China is, as I have remarked before, a very loud country with fire crackers and blaring music and hideously noisy tractor like vehicles. There is, however, a noise I haven't mentioned before - the noise that woke me this morning.
As I drifted through my dreams there was a loud bang from outside my window - a bang like a gunshot.
It brought me suddenly to a startled wakefulness.
A few seconds later I was awake enough to realise what it was. The popcorn man had chosen today to set up his stall outside my window.
The popcorn man is a singularly scruffy individual. His clothes always look dirty; he looks about two hundred years old; he wears a particularly shabby cap. He sets up in a different place in the city every day. Whether this is because he is plying his trade illegally, or simply to widen his customer base, I couldn't say.
He sits on a stool turming over a metal drum below which is a fire. A long black fabric tube is laid out on the ground beside him, attached to the drum at one end.
The drum is, as you may surmise from the title of this piece, filled with corn ready for the popping. As he turns the heat builds up inside until there comes a point where it all pops at once resulting in that gunshot effect and a sack full of popcorn that he shovels into plastic bags and sells.
Given the apparent standards of hygiene - and the undeniable fact that I don't actually like popcorn very much - I doubt that I shall ever be sampling his wares but at least it has provided me with another sight that I am never likely to see in England.