Rifling through Winchester gives the generals ideas

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 February, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 February, 1993, 12:00am

AUTHOR Simon Winchester got an unexpected call from a branch of the Pentagon.

Military planners, making strategic plans for the future of the Asia-Pacific region, had stumbled upon his novel Pacific Nightmare.

In this tale, set in the near future, instability in Hongkong erupts into a Third World War in Asia.

During the tumult, our humble territory achieves full independence as the Independent Republic of Hongkong.

This may not be as far-fetched as some people think, and the military men want to consider all possibilities.

They are flying Mr Winchester across the Pacific next week to speak at a Pentagon conference in Hawaii on Wednesday.

Where Hongkong is concerned, truth and fiction seem equally incredible.

Meanwhile, the Hongkong-based author is hoping to avoid a smaller skirmish here.

A special two-page illustrated feature on ''Hongkong's last fling'' appeared in the UK-based Sunday Express this week, and was reprinted in the International Express, which is sent all over the world.

The article claims that the territory's Ladies' Recreation Club is a ''whites only'' organisation.

Several people sent it to Lai See with this shocking allegation of apartheid marked.

In fact the LRC is so tolerant that it lets disreputable people of uncertain provenance like us in.

But no one's eyebrows were more steeply raised than those of Mr Winchester, alleged writer of that particular paragraph. He showed us his original text, which said no such thing.

But with his reputation as a controversial writer, no doubt he'll be blamed.

If anything could trigger a Third World War in Asia, an insult aimed at the LRC could do it.

Social duty NICK Griffin of Metro News was peering suspiciously at a sign in the gift shop at Kai Tak airport.

It said: ''In Hongkong, only tobacco, cosmetics and alcoholics are subject to tax.'' Is it true that only alcoholics have to pay tax? No wonder Hamish Macleod is always complaining about the low number of taxpayers here! We urge him to take advantage of next week's budget to extend the tax-base to include social drinkers.

Villain bagged THERE was excitement at the Mandarin Oriental on Wednesday. Doorman Robert Chan was concentrating on his tricky task of opening and shutting the door when two things struck him at once.

One was that the man leaving the hotel was carrying an extremely feminine handbag.

The other was that a woman in the coffee shop was yelping with dismay.

Robert moved towards the handbag carrier, who broke into a run. The doorman and security guard Philip Chau bravely caught the villain and returned the handbag to the woman in the coffee shop.

This act neatly compensates for the gaffe last year, when a bag snatcher at the Captain's Bar raced towards the back of the hotel - and the doorman on duty whipped open the door and politely nodded as the culprit raced through and disappeared.

Hoover craft THERE was a remarkable tale in the Ming Pao yesterday about a government cleaning contractor who hired an illegal immigrant - and then got the II a job working in the government offices.

It just happened to be the Immigration Department. The fellow was nabbed, the report says.

Talking of washers, the last time we were in the Lippo Centre, we noticed a team of sanitary people brandishing vacuum-cleaners.

Is this what is meant by Lippo-suction? Last straw WE have several times heard tales about crooked Hongkong restaurateurs pouring tap water into used bottles and reselling it as distilled water.

We never believed a good eatery could do such a thing.

Until recently, that is, when we dined at a favourite Lamma restaurant on the main street of Yung Shue Wan and ordered a bottle of water.

The maitre d' arrived apparently unscrewing the bottle top of a virgin container, and banged it down in front of us - just in time for the half-chewed straw used by the previous consumer to bob up out of the bottle neck.

Cereal harvest DID you notice that the first prize winner of the Uncle Toby's Muesli Bars ''Win a trip to Tokyo'' competition this week was a Miss Twinkle Ling, which is no doubt pronounced ''Twinkling''? She seems to have attained a small measure of stardom, anyway.