Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Misplaced Wife


It has been a strange day.

I was pottering around at home (mainly because the monsoon weather was preventing me from doing what I really wanted to do) and generally exercising my talent for diligently and methodically doing absolutely nothing useful at all. Hey it’s Sunday!

I was also expecting a phone call. Mrs LZ Laowai was due to land at Hong Kong airport sometime and had promised to call me. Sure enough, around noon a phone started tootling. I’m at home. We have a land line. I’m sitting right beside it. But the tootling is coming from that pile of clothes at the end of the bed in the next room. It’s my mobile, still in the pocket of yesterday’s discarded trousers. (Yes, I have, in the past, put a mobile through the full range of wash and spin cycles. Result: a bright shiny and still functional Siemens telephone! Still, I don’t recommend it!)

Anyway, I retrieve mobile, note that the number is nonsense – a sure sign that it is an international call – and flip it open. Sure enough it is the missus!

“Hi, I’m in Finland!”

One of the very few things I remember from A-level geography is that Hong Kong and Finland have no significant connection and certainly do not share land space. I can understand that there may be some confusion regarding whether or not we really handed it back in 1997 (after all, I can still wander in and out with my British passport, whereas my Chinese friends need hard-to-get visas), but I do not remember any Finns making speeches alongside Prince Charles.

Incidentally, I was in China that night and watched the handover ceremony on Chinese Central Television (confusingly called CCTV by the locals). At the same time, I was listening to the ceremony on the BBC World Service. I wasn’t surprised to find that the lip synch was slightly out, until I realised that I was getting the sound before the picture! The Chinese were delaying the pictures. The midnight handover didn’t appear to happen until 00:00:30. What did they think Charlie was going to do? Drop his pants and give the Chinese masses a thrill they would never forget?

Wisely, I do not mention this to my wife today. It is not every day she drops unexpectedly into Finland and I’m sure that she does not want to spend her time there discussing eight year old Chinese television outrage prevention methods.

“What? Where? Why?”

“Yes, Finland,” she repeats, more, I suspect, to convince herself than me. “Someone on the plane has taken seriously ill and we have landed to send him to hospital”

Having recently fallen into the clutches of the medicine men, I am impressed by this level of service until I consider further.

Can you imagine the scenario. You wake up dazed and confused (possible missing some organs or limbs to which you were previously attached, both physically and emotionally). Your last vague memory is something concerning Heathrow or Hong Kong. Of course, you are obliged by law to ask the only permissable question in these situations.

“Where am I?”


It doesn’ t bear thinking about. The asylums of Helsinki are doubtless full of deeply disturbed wrecks sent over the edge by believing they have woken up in Hong Kong (or anywhere else for that matter) and looking out the window only to find the frozen wastes of not so sunny Finland.

The only saving grace is that the language is similar, Cantonese and Finnish being equally incomprehensible to the average linguist. I am about to suggest that my wife test out this favourite theory of mine (she is a Cantonese speaker) but she interrupts.

“And what is worse…”

“Excuse me! What could be worse than waking up and finding yourself on life support in Finland?” I ask.

She questions my sobriety (not for the first time) and goes on to explain that, because of the delay in dropping down to deliver invalids to the Finns, some of the crew are unable to continue to Hong Kong, as the journey time would take them over their permitted hours. This apparantly incudes key members of staff such as the bloke driving the thing, rather than being confined to the people in too much makeup who deliver the drinks. So, the plane and all of its passengers, apart from the unlucky one who has just won a holiday in a Finnish hospital, are all returning to Heathrow to try to pick up a spare crew.

Several hours later, she rings me again to inform me that she is back in London, has been given a hotel room and has been booked onto a flight 24 hours after the original.

“Great!” I say, “What luck! You can pick me up the Sunday papers!”

It is amazing. She has only spent a few hours at most in Finland but, as far as I can tell, seems to have picked up the language!

Whatever she said just before she hung up on me sounded just like the Finnish for “Of course, my dear, I’ll get a copy of each.”

Either that or it was Cantonese for “When I see you, you’ll wish you were in intensive care in Finland.”

The joys of married life.

. This entry was posted on Monday, June 20th, 2005 at 12:12 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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