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David Tang, entrepreneur and founder of ICorrect, offers advice on questions about property, interiors – and modern manners for globetrotters
I was rather intrigued by your suggestion of “modernising” the funeral parlour, and wonder if you might have had any thoughts on doing the same with morgues.
I have only ever been to a morgue once, and it gave me the complete creeps. Overnight, it turned me off the sight and feel of aluminium, which seemed to be everywhere – trolleys, slabs, trays and sharp cutting instruments.
Whenever I go into a big kitchen in a restaurant, my imagination is in danger of running away on the ridiculous prospect of opening the doors of the fridge or the deep freezer and finding a stiff corpse rather than a hanging leg of lamb.
It doesn’t help that I always remember one of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected in which a housewife murders her husband by bashing him on the head with a frozen leg of lamb. She then cooks the lamb and serves it to the detective who comes to investigate the crime and smugly announces that he would be able to solve the crime if only he could find the murder weapon.
If I were to design a morgue, I would look forward to taking instructions from morticians (whose career paths I have never quite grasped). But I suspect I would immediately enamelise all the surfaces of doors, basins, baths, and even knife handles. The new enamel coats will be introduced in, perhaps, Granny Smith green or powder blue to induce a sense of homely comfort and calm rather than terror.
To soften the moribund air, I would also have a wonderful sound system through which jolly music would be piped – maybe the “Cancan” from Orpheus in the Underworld. Under no circumstances should Haydn’s “Surprise” symphony be used as that might make even the calmest mortician jump – still less Night on the Bare Mountain, which would freak out even Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
I have been invited to spend a Sunday at the holiday house of a former Portuguese business partner of my father, now a prominent politician. I wonder what I can possibly offer the man and his spouse, besides a flower bouquet, for showing my gratitude. Considering they are Portuguese, they must already have excellent local wines.
Portugal, arguably a country with the finest weather in the world, is curiously a bit of a holiday backwater. Recently, I was having a casual chat with an attractive croupier in between spins on the roulette wheel. She had been to the Algarve for a holiday and said that the weather could not have been more beautiful, yet she had been so bored that she said she and her boyfriend would never go back there again.
So your first question is whether you would have a boring holiday there; second, whether your father’s business partner is going to be boring; and third, whether he would be bored by a boring present like a bouquet of flowers.
It is all rather sad for a country that was once mighty. I was very conscious of Portugal because I grew up in Hong Kong across from the shadow of the Portuguese colony of Macau. It was of course always a place famous for its gambling and pawnshops, especially now, and for Dr Stanley Ho, the great Chinese casino magnate, who married a beautiful Portuguese woman as wife numero uno.
Also, when I was young and reading about amazing adventures, I was fascinated by what the Portuguese explorer Magellan did. Although he was attacked and killed during a fight in the Philippines during his stupendous journey westward around the globe, a small number of his crew did eventually make it back to their starting point in Seville, and so Magellan can be credited with organising the first circumnavigation of the world.
If your father’s friend is anyone worth his salt, he would enjoy discussing these questions with you rather than receiving any dubious token. But don’t think just because Portugal produces fine wines that you can’t impress him with, say, a bottle of 1935 port. I recently came across a description by a wine snob who said: “Last year, I had the good fortune to drink a wine (port) from 1935 and, although it was delicate, it was still fresh and very much alive.” You must ask your politician friend how anything that had been bottled for 78 years could be “fresh” and “alive”.
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