Thursday, 3 April 2014

Hong Kong Finale, March 17 - 20

At Least We Lived on display at Bookazine
Landing at HKIA on Monday afternoon after a flight from Shanghai, and arriving at the JW Marriott on Pacific Place is a homecoming of sorts - and a relief after nine days of touring mainland cities. I have three days to see old friends (and make some new ones), but also have to hunker down at the hotel to write a lecture. The weather is just right - warm enough to sit out at the bar by the pool, and (unusually for March) free of rain.

On Wednesday evening, Bookazine, a leading Hong Kong bookseller, hosts a book signing at their Prince's Building branch. Over a glass of wine I welcome friends and book purchasers - it's particularly nice to see Mason Chan, daughter-in-law of Admiral Chan Chak, Samuel Tse, who staffed the Christmas Day Escape exhibition at the Museum of Coastal Defence, and Philip and Amanda Snow (who take me for wonderful Chinese food afterwards).

View of freshly-painted St John's Cathedral from the China Club
Thursday is a very full day. After a quick breakfast, I print out the talk I've been working on for tonight, and take a cab to a meeting of the Friends of the Art Museum of CUHK, a group I still belong to. It's a small gathering at a private home to meet Irene Lee, who recently became chairman of Hysan Development, the real estate company founded by her grandfather, Lee Hysan. I am especially interested in meeting her because Max and Audrey knew her parents, Harold and Christine, and uncle, Dick Lee, and I give her a copy of my book which has several references to their friendship. Irene talks movingly about the Lee family history and her plans to commemorate it further.

Vicki Firth, a friend from 'the Friends', has invited me to talk about At Least We Lived at a lunch meeting of her book group. This is actually her last meeting before she and her husband return to England after many years in HK, and the group has arranged a special lunch at the American Club on Exchange Square. It is an extraordinary gathering of fifteen women with deep roots in Hong Kong. It turns out that several have close connections to Max and Audrey's story - knowing people who knew them (such as Stanley and May Smith, Berkeley Gage, Joy and Eddie Teesdale), and knowing Max's old house on Kadoorie Avenue. We have a fascinating discussion over a lovely lunch.

Lunch with Hong Kong book group
The Hong Kong branch of the Royal Asiatic Society hosts the final event of my trip: an evening talk in the Helena May Club on Garden Road. I learn from Michael Broom, the RAS president, that we will have a completely full house with ninety plus expected. I have thirty copies of At Least We Lived with me - but could have sold more! People gather from 6pm for drinks, and it's great to see some familiar faces, including friends who have helped me with the book. But it's even more encouraging that many people who don't know me are in the audience.

My talk is on the theme of Audrey's journeys - both physical and emotional - I include more material on her postwar life in Hong Kong than I've used in other talks, and show a Powerpoint of maps and photos. The audience is highly appreciative, and this is a terrific finale to a very good trip.

Friends Lucy Reed and Michael Glennon give me and other friends supper afterwards at their great apartment (one that they're about to give up on moving to Singapore) - a welcome chance to relax before packing and leaving for the long return trip to DC early tomorrow.

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