January 20th: The Hong Kong Musical Family

I’m going to try and write this without it sounding like a tribute to Abba’s “Thankyou for the music”, although of course please feel free to hum along as you read.

The Bride and Groom

The Bride and Groom

In the past, I’ve been to weddings where the bride, groom, or perhaps one of the guests has performed a song, but nothing quite like this before.  Over the weekend, Bron and I have been in Hong Kong to attend the wedding of Heather and Adam.  A wedding where it felt like half the guests contributed to the entertainment by singing or playing instruments. And this wasn’t karaoke style amateur singing – all performers had perfect voices, perfect harmonies and sang without ever straying into vocal gymnastic territory  ( (c) Mark Radcliffe I think). Guitarists playing so effortlessly that it took us a while to realise one of players was quite happily still sat at his dining table, avoiding the attention of the stage.

My personal highlight – “Uncle Danny”, with his five-song-in-one tribute to the newly married couple.  A man so talented he can hum a trumpet impersonation  whilst playing the guitar, and reappear later on on the keyboards.  And the drums.

With the groom sporting a bright yellow Mohican-style hairdo and the bride opting for blue hair, this was never going to be a traditional wedding.  Ending the night in a bright-red rockabilly-style dress (her third outfit of the night), Heather looked fantastic.

Heather, Me and Bron after the do

Heather, Me and Bron after the do

I have never been to a wedding quite like it.  And although some of the music isn’t what I’d choose to listen to at home, it was sang and performed with such passion that even I managed to temporarily discard my musical shackles and enjoy it.  This was a wedding without awkward silences or restless attendees, so enthralled were the guests by superb performance after performance. To be an architect of skyscrapers, a top executive, a millionaire banker: these are jobs people aspire to, skills people long to learn.  But nothing can bring such simultaneous joy to a room full of people as can music**.   As Adam’s Dad (keyboard player extraordinaire) said to me after I revealed I played the guitar “Whatever else you do in life, don’t ever stop making music”.

Shackles are back now though.  Abba, you can b*gger off.

A great reason to visit Hong Kong, with our three night stay compensating for our very brief previous trip (about 4 rushed hours with JB on the way to Macaw).  Carmen entertained us on Friday night with a visit to another great seafood restaurant and an excellent, smokeless* whiskey bar. A balmy 18 degrees meant t-shirt weather for me and a cold-weather warning for the locals.

Hong Kong's Avenue of Stars

Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars

On Tuesday, our favourite loony hyperactive American returned from her extended holiday in the US, so a spicy celebration was in order over at Sichuan Citizen.  Shanghai without Rachel is far too safe and sensible – where else would you find a lady who washes dishes wearing sandwich bags to avoid damaging her hands (but still managed to cut a finger on a glass)?  Rachel describes it as being part of a little Shanghai family.  Definitely a weird family, on extended holiday in a strange but brilliant country.

And with yet another Wednesday evening defeat to JB at pool, Shanghai once again settles into relative normality.

*Take note Shanghai small bar establishments: I will drink more if I can actually breathe.

** One day I’ll do a comparison of my blogs written outside of airports with those written in a heightened emotional state in airport lounges.  Written as my  conscious brain tries to ignore the message of panic being offered up by my primeval subconscious given the journey that is about to take place.  All whilst never quite ignoring the irony that this feeling is known as “fight or flight” syndrome.

January 10th: Pretty Boy


What should occur at an annual company annual dinner?  In the UK: a reasonably formal dinner, or perhaps a party arranged by a specialised events company, replete with their own entertainment.  In China: the staff have to make their own entertainment.  And so, ignoring any random karaoke appearances or backing vocals for miscellaneous bands over the years, on Thursday night I made my first public singing appearance since I was about 10 years old. For one night only, I appear live, singing to just short of 150 people.  A duet, no less, with Haze, our lovely (but unforgiving – see below) receptionist.

A Chinese song (but with the chorus in English), my task was to memorise two verses of Chinese lyrics and sing them with a passionate yet earnest face whilst never quite being able to ignore the fact the song is called “Pretty Boy”*.

Much practice was required, resulting in the somewhat surreal experience of sitting in a meeting room with Haze on Christmas Day, declaring my undying love for her via the medium of Chinese lyrics.  On the night: I managed one verse from memory, the other from a piece of paper secreted away not so secretly in my hand.

“You forgot the words!”, exclaims my singing partner after the event.  I did, it’s true.  A video of the performance exists, and is available for a very reasonable sum.

Other acts on the evening included a rousing rendition of Angels by Tim, JB and Grace, and a strange but brilliant version of Chinese Blind Date.  We had a few excellent dancing performances and some truly bizarre ones.  Bronwen escaped somewhat on the night, having her brief solo spot amongst the Marketing team’s song stolen by Nancy.  I say stolen – I don’t think Bron was too upset.

And so how did I get roped into singing this beautiful duet?  Whilst walking past reception a few weeks before Christmas, Kiwi (one of our HR ladies) asks: “Paul, would you like to sing a song with Haze?”


“Because she needs somebody to sing with at the company dinner”

I think this is called walking past reception at the wrong time. Or maybe the right time.  It was nerve wracking, but I have to admit to enjoying it. Maybe just a bit. Sometimes China can be utterly brilliant.

*Not my choice of song.  Not exactly my style of music, but in China, these kind of choices aren’t always available.  The memory of singing a song called “Pretty Boy” in front of many people will always amuse me.

{I’ll post more images of the night soon.}