JUST as there are those in touch with the heartbeat of nations, I like to keep my finger on the pulse of this dynamic, multi-cultural crossroads. Or at least the bit in the pub round the corner from my office. I took the pulse only last week with a vox pop session in the main bar. Peter Sherwood: Good morning. I'm keeping my finger firmly on the pulse of the city. I was wondering if you could tell me what the Basic Law is? No man is an island? Sherwood: No, guess again. Uh, you reap what you sow? Sherwood: Sorry. Is it a clever reference to the ordinary cop on the beat? Sherwood: Excuse me sir, what do you think the Joint Liaison Group is? It is a bunch of crazies at a party discussing small, hand-rolled cigarettes containing the dried leaves and flowering tops of the hemp plant commonly known as something beginning with M. Sherwood: Madam, could you describe the purpose of the Joint Liaison Group? Certainly. A group of highly-paid Hongkong people sit in a dark room for 10 years while a group of lowly-paid and even wealthier people from China blow smoke at them from across a large table. This is to test the effects of passive smoking. Now, unless you're trying to pick me up, go away and ask Dr Judith Mackay. Sherwood: Sir, do you support the widely held view that rampant corruption will come to Hongkong after the China takeover in 1997? The notion is absurd. Hongkong is a wealthy place. Our democratic system, our basic integrity and sense of fair play would see to it that any insidious corruption was kept well away from our business and institutions. Sherwood: How? Simple. We'll pay them off. Sherwood: Do you think the present Sino-British negotiations will continue much longer? It is possible, given the Chinese penchant for free tea, that these talks could go on longer than the Vatican's canonisation process. We must remember negotiations are to the Chinese what test cricket is to the English. Sherwood: Sir . . . Sir?? Tell me, do you think that Filipina maids in their tens of thousands should be allowed to take over Statue Square and most of the central business district on Sundays and turn it into an illegal market and rubbish dump? And why not? These poor girls work hard all week for the likes of you and me; they are badly paid, lonely and have no place to go on their only day off. It's a very hard life. Yes, I support these girls 100 per cent! Sherwood: And what do you think of the latest alternative plans to give them a softer landing for their Sunday picnics by opening the golf fairways at Deepwater Bay? That is an excellent idea, of course, but one must consider the lack of shelter and basic amenities, the limitations of transport etc - not to mention screwing up my regular foursome! Sherwood: Good morning. My name's . . . Thank you, no. I have enough property in London and I know the market has bottomed and the pound is cheap and the interest rates are the lowest in 20 years . . . Sherwood: But . . . . . . and foreign exchange deals on margin are not my cup of tea and one-fiftieth of a new shopping mall in Shaanxi province does not excite me, neither does a half share in a typically Latvian restaurant in the Saigon suburbs which you are about to tell me is expected to grow faster than the combined income of the Colombian and Thai drug cartels over the next decade . . . Sherwood: Well . . . . . . And you can keep your Former Soviet States' Dynamic Markets Superfund, nor do I wish to participate in an option on a certain ladies bicycle company in Hankow and don't even mention one of your weirdo sugar straddle scams. Sherwood: Well, have a nice day. Look, I told you! I am not interested in commodities. Now beat it!Peter Sherwood is managing director of Edelman Public Relations Hongkong.