In my retirement, I agreed to act as a consultant for the publishing a book on New Towns; something that I have been involved since the mid 1970s.
The momentum and determination started in the 1970s for creating new towns to house millions of people in this city have gone. People still live in the “urban” areas under very crowded conditions. Basically, the Government has failed to come up with a land / development policy, making more use of the space in the New Territories. According to some senior officials, there was an unknown but deliberate policy not to fully develop the NT pre-1997 as UK wishfully thought that they may just hang on to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon post 1997; but have we done anything after 1997 when we are supposed to be the master of our own destiny?
Only 20% of the land is developed and 7% allocated for residential purposes. The HKSAR Government is worried about antagonizing the villagers in the NT over land issues. They have also failed to decentralize the business areas to other locations; the recent decision on making the Kai Tak area into a “business” area, ranking only next to Central, should be applauded. However, this decision comes quite late, the Kai Tak area has been left abandoned since 1998 when the airport was moved to Chek Lap Kok. Can any responsive government left such an important and valuable capital resource for so long when land is considered scarce in the territory. The fact that we are unable to supply enough land for commercial and residential use meant that the prices and rentals of properties have escalated sharply, decreasing our competitive edge.
In some respects, this city is dying, although not for the reasons given on the local TV soap opera (Tian & Di). The city is dying because we have no vision nor strategy for growth. The mediocre government is too worried about making real decisions that will antagonize villagers and pressure groups and having to actually implement the strategies. They are just doing the minimum so as not to get themselves into trouble, so that they can claim to be successful in Getting the Job Done ( re the CE’s slogan). The city is dying because people in this city are more interested in dividing up the pie instead of growing the economic pie. The city is dying because we are not sufficiently forward looking and implementing the much needed infrastructure in the last decade.
I am sure, you will have more reasons why our city is dying and I will be pleased to hear your views.
This is a city where I was born, raised and will be spending my retirement life. We shouldn’t allow this city to be dying …………otherwise, we will all be crying!
As part of my returning something meaningful to the society, I agreed to take up part time teaching at my Alma Mater, the HKU, as an Adjunct Professor.
Initailly, I have to do two presentations to a group of 8 and over 200 students in two lectures.
While the presentations were of one hour each, many hours of work have gone into the preparation of the powerpoints.
I almost found myself lost in the university as a lot of new buildings have grown up since I left it several decades ago, also, a lot of renovations were being made.
One of the places I still remember was the lovely lily pond, I was happy to see that it was still there.
I was wondering what students were like these days. Would they be interested in my presentations? Would they be rude?
The pace I presented was obviously too quick for some of the students to copy down the powerpoint slides. I noticed that there were some noises at the back when I changed the slides. It is the same old problem, students are more concerned with copying notes than to understand the subject during the lectures.
I was relieved that there was a lot of clapping hands towards the end of my lectures. Was this just a show of respect? Did they really enjoy my lectures? Have they acquired any useful knowledge? I don’t really know. Obviously, I would be too naive if I believe this is a show of love to the teacher.
In any case, it was a good experience!
Heading home, I was happy that I have imparted some knowledge to the students; another meaningful day in the life of a retiree.
I woke up almost the same time for work; couldn’t wait to wake up to enjoy my first day of retirement.
I have a slow and delightful breakfast, then read the newspaper which I never have the time to do when I was at work.
I then took a walk up the nearby country park. The air was still clean and fresh. I walked as far as the lily pond, stopped there to have a good look at the water lilies before heading home. The lilies reminded me of Monet’s lily pond at Giverney. To me, lilies are just lovely. Impressionist paintings of water lilies by Monet have always awed and inspired me, they reminded me of spending the many hours loitering in the art galleries of London, just gazing at his paintings.
My colleagues gave me a Retirement card with an old essay by Tao Yuan Ming with verses about him retiring to the fields. Perhaps, I will be a modern day Tao Yuan Ming, watching the lilies and reading my books and peotry. I will have my books and peotries to protect me ( re I am a Rock by Simon & Garfunkel).
The sun has come up and it would be a sunny day. I decided that I would just laze around, sweetly doing nothing, maybe just thinking what I will be doing for the rest of my life without actually doing anything at all.
So, this was my first day in paradise.
Can’t sleep a wink. This is the moment I have been waiting for 36 years!
So many things crossed my mind. I will be stepping into an unknown territory where working 8 days a week is no longer the norm; a world without BlackBerry and outside office hours teleconferences and telepresence meetings!
Will there be life after work? After so many years of Learning, Earning, will I be able to Return something to the society?
For the first time in my life I will have full control of the time. Will I be able to use my time wisely? For a good cause?
What are the priorities? What type of life style do I wish to adopt?
This is only the beginning of another phase; a new lease of life which I will only fully understand when I immerse into it.
A decision on retirement is not something to be taken lightly. One needs to have a reflection on one’s life and on the Joys and Sorrows of Work ( re Alain de Botton’s book) before making this decision.
Friends have been wishing me a long and happy retirement. I am grateful for that. I surmize that the expected value of retirement is the product of the probability of surviving and the happiness you derive during your retirement years. To wish somebody a long and happy retirement now makes a lot of sense to me.
Must get back to sleep now and prepare to enjoy all the days after tomorrow.