Toes, toilets and traditions


Today we had a wedding to go to in the Renaissance Hotel in Hong Kong, and as is traditional for my wife and I, one of us has to arrive with a broken toe. Last time around it was my wife, leaping across the living room in a misguided attempt to stop me putting Marmite on toast, before colliding with the coffee table, and this time it was me, accidentally kicking the bed and then falling to the floor in indescribable, inexplicable pain. (Although careful perusal of my blog shows that I’ve bust other toes in the last 6 years, here and here.

At least when my wife did it, we didn’t have children around to step on our wounded toes.

I injured myself yesterday and it hurt so much that I was too frightened to take off my sock and look at the damage until very late last night. What I saw revealed what I’d feared: a swollen, purple toe, which looked even worse because it was the one where my toenail fell off a few weeks ago. It wasn’t quite as bad as when I broke my big toe (the sight of that provoked a medic to suck air through his teeth and pronounce on how bad it looked) but it was pretty damn horrid.

La Serpiente’s favourite colour is purple, which may be why she delighted in stamping on my foot today while we were at the wedding. I may be exhausted and disengaged with the world, but nothing drags you back to consciousness like the agonising, electrifying pain of fourteen kilograms of toddler coming down hard on a fractured bone. So there’s that going for it, I suppose.

The wedding was nice: Chinese weddings involve a few speeches, and lots and lots of food. Unfortunately, they also occur during prime nap time (midday until 3pm) so the kids were increasingly manic as sleep deprivation kicked in, and the only way I had to entertain La Serpiente after the sticker books were exhausted was to get her to chase me around the rear of the banqueting hall, my toe crying out in pain.

Meanwhile, the ten course meal went on, and I had fragmentary conversations with friends from Hong Kong in between getting up and entertaining La Serpiente/stopping her eating everything on the candy table/preventing her knocking over the life size photographs of bride and groom/piledriving her sister into submission.

It was a lovely, lovely wedding and it was an honour to be there and at the same time, I wish I had tranquiliser darts for my kids.

Later, we went to Frites, one of a chain of Belgian bars in Hong Kong and I ate too many chips, then had to take Destroyer to get changed. I’d forgotten how strange toilets are in Hong Kong.

Most places, you want to go to the toilet, you find the door marked “Toilets”, walk through it, select one of two doors marked “Ladies” and “Gents”. In Hong Kong, you walk through a doorway marked “Toilets” then through three more doors, round a corner, down a long, dark corridor with doors every ten yards leading to establishments you either never heard of or know are located on the other side of the island to where you just came from, then to a bulkhead with a sign saying that if you want access to the baby changing facility you should call this number (who takes their phone with them when they go to get their kid’s nappy changed? Are you expecting some scintillating topic of conversation to be inspired by the event, one you really have to share right there and then?) and hope, and then instead you walk another fifty yards to the men’s room, which in this case for some miracle didn’t require a key to get in, and then change your enraged daughter’s backside on the floor of a washroom that has, for no apparent reason, been painted entirely black.

Or maybe that’s not strange at all.

When I returned from my toilet odyssey, the bride and groom were there, and while the kids rampaged around our feet we had a quite long conversation about life, work, Latin America and being married, which was really nice. I savour these moments.

I was, of course, full of Chinese food (vegetarian, which implies lots of fungus) and deep fried Gouda, and it was time to get the kids to bed, so eventually we fled to the hotel. I went to the shops and bought milk, and made the mistake of buying scented nappy rash cream, which instead of providing sweet solace to my daughter’s reddened bum, provoked a wailing and a gnashing of teeth totally unexpected by any of us, while Destroyer tried to lighten the mood by attempting to fall off the bed and then save herself by grabbing at the bedsheet at the last moment possible.

So, another relaxing evening. I read to La Serpiente from 100 Best Poems, accidentally happening upon Seamus Heaney’s Mid Term Break, the warned-about poem about a four year-old’s funeral. I’m unconvinced this is an unsuitable poem for kids (especially as the tales of Albert (swallowed by lion) and Conrad (thumbs cut off by a tailor) are also included, and nobody seems to complain about those) although I’ve never been a fan of Heaney, but blame my secondary school English classes for that. Eventually she fell asleep, and we both retreated to the hallway to read, and worry about catching our 9am flight tomorrow. (The fog is so bad that flights have been delayed from Hong Kong today, but you don’t want to rely on that.)

3 thoughts on “Toes, toilets and traditions

  1. O James, your poor toe. It really does need some tlc, and not la Serpiente ‘ s treatment. The wedding sounds fantastic.

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