Here we are in godson Kieran's excellent Mid-Levels flat with harbour view enjoying being back in Hongkong and eating rather too much and too well with said Kieran ...
... not to mention Carmela, SJ Chan (and his wife May's home made mince pies!), Dr Dan, Frankie on a flying visa visit, Tom hosting a Cheung Chau get together beano in the FCC and various street side snacks - we were very glad to see Shau Kei Wan was still home to old style dai pai dongs and cake shops...
But we have to be careful as too much food might make us incapable of The Walk which begins on Christmas Day from Nam O. Francoise has been in secret training with the Beijing Hikers and I (Alison) hope to sabotage her superiority with fruit cake and cheese. We're being joined by a new Chinese friend, Serene, who's based in Shenzhen and can cope with any Hakka speakers we may find - we're still hoping for the odd person who may remember the original escape party passing through their village.
And Tim takes over at the first Happy Valley bend to tell prospective 2009 Escapers that Ping Chau should be high on our list of things to do. I went there on the Saturday morning ferry - right across Mirs Bay, as far as you can go and still be in Hong Kong - and guess what: after a sunny walk round the island and much fruitless searching among the day-trippers for anyone who actually lived there - let alone anyone old enough to remember 1941 - I tracked down the current village headman, a Mr Mao Shuijing. And as soon as I mentioned the one-legged admiral's name his twinkly little old eyes lit up. "Chan Chak! Chan Chak! He came with the British military - they asked him to help after they lost to the Japanese".
He was only ten or eleven at the time but he'd been there when the landing party (Henry Hsu and Colin McEwan among them) arrived at dead of night and took the village headman of the time back to their boats (Mr Mao thought there were six MTBs rather than five). His cousin had gone along with some other local lads as guards for the admiral. Then he started talking about the guerilla leader Leung Wingyuen, pointing across to Nam O on the mainland where the villagers helped the escapers to land and then scuttle their boats. (Nam O is clearly visible, with its long strip of white sands - but now lined with hotels instead of guerrillas' huts). Sadly, the ferry home was about to leave so that's all I got -- but, if he's still up to it next year, we could find out more over lunch at Mr Mao's restaurant. well...more of an instant-noodle stall really). And fond as I am of those little old ferries, they do only go at weekends and from out by the Chinese University. So it might be easier to hire a boat of our own - and who knows, maybe even carry straight on across the channel to Nam O.
We've also been to the Museum of Coastal Defence. We failed to catch any of the right people to talk about next year's escape exhibition, but had an exciting time anyway, as far as museums go. Alison had just left me behind in the Battle of Hong Kong section and gone ahead to the next bit (showing how the fight against Japan carried on across the Chinese border after Hong Kong's surrender) when she stopped in front of a familiar face splashed across most of a wall.
Yes, it was her father, posing with Chinese guerillas after rescuing an American airman behind Japanese lines in 1943. I believe Russ did in fact tell us he'd seen this photo when he came here, but it hadn't quite registered, and when I arrived on the scene I found Alison in a state of high emotion, surrounded by a crowd of equally excited HK Chinese girls wanting to take her picture.
Finally, to tea at the Chinese Recreation Club with the wonderful Duncan Chan - looking very like both his twin brother Donald and
their father, the admiral.
We show him our maps, old and new, but unfortunately he's rather pessimistic about our chances of being able to walk at all in many of these places as they are today. He's trying to find some former guerillas (or their children) to help us on our way.