SAR really stands for Same After the Rain

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 July, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 July, 1997, 12:00am

Here is an old post-colonial joke I heard, not for the first time, on Tuesday. An American and a Dutchman were sitting on a beach in Bali watching the sun go down. 'What a beautiful sunset!' said the American. 'Ah,' said the Dutchman, 'you should have seen the sunsets when we were running things.' The point of this, of course, is that politicians and administrators do not control the sunsets. Nor do they control the rainfall. We have to believe that the more or less continuous downpours since Monday night have no political significance.

This is merely the random result of the usual million molecules colliding over our heads. The ex-Royal Observatory does not make the weather; it merely records it.

Still, if you like drama with your weather, Fo Tan is the place to live. On downpour day one I was up at dawn to take Her Ladyship to the station. There were some formidable puddles and a large lake on the road outside the bus station.

Later in the day a further expedition was required. My son's school was supposed to participate in an orgy of singing and dancing to celebrate the Return, so I set off to deliver him to his last rehearsal before he hoofed it for the handover.

By this time the stream that usually trickles unobtrusively down a concrete trough in the middle of Fo Tan had developed a full-blooded tributary that ran down the streets. Crawling about in water up to the hubcaps we found an exit.

My jeep may be a toy but it has all the exotic gears and they came in useful. Fortunately I discovered the sodden brakes had stopped working before I needed them.

When we returned after lunch the river had gone, leaving several new pebbly beaches in the road. That night the waters returned. The lady in our local mobile pizza place not only refused to send out supplies - they had already lost one motorbike, she said - but did not recommend we come to collect them either.

There was a river outside their door, she said, sounding rather nervous.

On Thursday I decided the dog and I had been shut up by the weather for long enough so we walked to some of our usual haunts. Several new lakes had appeared and we did not get far.

A spectacular landslide has now blocked half the road that is our only connection with civilisation. If this column does not appear next week, please send a search party with a bulldozer to Sui Wo Road.

Meanwhile, all the carefully rehearsed celebrations involving members of the Hamlett household have been cancelled.

Now I do not believe that someone is trying to tell us something, but there is a lesson here all the same. We may hope and dream and plan, but accidents will happen, Nature is capricious and success is not guaranteed.

If you were listening to all the speeches last week, the future is going to be a spectacular affair. Hong Kong is going to galvanise Guangdong, cheer China, seduce Taiwan, stun the world.

These are worthy ambitions. But there is always a danger that if we dwell too long on our ambitions we shall regard anything short of the miraculous as failure.

How often in other places have we seen political greenhorns promise a sunny new Jerusalem only to encounter difficulty enough in delivering a wet weekend in Wigan? Hong Kong will still be visited by typhoons, both of the meteorological and metaphorical varieties. An externally oriented economy is necessarily subject to forces over which it has no control.

Of course great occasions demand uplifting oratory. But, in the grey light of a rainy dawn, we can be more realistic. Hong Kong will be doing well, in the circumstances, if it manages to carry on as it is now.