Saturday, 12 January 2013

the cat man’s hut

If you’ve read Hong Kong Country, you will know that the area where I live just outside Fanling has a lot of tin and wooden shacks, many of which are still inhabited. Most of the more substantial buildings—Lee Ming Sang’s house, Koon Garden, the millionaire’s house—have been demolished, presumably by agents of Uncle Four (Turf Wars). Until a year ago, the shack in the picture below was home to an old man, who could usually be seen in his doorway sitting quietly and watching the world pass by.

Like several Chinese men that I’ve seen over the years, he had a severe stoop, so that his head was level with his waist, a condition that I attribute to an absence of dairy products in the typical Chinese diet. He kept a lot of cats, perhaps a dozen or more, none of which appeared to have been spayed, and the only time I saw him walking around was when he was feeding them.

About a year ago, the old man disappeared. The tiny hut in which he lived, which must have been stifling in summer, was carefully locked up and abandoned, and I’ve not seen him since. He may simply have died, but he may have been rehoused; I don’t expect to find out which of these possibilities is the right one.

However, while I was away last summer, an anonymous artist decided to ‘decorate’ the hut with images of a cat and a dog as farmers (the area is still used to grow vegetables). It is probably a coincidence that this artist chose to paint a cat on the old man’s door, but it seems entirely appropriate. Looking at the images, I suspect that the artist meant to portray the dog as resting on its rake, but the impression I get from the folded arms and the closed eyes is that the two have just had a quarrel, so on this basis I would like to invite readers to provide possible captions to the photograph below.

street art
Dog: “How dare you call my mother a bitch!”

update: 24/12/2015
The hut was demolished some time ago, probably by agents of Uncle Four, although the door on which the cat was painted is still on display nearby. However, further paintings of a dog and a cat have appeared recently on the concrete footpath that runs beside where the hut used to stand. It will probably be a long time before the cat man is forgotten.

19 comments:

  1. I really love the way the way the cabin has been painted. Maybe they should do more of this, as it brightens up the way it originally looked. My caption would be:

    "Fancy a cat-nap?"
    "Yeah, I've been working like a dog"

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    1. Some other shacks in the area have also been painted (one with images of bats and butterflies), but this is the best example Rum. I like your caption.

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  2. I'm thinking...The words "cat man do" and "cat man don't" are swimming around in there somewhere. I'll return if I can come up with something coherent. Either way, cute art!

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    1. That sounds like the chorus to a song Janene.

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  3. Cat - "If you want to eat you have to say it!"

    Dog - "FINE....Cat's rule and dogs drool .....HAPPY" ??

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    1. Very good Angie, although I wonder if you’re aware that ‘eat’ has a sexual connotation in Cantonese criminal slang.

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    2. No I was not aware but I now think my quote is even better now. :)

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    3. It doesn’t mean what I think you think it means Angie!

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  4. Don't worry, it's going to rain cats and dogs. :)

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    1. Thank you Caroline. I like your caption (which hadn’t occurred to me), but I hope you don’t mind if I modify it slightly:

      “Don’t worry! It isn’t going to rain cats and dogs, so we won’t get washed off the side of this shed.”

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  5. Is this considered graffiti in China, Dennis? It's really quite beautiful. My inner city neighborhood has lots of graffiti, but none quite this extraordinary. As far as a caption, "The cat may have your tongue, but a dog's always got your back."

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    1. Technically it is graffiti Kris, but I’d be surprised if anyone is offended or annoyed by it, especially on the side of a shed that a typhoon would probably flatten in a few seconds. It took me a few moments to work out your caption, but it’s probably the wittiest I’ve received to date.

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  6. Le Femme Akita.
    I struggled with that one. :)

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    1. Are you suggesting that the dog is a bitch?

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  7. There's no point shutting your eyes, you stupid mutt. They've seen us.

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    1. Excellent Robert. At last a bit of aggression.

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  8. "I am the Cat who walks by himself and all places are alike to me. I will not come."

    Sorry Dennis. It's pretty obscure and is from one of my favorite short stories.

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    1. Sorry Pat. You’ve baffled me there. Author?

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  9. No problem Dennis. It's from a shorty titled "The Cat Who Walked by Himself" by Rudyard Kipling.

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