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.

It's... er... a joke

Appearing in my newsfeed on Facebook because a friend had commented on it was a claim that Nigel Farage had said "What we need is a fairer system that involves employers paying what they want, being able to sack people when they want and for whatever reason they want." I have absolutely no time time for Mr Farage but the quote seemed suspiciously unlikely. Sure enough it took me a whole five seconds to source it to NewsThump - a satirical website which has its most recent story (at the time of writing) an item saying Tesco will be selling limited edition cans of beans at one million pounds a can. On Newsthump (31 December 2012) it's put into the mouth of Iain Duncan Smith along with the quote "we need to encourage people off benefits and into mortuaries".
Does no one these days have the critical faculties to spot a joke when they see it?
By all means criticise Mr Farage but criticise him for things he's said and done, not for recycled jokes from a satirical website.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

It was better before

Can't help feeling a pang of regret that the owner of "Gan's Noodle and Dumpling Restaurant" has had a nice big, new, shiny sign painted. That's all very well but in the process he's corrected what was my favourite spelling mistake in the city. The old sign read "Gan's Noodles and Dumping Restaurant".

Saturday, 13 September 2014

And on and on

Did you ever have one of those nightmares where you keep on dreaming that you have woken up only to have it start again? Well my visa situation is like that. When I reported the last episode I had returned from Hong Kong and revisited the Yangshuo Public Security Bureau and been told that I needed to send my passport off to the Guilin PSB again. The office told me I didn't need to go personally. Yesterday I discovered that the person responsible for sending it off has left it sitting on his desk for eighteen days, apparently completely forgotten. This only came to light because I asked. Had I not asked it would have sat there until the thirty day visa expired and as that can't be renewed again I'd have been on the next flight out. This means that today I've had to miss lessons to go to Guilin in person where they have taken it away from me again and told me I can get it back on the 8th October. So far the renewal process which normally takes a few days has been going on for FIVE MONTHS and there is no guarantee that it will be right this time. I am seriously considering just packing it all in and finding a contract somewhere else.