Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Free Walking Tour of Tsim Sha Tsui this Sunday

Please note that Stefan and I are conducting a live guided walk, free of charge, around Tsim Sha Tsui this Sunday at 3pm, starting outside the Swindon's bookstore on Lock Road. Our Walk is entitled: "Buccaneers' Den to Neon Mecca", and will discuss the area's transformation from seedy pirate village to a vibrant district, home to immigrants from around the world, and a magnet for local visitors. From Parsee bakers, Armenian tycoons and Sephardic hoteliers to Tsim Sha Tsui's connections to South China pirates, the American national anthem and Triad movie makers, we'll tell you stories of the district that will amuse you, perhaps shock you and enrich your knowledge of the area. The walk will last about an hour and a half.

To join us, please SMS or call me (Dave) at 9772-4737 or e-mail me at

Finally, given the seafaring theme that is part of any heritage walk in the entrepot port of Hong Kong, I wanted to share with you a brief tale sent via e-mail to me I found quite entertaining. As many of you know, sailing ships up until the time of the Opium War had cannon that fired iron balls. Now given the number of pirates and other undesirable elements on the high seas, it was a good idea to keep a fair number of the iron cannonballs these cannons fired close at hand.

Now the problem was, how could one keep the balls organized on a sometimes wildly pitching deck? The trick was to stack them in a square pyramidal formation - one on the top, four below, nine below that, and all resting on a bottom layer of 16 - for a total of 30 cannonballs. But the hitch then, was to find a way to keep that bottom layer from sliding around. Eventually, naval engineers devised a plate with rounded indentations called a 'monkey.'

The only remaining problem was that the 'monkey' could not also be made of iron, or the cannonballs would rust fast to the plate. So it was made of brass instead. The issue with brass, though, was that it would shrink faster and at contract at a higher cold temperature threshold than iron, so much so that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey. Hence the expression "Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey."

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