Dynargh dhe'n Blogofrob

Thursday 9th March 2006

Being just off the boat, I couldn't really back out of my company's annual party. As a lazy, anti-social and shy sort the mere fact that I didn't know anyone and would have to head to the venue on my own meant that I was powerless to stop the vague feeling of dread building throughout the day. The event was meant to kick off at around 7:30pm with a drinks reception. The meal was to start at 8:30pm. I decided to avoid the drinks. I could stomach the idea of sitting safely at a table but mingling, spouting stinking chat and worrying about whether I was meant to be circulating were to be avoided.

So I remained at my desk, finding trivial little tasks to do, making sure I was too busy to leave the office. Finally I logged off and headed over the road to the Ritz-Carlton, barely allowing myself to hope that it would be OK. I didn't need it to be the best night of my life - or even fun. OK would do me. In the event, it was OK. And a bit fun too.

As the event coincided with the turn of the Chinese new year, each of the 20 or so round tables crowbarred into the Ritz function room was named after a breed of dog. At one end of the room was a small stage, and to the right of that was a projection screen which flashed through various office-related photos for the entire evening. True to Hong Kong's love of cameras and taking photos, over the three hours I was there, I never saw the same photo flash up twice. The meal was a Chinese banquet of around 13 courses. During the food various people got up on stage to sing songs. In between the singing there were games (match the person with their mutt, charades) and a raffle, the main prize of which was a large gold dog. I felt like I was at one of those weddings where you know no-one but to have anything less than the time of your life is sacrilege. With a perma-grin plastered on my face I began to drink heavily and became a little less curmudgeonly.

Luckily, as my resolve was beginning to falter, I was presented with an escape route: some colleagues were off to Karaoke. My relief at leaving with them was increased as someone turned up the cheese and fellow gweilos took to the dancefloor.

Causeway Bay is a vibrant shopping area, east of Wan Chai. It's more upmarket than Mongkok, but seems no less packed - squeezed in between the clutch of department stores, malls and restaurants are shops selling clothes, watches, luggage, electronics and mobile phones, from the lowliest corner shop to designer boutiques. It's always rammed with young Hong Kongers, and during the evening, when the neon flickers to life making the night brighter than day, the hordes don't let up.

At the top of a shopping mall in Causeway Bay is the Green (or is it Red?) Box Karaoke Centre. I followed my colleagues behind the reception desk into a warren of narrow corridors, past countless doors, through which muffled crooning filtered. We reached our door - inside was a dark room with a sofa running along one wall facing a large TV screen, at the far end a small bar and beyond that, a bathroom. The others quickly got to work, ordering drinks and nibbles and programming songs into the Karaoke system. Soon more people joined us, exiles from the party. As they passed the microphones around, producing pitch-perfect renditions of Cantopop ballads, I got stuck into what seems to be the latest fashionable drink, whiskey and green tea. I had been in this situation before, both in Taipei and Hong Kong, the only non-Chinese person in a room full of well-practised Karaoke singers, all of whom seemed to be flicking through the English language songs in the library, entreating me to sing. The last occasion had brought to an end any farcical notions I may once have entertained that could emit a sound which had any relation to Boethian notation, let alone sing. The only solution was to get even more drunk and jump in.

Naturally, it was a shameful display. In my defence, the choice of English language songs was hardly inspirational. I won't demean myself further by listing what I "sang" - let's just mention that at times I probably say it best when I say nothing at all and that there are still some lipstick marks left on a coffee cup. Oh, and I heard that Backstreet was back. Luckily, I had the videos to distract me from the horror. Invariably, when the others expertly motored through Cantopop, it was to a bland video of the relevant performer singing to an adoring audience. However, the English language songs were accompanied by bizarrely incongruous films. Boyband classics, old Beatles songs and cock-rock power ballads were accompanied by, amongst other things, footage of a dog show, a barge holiday in the Norfolk Broads and what looked like a tourist board promo for Southend-on-Sea.

Before I knew it, we were all out of whiskey and green tea, it was almost 5am and there were only 4 of us left. I have a vague recollection of most of the others leaving when I picked up the microphone to sing Sweet Child O' Mine.

87 - posted at 07:59:49


Funny, you have never shown any predilection for karaoke-based entertainment in London! Is this the start of a new hobby?

1: Claire - 13:04:05 on Thursday 9th March 2006 (permalink)

Backstreet's back? They never went away as far as I'm concerned...

2: Jim - 13:00:18 on Friday 10th March 2006 (permalink)

Good point. However I don't think we'll be seeing five bad boys with the power to rock you again anytime soon.

I ain't got no manners coz I eat wid my fingaz.

3: Rob - 15:35:18 on Friday 10th March 2006 (permalink)

Perhaps you could treat us to a little of your tuneful ballads whilst you are in LA? Little Tokyo is not too far from where I live. Jim - how about some of your Tom Jones?

4: Charlie - 21:44:27 on Friday 10th March 2006 (permalink)

I promise to sing if I can be accompanied by Jerry doing his "stirring" dance.

5: Jim - 12:17:04 on Saturday 11th March 2006 (permalink)

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