It is lunch-time in Hong Kong. The temperature is 32°. Humidity is 98%. The streets of Central are teeming with people rushing to grab a quick one-hour lunch.
John, exiting from the subway, trips over a crack in the sidewalk and drops his two heavy suitcases. The catch on the blue bag springs open and his red ski jacket and black mittens spill onto the pavement under hurrying feet.
“Hey get off – I need those for the audition!” he shouts, bending down to pull at one of the jacket sleeves.
“Audition?” a voice behind him says. With the fallen jacket and mittens retrieved, John looks up. There, standing astride the other suitcase, protecting it from the crowds, in khaki mini shorts and thin beige camisolle, is the most gorgeous woman John has seen in a long time.
“Yeah” he replies with a grin, “I’m auditioning for the new Rex film.” Looking ruefully at the ski clothes in his hands, “The producer said the movie’s based in the South Pole.”
She stares at him and points at the outfit she’s wearing. “They told me, it was set in the Sahara Desert!”
Hoi Yee and I are often asked what it’s like writing with another person. For my part, I think it’s great! As two people, we couldn’t be more different, but there are some unusual things in our history that link us, and maybe it’s those elements that make working together such fun.
Age-wise, there’s almost a generation between us. Nationality-wise, we’re similarly miles apart; Hoi Yee is traditionally Chinese and I’m typically English (pearls, gardening, napkin ring!). However, I think our similarities outweigh the differences. These perhaps begin with our parents; mine came from urban London, Hoi Yee’s from rural Guangzhou. Both went through the hardship and deprivation of war and revolution. As a result, mine left the capital for the quiet safety of the countryside, while Hoi Yee’s left the dangers of the paddy fields for the security offered by a large city. Although Hoi Yee’s father worked in the restaurant business and my father was an engineer, they both earned additional income through property. Both men were married to tough, independent women who had a high work ethic, that was passed on to us. We both come from a big family of girls, each of us having only one brother.
I was fired on the first day of my first proper job and, as a result found myself on the, then very exclusive, island of Ibiza, as nanny to a child from a well-to-do family. Surrounded by gorgeous, glamorous and famous people, I felt very unworldly and just had to enroll at Barcelona University to study the Spanish language and culture. Years later, Hoi Yee, born and raised in Canada, got a great job in Mexico where she, too, learnt Spanish.
After my Spanish escapade, which included the Canary Islands, I became a student at La Sorbonne, Paris, to learn about the French people, their language, culture and cuisine. In parallel, Hoi Yee grew up in Quebec, Canada where she acquired the French language and a love of French food.
My husband and I came to Hong Kong in search of adventure. So did Hoi Yee and her husband. I opened my own business, Hoi Yee now has her own business. We both see Hong Kong as our home. We love art, good food, being pampered, action, travel and fun. And we really enjoy each other’s company, so writing a book together comes very naturally.
A few weeks ago, Julia mentioned that she’s had a huge number of coincidences all her life. Here’s the first that stands out.
“The first one I really remember was one night at around 2.00am. I was 19 and a courier in Madrid airport responsible for flying Spanish shoppers to London on a chartered flight. This particular group of 50 Spaniards, were hungry, sleepy and irate because their flight had been delayed.
I was frantically rushing up and down the concourse trying to find someone in authority to give my passengers something to eat [not an easy task at that time in the morning!]. Suddenly, there was a tap on my shoulder.
“What are you doing here, Julia?”
“Looking for a key to the kitchen!”
“Hope you get it open soon – otherwise, it looks like you might be this group’s breakfast.”
Adam, a friend I’d not seen for 3 or 4 years, strolled off towards his gate. As a student, he was saving money by taking the long route to Egypt from London via Madrid – in the middle of the night!
Fortunately for me, the plane got fixed, and my passengers were soon shopping in the streets of London – the kitchen never was opened!”
The spring of 2011 was a really busy time socially for us. While Hoi Yee and her husband were off attending a party in one place, my husband and I would be off at a function in another. There were always raffles with super-duper prizes from air tickets to cameras and jewellery. Hoi Yee and I were each lucky and won a few.
One morning some weeks later, I came across a US$1,000 winning voucher. It was for dinner on a famous picture-postcard restaurant, floating in Aberdeen Harbor. And, the voucher was to expire the very next day! How could I have forgotten?
I began calling up friends to see who could come. Of course, I invited Hoi Yee. “What, you’ve got winnings, too! She exclaimed. “I’ve just found the tickets that I won a few weeks ago, and they expire tomorrow, too – so I am taking all my staff out to dinner tomorrow!”
We both won dinner prizes, we both forgot, and both found them at the last minute! The only difference was that our vouchers weren’t for the same restaurant!
It’s fun to have these coincidences. For me, there’ve always been lots, right though my life – for Hoi Yee they’re quite a new phenomenon, but she’s getting used to them!
Do you think there’s any significance to these coincidences? Or is it just that we’re working together, and our lives are simply becoming intertwined as a consequence?
Here’s a coincidence that really made my jaw drop! We’d be interested to know if strange coincidences happen to you, too.
I’m in the property rental business. It was December, and we had recently finished renovating a newly acquired apartment. Then, completely out of the blue, a bad pipe junction sprung and the flat got so completely flooded that we had to replace the floor.
The very next week, temperatures in England fell sharply and snow was falling heavily everywhere. In the freezing conditions, the pipes in Julia’s newly renovated home cracked – and, guess what? The house was so badly flooded that the floor had to be completely redone!
At first, we thought these coincidences were a bit spooky, but they happen so often nowadays, that we take them in our stride and see them rather like our own personal events barometer!
Hoi Yee and I knew that writing together was absolutely the right thing to be doing. Why? Because all sorts of coincidences started happening to the two of us. The first was this one:
We were each given an i-phone by our husbands in the same week – and the first day we got together after that, one of the new phones rang. We both jumped up to answer it. Why? Because we had chosen the same ring tone!
Since then, the coincidences have been rolling in. In fact, they’re coming so fast and furious that we warn each other when something out of the ordinary happens – just to put the other on alert!
When we sent out our first book proposal, we discovered that we both lived at number 33 – although our homes were miles apart! And, even weirder, my home in Birmingham, England was also number . . . 33!
We’re becoming so akin to these coincidences that if Hoi Yee wants something good to happen, she sits back and waits for it to happen to me first! But, if something bad happens in her life, I am like a cat on hot bricks! The coincidences seem to follow this pattern – the good things happen to me first and then to Hoi Yee. And the not so good things happen to Hoi Yee first, and (sob, sob) to me!
See you next Friday!