Q. What’s white, has been wearing the same red hoodie for six days, and hasn’t moved off the couch in about as long?
A. Me. Because, this year. See exhibit 1, attached.
[The laziest, most contrived and uninspired way to end any yearly review is by wondering what the following year will bring. Being lazy, uninspired and a writer with a penchant for contrived devices, that's precisely how I ended my 2012 Year in Career post. Little did I know how far 2013 would go in rising to the rhetorical challenge, with a whole lot of interesting jobs, some unquantifiably boring ones, a few amazing opportunities, and
a partridge in a one really bad sickness. As ever, I can't always take photos/talk about job details, but where I can, here we go...]
Most professional/heart-rending business card
(modification provided by my daughter):
Worst decision: that time I left home five minutes later than usual
and hit the morning peak hour.
Longest/most meaningful job: the Commission of Inquiry into the Lamma ferry collision. This epic trial ended in March on Day 50. I wrote every single day. It was my honour to make the record of this commission for posterity for the Hong Kong people – and it feels like however long we stay here, through this job I’ve made a small but important contribution to this place that we currently call home.
The commission ended just in time for the annual Asian Film Awards.
This was my fourth time stadium-captioning the “Asian Oscars”, but my first time captioning it from a wooden bunker. Located 100 metres from the stage, with poor audio and no ventilation, this was the ultimate in work-environment challenges.
Inaugural attempt at captioning from a shed:
Finally, I went back to “normal” work. I was well tired. This happened: the most ingenious use of toilet paper as white-shirt-makeup-blotter, followed by the most stylish move forgetting to remove it before arriving at the bus stop.
Biggest coffee-related disaster:
Second-biggest coffee-related disaster one public holiday:
Coldest workplace: Lands Tribunal.
Formerly the Kowloon Magistracy. Interesting!
(But, most boring case of my entire life: anything that ever happens there.)
Meanwhile, back at headquarters,
the year’s most classified project progressed…
More Chinese steno to come in 2014? I hope so…
Most pronounced mid-year blow-out.
Some people are the size of the house, but not many can say
they are the size of the International Commerce Centre:
Exhibits that inspire.
The start of a particularly painful government arbitration.
Some days, you see the exhibits and you know it’s going to be an interesting case.
This wasn’t one of those days.
About mid-year I started using the Wave, which was the best fisharsery (a saving of about US$3,000 – it’s “cheap” because it’s a “student” machine). And it’s AWESOME. I cannot big this machine up enough!
The Wave at the end of its first day at work.
We’ve written over 5 million strokes already!
Best in keeping those that matter happy:
tech/production team barbeque at our joint.
Best in keeping those that matter happy, reciprocated:
kids’ day in the office.
The one that got away – the Snowden extradition.
He left before any proceedings could kick off
and damn, I was disappointed…
The other one that got away – the “maid case” in the Court of Final Appeal. Reporting in this court is one of my goals in the next few years. This was happening next door to the Commission of Inquiry I was reporting at the start of the year. Crazy and emotional scenes.
While I haven’t had a chance to report in the Court of Final Appeal yet, something almost more exciting happened when the world’s oldest dispute-resolution body, the Permanent Court of Arbitration from the Peace Palace in The Hague, came to town for a special Asian sitting. It was Someone v Socialist Republic of Somewhere.
Interpreter headsets for people from the Socialist Republic of Somewhere;
breaking down the arbitration centre and building it back up as the PCA.
Everything has more gravitas in French, non?
Straight after that hearing wrapped up, it was off to India
for a dispute between the world’s big pharma companies.
Good morning, New Delhi!
(seriously, who knew New Delhi had a forest in the middle of it?)
Stunning hotel atrium.
This job gave me my most embarrassing moment, when I saw the former Chief Justice of India about to trip over my steno cable and yelled out “BE CAREFUL!”. In Chinese.
Reporting in New Delhi was surprisingly not my weirdest travelling assignment this year.
Neither was Shanghai, but that was up next.
Good morning, Shanghai!
This job was the messiest and the most inexplicably situated (all 12 counsel, three arbitrators and eight witnesses were German, and they often reverted to their mother tongue, a language I can’t speak, can barely understand, and certainly can’t steno.)
But it was also an opportunity to work in the Shanghai World Financial Centre -
third-tallest building in the world and tallest in China.
What you don’t want to see
when you crack the blinds on your 83rd-floor bedroom window –
a loose screw rolling around on the outside windowsill.
Most incredible view of the year:
View from breakfast – 93rd floor.
Best in Post-its.
Everything’s going SO WELL!
In September, it was off to Mongolia for a deposition.
This was obviously the weirdest assignment of the year. The Mong?!
Good morning, Ulaanbaatar!
Surprisingly the dep wasn’t about yak-rustling, illegal building works on yurts, a steppeworks dispute, or one brocade caftan manufacturer suing another. It did provide the best view from a deposition for the year though.
And also, one of the chairs from hell.
The other contender for chair from hell.
Why yes, it is actually a “desk” made out of a sideways bookshelf
with the shelves removed.
In September, I got really sick. You know in this job, you basically don’t call in sick unless you’re (a) dead, (b) have broken a bone in your hand/arm, or (c) at a stretch, are in hospital. Prior to this I hadn’t had a sick day in four years but that was cancelled out in style, with five hospital admissions and 17 days off work. Link to consumption of Mongolian room service not established but suspected.
September. A write-off of not writing.
Two things came out of this marathon usage of sick leave.
1. The most disturbing image of the year, seen online from my hospital bed.
This guy was my ultimate nemesis from my days of sports captioning and to see him fondling a Diamante made me immediately extend my hospital stay, all the better to access more free peth.
2. The most excruciatingly awkward/simultaneously gratifying moment, when I went to hospital on day 1 of the British American Tobacco trial in the High Court, and despite best efforts no-one could fly in in time to write. The judge delayed the hearing for a day because she wouldn’t go without realtime.
(a) Students, get realtime = be irreplaceable (and also experience the anguish of knowing your absence is probably causing millions of dollars in legal fees in delays, and yet being physically unable to change out of your tartan hospital-issue pyjamas to fix the problem).
(b) Brandy then provided the most courageous moment of the year by stepping into the breach on only her second trip here, having never written in a common-law court, and with 15 realtime connections going on. I can’t think of many writers in the world who would take on a challenge like that. Easily the most impressive professionalism all year.
ME: (vomits) Let’s swap seats.
EVERY OTHER REPORTER: No.
There were a few long arbitrations towards the end of the year,
including way more expert hot-tubs than should ever be contemplated.
Setting up for another
sexy time expert hot-tub.
One hot-tub had four experts and one interpreter all squeezed into the jacuzzi comparing the length of each other’s base struts in a construction dispute. Think about that next time you’re kicking back in the whirlpool. I know I will. Forever.
To banish the image, here are the best in views from arbitrations.
Then, my first opportunity to work in the Court of Appeal.
You know how the clerk knocks three times on the door before the judges walk out? And there are three judges in the Court of Appeal? So this one time, the clerk knocked three times, we all stood up and bowed, and only one judge walked out. We all waited awkwardly and he turned around just in time to see his two colleagues trip over each other down the judiciary steps and literally fall into the courtroom. That wasn’t the most entertaining thing that happened in that case, but it’s about the only one I can talk about. This was the year of confidential cases involving tycoons and socialites and mega-divorces, and this CoA one was the biggest of the lot – on every level, including a massive 30 realtime connections.
In the absence of any juicier details, have some best in High Court photos.
Ignored at will by just about every court user every day.
Don’t even think about it, random lift users.
We have a sign.
Biggest lie by a lawyer:
“Oh, there aren’t many documents. The reporter won’t need to prep much.”
On arriving at court…
I went to Korea to cover an arbitration in November.
It wasn’t my first time there but it was my first time in the winter and,
being an Aussie, my first time in 0-degree temperatures.
PSY, you can have them.
Also this ridiculous girl group, who are omnipresent.
Good morning, Seoul!
The year ended with the ATV dispute (about the free-to-air broadcaster – very topical and even slightly interesting!), and an extremely challenging arbitration (of which the less said, the better.)
Contemplating harikari into the harbour.
The bitter end.
And here are some other times when people should have said less:
some of my favourite moments in 2013 transcripts.
OR WILL YOU…
That day ended at 2am.
I have never been so gratified to have my work compared to a hamburger.
You can take the reporter out of Oz,
but you can never take the Oz out of the reporter.
* * * * *
I said I would only take the job in Korea if I could be guaranteed to get the last flight back to Hong Kong that night (since I was taking a ferry out to Macau the next day for the Alicia Keys concert). Seoul traffic is notoriously shocking and even if we finished bang on 5.15 as scheduled (which we did), and I packed up my gear like a Tetris-loving speed addict (which I am. I mean which I did), I would only just make it to the airport for my 8pm flight. The most important thing in making this happen was that the hotel car had to pick me up from the job site on time. It arrived half an hour late. We sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic down Gangnam’s main boulevard for 20 minutes while I raged and screamed and cried at the hotel staff and the driver. I guess I freaked him out so much, he suddenly peeled off the road, drove through some building sites and paddocks and eventually onto a freeway, and then proceeded to drive at 170km/h down the emergency lane. ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY. I stopped crying and started begging for my life, but my previous banshee-like exhortations could not be undone. He just looked at me in the rear-view mirror and reckoned he could get me to the airport in time.
So we drove in the emergency lane for 45km to the airport. I shut my eyes and prayed no little rocks would flick up and change our course directly into the concrete barrier alongside, and that no-one was broken down in that lane. When we arrived, the tyres were literally smoking – but we had 10 minutes to spare before the gate closed.
At the gate, ready for a nice relaxing flight home in a suit.
Not shown: heart rate of about 300 bpm.
Also not shown: supposed glamour of international reporting.
Participating in a pro-am grand prix. Sometimes it’s part of the job. (And I made it to Alicia Keys.) I guess what I’m saying is, organise your own damn taxi to airports. And don’t order room service in Mongolia. Report loose screws on 83rd floors of buildings. Leave home on time. BYO coffee in a flask. Start using a student machine in year 14 of your career. Don’t marry either a tycoon or a socialite. And whatever you do, steer clear of hot-tubs. That about sums it up.
I still feel like I have the best job in the world – and I feel like that not just at this point, looking back on a hard, exciting, exhausting, fulfilling year, but nearly every day. How lucky is that? Imagine that knowing which keys to press on a little plastic box can give you this much satisfaction (not to mention a free education on so many different subjects, insight into the current affairs of the day, oh and a trip to the Mong. And so many complimentary pens! I’ll literally never buy a pen again!).
I don’t know where I’m going to be pressing keys on a plastic box in 2014, but I do know if I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d definitely still work. (I mean, if I could find a job in a jurisdiction that sits about two days a week, and only between 11.00 and 3.00, obv.) BUT I WOULDN’T QUIT. That’s the litmus test, isn’t it?
2014. Come at me bro.