A message arrives from David Nunan, author of Other Voices, Other Eyes: Expatriate Lives in Hong Kong…
I’m sitting in a restaurant that featured in Other Voices. In the book, it’s described as follows:
The restaurant, a Spanish tapas bar, is run by a father and son team from Katmandu. Actually, the restaurant largely runs itself while the father and son stage small family wars in full view of the diners.
It’s far too late for lunch, and way too early for a drink, but I’m indulging in both. The only other diners, four young local office workers, settle up and leave. The father waves the bottle of Argentinean Malbec in my direction. Top up? On the house?
I pause for a nanosecond. Check my watch. Why not?
As he tops me up, a gweilo couple in their 60s enters. The woman has a Bookazine bag under her arm. Are we too late for food? asks the man. He has a paunch, kind eyes, and an East Coast accent.
Not too late. The father seats them at a table by the window which has expansive views of police pasting parking tickets on expensive, electric cars. They order wine, and the woman removes two copies of the Voices book from the bag. Can’t wait to tuck into this, she says, The bookstore guy says it’s a good read.
The father casts an eye in my direction. I shrug. Why not? Well, if you’re interested, that’s the author over there, he says.
Within seconds I’m sitting opposite Phyllis and Fred. Natives of New York, they’re visiting their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter who live in nearby Pokfulam. A fresh bottle of Malbec appears. The father turns the sign on the door from ‘Open” to ‘Closed’, and joins us. He and the son have called a truce. The son ferries plates of garlic prawns, croquettes with aioli, and pickled baby octopus to the table. I sign the books: To Phyllis and Fred on one, and To Richard and Mel on the other.
What a coincidence! says Phyllis, raising a glass.
Only in Hong Kong, I reply.
I turned up with a group of 6 to find the doors closed. I could see the old man waving his arms about inside but no way would he come to open the door despite my knocking. I should have known it was Nunan and his mates indulging in another of his sessions….