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, 25 June 2013

Things I miss about England #4: Taking a bath

From the title you might imagine that by now, after almost a year continuously in China, I am getting pretty smelly. Not so. It isn't washing that I miss it is very specifically lying in a bathtub of hot soapy water up to my neck. Chinese apartments don't generally have baths. I've been in lots of apartments and the bathing arangements are always the same - tiled wet room showers. You don't even get a western style shower with a shower tray and a curtain. It's a room - usually the one with the sink, the toilet and the washing machine - with tiled walls and floor and a grill over a hole for the water to run away.

Now I had, as I've mentioned before, a particularly inefficient shower with cold water and low pressure. I replaced it and now have a shower with nice hot water and high pressure. It's efficient and I'm nice and clean but I want a bath.
I want to fill a tub of water climb in and soak - something I managed while I was in England last summer but haven't managed since.

I mentioned this difference to a colleague who pointed out that there is a public bathing house but public means public. You all soak in the same water at the same time in a large bath and that's something I just  don't care to do. I'd rather just take the shower. hell I'd rather be dirty if that was the only option.

In all my time here I have only once seen an apartment with an actual bath and believe me I was tempted to ask if I might use it but as I was just there waiting for a friend of a friend to direct us to a nearby restaurant it seemed rather too forward.

If I knew a hotel with baths in the rooms I'd book in for a night every now and then just to relax in the hot water but the hotels are all the same - showers only.

Oh well, sooner or later I'll be going home and taking a bath will be top of my list of things to do.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Everyone in China is my dad

I loved my dad. Splendid fellow. Salt of the Earth and all that.
Like everyone else he had his failings and one of his failings was the perception gap between how good he thought he was at DIY and how good he actually was. When a job needed doing he got it done but he was a "never use a screw where a nail will do" kind of a DIYer. He also didn't believe in following, or even reading, instructions. I once saw him with one of those large cardboard boxes of cheap paint. Had it been a tin of paint he'd have prised the lid off with a screwdriver and set to work but the box flumoxed him. Instead of looking at the clear label on the side he took a hacksaw and sawed the top off. And set to work.

Here in China I'm constantly reminded of this approach to things. But here it isn't just my dad: it isn't just every dad that ever squeezed a handful of plumbers' putty around a leaking pipe: it isn't just every DIY enthusiast whose skills fail to live up to his ambition. It's everybody.
I've talked before how everything works but nothing works well. You've seen the video of how the shower was wired into my death-trap bathroom.
Actually, it's the shower I'd like to talk about.

Last week I went to take a shower. I turned the water on and there was a bright flash, a loud bang and a distinct smell of burning.
A smell of burning is never good, is it?

So I went outside to this fusebox.

I reset the breakers and went in. No effect.
So I went into the kitchen to this fusebox.

I reset the breaker. 

So I called it in to get an electrician.

He got the power back on in a few minutes. Apparently there is yet another fusebox somewhere in the building that had tripped.

Then he looked at the wiring that had caused the problem. He shook his head and made that sucking noise that electricians all over the world learn on the first day at trade school. He told me, via a translator, that (I'm rendering this very loosely) the shower had been fitted by cowboys who had used cable too light for the job. He left the original cable there and ran a second, heavier duty cable directly to the shower.

One week later.

Wanting to check the electrically powered water meter I plugged the original plug in.


You get the picture. 

Now it all gets rather comical. For you anyway. Not so comical for me.
I walked outside to reset the breakers.
I reset the breakers. 
I looked at the door. The door that had closed behind me. The door that can only be opened with a key. The key that was inside the apartment. The apartment I was now locked out of.
I had been about to take a wash. I was wearing a pair of jeans and a pair of house slippers. And nothing else. I felt in my pocket for my phone to call my friend who has my spare keys. My phone that was next to my keys on the table inside the apartment.

It's only a five minute walk to my friends apartment but in five minutes a half-naked man can attract a lot of attention as he climbs over the roadworks and hobbles through the mud. All the way I was repeating a mantra of "Please, let her be in. Please, let her be in."

She was in and I soon had my keys, a woman's cut lavender coloured T-sheet and money for a taxi back.

I called for the electrician who reset the power again and took another look at the old cable. We decided that I didn't need it at all and took it down. With the cable in my hands I discovered exactly what the problem was. It was actually two pieces of cable that had been joined by twisting the exposed wires together and "insulating" them with sellotape. That's right. Sellotape. It had gone unnoticed because it had then been sellotaped to the back of a water pipe and couldn't be seen from the bathroom.

As I looked at it I couldn't help thinking, "Dad would have been proud."

Friday, 7 June 2013

Not the sort of blog that does many links, but...

Anyone who is a fan of the original series of Star Trek and wishes there had been a season 4 should watch this. Episode 1 of Season 4:Pilgrim of Eternity.

It's really rather well done and several of the actors have the mannerisms down perfectly.

I'll be watching out for future episodes. I think you will be too.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The most frustrating thing about China

There are many little niggles about life in China that make things difficult or frustrating but for my money the utter impossibility of getting information about anything is about the worst.
We are now three (or maybe four or maybe five) weeks from the end of term. I have a summer job in another city and I need to book a flight. But I can't, because no one can tell me when the term actually ends. Not only that, but they can't tell me when they will be able to tell me when the term actually ends. Or, in an amazing bit of meta-obfuscation, when they will be able to tell me when they will be able to tell me when the term ends.
If I don't book the flight now I will end up having to pay double or treble for it and, I have been told, there is a serious possibility that I won't find out when the term ends until the morning of the actual day so I won't be able to even get onto a flight.
I'm not kidding.
I have in the past been given about one hour's notice that a holiday is starting - told at eleven O'clock in the morning that the holiday starts at twelve. I have had many conversations with Chinese colleagues where I have asked how they organise things and the answer is a blank stare, a "what does 'organise' mean" kind of stare. If I can manage to explain what I mean they seem baffled that anyone would want or need more than a day's notice.

And this is how it is. Always.

A Missing Scene Redux

 Caution - one large SPOILER ahead.

I am informed that this is well-known in the UK, probably here too if only I could read the papers,  well-known and controversial.

Some Chinese film fans are apparently rather angry about it.

They should be. The additional scenes are pointless. Insulting even. The total screen time for the Chinese stars is about a minute. It's clearly just shoe-horned into the movie with no sense or reason.*

I was told that the dialogue (in Chinese - no English subtitling) was just the doctor saying that they must save Tony Stark (who wasn't noticeably hurt!) because he isn't just an American hero he is a world hero. The nurse gets even less to say or do.
And that's more or less it.
I can understand why Chinese fans feel let down - these are huge stars (or so I'm told) in Chinese cinema.
There is a kind of irony to it too. The studio have gone to great trouble to re-invent the Mandarin. - In the comic books a thoroughly evil oriental - as a western actor hired to pretend to be a generic terrorist. The script has been crafted to turn what was a Chinese supervillain into something else and not offend China but then the additional Chinese scenes have been inserted in such a cack-handed way that it was bound to anger the fans.
And the fans will be even more angry if the rumours on the internet are true and that the scenes they filmed in China but didn't show at all in either country get included on the Blu-Ray release - virtually no one here has Blu-Ray because although many DVDs are labelled "Blu-Ray" none of them actually are. Buying legitimate DVDs is all but impossible and I have yet to see an actual genuine Blu-Ray disc.

If it does get edited and then released in a format that most of the Chinese fans won't be able to watch then that's just piling up the insult.

None of it alters the fact that it's a pretty good movie but it doesn't make Disney/Marvel look good.

(*Apart, of course, from the real world reason that it made marketing and selling the movie in China easier.)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A Missing Scene

Right at the end of Iron Man 3 - at  least at the end of the version I saw last night - there is a scene between a Chinese doctor and a Chinese nurse. They talk as they are scrubbing up and then there is another short scene between them a couple of minutes later.
The scene was in Chinese and not subtitled.
This morning I downloaded a copy to take a look at the subtitles.
Not only were there no subtitles, there was no scene. It was gone. Disappeared.

I wonder if it was put in solely for the Chinese cut of the movie. 

Downloading it did do one good thing though. It let me see the post credits scene. In Chinese cinemas they always seem to stop the movie as soon as the credits start so that scenes during or after the credits are never shown.

Sixth Time Lucky

I've been trying to see Iron Man 3 at the cinema in Baiyin. 
It hasn't been easy...

Attempt Number 1

The poster outside the cinema, though mostly outside, includes the names of English films in English and the date they will begin showing them. A couple of days after Iron Man 3 was due to be shown I went to see it only to be told (by phoning a friend and having him translate) that it wasn't actually opening for two more weeks.

Attempt Number 2

About two weeks later I returned, intending to see the morning showing on a Saturday. I was told (this time via a combination of mime and pointing) that there was no matinee performance this week and that it would be on at two thirty.

Attempt Number 3

Because it was a nice day I went and sat in the park for a couple of hours and returned at two twenty. I was now told (via a helpful passing school student) that there would be a showing that night at 7:30.

Attempt Number 4

I didn't feel like going all the way back over to the cinema at 8:00 pm so it was a week later when I tried again. Big things had happened in that week including my finding a Chinese girlfriend who could now talk directly to the staff. We went to see the 8:00 pm showing on Tuesday only to be told that it had started at 7:30. We could go in if we wanted but who wants to miss the first 25% of a movie. So we went to the bar.

Attempt Number 5

The next day we showed up at 7:15 only to be told that yesterday's information was wrong. There was no 7:30 showing, nor indeed an 8:00 showing. There never had been. We were misinformed. There was a showing at 10:15.
We went back to her apartment and watched The Life of Pi on DVD instead.

Attempt Number 6

We went yesterday to the 10:15 showing. At the ticket desk we were told that we were the only two customers and they wouldn't show it unless at least three turned up. Luckily a couple more turned up and, at 10:20, they actually started the movie.

And what did I think of it after all that?

Pretty good actually. It has a couple of flaws and we don't get to see nearly enough of all the cool alternative Iron Man suits that feature rather prominently in the trailer and the advertising but it was pretty good. Definitely worth seeing.
Worth trying six times to see? Maybe.

Next up will probably be when I attempt to see The Man of Steel.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

My Life In China Video #3 - School 11 to School 8

My other school is Middle School Eight to get there I take the walk from the last video followed by this walk.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

My Life In China Video #2 - The walk to Middle School 11

I've had to upload this as a smaller video than the last, and a t a lowr quality,  because it's longer and blogger size restrictions kicked in. Sorry about that.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

A few clips from the Xi-An Tang Dynasty cultural show

The show was marvellous.
The pre-show dumpling supper was even better!