Sunday, January 10, 2010

Listen with Mother

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.


Before Cliff and I went to Hong Kong for a week’s break, my boss at the time asked if I would pick up a fake Rolex for his wife.

We were having a great time in Hong Kong, and stayed in a wonderful hotel in Kowloon which had a roof-top swimming pool, made entirely of glass, which meant that I would only swim in circles, in the middle of it, otherwise I felt as though I would fall off the top of the skyscraper right down into Hong Kong Harbour.

Everywhere you went, the locals would try and get your attention, “You want suit made? You want Rolex?”

We quickly learned to ignore them, because they were working on commission to get you to buy from local merchants, and I became accustomed to walking down the main drag, with my hand out, “no, thank you,” whilst avoiding eye contact. Cliff never managed to perfect the art and I would have to wait often, whilst he disentangled himself from their pleas. The Rolexes were shabby reproductions and in the vein of, “don’t buy something for someone else that you wouldn’t be happy to receive yourself” I didn’t buy one on behalf of my boss.

We did find a good tailor and he made us a suit each. I still have mine and Cliff was cremated wearing his.

Which left the Rolex. As I said, everything we saw was a poor imitation and looked tacky.

So, we’re meandering around the streets, window-shopping, enjoying the sights and enjoying each other. And I have a brainwave. I remember my nephew (who lived in HK for a while) telling me that he bought his watch from some Triads.

So I start keeping my eyes peeled for Triads. The only problem is I don’t remember to tell Cliff my plan before I find some.

There are 3 of them standing on a street corner. I’m pretty sure they are Triads because they have the tattoos, the spiky peroxide hair, the sleeveless T-shirts.

And in my excitement that I have the solution to procuring a good quality counterfeit Rolex, again, I forget to inform Cliff of my intentions, and rush over to them.

“Excuse me, are you Triads?”


“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Boo.” (shake all their hands)

They are all looking bemused and are now sizing up Cliff (who resembled a Bolivian drug baron at the best of times) who is looking faintly disturbed at my making friends with these men.

I ignore all the body language, and proceed, “Would you happen to know where I might be able to find a decent quality Rolex. Everything I’ve seen so far is so tacky looking.”

The Triads smile at each other and the Leader of the group says, “Sure, I can help you. Follow us.”

And we do. Cliff suddenly has a mood on, and is marching in front of me.

We follow them through winding, narrow alley-ways, for what seemed like a long walk. Then we climb up exterior steel staircases and into a building, where, we find ourselves sitting in a fake Travel Agents. The Triad explains that it is necessary to have a “front” for his business.

Cliff looks at me and says, “if we get out of this alive, I am going to fucking kill you, Boo.” I retort, “don’t speak to me like that” and then begin conversing with the Triad who appears to be the one in charge.

He clicks his fingers and one of the others runs off, returning with a “catalogue” of photos of watches. I flick through them at leisure, finally deciding on a Ladies Rolex – an Oyster. I tell the man, and then change my mind, “I quite like that one, please may I have two, as I’d like one too.”

Cliff interjects, “good idea, Boo … get two of the same, so that Customs notice when we fly home” and I wish he’d get over his sudden mood-change.

The man clicks his fingers again, and one Triad takes away the catalogue, whilst another fetches the watches.

They are good watches, the hand even sweeps, instead of ticking.

“You like handbags?”

“Ooooh, I LOVE handbags.”

He clicks his fingers again, and another man starts to fetch the handbag catalogue (I assume), but Cliff announces, “we’re going,” and this time, I realize he is very serious and know better than to argue.

I pay the Triad, and he looks at Cliff, speaking to him for the very first time, “your wife, she is very funny, I like her.” I see a look of understanding pass between them, and feel a little uncomfortable, like they are laughing AT me a bit, but I can tell it's not meant nastily.

“Yes, mate,” Cliff tells him, “She’s fucking hilarious, she’s a fucking nightmare at times.”

And they walk us back to the very place where I found them.

We decide to find somewhere to have a drink and I spot a bar, but Cliff is trying to convince me to walk a little further. It’s humid and hot, and we’re so thirsty, so I start whining, “please, please, can’t we go in here” and he concedes. I rush off to the toilet while he orders the drinks. And I can hear his voice from the toilet, saying, “get OFF me. I’m married. My wife’s in the toilet.” And rush back to him.

Yes, it’s a bar, but it’s also the brothel. No matter. I make friends with the girls and they sit with me, giggling, telling me all the best places to shop.

Cliff sits at the bar and turns round to see me sitting with all these girls, and starts smiling at me. Then laughing.

I go up to him and hug him. He tells me, “don’t EVER do that again. They are serious people. They could have tried something, and then …”

I suddenly realize the situation I have put us in and am so damn sorry, but he still keeps laughing at me, telling me how much he loves me.

We walked down the road (where I found the Triads) every day for the rest of our holiday. And every day the Triads would wave at me, “hello Boo” and I’d wave and say hi back to them, but they never spoke to Cliff.

Not only that, all the people harassing the tourists stopped bothering us.

They really were serious people.


  1. i absolutely love this story. so much of the unspoken communication that went on between the Triads and Cliff. i am sure he was so tense through your whole shopping endeavor. oh my stars. Boo, he knew all the possibilities of how that situation could go so wrong and you were having such a fun time. and love the comparison to a Bolivian drug lord. i'm sure he would love it, too.

    ah, memories. it's the stories that keep it all so near. laughter. foreign countries. Triads. you shopping while Cliff has to posture himself to prove he was your bodyguard and there truly would be hell to pay should you even pout. good times. i love this story.

  2. happy days. That story really epitomizes the way we were together :-)

  3. OHMYGOSH--I would have been scared to pieces!!! But the, I probably would have chatted it up with the prostitutes too--I've done that before.

  4. :-) unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, people like that have never frightened me, which is frightening in itself, and certainly was for Cliff. That's the "Boo" in me who very much sees the world they way she does. It makes me sad, that I have lost some of the freedom that I had with him next to me, but I will always have the memories x

  5. Great story Boo. You took us on a little adventure.

    Now, I hate to sound chauvinistc, but I completely identify with Cliff. I have traveled in the past with many of my female friends, and have often felt like I had to watch what they weren't watching for. As did Cliff, he felt the need to give them that knowing nod of 'don't try to pull anything.' That is why you caught wind of their communication.

    I imagine this is just one of many sticky situations Cliff felt you got him into. That's probably why he loved you so much!

    Just love it.

  6. I love this story, it made me smile!! Thanks for sharing! I would totally do this myself, that I can totally see. :)

  7. Great story! I can hardly wait to hang out in San Diego with you! Should I bring bear spray just in case we run into trouble? Something tells me that Cliff, the Dragon and Austin will be with us, and making all sorts of interesting comments that I would love to hear :)

  8. AWESOME story. I was totally sucked in like I was there with both of you!

  9. Dan, I don't think it's chauvinistic, I think it's realistic. Let's be honest here, I need supervizing. At one of our big company meetings a couple of years ago my boss heard that I was taking food outside to give to a tramp who was living outside (he had a dog and if I'm truthful I wanted to feed it) and he came rushing outside to bring me back in, he was FREAKING OUT!

  10. Mandy and Andrea - I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'll try to do a couple more like this in the future because it helped me and made me smile a lot.

    Deb - you get bear spray. I never knew that. Oh I can imagine the comments - we are going to laugh so much while we are there, and they are going to love that we are <3


  11. A fun story but forgive me for not knowing the term Triad. Are these guys who specialize in selling counterfeit stuff? Did your bosses wife end up liking the watch?

    It is so nice to be able to have a closer glimpse of both you and Cliff. Makes me feel like I am getting to know you better.

  12. The bottom photo depicts what triads look like. The are like the chinese equivalent of the mafia and are notoriously violent and ruthless.

  13. Holy crap! And you just walked up to them! OMG. I love it! (But I can see why Cliff wouldn't. At all).

  14. And that, Amanda, frankly is why I still need supervizing at the age of 45. LOL