Being inspired, maybe – 61
A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like. For instance:
And, then, the words:
I held the envelope in my hand, turning it over and over, considering tossing it in the bin and becoming a tourist for a few days and then go home.
I shuddered. I was not cut out to be a tourist.
I opened it.
Short and to the point.
'Take the tram to the top of the peak.'
It didn't say when I had to go or be there, or what I was supposed to do when I got there.
I cursed Suzanne.
I decided to freshen up and change before going out. I had no intention of dragging this out any longer than I had to.
At the concierge desk, I asked for directions. I could have looked it up myself, but I knew from experience, that the concierge staff in such a hotel would know more than I could discover in any tourist document.
Being on the Kowloon side, or the mainland I would have to take the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong island, and the ferry terminal wasn't very far from the hotel. A leisurely stroll took ten minutes, and another five to get the required token, and get on the boat.
I'd seen the waterway from the hotel, and now on it, took note of the number and variety of craft plying the waters, including a few traditional Chinese junks. On the right-hand side were several passenger ships alongside the wharf after either arriving back or getting ready to go.
I never saw the attraction of going on a cruise. What on earth did people do for seven, or ten, or however many days at sea, or in obscure ports along the way?
On the other side, I took to the walkways. I had considered the advice to catch a taxi, but the weather was fine and I was in the mood to walk. There's been no stipulation of time, just that I had to go to the top of the peak by railway.
I followed the hand-drawn map the concierge had given me, with the street names, and did the walk to the peak tram base terminus in little more than a half-hour, which included stopping for a few moments to take some photos.
I used to curse the person who decided to put a camera in a phone, but now I found it useful. I was not sure why.
The queue for the tram was quite long and it wound around the fences put up to keep the waiting passengers in an orderly manner. It was a large cross-section of people, some Chinese, but predominantly visitors from all over the world. Whilst waiting, I whiled away the time talking to a German family who was on a world tour and next heading out on a cruise ship, as well as listening in on some French students, several Barcelonean's, and two Russians.
It was an opportunity to flex my languages, something I only got to do when on business trips, and was, at best, desultory. Tourists brought a whole new nuance to the language, and it made for good practice.
It made the time to the ticket window and getting on the tram fly. On the tram I found myself jammed up against the window a family of five closing up to fit on the seat and part of one behind. I was surprised at the enthusiasm, if it could be called that, to get on and get a seat before anyone else.
It was an interesting ride to the top, passing houses and what appeared to be parkland and even a zoo. There was probably a road up and I could have taken a taxi, but this was more interesting.
At the top, there was as much enthusiasm to get off as quickly as possible and I regarded myself as lucky being the last to get off on my seat and in fact the whole carriage. I couldn't say I was looking forward to going back down and considered the possibility of calling the hotel and getting them to send me a car. Maybe.
I wandered out of the station and walked the short distance to the oddly shaped peak tower building, passing through the souvenir stores, then took the escalator to the viewing level and went outside.
Though it was sunny, for this time of the year it was reasonably cool. Looking out, down over the water to the port on the other side and behind, the distance was quite hazy, no doubt from some form of pollution in the air. From where I was standing it wasn't very noticeable.
A look in a different direction located the old Governors mansion, looking like it was either being repaired or renovated. Perhaps they were removing any resemblance of the former British rule, and become the new Chinese administrator's residence.
"Michael, my God, that is you?"
I swung around to see if I was indeed the person the woman was referring to and instantly recognised Madeline.
"Apparently it is. And I have to say I'm surprised to see you, here of all places."
I looked around to see if her brother, or mother, was nearby as she rarely went anywhere without one, the other, or both in tow. I didn't see either.
She came over and joined me at the ledge.
"What are you doing here? I thought you told me you hated the idea of being a tourist."
"I do. I'm here on one of Suzanne’s silly charades."
"In Hong Kong?"
"Apparently so. Why are you here? Are you with anyone?"
"Guess what. I'm here because Suzanne asked me to come and visit her. And, she told me to come alone?"
"Of course. I didn't think I could do it, you know me, the slightest thing goes wrong and I go to pieces, but, Suz told me it was time to get my act together, and said this trip was the start of my new life."
I wondered what Suzanne was up to. She knew that Madeline liked me, and I liked her, but it wasn't much more than that because her parents frowned on me as a suitable friend, all work and no time for women sort. Both Madeline and I had both agreed they were right and we sort of drifted apart, not that there was anything there, to begin with.
"Is it working?"
"I don't know. I was going to take the tram up but it all seemed too much so I hired a car. Where are you staying?"
"The Peninsula "
"So am I. We can go back in the car, all I have to do is call. After I find out why Suzanne wanted me to come here."
I think now I knew. Suzanne might be trying to play matchmaker, though I didn't know why she would, given the hopes of both our parents and what they had planned for us. Maybe this was her plan to get around them. But, I wasn't upset that she was signalling she didn't want to marry me, I think she realised that my all work and no play attitude did not match her perpetual desire to travel and have fun.
For the rest of her life.
"I think you were sent here to meet me, though why Suzanne would do this to either of us I don't know."
I could sense someone standing behind me, in what might be called my personal space and turned slightly to see a Chinese man in a suit standing there.
He handed an envelope with my name on it to me, and another with Madeline's name on it to her.
I am assuming you are miss Madeline Albany?"
She nodded, then took the envelope off him. Delivery made he turned and disappeared through the doorway.
We both looked at each other with similar surprised looks.
"That was odd," she said.
She opened her envelope and I mine.
'Go back to the hotel and rest. There will be new instructions tomorrow morning. By the way, it is possible you will meet someone you know.'
Madeline's said exactly the same.
"What the devil is Suzanne up to, you think?"
I shrugged. "No idea. I fancy another ride in the tram, are you up for a little adventure?"
© Charles Heath 2019