Methods for managing everyday life in climates that are hot, wet and humid for much of the year developed over time. Drying cupboards were among them. Once standard fittings, especially in government quarters, some older houses and flats in Hong Kong still have them. Drying cupboards had a wire mesh opening at the top of the door and contained a low-wattage light bulb left permanently on during the summer to provide constant dry heat, which helped evaporate atmospheric moisture. Stored in these cupboards, instead of a wardrobe, serge suits and tweed skirts would not acquire a greenish tint and leather shoes did not resemble greyish suede after a week. Permanent drying cupboards were an innovation that spread from Calcutta to Canton. Eighteenth century memoirs and domestic management manuals from Bengal and elsewhere in India all reference these items. By the early 19th century, they had reached the China coast, and had a growing European presence. Early types were meshed-in to keep out insects, but were otherwise as open as possible. Garments were taken out periodically and aired for a few hours, usually in direct sunlight. This dried and freshened heavier, unwashable items and greatly prolonged the lifespan of expensive clothes. Similar contrivances were used in the Caribbean and parts of West Africa, where the climate could be even more destructive than in South China or Bengal. Dry rooms were a related innovation, and were especially important for books. As any bibliophile knows, the Hong Kong climate can be ruinous to books. As well as paper-rotting humidity, mould and fungus, insects would tunnel through and silently perforate volumes from cover to cover. Certain kinds of bookbinding glue were particularly palatable to silverfish, beetles and similar vermin. Keeping books as dry as possible – ideally in some kind of basic climate-controlled storage, such as glass-fronted bookcases – along with periodic airings, helped hold these tropical pests at bay. Like wardrobes, some bookshelves were custom made with fitted interior incandescent bulbs. Well into the 1950s, cool-weather clothes in Hong Kong were stored in camphor-wood or metal chests, with aromatic wood chips or Naphthalene to guard against mildew and deter fabric-eating bugs. Wryly described as “leave clothes”, these garments saw the most wear on long leaves in more temperate climates, and were usually a few years out of date when eventually replaced. By the 70s, more widespread air conditioning helped to dry out rooms and, if their doors were left open, wardrobes. Stand-alone electrical dehumidifiers started to appear in Hong Kong and Asia at around the same time, becoming increasingly commonplace over the next two decades, and airing cupboards began to disappear. An aunt who lived in Penang, Malaysia, for some years once recalled an unusual use for the airing cupboard in her hillside house, north of George Town. She was an occasional smoker – to the end of her very long life, one cigarette a day, taken with her after-lunch coffee, was her typical tobacco consumption, with an occasional extra lit up to have something in her hand at evening parties. In ironic reference to this abstemiousness, she was known within the family (but never, ever to her face) as “Fag Ash Kath”. Rationed thus, a packet of cigarettes lasted her about a month. However, in Malaya’s tropical climate, the last dozen were invariably dank and unsmokable by the time she got to them. Keeping her cigarettes on the top shelf of the drying cupboard – so she claimed – made the entire packet good to the last puff.