To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.

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Middleburgh Smartcard

Once upon a time, in the dim and distant past, I acquired my first wallet. I would like to think that I either bought it, or was given it as a gift, but I suspect I simply borrowed my father's old cast off, (just like his pack of playing cards with semi clothed “ladies”). In those days when life was simple and we lived the Hovis advert, wallets were for keeping your money in ... oh happy days!!

Wallets came and went ... sometimes their parting was deeply mourned, especially when they run off to share valued contents with persons unknown… sometimes with regret, when a particularly loved and well engineered specimen self terminated and disintegrated…. sometimes they were simply retired to a draw to await resurrection by a succeeding generation. Over time the features and functions of successive wallets changed reflecting my prevailing life style. There was a wallet with a little notepad and pencil. The pencil absconded before I discovered girls, so I had to memorize their telephone numbers. Then there was the wallet with a coin pocket in which I stored condoms (this was after I discovered girls).

At some point, after University, my wallet was upgraded to carry credit cards. As I collected more of these, I required every more sophisticated wallets, with secret and concertina pockets ... and then putting childish things behind me, I got married... this ultimately lead to my repudiation of credit cards and the like, and I reverted to that simple life in which my wallet was merely a transit station for passing banking notes. Here today..Gone tomorrow…

And then I came to china. It was the second coming...

Firstly I discovered the Octopus card. This is a MONDEX like smart card. Unlike MONDEX, it has traction, being universally used in Hong Kong to pay for small purchases and for public transport, More versatile than the London Oyster card (and cheaper!!!). I have one of these too for when I visit the UK.

I also have a Shenzhen Transcard. When I first got it I put it with my passport. However this totally freaked one of my Chinese colleagues who saw me wave my passport over the scanner to gain access to the platforms. They didn't realize that I had a Transcard with the passport and they asked me how I got through. Showing them my passport, I replied "British Passport - gets you in anywhere...". In fact I discovered that the "chip" embedded in the passport had a tendency to confuse and disabled the Shenzhen Metro turnstiles and customer service had to reset my card (and the turnstile) so I moved it to my "Chinese" wallet.

This is the wallet I use when I cross the border: Apart from the transcard it contains People’s money. If you leave it alone in the wallet it magically increases in value much to the annoyance of US legislators. There was a time when you could use a HKD100 note in china in lieu of a RMB100 note. Not anymore. Whilst they look alike, the latter is now worth more. In HK they are sticking to a 1 country 2 currencies policy and haven't started accepting RMB100 notes yet.

In China people routinely scrutinize the notes and coins they receive, and old tatty bank notes, which are a health hazard, are highly prized. The rationale is that if it's been accepted by so many others it is unlikely to be forgery (it simply wouldn't be cost effective to print a forgery and make it so worn)

This China wallet also contains not 1 but 2 smart cards just to me get into the office in Shenzhen. The first lets me pass the turnstile to get to the lifts (essentially it logs me in/out of building. the second logs me into/out of the office suite. Both have proved to be impervious to my passport.

In addition, my china wallet also contains a business card with the office address in simplified Chinese for those occasions when I am not sabotaging the metro turnstiles. Originally I used a female colleague’s card so that the taxi driver could fantasize that I was going to meet this staggeringly attractive female executive. My ego was put in its place when she wryly pointed out that whilst she was flattered, her Chinese name didn't indicate gender.

When I return to Hong Kong, I transition back to my HK wallet. Apart from the Octopus card and a couple of low value Hong Kong Bank Notes (for emergencies) it contains not 2 but 3 smart cards. One gives me access to my apartment building; another gives access to the HK office and the third is my HK ID card, which doubles as a library card.

By law I am obliged to carry whilst in HK. Apparently in the UK the authorities are having difficulties rolling out such ID cards because of concerns about infringement of civil liberties. Speaking from personal experience the only time I have been asked to show my card is at immigration (coming in/out of Hong Kong), at banks (as proof of identity), when registering to vote, registering with a doctor and of course when borrowing books from the library -, I have yet to test it against London underground turnstiles.

I never really understood this argument about ID cards. Whilst HK residents may be burdened with ID cards, it can be argued that, in fact, they are subject to less monitoring than people in UK who are watched by cameras on every street corner, ...National Rreality TV everyone or perhaps "candid camera".

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