This week/month/year, I am mainly...reading children's books. In practice that means reading books from either the UK or the States. Mainly the UK, actually.
Naturally enough, they depict life in the UK. So you have a family living in a semi-detached house, playing in their garden, going on holiday to the seaside, driving to the supermarket and doing all manner of other ordinary things - if you live in the UK, that is. However, for a child living in Hong Kong, these books don't reflect their lives at all. Living in a small apartment, probably with a domestic helper to look after them, seeing their parents for a few hours at the weekend, walking or taking a shuttle bus to the supermarket, and flying to Thailand for a short break. Not quite the same.
Or there's the weather. One book I've read a few times is specifically about a foggy day (and the problems of driving when visibility is only a few yards).
Fog is one of the less attractive features of a British winter, but it is relatively uncommon in Hong Kong (unless you live at the top of a mountain, which most of us don't). Or at least that was what I thought.
However, the hovercraft crash last month was blamed on fog, and the following week when I was across the border it was horribly damp and foggy (though at least it wasn't cold), and some ferries were unable to reach their destinations (Pingzhou Port in Nanhai and Lian Hua Shan port near Panyu). The following day in Hong Kong, several planes were delayed or diverted for the same reason.
Checking up on this, it seems that the Observatory believes that there are usually a few foggy days around this time of year, so it isn't as unusual as I had thought. So maybe two or three days each year it really is good old-fashioned fog rather than pollution.
The other thing that strikes me about children's books is how "politically correct" they have become. If a story has an airline pilot or a doctor in it, the chances are that it'll be a woman. Which is probably better than it was when I was a child (and books showed daddies going off to drive trains or save the world and mummies stayed at home and worried about nothing more taxing than whether it was beans on toast or sausages for tea), but frankly it's just as unrealistic. Did I say unrealistic? Hang on, these are books about trains that talk to each other, park keepers who talk to animals, vintage cars that have adventures and all manner of things even more unlikely than women flying 747s.
Of course, these days they are also careful to present a positive image of multi-cultural Britain. So, in the books, the schools have a racially diverse mix of pupils (and teachers), and the children have a racially diverse mix of friends, and they all get on famously. Again, quite different from what I remember from the books I read in my school days but perhaps they have gone a bit too far in the opposite direction.
I suppose in Hong Kong there's no need to indoctrinate children with the notion that women can go out to work, and this isn't really a multi-cultural society either, so perhaps there's no need for heavy-handed propaganda on that subject. So I wonder what else they present in a relentlessly positive light?