Mercenaries on a mission

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 March, 1997, 12:00am

Whether you are organising a group to travel to distant lands, to peacefully convert the natives to the ways of the Lord, or to land there to kill people, forget asking the Hong Kong Government Security Branch information office for advice.

Last week, this newspaper asked the office if they were aware a plane-load of South African mercenaries were on their way to the territory from troubled Papua New Guinea.

'So, you want to know if we are aware of a plane-load of, what was that . . . missionaries did you say?' came the puzzled reply.

Missionaries, mercenaries, much of a muchness really . . .? Out of the pan The yellow-breasted bunting, one of the species featured on yet another of the Post Office's profiteering stamp sets, was once hardly a candidate for such exalted status as the Special Administrative Region mail.

In the 1920s, the bunting were trapped in huge numbers, as they homed in on rice fields, and earmarked for the pot. Such was their abundance a Guangzhou factory began canning the tiny birds.

'It probably tasted quite nice with a honey glaze and spit-roasted,' our source said. We think keen bird-watcher and executive director of World Wide Fund for Nature, David Melville, was joking.

Private 'joke' Practicalities have set in at that pinnacle of hairdressing perfection in the Joyce stable, Private I.

The designer salon, which tries to convince us that shearing locks is an art form, has dropped a key feature.

The circular salon, topped by a domed roof, is partitioned ever so charmingly by wooden walls drilled with dozens of holes, with stalks of fresh flowers in a test tube plugging each hole. Nice idea, but it backfired.

It soon became apparent the walls of flowers were reminiscent of a columbarium - and reminding your valued customers of death is not the best way to create that delightful sense of luxury and well-being.

The second glitch was upkeep. Obviously the designer forgot some poor soul would have to replace the flowers and clean the test tubes every few days. And then there was the cost of the fresh flowers.

Private I has ditched the time-consuming practice: dried flowers, a sad substitute, protrude from the test tubes instead.

The customers? They are paying more.

Tape trauma Runners beware of the small print.

Applications for the Tsing Ma marathon and fun run, to celebrate the opening of the Lantau link to the new airport, opened last week. The usual bureaucratic nonsense applies: payment must be made direct into the bank, and no, cheques in this international finance centre are not possible.

But the red tape displayed by the Amateur Athletic Association of Hong Kong really takes the biscuit. To field the flood of applicants wanting information and entry forms, organisers opened their spacious room in the Sports House on Thursday.

When a keen applicant returned with a completed entry, signed and sealed, a bright staffer said - in no uncertain terms - that applications must be posted.

OK, so applications go to another address or a special PO box? No, entries are delivered to that very same address.

The reason the association cannot accept hand-delivered applications is all due to equality, it seems: it is equal for everyone whether they live in the New Territories or next to Sports House.

The applicant offered to put stamps on the envelope. But no, the stamped envelope still had to be posted so a postman could then deliver it - again to Sports House.

What about equality for the postman? Torturous trip An Admiralty travel agent put an interesting spin on the definition of a direct flight recently.

A reader arranged to fly to Britain on an evening flight which supposedly stopped off in Dubai for a few hours before arriving in London.

However, the agent somehow managed to arrange a gap of two days between connections.

Apparently only threats of police being hauled into the office convince agents the prospect of two days at Dubai's airport is not enthralling.