I venture out of the suite, and make my intrepid voyage to assess the mood among the real people of Hong Kong in the third floor restaurant. I am intrigued to find that it is business as usual. But then something stirs in the far corner of the restaurant - a match is lit, a flame flickers, then roars. Is it an omen, perchance? My heart leaps. But no: someone has ordered their fillet steak in a creamy mushroom sauce to be flambeed.
6.30pm: Out in the teeming, vibrant streets of Hong Kong, the mood seems uncertain, tenuous, jittery, unsure of which way it is pointing, which turning to take. I turn my map round 45 degrees, then 90 degrees, and then back to where I began. As I thought: I am lost. After half-an-hour, I find myself back in the Mandarin. Back in my suite, I order a typically Chinese Club Sandwich, and switch on the television to assess the mood of the broadcasters.
8.30pm: Off to the Governor's House to assess the mood of my fellow dinner- guests, all of them dear friends and quaffing partners who arrived by the very same flight as my own good self. Their mood is generally buoyant, even upbeat (dread word!): they are determined not to let a little thing like a change of government interfere with the continuation of the social life to which they have grown accustomed. A senior Foreign Correspondent, one of the most respected in the business, surveys the scene and tells me that the White House has changed out of all recognition since his day. I correct him, tipping him the wink that we are in Hong Kong, not in Washington. He looks a little surprised. "But the point holds," he declares. "As I always say, it's the exception that proves the rule".
28 June, 12.00pm: I begin to write my considered "overview" of the state of affairs now prevailing in Hong Kong for the Telegraph. "Hong Kong," I begin, "has been described as the most exciting city on earth. It is a bustling, vibrant city, positively throbbing with energy. But one thing is for sure. On Monday, the Union Jack will come down on this vibrant, bustling city - once described as the most exciting city on earth - for the very last time. Nothing will ever be quite the same again." Having made an excellent beginning to my article, I decide to break for lunch. I pop over to The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club for a pre-arranged meal with my old friend Sir Edward Heath, in order to assess his mood.
1.00pm: Ted is full of enthusiasm for the Chinese. "Marvellous little people, plucky and resilient," he intones over a plate of Chow Mein. "And I'll tell you another thing. My old friend Deng Xiaoping wouldn't have taken any truck from those Euro- sceptics. He knew where to draw the line where persistent troublemakers were concerned, bless him."
Ted grows positively watery-eyed reminiscing about his boating holiday on the Norfolk Broads with Chairman Deng, just seven years ago, and he excused Deng entirely for that unfortunate incident which resulted in the deaths of twenty-six yachtsmen who were blocking Deng's view of the seafront at Cromer. "Deng was a decent, honourable man, a man of world stature, who would never have sent in his troops had it not been absolutely necessary," he informed me, with one of his most engaging chuckles.
29 June, 3.15pm: "The fate of the ordinary, decent people of Hong Kong concerns me deeply," I write in a hard-hitting article for The Spectator. "We as a country cannot simply abandon our old subjects to their dreadful fate, leaving these doughty folk just when the moment suits us."
3.30pm: After strong words with British Airways, I manage to switch to an earlier flight on Tuesday, to be back in the UK in time for drinks with Taki, and at long last put the headache of Hong Kong behind me.
30 June: Fireworks, fanfares, and tears galore as the sun sets on the Empire: rarely have I been so moved as when our Massed Bands perform their final salute. "Deeply, deeply upsetting," I mutter to the representative from the Daily Mail as I take a tissue to my tears. "And by the way, anyone got the latest on Aitken?"Reuse content