Songs from the sky in China and scenes of madness in London

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

– Eleanor Farjeon

Indeed, here at Moodie Davitt Asia HQ, the blackbird has spoken. A very large black bird in fact, with a rasping voice that sounds like Lee Marvin (remember Wand’rin Star?) after a night spent smoking cigars and drinking too much Tennessee whisky.

I’ve dubbed my feathered falsetto (very false in this case) friend Florence. For although possessing the worst voice of the entire Discovery Bay Winged Ensemble, Florence – just like her New York socialite namesake Florence Foster Jenkins (played by Meryl Streep in the 2016 film) who had the desire but not the talent to sing – clearly won’t let such a shortcoming get in her way.

After a quick workout on the Fred Flintstone-mobile (right) while gazing out over the bay, it’s time for the Sunday morning shift on The Moodie Davitt Report. Almost every Sunday (and, in fact, every day) since late 2019 has involved a morning shift. And an afternoon and evening one. It’s been a tough and unrelenting gig running a publishing business through 14 months of crisis but as I have noted previously, when you’re not just the factory owner but the chief factory worker, there’s not a lot of choice.

But there are many compensations. Coming to Hong Kong last July has turned out to be a blessing, both for me and for my business. Discovery Bay is a quiet gem that (apart from the high-rise buildings) reminds me of the little seaside village of Sumner in Christchurch, New Zealand where I grew up. The pace is slow, the views breath-taking and it’s just 25 minutes by ferry to the wonderful hubbub of Central.

Being here in China has also enabled me to get closer to many people involved in nearby Hainan’s offshore duty free sector and to gain a very good understanding of this unique marketplace. This week I spoke at The French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Hong Kong’s Luxury Symposium about Hainan, a brilliant virtual conference that underlined the enduring role of luxury in our world and the emergence of the island province as a key component of it.

Photo: Ike Li/Ike Images
Photo: Ike Li/Ike Images

I have the immense privilege in working with some dedicated, dynamic and talented people in Hainan, including the team at Hainan Hinews Media Co, the island province’s leading digital media company, with whom we’ve struck a strategic cooperation agreement.

Meeting the Hainan Hinews Media Co management by Tencent VooV Meeting to discuss collaboration plans. The Chinese delegation was led by Mr Chaoguang Han (second from left), an editorial member of the Hainan Daily newspaper, Managing Vice Chairman of the Administration of the Nanguo Metropolis Daily Newspaper and Hinews Media, and Chairman and President of Hinews Media.

I’m writing a weekly column, dubbed Moodie’s Connection, for them as part of an extensive win-win information-sharing agreement that allows me to help their readers’ understanding of the  duty free and travel retail market in Hainan and worldwide.

In turn, I gain access to their on-the-ground resources, local knowledge and insight. The Hainan Hinews Media Co will be broadcasting live from the Hainan Expo, enabling The Moodie Davitt Report to bring our readers up to the minute coverage.

I work closely with Tian Qin Lu, one of the company’s leading news anchors (pictured). Rather nicely, Tian Qin’s name means (unlike Florence’s) ‘beautiful song from the sky’ in Chinese and certainly her voice is a trusted, respected and influential one in Hainan. When comparing notes while, like me, working on the weekend, Tian Qin quoted me an old Chinese proverb, ‘Happy life is from hard working.’ I guess that makes me a very happy man indeed.

The Hainan Expo has attracted extraordinary support, especially within the context of a global pandemic. At a time when the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition (MICE) industry is on its knees worldwide, the Hainan Expo will be attended by 630 overseas companies and over 1,200 brands from 69 countries, a result that emphatically underlines the growing importance of Hainan to a whole range of industries, including of course luxury. All China’s travel retailers from both Hainan and the Mainland are attending, too, some of them such as DFS Group exhibiting.

The Expo will be held at the magnificent Hainan International Convention and Exhibition Centre. Swiss watch house Baume & Mercier is Official Timekeeper

I can’t wait to get to Hainan to see this incredible place again but that will have to wait until the inbound quarantine restrictions ease. Besides, I’ve another place to visit first. Yesterday I booked my ticket back to London in late May, so that I can attend my son Declan’s birthday and the first birthday of my granddaughter Carys who was ten days old when I last saw her.

Carys lives in the lovely Welsh town of Pontardawe, the birthplace of Welsh singer Mary Hopkin, whose signature tune ‘Those were the days’ sums up so evocatively the blend of longing and nostalgia that millions of us around the world feel in the absence of our loved ones. It will be my first flight since late July 2020 and I’m very excited about it.

I suspect I won’t like everything I rediscover back in the UK, though. As one reads about the tragedy of the surging COVID-19 toll in India, it is incredible to also take in this morning’s news of thousands of people defying social distancing rules to march through the streets of central London in protest against COVID-related regulations, including face masks and potential vaccine passports. This is stupidity on a grand scale that endangers us all.

Not far from the madding crowd. How Sky News covered the London protest and news that mask-wearing shoppers were heckled by the protestors. Click on image to read the full report.

Yesterday the UK published a series of powerful and often poignant photographs (see below) taken by photo-journalists working with the NHS. The series showcases the dedicated people behind the UK-wide vaccination programme, ahead of a campaign urging under-50s to get the jab.

There were a lot of under 50s in yesterday’s March. Their brains are as off-key as Florence’s singing, but with none of the latter’s redeeming features.

Dr Gavin Chestnutt, a GP Partner at Ballycastle Medical Practice and part-time farmer, is seen vaccinating a 92 year-old man in his front garden overlooking the Rathlin Island coastline in Northern Island. Picture: UK government
A magnificent view of Salisbury Cathedral, temporarily converted to a vaccine centre. Picture: UK Government