Polly McGovern walks down memory lane with Sai Kung’s long-time fruit stall holder.
I left my family in Xinhui, China on June 29 but I can’t remember what year, maybe it was in the 1940s. I was about 20 years old and I needed work so I came to Hong Kong.
I found a job in a metal factory in Shau Kei Wan, it was difficult but I got a pay rise every few months. Some of the other employees were jealous and accused me of sleeping with the boss but it’s not true, I just worked hard!
My husband and I were introduced by a friend and dated for a short while before getting married. I experienced a few miscarriages so we didn’t have any children of our own but we adopted our daughter when she was just seven days old. She’s in her 40s now and sometimes she walks by, says hello and gives me some money. I also have two granddaughters but I don’t see much of them.
One day, after working in the factory for many years, there was an accident and the machinery cut off my finger. I decided to move to Sai Kung and become a pig farmer. We had five breeding pigs and about 500 others but farming doesn’t make much money, so I opened my fruit stall.
My husband worked for the government and travelled on the ships. He always helped me with the stall when he was home. Life was good in those days, we travelled all over Thailand on holiday and I enjoyed playing mahjong with my friends.
My happiest days were when he was alive. We were married for about 50 years. I loved him so much and miss everything about him. He never laid a hand on me and never even scolded me. We built our own simple house in Tai Chung Hau and the annual rent for the government land is only $49.
These days, I wake up at about 6am and find wood to heat the water before I go to work. It takes up to two hours to open the stall in the morning and the same to close it. I get there at 9am and my supplier comes every day to deliver the oranges, bananas and mangoes.
Sometimes I make enough money to pay the rent, and sometimes I don’t, but I am very frugal. I pay $2,300 per month for the stall and if I don’t make enough then I can use my fruit money from the government to subsidise the rent.
I usually get home by 8pm then shower, cook, eat dinner and by then it’s bed time. I no longer sleep well at night. I just think about how I had such a great life before.
Thinking about my husband also makes me sad. He fell out of a tree and was rushed to hospital with a head injury. It cost us one million dollars for his operation and he survived. Then, in 2004 he got sick and died.
I don’t want to stop working. I open my stall seven days a week and it’s the only thing that keeps me going. I’m too busy for anything else and I haven’t played mahjong for years. I can’t afford to lose the money and I don’t really have friends any more.
I’m about 90 years old and I go to the local doctor when I need to. He gives me my poison and I take it three times a day but it’s my stall that keeps me alive.
I don’t tell people off but if you squeeze my mangoes then I will ask you to stop. For me, a happy day is when business is good and I have customers.
Visit Lin Tang’s stall, next door to 20 Yi Chun Street (Butcher King), Sai Kung.