Faraway places sometimes exert their own gravitational pull, often without the person being influenced having the slightest inkling. In my case, the earliest impressions of Hong Kong came from a primary school “social studies” class in distant regional Queensland. This particularly Australian educational potpourri combined history, geography, economics and civics with some tentative sense of that country’s place in the world. Stereotypes abounded; somewhere to the north, “the Spice Islands” – not found as such in any atlas – referred to an actual country with a real name: Indonesia. Aborigines were primitive hunter-gatherers whose numbers – for reasons left tactfully unexamined – had sadly declined in recent times. And there wasn’t anything in Australia anyway until Captain James Cook “discovered” the place in 1770; you get the picture. Light years removed from today’s PowerPoint presentations, basic audiovisual learning aids offered a massive improvement – as we were constantly reminded – on the slates just within our own parents’ memory. Colour slides, sound recordings, even short films played on a flickering projector (when it wasn’t on the blink), all offered tantalising glimpses of a world beyond pineapple farms and sugar cane fields. That these “social studies” lessons even mentioned Hong Kong at all was due to two remarkable teachers, and a trip the couple had made a few years earlier, when they stayed here, with an overnight trip to Macau, for about a fortnight. Back then, international airfares were serious indulgences on an Australian schoolteacher’s pay. Hong Kong – then – was a sought-after destination rather than – as now – somewhere to pause briefly, largely as a stopover necessity. An educational book/record/slide pack bought in a Kowloon bookshop was supplemented by their own idiosyncratic colour slides. That Hong Kong. Crown Colony: Where East Meets West (1962) was still available in local bookshops when they visited more than a decade after its publication suggests that sales had not been brisk. The record that accompanied it was narrated by British actor Basil Rathbone who, along with his wife – according to the slip cover – “stopped off at the British colony on [his] way home from an Australian tour, and found it to be an exotic compound of Eastern and Western ways”. The seed was sown. One day – that young boy thought – he would go there, to this faraway colony (whatever that was) somewhere over in remote, exotic China, and see it all for himself. Of course, the eventual reality was markedly different from Rathbone’s description of “[…] our first sight of the island from the deck of the Kowloon ferry. Straight ahead, as we approached a harbour filled with sampans, was an old British clubhouse of the Victorian era, and we could see a cricket match in progress”. As for countless others, the Star Ferry crossing afforded my first glimpse of Victoria Harbour, but all else he described had vanished. Nevertheless, there was much to entrance; from that first glimpse, I decided to make my home here, and decades later, that decision remains unregretted. The book/slide/record set is now a personal treasure, given as a memento when those by-then-elderly teachers revisited Hong Kong several years ago, and stayed at my home in the New Territories. Our joint explorations were very different from those that had enchanted them long before; much fun resulted from piecing together the still-recognisable and discerning what had vanished without trace. And while the Hong Kong Rathbone described – and the one I first experienced – was a more optimistic place than today’s sadly dispirited, rudderless city, to borrow a long-ago Queensland usage, a crowbar wouldn’t prise me away from it.