Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Monday, 29 September 2014

World Famous In Yangshuo

The most recent posts (all posted in a bit of blitz in the last ten minutes) are all, in my mind, a bit of a cheat as they were all posted first on Facebook (and yes, I know I wasn't going to use FB or social networking but a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds).
So, to redress the balance, here's a post that's just for here.

Since I moved to China I have, of course, continued writing poetry. Some of it has been posted here and in other places - much of it hasn't. The one thing that I thought I would never get the chance to do again until I return to England was perform it. After all I was living in Baiyin where the entire audience with language skills capable of deciphering a spoken poem would have been one - the other teacher who was there. I did, as you may recall, perform a couple of my poems at a formal dinner to the assembled staff of my school in the first term that I was there but I doubt anyone understood them. (Well two people did - back then there were three of us teaching in the city.)

So fast forward to three months ago and I moved to Yangshuo, a city with considerably more English speakers. There are plenty of tourists, plenty of locals with decent language skills and, crucially so it turns out, plenty of ex-pat teachers. Of course having people who understand the language isn't enough. They still have to be formed into an audience. Tourists are unlikely to want to come all the way to China to hear a poet from Wolverhampton reciting and the locals seem more bemused than enthralled by the concept. Where then could I find an audience of ex-pats willing to sit through a set?

I was spending a week teaching some Chinese teachers from Xi'An about British life and culture when the organiser of the course decided one night to take us to a bar that I hadn't previously known about - The Lounge. It proved to be a small but comfortable place with shelves full of books, comfortable armchairs, a nice patio area, a pool table and some reasonable bottled beer. It also had a notice on the wall saying "Tuesday - Open Mic".
I enquired, without much expectation, whether the open mic was just for music or if I could perform poetry there. The owner was delighted. They normally had singers, he said, but anyone was welcome to perform anything.

So I did a set of poetry. I know my business and made sure it was all light weight amusing stuff and it was pretty well received by the twenty or so English teachers who attended. And the next week I did some more and have done every week since when I have been able to go. There are about five regulars who are prepared to get up and have a go so I can do a decent length set, just like being at home. 

Last week I broadened out into reading from my travel book, Anyone Can Do It, and this week I am going to read a set about North Korea that includes both prose and poetry and was originally performed at the now sadly defunct Bilston Voices.

It's great to be performing again and, wonder of wonders, people seem to be enjoying it. Earlier in the week I was out shopping when someone stopped me and told me how much he'd enjoyed hearing about life in Quito and asked when I'd be back. 

Well, that's tomorrow night sorted out then.

proud of my lack of knowledge, as always

For no better reason than that I can now do it again, I just watched an episode of BBC quiz show "Pointless". In the first round contestants were given fourteen titles of hit songs from 2000 to 2009 and had to name the artists. Of the fourteen I knew that "Oops... I did it again" was Britney Spears BUT only because I think the heavy metal  Children of Bodom version is hilarious. Not only did I not know ANY of the others but when the answers were revealed I had only heard of five the artists and STILL didn't recognize any of the songs. Once again, I feel so proud.

Look - it isn't a holiday! Got it?

Had another of what the Chinese insist on calling "holidays" a couple of days ago. No matter how I try I can't convince anyone here that giving me Friday off but then having me work Friday's schedule on Sunday isn't a holiday.

More signs of the times

I feel old. On the BBC website is an article titled "My summer living without broadband" in which a journalist named Zoe Kleinman bemoans her fate at having to live for a couple of months with slow internet access. Back in my day (he says, channeling his dad) when I left the house I didn't just live without broadband, I didn't just live without wi-fi, I didn't just live without internet, I didn't even just live without computers. I lived without a telephone because a telephone was something that was in your your house, not your pocket. I expect that thirty years from now Zoe will be writing something just like this about whichever technology is then current. There's an outside chance I might still be alive to read it. And I'll still be feeling old.