Quite early on in my Hong Kong career, I got to know Larry Snowdon. Larry was a fat Englishman with thinning hair and a small moustache who worked in the office as a clerk or floating factotum. He was then in his early forties but looked older. Below medium height, he would have had trouble joining a British constabulary but in Hong Kong he had had a long career in the Hong Kong police.

Larry Snowdon would appear in the office at odd hours of the afternoon looking exaggeratedly serious like skivers and shirkers do the world over. While he was in the office, he was fiercely intense in his work so no one formed a bad impression of him. It was only when you thought about his long absences that you could have any doubts about his performance. He was mysterious, cheerful and - I was fairly certain - an inveterate scoundrel.

Larry was prepared, for a small initial fee and exorbitant expenses, to do all the dirty digging work a law practice found necessary: finding boyfriends and spouses, the real owners of buildings, even the whereabouts of stolen property. He had contacts everywhere and I quickly found him indispensable in the large number of tricky criminal cases I handled. As a result of our close professional cooperation, and - later on - the discovery that we shared more than a passing interest in the fairer sex, we got on like a house on fire.

We used to have long lunches in several of the watering holes of Central and Wanchai. He would regale me with stories from his career in Hong Kong, a career marked by a lot of incident, even scandal. Fortunately, unlike so many other Old China Hands, he had his mind largely squarely in the present and didn't bore me at all. He was also very tolerant and I could introduce my girls to him. For peculiar reasons, he didn't quite approve of me taking up with the locals but he never caused a scene.

Our conversations nearly always came back to the subject of Filipinas. Larry was quite graphic about his conquests, describing their hair, their teeth, the curves of their buttocks, even the colour of their most intimate parts.

" You don't seem to have much interest in the little brown eskimos," he said one day in January when we we were having a particularly cold spell.

" Little brown what?" I asked, putting down my third or fourth Carlsberg on the little bar table before me. It was early lunchtime in the Red Dragon in Central and the fat barmaids were arranging cutlery on every available plot.

" Eskimos. You must have seen the maids around town at the moment with their little red noses. Hardly any of the employers think of buying them coats."

" They seem to get a good deal on the whole. I wish I could save most of my salary every month like they do."

" You could if you didn't spend so much on totty. The local girls are so expensive."

" Anyhow, I've told you. I'm not really into brown skins. It's nothing racist or anything. I don't think they're stupid or dirty. I just don't like to touch them."

" How do you know?"

" I think we can generalise about these things if about nothing else."

Larry snorted a little and passed me a small photograph. It showed two very brown girls smiling into a photo booth camera.

" What about those two then? A wonderful sandwich they make."

" With you as the filling? I doubt it."

" They adore me. Love my body, surprisingly. I spent the time between the ages of twenty to forty trying to look young and fit in Hong Kong. What a struggle: fitness clubs, diets, weight training, tailors. I even considered a hair implant before I saw the light and kicked out the wife. Then I discovered Filipinas. They love you fat and wrinkly. I can't quite work out whether I remind them of their fathers or whether it's that I'm just kind of safe-looking?"

" Safe?"

" Yeh. The girls like a guy who won't cheat on them and beat them up. They're a country of wife beaters, the Filipinos you know."

" Marcos didn't get very far, did he?"

" Health gave way you see. And he was giving away ten stone. Imelda's like a house. Have you ever seen her? I saw her filling her stomach in the Peninsula a while ago. Not a pretty sight. But some of the girls adore her, strangely enough. They love her wealth and her phoney sentimentality. It's all a lot of them want from life: soap operas and Gucci."

Larry had a lot to say about the locals too.

" The comparison with the Sicilians is inevitable. They even look like Sicilians sometimes apart from their five o'clock shadow. Even children and dogs have a five o'clock shadow in Sicily. Look, I'll draw it for you."

Larry drew an office biro from his pocket and scrawled the following words on a beer mat before him:

Gadgets Food The Family/Children

Corruption Gangs Money

Fashion Chauvinism La Bella Donna

They're crazy about gadgets, just like all the Italians. Everything from portable phones to cars. Italians live through their cars. Hongkongers live through their pagers. They're mad about food. Call someone up at meal times and see how crabby they get. And if you meet someone, you'd better make sure it's over a meal. They don't like to miss one. And families. They hate them, of course. They're very selfish mostly, the locals. Me first, you know. But they keep up the facade of the family. They help each other out. They have clan meals together, they turn up on each other's doorsteps at New Year clamouring for red envelopes. They're great family people."

" How was your family?"

" Don't interrupt. I'm in full flow. Where are we? Oh yes, corruption. Corruption's a way of life here. Ever been to a magistrate's court for a morning? That would open your eyes. The really shocking people is not that the people are so evil, it's that they're so anarchic. They just don't accept the rule of law. it's an admirable quality in some respects but ultimately, all Chinese societies are naturally lawless. That's why they have to be so oppressive in Singapore."

" Yes. I've sometimes wondered about why it's necessary to control people's bowel movements and masticatory habits they way they do."

" There you go again. I'm losing track here. Where are we? Right. Gangs. The Sicilians have the mafia. The biggest criminal organisation after that's the triads. The Chinese have a tendency to form factions, gangs, clans, fraternities. All that's going out in the West now. There's very little solidarity in society here. There's only support for people you know. It's not a a case of all men become brothers. It's a case of the only men are brothers."

Larry nodded to a few men with short hair cuts and ferret faces who had just arrived in the bar.

" In the force?" I asked.

" Of course. Anyone can see that. Now then," he said, glancing at his aide-memoire which was becoming slightly smudged with the condensation of his beer glass.

" Money. Money is the local people's religion, just like the Sicilians. The mafia isn't motivated by power or anything as abstract. They all kill for money. Its-a-biz-a-ness. The locals have raised money to the status of a God. Oh, and fashion. They all dress like Italians or try to. Have you ever seen so many clothes hawkers and tailors? And look at the brand names. What have we got left? Chauvinism. Chauvinism is endemic here. All kinds of chauvinism. Hong Kong has the best women, the best food,it's a shopper's paradise etc. etc.. Nothing more chauvinistic than their beauty contests. A lot of that attitude is imported from the Middle Kingdom of course. By way of comparison, try persuading an Italian to take a serious interest in British music or French food. And football. And cars. And art! La Bella Donna. That's where you come in. Beauty and the Beast. That really describes the dynamics between men and women here. the impotent macho and the overdressed virgin whore who is a mamma in the making. That's the local sexual set-up."

I sipped my beer again and thought for a while about what I had just heard.

" It sounds like an awful lot of prejudice to carry around with you," I said.

" It isn't prejudice. It's distilled observation."

" But what are the differences between the locals and the Sicilians. There must be a few."

" Oh, they aren't quite a passionate as the Sicilians, usually. But when they decide to get passionate, you'd better watch out. Don't say diu lai lo motoo often, that's all."

" What does that mean?"

" I f... your mother."

Larry lived in a shoe box flat in a seedy part of Wanchai. When I first stood in his flat, shoulder hard pressed against a wardrobe which met me at the door, I wondered how a man could live in such a cramped cupboard without screaming. It is one thing to calmly sit back and read that Hong Kong has a shortage of living space and quite another to experience it.

"I know what you're thinking. How can I stand it. The fact is that it's quite cosy when you get used to it."

"It looks like a place I turned down as a student. It was a tiny room in someone's flat. I turned it down but I'm sure someone took it in the end."

"Well, let's not stay too long. I just wanted to show you this."

He held out a small framed portrait of a beautiful Chinese woman with a 1960s hairstyle.

"That was my ex-wife when I met her. Now take a look at this."

He produced a photo booth snapshot of a haggard local woman, quite middle-aged and decrepit.

"That's the way she looks now."

In keeping with the cramped nature of the apartments, the elevator of the small tower block felt quite full with the two of us in it descending slowly to the entrance lobby. Close up, Larry had a well-groomed mannish odour about him, something that reminded me of pubs and working class old men. There were an awful lot of men around like Larry and they were all fat and greasy. Maybe Hong Kong did that to you after a while. We crossed Hennessy Road and were soon in the neon jungle of Lockhart Road. Pairs and sometimes larger groups of Filipinas passed along the street eyeing us with satisfaction.

"Do they always look like that?" I asked.

"They do when the fleet's in. No disrespect to the girls. But if you lived all that far away from home and this was your one night of romance in the week, you would be a little eager I think."

Brushing our way past some particularly threatening-looking servicemen with virtually pared hair we descended into the seedy catacombs of the Nautilus disco. The cover charge was very little and girls paid even less. There wasn't a local in the place except for a particularly sullen middle-aged woman behind the bar. She was pouring pints of frothy San Miguel into heavy, worn glasses, palming the money from the counter awash with beer and, in between customers, nibbling at some fish balls kebabs in sauce secreted in a thin plastic bag below where the spirit bottles were suspended.

"It's the greatest show on earth," said Larry indicating the dance floor and the smoky beyond. "What will you have?"

Whilst the drinks were being poured, I looked around. The centre of attention, the dance floor, was populated by pairs of Filipinas of every age and description, from the late middle-aged and comparatively unattractive to quite stunning girls in the brightest of cheap jewellery and the shortest, tightest of dresses. The male contingent was almost uniformly large, brutish and sloppily dressed. Apart from the servicemen, some of whom could be considered quite handsome, there were various kinds of resident expatriate low and not-so-low-life. There was a tall, thin civil servant-looking guy who was giggling self-consciously with a tiny girl in a leather trouser suit; a big burly man with tattoos on his forearms and a kind of Wild Bill Hickok hairstyle; a big fat guy with greased-back grey hair in a hideous brown suit. My eyes focused at last on an ugly looking customer in cheap denims turned up about three inches at the bottoms and a T-Shirt bearing the legend "Pattaya's Made For Lovers." I winced slightly, something Larry did not fail to see.

"C.O.E.," he said with a smile. "What?"

"Clapped out expatriate. Like me. That's why they love the Filipinas. The girls love clapped-out white guys. Maybe they remind them of their fathers, maybe they're just more manageable. If you're a halfway attractive girl and hook a COE, he isn't likely to stray. Who else would have these guys?"

"But aren't the girls just attracted by the prospect of some easy money?"

"No. Most times it's really love. Surprisingly. And that's what makes the girls so irresistible."

Larry was staring at two nice-looking girls at the other side of the room. He smiled at one of them and she smiled back.

"But what do they talk about when they're alone?"

"Yeh. That's the great question. Kind of embarrassing to think about, I suppose. Take my mate Jim Plowden. Got a stack of money from the Government when he retired and took a child bride from the Philippines. She loves him. Gives him a blow job and a San Miguel before she leaves in the evening. Leaves him a meat pie in the microwave for later, puts on her coat and off she goes. Comes back at eleven with a Harry Ramsden takeaway, gives him another San Mig, turns off the telly, pours him into bed. Everybody's happy."

"And where does she go in between?"

"Well, a lot of the time she comes round to see me."

Larry continued to stare at the two girls at the other side of the room. Now I looked closely through the gloom and the cigarette smoke, I thought they looked marginally attractive in a cheap and obvious kind of way.

" How do you fancy those two? Raring to go they are," said Larry, his face all alert like the time I had handed over ten large-denomination banknotes to cover his investigation expenses.

" All right. I could do with a bit of fresh," I said, imitating one of Larry's favourite expressions.

Larry walked over to the girls and went through some kind of spiel I thought looked embarrassing even in the context of the Nautilus disco. I couldn't help noticing that far from standing erect and looking powerful, as men often do when they confront women they're interested in, he distended his stomach and apparently became a few inches smaller.

Larry walked back to me and the girls waddled over to join us. Charitably, Larry had already assigned the pretty one to me. She was a little taller than most of the girls I had seen that evening but that may have been the effect of the five or six-inch stilettos she was balancing in. She was wearing a kind of slightly elongated sling-back T-shirt that had somehow been shrunk severely in the dryer. Its faded black was relieved by a lot of cheap jewellery and make-up that could only be described as borderline war paint. For all that, she was a pretty girl with a beaming smile, big breasts, long legs and a smooth honey-brown skin.

" This is Marcia," Larry said, indicating my girl, "and this is Lucy."

Lucy, a little older and more worn than Marcia, was a glorious pouting sex bomb with all kinds of jutting and shapely bits that Chinese girls just don't have. Being with the girls was like speaking another language. Of course, they also spoke another language.

" Are you in business?" asked Lucy in that indescribable sub-Chicano whine of the Philippines.

" Are you looking for a maid?" asked Marcia almost at the same time.

It was their day off and they were bored. Their employers were nice Chinese families and they had no complaints they wanted to talk about. They came to the Nautilus to meet their friends and cousins.

" Wanna dance?" asked Larry as a formality.

There was absolutely no competition on the dance floor and almost any style was appropriate. I normally dance so minimally, it's hard to know I'm breathing. That afternoon though I launched myself into frenetic action, largely at the behest of the girls. They had a lot of spirit and they wanted to have a good time.

I looked over to Larry. He was doing something like a nineteen fifties rock 'n' roll squirm with a lot of bobbing of the body and waving of the arms. Lucy seemed to be impressed for her arms had now clamped themselves to his side and she was bobbing with him, displaying a lot of black panty as she was doing so. Marcia was just as restrained as myself but the moment I reached out to touch her, her hands found mine. Her hands were a lot older than the rest of her but with beautifully kept nails. I grated myself against one of her cheap rings and looked to see whether i had cut myself.

" I'm sorry, darling," she said and edged closer to me, her hands slowly gripping my waist.

" Quick Quaker dance," Larry whispered to me breathlessly.

" What's that?" " Once around the dance floor and outside for your oats."

We eventually found ourselves stumbling up the smelly staircase leading out of the Nautilus disco, brushing shoulders with mountainous beasts of sailors as we ascended. I could see Larry's slavering tongue at work with Lucy in the back of the taxi we took to his place. Lucy appeared to be attempting to swallow it or at any rate uproot it. Marcia, on the other hand, in the front seat, was eyeing me in the driver's mirror with the intensity of a gannet chasing a herring. I think that look was more erotic than what Larry and Lucy were doing.

I still don't know how four of us fitted into the mini-lift up to Larry's flatlet. At any rate, the watchman must have been glued to the closed circuit TV monitor all the way as he his mouth had dropped open when we entered the lobby.

" We'll go first," said Larry, opening the numerous locks of the flat with electric speed.

Marcia threw herself against me even before the door closed again. This time, her hands found my groin as surely as a car driver reaching for the gear lever. She wasn't as delicate as the Chinese girls and when she went down on me, there was an urgency I hadn't quite experienced before. I didn't quite like her oral style so I dragged her off her knees and began to touch her instead.

Marcia was so moist it didn't seem natural. Her juices had seeped through her panties, through her panty hose and enveloped an area appreciably beyond her groin. Like Madame Bovary before Rodolphe, she was a fish thrown onto a fishmonger's slab, gasping and helpless. In the face of such tropical passion, however, my English side came to the fore and I found myself at first behaving like an upper-class schoolboy chasing a debutante. But all that changed under the heat of Marcia's passionate persuasion Marcia squirmed and giggled, rolling her eyes as I explored her wonderfully large and supple breasts with my tongue. The breasts were often a disappointment with local girls but it was not to be with Marcia. They were definitely, lusciously all hers.

Behind the door, we could hear a variety of sounds we tried hard to interpret: a momentary tearing of silk, a gentle thump as a limb knocked itself against some furniture, the rustle of someone urgently seeking a condom, the rhythmic pounding of flabby Englishman against Philippines beauty. Both Marcia and I threw decorum to the winds and glued our ears to the door, all the while engaging in petting so heavy as to be simply mutual rape with our clothes on.

After some ten minutes, we heard the trickle of a shower and several relieved giggles. At last, after another few minutes, Larry and Lucy emerged, he looking scrubbed, pink and shiny and she looking radiantly flushed under her brown skin like a dancer coming off stage after an encore.

" Finished, are you?" I asked.

" Be my guest," said Larry, producing a greasy Brylcreemed comb from his back pocket and dragging it carefully through the thicker parts of what remained of his hair.

I wasn't quite prepared for what happened when we closed the door.

Marcia stripped to her panties, a delightfully skimpy crocheted job from Guy Laroche as I recall. She looked absolutely wonderful, a kind of dream girl you are supposed to meet on beaches all over the exotic East. She had a slender waist and her legs were suddenly a lot shorter without her shoes. But I think it was her long flowing hair that got me, that and her eyes which were deep-set and terribly fervent.

" Good afternoon, sir," she said ironically, smoothing down the bed for us both with a broad suggestive grin. " Your bed is ready, sir."

I was just about to join her on the soiled and dusty top sheet when she knelt down at the side of the bed and started to pray. She then crossed herself. After rummaging in her handbag for a moment, she produced a small holy picture of one of the minor saints. Underneath the gold-framed image was one word printed in block capitals: FORGIVENESS. Marcia took the picture and propped it up against the window ledge. She then deposited her crucifix necklace next to it, turned towards me and began once more to stimulate my nether regions in an eager and aggressive manner I had seldom experienced before.

My mind however wasn't on the matter at hand. The picture threw me completely. I think I felt as terrified and disturbed as I did when I once addressed a women's institute meeting in England on the ins and outs of legal aid. For some reason, a nun was in the audience. She sat there throughout the talk, nodding occasionally, all the while beaming beatifically in infinite wisdom and goodness. I have never felt so intimidated.

As Marcia and I reached the culmination of our love making, I once more looked towards the window ledge where the saint in the holy picture looked down on me in terrifying and all-knowing disapproval.


The Cafe Cherubini is a restaurant at the top of one of the newer Central buildings and is very round and pink. It's ceiling is a big circular dome somewhat reminiscent of a small planetarium. At any moment, you think the lights are going to be dimmed and the Plough is going to be flashed above you in little silver dots.

The Cafe Cherubini is where the Royce boutique people meet, the people who have designer everything and who never perspire on weekdays. At the weekend, the Royce men are on their yachts or at the racecourse. The Royce women are deserted by their husbands and spend a lot of time alone in the stuffy en suite bathroom waiting for the Japanese whitening face mask to dry. The Royce girls are sitting terrified in the boyfriend's loud Porsche trying to keep their hair curled but natural. The Royce young guys are falling asleep at the girlfriend's - or boyfriend's' - place after a miserable sexual performance with inadequate equipment. So, under such circumstances, it doesn't matter too much if they all perspire a little now and then.

The Cafe Cherubini is where local people go to play a game called Western Style. This is a game for those who want to appear sophisticated but miss good fatty food like they get at home. The key elements in the food are mayonnaise and seafood. The main features of the decor are plush and floral carpets. The salient characteristics of the clientele are overuse of portable telephones and the possession of artificially pale skins.

You can reach the Cafe Cherubini by a spiral staircase but most people prefer the lift which looks like a large glass syringe. When you arrive, you have for once in Hong Kong a profound feeling of space until, that is, the waitress ushers you to a table next to some of the typical clientele who are usually surrounded by a pile of shopping bags you have to jump over in order to take your seat.

You peruse the menu and try and find something without mayonnaise or seafood. As we all know, Hong Kong Italian food is all about these elements and thus, for the Cafe Cherubini, the ultimate Italian meal is tuna mayonnaise pizza with shredded crab.

Why do people subject themselves to this phoney cuisine? Italian food is eaten in an attempt to be chic. It sort of matches the swanky handbags and shoes of Hong Kong's nouveau-riche culture. We all know it isn't healthy like pot noodles but one has to act according to one's wealth. That is what being in Hong Kong is all about. There is no point being an understatement. Understatements just don't exist in Hong Kong. If you're poor, you'd better look poor. If you're rich, go to the Cafe Cherubini with your ex-model wife or mistress and live it up a little.

So, I thought I had located something on the menu without mayonnaise or seafood but I was wrong. My tuna salad (no dressing please!) had piped mayonnaise on the top and a few complimentary prawns pointing their arses at me on the corner of the plate together with those lifeless garnishing shreds of lettuce and tomato which are now apparently pre-grafted onto restaurant plates by hydroculturists.

It had been a long week and I was seriously wondering whether I should take the Cayman Island retirement plan ahead of schedule. Apart from the clients, there were also the girls to annoy me. I may have given the impression in these brief memoirs that I only knew a small number of women in Hong Kong or that only a few of a larger number caused me annoyance. In actual fact, the individual cases I focus on and highlight are simply ones which appear to be typical or which are memorable for some reason. In reality, my affairs with local women overlapped to a considerable extent, so much so that at any one time I may have had three, five, even six on the go at once, in various tortuous states of intimacy, fumbling, uncertainty, boredom, frustration or - only rarely - blissful glow.

I think I was looking through a few of the most recent girls' business cards with a view to calling one of them when my attention was aroused by the sudden appearance of a pretty girl sitting diagonally opposite me at my table. Cherubini's was a little full that Friday lunchtime and the two free seats opposite were the last possibility for late arrivals. I was surprised that the girl would accept such forced proximity to a gwailo such as myself. Some of my friends have pointed out that the seat next to them on the underground or the tram is the last to be taken. For myself, I haven't noticed any particular hostility in this respect.

" Pleased you could join us," I said cheerfully.

" You don't mind? No one joining you?" the girl asked nervously.

She was the type of Chinese girl I have seen in a lot of fashion ads: tall, large-eyed, slim, full-lipped, small-breasted, pale-skinned and with long wavy hair that looked as natural as I have ever seen in Hong Kong. She was wearing a pink outfit far too dressy for the day and those hideous new fashionable shoes with ankle straps. Her features were so Western that I thought for a while she might be Eurasian.

" No one. I'm eating alone."

She pored over the menu for a while before she asked.

" You're Australian, right?"

" No. British, actually. Why do you think I'm Australian?"

" It's your skin and your hair. It's very golden."

And she giggles a little. She has a stunning smile but yet there's also something I don't like about it.

I think for a moment about what she's just said. I've never understood how Chinese people can draw a difference between Americans, Australians and the British just by their hair colour and skin tone but it had frequently happened that I was said to be Australian or American for those reasons alone. It was another aspect of local people's ingrained racial stereotyping but I didn't want to pursue it just then. When China joins the rest of humanity and starts giving passports to people who don't have Asian faces, I'll be the first to apply for one though - just so I can tell everyone in Hong Kong that I'm a full-fledged Chinese.

" Where are you from?" I asked, warming to her despite my rotten mood.

" Hong Kong. I'm a Hong Kong girl."

Her accent had traces of North America.

" But you've lived in the States."

" Study there. But not in the States, actually. In Canada."

" On vacation?" I asked, picking at the non-mayonnaised tuna on the plate before me.

" Yes. And I'm looking for a job."

I had the feeling for a moment this was why she was talking to me. I looked very corporate that lunchtime.

" You need to save for your studies?"

" No. Not really. I just need something to kill the boredom. Meet a few more people. All my friends are in Canada now."

" What are you studying?"

" Business management."

" But you look too pretty to be business. I thought you were a model."

That was my entree. She really wanted to be a model.

There are all kinds of ways to get into girls' knickers. The most effective method in the short term is to make them laugh, then convince them you're important. In the long term, the best way is to find out what their ideal self is and then to treat them as if they were that way already. Hong Kong girls are very ambitious so you can nearly always flatter their aspirations.

I gave her my card and asked her to call. She was nice enough to give me her own card, one of those automatically-made jobs with her name and a pager number. Girls who give me pager numbers always worry me for some reason so I was pleased when she wrote her portable number on the back. I don't know why she need both a pager and a portable phone but I didn't ask. Her name was Candy Hohe and she was around twenty-two. We went down in the syringe lift together and, from the way she devoured my face, I had the vivid impression that I had struck a lot of oil.

The curious spelling of Candy's surname reminded me of something but I didn't know what. I asked Dorothy about the name in the office and she told me what I half knew already. The Hohe family was the biggest pork dealer in Asia. The Hohe pork farms extend from Shanghai, all along the coast to Guangdong and then off into Thailand, the Phillipines, Burma, Australia and Papua New Guinea. I looked the company up in the Hong Kong businesss gazette so I know for certain the Hohe family had fourteen million hogs under their control in 1992. The reason I knew the name is that a friend of mine had presided over a very curious breach of contract case some time ago. Old Dennis Hohe wanted to import an antique terracotta hog from China and the Chinese Government had welched on the deal at the last moment. He got the hog in the end but it was a pretty poor fake. He didn't sue further because the Chinese were thinking of making collective farms out of the Hohe holdings in China if they got any more trouble. They couldn't understand why he got so worked up over a stupid antique. Neither, at first, could I. In the end however, I was to learn a great deal about Dennis Hohe's interests and obsessions. His love of antiques wasn't the strangest. Not at all.

It's not often that pretty young girls in Hong Kong take the initative so I was a litle surprised when Candy called me up a few days later to ask me out to lunch.

" Lovely, as long as it isn't Cherubini's," I pleaded in mock seriousness.

We met in the Hilton coffee shop, an island of sanity in Central's tasteless bustle. She had been to a Hollyowood Road antique shop to buy a present for Daddy. On the table before her was a small cardboard receptical, hardly bigger than a ring box.

" What did you get?" I asked as a welcome Carlsberg arrived and was placed before me.

Candy slowly took the lid off the box. Lying in cotoon wool inside was a small glass or jade figure of a pig. It was a greenish blue with vivid streaks of pink running through it. I thought it was one of the most hideous and tasteless things I had ever seen.

" Daddy will love it," Candy said enthusiastically.

I politely nodded and perused the menu. The restaurant had an optional mayonnaise policy so there were lots of things to choose from. I finally settled on some smoked duck breast and a glass of champagne whilst Candy had a large fruit salad. Like most local girls, she only drank alcohol if you forced it down her.

Whilst we were eating, Candy talked a lot about modelling and how difficult it was for someone of her height to get work. She was tall but she wasn't enormous. The Hong Kong shows were using girls from northern China so local girls found it very difficult to get jobs. The best you could hope for was small-scale work but in Europe and the States it was quite different. You could nearly always get a job because they liked to have attractive Asians working on the catwalks nowadays. They didn't mind if you were a few inches shorter than the local girls.

" So I want to go to Paris. Daddy won't hear of it. He wants me to become a lawyer."

At that moment, Candy's pager rang and she excused herself to go to the lobby telephone. She didn't want to use a portable phone for some reason.

" Anything urgent?" I asked impolitely when she returned.

" Oh. Nothing at all. Someone trying to sell me property. I didn't want to bore you with all that."

" I don't think you would ever bore me, Candy. You're too mysterious and attractive for that to happen."

Candy smiled politely for a moment.

" You're a lawyer, right?" she asked.

" Yes. A barrister really."

" Oh yes. You could help me. You could help me a lot."

" How do you mean?"

" I'll tell you later. I've got to rush. Job interview," she said and gulped down her orange juice. " Can you pay? I'll invite you next time."

And she was gone. For some reason, I paid up at once and decided to follow her. Perhaps she had a secret lover or something just as ordinary. I usually don't care that much about such things. But this time, I had to know more about the girl in pink with the pager and the portable telephone.

I could see her crossing the road in front of the Shanghai Bank, dodging the kerb-crawling hordes who were hunting for a taxi. I nearly fell under one of the red man-killing taxi cabs as I tried to keep Candy in view. I nearly lost her in the crowd of maids at Statue Square but she surfaced again just in the front of the underground exit near the Hong Kong Club. She was clearly in quite a hurry. As she approached the Futura hotel, she pulled out her portable phone and called one of the pre-programmed numbers which require only two or three taps of the dialling keys.

Once in the lobby, she entered a lift and was quickly surrounded by a group of bloated-looking German tourists who had obviously just emerged from a good lunch. They snorted and joked as if they were on a bus trip. They shuffled into the first lift, forming a nice screen to shield me from Candy's view. Candy, quite rightly I think, didn't join them but waited for the second elevator carriage. She was the only person still waiting in the lobby and entered alone. After the lift closed, I looked up at the electronic indicator above the doorway. The lift did not halt for the first time until the twelfth floor.

You have to think the best of people even if, in Hong Kong especially, it is nearly always inadvisable to do so. I walked up to the desk and inquired whether there were any recruitment interviews taking place that day. There weren't any. And was there someone connected with modelling or fashion on the twelfth floor? I had to know, I pleaded - an important client... I handed the girl my card as a sign of good faith. No, there was no one of that kind on the twelfth floor. The whole floor was taken up by a business delegation from Kobe.

Candy invited me up to her father's place in Repulse Bay one Saturday afternoon. That particular Hohe mansion - I hear they have another two in other parts of Hong Kong - is a three-storey job on a hillside with a big garden and a swimming pool hardly anyone uses because none of the Hohes can swim. Mrs Hohe departed years ago with a large cheque and left old Frankie with Candy and her younger sister Strawberry. As I enter the large oak doorway, two Dalmatian dogs run towards me for a sniff. Dalmatian dogs are difficult to take seriously so I'm not too concerned.

" Heel, Horatio. Heel, Nelson," shouts a tall young girl in a teddy bear design woollen sweater seated by the large bay window. She stands up to greet me and I can see she's wearing one of those infra-red stereo headphones. They make her look slightly extra-terrestrial. I can now understand why she's wearing the sweater even on a hot July day. The air conditioning inside is fierce.

" I'm Strawberry," the girl says, without removing her headphones. " I'm surprised the dogs didn't bite you."

" Clever dogs never bite lawyers," I reply.

" Why not?" the girl asks, fiddling with some control console in her hand.

" Well, it could be the last time they bite anyone. Lawyers don't forgive, you know."

" How awful," said Strawberry, removing her headphones and straightening her hair in one of the big gilt mirrors behind me. She speaks English clearly and well, like a Roedean girl. After concentrating on her too-short page-boy haircut for a while, Strawberry smiles broadly for a moment like she's just seen an old friend. Then, just as suddenly, her face becomes unaccountably sullen and she returns to her place at the bay window with Horatio and Nelson. There she takes up a glossy magazine and puts on her headphones again.

" Come and meet Daddy," says Candy, taking my hand and pulling me slightly up a broad pink marble staircase. The walls of the staircase, like every other wall in the mansion I have seen thus far, is lined with all manner of pictorial art and shelves of knickknacks: Buddhas, small wooden carved things, masks, plates, figurines, coins, cutlery, musical instruments and larger abstract sculptures which could be Henry Moores for all I know.

The large room into which I am now led is so splendid, it could be Liberace's home in heaven. The overall impression is salmon pink and champagne beige. The carpet border is in the former and runs round pillars and under a sea of sofas and armchairs to my right. The centre of the carpet is in a creamy beige and bears a collection of tables: modelled driftwood with a glass top, heavy black marble with beautiful grains running through it, a very abstract looking piece in black enamel. The ceiling is a complicated set of huge tiered platforms which diffuse the light emanating from what must be an incandescent blaze of halogen bulbs above. Against the walls are countless unframed canvases, huge chests of enamel and engraved wood and on the walls themselves, brightly lit by pinpoint laser-like beams of light pencilling from the ceiling, hang huge colourful oil paintings in heavy dull gold frames. The oddest feature of the room though is, in one corner, a collection of bamboo and metal bird cages.

" Mr Trelford," says a voice from behind a screen to my left. The screen slides open and a small, neat man in a dark suit and floral tie bounces towards me, his right arm extended in greeting like a zealous Turkish brothel keeper.

" Frankie Hohe. Please to meet you." His voice has a great deal of resonance, rare in local men.

" Candy has told me a great deal about you," says Mr Hohe, ushering me towards a sofa. Drinks are brought in by a very old Chinese lady. She pours my Carlsberg silently in front of me whilst Mr Hohe helps himself to some snacks arranged in little wooden bowls: pretzels, dried peas, salted cashews and what I instantly recognise as flossed pork.

" Mr Trelford is a barrister, Daddy. From Cambridge."

Mr Hohe fixes me for a moment with a penetrating stare only slightly removed from mania. " I must say, you are one of the only handsome lawyers I have met. I hate lawyers. I have hated them all my life. That is why I wish my daughter to become one. To protect me in my old age."

Candy has moved over to her father's couch and begins to snuggle up to him like a girl of five or six. Mr Hohe's arm falls over her shoulder with a familiar carelessness. As his arm falls, it brushes slightly against his daughter's right breast.

" Why do you hate lawyers?" I ask mischievously. "We're such nice people really. Underneath it all."

Mr Hohe laughs, slightly at first then booming, his belly rising and falling in small tense spasms as he takes in the joke.

" You are funny. My daughter has already told me you are funny. What sort of work do you deal in, Mr Trelford?"

I run over some recent cases without giving away much. Despite the fact that I am only able to give the bare bones of the cases, Mr Hohe is savagely amused by it all and laughed impishly throughout. Whilst I regale her father, Candy is growing visibly impatient, as if she has something ardently important to say. Finally, she uses a short lull in the conversation to say:

" Daddy. Nigel says there's no point doing law before you're twenty-five. He says you should do something else before then. Anything at all really. It doesn't have to be a degree."

So, I think. This is the "help" she needs. I'm just thinking up something supportive to say, something that is that wouldn't land me in the soup too much if she decides never to go to law school, when Candy's pager rings.

" That thing. Next to lawyers, I hate beepers," says Mr Hohe, his face reddening a little with the white wine he's pouring down himself in huge volumes. " They are so common. For tradesmen and such like. Don't you think so, Mr Trelford?"

Candy excuses herself and ascends the pink staircase. Again, she looks businesslike, brisk almost, just as she had left the hotel that lunch time to go to the Futura.

" You could have used the one in here, darling..." called Mr Hohe as his daughter hurried upstairs. He rises, looks after her for a while and then strides to the window overlooking the bay. It's a beautiful afternoon and Repulse Bay could be the Riviera with all of its glamour and splendour.

" I like to live here, you know Mr Trelford," Mr Hohe begins with his back to me, looking at me occasionally in a reflection of the tinted window glass. "I have another place in Old Peak Road but although the view there is very... interesting, you cannot beat Repulse Bay for variety. I love variety. Variety in many things. In where I live, what I eat, what things I have around me. I cannot stay in one place or - to be frank - even with one woman for very long. I must have variety."

He chuckled again for a moment, then his mood changed with an uneasy kind of rapidity. Suddenly, he turned round, looking serious and businesslike for the first time that afternoon.

" Candy is a girl", he began, fixing me with an earnest expression, his brow suddenly creasing into deep regular furrows. " She has ideas of becoming a model because she is pretty. I do hope you can dissuade her. If she really wishes to be a model, I cannot of course prevent her. But..." he says with a look of real feeling, large tears growing in his eyes, " I appeal to you, to someone who knows the vagaries of life, I appeal to you not to... be too supportive of her childish wishes. I appeal to you as a father."

Old Frankie Hohe is now on the verge of tears. At last, one tear actually does come, in his right eye, and he takes out a floral handkerchief from his jacket pocket to wipe it away. I don't quite know where to look or what to think. I gaze at the table before me, my eyes taking some time to focus. On the table, there's one of those complicated telephones with a row of flashing buttons to indicate which lines are being used. Line two is engaged. I don't know why and I don't know how but suddenly I have an idea.

The little red light indicating the engaged line goes out.

" I wonder if I could make a call?" I ask.

" Go ahead. We have ten lines. God knows why."

I press line two and then the redial button. Luckily the system is not as confidential as all that.

" Angel Escort. Can I help you?" asks a sensuous Filipino voice in my ear. I replace the receiver and hear Candy's steps on the staircase above me.

" Engaged. Well, if you don't mind..." and I get up to go, inventing some social engagement I've suddenly remembered. Candy is more than relieved that I'm leaving so early. She smiles the first genuine smile of the day. We bid a warm farewell to Mr Hohe and to Strawberry. The latter runs to the car with one of the dalmatians by her side and kisses her sister fondly on the cheek before she steps into the car and takes the wheel. Then she stands there for a long time, not really looking at the car, not really looking at anything. Then she begins to wave - a funny, uncoordinated and loose-wristed movement of the lower arm, hardly a wave at all.

" Strange girl. If you don't mind me saying so. Is she, you know, all right?" I ask as the Volvo drives us towards Aberdeen.

" Strawberry? She hasn't had an easy life. She was very attached to mother. She couldn't take it when she left. How did you like the house?"

" Intriguing. You're very comfortable. And your father loves you. You're a very lucky girl."

Candy smiles politely. I'm not in the mood for chit-chat so I go right on to where I want the conversation to go.

" So I can't understand why you're a callgirl in your spare time."

Candy's face freezes for a moment. She's looking for something to say but in the end, all she can think of is the truth.

" How did you know?"

" The pager, the Futura, the Angel Escort Agency. It isn't very difficult to find out these things. You're very careless."

" You won't tell anyone. I mean, you won't tell Daddy?" she asks with something like desperation in her voice.

" Not if you don't want me to. Anyhow, it's none of my business. I don't know you very well and this is the end of the line anyhow. I think you're a very sick girl. And a very silly one."

We drive for a while into the Aberdeen tunnel, following a stream of taxis bearing exhausted families from Ocean Park.

" Why do you do it?" I ask at last, " I mean, your father will give you everything in time. He's just concerned about you, that's all. You can't need the money. Not really."

" I thought I did in the beginning." And she begins to smile oddly, almost nostalgically. Then she goes on, quite clearly and distinctly, in a voice edged with a directness - a warmth even - I had as then not heard from her.

" After the first two or three times I got to like it. You get a message and you know someone out there wants you absolutely unconditionally. They don't want to know what you can do, what your character is, what your views are on this or that. They just want your body for an hour. Don't you think that's romantic? The definition of pure love?"

" If you like. If it satisfies you. But I can't imagine it can for very long. Don't you feel a little disgusted by your clients sometimes?"

She glances at me briefly as a crossing approaches and she hits the brake pedal quickly and smoothly. " I wouldn't say so. I wouldn't say so at all. Not all of the men are unattractive. Most of them are quite attractive actually. Does that surprise you?"

" It does a little. I wouldn't have thought you would meet attractive men in your line. I wouldn't have thought attractive guys needed your service at all."

She smiles again, this time like Strawberry did as she greeted me: a brief intense grimace then nothing. Mr Hohe had the same smile. Perhaps it runs in the family.

" No," she says after a moment and her eyes are coy and dreamy like she's telling some cute piece of gossip." I meet a lot of attractive men. An awful lot. More men than I can now remember. And they all have something. They're very kind men, men you can trust. I don't fell dirty when I'm with them. I feel almost as if I could do nothing else. And they're perfect gentlemen. Very... understanding. You can't help liking them."

And then she turns towards me, just as the lights are changing to green.

" You see," she goes on, exultant now, her eyes sparkling with a kind of shoolgirlish candour, " so many of them look just like Daddy."


I had to turn the tape in the machine I'm dictating this into and my mind was brought back to Nitaya. The tape machine is one of those nifty jobs from Sony, about as big as a matchbox and looking as if it was designed for the Mission Impossible programme. I'm always thinking it's going to self-destruct after I play back a section.

Dorothy gave it to me one day for no particular reason at all. She was nice that way. Many of my girlfriends gave me presents which - in my inimitable style - I passed on to relatives, other girlfriends and to Sam. Others went into the bottom drawer of my desk together with other items I couldn't destroy but didn't know what to do with. Dorothy was very glad when she saw me use it the first time. She used to complain about the old dictaphone because its speed was erratic, making me sound like a 45 played at 33 or 78 ( of course, I realise that comparison ages me). I carried it in my breast pocket and dictated letters whilst I was waiting for trams and taxis. Dorothy hated that. She said there was too much background noise. I couldn't use it for work with clients very well but it certainly put the fear of God into a few policemen. I wish I'd had it on me when I met Cowper-Gee and his sidekick Mr Jones. But I'm jumping ahead in the story a little. Suffice to say that all in all, it was and is a very useful gadget and it has helped me in a number of ways. For one thing, it helped me to get to know Nitaya better.

Nitaya was a Dragon Pacific flight attendant who would jet into town about every two weeks for an orgy of shopping and me. She was Thai and a real beauty, which you could only see when she smiled. When she smiled it was like looking at a three-dimensional Pacific pin-up. When she didn't smile she looked dumpy and round-faced. Of all the girls I knew, she was a case of beauty shining from within.

A few days before her schedule brought her to Hong Kong, I would get a call on a crackling line, usually from Bangkok. She always wanted to come round to my flat but I preferred to come to her hotel. There was something wonderful about that. From the hotel, always the same one, she would telephone and tell me her room number. Every time, I walked down the same kind of corridor into the same kind of room. It was seamless and delicious. I walked in, we did it, we ate dinner. An uncomplicated fantasy come true.

There really is something about Thai girls. Nitaya's mouth was a vacuum cleaner which clamped onto my mouth, my neck, my breast and my nether regions. I wasn't so interested in kissing, even the kind of kissing Nitaya wanted. It seemed hazardous and unhygienic in a way. I always had a sore throat afterwards. In another way, all that licking of my neck, chest and stomach became a little distasteful, reminding me of a romp with a cocker spaniel, so I always suggested we did something else. Nitaya was more than willing.

Nitaya had a moral imperative burning within her. Whereas with some of the local girls, that moral imperative was "get something out of all this", the message ringing in Nitaya's ears was "satisfy him." There was a lot of nonsense talked by people like Larry Snowdon about Thais worshipping the phallus. Perhaps some of that had rubbed off on Nitaya. I was usually exhausted after half an hour. She always gave the impression she hadn't had sex for at least two years. Then, just as I was contemplating a rest, the moaning would begin.

After a few preliminary sharp shrieks, Nitaya began to emit a low, resonant groan from somewhere deep within her. Slowly, it grew in volume and was accompanied by a succession of gasps and an odd wheezing sound. The first time it happened, I was seriously worried. Later, I looked forward to the beginning of that moan because I knew I would soon be able to have a rest.

When Nitaya climaxed, she would begin to whimper like a child who had been not only been denied his ice cream but had also lost his hamsters to the vivisectionists. It was a very curious performance and I began to envy women even though I could never understand them.

After sex, there was the massage. I never asked for massage but, from the infinite bounty of Thais and Thailand, I always received it. Nitaya would lie with her head on my chest listening to my heart as she slowly manipulated the muscles of my shoulder and underarm. She liked to follow the massage with another sex session and I usually managed to respond. For some reason, she appeared to be even more energetic the second time.

When I was lying face down, with Nitaya doing magical things to my buttocks, it was difficult to talk. When I turned about and had Nitaya straddle me, all the while massaging my chest or my temples, we got talking. I can't remember what we talked about exactly half the time. Perhaps we talked about the people who took Dragon Pacific. (I always take Swissair, of course. You meet a better class of people, apart from the Swiss that is). Nitaya, like a great many air hostesses, had been taught to say "Would you carefor coffee?" but otherwise her linguistic competence was not very great. She also - thankfully only sometimes - had that air hostess manner of knowing what to say but never really being there in the room with you. I'm not sure why flight attendants have that way of dealing with people even in intimate circumstances. Perhaps it is something to do with all that altitude the girls have to endure. It might muddle their minds, if they aren't muddled when they begin. Most likely it is the training which induces that kind of alienating pseudo-charm. Nitaya only had traces of all that, thank goodness. It was usually possible to have a decent conversation, even if the subjects we could cheerfully embrace to our mutual advantage were sometimes limited. Perhaps that's why such a lot of what we said escapes me now. Hours of trivia, lovers' trivia, that seemed so important at the time.

Yet I always remember the time I asked Nitaya to talk Thai to me.

" What can I say?" She was incredulous. " You don't understand Thai."

" It doesn't matter. Just talk Thai to me. I like to hear it."

" If you want," she said, locating a knotted lump somewhere in my upper temple. " What do you want to hear?"

She giggled. She didn't often giggle.

" Oh, anything at all. Your early life, your dreams, your favourite recipes, your family, your pets, your... day."

This also surprised her. She began to recite a few Thai phrases with English equivalents - phrases like "hello" and "how are you".

" No no," I said. " Just tell me something, anything at all."

She carried on with the language lesson so I gave it up as a bad job.

" Why won't you talk Thai to me? " I asked her later that evening as I was dipping some prawn cake into some gooey plum sauce at a Thai restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui.

" You don't understand Thai. It is a very difficult language."

" But I like the sound. I don't have to understand it.

" If you don't understand it, how can you listen?" Nitaya said with a full show of her brilliant teeth.

" But you don't understand everything I say in English," I went on.

" Yes, my English is very poor."

" No, it's actually very good."

Nitaya smiled again. I could see I was getting nowhere. I had learnt in my dealings with the Chinese that there's no point arguing with pretty women in Asia. They either wanted you or they didn't; they either saw your point or they didn't; they either called you or ignored you altogether. For some reason though, I couldn't let things go at that.

" You know, darling, " I said, feeling another Thai beer bite the back of my throat, " it isn't easy being English and having the whole world speak your language. We miss out on quite a lot not being motivated to learn anyone else's language. The other thing is that a lot of foreigners think English is like a computer language. They think it has no soul." She couldn't see what I was driving at. I went on nevertheless.

" If I could hear you talk Thai to me, I wouldn't feel so lonely."

She giggled again before she said:

" I think you are never lonely. You know too many girls."

Of course, I was inventing problems again. It really wasn't so important that the English you heard in everyday life was like everything but what your own mind was thinking. It didn't matter that the locals chopped of bits off the language because they appeared superfluous and assiduously simplified the tenses. Business and love went on in their own way, under their own steam. And who could object to the odd sentence you could not decipher from Nitaya's lips?

If I felt out of things and irritated by the English around me, it was all my own fault anyway. I never even bothered to learn more than a few joke words of Cantonese all the time I lived in Hong Kong. I didn't like the phonemes. Most of it sounded caveman and the writing system seemed an idiotic idea run wild. Other Asian languages seemed a lot more attractive in comparison. At one time I actually considered learning Japanese. It had nice words like Ohayo and Konbanwa. Tagalog on the other hand suggested the vinegar and pig's knuckle of Philippines food, food which always made me vomit. Bahasa Malaysia was a mouthful and reminded me too much of time spent with nice boring families on boring beaches at boring resorts looking for expensive beers and non-existent cheap women. Thai, though, was distinctly melodious with an earthy kick to it. It was certainly the language to listen to when you were having a massage.

A week or two later, I was with Larry quaffing a large one after we had got a Legislative Councillor off a charge of overspending on his election expenses. He was more effusive than usual and I knew what that meant.

" What's her name?" I asked. " There must be someone new for you to be in the mood you're in."

" There is someone new, as a matter of fact. Defensor, her name is. Arse like an orang-utan. I think you'd like her."

" Only if she leaves her crucifix at home."

" Anyhow, what gives? You don't look as if you've just got someone off. You look as if you've just sent someone to the gallows."

" Just woman trouble, that's all. Kind of baffled."

" Baffled? " " Yes. I just wonder what they really think about us really, all those Asian women."

" Speaking for myself, they worship the ground I walk on."

" How do you know?"

" Stands to reason. I give them all they want from life."

" Oh my God. Larry Snowdon, Philippines Mr Right. No wonder the country's in a bad way."

" The Philippines has always been exploited. I'm just the new batch. At least I don't let them starve."

" That's only because you don't like to eat alone. No, " I said staring out onto the hot Wanchai street outside where the traffic had once more come to a halt," I was just wondering what it would be like to know what they really think about us. I wish I knew Thai at the moment."

" Thai? Well, I'm surprised you have time to say anything if you're going with a Thai. Wear you out they do."

It was then that I had the idea.

" Do you know anyone who could translate Thai?" I asked casually.

" Yeh, sure. What's up, written you a love letter or something, has she?"

" No. It's just something I'm considering doing that's all. Getting her to talk, tell me what she really thinks of us all."

" Well, whatever you get, I can get it translated." And he looked up for a moment from his steak pie and chips: "For a price."

Nitaya called me a week or two later. It was the usual routine, A few days rest and recuperation before she headed for Europe. She wanted to see the new Dracula film and finally do something with me instead of lying in bed or eating. It was starting, that phase in a relationship when the woman takes stock and tries to get you into harness. No matter how much they enjoyed the sex and the adventure, sooner or later they all wanted to rope you in.

On my way to Nitaya's hotel, crammed inside the MTR's 6.30 sardine express to Tsim Sha Tsui, I was thinking about acoustics and microphone sensitivity instead of legs and faces. My little tape machine was in the breast pocket of my T-shirt, a small bulge that could have been a lighter or a crumpled receipt. The main problem, as far as I could see, was to ensure that the little red "on" light remained covered whilst I was taping. The microphone could be covered by quite a few layers of clothing and still give an audible recording. But if Nitaya were to see a red light flashing, it would ruin everything.

" Nigel," she said at the doorway, wearing a kind of skimpy lace bodice with convenient crotch fastenings, " welcome aboard."

I often thought Nitaya didn't have anyone else - to judge by her avidity - but how she survived on one guy a month was hard to fathom and for much the same reason. To carry all that tension around with you all month was liable to give you a politician's blood pressure. There had to be another guy or two somewhere.

" So how was your Hong Kong guy?" I asked afterwards. "Up to the usual standard."

" You are my only guy, Nigel. I'm not stupid."

I snapped the tape machine into action when she was showering.

" What are we going to do tonight?" she asked, pulling on her panties, glowing with a deep pinkish flush all over her perfect honey-toned body.

" Well, for a start you can talk Thai to me."

" Oh, that again. OK, ten minutes then you take me to see Dracula. Is that a deal?"

" It will do for a start. And I would also care for a massage."

As she massaged my breasts, my shoulders, my thighs, my calves Nitaya spoke Thai to me. Long and involved it sounded, slightly cheeky and always deeply sensuous. As she spoke, I saw the crowded streets of Bangkok, the buses with groups of guys smoking and leering at the girls, motor bikes, hawkers selling copy everything, whores sat outside the open beer stalls chatting to clapped out Germans dressed in parodies of beach fashion, traffic jams on the motorway (another six car pile-up), girls from the North in hill tribe head-dress, gun-toting cops, long narrow boats bearing hats, masks and vegetables, Chinese shopkeepers staring through windows of jade and gold, strange Arabic-looking writing on huge gaudy hordings advertising another Japanese consumer durable, naked kids swimming gleefully in polluted streams and everywhere - everywhere - pictures of a weedy-looking king in military uniform.

Once, for some reason, she switched to English.

" A deal's a deal," I said. " Two more minutes."

When she was done speaking Thai, Nitaya went down on me. her excitement grew as she explored the length of my member, using her tongue in a new and more sensitive way, less a vacuum cleaner and more a little girl enjoying an ice cream.

We were five or six minutes late for the cinema, early birds by Hong Kong standards. Naturally, Dracula was a big turn on for Nitaya but I remember sloping off to sleep somewhere before the end. She gave little gasps of excitement at the more gory bits, pulling me close for a moment and giving my balls a gentle squeeze.

" You'll have to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show," I said on the way out. " You'll never be able to see one of these films again." And I started to sing about the sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania.

Of course, after all that blood and nakedness, she wanted to do it again. Walking to her hotel - or rather being dragged gently - I felt it a great pity there wasn't some kind of blow-up rubber doll with a big vibrating dong for girls like Nitaya. The material would have to be pretty thick to take the sucking and clawing but I'm sure we have the technology nowadays.

Once in her hotel room, I took the precaution of turning on the tape machine again just as she excused herself for a moment. Then I sat on the bed trying to revive myself with a cool Carlsberg. In the end, I needed more than beer to sustain me for what Nitaya laid on me - a quivering animalistic performance in which I was merely an incidental, a kind of prey caught in the web of her imagination.

Nitaya slept like a corpse. After a long rest and another Carlsberg, I poured myself into a taxi and headed home.

I gave the tape to Larry the next day.

" You look pretty baggy-eyed," he said which was rich coming from him. "The Thai piece was it?"

" Yeh. Lucky to get out in one piece this time."

" You were warned," he said. "When do you want this?"

" As soon as you can. There isn't much really. Twelve minutes or so."

" No bother."

I spent the rest of the day wondering - in between interviewing clients and reading briefs - just why I exhausted myself in this way. There had to be a reason for being so compulsive, for behaving in that frenzied manner, in pursuit of something there would always be a pretty good supply of anyway. I reasoned that I had better live out whatever I was doing in order to lose it. Surely, one day, I would lose interest in it all. Until then, I had to take the down-side as well.

The down-side to being sexually obsessed is not only that you may catch a deadly disease. There is also the disease of conceit, more deadly than a thousand viruses. The more success I had with the women and, as I have said, these memoirs are highly edited extracts, I felt a growing sense of vainglory and vanity, as if what I was now getting was what I had always deserved. I behaved like the nouveaux-riches: the plain and the good were not good enough for me; happiness and small satisfactions did not please me if my amour-propre was not flattered; I committed grosser and grosser acts of unfeeling (dropping girls overnight, being abrupt with menials and bores on the telephone, demanding the best seat in a restaurant, marching out of shops if they gave me the slightest offence). In the end, I was the sort of foreigner that gave all foreigners a bad name.

The other down-side of sexual obsession - like all obsessions - is that you are also exposed to a great deal of pain, occasionally, when the masks you have erected are dropped or callously removed by those who can see through you. I think that is why people who are obsessed - with their own fame, with their own qualities, with success, with self-pity - nearly always end up killing those moments of painful revelation with drink or drugs. Yet, there are those, like me, who are too vain to let alcohol or pharmaceutica claim them. Without alcohol or pharmaceutica though, the shelf-life of the vain and obsessed is short indeed.

When I got back the transcripts the next day, I was in the mood for a little sensational and provocative reading. I had just won an important case involving a District Board member found in the arms of a teenage callgirl at lunch time in Tsuen Wan. His story was that he was giving her first aid. It was devilishly difficult for me to keep my face straight during the verdict. I had to think about the court journalists to keep me from guffawing there and then. They nearly always bring you down.

The transcript was neatly typed and well-spaced so I had no problem finding the important pieces. Nitaya was a girl born into poverty but did reasonably well at school, she recited in the English before me. She was recruited for Dragon Pacific because of her winning smile and her decent English, a rare combination in young Thai girls at that time. There was a lot of stuff about places she had been to, the places she loved (Florence and Rome) and hated (Frankfurt and Manila). Then I came to the first interesting bit:

I will give up this life one day soon. I feel it is cheap and that I am a puppet. I want to have children and live in my own house, not in endless hotel rooms with complimentary cosmetics. For a moment, I thought I could see the dreaded marriage noose approaching me. Imagine my surprise when I read on:

My Englishman foreigner has a slightly piggy face like all of them but his body is interesting. He has a wonderful magic sausage. Sometimes I think he is insatiable, an animal. But I love the way we meet. The same hotel, the same type of room. He is only a phone call away. It is all so uncomplicated. I hope he never comes to Bangkok and meets my fiance. I think he is becoming a little too attached at present. I do not wish to hurt him. In the end, marrying a foreigner like him will never do. They treat women worse than at home. And I do not wish to have my children with his coarse, piggy features. Come, my magic sausage, but hurry as I do not wish to miss the film...