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.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Just because I'm paranoid...

I'm starting to think they're out to get me - specifically that my administrator is trying to kill me.
Now of course I know that's nonsense. My administrator doesn't want to kill me. She wants me to stay for another year in Baiyin. She says (and of course she's right) that I'm the best teacher they've had in Baiyin. All the same...

It started on Friday when she texted to invite me to go hiking with the local rambling group on Saturday morning. I went with them at eight o'clock and by about nine we were at the start of our hike. Initially  it was a flat stroll along a rubbish strewn riverbank but when we reached the hydroelectric station we turned off and headed uphill. It wasn't especially strenuous but it wasn't especially pleasant either - a dry dusty hike up a narrow path. Here and there as we climbed it was better with some nice views back across the lake. The path climbed and dipped and climbed again with the trend being upward so that after a couple of hours we were quite high and at a small flat area where we rested. Then came the start of my problems. The next section was an awkward scramble down through rocks. There was no path as such but it should have been easy. It would have been except that I seemed to have twisted my hip. It was becoming quite painful and the twisting and turning nature of the descent didn't help. By the time I reached the bottom I was in quite a lot of pain. My friend Richard who speaks excellent English, asked the leaders of the hike how difficult the rest was and if there was any more climbing. They told him that there was only a little climbing left - a small hill.
First though we had to get to lunch. The walking was increasingly painful but I got to lunch and sat down and rested. By the time we were moving on I didn't feel too bad and as we started off along a flat riverbed I thought it was OK. Two hundred yards on we turned out of the riverbed and started to climb again. The path was narrow and awkward and my hip was soon aching again. It got worse and worse as we continued to climb and I was at the back of the group by some distance. Then there came a bit that I thought I might not manage, a steep slippery downward slope followed by an equally steep rocky climb back to the path. I started to hobble down but the leader called me back and indicated a long but flat path round. It would add about forty minutes at my current pace but was, he said, easier. Half way round the awkwardness of my walking started to throw pressure onto my knees. I have had trouble with my knees in the past but rarely has it come on so quickly and so violently. Within minutes I was in agony with every step feeling like knives were being driven under my kneecaps.
Then we came to a section maybe thirty feet long where the path had been destroyed by a rock fall. All that was there was loose dirt on a sixty degree slope. It would have been easy enough to manage with properly functioning legs but it was damned difficult as things were. Jane, my administrator, watched impassively as I struggled. Behind was a drop of about a hundred feet. Somehow I made it. And I made the next one too and eventually arrived at the point where we rejoined the original path. The leaders were waiting. Now I was sure it would be an easy descent.
Imagine my surprise when we started uphill. It was a struggle. It would have been a struggle in any circumstances. Narrow paths alternated with non-existent ones. Hands and knees scrambles across rock faces with vertical drops onto sharp rocks alternated with ploughing across slopes of loose dirt. Every step was agony but eventually we made the road. There was a man loading a truck and we tried to negotiate for a ride to the bus station but he wanted a ridiculous amount so we hobbled on. The next group, shoveling soil onto a flatbed, were more amenable. They called a cab for us and Jane, Richard and I took our leave of the guides who scurried on down the hill while we waited.

An hour later we were arriving back in town and if that were the end of the attempts on my life, then fair enough, but of course if that were the end then this post wouldn't exist.

Both Richard and Jane insisted that I should get checked out but, as I have frequently remarked, this is China and China is the land of woo. so rather than the doctor or hospital that I was expecting we arrived at a massage clinic. Inside the shelves were covered with the paraphernalia of acupuncture and cupping and with those mysterious little wooden boxes that contain the bits of dried twig and assorted animal parts that make up traditional Chinese medicine. If they had suggested I use any of that I would have had to risk offending them but they just wanted me to take a massage. While the posters showing "energy flows" through the body were more of the same I was pretty sure that a massage would do no actual harm so I went along with it.
It was quite possibly the most painful experience of my life - to the extent that I was almost convinced that the masseuse was in on the conspiracy to rob me of my life. I survived the hour of torture but by the end of it in addition to my aching hip and knee I had every other bit of my body aching.
It was a broken and hobbling man that dragged himself up the five flights of steps to my apartment and collapsed onto the bed.

Next day Jane had arranged to have anew shower fitted to replace the hopelessly inadequate one my apartment was previously equipped with. Richard came along to communicate with the plumbers. They came, they fitted, they left. Once again TIC. It's an electric water heater in a bathroom and the only way to plug it in is by stretching an extension cable from the diagonally opposite corner and plugging it in MID-AIR in the middle of the bathroom. Health and Safety seems to be an unknown concept here. I expect I shall be electrocuted one day but in case that plan failed there was more to come.

I had asked Richard to accompany me to a pharmacy to help buy some painkillers - I was thinking of Ibuprofen or Paracetamol. What I got was something called Diclofenac Sodium. As the name was the only thing on or in the packaging in English I decided that before taking any I would take the precaution of looking on the internet. I discovered that outside China it's a prescription only drug, not sold over the counter and was alarmed in the side effects to see this

"may cause serious internal bleeding (rarely fatal)".

Call me a sissy if you like but "rarely fatal" isn't nearly rare enough for me. I shan't be taking any of those, thank you! A few days pain is probably a safer bet.

So that's it then?

No, actually it's not. As I was reading these grim warnings I got a text from Jane asking me if I wanted to join her Richard and some of their friends for dinner at the Little Sheep. The Little Sheep is a hotpot restaurant - and a damned good one, at that, so along I went. Now for those who don't know hot pot is a large bowl of bubbling liquid into which you drop vegetables and meat and pluck them out when cooked. This one, as many are, was divided into two sections - one with a tomato-based liquid, the other a chili-based liquid. Both were delicious and I tucked in with enthusiasm. About half way through the meal Jane tipped in a large plate of something that was black and shiny. Because I am allergic I have a very keen ability to identify the perfidious mushroom in all of its forms and these were clearly mushrooms. Jane knows I am allergic. When I pointed out that I could no longer eat anything she said that she had only intended to put them in one side but a few had fallen in the wrong side. No matter, she assured me, they had only been in for a few moments before she took them back out.

And so far that's it.

Death by falling down a cliff.
Death by assault and battery.
Death by electrocution.
Death by internal bleeding.
Death by poisoning.

I wonder what new possibilities tomorrow offers. You may be sure that I am checking the stairwell for roller-skates whenever I go out.

(And no, of course I don't think they really are trying to kill me. That would be ridiculous. Wouldn't it?)