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The Independent Online
Some holiday

WHAT is a more fitting way to celebrate a festival of the workers? By going to work or staying away? It was a question being pondered on Friday in Hong Kong, which was observing its first May Day after coming under the rule of communist China.

In the rest of the country they had the day off. So did the people of Taiwan, and the inhabitants of Macau, which returns to China next year. Not Hong Kong, though: it was work as usual. Why? Well, that is a bit complicated.

May Day was not a holiday when we were running the place. But shortly before the Chinese came in, the old colonial legislature passed several labour laws, including one making 1 May an official holiday. Within hours of the takeover last July, however, Peking installed its own legislature, which promptly repealed the new laws.

So Hong Kong worked while everyone else played, demonstrating what a triumph for the workers it is to be run by communists.

French lessons

YOU have to feel sorry for the French, who find their language losing ground to English in former colonies such as Cambodia and Vietnam. Free tuition at the Alliance Francaise is spurned in favour of pavement English schools, where people who earn a pittance are prepared to pay some of it to locals who claim to know the tongue.

The trend is the same, we are told, in Romania, which used to be rabidly Francophile. Lots of older people speak French, but the young think English is where it's at. The local Institut Francais, however, has one weapon which the British Council is unlikely to be able to counter - it has a bistro in the basement, which is packed with Romanians marvelling at dishes such as canard au moutard. Cool Britannia claims to be experiencing a culinary revolution, but are we capable of exporting it to Bucharest?

Older, not wiser

WHILE the Viagra male potency pill may be good news for elderly Americans, efforts to revisit lost youth are not entirely beneficial: for the first time official statistics record people over 65 injuring themselves roller- blading and snowboarding.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the number of oldies hurt while exercising rose 54 per cent between 1990 and 1996.

The most energetic activities, such as aerobics and weight training, produced an even sharper rise in injuries - 173 per cent. Nor can this be ascribed purely to the fact that there are more old people, since the number of Americans aged 65 and older grew only 8 per cent over the six years.

"The increase in injuries to the older population is due in part to a more active lifestyle and greater participation in sports activities by older Americans," says the commission, which is publishing a brochure entitled Keep Active and Safe at Any Age. Coming soon: Safe Sex for the Over-65s?