30,000

There goes another milestone.
 
I know I’ve stopped mentioning milestones in general, but I note that GB passed 30,000 hits about twenty minutes ago (1.54pm). No idea who the lucky winner was. They didn’t leave a name.
 
I’m still trying to get back on China time. Got up fairly earlier yesterday, and was quite tired by the time I went to bed, but still woke up some time very early this morning. Went back to sleep again and found that it was 12.20pm by the time I woke up again. I keep having slightly odd dreams as well. In last night’s one, I was in a car when my Dad, who was outside the car, said something about a red dog running by. I opened the window and noted that it wasn’t a red dog but a fox. I forget the rest of the dream, but I don’t think it made much sense, even in the dream.
 
Humid and wet again, and the cicadas are much more noticeable this year than they were last year. In fact, last year I’m sure I only heard them in this tree, that tree and the tree over there, but this year they seem to have taken up residence in every tree. Even although most of them are in the trees along the street, I can still hear them from my bedroom. Fortunately at night they’re not that bothersome.
 
However, I’m looking out of the window, observing that things have brightened up somewhat, and thinking that the rain has ceased for the moment, which means it’s probably a good time to head for Carrefour and do some shopping.

It’s Chengdu, Jim

But not as we know it.
 
Went out for tea (well, lunch might be more accurate in my current state of body clock) this evening and spotted these fine instances of Chinglish outside the People’s Market, which is about to be demolished.
 
chinglish002 chinglish003
chinglish004
 
Astute viewers will notice that the city in the background of the first picture isn’t actually Chengdu. I think it’s New York. (That fuzzy pink edge is probably the edge of my finger.) 骄傲 (jiāo’ào) can indeed mean "arrogant", but here really means "be proud of; take pride in".
 
In the second caption, 奉献 (fèngxiàn) means "present with respect; dedicate".
 
In the final image, I can’t see how 流行 (liúxíng) "popular; in vogue" can give "unpopularity" unless the translator was thinking of Gordon Brown at the time.
 
Chinglish and political satire. Who says I don’t give great value for money?

Never mind the Olympics; feel the humidity

Back in China.
 
I left from Terminal 2 at Heathrow, which is obviously where the Third World comes and goes. The check-in area is cramped and, when you’re dealing with people from countries where "mob" and "queue" mean the same thing, chaotic. I instantly noted that the party of kids who’d flown out from Shanghai with me were now flying back. I also found myself among a group of Chinese English teachers who’d been on a course in Brighton for three months.
 
The flight left fairly promptly; the same DVD was shown as the first time; and I nodded off and on for most of the time.
 
At Shanghai I flew through immigration, an advantage of being a foreigner on a flight whose passengers are mostly Chinese. That’s where the celerity stopped. Got to the baggage carousel, but didn’t like the fact that bags from three flights were being dispensed on it. It probably took an hour for my bag to appear, during which time a huge queue (or mob; I knew I was back in China) was extending deep into the baggage reclaim area from customs, where they were  X-raying all the bags.
 
As the guy ahead of me said, they should’ve had more machines (try about ten or so), but they only had two running. That mob (queue, if you’re feeling generous) took another hour to negotiate, and was exacerbated by people obviously seeing their friends ahead of them in the queue and pushing in at that point.
 
It didn’t affect checking in for my flight to Chengdu, and because of what happened the first time, I knew exactly where I ought to be going. As for the flight itself, I nodded on and off again.
 
At Chengdu airport, there was a mob (definitely not a queue on this occasion) at baggage reclaim because, again, the bags from three flights were being offloaded onto a single carousel. A group of policemen had come in on one of the flights and were merrily joining in to the extent that one policeman jumped over the carousel because his mate’s bag was on the other side. Mine emerged faster than I was expecting, and with that I headed home.
 
Got here about midnight, but by that time I’m kind of awake, and by the time I finish unpacking, I’m even more awake, eventually going to bed at about 6am this morning. Didn’t get up until around 3pm, but I needed the sleep. I’m glad that I wasn’t coming back to that dull and tedious conference they put us through at the start of term. It’s bad enough when you aren’t suffering from jet lag.
 
Noticeable things I.
Nightfall. I’d forgotten that in the UK it’s still light-ish at 10pm. Here, it was almost dark by 8.30pm.
 
Noticeable things II.
The humidity. However humid Kirsten and Nick might think London is, the humidity here is worse. You’d have to travel on the Tube all day to experience something similar. I didn’t notice it so much last year because after Fuzhou, the weather in Chengdu seemed quite restrained.

All in all you’re just another brick in the wall

Hadrian.
 
I went to see the Hadrian exhibition at the British Museum this morning. Cost £12 and takes about an hour to go through. It’s in the lower part of the Reading Room. The exhibition starts with the remains of a recently discovered statue of Hadrian, although all that’s left are his head, a lower leg, and a foot. The first section is about Hadrian’s rise to the throne as the adopted son of the Emperor Trajan. The second section was about the various rebellions that dogged the Roman Empire at the start of Hadrian’s reign. There was quite a bit about the quelling of the rebellion in Palestine. The third section was about Hadrian the builder. There was a small model of the Pantheon and also a model of his villa in Tivoli, which must’ve been enormous. The eponymous wall was represented by fragments with inscriptions on them. The next section was about Hadrian’s relationship with Antinous, who died young and left a beautiful corpse for people to worship. The final section was on Hadrian’s appointment of a successor, the laurels eventually going to Antoninus Pius. Hadrian also made sure that Antoninus had a suitable successor himself – Marcus Aurelius. Curiously enough, Hadrian had to make the Senate deify Hadrian after his death, which suggests that the man in the big chair hadn’t been that popular even although we tend to regard Hadrian as one of the saner emperors.
 
The exhibition issued you into the shop where you could buy your Hadrian T-shirts, mugs, fridge magnets, pens, book marks, etc. Actually, I bought a couple of Rosetta Stone mouse mats, one for me and one for Nick and Kirsten because they don’t have one for their iMac mouse.
 
The last of my purchases from Amazon arrived yesterday morning, and I indulged myself by buying Life on Mars which was on – please invert your commas now – special. In fact, it was just a boxed set of both series for £5 cheaper than you’d pay for buying them separately, although the sticker was claiming that the price had been reduced from £60.
 
But aware of weight and space limitations on my suitcase, I refrained from buying anything else. In truth, though, I haven’t really indulged that much, and not sure I would’ve even if my Switch card had been fully functional.

Fortunately… Unfortunately…

The Story of the Switch Card.
 
Fortunately, the bank phoned this morning to tell me my Switch card had arrived.
 
Unfortunately, I was then told I’d be getting a new PIN, which means that I can’t use the card in three-dimensional shops until I have one. Also, it takes five working days to get a new PIN. It might turn up on Friday, but I’ll expect to see squadrons of flying pigs if it does.
 
Fortunately, I can get as much money out of the bank as I like and I can still use the card online.
 
Unfortunately, I some online shops won’t work if your correspondence and delivery addresses are in different countries.
 
Fortunately, I was able to buy the laptop via Amazon UK. It should be delivered tomorrow before 1pm.
 
Unfortunately, I have no more unfortunatelies so here I have to end.

And waiting and waiting

And waiting and waiting.
 
I was very patient and waited until lunchtime before I went to the bank. Was my patience rewarded? No. The card hadn’t arrived. It might turn up tomorrow. Three to five working days, I was told that it’d take for it to be delivered. It’s now a week since it was ordered.
 
As a consequence, I won’t be going to Manchester to see Ricardo because there just isn’t the time to do the things I ought to have been doing last week. In spite of informing the bank when I’d be turning up so that the hiatus between requesting the new Switch card and collecting it wasn’t going to lead to problems, my attempt to obviate some problem like this was ineffectual.
 
I’d still like to know why no replacement card ever turned up last year as it ought to have. Normally, the new one is sent out just before the old one is due to expire. It might’ve gone astray in the post, of course. But having moved again in 2007 for the third year running, and thus having no immediate call for a Switch card, I neglected to pursue the matter. But when I did, I dealt with it in good time (so I thought) and I supplied the requisite information.
 
Appendix.
Information I subsequently had from the local branch suggested that the card had been there when I said I’d collect it, but some overzealous hamster had already killed it on the system.

While we’re waiting

A few light diversions.
 
I spent much of yesterday listening to TMS. The third day was pretty typical. South Africa kept ploughing on and England may as well have been trying to sink the Bismarck with soft leaks thrown from a short distance. It seemed all rather pedestrian. Might be more interesting today, but only because there might be a steady stream of wickets falling.
 
Nick, Kirsten and I went to the market at Camden lock for lunch and watched a couple of the canal boats go through the lock before trekking back across Regent’s Park. The weather was variable, being cold and overcast one moment and then warm and sunny the next, although the cool wind which has been blowing for the past three days took the edge off the warmth. Bright and sunny here at the moment with light clouds. According to Google, it’s cloudy in Chengdu and 31 degrees, although the official report is saying a high of 27 and rain. The Beeb’s weather report for Chengdu has a mixture of rain and sunny intervals this week, which probably really means cloud with rain alternating with loud without rain.
 
I found from something I overheard on Today this morning that the Beano is 70. There’s also a cartoon in which John Humphreys and co. have an encounter with Dennis the Menace. I only ever read the Beano now and then, although that was true of most comics apart from Commando. Actually, I haven’t seen hide or hair of any Commando comics, although I know they’re still being published.
 
Meanwhile, there have been a couple of explosions on buses in Kunming (Two dead in Chinese bus blasts). If there’d been one explosion, I might dismiss it as a mere accident, but since there were two it seems, at this point in time, that these incidents were deliberate. I see that Matt‘s away at the moment. I assume there will be something about this on ESWN sooner or later.
 
According to this story, the MOD has had its 659th laptop stolen in four years. 659?! It gets better: only 32 have been recovered. Perhaps the staff at the MOD should be given those packs of cards like the ones that used to come flying out of the windows of the naval school in Fuzhou. They had various exhortations about maintaining security.

Bank Holiday

Aka, the weekend.
 
One of the things I’d forgotten about the UK is that banks are closed at the weekend. In China, if I actually need to go into the bank on Saturday or Sunday, the whole Monday-to-Friday thing isn’t an issue. It means that this weekend, I can’t be too profligate. Actually, I listened to TMS for some of this afternoon, although found that there must’ve been some play yesterday after all. I did switch on the radio at one stage, but it was just the usual programme on R4. Today, England were getting nowhere with South Africa after a fairly dismal first innings performance.
 
But eventually, I decided that I needed to go for a wander and walked over to Regent’s Park. The wind was a little cool, but apart from that it was nice and clear. Even that week or so we had in Chengdu when it was bright and sunny couldn’t match the clarity of the sky and the vibrancy of the colours. I would’ve been a good occasion to have a tripod and take a panorama of the park and skyline. I couldn’t help but notice that I seem to have found myself in London’s international quarter because I heard almost no English at all. Also quite a number of Muslims around, but they would’ve been at the nearby mosque, I guess, or about to head off there.
 
Watched a programme this evening called New Tricks, which might’ve been subtitled Geriatric ‘Tec Unit because of the average age of the thesps. I can’t remember how long it’s been since I’ve seen Dennis Waterman in anything (unless you count Little Britain) and yes, he sings the theme song. The programme is about some group of aging policemen who are trying to solve previously unsolved crimes. Some of it was silly, but it seemed to be quite entertaining. It’s another series which the parochial DVD pirates of China seem to have omitted from their list of publications. Bastards.

That was the week that was

I should’ve stayed at home.
 
I went back to the bank this morning mainly because I needed to withdraw some more money. I could see the box where they put the Switch cards, but there was nothing in it, and if I’d been hoping the card had arrived today, I’d gone in too early.
 
I then headed off to the British Museum, where I haven’t been in a long time as far as I vaguely recall. I had a look at the Chinese exhibits, which may sound a bit odd after spending so many years in China, but all the captions were in English. Usually, because everything’s in Chinese, I don’t learn much about what I’m looking at. The only thing I would suggest for the BM captions is that the name of the object should be given in Chinese and not just in unaccented pinyin.
 
I also passed through the European display in another vain search for Lindow Man. I’m sure that I saw him not long after he first went on display, and I know he gets mentioned, but when I ventured into that part of the museum where I expected to see him, there was no sign of him at all. This isn’t the first time that Lindow Man has vanished on me, but the BM’s a big place and it’s easy to lose things in there.
 
But by this stage, the grief surrounding the Switch card was giving me a headache, and I wasn’t in the mood to prolong my search for some poor sod who got ritually killed in the Iron Age.[1] This week may not have been an utter waste of time, but plans I had have been ruined. Trip to Cambridge. Not happening. Another to Oxford. A mere dream. On the assumption that the card will be in my possession some time on Monday, I’m going to have to pack two weeks of business into one.
 
This evening, Kirsten, Nick and I went out to a pub in the Green Park area and then tea at a small restaurant nearby. That was really good, actually. I had lamb, which meant a slab of meat rather than the fat-and-gristle-encrusted slivers which you’re most likely to see in China. It was followed by some rather nice chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
 
It was another day of somewhat mixed weather, the mixture being grey and grey with drizzle. I had been hoping the weather might be a little more genial while I was here, but this is a British summer after all.
 
Notes.
1. A quick trip to wikipedia reveals that he’s gone home to Manchester until almost the end of April next year.

Surreal in pictures

Surreal in reality.

I went to the Tate Modern and took a turn around their Surrealist exhibition before having lunch at the pub next door where I’m pretty sure I’ve been before. After that I went up Tottenham Court Road and had a look in one or two of the computer shops up there. The one where I bought my laptop seems to have disappeared because I’m sure where it used to be is now a building site.

As I was heading to the Tate Modern, I noted that there were quite a few posh people around and a police presence outside St Paul’s cathedral. Probably a memorial service, although I don’t know who the beneficiary was.

I had a mail message from Dad saying that the same issue of New Humanist had been posted to me. I suppose I may have given my postal address when I signed up for the magazine back in April last year, but the thing is that the subscription has long since expired. I can only guess that Caspar Melville is fishing for a renewal, which I’ll do once I have my new Switch card. I would get NH sent to my address in China were it not for the fact that I doubt whether it’d reach me. While China may not be of that much concern to NH, I doubt whether Nanny would allow a magazine which encourages people to think for themselves into the country. National Geographic’s apparently all right with its Disney view of the world.

I bought a copy of Private Eye today, although from glancing through it, I see that nothing much has changed. Society is still suffering from the same vices and follies.