, not a dictator of letters or a personal tourist guide. Can you do that for him? For me?”
ROAD: “Yes, Mr. Green. I can do all that.”
Mr. GREEN: “Can you come and see me in the morning? We are at Room 302, 9 Ice House Street in Central.”
ROAD: “I can come and see you right now, Mr. Green.”
Mr. GREEN: “No need for such hurry. You sound like you have a bad cold.”
ROAD: “It will be gone by the time I get off the ‘Star’ Ferry. Salt air will fix it.”
Mr. GREEN: “Excellent. I will be waiting for you.”


Notes:

Maurice Green had an accent that was hard to pin down. It was British but not original British. It was acquired British, elocution-trained British. Too crisp not to be. Road would later learn that the British in Maurice’s voice lured the listener away from Jewish Romanian inflections that had been there since his infancy. ‘Green’ had been taken as a surname when Maurice’s parents had at the turn of the century fled from the anti-Semite pogroms, made it overland to Paris and from there set sail for a new life in Hong Kong, arriving circa 1904. Maurice and his brothers and sister had been born subsequently and raised in the Criterion Hotel, initially in Pottinger Street in the ‘old’ part of town, then on Queen’s Road directly across from the top of the steps that rose up from Central Market. His father, ‘George Green’, who’d earned his crust as a cooper in Romania and, as he was the male of the family though not the worker, was registered as hotel ‘proprietor’. Maurice’s mother Annie did the thinking, all the work, while George excelled at entertaining the clientele in the Criterion Hotel bar.

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Maurice’s parents had taken over management of the hotel from his aunt who was the one to summon them from Paris out to Hong Kong when she got word they’d escaped from Romania. In 1914, to avoid fallout from the war due to their Romanian origins, the Green family relocated to Shanghai and operated a hotel also called the Criterion, then in the 1920s another in Singapore called the New Travellers Inn. Maurice would sail to England for his tertiary education, qualify as a mechanical engineer, join Arnholds in Shanghai upon his graduation. He would eventually become a director in charge of the branch in Tianjin after Sir Victor Sassoon absorbed the ‘engineers and contractors’ into his empire in the 1920s to play a role in his dream for the redevelopment of Shanghai, which Sir Victor oversaw from his flagship, Sassoon House and Cathay Hotel combined.

Maurice Green was twice ruined whilst serving as a director of Arnholds. The first time came in December 1941 when the Japanese military completed its occupation of international settlements in Shanghai, Tianjin, and elsewhere - concurrent with the strike on Pearl Harbor. Maurice was manhandled into an internment camp in Weihsien, Shandong. His wife and son Michael, a toddler, had escaped China on a steamship only to be trapped in Manila, and interned themselves, at Santo Tomas; they convinced themselves they would never see Maurice again, as there was no news of him, so their post-war reunion came as a miracle. The second ruination came less than four years later, with the fall of Shanghai to the PLA in late May 1949. The Greens were on leave in England, read the tragic news in The Times.

After that, all that was left of Sassoons, as far as Maurice was concerned, was the Arnhold office in Hong Kong, at 9 Ice House Street, rented from Hongkong Land. There was a one-bedroom apartment at the top of the building, Holland House (9 Queen’s Road today), in which the Greens lived, with Michael sleeping on a sofa. All Sassoons could afford for their ex-director as a ‘superannuation’ gift was what remained of Arnhold & Co. in Hong Kong - essentially a collection of British engineering agencies and a mountain of debt.

Maurice set about rebuilding the company, and his life for a third time. When he noticed LR’s classified advertisement and phoned him in Chungking Mansions, he was seeing a glimmer at the end of the tunnel to ‘making it’. Thirty staff were by then on the payroll. Michael - ‘Young Green’ to the staff, while Maurice was of course ‘Old Green’ - had graduated from Magill in Canada and was taking over the running of Arnholds as managing director; if only somebody could be found to save him half of every day being occupied with correspondence and taking care of English-speaking business visitors mainly from the U.K.

LR had been blessed with the best kind of good fortune ... good timing ... with it a bonus: the guardian angel named Maurice Green.

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Voice of Narrator:
“Suet Chong Gai.” Say it correctly to the taxi driver, with ‘gai’ in the upper tone, and he’ll take you to Ice House Street. Say it wrong, corrupt ‘gai’ with a lower tone, and you’ll end up at the nearest place selling frozen chicken. Very likely not the nearest place, not if your Cantonese is that ‘laap sup’ (rubbish). Very likely a place far far away, with a meter reading to match.


I didn’t need a taxi that Thursday afternoon in December 1971. I walked the short walk from the ‘Star’ Ferry pier. Actually I flew. I was right about the cold. It was forgotten, gone, history. It had done its job. It made sure that I’d been on the premises when Maurice Green’s call came in.

The spruce new custom-tailored business suit helped with the critical first impression, no doubt about that. I wanted to get my knees under a desk the next morning, a Friday, but was requested to report on the Monday. Salary: HK$2,500 a month, with a co-signed one-page letter which sufficed as an employment contract. Three months probation, then a salary review. It was a low, quite fair base - from which my personal income would fly up ... and up ... and away.

I flew up ... and up ... and away, with it.

No-one knew better than I did exactly how lucky I was. What I didn’t know, yet naturally hoped, was this was only the start.

The first real task, make that real test, I was given was to manage, within a budget set by me, the redecoration of the 2,000 square feet of office on the pointed south-east corner of Ice House Street and Queen’s Road, Central. For someone who is an ex-Secretary, Procurement & Contracts Board of an Australian Commonwealth Government department in SA complete with a Repatriation General Hospital, aged just short of twenty-five, it was a walk in the short green. No pun intended.

So there I was. In position. In deep cover, so to speak, ready for what was ahead, whatever that might be. And as I worked by day and night and won my fair share of business, and as I played by night and weekend and won myself a family ... this strange, incredible, unique place called Hong Kong changed around me, day by day, old building gone by new high-rise come, old sea-side section gone by new land reclamation come ....

Oh yes, they are so right when they say that Hong Kong will be a nice place when it’s finished.


Theme music:

‘Tar and Cement’ (Verdelle Smith)

 
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SCENE 41 - (Flash forward, forty-four years, four months.)
Saturday, lunch time, 16 April 2016.


Setting:
Royal Garden Hotel, Tsimshatsui (TST) East, Kowloon, Hong Kong.


When Road was looking for a job way back in 1971, TST East was swampland. The night he’d touched down on R&R in May 1969, he and a half-dozen mates who flew on leave with him in a Pan Am 707 out of Tan Son Nhut, Saigon, were bussed from Kai Tak Airport to a colonial British military barracks on Chatham Road to be briefed, warned, handed a leaflet which repeated all the warnings in case of deafness or just-not-listening, and allocated hotels. LR and B.R. Jones (also WTFRW) shared a room in the Park, directly across Chatham and on the north corner of Cameron Road across, incidentally, from the Miami Bar near the south corner.

Notes:

In the early 1980s TST East was reclaimed. A shopping, hotel and commercial district was developed on it. The height of the buildings is uniform, seventeen floors each, due to the proximity of Kai Tak Airport. Coming back to TST East this Saturday morning, 16 April 2016, to meet up with Thorold Keene again, feels to LR like he’s revisiting his Hong Kong origins ... forty-plus years on.

Thorold isn’t supposed to be in Hong Kong. He’s been so delayed flying out of Shanghai the night before, after all the excitement of the MoU, he missed his Cathay Pacific connection HK to Adelaide and has had to stay overnight. In the early morning Keene sent Road an email inviting him to lunch.

LR has not slept well, again. He has been up since four a.m. assisting Graham Cornes. Next week is ANZAC round, and Graham has been persuaded to tell his readers a story: how Peter Chant and Port Adelaide’s China coup fit together.

It’s a day on which everyone at the Club should be proud. Keene is indeed so proud he can’t stop grinning. LR is so proud himself, and of himself, he brings Keene a gift: a few of his books for the CEO to read or browse through on his overnight flight to Adelaide. The books add a few kgs to Keene’s luggage, en route to either Keene’s library or his stockpile of cockroach crushers.

KEENE: “Yes, it all went so very well. Thank you for all you’ve done to help.”
ROAD: “Ugo ... was he a star?”
KEENE: “He was. And that’s a relief.”
ROAD: “How does he feel about China State Net?”
KEENE: “He’s not sold. But then his focus is Mr. Gui and CCTV-5.”
ROAD: “It won’t hurt to keep State Net on the back-burner for a while, as we get our other ducks in a row in Shanghai.”
KEENE: “That’s what I was thinking.”
ROAD (nodding): “Gives us a chance to build our image, our profile, in the eyes of Mr. Xiao and Mr. Rong ... so they know we really are equals, big as they are.”
KEENE: “I agree with the approach.”
ROAD: “And we gear the publicity activity into ramping up the equality.”
KEENE: “I’ll have a word to our GM Media. He’s out shopping with Rucci.”


LR opens his iPad, taps into it, shows Thorold Keene the article that’s just been uploaded under Graham Cornes’ byline.

https://www.adelaidenow.com.au/spor...s/news-story/56313d8b7207ed3063b6617eddae54d4

KEENE: “How will we know when China State Net are confident we’ve reached equality?”
ROAD: “This time, they’ll initiate contact.”



SCENE 42 -
Sunday, 17 April 2016 - Manuka Oval, Canberra.


Setting and notes:
Keene has arrived in the ACT late, via Adelaide. Camera focuses on his face as he settles into his seat in the grandstand, shaking congratulating hands to left, right and centre.


The ball is bounced, and the camera records his expression as it changes.

The CEO’s grin turns to something else. He cringes instead, watching the Power players dump excrement on his internal flame care-of their insipid performance versus the Giants. Instead of proudly raising the Club’s bar even higher than it was on the international stage in Shanghai, they all play flat as road-kill. How can this be? Is this not the same world the CEO was in last Thursday, the same planet Thorold Keene was on last Thursday? Now he feels crushed, lugubrious, let down by his players, and by their coaches, especially by the senior coach who during the pre-match rev-up warned the team, perhaps alerted them to the concept in the process, that just because Robbie Gray and Chad Wingard were back from injury to strengthen the side they’d better not leave all the work on the field to those two alone. Good distrust strategy, Ken. Never would they think of doing that if you hadn’t mentioned it.

2016 was going the way of 2015. Manuka made sure of it. Thorold Keene, the CEO, having planted the Power flag in Shanghai, deserved much, much better than a no-show like this from his on-field division as a ‘welcome home, champ’.

Karl Krupp’s testy opinion, delivered to the players by Twitter from Hong Kong where he was spending his post-Shanghai weekend, contributed nada to Club harmony. Just the opposite. It set in motion a disharmony ... and the Knee-jerk Kaiser, the King of 140 Characters, the Tzar of Tweet, has still not worked it out.

At Alberton, something was right ... and something was wrong.

China, instead of being universally hailed as a significant victory in the making, was about to gain a reputation for being a ‘distraction’.

The season would conclude unsatisfactorily, with something called an internal review. It put the senior coach on the spot. It made him squirm. But he sucked on it, mustered up his self-respect, did his level best to regroup and turn into a better, more with-it, more modern thinking, more intelligent senior coach. But intelligence is what we’re born with, or born without. Brains can’t be grown on stubborn ground.

Notes:
Meanwhile, off-field, viz China, leading into season 2017 and the first match for premiership points in history to be played there, Jiangwan Stadium in Shanghai takes shape, Ugo Alsthom takes Sports Diplomacy to new heights, and a scene on the sidelines of a footy match is set for admission to PAFC’s memory vault.



SCENE 43 -
(Flash forward - late March 2017, round 1, Sydney Cricket Ground.)


Setting:
Premier of China, Li Keqiang, wearing an ear-to-ear grin and a Power scarf - at times a Swans scarf with it just to be diplomatic for the cameras. At his left is the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, wearing a cautious smile and a Swans scarf. Buzzing around, wound up tight as the twangiest string on Hank P. Marvin’s guitar, is Karl Krupp; he appears to be mainly wearing his right hand - reaching out, trying hard, too hard, to make something unnecessarily perfect here, trying too hard to unnecessarily fix something miniscule there, carrying on like a wide-open handbag ... an untidy accessory to the main event, the sort of untidy accessory that the bald Aussie blue bug-eyed blowfly makes of itself at a beach barbecue in January.


The Internet uploads the pictures like a Hoover uploads hairs on a carpet. The pictures are sucked into cyberspace and rained down all over the planet. The pictures land all over China. The message in those pictures is loud and crystal clear. The omnipotent Politburo of the PRC approves Australian Football as an alternative skilled team sport. The PRC Politburo welcomes Australian Football to China. The most colourful, if hackneyed, headline might be translated as:

AUSSIE AERIAL PING PONG TAKES TO CHINA’S FIELD OF DREAMS.

“But who,” the CCTV sportscasters and political commentators ask each other, “is that third tit?” “What’s he doing?” “Why is he there?” “Ah, I think he’s trying to pick the lint off Premier Li’s suit.” From that moment on, Karl Krupp would be known all over China as ... ‘The Klaw’ ... all over the English-speaking world as ‘Karloff’ (as in Boris Karloff).

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“Don’t mind him, Mr. Premier, he’s just picking the lint off your suit.”

Ugo Alsthom, operating quietly, deftly and well in advance behind the scenes with DFAT, has done it again. He’s pulled off another spectacular coup for the Port Adelaide Football Club by applying his newly-discovered global science of Sports Diplomacy.

http://www.atimes.com/article/premier-li-keqiang-relaxes-footy-match/


SCENE 44 -
Early May 2017 ... Hong Kong


Setting:
Late Tuesday afternoon a few weeks before the first match, Power versus Suns at Jiangwan Stadium, Shanghai: Pro Drinkers Corner, Happy Valley Bar & Grill, Road and Robbins’ weekly PAFC China Advisors meeting.


The volunteer duet of card-carrying Cocklediver cobbers have got the signal from Thorold Keene - via an email that reads:

They’re back.

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Theme music:

‘Batman Theme’ (The Marketts)



Notes:
Keene has himself received an email request from Xiao Junxi, via Dirk Struan IV, for Mr Xiao and two colleagues to be officially invited by PAFC to the inaugural AFL match in Shanghai, and to a function or more associated with it. This is the first progressive, as distinct from platitudinal, communication from China State Net in seventeen months. The initiative has without doubt been motivated by international and China-wide publicity generated by Li Keqiang and Malcolm Turnbull thanks to their attention-grabbing double act at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which itself was motivated by Ugo The Different.


Road and Robbins read again, then again to be sure, the communication from Mission Control, Alberton, Postcode 5014/5015, as it appears on LR’s iPad.

ROBBINS: “What happens now?”
ROAD: “We go to Shanghai for the match early, and we go to work. This is the exact opening we’ve been waiting for. Now we have to position ourselves. We do this together. Side by side. Teamwork. Co-ordination. You and me ... Robin.”
ROBBINS: “Whatever you say ... Batman.”
ROAD: “You’re only being polite and duly respectful because it’s my shout.”



SCENE 45 -
May 2017, Shanghai.
The week leading up to the AFL match at Jiangwan Stadium on Sunday, 14 May 2017.


Setting:
Aerial camera views of the city, focusing on the T-junction made by the Bund and Nanjing Road, landmarked by the Cathay / Peace Hotel. Camera travels outwards, wider, comparing what Shanghai looks like today with flashbacks to the 1930s, the great golden era of Sir Victor Sassoon, Arnhold & Co., and the like.


Visual flashback to the commencement of construction - by order of Chiang Kai-shek - of the athletics stadium and cultural complex north-east of the city centre in the as yet undeveloped rural district called Jiangwan ... the district which Chiang and his corrupt administration harboured such ambitious and ‘patriotic’ plans for. Intensely jealous of Sir Victor’s popularity was Chiang Kai-shek. Fiercely distrustful and critical of the opulence and decadence of the Paris of the East flourishing within the sanctuary of the International Settlement and French Concession on the west bank of the Huangpu River, that’s Chiang Kai-shek.

His grand plans for the complex at Jiangwan, however, excluded an Australian Football match contested for premiership points eighty-plus years later.

https://www.bigfooty.com/forum/thre...coast-shanghai-bund-to-jiangwan-town.1164989/


Voice of Narrator:
Shanghai, Shanghai. Look at it down there. Topographically unspectacular, flat as a billiard table. Artistically spectacular. Historically spectacular. Not pretty, not even attractive, just ... spectacular.


But, take note. Now that Shanghai was in this game that we’re playing, the game has changed, dramatically.

Spectacularly.

Nobody at Port Adelaide had an inkling how much their game was about to change when Mr. Gui had come knocking, so enthusiastically, his cheque book out, talking big picture, talking the universal caper, talking personal legacy to his home town ... and they couldn’t resist him, just had to find the way, whatever it was, to accommodate him and do so at full speed.

On the virtual eve of the match in Shanghai, it is apparent the full-speed accommodation of the full-speed Mr. Gui is testing every iota and aspect of Alberton’s resources ... testing every ounce of PAFC’s resolve to go it alone, to position the Club ahead of the AFL pelaton, ahead of AFL House itself, well ahead ... to protect itself by stealing a long march, to protect itself by the sheer stretch of its breakaway into the Celestial Wonderland that is, and always will be, China.

Rick Mattinson gave all of this a name. He called it a ‘white-knuckle ride’. In one of my emails to him at the time, I told him he’d ‘bitten off more than he could chew’. I meant the whole of PAFC, not just him. He agreed with me.

PAFC needs specialist help with anything extra, especially anything extra-special, rising up at this eleventh hour. The Club’s China Advisors have got the signal to provide such help. China State Net is coming their way.


Theme music:

‘Ride The Tiger’ (Jefferson Starship)




(Episode 6 to be continued.)
 
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Lockhart Road I hope you don't mind but I am going to comment on several parts of your last few posts/ Alberton Papers chapter, that really struck me last night. Probably my favourite Chapter so far.

‘Walk Don’t Run’ (The Ventures - with Russell Ebert on drums) - he definitely has Russell's nose.

ALSTHOM: “Premier Li! Premier Li! We’ve got Premier Li! He’s going to come to the SCG for round 1! He’s going to come down to the changing rooms and say hello to the players and the coaches and ... ! Premier Li, Rick. Premier ... Li!”
MATTINSON (finally looks up): “Who’s Premier Li?”
I could just image how excited this would have caused Ugo to become, and those at Alberton in the know. This is the classic -HTF - How The F**k - did that happen moment, of all this China venture for me I think. Mr Gui was big, but we were planning to snare a potato farmer like him. This was just something else. I reckon there should have been a similar reaction at AFL house, but the dullards there probably first reaction was - that's nice. This was from the very bottom of the bag of magic tricks Ugo and others have pulled out over the last 5 years.

The Miami Bar -
next time I'm in HK I have to find some of these bars where you meet all these colourful characters. I like the 2 for the price of deal Johnny had you on. We all need to get to know a character like Johnny in life, and not just for the free booze.

BARRIE: “Go to Union House in Central, the corner of Chater Road and Pedder Street. Go up to the office of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce. Tell them you want to place a classified advertisement in the ‘Positions Wanted’ section of the next issue of their monthly bulletin. It’s distributed to all Chamber of Commerce member companies ... there are a great many of them ... believe me the bulletin, all of it, gets read by serious business people.”
You can talk all you like about Seek, Linkedin and other modern digital equivalents, but something like this can't be beaten. Have one spot where you know everyone in business will check it out, rather than the fragmented system we have today for information, just can't be beaten.

Bob handed me a list he’d had typed up consisting of a dozen names and contact data. The concrete jungle had more than a pulse; at times it had a heart. Bob Gaff wasn’t the only interviewer human enough to do a kindness like that for me.
- Last night I watched SBS Dateline and saw an example of a HK heart in the concrete jungle. The show synopsis said - Hong Kong has more ultra-rich people than any other city/country, yet 1 in 5 people still live in poverty. Dateline asks - why is the gap between rich and poor is so extreme? I caught the 2nd half and it concentrated on a mother and her young daughter Cherri, maybe 8 or 10 years old, and how a family of 5 lives in a 3 room flat. The pressure was on the little girl to do well, as she knew in the long run she had to help out her family, when she gets older and had to do well at school. They showed old people having to sell cardboard to survive as old age benefits now can only be accessed at 65 not 60 until recently. Host Marc Fennell wasn't that hopeful, but the little girl is optimistic about the future and said near the end before the credits, - "some people in HK are very caring and have a big heart. They'll help people in need. If the rich can share the wealth with the poor, then they can work together, and earn money." See
https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/1465187395958/Dateline

My six weeks under Bruce Denham’s wing and watchful eye brought with them a couple of fond memories. There was the morning I was sitting by the rail of the ‘Star’ Ferry as it filled up at the TST pier to carry a boatload of commuters and tourists across Victoria Harbour to Central. My row wasn’t occupied, apart from me, until a familiar silhouette loomed from the right and lumbered with the help of a walking stick down the row towards me. It was Pig Iron Bob Menzies, followed by his better half, Patty. They sat right next to me. Menzies nodded, said “Good morning,” as he’d seen that I’d recognised him; Patty sweetly said something similar. I said nought. Here was the very prime minister of Australia who’d brought back the draft, who had drawn my birth date out of the barrel and sent me off to war (actually I’d sort of volunteered, but don’t mention that). Here was the super-mega-politico who’d slid open the first of my adult sliding doors, to have me, after twists and turns and forks in the road, being sat there on the ‘Star’ Ferry right up next to him. For a long time I sat, thinking on all this, as the ferry putted and churned across the harbour, trying to come up with a flash of brilliance. Finally, when the journey was all but over, I had it. I knew exactly what I should say.
“My father hates your guts.” Pig Iron Bob did not react. He hadn’t heard what I said. That’s probably due to the fact I didn’t say it out loud. However, I did think it at max volume.
I PMSL and LOL very loudly and probably woke up the house. Poor old Bob suffering that stroke a month later meant Carlton built that platform/ramp at Princess park for his driver to drive the Rolls Royce up behind the goals, so he could watch home games and not have to leave the car. For those who have never seen it before, see the picture at
https://twistedhistory.net.au/2016/...s-car-into-grandstand-to-watch-football-game/

But the memory I value most from my six weeks as a local employee of the Oz Goverment in Hong Kong in 1971 is eighteen-year-old Christina Hui - the meet-and-greet girl, the ‘first impression’ girl, the PR girl ....
Everyone needs to work with a Bond girl type at least once in their life.

Road has caught a change-of-season dose of ‘flu. Winter is here; these days Hong Kong still has what can be called a winter. LR is flat on his back in his room, suffering, telling himself he has no time to suffer, he has to get up, get out, get going, keep going. The Chinese owner of the apartment that he’s subdivided into rented rooms picks up. He knocks on LR’s door. The phone and its ring may be standard ... the call is not. It is Road’s turn for a cold call. A cure for his cold, in fact. A cure, looking back on its effect, for all his ills.
There is a sticker that says - shit happens. There should also be one that says - serendipity happens.

VOICE ON PHONE: “Good afternoon, my name is Maurice Green. I have seen your advertisement in the Chamber of Commerce bulletin, and I think that we may have something to talk about with you, if you are still available. I am the chairman of Arnhold & Company. We are an engineering company - “
ROAD: “I’m not an engineer.”
Sliding doors indeed. Maurice Green sounds like a wonderful character and more importantly human being. How many people have to rebuild their lives? But how many people have to rebuild it several times because of war and other tragedies. Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw at the end of last century wrote a book interviewing and talking about those Americans who had to survive a depression and then WWII and then build a life after 20 tough years, and he dubbed them the Greatest Generation. Some have dubbed them the G.I. Generation, One could say that the Generation that had to survive WWI and then the depression, and then WWII, could also fit that definition. ( The WWI participants tend to be called the Lost Generation by historians).

However way you slice it, it sounds like Maurice Green is definitely from that Greatest Generation spirit, even if he wasn't a yank or born in the 1920's or early 30's.

To have a job where the boss wants you to help his son take over the business and gives you a high degree of autonomy, and working with such a worldly character would just about be the dream job, to test you, as well as give you opportunities for down the track.

Krupp has probably never asked you about your background. For the uninitiated The Sassoon's were known as the Rothschilds of the east, partly because of a similar wealthy dynasty, partly because a Rothschild female married into the family, partly because like the Rothschilds the family split locations to drive business and the furthest away section was the most profitable, and partly the similar Jewish background and drive.

Krupp being a "finance guy" probably still wouldn't get it if you told him. I have discovered to my surprise over the years as i have meet people from media and finance industry, that the autocue readers and market watchers have about as much depth as a flea's footprint. Take them away from the script and the instantaneous movement and there isn't much depth.

Do people at the club understand the Sassoons? Do they understand the Jewish history in Shanghai and how it shaped things there? (went there to escape blood shed of Russian revolution, then Hitler, ended up facing the Japanese, then holocaust survivors went there and then the communists kicked them out) Do they know the cities history? Do they know you had a direct link to one of Victor Sassoon's chief lieutenants?? I wished you had told me earlier of your link. Mind you, it was probably a good thing you didn't, as it saved you listening to a million questions I would have fired off at you.

SCENE 43 -
(Flash forward - late March 2017, round 1, Sydney Cricket Ground.)
Setting:
Premier of China, Li Keqiang, wearing an ear-to-ear grin and a Power scarf - at times a Swans scarf with it just to be diplomatic for the cameras. At his left is the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, wearing a cautious smile and a Swans scarf. Buzzing around, wound up tight as the twangiest string on Hank P. Marvin’s guitar, is Karl Krupp; he appears to be mainly wearing his right hand - reaching out, trying hard, too hard, to make something unnecessarily perfect here, trying too hard to unnecessarily fix something miniscule there, carrying on like a wide-open handbag ... an untidy accessory to the main event, the sort of untidy accessory that the bald Aussie blue bug-eyed blowfly makes of itself at a beach barbecue in January
And he was completely oblivious to how bad the claw looked.

Rick Mattinson gave all of this a name. He called it a ‘white-knuckle ride’. In one of my emails to him at the time, I told him he’d ‘bitten off more than he could chew’. I meant the whole of PAFC, not just him. He agreed with me
People take it for granted how tough Shanghai 2017 was to pull off. Because it looked calm on the surface, and it went smoothly, the overwhelming majority of Port fans and AFL fans thought it was piss easy. i remember someone complaining that the club was unprofessional because a mate doing business in China couldn't buy tickets yet, like it was as simple as logging on to Ticketek and buying tickets.

I was lucky enough to talk to KT for 10-15 minutes after the game behind the southern goals, he was on the ground I lent over the fence of the first row. He had a big smile of great satisfaction and great pride as we said hello. But as we spoke, it became more of a, thank **** that is over and we made it, type expression. He said he had to give the staff time off as they would burn out if he didn't, given how hard they had worked the last few weeks and that week in particular. Despite the calm exterior, this had tested the club to its maximum. As JFK said at Rice Uni in Texas in 1962 - We choose to go to the moon China in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.

Shanghai 2017 was our Apollo 11, we were tested and we did the other things and succeeded. Shanghai 2018 was our Apollo 12 and everything seemed a bit ho hum to the average punter. Do we need an Apollo 13 moment to get the interest back up from the general public and understanding of how hard this really is and how much of a risk it still is?? It feels like on field we have been more Apollo 13 than Apollo 11 since Shanghai. Maybe that real test is to come.

Keene has himself received an email request from Xiao Junxi, via Dirk Struan IV, for Mr Xiao and two colleagues to be officially invited by PAFC to the inaugural AFL match in Shanghai, and to a function or more associated with it. This is the first progressive, as distinct from platitudinal, communication from China State Net in seventeen months. The initiative has without doubt been motivated by international and China-wide publicity generated by Li Keqiang and Malcolm Turnbull thanks to their attention-grabbing double act at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which itself was motivated by Ugo The Different.
Road and Robbins read again, then again to be sure, the communication from Mission Control, Alberton, Postcode 5014/5015, as it appears on LR’s iPad.

ROBBINS: “What happens now?”
ROAD: “We go to Shanghai for the match early, and we go to work. This is the exact opening we’ve been waiting for. Now we have to position ourselves. We do this together. Side by side. Teamwork. Co-ordination. You and me ... Robin.
I remember you telling me about the Gala dinner before the first Shanghai game as we walked to the train station after the game, and you were on the same table as China State Net and your plans to get them on board. No wonder your frustration at the slow progress and they now have broken up the dynamic duo. Now we need a new superhero - maybe the Ten-66 CEO - to get the job done.
 
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Tibbs

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Thank you so very much, REH. Mate, what a marvellous post. Thanks some more.
Great reading again LR ... Just great. Thank for taking the time to pen this for us. The behind the scenes look at what has unfolded in China, along with the historical Hong Kong links, have been fascinating!
 
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Thread starter #164
Great reading again LR ... Just great. Thank for taking the time to pen this for us. The behind the scenes look at what has unfolded in China, along with the historical Hong Kong links, have been fascinating!
Thanks, mate, again.
It’s been a therapeutic exercise for me thus far - something I’m now quite certain that I had to do, and am very glad to have done it.
As I wrote on page 1 this is not a story I plan to hide by taking it with me when I go, denying others such as yourself the right and the opportunity to read it and decide for yourself what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s in-between so far as the Club’s, and my, China adventure is concerned.
There is more to come in Episode 6. What’s posted above is about 60% of ‘The Alberton Papers’ part of the story.
 
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Thread starter #166
Who actually is Ugo meant to be?
Key Corporations:
  • Electricity Grid of South Australia (EGSA) - Sole owner and controller of South Australia’s UHV and EHV power transmission network.
  • Ten-66 Funds Management Pty. Ltd. (Own 20% of EGSA.)
  • China State Gas & Power Net (more simply: China State Net) - 100% China State Owned Enterprise. A Fortune 500 top ten corporation with more than 1,500,000 employees worldwide. (Own 46.5% of EGSA.)
  • Zhudan Jinan Development (100% owned subsidiary of China State Net.)

Cast: (in order of appearance)
Thorold Keene (CEO of PAFC)
Robin ‘Rockin’ Robbins (Hong Kong based volunteer China advisor to PAFC)
Daryl Ander (Melbourne based CEO of Ten-66 Funds Management)
Lockhart Road (as himself)
Mrs. Road (as herself)
The Great Man (as Himself)
Rick Mattinson (GM, International Memberships & Merchandise of PAFC)
Thomas Doolittle (Senior Manager International, Ten-66 Funds Management)
Karl ‘Kaiser’ Krupp (TV anchorman, media heavyweight, chairman of PAFC)
Carlito ‘Chicken’ Cacciatori (Director of PAFC, CEO of Mick McGuane Media)
Ugo Alsthom (Director, The PAFC International Sports Diplomacy Program)
Dirk Struan IV (Chairman of Electricity Grid of SA)
Primrose Yao (Executive Officer, PAFC China Partnerships Division)
Xiao Junxi (VP International of China State Net, and director of EGSA)
Rong Qi (Melbourne based manager of China State Net, director of EGSA)
Ms. Fu Mingfeng (CFO of China State Net, International Division, Beijing)
Ablert ‘Able’ Kwang (GM of Hongkong Guohua Power Engineering Ltd.)
Zhang Ai (Deputy GM of Zhudan Jinan Development, Beijing)
Zhen Pugu (Deputy Director, China State Net, International Division, Beijing)
Oliver ‘Subito’ Sutton (CEO of Electricity Grid of SA)


Real-life guest appearances by:
Michelangelo Rucci and Tom Richardson (InDaily)
Andrew Fagan and Nigel Smart (Crows brain trust, singular)
Sam Agars (Sports journalist, South China Morning Post)
Caroline Wilson, Mark Robinson, Patrick Smith and Gerard Whateley
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan
John Schumann
Mick Mummery OAM and John England OAM (WTFRW: ex-C Coy., 9RAR)
Graham Cornes
Eric Edmonds (WTFRW: ex-C Coy., 9RAR)
John Leigh (Director of CLP Group: China Light & Power, Hong Kong)
Gui Guojie
Ambassador Frances Adamson
Zhang Bin (CCTV-5 China national sportscaster)
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
[1971] Johnny (Bartender, Miami Bar, TST, Kowloon, Hong Kong)
[1971] Barrie (Sub-editor, South China Morning Post)
[1971] Sir Robert and Dame Patty Menzies
[1971] Christina Hui (Hong Kong fashion model and Bond girl in ‘Moonraker’)
[1971] Maurice Green (Chairman of Arnhold & Co., Ltd., Hong Kong)
Premier Li Keqiang
Darren Cahill (International tennis coach, son of Jack Cahill)
Lockhart Road’s son and daughter (as themselves)


Special guest appearance by:
Angelica Cheung - Editor-In-Chief VOGUE China published in Shanghai: (print version distribution 1.6 million glossy copies per month, and 370,000,000 page views per month on-line).


Posthumous appearance by: L/Cpl. Peter Chant (WTFRW, C Coy., 9RAR)

Narrator: Lockhart Road
 
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