Tag Archives: building work

Yet another Saturday

Time to put the washing out.

I kid you not. The machine has just beeped at me, summoning me away to put the washing out. Yes, it’s Saturday morning once again.

It’d be nice not to wake up early, but it’s hard habit to break. The day is overcast, but the cloud is thin, allowing some hazy sunshine through. The air quality is, I’d estimate, 1.5 to 2km, beyond which nothing is visible. It’s the usual light beige mist.

The boys and girls on the building site are playing about in their concrete-lined hole. There are four of those massive great tankers over there, which seem to be taking away the ground water being extracted from the site. It seems to be so water-logged that I wonder whether it was a marsh once upon a time an whether the resulting building will actually be a houseboat. One of the existing, but seemingly unused buildings over there now has a sign on the roof saying 县前三号. Perhaps the local postman has been having problems finding it.

The first week of the exams has come to an end. Life gets a little boring at this time of year because there’s nothing much to do in class. I’ve started reading Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde to keep me occupied. The reading and writing exam was on Thursday and though I asked PAL 2 about the content yesterday, I’ve yet to see the paper itself. Listening is next week, and that’ll be it for English.

I have no exact idea about next year’s English programme, but it does seem that AS will be officially doing IELTS/TOEFL and SAT classes while simultaneously failing to comprehend that they need to learn English if they want to do well in proficiency exams. I’ve dodged A2 teaching again, but don’t really know what I might do with the AS classes after the exams because I don’t really know what they’re doing next year. A2/Senior 3 remains a conundrum, the latest solution to which, I predict, will work no better than any other solution.

With the washing done (why do you think it’s taken me so long to write this much), my thoughts turn to lunch. Free bread from Yamazaki today because I filled in the rest of my discount card yesterday, but I wonder whether I can get a bacon épine today or not. What’s available in Yamazaki changes from one day (bacon épines fresh from the oven) to the next (no sign of bacon épines, bacon bread, or coffee rolls).

But that is enough idle chatter from me for the moment.


Local area news

With your host, Mr Bamboo.

The kitsch float for the Party’s big birthday celebration (or Gay Pride march) seems mostly finished, but there’s still work of some sort going on beneath the bridge. Alongside the canal which separates Jinma from the island, a gauze barrier has been erected, and there’s balustrade-high scaffolding along the bridge which seems intended to prevent people from congregating up there. At the moment, it’s in the way and is forcing everyone to walk on the road. Safety first in the Empire as always.

As to the style of the decorations on the floats, I’d say there’s extensive Buddhist influence with lotuses and that traditional stalwart, the dragon. No sign of the proles at all. Actually, I was thinking about the style and came to the conclusion that it’s less camp than it is childish.

Meanwhile, further over, work has started on the site beyond the two buildings which were under construction last year. This larger site is dotted with machines which seem to be injecting concrete into the ground to stabilise it. The huge piles of blocks seem to have been laid down as a foundation for all that.

I don’t know what’s going to be being built there, but I’m expected to see more buildings like the original two, and at the moment, my prediction is an area like 文殊 or 宽巷子 in Chengdu. The original ancient street remains unused as far as I’m aware, but I haven’t been over there in quite some time. The third building in the set, which is on this side of the canal, has finally been uncovered and looks like nothing so much as an office block in a kind of occidental style. Again, I can’t say what its purpose is.

The swimming pool at school still seems to be under starter’s orders with one corner of the building which used to stand on the site remaining as a short-lived monument to the past. I don’t know why the whole thing wasn’t demolished at the same time, but being a well-hard cynic, I wouldn’t be surprised if that last part remains as some scam which saves the school money.

On 五爱路 work seems to have started on some other part of the Wuxi metro system. The area in the middle of the road is fenced off and people who appear to be trying to park between the computer centre and 永和大王 often end up blocking the traffic. The buses, in particular, sound their horns as if that’s going to make anyone else go any faster when the traffic cannot move at all. What a bunch of 瓜娃子.

In forme of speche is chaunge

Would the five-hundred year rule have applied?

We were reading an excerpt from Robinson Crusoe in class this morning, which included an exercise in converting early 18th century English into contemporary English. One of the quotations, which come from near the start of the novel, was “crying everyone according to his usual note”.

I thought it was interesting for two reasons (and perhaps a third, although that’s a matter of editing). One is the use of “everyone”, which seems to be on the border between being a full-blown pronoun and simply a compounding of “every one”. It looks appositional to me, but I’m wondering whether this is an instance of a phenomenon which I’ve read about elsewhere in which some languages (e.g. Italian) tend to place indefinite subjects after the verb. Defoe only uses “everyone” a few times and only on this occasion in this particular construction.

However, some (most?) texts have “every one”, and most appear to have “crying, and every one according to his usual note”, but the text we’re using omits the conjunction. So it seems that I might’ve stumbled across some (incautious) editing, but I’m sure that our text lacked “and” at that point. [Later: checked the text; it does have “and”, but I think it does readers a disservice by treating “every one” as a single word.]

The other point was the use of “his” where we would have “their”, and a few zealots might have “its”, which prompted me to write a note on the board about the development of “its” in English, and how it took some time for the form to become established. I’ve read somewhere that Shakespeare used “it” for “its” on at least one occasion, although I’ve never been sure whether that’s a claim which can be substantiated.

But in turn, this had me recalling Chaucer’s famous line from Troilus and Criseyde about the mutability of language, which then made me wonder about my five-hundred-year rule. That is, the form of a language more than five hundred years ago is no longer fully comprehensible because the grammar and lexicon have undergone sufficient changes to render a lot of it meaningless. To me, for example, late Middle English looks like Modern English with brain damage, and Shakespeare is already largely incomprehensible, not because the plays were mostly in verse, but because the language is almost five hundred years old.

That had me wondering whether anyone in Chaucer’s day could’ve understood the Old English of the second half of the 9th century at all, or the effects of the Norman Conquest on the English lexicon, as well as the simplification of the inflectional system had so cut the English language off from its past that the older form of the language really was foreign. Mind you, I also have a theory that English didn’t exist as a truly separate linguistic entity from its Continental cousins until the Middle English period.



How many hornets?

I’ve just looked at the cover of The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and wondered whether the apostrophe, which is an orthographic marker of the genitive, is in the wrong place, being to the left of the inflection, indicating a single hornet, instead of the right, indicating a whole nest of them.

The Swedish title is Luftslottet som Sprängdes which seems to mean something like “The castles in the air which got destroyed”, which is no doubt a reference to the illusion of the decency of Sweden and its government. (Recent reports about immigrants in Sweden being targeted by gunmen seem to continue that demolition.)



In forme of land is chaunge, too.

香榭路 seems to be under complete redevelopment, although no one’s being stopped from using the street as a thoroughfare in spite of its resemblance to a building site with fencing at either end and gateposts (though no gates). The trees at this end have been heavily pruned and, I assume, are going to be removed. They’ll probably be replaced, but whether anyone has the wit to have the pavement run inside the line of trees rather than down the middle is for future revelation. In addition, the car park has been completely ripped up and some large holes dug in it. Anyone using the street is, however, deterred from falling into the holes by a line of small cones. Yes, it’s safety first in the imperium sericum.

Aierma appears to have been mothballed, and again, only posterity knows whether that’ll be a supermarket again. No sign that the place was going to be refurbished.

The houses down at the other end of the street have almost all gone, and a digger has been in creating a huge heap of dirt for no apparent reason. On the other side of the street the Jiulong Hotel has been gutted, although I’m not sure whether they’re going to demolish the building or it’s being stripped to the absolute bones.

[A few days later (06.11.10). 香榭路 has now been completely cut off apart from access at this end for the shops on the west side of the street and access to the flats behind them; and a break where the street which runs along the south side of the school intersects with 香榭路. The rest seems to have been cut off to cars, although pedestrians, electric bike jockeys, and cyclists can still get through. (Added while I was editing the formatting of this entry after it, the formatting, mysteriously vanished.)]

In other construction news, the bridge which was built to these two new buildings east of my place doesn’t just have coloured lights. No, for the amusement of the local spectators, it also squirts jets of water. Someone seems to have had the idea of combining a bridge and a fountain. Still don’t know what the new buildings are going to house, and the work over there has yet to be completed.

It’s been a few days

Hasn’t it? 

Christmas Day was foggy, windy and icy. Boxing Day was sunny, calm and icy. The day after Boxing Day was cloudy, windy and icy. Rob said that there was even some snow, which didn’t surprise me because when I’d been off DVD shopping I kept expecting to see flakes of snow flutter across my path. There wasn’t much snow, though. I think I saw the aftermath of some, but by that stage it was no longer recognisable as snowman DNA. 

On Christmas Day, I had a chat to my parents on Skype and then went round to Yvette’s for lunch. The food was excellent and we had a good time. After that, I felt no inclination to have tea. 

We went to Ronnie’s for our staff meeting two nights ago. Ronnie’s is an Australian restaurant out near 南禅寺 (Nánchán Sì). (Ironically [I think], Yvette’s also Australian, but she teaches maths. Hmmm. Perhaps “coincidentally” might be the more relevant adverb.) The food was good and included fish and chips, and pies, although the prices were a little steep. I won’t object if we go back some time, but I won’t be going there without good reason. Not easy to find either. I ended up getting a taxi with Caleb, Bruce and Angela by chance. The driver delivered us to the allegedly correct address, but we were outside a Home Inn. The restaurant wasn’t that far away, but because the building had apparently been renumbered (although how the driver knew that 58 was actually 29 I don’t know [the numbers had been halved?]; and just to be ironic [yes, actual irony this time], a shop about two doors down was numbered 80), we didn’t know which way to go until someone led us there. Ronnie’s was, in fact, further along the street, but back from the road. 

Yesterday afternoon was the New Year’s concert for the whole school. Obviously the act I was involved in was not included in the programme, and what I stayed to see (I generously gave an hour to something I saw eight years ago) was much more polished than our rather sorry excuse for a performance. Nick and Peter appeared in some performance by the PAL 1 class, but their presence made little sense. There was a Michael Jackson tribute routine because he is to China today what the Carpenters were when I first arrived here. Mind you, kids here still think rap is current. Is it? 

Meanwhile, the New Year’s honours list is out and I see that Peter Jackson has been knighted; so, too, Patrick Stewart. If I was an old person (well, really old), I’d be all overexcited about Status Quo getting gongs. Jenson Button was awarded an MBE and Anthea Bell, who’s one of the translators of Asterix, got an OBE. 

And the awards strike quite close to home because my uncle was awarded a Queen’s Service Order for services to horticulture. Who knows? One day I might get a gong for services to education. Now I really am being ironic. 

After Nick (that is, my sister’s husband and not the physics teacher) got me Yasser Seirawan’s Winning Chess Strategy for Christmas, it was apparent I needed the other books in the series, most of which arrived today. These were Play Winning Chess, Winning Chess Tactics, and Winning Chess Openings. I’m waiting for a fourth volume to arrive. Anyway, this lot will shut me up for some time to come. 

I’ve been reading short horror stories by Wilkie Collins (yeah, it’s still the Wilkie Collins season) and I’ve been formatting and editing (slightly) the text of the letters of Mary Wortley Montague which she wrote as she travelled across Europe to Istanbul as the wife of the English ambassador to Turkey. Interesting letters to read (you can actually get a 1794 edition from Google Books) and Lady M seems to have been a decent sort of person quite ready to correct the misconceptions the rest of Europe had about the Turks. On the other hand, she does seem to have met all the hottest babes in Turkey and practically no other species of woman on her travels. 

Outside the school, fencing was being erected to block off access to the pavement, which means that there will be pedestrians wandering down the cycle lane, blindly oblivious to cyclists and electric bike riders who will, in turn, be blindly oblivious to the pedestrians. The buildings on the street along the north side of the school have been being demolished and there’s now a concrete block wall up along that street. We’ll be moving our kit to the other building at the end of the term. Thus construction season continues in Wuxi.

Tales from the School of Irony

Are you sure that’s the title you want, Mr Kearns?

I went to the Xinhua Bookshop on 人民中路 this afternoon. It was for an unofficial, semi-official visit. As I was looking through the rather eclectic collection of foreign-language books on the shelves, I espied the title How Tiger Does It. Yeah, how that Tiger [Woods; the golfer] does it. I wonder whether Brad Kearns is regretting his unfortunate choice of title. I should’ve checked to see whether it was sub-titled “And who he does it with”.

Meanwhile, from a non-ironic school I see the spam pests are having a good shit over my blogspot blog, and there’s not a thing I can do about it. These nuisances are clearly from Taiwan (trad. chars.) and probably targeting any blogs written by people trapped on the mainland because they know that we probably can’t do anything about it. Meanwhile, I found that Project Gutenberg is now viewable for the first time in years. I wonder if that’s because there’s been a change of management and thus a change of IP address.

My big day today was not my big day. We were merely auditioning in front of a group of teachers who were deciding whether Class 15’s act should be included in the Christmas concert. As things stand, our little drama needs much more work.

Meanwhile, this seems to be demolition season in Wuxi. Not only are the old houses on the far side of the island being demolished, but some other blocks of flats a bit further over on the other side of the canal have suddenly been turned to rubble. The flats next to the nursery school in our complex appear to have had their roofs removed, but that seems to have been the sole intention of that exercise. I’m sure if Marco Polo had headed this way in the 13th century, he would’ve written in this diary:

We rode towards the town of Wuxi, but when we got there, there were only piles of bricks. When our guide asked a local man whether we were actually in the town, he replied that it had been demolished, but would be rebuilt shortly. Our man asked him whether he was at all inconvenienced, he said with a shrug that such things happened there at least once a week.


“Sounds like a made-up word to me.”

wuxi_deliveryI was running a little late for school this morning and took my usual route down the street behind the school until I ran into this sight. It’s common enough in China, the dullard with his overloaded vehicle, but I don’t think I’ve ever posted a picture of such a thing. I don’t know what lead to this, but it might’ve been that our 乡下佬-brained delivery man might’ve been trying to give way when part of his load tumbled off. I’m sure he thought that the car horns were merely a musical accompaniment to his labours. As usual, such antics attracted a small crowd which can be seen on the right. I turned round and took an alternative route to school. 

It seems that Mr Bamboo is going to be treading the boards again. James from the PAL 2 class came to see me between classes this morning to ask if I’d be willing to help in one of the performances for the New Year’s concert. I know that our classes have been preparing and I thought that this was what I was being asked to participate in. It turned out that I was playing a small part in a performance being staged by Class 15, Senior 1. I have to speak a few lines in Chinese with a little English thrown in. 

The rehearsal at lunchtime took me over to the other side of the school where the workers have started 拆ing the buildings. I don’t know what’s going to appear in their place, but it might be dorms. Another teaching building would seem to be unnecessary. Meanwhile, it seems that we’re probably not under immediate threat of ejection from our building just yet because the work that being going on at the west end is to do with the piping. That may, of course, be a prelude to the refurbishment. 

I went to Gizma last night to escape the tyranny of other restaurants and arrived outside the mall to find that a small town of booths had been erected and there was, it seems, a food fair boasting regional 串 from around China. There was quite a throng in and around this new curiosity, but I got to Gizma to find it empty. When I came back out, I could see an audience had gathered at one of the booths not, it seems, to sample the quality comestibles that were on offer, but rather to watch the boys perform as they prepared the dishes. 

As I went past the Jane Eyre Regency Hotel this evening, I saw some good ol’ boys being loaded into a semi-official looking van. I’m not sure whether they were being harmonised or what, but they were members of the Green Army Greatcoat Brigade who would hardly seem to be the clientele you’d find in the JERH. I went to California Beef Noodle King and found the booths were still standing (although the strong wind was putting them to the test) and the throng was still thronging. I caught the tail end of 2012 in CBNK, but chose to read some more of The Woman in White. I went into Walmart where I find the local DVD player testing committee were still trying out one of the machines. They’re obviously very picky and would prefer not to make rash purchases. Quite wise, gentlemen. Why spend money on a DVD player when you can take it for a permanent test drive it?

Nouveau 古老 Wuxi

Local travels.

Out of my window I can not only see 江尖公园, but also the last remnants of the dilapidated houses which must’ve filled the area until not so long ago. Out of curiosity I thought I’d go and have a look at these last surviving pockets and also have a look at the development on the island.

wuxi_gulao01 wuxi_gulao02

The first picture looks across the canal to the south-east and apart from one building missing half a roof, the place doesn’t appear to be in any danger of being demolished – for the time being. In the second picture, the rubble in the foreground is new. When I had a look at one of the earlier pictures I took, I found that the building was still there. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone was actually living in the last surviving hovel. There was some guy snoozing on a sofa nearby and when I went to have a closer look from the other side, some dog barked at me in a proprietorial fashion.

wuxi_gulao03 wuxi_gulao04

This, on the other hand, is nouveau 古老, but doing it’s best to look as dilapidated and worth for demolition as any of the aging and decrepit parts of the town. When I went in, there were two people having a quiet snog near the door and, unexpectedly, flute music. On the left-hand side of the second picture was an area which looked like it might’ve been a stage. Some guy was there practising playing the flute, his music being quite suitable to the setting, I thought. The building on the right has some historical significance because there were a couple of stones on the other side, one of which gave the details about the place.

wuxi_gulao05 wuxi_gulao06

If I understand the sign on the left correctly, the building is the former site of some (state-owned?) paper company. It also gives a date of 2003, although the area doesn’t look neglected enough to have been abandoned six years ago. The other sign no doubt explains the significance of the place.

wuxi_gulao07 wuxi_gulao08

On the other side is this small branch of the canal which was mostly the preserve of this purple water flower, probably a species of water lily. At the far end is a lock which probably hasn’t been used in some time. The fisher­men might also actually catch something because in the water near the lock, I could see bubbles in the water and a shoal of little fishes. There was also something larger there because I heard a loud splash and looked down to see that something had violently agitated the water, although I don’t know what. The fishes themselves seem to be clustered beneath some drain per­haps waiting, as Dryden said in MacFlecknoe, for the morning toast.

[22.08.13. Much has changed since I took these pictures. The ancient street was eventually opened, but that took some time (and I ought to go back to see what’s there); the old houses were eventually demolished, but that also took some time; they’ve been being replaced by a cluster of high-rise buildings, but that’s also taken some time. Five years after I arrived in Wuxi, the project, called 县前三号, still has a long way to go.

23.09.14. Another year has passed and, as it turns out, the ancient street on the island is almost entirely deserted apart from a couple of restaurants. The high-rise buildings have risen, but as far as I can tell, they’ve stopped rising and, it seems, no work is being done behind the green gauze in which they’re wrapped like concrete mummies. The hoardings alongside 县前街 were removed a few months ago as if the project was about to enter some new phase, but I think that may be no more than prolonged decay.]

The remains of the day

So much for primary education.

But before we get to that story, I went to the the Carrefour on 八宝街 (Bābǎo Jiē) in search of Vanilla Coke. It had as much as everywhere else, which is to say, none at all. Better stocked than the Carrefour in town, but no sign of what I wanted. The perverse thing is that in Fuzhou the supply of chocolate-flavoured coffee dried up and you could only get the regular stuff. Here, it’s almost exclusively the chocolate, although the machine down at the gate to the flats has regular.



This is all that now remains of the primary school building next door. The building at the front remains, and it appears that they’re adding at least one storey to it. Well, it’s either that, or a practical welding class.


Open air offices, perhaps?

The barred gate

A gate in the wall is worth none in the bush.

A couple of weeks ago, the trees…

Actually, although these resemble trees, it’d be more accurate to describe them as over­sized, outdoor pot plants. Or perhaps giant bonsai trees because the roots, like the branches, have been severely trimmed.

…along the driveway into the flats which had all died over the winter were replaced with more of the same.

Then, last week, some workers knocked down a section of the wall and put a gate in, but the trees and shrubs have remained. I guess that the gate is probably intended to be an emergency exit or back gate, but whoever owns the trees and shrubs has either refused permission for them to be removed or hasn’t been asked. (See picture below.)

Hell  hath no fury…

Mr Lamian was in a bad mood again tonight. As usual, I have no idea what he was on about, but there was a lot of yelling at some guy I’d never seen before.

What provoked this outburst?

While I was poking around the Net a couple of days ago, I found a document called The ALT Grammar Watch. (ALT = Association for Ling­uistic Typology.) It’s basically a bibliography of recently published gram­mars. The first entry for The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language is followed by an extraordinary outburst which seems to belong to The Big Book of Fantasy Facts about the English Language.

It starts by saying that the language is probably a creole. I’ve heard some­thing like this about Middle English, but a creole is a pidgin which has gained a body of native speakers. As languages go, creoles are linguistically impoverished, and the speakers have to find ways of expressing various concepts that go beyond the pidgin from which it came. At no time in its history can I think of English ever resembling a creole.

Next, it says that the language was “once believed to be VSO (Semitic-Celtic substratum!) but now generally categorized, not very excitingly, as SVO”. Huh? I’ve never heard anyone claim that English was at any time a VSO language. We also have an ample lack of evidence for any Semitic-Celtic substratum. Besides, the Anglo-Saxons borrowed barely any words from the British when they conquered Britain. It’s also rather subjective to say that SVO languages aren’t very exciting.

Prepositions are called transitive adverbs. I search for the term via Google and get the sum total of 115 hits. All right, I can imagine a preposition being described as a transitive adverb, but the terminology is clearly not widespread. Several of the hits refer to Thai, a language I know nothing about. Transitive adverb sounds like a term that by any other name (namely, preposition) would smell as sweet.

[07.08.14. In more recent books I’ve acquired, prepositions have been analysed as having transitivity because some prepositions (e.g. at) take obligatory complements, while others such as below do not have to (e.g. “The cat was sitting below the tree” ~ “There was a cat sitting below”.]

Next we’re informed that the language is “not seriously ergative”. Well, English is a nom-acc language, so you’re getting what you paid for.

If we skip over some of the nonsense that follows, we read that “all nouns are verbs, sometimes”. Of the class of lexical items called nouns, some belong to the class of verbs through zero derivation. This is painful.

A little more skipping and we find “stress a mess”. No, not really. English stress is complicated by morphological considerations, but it isn’t that messy.

There are “no clicks” and “no labial flap either”. How are either of these statements at all relevant? And who could top the classic, “no vowel harmony, but that is only to be expected when you’re monosyllabic”. Now don’t stop me, but “monosyllabic” has five syllables.

The ALT seems to be a serious organisation. This isn’t some bunch of under/post-graduates with somewhat inflated ideas of their own know­ledge and understanding of linguistics, but it is seriously embarrassing. The initials at the end of the entry are FP which would appear to be Frans Plank, the editor of the journal Linguistic Typology.

I find the comments utterly baffling.