Tag Archives: adventures

An afternoon out

What’s wrong with Live Writer?

I haven’t tried using Live Writer in ages, and thought I might see whether it still worked with the blog. The answer is that I can’t get through to WordPress. I wonder whether this is because when I try logging on to WP from the blog, I get an error message and whatever is behind that problem prevents me from posting with Live Writer.

While I used to think that my problem logging on was because of the petty-mindedness of the imperial government, it turns out that other people, who are on the far side of the Great Wall of Paranoia, have been having the same problem.

Anyway, I did go for my adventure eventually, having had a snooze and mucked around online first.

I mostly stuck to back streets, which preserve old Wuxi in all its ancient grubbiness. Behind 新光泽路 still lurks 古污秽街. I went down the street alongside the newish Wuxi Gymnasium where the grotty shops contrast with the new building across the road.

I was heading back round in this direction when who should I see at a nearby bus stop but Fred, who asked me if I had a key to the office because he’d been unable to get back in last night after class, and had had to leave all his kit in there. But that I should happen to turn up at the right moment was a complete coincidence.

A few days later…

And it’s still raining.

That is the dull and dreary news. We may have had a brief burst of sunshine yesterday afternoon, but it continues to rain or to have been on the verge of raining since forever ago, which is the last time we saw any prolonged sunshine. I know this is the wet season in the Empire, but this year, this summer has been the especially wet season as if it’s making up for nine years of not being as wet as it might’ve been.

The only compensation we’ve had is that the air has been quite clear now and then. I only wish that it could be clear with blue sky and a little light cloud.

In international news, Rupert Murdoch has had to give up on his bid for BSkyB. The Italians are now on the edge of the same loo bowl into which Greece, Portugal and Ireland have already fallen, and the eurozone is on the verge of sliding in as well, it seems. I remember, when the economies of Europe were supposed to have converged for the introduction of the euro, that the papers raised the issue of the fudging of the economic criteria, and knowing that economies are chaotic, dynamic systems, I wondered how such convergence was realistically possible.

The weather was dry enough for an aimless ambling adventure a couple of days ago, and when I got home, I went onto Baidu maps because I wanted to know how far things are from home. The town maps which you can buy in shops here are all conspicuously devoid of scales. My theory is that this is to prevent some imaginary enemy using touring maps if they didn’t bring their own maps. It’s annoying. Anyway, Baidu maps has a handy measuring tool which has allowed me to determine that 中山路 is about 1km away, that end-to-end, the 春申路 bridge is about the same distance, and that Baoli is 1.5km from here.

That information enabled me to estimate that my average speed back from Trust Mart was about 24kmh, but that is over a bridge. I’ve been wondering whether there’s a clear, flat stretch of road, which is one uninterrupted kilometre in length where the traffic is fairly light. There might be on the other side of the canal where there’s a long cycle lane; it might be possible there’s a stretch of 太湖大道. I’ll have to investigate once the weather has improved.

I see it’s stopped raining, but it’s not quite time to venture out and buy lunch.

Great achievements of our age

The wall painting.

I haven’t ventured down 青石路 in a very long time. I have glanced down there as I’ve headed into Trust Mart, and I’ve noticed that things have changed (the colour scheme), but I haven’t gone to see how they’ve changed.

It’s not really the weather for going on an adventure. At lunchtime there was an almighty great downpour which was comprised of industrial-sized raindrops, but that was short-lived, and the heat and humidity returned with little delay. However, I decided it was time I got off my big, fat middle-aged arse and went out on my bike to do more than just go to Carrefour, Trust Mart, or, er…

I headed down 青石路 to find that the only real change down there was the painting of some murals on the block walls which are sitting outside the shops at the east end of the street. As far as I can tell, there have been almost no other changes along there. There shops behind the walls, which I had thought were going to be demolished, are all busy trading away, but in the past year (or however long it is since I’ve been down there), nothing seems to have happened.

I carried on past Walmart, where nothing was happening, not even a car display, and did a circuit before heading back into town past the railway station, and just as I decided to follow the road round past Carrefour, the rear cog of my bike started making a terrible grinding noise. I’d already been thinking about getting the front brakes replaced again. Anyway, so long as I pedalled fairly fast, there were no problems, but the moment I started coasting, my bike started sounding like a concrete mixer.

Fortunately, the Giant bike shop wasn’t far away and I got them to have a look. I thought it’d just be a matter of tightening up the chain, which was loose, but the rear cog really was in a bad way and had to be replaced. I think the problem was, in part, due to the wet weather washing all the grit and dust about, which then gets into the workings of my biking. I also got them to fit some better brake blocks, which are longer than the usual ones although I wait to see whether they’re longer lasting.

I think, though, my intention to replace my current machine with something a little more upmarket has had another boost because I have spent quite a bit of money getting my bike repaired, especially in the last six months or so. Let me think. Whole new drive train; two or three new drum brakes; several sets of front brakes; new rear tyre; new pedals; a new set of brake handles; numerous minor repairs. I don’t think I’ve ever had to replace the rims, but the front rim probably needs replacing not just because there are grooves etched into it, but the lower part of the rim and the upper are at slightly different angles probably because of the pressure of the brake blocks.

Anyway, unless things change in the next three months, I’ll probably buy myself a Hunter 3.0. However, if it was a little less racing bike and little more city bike, I’d opt for a Giant FCR3100, which is the first men’s bike I’ve seen here with sensible width tyres (700x32c). It’s a bit like a low-end sports car, which isn’t really convenient for the business of daily life, whereas I need the sports saloon: something I can get a decent turn of speed out of, but which still has a basket and a carrier for things like shopping.

I still can’t understand why anyone would want to ride a mountain bike with big, fat, cloddish, bumpkin tyres in town. I suppose it’s like the cycling equivalent of the SUV, which never gets driven off road because, basically, it’s a fat estate car.

I’ve just seen the episode of Top Gear in which the boys raced across London to see who could traverse the capital the fastest. As it turned out, it was Richard Hammond on the bike, but it couldn’t be a normal city bike. This had carbon fibre everything and cost £1700, which is about twice the price of the one I’ve seen in the Giant shop here. Hammond didn’t appear to be much of a cyclist, either.

A grave situation

Everyone was in tiers.

Dennis, Yvette’s replacement, is a keen cyclist with a keen cyclist’s bike, who wanted to go on an adventure this afternoon.

We went over the canal and then took the road round past 青山公园, which is on the south side of 惠山 and which he had seen, but did not know that it was a park We turned onto 大池路 (although I can only see 西大池 and 东大池, neither of which seems especially 大 to me) and went past the police (or military) college, which scores points for being neat and tidy, but loses badly in the camouflage section because the buildings are covered in bright red tiles.

Our destination was 梅园公墓 (Méi Yuán Gōng Mù; Plum Garden Public Cemetery) which is at the north end of a short valley below 舜柯山 (Shùn Kē Shān). The graves rise in tiers up the hillside with the east and north plots taken, while some workers were preparing the tiers higher up on the west side of the valley.

There was also a great plume of thick smoke from some vegetation which was being burnt off, and from other work which was being done, it appeared that the cemetery had been being refurbished. The trees were new and another group of workers were busy on a different section which, it seemed, was probably going to be paved. Around the small lake were the animals of the Chinese zodiac.

The two buildings, some small temple-like thing, and some other building of indeterminate function, were older than these developments.

Is it typical in China for cemeteries to be built on hillsides? That way, I suppose, the dead can be on a 仙山 with the immortals.

We sat chatting for a while and had a mob of small children come and watch us before they mostly got bored once they discovered that we did not have flip-top heads, six fingers, and pointy ears.

(Cross-posted from Green Bamboo LJ.)

The song of the sirens

Nothing to be alarmed about.

Just before class this afternoon, Linda dropped by and said that there’d be an alarm. Apparently, it’s a local tradition to commemorate the invasion by the Japanese. Part way through the class, the sirens (Cold War PLA surplus?) went off, and Class 6 stood up and sang the national anthem.

Since it’s been a pleasant afternoon, I thought I’d go for a brief adventure, taking in the art shops on 浣花北路. Not far into my adventure I saw that a group of soldiers were stopping vehicles with military reg plates obviously to make sure that the general had said they could borrow the car. I predicted what I was likely to see on 浣花北路, and did not bother stopping.

Thus it is that the highlight of my trip was to spot a brothel, masquerading as yet another implausible hairdresser’s, on 同仁路. It looked brighter and more airy than the one on Cang Qian Lu in Fuzhou, which was always a dark and dingy affair. Of course, the place on 同仁路 was in direct sunlight, which must’ve made it a little uncomfortable for the bored, plump employees sitting just near the door.

Other than that, there’s really nothing else worth mentioning. My adventure was a largely aimless meander in the end.

Authorised strike

When cruise missiles are justified.

This afternoon’s adventure was a bit of a mixed bag. After the rain this morning, I thought that the rest of the day might be the same, but I looked out the window at about 2pm and found it was actually sunny. I’d decided I’d head north from Tianfu Square, but found that because of the construction of the Metro system, the road was blocked off and detours were necessary. 

Instead of heading north, I ended up bearing down on what I assume is the Chengdu Amusement Park and the Sichuan Television Tower. The latter seemed deserted. I’m not sure whether it’s been abandoned or was never completed, although it’s on the map. 

I also continued my search for Vanilla Coke, but without success. I went into a large branch of Trust Mart, but they had one, and by chance, I happened to bump into Parknshop. This is where the cruise missile strikes come in. As is typical in China, the ground floor is often one shop or many. Centurymart in Tongzhou was like that. Having parked my bike, I went into the building where they’re selling electronic goods. I walked in through the side door, but can find no escalators, stairs, lifts or anything else. I went back out and walked round the corner to the back of the building, but that’s flats. The security guard pointed me to the underground car park. Odd means of getting into the place, I thought. So I ended up roaming around in the underground carpark. There are plenty of signs all saying welcome to Parknshop, and the arrows pointed to the other end of the car park. But the lifts there didn’t seem to be working. I went down the stairs, but that was just more car parks; I went up the stairs, but that led to a locked door. I went up some other stairs, but that led to the lifts to the flats that are the upper part of the building. I went back outside and back round to the front of the building. There were lots of signs saying Parknshop. I walked along the front of the building and there, at the other end  where it’s invisible from inside the building, was the moving walkway up to the first floor of the supermarket. And after all that, did they have any Vanilla Coke? No. 

As you can imagine, I was severely annoyed by the least well-signposted entrance in world. 

As I was heading back towards Tianfu Square, I happened across my first branch of Xinhua. I’d been wondering where they’d all got to because it’s hard not to bump into them in Fuzhou. Apart from the bookshop on the south side of Tianfu Square and the small local bookshops, I’d seen nothing else. I went in and had a look round. I found that the shop had a reasonable selection of English language books, including one or two I wasn’t expecting to see such as The Vesuvius Club and The Big Over Easy. It seems they’ll have the new Harry Potter book in on the 21st, although I didn’t notice whether it was English or a Chinese translation. 

I bought a copy of Don Quixote, a book which I haven’t read in quite some time. 

My search for a decent map of Chengdu (which means one that’s not basically advertising and, by chance, there’s a map of Chengdu as well) continues as well. Of the two I have, the smaller one is covered with large-ish logos to mark the locations of China Mobile and China Petrocorp Stations, and the larger one seems to be a handy property development finder featuring prominently, although not limited to some outfit called 置信 (Zhìxìn). 

After skirting round Tianfu Square, I was going down 西御街 (Xīyù Jiē) towards Wenweng Lu when I noticed there was a large bookshop there called A Brief History of Time. Well, that’s what was written on the hoarding above the door. Perhaps after tea this evening, I might go and have a nose. 

I’ve noticed the near but not complete absence of two things in Chengdu – pedestrian bridges or subways. There’s an army of people in orange coats who spend most of their days directing people across the wide intersections. Fuzhou had such people in red coats, but they’d only come out during busy periods. Either way, bridges or subways would be a much better idea than a brigade of flag-waving, whistle-blowing orange coats. Where 南大街 meets 金盾路 (Jīndùn Lù) and 春熙路 (Chūnxī Lù) (which are really on and the same street), they have to march out into the traffic to stop the cars from 南大街 sweeping through even although I’m pretty certain there’s a visible light there which should prevent them from doing that. (I hasten to add that the function of a red traffic light, though clear enough in Western countries, is merely taken as impertinent advice here, and would be ignored if custom had not managed to get as far as persuading Chinese motorists that they probably ought to stop. Probably.)

You’ve seen one street, you’ve seen ’em all

Self-similarity as an urban property.

There’s not a lot to say about today’s adventure. I headed south down 文翁路 to see what was beyond the temple. It turned out to be long line of the usual sort of shops, and so I turned down 广福街北街 (Guǎngfú Jiē Běijiē) as roaming around in that part of the world. I eventually ended up on 大石西路 (Dà Shí Xīlù) and somewhere around there spotted this large dome, like St Paul’s cathedral. 

However, it’s about to get a little embarrassing. 

Naturally, I was curious to know what this building was. It was either going to be a block of pretentious flats or some pretentious government building (the latter as it turns out). But when I got a decent view of the building, I noticed that it was on one corner of an intersection that I’d passed through a few minutes previously. I’d completely failed to notice the building the first time, although I think I turned left into 菊乐路 (Júlè Lù) so that the building was to my right or behind me. Not directions you look when you turn left in China unless you want to be run over. 

The edifice goes all the way with things Neoclassical. The name of the building is in pinyin rather than Chinese so that it’s helpfully called Si Chuan Sheng Cheng Du Shi Ren Min Jian Cha Yuan. Probably the locals tell taxis drivers to head to the building with the enormous titty on top because they don’t understand what the pinyin says. I assume the Chinese is 四川省成都市人民监察院. Some sort of prison service college? I know the phrase Ministry of Supervision kept appearing. I’m not sure whether that final yuan is the correct one. My dictionary is most unhelpful on this occasion and the building doesn’t appear to be marked on either of my maps of Chengdu. In fact, come to think of it, even on the signs pointing to the place, the English was in a serif font rather than the usual sans serif one. 

I headed along the 1st Ring Road until I got to 人民南路; thence home via the usual route.

Today’s outing not as interesting as the others. I wondered, as I cruised up 广福街北街, how the shops survive. 武侯祠大街 (Wǔhóu Cí Dàjiē) and the 1st Ring Road are much busier, although the former can sort of rely on the hordes of tourists.

As you may or may not know, in spite of China’s size, the whole country is a single time zone based on Beijing time. [So about 1957 then? –ed.] But properly speaking, Chengdu is really an hour behind China time, being more realistically GMT +0700. I noted yesterday or the day before that the sun was closer to being at its zenith at about 3pm. Instead of being 5.15pm right now, it ought to be 4.15pm, which is the time in Hanoi and Bangkok.

Interpreting the data

The world three light years away.

I was having another look at Chengdu on Google Earth yesterday. I now understand what I see when I look at Tianfu Square (天府广场 Tiānfǔ Guǎngchǎng). The picture was taken when the square was being redeveloped so that the big gouge across it is probably the line that the Chengdu Metro will take as it passes under the square. of course, you can see in the pictures in the album below what it looks like today. I also noticed that Carrefour and the surrounding mall hadn’t been built at the time the picture of that part of the city had been taken. There was a car park in that area at the time.

I also had a look at my old school in Beijing. That picture has to be three years old because the area to the north of the North Gate is bare ground after it’d been cleared, but before any building work had started on it. There’s even a chance that I might be in the picture of the school because it appears to have been taken at about lunchtime.

I went for a walk after tea last night, partly to go exploring and partly because the local food is a little on the stodgy side, which means that I risk turning into a fat bastard again as I did a couple of years ago. Unlike Fuzhou, there are no hills around here and I don’t have to go far to find somewhere to eat. I headed north and then took a right down 羊市街 (Yángshí Jiē; site of old sheep market??) to 人民中路 (Rénmín Zhōng Lù) and down to Tianfu Square. I thought I’d walk along the north side of the square, investigate the shops beyond that, and circle back to the square before heading home. Instead, I got lost.

Somehow, I ended up walking down 新南路 (Xīnnán Lù) to the 1st Ring Road where all the computer shops are. If I’d realised just which river I was crossing somewhat earlier in my travels, I would’ve turned right and followed it until I got back to some place I knew, such as the bar that’s roughly on the opposite side of the road from where Glen and Row will be living, where I could’ve quaffed beer and amazed everyone with the tale of my harrowing adventure. [You poor darling. How you must’ve suffered. –ed.]

The most popular character in Chengdu appears to be 康 (kāng) “healthy; well-being; abundant” which I’m seeing absolutely everywhere.

Speaking of linguistics, I’ve been trying to listen to the local speech now and then. I was in a restaurant the night before last were there were three guys speaking something, but ich weiß nicht what. It was definitely something Sino-Tibetan, but from what I could tell, they seemed to be throwing around at least one non-Mandarin tone which – again from what I could tell – seemed to be prevalent clause-finally. So, they might’ve been speaking Sichuanhua or even Mandarin with Sichuan characteristics.

In spite of the signs at the school exhorting the use of standard characters, the name of one of the buildings has a character which, I must suspect, is a little obscure (see picture below). I know that some of these are the traditional forms of the characters, but the third one defeats me. I can’t find anything like it in the Unicode character set either. The grass radical is obvious, and the part on the left side under that appears to be a variant on the hand radical; but the part on the right-hand side looks like half a door. Oddly enough, on top of this particular building, someone has a small corn garden. I guess I’ll just have to call it the Corn Building.

Name of lecture theatre at Shishi High School, Chengdu.

[18.08.14. Traditional: 逸夫藝術樓; Simpli­fied: 逸夫艺术楼 (yì fū yìshù lóu). The third character is a particularly mangled thing.]

While we’re talking about linguistics, there’s an interesting post about Old Persian on Language Log today.

Meanwhile, I’ve been told that my boxes should be arriving this morning. Hurrah! Although that means I now really do have to go to Carrefour and buy a bookcase and some storage boxes.

In unrelated news, I note that the New Humanist Editor’s Blog which, I thought, was on blogspot has been blocked, although everything else on blogspot seems to be viewable. Perhaps the blog is being hosted elsewhere because the URL I get sent to isn’t the same as the one in the link above.

Peking Dork (a blog I was previous unfamiliar with) has an acerbic parody of an article about the return of Hong Kong to the inGlorious Motherland here (blogspot; you know the drill if you’re in La-La Land).

It’s grey and wet again. Oh joy.