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Blog 60 - Lantau Ferry

I have taken you on lots of different journeys with coaches, trains, cars, even a chairlift, but we have not been on a ferry yet. We’ll have a long trip on the magic carpet to get to Hong Kong; then we will take a ferry ride.

Years ago, I bought many silk scarves in the markets of Central, Wanchai and Stanley, no big names but nice fine silk, usually flower designs and brightly coloured. The big designer names were on the handbags, all fake, good leather but with poor linings. The scarves were genuine and nice quality. I will choose a flowered design today.

It’s a long time ago and forty-five years of collecting since then. Hong Kong as a British Colony, afforded a good life in these days for expats with the Yacht Club, Hong Kong club, squash at the military barracks, horse racing in Happy Valley and Shatin, countless private clubs, even a pass at the Stanley Prison Warders club on Sundays which allowed access to a private beach kept clean by the prisoners and a cinema show once a week.....the projector often failing, lights suddenly up, then not so good seeing the cockroaches scuttling around!  We lived in a flat on top of The Peak where a cloud could sail in the front window and out the back, revealing eagles flying below the level of our home. Banded krait snakes, porcupines, barking deer could be met on our circular walk around the Peak with our dog Tanner. It was not all high rise buildings. How different Hong Kong is today, in the news again.

Ah yes, the dog.

We had to re-home our two dogs, cat and horses when we left UK, and felt miserable without a pet. Tanner was unwanted on Lantau Island and we were led to believe she was a black Lab. Funny Lab, said a friend, she’s striped and hasn’t a tail!  I met her off the ferry and her owner handed me feeding bowl, leads and medicine for her mange! A blackish, slightly brindled, mangy tailless mongrel with a black spotted tongue! Some Labrador! She’s going back tomorrow, I said. Tanner was supposed to have been fathered by our friend’s Boxer Copper (Penny), hence her name of Tanner (Sixpence) and our friends got Pick of the Litter for services rendered. Alas, the naughty bitch had an extramarital affair with the wild Lantau Beach rake with chow in him, hence her black tongue. The Jockey Club Vet came by ferry to dock the tails of the so called Boxer puppies, they grew noses and our Tanner was not wanted. We did not return her, she stayed and travelled half way round the world with us for sixteen years.

After a few months we took the ferry to Lantau to housesit her former home and its three dogs and of course Tanner came with us. It was Chinese New Year and we were the only non Chinese on board the packed ferry. We were lucky enough to get seats around a small table.  It’s quite a long journey, so we got deep into our books with dog on lead quietly lying under table. In those days, many Chinese women carried their babies in a sling on their backs. One never heard a contented Chinese baby cry. I watched a young mother undo her sling and lay her baby on the table. I returned to my book. Suddenly I saw the darting shape of Tanner flash across the floor and loud screeches. My god....the dog’s got the baby! The whole deck was in an uproar. Tanner has slipped her collar! We rushed across the boat to find the dog with a live chicken in her mouth. And yes, I heard a Chinese baby cry for the first time amidst the crowd’s yells. We were mortified, offered money, didn’t know if the bird was alive or dead. We know only too well after Wuhan that live creatures are bought at Chinese markets and this was New Year. We also knew that young dogs were eaten and feared our Tanner might be regarded as fair exchange for a damaged bird. We let everyone off the ferry before us. No revenge was exacted. I resolved to learn to speak Cantonese. I don’t know if we had anything to do with a new law that was enforced later that month that all dogs had to be muzzled on ferries. We made sure her collar was tight on the return.

Tanner had a long life, flew across the Pacific, chased skunk in America, did six months in quarantine in UK, chased grey squirrels for years in Hyde Park and finally chose our home in Richmond for the tiny bit of grass in the courtyard garden. She had a pee there as we viewed the house. The deal was signed. She died the next day. We named our tall, thin house FORT ANNER, a nice play on words.

Busy Bee, Scarf Face!

Blog 60.

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Oct 27, 2020

As I live in Hong Kong, I read this particular entry with keen interest. Yours was a much earlier chapter and it's true that the city has changed enormously, even in my time, but much remains the same. The trams, the ferries ... I too called The Peak home for 10 years or so and once had a rat snake coiled on my back doorstep! One of my biggest pleasures, then as now, is nocturnal walks to spot the porcupines and civets. And there's been quite a spike in the wild pig population - we see them regularly.


May 25, 2020

My memory of Tanner was Christmas '88. I had used the money that my fathers father had left me in his will to visit his overseas family. With just a backpack and dreams I arrived at Victoria station and was met by you both and taken back to Bayswater for my first 'real' Christmas. Downstairs was a beautiful Christmas tree with hidden chocolate treats on its branches. Tanner must have had her eye on those treats for days as little granny, then grandma and finally the rest of the family complete with 2 grandchildren and a bump all arrived to celebrate Christmas day. She took her time and when everyone was distracted on boxing day she 'slipped her leash' and…


Bunny Farnell-Watson
May 25, 2020

Lovely to be reminded of those heady daysin Hong Kong. We used to go there a lot - staying in the Jardines house, Pipedream and have so many happy memories. Also of walking in the paddy fields where the airport now is! We were probaby there at the same time! X

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