Northerners probably don't need reminding that it's been a bit nippy recently. Those who still find themselves shoveling snow or thawing numbed limbs may be consoled to hear that their pain was shared by the citizens of the south. In fact, things were so bad down here that the Hong Kong Observatory felt moved to issue one of its knee-trembling Cold Weather Warnings for the benefit of the uncomprehending populous.
"Members of the public are advised to put on warm clothes," entreated the experts as the mercury plunged, dipping into a knowledge base so specialist that, apparently, it takes four years to earn a degree in meteorology.
"If you must go out, avoid prolonged exposure to wintry winds," added the guardians of public health, now assuming the impatient tone of a nagging mother-in-law.
"If you know of elderly persons or people with chronic medical conditions staying alone, call or visit them occasionally to check if they need any assistance," went the final piece of priceless advice.
Anyone who caught the news or watched the press conferences might have assumed that at that very moment small children were ice skating across Victoria Harbor, marveling at the world's newest glacier out of which only the tip of the 88-storey IFC 2 tower was now poking.
Alas no. Unlike Shenyang or Dalian in Northeast China, Hong Kong didn't find itself victim to vicious blizzards or experiencing power cuts during Arctic temperatures. The problem in well-fed, well-sheltered, well-rich Hong Kong was that the temperature fell below about 15 C. In Hong Kong and I quote this construes a health "threat" and thus the well-honed warning mechanism kicked in.
It reminded me of British autumns past where, despite absolute seasonal predictability, fallen leaves on railway tracks would cause the train network to literally grind to a halt, and with it the entire economy.
If it's cold, do we seriously need telling to wear clothes? If it's a bit windy out, should we really be frightened into staying inside? Now I'm no expert and I certainly haven't got a degree in meteorology but it all seemed a little over the top. I don't need to have spent several years in university to know that most human beings have a little thing called a nervous system which rather puts Hong Kong's Cold Weather Warning to shame.
It's an amazing contraption, developed over several millennia, and pre-programmed into every new born baby for absolutely free. Here's how it works: If it's hot, you sweat and remove superfluous layers of clothes. If it's cold, you shiver and crawl under the duvet. If someone cuts your arm off, your scream, then call for a doctor. And if someone fires a machine gun, you duck, or run. Despite what nagging mother-in-laws and Hong Kong Observatory officials may think, we don't always need reminding of the bleeding obvious.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to bed. It's freezing in this apartment, and for some reason I've never quite got round to buying a heater.
(China Daily 03/13/2007 page19)