With shadows extending over my balcony I am spending a last weekend with Sir David Tang.
Tang’s column was always the final pleasure of my Financial Times Weekend read. I dare say the coup de grace so he can scold me for incorrectly using a non-English phrase.
Every weekend of my great simple pleasure is reading through the news, then on to Life & Arts with Lunch with the FT, variety articles on subjects familiar and new, closing with preposterously pretentious Tyler Brûlé, then turning to House & Home for the Agony Uncle.
An unabashed culture snob who believed all should have access to and know the arts, Tang’s erudition had me searching for works of music or literature I was heretofore ignorant. His acerbic humor was a delight, as in his last column, responding to a question about the rise of coffee shops over pubs in the UK:
…While temperatures in Britain are rising, ostensibly because of global warming, it would be marvellous if pubs upped their game and made their outside areas more cheerful: why don’t we have those idyllic scenes of families together enjoying a genteel gathering in front of a backdrop of colourful houses, instead of having packs of louts vomiting all over the gutters?
In praise of the NHS details Tang’s recent health scare, when he descended from his life of private jets and hospitals to the UK’s National Health Service:
They took me to Hillingdon hospital. Had I managed those five steps out of the plane myself, I would have made it to the London clinic where a private room was waiting for me. This was now an extreme emergency and the NHS hospital was the only option…
Each and every staff nurse, in their wonderful blue uniforms, could not have been more kind and helpful, including wiping me down with wit and humour, both of which, I can assure my readers, demanded a very high standard! There was one exceptional doctor from Hungary who became one of my greatest friends without my knowing it. His application of knowledge and experience to my case was one of those rare occurrences when you know a piece of fortune has been stitched into the hem of your life…
So, ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you now the fountain of all serendipities: if you were in the magical labyrinth of the Hillingdon NHS, you would, like I, never ever have a single doubt about the NHS as an institution of the greatest cultivation…
My mother always told me that the UK provided the best education in the world, to which I now add the best hospital care in the world. The fact that it was free at the point of service defies even Einsteinian space-time. So I am glad I have paid my taxes in this country — before with reluctance, but now with alacrity. I hereby demote Asclepius and genuflect to Nye Bevan, founder of the NHS.
Consider also Tang’s reflections on the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover: from economic growth to political degeneration, concluding, at what would soon be the end of his life to liver cancer:
Nonetheless, so many of us Chinese stay loyal to Hong Kong. We would never abandon it. It is where we have experienced the remnants of empire and the spectacular ascendancy of China. We have been part of an extraordinary tale: fast-shifting territorial intrigue and tension, success in spite of failures, and still 30 years to go of Deng’s vision of half a century of “one country, two systems”.
I am having a bitterly strong Hong Kong-style milk tea, Lipton of course, with my FT Weekend, in honor of (teetotal) Sir David Tang.