Of a steaming day in the back and beyond of Fantasy Island you used to be able to hear much hot air coming from a shaded seating area near the tennis court.
Granny Chan, a wizened old lady, ran her eponymous store, where perhaps failing eyesight accounted for her lapses in returning the right change.
Opposite are ramshackle seats in a concrete, grubby surroundings, shaded by tarpaulins. Here sat Lamma Island’s expat down-and-outs pontificating or generally putting the world to rights over countless Carlsbergs or Carsybas as they are pronounced in this neck of the woods.
In just a few years though these so called Seats of Shame have become deserted, their occupants no longer with us.
The loudest – and gruffest – of all was David Slough, a burly, noisy gentleman for whom Hong Kong would forever be a territory of the British Crown. He seemed to love his Alsatian dogs more than his Asian wife, and his booming voice carried over long distances. One day he forgot his key to his house, climbed up the drainpipe to his second floor apartment, almost made it, but fell and was gored on the bamboo fence below. A chopper got him off the island but he was dead on arrival.
Kenny, a prematurely silver haired Scot, was the ultimate piss artist. In his rare moments of lucidity he sold insurance for a succession of firms. Most of the time, though, he was incoherent and wretched. He meant well; alcohol had ruined him. He did marry a Texan lady who got him off the island and into rehab but to no avail. His thin frame eventually ballooned, his liver packed in, his skin lost all its palour and he died at St Margaret’s Hospital, across the Lamma Channel in Aberdeen. The Seats of Shame nailed another victim.
Then there was John, the most erudite of the Granny Chan regulars. A journalist with a massive thesaurus for a brain, John became like the rest – slurred, easily irritable and a wreck. He had a drinker’s body – no muscle and unhealthily pale skin. The last time anyone saw him, in his mid-40s, he was stacking shelves at a Tesco supermarket in Yorkshire and living with his mum.
Others who were regulars ended up taking the 12 step programme and now don’t touch booze. Granny’s is just a store these days, her family have built her a bungalow just down the slope from the shop. As for me, well, first I was always a Tsingtao guy over Carlsberg, and mercifully a full time job whisked me away from there in the nick of time.
Zealots I’ve loved and lost
1 week ago