TWO tales were sweeping the Hongkong civil service this week about the Canberra, the floating perk which has just unloaded a bunch of retiring expats after a luxury cruise back to the UK. (a) Passengers noticed after they had boarded that the Canberra was built by Harland and Wolff. Name ring any bells? Yes, the firm built the Titanic. (b) Apparently, Miss Whiplash, a British woman known for providing private entertainment of an unusual sort, really was on board. Must have been an interesting journey. Talking of civil servants, we got the following query from Bob Palitz, engineering director at Metro Broadcast: ''Dear Lai See, ''I am a bit unclear as to some of the organisational details of the Hongkong Government. ''There is a Secretary for Home Affairs. Is there also a Secretary for Short-Time Kowloon Tong Motel Affairs? Who do you see in the Government if you want an affair with someone other than a secretary? ''Are we obliged to send Sir David Ford any gifts on Secretary's Day? Please advise.'' Yes. The correct gift for Sir David on Secretary's Day (April 21) is a pair of earplugs. He is going to have to sit through three months of political reform debate in Legco. Incidentally, write 50 words about your secretary and you could win two Cathay Pacific tickets to London - there's an entry form in Classified Post most days. We promise not to ask too many questions about whom you are taking with you on the trip. Bonus: the plane is unlikely to hit any icebergs and Miss Whiplash will not be on board. One-star style GREAT slogans of our time: Paul Rivers of Pam and Frank Industrial got a piece of junk mail from Seny Satellite company with this on it in capital letters, surrounded by stars: ''If you are interested, do hesitate to contract our sales department.'' Causing a stink THE Phantom Backpacker is bringing retribution on himself. He is spending the ill-gotten gains he gets at Kai Tak on drugs. He revealed his identity to a Lai See reader in a Wan Chai pub. ''He claimed to be able to make $1,000 in one to two hours,'' grumbled our informant. ''Which is considerably more than I make.'' But he said the Phantom Backpacker was not a particularly good nickname for him. ''He has body odour like you couldn't believe. He couldn't be a phantom, because you can smell him a mile away.'' The phantom is a heroin addict and flits between Kai Tak, where he collects money by pretending to be a traveller needing cash to pay the airport tax, and places in Yau Ma Tei and Wan Chai where he buys drugs. Meanwhile, we've passed information to the police and they are hot on the trail of both Johnny ''Olivier'' Wong and the up-the-skirt video pervert of Pedder Street. Just think, the poor old touroids have to navigate these horrid human obstacles at Kai Tak and on Hongkong's pavements even before they can get inside the camera shops to be swindled professionally. Home politics IN a bid to speed up the political process, which has become somewhat predictable of late, we have decided to make the following news announcements on behalf of the Hongkong Government and the New China News Agency. Hongkong Government: Governor Chris Patten has decided to spend this weekend in Dorset. New China News Agency: This is a unilateral decision for which Britain must bear all the consequences, and be condemned by history. Hongkong Government: Government House is to be repainted. New China News Agency: This is a unilateral decision for which Britain must bear all the consequences, and be condemned by history. Hongkong Government: The Pattens may get some new curtains for the house. New China News Agency: This is a unilateral decision for which Britain must bear all the consequences, etc, etc. Lawyers' test MICKEY Winckless, director of IST, picked up a copy of the Hongkong Law Society's Notes On Applications for Certificates of Eligibility. He showed us the following shocking line: ''Students with criminal convictions recorded against them should make an immediate application for student enrolment.'' Why do they want convicted felons to sign up to be Hongkong lawyers? ''You probably always suspected this,'' said Mickey. Fair comment CATHERINE Lajeunesse of Traditional Financial Services struck a blow for women yesterday by suggesting the following list of educational courses. Seminars for men: 1. Driving: a routine or a blood sport? 2. Etiquette: leaving before the beer runs out. 3. Male bonding: finding the lowest common denominator. 4. Movies: beyond an appreciation of kill ratios. 5. Love and marriage: avoiding the combination. 6. The causal relationship between performing arts and sleep. 7. Marriage: partnership or lifetime service contract? 8. Cooking: vegetables and how to avoid them.