Posted by: Sam Olsen | September 18, 2011

Gentlemen who lunch

“Coming to Hong Kong is like going back to university, but with money”. These were words of wisdom given to me by someone at the Hockey Club, and how right they are. But not just for the sport, for the social clubs too. There are loads of societies to join to help ease the burden of being in one of the most amazing cities on earth. Asiaxpat, a local forum, alone lists 72 but there are surely dozens more than this, and this is not including any of the clubs like HK Football Club etc. This truly is a place where people don’t like to be on their own.

When the British ruled here there was a specific lunch club designed to bring the military and civilian elements of the Colony together. This regular event still occurs monthly, but with slightly less military and slightly more non-Brits. I was privileged to be invited to one of their gatherings last Friday. And what an event. 30 or so men – financiers, charity workers, helicopter pilots, civil servants – gathered together at lunchtime in a large room overlooking the racecourse. All of them had booked out the afternoon from work, and many had left the evenings blank too. I saw the reason when one of the exceptionally nice people I was talking to drained two full glasses of wine in ten minutes before lunch. I had hardly touched my gin and tonic when we sat down, although I was decidedly alone. All this of course meant that the conversation was flowing from the off. One might imagine that a lunch club of this sort would produce rather staid chat, but not a bit of it. Sport of course was a natural subject for many, but ocean ecology, Nepalese investment, Bangladeshi micro-finance, Thai golf courses, British politics and a host of other topics were touched upon. (Aggie tells me that not even this list will be of interest to many of our readers, but I have perhaps a higher opinion of your levels of stimulation. Or I’m just incredibly dull.)

But this Friday was the best lunch of all. The Hong Kong Sevens is one of the world’s most iconic rugby tournaments. I hear that each March the whole SAR goes rugby crazy, with work basically shutting down for a week as every expat and his wife – plus a large amount of Chinese – enjoy as many lunches at the periphery of the Sevens as possible, no matter how remotely related. As if to prove the point, I was invited to a lunch this Friday to celebrate the tournament – a full 6 months in advance. Four hundred men, plus about a dozen or so women who seemed to look more alarmed as the afternoon wore on, sat down to a three course meal and more speeches from the sponsors and fund-raisers than is healthy. The organisers however had been clever enough to bring in two ex rugby stars to ensure that the heckling didn’t get too out of control: Andy Nichol and Richard Hill. Nichol was very funny indeed and basically gave a stand up performance which had the crowd fully amused, although whether they were laughing at his lines or his Dundee accent was unclear (given that a good majority of the crowd were Antipodean). Poor Hill though had to follow this up, a task not made easier by him being, erm, not of the comic way. That said, he did make everyone sit up and notice when he revealed that he hadn’t gone drinking after winning the Rugby World Cup in Sydney in 2003 because “I had to get my girlfriend to the airport because she had an incredibly early flight to get back to school.” Cue a few surprised faces. “No, she is a teacher”. I suppose you had to be there (says Aggie). After lunch everyone went upstairs to a bar to watch the All Blacks kick the stuffing out of the Japanese, over numerous more beers. (Curiously, Nichol and Hill spent a great deal of the match on their own in the corner, left alone by everyone. They were probably talking about how much they disliked Austin Healey, which was the only common theme between their two speeches.) I bailed at this point, having a long supper to go to as well, but I hear that the drinking went on until the cold light of the next morning. And if this is the largesse shown 6 months before the Sevens, then heaven help our livers come March. So book your tickets now!


  1. You are definitely eating yourself through HK Sam. Looking forward to upcoming posts about maintaining your waistline…jogging along beaches with views of power plants, using their over abundance of park stairs as a personal stairmaster and power walking through their maze of malls …

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