大使疫情手记 (双语9:下) —— 放慢脚步，闻闻花香
前澳大利亚驻华大使、艺术收藏家、经济学家、专栏作家 Dr Geoff Raby AO 原计划于二月底返回北京，后因新冠疫情爆发滞留悉尼。朱雀艺术特别开设【号外】专栏，连载大使的疫情手记。今日连载至第9篇（下）。
Geoff Raby’s Pandemic Journal 9
Smelling the Roses
My favourite hotel in those days was the Bela Vista, situated high on a headland, a little out of the city, overlooking the Pearl River Estuary. It had been built by the Portuguese colonialists in eighteenth century villa style that can be seen all over the older wealthier suburbs of Lisbon.
It was three stories with the reception, restaurant, bar and lounge areas on the second floor and bedrooms on the third. The ground floor was the hotel’s service area. It had wide verandas protected from the elements by sturdy neo-classical columns and arches, that protected guests sitting outside from all but the most inclement monsoon weather.
It was painted in badly faded pastel green and white outside, and a range of pastels from rose to magenta inside. I was always intrigued by the fact that there was no glass in any of the windows, only mahogany shutters to keep out the light, wind and rain. I loved the way its wooden passageways and the floors in the rooms creaked as if overflowing with secrets and stories of one hundred and forty years of guests.
For the five days I stayed there, I had developed a routine, which is still lacking here in Sydney. I would wake up whenever, but usually not too late and would have a good breakfast (as a heavy smoker in those days I didn’t have to worry about my weight) on the balcony watching fishing junks navigating the Pearl River Estuary as they returned with their catch to Macao. Until lunch, I would lounge writing aerograms (light weight airmail letters for those of a younger generation) and reading the one book that I had brought with me for the week, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s, Love in the Time of Cholera. In that rundown shambling Portuguese hotel, eating barbequed seafood, served by ancient waiters in filthy white gloves and decrepit uniforms, all washed down by cheap Mateus Rose, I felt strangely connected to the rotting Caribbean Port town in the novel and its characters.
After lunch I would nap, and then in the late afternoon walk into town (it could hardly be called a city in those days) before returning to shower and dress for dinner. In the first day or two, some confusion arose with the waiters when they assumed that when I ordered one bottle of wine for lunch and for dinner, I actually meant a half bottle. We soon sorted that out and their service was exemplary after that.
My late afternoon walks alone would be around the crumbling, lichen and fern covered, labyrinthine, back streets and little laneways of old colonial Macau. Many restaurants were offering dogs and cats, pigeons and bats, and pangolin to the diners. Just as in Taipei in those days, wet markets in the backstreets had snake shops where male customers could obtain a vial of snake bile before ducking up to the brothel upstairs.
That was just how it was, and it seems how it still is in parts of China. With prosperity and education this should all change. Wealthy developed Shenzhen announce yesterday that eating dogs and cats was now banned. It is at least 30 years since I last saw a flat-tray tricycle when walking along Jian Guo Men Wai Da Jie emerging from the freezing mist of an early February morning loaded high with skinned dog carcasses. The virus may also help to speed up this change.