The Field Marshall without his trousers

"A Red Lancer," by Charles Johnston Payne, 1912.

“A Red Lancer,” by Charles Johnston Payne, 1912.

The entire ground floor of Chungking Mansions is given to shops and stalls, most of those made up of Indian tailors who have a monopoly on the trade in Hong Kong. Not far down Nathan Road was the most famous of them all: Sam’s Tailor.

I knew all about Sam’s as half my father’s shirts were made there during his time stationed outside Hong Kong during the ’60s. Not only does he like to tell stories of getting fitted for a suit in Sam’s on a Saturday before heading to a party in some high-rise block but also the story of how after leaving Hong Kong he bumped into one of the British Army’s few field marshals—the highest rank attainable–at a function.

“Hello there, Sir, the last time I saw you, you didn’t have any trousers on,” is how my father recalls greeting the field marshal, who apparently and not surprisingly looked somewhat askance at this greeting.

Indeed, the last time they’d met the good general at the time had been in Sam’s getting fitted for a suit and hence not wearing his trousers.

Before leaving Hong Kong I managed to get my father’s measurements emailed from my mother and hurried along to Sam’s where I dealt with his grandson and managed to get a nice shirt made up in under 24 hours–which I thought said something about Hong Kong’s commercial prowess–and which now hangs in my father’s closet along with all his other Sam’s shirts.

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