Going bananas over protocol
FRESH from its attempts to foist standardised straight bananas on a disbelieving public (yes, it's true: bananas sold in the Common Market must now be at least 14cm long, 2.7cm thick and must not be abnormally bent), the European Union may now be forced to introduce standardised flag-poles in all its 12 member countries.
Germany scored something of a Euro-first in Hong Kong when Consul General Wolfgang Gottelman had the 12-star European Union banner hoisted alongside the Federal Republic's black, red and yellow national flag at its Unity Day reception on Monday.
But EU representative Etienne Reuter admitted his delight as this innovation was slightly lessened by the discovery that the Union's 12-star was flying a little lower than the German Tricolour.
No fault of the German protocol people, though. It seems the EU office supplied the flagpole.
Still, Mr Reuter is probably thanking his lucky stars he's not operating in the UK, where British Rail has been running an advertising campaign for its trans-European Inter-rail ticket, using an EU-blue flag with 12 yellow condoms instead of yellow stars.
The caption: 'Inter-rail. You've got the rest of your life to be good.' Scanning our British tabloid newspapers, however, we can assure the EU-man that the row over the railway's ad caused nothing like the ribaldry the Banana Law induced.
'We like ours little and bent,' sniggered the Sun. 'Kinky fruits here to stay.' HONG Kong's man in London has been having a good time too. Clearly missing his weekend junk-trips, Sir David Ford's been out junketing on the River Thames, in the company of about 30 of the 60-strong Hong Kong Government Office staff, whom he invited along to share his joy at living on a river now almost as wide as Victoria harbour.
Swimming in raw-sewage, Hong Kong-style, was not one of the entertainments. But prizes in the on-cruise raffle included a bottle of vintage champagne, presented by the Commissioner himself, a coffee-grinder and a portable disc-player.
From the Corridors is happy to report the Hong Kong taxpayer paid nothing towards the jolly. The celebrants paid for the trip themselves - the higher grades paying the most.
BUT clearly the London office never retracts its antennae for long. Iconoclast author Mark Roberti, whose book The Fall of Hong Kong blows the lid off the 1984 Sino-British plot to strangle democracy at birth, reports that one of Sir David's henchmen was waiting outside a nearby bookstore at 9.00am to buy a copy.
Nothing surprising in that - except that it was the day before publication. Books are obviously delivered to retailers in advance to ensure smooth distribution; but not everybody is in on the secret of just how far in advance.
Not in itself enough to suggest any sinister insider grapevine, despite Sir David's background in intelligence.
But spookier in the light of the Department of Trade and Industry's publication Asia Pacific Link's earlier refusal to take an advert on the grounds the book was too controversial.
That was after the book's sole extract had appeared in the South China Morning Post.
Despite the lack of publicity and advertising in Britain, Mr Roberti claims enough people were desperate for a copy, for 1,000 to be sold on the first day. Could there be that many closet-Sinologists still lurking in the Foreign Office? WITH fortfication-work about to start on Secretary for Security Alistair Asprey's underground bunker and crisis command-post, we have to hope someone knows where to find the spare keys.
Some of the existing measures protecting our protectors are due to be dismantled after an awkward little incident at Mr Asprey's peace-time offices six storeys above.
No less than five elaborate contraptions guard the Security Branch's inner sanctum in Central Government Offices - one huge steel door, two smaller steel doors, a combination pad and a combination lock and door.
The system appeared to be running smoothly, with office early-birds Deputy Secretary, Ken Woodhouse and Principal Assistant Secretary, John Shannon always on hand to negotiate the confusing dials.
But panic set in recently when both men went on leave at the same time - and nobody else knew the secret pass codes.
Staff had been pacing the corridors for hours before a lock-picker with the right security clearance was finally brought to the scene to get them to their typewriters.
AFTER we challenged the Government last week to reveal its full Daya Bay contingency plan, on the grounds that it could not be a secret if we knew it existed, a Security Branch official rang us up to point out we already had a copy.
The published version, he claimed, differed only from the internal, restricted version, in that it excluded a number of telephone numbers the punters didn't need to see.
There were no pages deliberately left blank, and nothing - not even the bit about hosing down radiation victims in swimming pools - had been hidden from public view.
Fair enough, we thought. But the Government's definition of a 'secret' document is that the public does not know it exists.
So we don't know whether there's another secret plan in Mr Asprey's bunker, do we? Just guessing here: Is there an unpublished paragraph in the civil disturbance contingency plans that talks about issuing the Police Tactical Unit with radiation protection suits to go with their Darth Vader helmets?