RATHER unkindly, I used to mumble 'You senile git' under my breath whenever someone older than me uttered that hoary old piece of idiotic wisdom 'You know you are getting on in years when policemen start to look younger than you are'. Unfortunately my baptism into the world of senile old gits arrived when I lurched over to the wrong side of 30. The bulk of Hong Kong's stern-faced guardians of the law look as if they have recently stepped out of the school playground having just placed their fellow Form Three pupils under arrest for running a protection racket against anyone carrying cuddly Garfield toys. These days about the only men wearing a uniform who still look as though they would take second place to me in a 100-metre stagger are the Sikh doormen who grace the entrance halls of Kowloon Tong love hotels. Tempus fugit - life is passing from giddy adolescence to middle age in the blink of an increasingly jaundiced eye. I have long been a devoted rugby union fan, and secretly harboured the fantasy throughout my 20s that one day the Welsh selectors would telephone me to ask if I was free the following Saturday, since there was a vacancy at scrum half for the game against the All Blacks they thought I could fill rather nicely. Of course it was nonsense; if Wales were to put out 10,000 teams in order of merit I would have been lucky to get on the substitute's bench of the 9,999th side. That did not matter because as long as youth was on my side; then there was always an anorexically slim chance of a call-up from the depths of London Welsh's Occasionals XV. But there is no chance now. As Scott Quinnell scored his magnificent try for Wales against the French in Cardiff a fortnight ago, the thought suddenly embedded itself in my mind - I used to watch his father play. And in his prime too; not in the twilight of his playing career. But we have both long been consigned to the knacker's yard for former players. Of course self-pity can only go so far in your 30s. I have not reached the age at which someone will offer me a seat on the MTR, although with the territory's stellar reputation for courtesy you would have to live until the age of 156 before someone stoodup to let you take their share of the stainless steel bench. The birth of my daughter nine months ago has also put me firmly on the mental track to false teeth, cheaper tram rides and orthopaedic loafers. People often ask 'Has fatherhood changed you?' Yes it has - it has made me much poorer, I reply. Being a father has also elongated my perspective. Every step through childhood like kindergarten, primary and secondary school stretches my outlook ever thinner, almost exactly in proportion to my hairline. When she is 18 I will be 50. As I doff my cap tothe crowds to mark my half-century and make the fatuous observation about youthful policemen again she will be at my side, mumbling sotto voce 'You senile git.' CLERICAL ERROR NO matter how long I walk this earth, I hope never to reach the depths of embarrassment plumbed by a colleague of mine on a aeroplane last month. Despatched on a junket to Milan, she was dismayed to discover that the airline she was told to write reams ofpraise about was refusing to give her an upgrade from economy to business class on either the outward or return legs. Accordingly she settled down in cattle class for the 14-hour overnight haul from Rome. In the same row as her was a Hong Kong-Chinese Roman Catholic priest, presumably on his way back from the Vatican after some spiritual R and R. After she watched the priest order a second bottle of wine with his dinner, perhaps for an impromptu communion service at a 12,000-metre altitude, the two settled down for the night. It was not to be restful one, however. Each fought with their feet to achieve a territorial advantage on the vacant seat that separated them. Finally the journalist drifted off into something close to sleep, only to be awakened by a strip of stiff cardboard poking her in the face. 'Bloody airline seats! Not only are they uncomfortable, but they are falling apart too!' she grumbled while grabbing the card, crumpling it in her hand and putting in the pocket on the seat back. In the morning, as each struggled with the aches and pains from a poor night's slumber, the priest appeared to be worried as he hunted through his possessions trying to find something he had mislaid. Finally, after a fruitless search he turned to my colleague and asked: 'Excuse me, but have you seem my clerical collar?' A DREAM JOB MR LU Ping, I'm still waiting, but my patience is not infinite. For the last couple of years I have watched as scores, no, make that hundreds of Hong Kong people opened their morning mail to find a letter advising them they have now become members of the Preliminary Working Committee, a Hong Kong Adviser or a District Affairs Adviser. Unlike junk mail shots from Readers' Digest telling me that I may have won enough cash to buy myself a Central American country as long as I commit myself to take out a subscription that runs until 2015, these myriad advisers are being offered real, tangible prizes. Consider this, you get regular paid-for return flights to Beijing, chauffeured cars to and from the airport, accommodation at luxury hotels or guesthouses and the frenzied attention of the Hong Kong press corps who practically hang upon your lips as they wait for a bland quote to send back to the territory by satellite to make the evening news. Like a knighthood in the United Kingdom, doubtless the status of a Beijing adviser guarantees you a prime table in restaurants, a discount in shops, and if you are particularly well-known, taxis will stop for you during typhoons. With most members apparently only lending their name to the proceedings the workload would appear to be minimal, limited to beaming broadly for the cameras as you sit in an armchair and fiddle with the antimacassars, with a piping hot cup of tea at your elbow. I hope you won't forget me when you name the next 1,000, Mr Lu.