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, 25 February 2013


I spent yesterday with some Chinese Buddhist friends visiting the temples at Ping Yuan. It was all very interesting but what was more interesting came from the fact that Ping Yuan sees very few foreigners*. For the first time in ages I became the subject of the staring squads again. I was a matter of great curiosity for everyone from small children to little old men and women. Many times people took my picture, either openly or surreptiously, sometimes getting others to take their pictures with me. It reached it's surreal pinnacle as I was waiting for the train to come back. My friends and I were taking some pictures of each other when a member of the station staff came over and said something in Chinese. I assumed that he was saying that we shouldn't take pictures there. Railway station, staff, indeed staff anywhere, sometimes get a bit annoyed when people take pictures.
I was wrong though, he was asking if we would mind posing for the station photographer in front of the sign so that they could take some pictures of the foreigner to include on the web site. So we dutifull posed while he took half a dozen pictures. If I ever find out the web site address, I'll let you know.
Ah, the perils of fame. Just can't escape the paparazzi.

(*I think the last one was when the same friends took my American colleague, Mike, for the end of Spring Break. I was out of the city at the time so I couldn't go.)

Sunday, 17 February 2013


I'm in a country where I've eaten dog, snake and donkey.
I confess that I passed on the tasty looking (some still wriggling) toasted scorpions-on-stick on my recent vist to Beijing.
I'm at a bit of a loss to understand all the fuss about a bit of horse meat.


So there's horsemeat in the burgers, the lasagne and the stew,
But if you're squeamish about horses then why not about cows too?
And what about those lambs that were frolicsome and cute?
Do you like them with mint sauce - are you really such a brute?
You should go to Scandinavea and buy Rudolph in a tin,
Or served up with potatoes - would you eat him with a grin?
Or you can come to China and I'll take you for a meal
Would you care for dog or donkey? Or does a snake appeal?
There are scorpions on sticks, some of them still squirming
You can see they're nice and fresh as their movement is confirming.
No use in this hypocracy - you'll eat meat or you won't.
Personally I do but it's OK if you don't,
But try to use your reason what difference does it make
If you're really eating horse when you thought it was beef steak?

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Update from the trenches

It's now 9:47 and the battle still rages...

A quiet lie in part 2

Do they never sleep?
Is everyone in the city stone deaf?
It's been every single morning this week though today they havereally gone overboard.
It's currently 7:56 a.m. and there has been what sounds like a very large war raging through the city for about the last two and a half hours. There has not been a ten second respite. My head is pounding from the noise and the lack of sleep and right at this moment if I had a single firework capable of wiping Baiyin off the map, I'd be lighting the blue touchpaper and retiring.
Celebration is one thing but starting at half past five in the morning and going on for hour after hour with this kind of noise is jkust sadism. Is there really nobody in this whole city that wants to sleep in even as late as six O'clock?
They are not even pretty coloured fireworks. They are just noisemakers.
I'd have got more sleep on the bloody Somme.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Packaging redux

I've commented on the Chinese tendency to overpackage things before but this is one of the finest examples yet. I just bought three lemons. I only wanted one but there were none loose, only packaged in threes.
The packaging consisted of

1. Each lemon individually shrink-wrapped.
2. Each shrink-wrapped lemon in an individual small plastic bag.
3. Three three bagged lemons in another slightly bigger plastic bag.
4. The bigger bag containing the lemons placed on a plastic tray and covered in cellophane.
5. The whole tray wrapped in another layer of cellophane.

And of course it was all put into another plastic bag at the checkout.

All for the sake of a lemon.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Pass the paracetamol.

Today is the Chinese Spring Festival and therefore a day when it is utterly useless for me to attempt to do anything that requires any degree of concentration for more than about a minute. Listening to music or watching TV are simply out of the question.
The noise!
If there is one thing that can be said of China it is that it is a damned noisy country at the best of times. Even on normal days a walk down the street is an assault on the ears, as shops blast out music at way past the levels where distortion begins, differing styles and artists blending into a vast cacophany of ear-wrenching racket. To this is added the sound of the firecrackers that are let off for every birthday, chistening, wedding, shop-opening, shop-closing, whatever-other-thing in a machine gun rat-a-tat supplemented by the occasional much louder booming explosion from another popular type of firework.
And that's the norm.
It gets a thousand times noisier around Spring Festival, around now.
Yesterday was the Chinese New Year's Eve equivalent and, just as in England, they celebrate with fireworks. I don't care much for the noise from ours but the noise her has to be heard to be believed. It kicked off in earnest at about ten O'clock. I watched the colourful fireworks for a while from my fourth floor window but the noise, dear God, the noise! It sounded like a hundred wars had simultaneously broken out. The firecrackers were from every direction and non-stop. Explosions overhead every two or three seconds were sometimes accompanied by bright light shows but just as often merely by a single flash.
I had been watching TV but, in my double glazed apartment with all blinds and all doors shut and the TV volume up full it was still impossible to hear what SImon Templar had to say in the old episode of The Saint so I gave up.
Music was equally a failure - I have no headphones but I do have a walkman and that was as ineffective against the battery as stuffing my ears with jelly-beans would have been. (Though I confess that's a solution that I didn't actually try.)
Reading proved impossible and sleeping was clearly out of the question so I sat there sipping cups of tea until the noise had at least died down and then I went to bed.

And then it was almost six O'Clock.
What sounded like a bomb went off right outside my window. It was followed by more firecrackers and then we were off again. It's now about 9:30 and the noise is going on and on. There are occasional lulls when I am adding a sentence to this post but for the most part it's more-or-less constant.

And as I've typed that last sentence a curious quiet has fallen. I can hear some firecrackers but they are far away and faint. I can only hope that this means we will now have a rest from it all.

(To all of my Chinese friends, I wish you a happy, prosperous and above all quiet New Year. Put my crotchitiness nown to the lack of sleep and the prospect of whole day of being driven crazy by the noise.)

And now, it's started up again across the street.

Ah well, let's go find the paracetamol.