Ithink I may have found an honest estate agent. This is a statement bound to send the rest of the profession into paroxysms of fury. Much as the South China Morning Post's periodic portrayals of lawyers as money-grubbing fat-cats tend to send the legal profession wild.
(The correct approach to an angry lawyer, by the way, is not to say 'I didn't mean you. You're different'. Nor should you say some of your best friends are lawyers. Much better to deny any connection with the newspaper, despite the business card you have just placed in the man's hand. Then claim you are too sick to survive cross-examination.) Estate agents think their reputation for dishonesty and deviousness is undeserved too.
OK, they are probably right. Some of my best friends - to say nothing of my in-laws - are estate agents.
But I don't think you will find many to match the frankness of Chelsea Lam of Eton Properties.
On a board outside the Allied Capital building in Ice House Street, Ms Lam is advertising 'Office to Let . . . With carpet and ceiling.' What does this mean? Are other offices let without ceilings? If so, what happens when somebody walks into the office on the storey above? Do they fall on to your desk? Or do they get caught in the mass of wires and cables stretched across the hole where the ceiling should be? The conclusion must be that Eton Properties are hiding something. If they point out the ceiling, it is because something else must be missing. Maybe there are no windows.
Or no doors. The only way in to your 17th storey office is through the window overlooking the street.
Chelsea Lam was very helpful. She thought the ceiling was a selling point, that's all.
It was newly renovated and the carpet was new, too. And, no, there was no extra charge. The whole package, all in, for $26 a square foot.
Did she always mention the ceiling in her sales pitches? 'Depends on the case.' Aha! Clearly we must be on to something here. What should we surmise from a signboard that did not mention the ceiling? 'No renovation,' came the response. 'If the landlord left it in a good state, we would not renovate.' I like that in an estate agent. Directness; no hard sell.
Miss Lam, if at any time in the next few months you have had enough of Eton Properties, I have the perfect job for you.
There is a funny-looking iron and glass construction going up in the harbour, off Wan Chai.
Apparently there is going to be a rather important midnight celebration there next July 1, and 4,000 dignitaries will be squashed into the main reception area.
It seems the Chinese were particularly worried the whole thing would be rained off if they had to make do with the Prince of Wales barracks or the Hong Kong Stadium. They were very pleased when the British side promised them the new Convention Centre after all.
Trusting, weren't they? They really believed the place would be finished in time.
But eight months from now, we may be looking for someone with professional experience to persuade guests not to cry off.
Here's your pitch: 'Vast lobby! With carpet and ceiling!' How about it, Miss Lam?