Mid-April steams in with its anniversary of a significant soaking. I have one too. Twenty-two years ago this week I began a short, some eighteen months, residency in Hong Kong, living in Mui Wo on Lantau Island, or Old Lantao, as I’m minded to call it, as it was then before the ‘new’ airport, before Disney, and even the big chap wasn’t then yet fully complete (brother, are we ever?). My survivor memory of that time, a memory unsinking above all crazed others, not least because I want it to be, is of the rains on my arrival.
Rain has a home in Hong Kong. Nowhere moreso it feels than on Lantau, and no place there more lived-in verdant, aromatic, no wetter, than amongst the trees and balconies of Chung Hau village. Nowhereso in my life, my rain’s home, its spiritual source.
Across mists the exact address is lost. 20-something. And twenty-something I lean, just suddenly travelled, on the small flat’s balcony, a concrete and cat-sleeping outcrop of our tiled, corridored box. I lean on its metal tubed rail and overlook a courtyard, an old piece of old island life, spilling families and a mad, retired major below us, and the treetops, the glossy twinnings of trees and tiles, birds, frogs in full, wet song, the air hissing and every garment clinging. My sweat beads and runs and the air kisses and the cooking smells rise up, steam in steam.
Hard, fast and beautiful rains kick-start cacophonous hours of a people under awnings, upon the decks of boats. The then-colony becomes a carnival of rain with locals sporting newspaper hats. Bamboo pipes gush, horizontal, cemented in walls at waist height. Every eating place drips.
In their turn the typhoons come prequelled with horizontal rainstorms, lashes pulling in their wake patio furniture, cats. In the new flat we move to, up at Fu Kong Shan, I watch anything whip by the doorway. Below us Mui Wo is covered in cloud, there’s no getting off or coming to the island.
There, rain indulges my solitude in a crowded place. Here, in an indulgence of anniversary, it’s raining hard on Fisher Lane: straight, good, green April rain.
This rainy-day remembrance was launched by the committed journal-keeping of a current Mui Wo’er, at ‘Mui Wo and Me’
© Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2012