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Disabled encounters

A couple of disabled encounters this weekend. On Saturday I was sitting on the waterfront at Sai Kung. Sai Kung is probably the jewel in Hong Kong's crown when it comes to urban settings with the most glorious harbour filled with tree covered islands or, in one case, tee covered islands, as one has been filled with holes to provide a publically accessible golf course which, each weekend, attracts thousands looking for an escape from their cage homes in Sham Shui Po.

For those not engaged in putting balls in holes, on a sunny day, the waterfront is a great place to spend some time at the weekend. Apart from the wonderful views of the sea and the islands, there are numerous other attractions. The boat hire companies offering tours of the harbour, ferries to beaches and, for those who can't be bothered with the walk to Tai Long Wan, there are boats out to the remoter beaches. Pulled into the harbour wall are small boats selling seafood to those on the promenade above, hauling the catch up in small buckets. Cool guys in shades and speedboats cruise up to the harbour steps to pick up expensive looking couples looking for faster and more private routes to the beaches.

When I arrived at the waterfront I noticed a lot of paddles leaning against a wall. Some hours later, after a hair cut and a walk around the inner harbour, I saw the paddles were still there but, shortly afterwards, watched a group of 16-20 young, fit looking people picking up the paddles, descending the steps and paddling off in a dragon boat. I use this as an example of what a safe and trusting society this is that you can safely leave a pile of paddles leaning against a wall without the risk of some idiots walking off with them 'for a laugh'. Later, I thought I may have just witnessed twenty boat thieves running off with a dragon boat but I prefer to retain my positive view of human nature. As an aside, I was hiking today when I passed a small digger on Lamma Island that had been left on a building site for the weekend. Hanging off the cab were a yellow hard hat, a straw sun hat and a number of other miscellaneous items that the workmen had left and knew they would still be there when they returned to work.

Back on dry land, a guitarist was playing a very passable rhythm track, which went on for some time until his mates joined in with vocals. This was clearly a mistake and it was noticeable that they did not attract a crowd but still seemed to be enjoying themselves. I could hear a variety of hallelujahs, which were either from a very poor cover of Leonard Cohen's famous song, or evidence that they were an imitation gospel band.

Every weekend a man takes his place on the waterfront and sets up a variety of percussion instruments that he encourages young children to come along and hit, rhythmically or otherwise. I assume he must make some money by doing this and he is almost as popular as the Mister Softee van.

In addition to the gospel band, I could hear the strains of Canto-pop, not my favourite brand of music but acceptable, although the singing wasn't a huge improvement on the hallelujahs. On further investigation, I came across a session run by a group called Stewards ( who want to encourage a simpler lifestyle. The singers encouraged people to come up and join them, as did the dancers. Around the stage were a number of games: a giant Jenga set, metre long pick-up-sticks and a section with coloured buckets that children had to arrange in specified orders as fast as possible. By the number of people queuing to have a go at the games it looked as though the organisers were in for a late night. Great fun.

Back on the waterfront, I watched the numerous doggy people parading their dogs, the occasional, bare-chested, sweaty athlete, beautiful people stopping to take photos of themselves, some really ugly people stopping to take photos of themselves and then a couple came towards me. The man in a wheelchair with an uncertain number of limbs accompanied by a young woman struggling along on a pair of crutches. Progress was clearly a great effort and I couldn't help notice her T-shirt which bore the inscription "What doesn't kill you...." and nothing else. A wonderful piece of irony.

And then, today, I was hiking on Lamma Island. Being a sunny public holiday the crowds were out, but all were heading south towards Lamma's beaches so I headed north to Pak Kok Tsuen, where few tourists seem to venture. A nice walk with a lot of steps at the start and a number of short climbs up a well-kept concrete path leads the way to Pak Kok Tsuen (village) which is very well kept and very pretty, with a store where you can purchase food and drinks. Further along the path, on the way back towards Yung Shue Wan, I encountered a public toilet which, considering this was a fairly remote spot, was well-appointed with railings around the urinal so that the disabled, and those the worse for drink, could gain support while relieving themselves. Very commendable, but then I considered the various routes by which one could arrive at this public toilet. The village has a ferry pier with a steep walk up from the pier through the village. The route back to Yung Shue Wan involved further hills and steps and so there seemed little possibility that toilet's clientelle were likely to consist of a large number of disabled people requiring support railings at the urinal. Therefore, I could only conclude that the railings were for the benefit of the village inebbriates.