Tag Archives: Chengdu

It’s that week again

Stepping up to the microphone.

It’s been that week again when in 1949, Chairman Mao addressed the ex­cited crowds in Tiananmen Square, welcomed them to the People’s Re­public of China, and warned them about how deadly PTSD could be.

“But PTSD isn’t generally life-threatening,” said someone in the crowd.
“It is in my case.”
“Say it isn’t so, Son of Heaven.”
“Ah, I meant life-threatening for you. I’ll be fine. No, no. I’ll live to a ripe old age and traumatise the Empire… Sorry, nation, for generations to come.”
“Can I vote for someone else?” asked the man.

It’s the 65th anniversary of the founding of the current dynasty, although apart from a few posters proclaiming this, it doesn’t seem to have been treated as one of those landmark anniversaries.

I went to Chengdu to see Linda, but since the trip was largely domestic, I’ll confine most of the rest of this post to pictures.

Apart from a couple of occasions when it was grey and damp, the weather in Chengdu was warm and pleasant to the point of being summery, and the air quality was generally very good by the city’s usually dubious standards.

Time for topical trivia

Preface.

I’ve been coming here quite a bit, but mainly to see who’s been reading what and then either editing the formatting of old entries or deleting the entry because it should’ve been posted on Facebook because it was topical and trivial.

It is with this in mind that I’ve been dithering over this entry because it will be topical and trivial.


Holiday in Chengdu.

I meant to write something about the holiday in Chengdu much sooner because I knew that much of what happened would quickly fade from my mind.

The weather was generally grey and dry, which was in contrast to the heavy rain and flooding from which Sichuan had been suffering. There was one nice day when we saw blue sky and sunshine, and it started raining again on the day of my departure.

Global CentreLinda and I went to see the Global Centre (环球中心), the largest building in the world, which is on the south side of Chengdu (get off on the second-to-last stop on line 1 of the Metro). The building is vast, and also vastly un­finished. There were some shops, but like Raffle’s last year, so many premises were unoccupied, and the cinema was still being built. The artificial beach was also unfinished. But it seems to be standard practice in China to open some building long before it’s actually finished.

The picture above was taken with my new camera, which I bought because I knew I’d be going to the Global Centre and didn’t want to rely on the paltry camera on my phone. The new camera is a Sony HX 200, which is something like the great grandson (possibly great-great grandson) of my old camera. The only problem is that I can’t get pictures off it at the moment. I accidentally gave Linda the USB cable instead of the USB cable for her Walkman. It’ll have to wait till I’m at school before I can get the right cable back.

We mostly pottered around. Went out to Raffle’s a couple of times; went to the computer centre next door because Linda needs a new computer; went shopping for sunglasses from the camping shops on the other side of the road; and bought a new pair of sandals to wear inside so that I can wear the old ones outside.

I did notice an odd trend, though. One day when we were on the bus, I saw that some girl had gauze pads on her knees, and when she alighted, it was done very awkwardly. I then saw at least two more girls with sores on their knees as well.

I can only guess that this is a result of them tripping over in their stripper shoes. When we were in the Global Centre, I saw a girl with pea-stick legs clinging to her grandma on the escalator for fear of toppling over.


Merlin, the whole thing.

I’ve had a small pile of DVDs sitting on my bed for months, but because I mostly listen to music these days, I don’t bother watching them. I did, though, plough through the entirety of Merlin after I got back from Chengdu.

The story is roughly based on Arthurian legend, but in this version, Uther is mostly alive and fierce opponent of magic. Merlin is Arthur’s servant, and Gwenevere is the blacksmith’s daughter. Morgana, Arthur’s half sister, camps it up as an evil Goth chick with Helena Bonham Carter’s insane hair.

The tone of the series changed over time from being fairly light to being much darker. Evil Morgana was joined by evil Queen Gwenevere, and there was a cameo from the ghost of evil Uther.

The relationships between the characters also fluctuated. It seemed odd that Merlin and various other underlings were quite familiar with Arthur, addressing him by name. In a later episode, the writer seems to have decided that Arthur should be addressed formally throughout, and then in subsequent episodes, there was a mixture of formal and familiar.1

In the end there was a battle at Camlann where Merlin in the guise of Emrys hurled bolts of lightning at the Saxons. Mordred, who had gone over to Morgana’s side after Arthur had hanged his fanatical girlfriend, mortally wounded the king, but was killed himself.

Merlin tried to get Arthur to the Isle of the Blessed, but the series had already been axed, which meant that Arthur would never make it in time to be healed. He did remain alive just long enough for Merlin to inform him that he was a wizard.

The series ended without ever fulfilling the prophecy which the dragon (voiced by John Hurt) kept mentioning, viz. Arthur will unite the kingdoms of Britain to establish Albion.


The weather. I just had to mention it, didn’t I?

Last year the finally two weeks of July were clear, hot and sunny. This year we’ve had less clear and sunny, but more hot. I cannot recall the last time the high wasn’t 37°, and yesterday, it was 39°.

While the weather in Britain has been “scorchio”, it can’t really compare with the searing temperatures which we’ve been “enjoying”.

Is this going to last into August or, like last year, is some ruddy great typhoon going to slam into us?


The new chair.

I got back from Chengdu determined to do something about going to Ikea here. I had learnt a thing or two since my first failed attempt to get there.

The 328, which is really the bus for Metro, only runs from 6.40pm and would only reach Ikea in time for the place to close. The correct stop was the first one on the far side of 县前街, although I was beginning to have my doubts until I saw the Ikea bus going in the opposite direction and turn right onto 县前街. In other words, it doesn’t even go past the Far Eastern.

But the bus did eventually arrive and I travelled all the way to Ikea (about 10km, I estimate) for ¥2. Since it was a weekday, the bus was lightly populated, and Ikea was also quiet, which is in marked contrast to either in Chengdu.

I found the chair I wanted (the Markus) and arranged for it to be delivered to me the next day, which it was after some sort of hiccup. I think the deliverymen possibly went to the wrong building.

Anyway, it’s nice to have a decent chair to sit on, one which I can lean back when I want to watch something.


Speaking of watching something…

I watched Warm Bodies last night. Basically, girl meets zombie and he turns into a real boy. It’s a bit Pinocchio and a bit ugly duckling.

I assume that there’s a message here, but the question is what the zombies and skeletons (extreme zombies) represent exactly. Some sort of underclass in the US? The proletariat is not entirely irredeemable?

If you’ll forgive the irony of such a comment, the film had promise, but never quite seemed to come to life.


When in Rome?

I’ve been keeping half an eye on the GlaxoSmithKlein case, wondering exactly what is going on. Whenever some foreign company gets criticised for dubious practices, I suspect that it’s the Chinese people running the show here who are responsible. In this case, it appears to be the foreigners who are at fault and yet I also suspect that they were just doing what everyone else does here. (Long-term readers, if there are any such, may recall advertisements for “Brain Boost” at the school in Benniu, which were passed off as safety warnings.)

Why aren’t Chinese pharmaceutical companies being targeted? Why a foreign company? One suggestion I’ve seen is that this has something to do with the previous emperor’s relatives.


When red songs become the blues.

Bo Xilai is finally going to be tried. This provoked some rather robotic pro-government tweets on Weibo. As for the trial itself, I assume the outcome has already been decided. I suspect Bo will survive to spend the rest of his days in the same comfy prison as his wife.

I assume that the decision about his fate has already been made, and that the rest of the trial will be stage-managed.


Georgie Pordgie. Pordgy?

The new future king of England has been born and has been named George Alexander Louis.

At a rough guess, I think I will’ve been long dead by the time he’s king. If QEII lives to be 100, Charles won’t be king before he’s about 80, which means that William may not be king much before he’s 50, and by the time George VII gets his go on the big chair, most of the century will probably be over. I might just live long enough to learn who George’s successor will be.

Notes.

  1. This has me wondering how Dark Age underlings addressed their superiors before Celtic Britain became Englalond. We see Arthur through the lens of how we see the Middle Ages when the servants would not, presumably, have dared to address their masters by name and English got saddled with that ridiculous and artificial Continental custom of tu vs. vous.

At the start of the week

Update me.

I got back from Chengdu yesterday afternoon, where I’d been since last Tuesday. Internet access was intermittent at best: long periods of getting nowhere via my Internet helper were followed by short periods of access, which were enough to post some brief comment on Facebook before the connection was lost again. It was annoying and frustrating, and any idea I might’ve had about posting here had to go out of the window.

The flight to Chengdu went without a hitch. The city wasn’t completely grey and dismal while I was there, but to make up for that, it was utterly horrid yesterday with heavy cloud and dull haze, which eventually turned into rain (though not till after I’d departed).

I was on the noisy side of the hotel overlooking 滨江路 (or whatever the road is on the west side of 南大街; 锦里东路, which is a little odd because 锦里 is probably about a kilometre south of the river) where the traffic a.) never seems to stop and b.) seldom knows how to stay in lane.

The traffic in Chengdu is possibly worse than ever, and in places, cyclists are force to take rather circuitous routes to get about. It’s not longer possible to cross 人民南路 on the south side of Tianfu Square (from 西 to 东御街 [御 yù “imperial”]) without going south to the first intersection and doing a painfully slow U-turn there. It makes the driving in Wuxi look civilised.

I had some transport for the first time, a racing bike loaned to me by Linda’s best friend. It taught me that I’ve grown out of racing bikes and their cripplingly hard saddles, and their low-slung handlebars, which forced me to bend uncomfortably over the machine. On the other hand, it reminded me how much better narrow-gauge tyres are (which it had), and decent brakes (which it didn’t have).

Linda and I took a trip to Ikea where I bought some flannels, but had not intended to, and had a look at a chair for the study to get me off this kitchen chair. There’s now an Ikea in Wuxi, and a bus which goes out there, but I need to ask someone which number.

We went to High Fly for tea one night. The staff who were there in my day all seem to have gone, and the menu seems to have changed its focus to steak with pizza being reduced to an also-ran, it seemed to me.

On Friday, Linda and I went out to Raffles City, which has been under construction for about the past four years. The place is where the Sichuan (?) Museum of Culture had been when I first arrived in Chengdu. Raffles is, obviously, a Singaporean development, and contains the usual posh shops. It also has the first Mainland branch of Treat, which is actually part of the ParknShop empire. I knew the name was familiar, but I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it until I checked online. It is, of course, the supermarket at the end of the exit from the Kowloon Tong MTR station when you head to Festival Walk. It had a wide range of imported stuff, although the wines were on the stupidly expensive side.

Back in Wuxi, I found that M&G R1 pens have vanished from the shelves, including the red ones, which often linger after the black ones have gone. Still no sign of Nutella in Carrefour, but the Frico Gouda is back after an inexplicable absence.

Saw a white Audi R8 outside 远东百货 yesterday, and then a white Bentley Continental SuperSport on the side lane into Jinma. The only exceedingly expensive car I saw in Chengdu was a mid-blue Porsche cabrio.

The fun and games begin again tomorrow, but I could do with another week or month or so before then.

Clarity if not enlightenment

Rain and typhoons?

While Beijing has been washed down the drains and Hong Kong has been blown out into the South China Sea (where it bolsters spurious imperial claims to the region), we’ve had nothing but a string of clear sunny days with fluffy white clouds chased about by the wind. I assume that the weather systems to the north and south have been contriving to give us some decent, but rather hot (35°) weather. It’s been clear enough to see the hill to the east without having to squint through a curtain of haze, and as I write this, there’s not a cloud to be seen in the sky from my place.

I suppose I ought to make the most of it.

It reminds me of the summer when I first came to Wuxi, which was such a contrast to the typically cloudy weather of Chengdu. It also reminds me of summer in Hong Kong a couple of years ago when it was clearer than I’ve ever seen it.

There’s still much of the summer left to go, and yet it seems like an age has passed since term ended. I do mind a little bit that I’m still here, and yet in other ways I don’t. I’ve got things done that holidays would otherwise interrupt.

But there goes the rice cooker announcing that it’s teatime.

Where people have strange-shaped heads

And they speak an unknown language.

After a degree of dithering, it has been decided that the start-of-term conference will be in Chengdu. Now, when I say “in Chengdu”, I’m being rather generous. “Near Chengdu” would be more accurate and about as accurate as “Wuxi is near Chengdu”. I suspected that we might get dispatched to 石室的 North Lake School, which, I’m informed, is a long way from anywhere; and it seems that my fears were right. We may be in a five-star hotel, but it’s a five-star hotel out beyond the fourth ring road, which places us so far out of the city that I think the area is known as, er, Tibet.

Although the conference won’t give us much time for larks and frolics regardless of our location, I was hoping at least to make the pilgrimage to High Fly, but it seems that the heathens have deprived the faithful of such a chance; and anyone who was hoping to see the sights of Chengdu won’t be seeing much at all.

The weather had reached that uncomfortably humid phase as it goes greenhouse on us. Yesterday morning the cloud was grey but thin enough to reveal the disc of the sun and let the heat through. By some time in the afternoon, the cloud had thickened along with the haze, and the light had turned a dull yellow. It’s done something similar today although at the moment the dullness is less extreme. I’ve decided to go to Ajisen for tea tonight and will not be surprised if it starts raining around the time of my departure. It’s the sort of weather which makes me feel like snoozing.

Recent supercar sightings include a white Lamborghini Gallardo parked down outside the Olympic Museum yesterday, and an Audi R8 on 解放路 at lunchtime. What joy there is in my heart to see such a gross disparity in the distribution of wealth in the Empire. Now I know for sure that it is “the advanced nation”.

The exchange rate is improving again as the cost of music downloads from Presto Classical falls slightly, and the price of some downloads from the Classical Shop or Hyperion Records is getting quite competitive as sterling sinks alongside the Euro. Even so, I’ve stopped buying music for the moment partly because of the price and partly because I’m trying to assimilate what I’ve bought so that I’m not always thinking, I know I’ve heard this before, but…

Anti-days

Anti-Saturday.

Theoretically, it’s Saturday, but in Irrational Universe World (aka China), it’s Thursday. I got back from Chengdu yesterday after a sojourn which seems all too brief.

Travel.

For the first time ever, the flights to and from Chengdu left on time. Seriously. I’ve got used to flights being delayed by at least half an hour and quite often far longer than that. I can only guess that the Men from the Ministry issued orders for the air traffic system to run like clockwork. In fact, the plane even managed to be early in both directions.

Accommodation.

I stayed in the usual place, which is handy for the centre of the city. Worst part: the bed, which was horribly hard and uncomfortable. If Hell has beds, they’d be like this. Second worst part: some bunch of complete plonkers thundering down the stairs (the lifts seemed to be working) shouting at the tops of their voices, which could then be heard wafting up from outside; the shrill woman who wanted to be let into a room but was too stupid to knock quietly. (All right, I admit that knocking quietly here is unlikely to have any sort of effect.)

We felt that I should stay in a different place next time where I’d also have access to a bike.

Transport.

Linda’s bike. I pedalled and she sat on the back, but I really do need a bike of my own. Linda did get me a card for using on the bus, which was rather handy to have. No need for a lot of small change.

Dining.

We had pizza at High Fly the first night. The place still needs to buy some decent knives because it’d be more effective to cut the pizza with a blunt rolling pin. We were disappointed with Ajisen where we had the clam noodles, which smelt really good and then turned out to be utterly bland. Tea at A Little Flavour, which is a Taiwanese-style restaurant was quite good and had a deal more flavour than the noodles at Ajisen.

We also went to an Italian restaurant in 远东百货 where we had calzone. Not quite as good as the fare from High Fly, but tasty; and the knives were better: I was sorely tempted to pinch one and take to High Fly to show them what a knife should look like.

We had lunch in the food court in 远东百货 that day. The 炸酱面 was excellent. The area offers a view of Tianfu Square, which I’ve never seen from an aerial vantage point. It looks like some grass had been laid down in parts of the square. The government offices to the left on the north side were swathed in green gauze, and the building to the west has gone altogether.

Places.

Went to the Foreign Languages Bookshop where I bought the Wordsworth translation of The Three Musketeers, which I haven’t read in a long time, and Wagner the Werewolf, a penny dreadful by George Reynolds. Linda looked for a dictionary of dance terms, but if there is such a thing, it’s probably part of a larger dictionary of, say, the performing arts.

Since 春熙路 was choked with rustic clowns, we decided to go to 大慈, where we arrived just in time to see some of the afternoon service. The congregation of women threaded their way through the rows of prayer cushions while they sang some Buddhist chant. The youngest woman I could see was probably in her fifties, and the average age was probably well over 60. We went and sat on one of the benches for a while enjoying the afternoon sunshine and watching the monks ride by on their electric scooters. (Well, one monk.)

After heading off on a bus in the wrong direction, we headed back into town where the 乡人 were clogging the bus stops so much that we walked to the new shopping mall near the dance school. The place is only partially complete with quite a few premises yet to be occupied. There’s an ice skating rink in the building which was being used, and up on the 4th floor are the car showrooms. We had a look at a new red-and-silver Audi A1, which is one of the few Audis I can afford to buy. Mind you, I’d still prefer a Citroen DS3.

Our destination the next day was Ikea because I needed to buy a couple of towels to replace two of mine. The place was so busy that cars were queuing to get into the car park and only being admitted as someone left.

We spent quite a bit of time in 远东百货 having a look round. I bought myself a 1:50 scale Silverlit Porsche GT3 which whizzes around and is frighteningly manoeuvrable. The supermarket downstairs is better than the one in our local 远东百货, but their Yamazaki has none of the things which makes ours special apart from the bread.

The return of Mr Bamboo (again)

You could at least pretend to miss me.

I’ve been off on my hols, if you must know, and I’ve been off on them whether you want to know or not. I kept a holiday diary, but I’ll spare both you and me a word-for-word transcription.

It all starts with Shenzhen and the only time that my plane was roughly on time. I arrived at the airport a little ahead of Linda, and met her just as she was leaving the baggage claim area in Terminal A. We got the bus into town and then took a taxi to out hotel, which was nice and quiet, being away from the main road. Actually, it wasn’t that quiet because on the first night we were subject to the most prolonged torrential downpour I’ve ever experienced in my life. There was a little thunder and lightning to go with it, but far less than the following evening.

The next day we went to the dance contest at the stadium and watched the semi-finals of the international section. There were four or five different groups of dancers who would go through each type of dance for about a minute and a half while the judges, somehow, managed to score them. There was a very vociferous section of the audience up behind up to our left, but I wasn’t sure who they were cheering for.

After that, Linda wanted to go looking for dancing kit, but the first group of shops were more like the costume shops on 陕西街 in Chengdu than proper outfitters for serious dancers. We found our way to a dance school near the hotel, which had a few things on sale, and we then got sent to another place, which turned out to be a party venue where they also sold skirts and tops, but again, it wasn’t serious kit. This place was also tucked away at the end of a grubby passage in the Lucking Building, which was accessible via the tradesman’s entrance.

It wasn’t until the next day, when Linda and I went to Hong Kong that she found where the proper shops were – at the railway station just near the Lowu border crossing. Unfortunately, we were there at the wrong time. The shops in the railway station dance school didn’t open until 1pm and the shop in the bus station didn’t open till 11am; but at least Linda will know where to go in future.

Anyway, Hong Kong. I needed to buy books, but all Page One seemed to have was chick lit, ’tec fic’ set in New York or the Middle Ages, and Boy’s Own stuff featuring Steel Thrust or “Dirty” Peters. I was utterly uninspired, but did make a start by buying a couple of books by Stephen Clarke, and I eventually ended up with a few more volumes, but mostly fantasy. Page One is all right, but there are better bookshops in the world and it looks like I might have to put up with the excessive expense of postage from Amazon.

We went to Repulse Bay through a short-lived monsoon as we went over the hills to the other side of the island. There were some other people from Chengdu there as well, who eventually emerged from various sheltered spots when the rain mostly died away.

Linda went shopping for cosmetics and various other things, thus making the proprietors of Bonjour, Sasa, and Watsons very happy.

Actually, we were happy because the exchange rate is now HK1.20 to ¥1.00. Back in the old days the exchange rate was just slightly in favour of the Hong Kong dollar, but it meant that I paid a bit less for the new pair of shoes that I bought. I wasn’t planning to buy new shoes, but I did need a new pair and I think I would’ve spent the next six months wishing I’d bought them while I had the chance.

I also bought a new pair of pyjamas because the cyan(ish) pair I’ve had for, er, some time now, is kind of due for retirement. I’ve replaced them with a nice dark blue pair which I got from the M&S in Time Square when the range of options at the shop in Central turned out to be a little thin.

Speaking of M&S, I didn’t know that there was now a branch in Tsim Sha Tsui. I also didn’t know that HMV seems to have entirely vanished from Hong Kong. In that case, where does anyone go for CDs and DVDs or reputable provenance outside of those usually noisy shops just off Nathan Road?

We went back to Shenzhen Airport on the world’s worst signposted bus. We knew about the 330, but there was a sign pointing to an(other) airport bus (K568, if I remember correctly), which seemed to be in the bus station at Lowu. We went right through the bus station and out the other side, rounded the corner, and found it hiding in a building next to, but separate from, the bus station itself. The only sign which indicated that this was an airport bus was right next to it. So full marks for clarity for the Shenzhen Transport Board.

We hadn’t been able to get on the same plane back to Chengdu, and I should’ve been going sooner, but my flight was delayed and instead of arriving in Chengdu an hour ahead of Linda, I arrived about three-quarters of an hour behind her, and she arrived roughly on time. I did something similar today with the plane departing almost two hours behind schedule after a half hour delay and lunch on the runway.

Chengdu was very wet on Monday, and then hot and humid, the latter having me doing my Wicked Witch of the West impression. Ikea was at least pleasant inside although it’s always tempting to go and nod off on the sofas. Linda and I found a range of chairs called Poäng which we quite liked. They have high backs and a cushion just at the right height. However, we were more modest in our purchases with rubber gloves, a soy sauce/vinegar dispenser and a mirror for shaving (or at least cleaning up the aftermath of shaving).

I also went to the bike shops to have a look at bikes. Chengdu has a much better range than Wuxi, which seems to be limited to Giant (mostly) or Merida. Probably I will buy the Hunter 3.0 (only available in Chengdu if you order it), but I quite liked the Eurobike Leap 700 and the Gogobike Pioneer, both of which are cheaper than the Giant bike and possibly lighter. Their shortcomings for me were that they didn’t seem to be designed for practical city use (no real facility for a carrier or a basket) and I know that Giant has a service centre here. Even if these two models are available (probably somewhere in the New District [= bloody long way from anywhere]), I don’t want to have to be travelling 15kms just to get them seen to.

I also went DVD shopping. Like Wuxi, Chengdu’s supply of DVD seems to be being strangled at the moment, and I only picked up a few items. The DVD shop in the cinema building has gone, but while that was a disappointment, it wasn’t a surprise. I always went there expecting to find it gone.

And that is a fairly rough overview of this year’s summer holiday.

61 years later

And still no popular mandate.
 
Yes, it’s that time of the year again. 61 years ago Chairman Mao announced the opening of the People’s Republic of China. “Out with the old abuses,” he said, “and in with the new.” The local wits in Beijing asked themselves, “Chairman who? The what party? I don’t remember voting for you.”
 
I went to Chengdu to see Linda, where the weather actually managed to behave itself and even be pleasant apart from the day of my arrival. Actually, it followed the same pattern almost every day, which was a dull start with mist and high grey cloud followed by the cloud breaking up and letting a little sunshine through.
 
01.10.10
But I’m starting with the weather and not my journey. Because it was around lunchtime when I went to wait for a taxi, and there were few around, I thought I might have a bit of a wait. Although there were no taxis outside my place (as there often are), I didn’t have to wait too long, and the journey to the airport was quite fast.
 
While I was waiting to check in, it was announced that the flight had been delayed because of air traffic control, which seems to be their standard, uninformative excuse. My flight was meant to leave just before 3.00pm, but we didn’t depart for another two hours. My slight compensation was that my suitcase was one of the first on the carousel.
 
02.10.10
I needed to buy batteries for my camera in the morning. I also decided to go and get some money out, and as I was passing the fruit shop on the corner opposite the school, I saw a cat which was more interested in something else than the people passing by. The object of its interest was a brown rat tied up by its tail to one of the awning supports. I have no idea why the rat had been fettered in this way, but the cat was thinking about lunch. Don’t think I’ll be buying fruit from that shop.
 

I wouldn't want this wriggling and jiggling and tickling inside me.

But it wasn’t just rats. After I’d been to Carrefour to do some shopping, I was walking past the police equipment shops on 南大街 when I saw a spider sidling up to the kerb, and as you can see from the picture, it wasn’t exactly a small spider if you compare its leg span to the height of the kerb. I assume that it’s some sort of hunting spider, and a lucky one at that because it seems to have crossed the road. It might’ve been hunting crickets, which are quite abundant at the moment.
 
Linda and I went to Tianfu Square to have a look at the new Metro system, but when we got there, there were hordes of people with the same idea, and we contented ourselves with observing the press from above. More about the Metro in a bit.
 
03.10.10
The Subway which was over near the cinema beside the clothing street has now reappeared in the building across the road from the Fortune Centre. That’s where Trust Mart used to be, but has now gone. There’s also another branch of CSC next door to Subway, although I assume the CSC beside the entrance to Carrefour in the Fortune Centre is still operating.
 
People queuing for the Chengdu Metro, 1st October 2010.
We went out to Ikea to amuse ourselves in the afternoon. That reminds me that I meant to have a look for tea towels, but forgot. Not a desperate oversight, though since I have plenty. A couple of the older ones probably need to be retired.
 
Excursus: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I took the book with me to read, having made little progress with it since I was reading short sections while I was waiting for the computer to do things. Mikael Blomkvist has been convicted of libelling Hans-Erik Wennerström and is going to have to do some porridge while his magazine, Millennium, teeters on the brink of collapse. In the meantime, Blomkvist is hired by Henrik Vanger to investigate the disappearance of his niece Harriet in 1966. It’s a nice littler earner for Blomkvist with the promise of evidence proving that Wennerström is a crook at the end of it.
 
Lisbeth Salander works for Milton Security and has her own problems to deal with. She’s anti-social and has a troubled history, but also has certain skills and qualities which make her exceptionally good at what she does. After her new guardian, Nils Bjurman, abuses and rapes her, she has her revenge, and manages to free herself from his clutches.
 
Salander’s work and Blomkvist’s eventually coincide to reveal the truth behind Harriet’s disappearance, and that the current head of the Vanger Corporation is continuing in his father’s footsteps as a misogynistic serial killer.
 
If I’d been forewarned, I would’ve skipped about half the book and started on Chapter 16 when Blomkvist makes his crucial observations which lead him to solve the case. Until then, I was wondering whether anything was actually going to happen because Salander’s dealings with her new guardian are the B plot (although as I’ve now discovered, there’s more to that story in The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) even although she and Blomkvist eventually work together.
 
I wonder whether Mikael Blomkvist is Stieg Larsson, but he gets to shag hot, middle-aged Swedish babes and The Girl who Looked like Jail Bait. There’s more than a slight hint of 007 about Blomkvist.
 
The Vanger Family are generally portrayed as a fairly depraved bunch, being pro-Nazi or violent sexual deviants or both. Larsson appears not to have liked big business in Sweden.
 
04.10.10
I was half asleep when someone screamed in one of the adjacent rooms some time between 3.30am and 4.00am, and through the peephole of mine I watched some guy coaxing some girl who was either drunk or stoned (because she seemed to have problems focusing and walking) into one of the other rooms. He didn’t seem to be at all interested in assisting her. Anyway, that interrupted my sleep, as did some cricket.
 
Linda and I went out to the new Renhe on the 2nd Ring Road, which is in sight of Metro down at the next intersection. There was a Rolls Royce on display outside, though it was an ugly tank-like thing. We wandered round the mall, looking at the shops to see what was there. Linda bought herself a rather nice bracelet by a Danish designer, Pilgrim, which was a band of flowers of alternating colours in a gold setting, which went well with Linda’s complexion.
 
After tea at Subway later on, we went and had a look round the Yanlord Landmark Building, which is one of the new malls just near the Fortune Centre. The place had a couple of Clark’s shoe shops, one of which included the modern version of the kind of shoes I wore when I was at school, but the prices were a little steep, being twice what I’d consider reasonable. There was a small restaurant which offered fairly modestly priced fare which you might have for lunch, and a Japanese restaurant upstairs. We went into the Louis Vuitton shop, which was full of rich peasants (so Linda told me) who were quite vulgar enough to spend ¥10,000 on a handbag. (Speaking of conspicuous consumption, I saw a Jaguar and an Aston Martin [V8 Vantage or DB9; not sure] while I was in Chengdu.)
 
05.10.10
We tried our luck on the Chengdu Metro, and took a trip out to the computer centre on the 1st Ring Road. I wanted to have a look at DVDs, and we were taken into the depths of the building past a few Circles of Hell to get to the shop. The basement is now another sales area. I didn’t buy much in the end, and I’m still wondering whether I’m ever going to see Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the latest series of Dr Who, or one or two other recent releases.
 
Linda then went looking for a new pair of headphones and found a brand called SOMiC. I’d like to see if I can get the same pair which she bought, because they were comfortable to wear with my glasses on. My current headphones press on the arms and on the top of my head, and can give me a headache if I wear them for too long. The sound quality was also good.
 
As for the Metro, it’s fairly straightforward to use, and very similar to Hong Kong. It has zones like London so that if you want to go to the end of the line, you pay ¥4, while shorter journeys are obviously cheaper. You wave your card at the sensor to enter, and then insert it in the machine when you depart. You can probably get the equivalent of an Octopus Card.
 
Later, we went to the Foreign Languages Bookshop because I wanted to see whether I might be able to get the sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The foreign books have now moved from the right-hand side of the third floor to the left-hand side, and are horribly muddled. The old sections seem to have survived, but they’re not marked, and it was by chance that I found The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. If The Girl who Played with Fire was there, I didn’t see it.
 
I also went looking at digital cameras again, out of curiosity rather than a definite intention to buy one. I must admit I didn’t see anything which got me overexcited. I’ve had my current camera for about 3½ years or so, and there haven’t been any great advances as far as I can tell. The current successor to my DSC-H5 is the HX1, but that seemed rather expensive. I’ve been wondering whether to try Canon, Nikon, or Olympus.
 
06.10.10
I thought about doing something since I wasn’t going to be meeting Linda until lunchtime, and then I thought not, and then I decided to because I didn’t want to hang around in the hotel room. I went over to 春熙路 to have a nose around the place to while away the time. Had a look around Ito Yokado, and was about to go into Isetan when Linda sent me a message saying she was at the hotel.
 
We had lunch at High Fly before heading out to the airport on the bus. Because of the delay on my way to Chengdu, I feared that the plane might be two hours late leaving. In fact, it actually managed to leave on time, and arrive in Wuxi on time, which must be a first for Chinese civil aviation. If not, it’s a first for me.

Skateboard Squad

Vehicula quadrirotata.

The self-propelled vehicle of 2009 has been this two-wheeled skateboard-like contraption which seems to be propelled like a Venetian gondola by wiggling the aft wheel from side to side. I have no idea exactly what they’re called, but as a former skateboarder, I feel compelled to regard them as rather risible. They seem to be a skateboard designed by overanxious parents. You know the sort – they’re busy ensuring their children’s obesity by ferrying them to and from school because a.) you should see the amount of traffic on the roads (that’s all those parents taking their fat brats to school) and b.) the streets are crawling with perverts (it was in the Daily Mail or some other reputable fish-and-chip wrapper read by the cred­ul­ous).

It was with some surprise that I saw a couple of kids with skateboards earlier this afternoon. If I have seen kids on skateboards in China, it’s been so long since I’ve seen one that I’ve forgotten the last occasion I did. But this is not a skateboard-friendly country outside of parks where the surface might be flat, smooth and unobstructed. The pavement here would give you average council in the UK nightmares because of the unevenness of the surface.

But a couple of skateboarders was nothing when a whole horde came thundering down 总府路 this evening, perhaps numbering about twenty-five to thirty. I noted that not one of them had a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads or any sort of protective kit. One of them turned to video the others on a stretch of road which is reasonably smooth, but has various manhole covers which might topple an unwary skateboarder.

I managed to pass them all just ahead of the next intersection where they did a little chant. Anywhere else, the police would probably have stopped them because what they were doing was dangerous to the skateboarders themselves. On that stretch of 总府路 there are only barriers between the cars and the cycle lane as you approach the intersection.

After that, I don’t know what happened to them. When it comes to taking off, I’m normally first across the road when the light goes green and I was anxious not to find myself negotiating my way through the horde along the cycle lane to 天府广场.

I’ll be back

I hope.

It was rather a nice day today, being hot and sunny, and fairly pleasant. At least it was pleasant until I got home after tea and found a mail message from the people I’m working for next term. When I applied for the job with the A-level programme, I specifically stated that I wanted to remain in Chengdu. I’ve had enough of moving around and Chengdu is a good place to be in spite of the frequent absence of sunshine and humidity in summer.

Unfortunately, I’m being sent to Wuxi instead. Remember how I was living in a small village outside Changzhou when I started this blog? Well, Wuxi is the next stop on the line east of Changzhou. The city is mentioned in the LP guide, but it sounds like Changzhou – a dull, generic eastern Chinese city.

I do have some inkling why it is that I won’t be here any longer, and some inkling why it might be possible to eventually come back to Chengdu. Let’s just say that the big fat evil panda that wanted more of the cream from the programme I’m currently with (but having been refused by the Cream Producers of Beijing, had a tantrum) finds it easier to get more cream from the A-level programme because it has direct access to the supply. It’s going to employ someone locally to take up the slack next term, which means that that person can be paid less and the big fat evil panda can have more cream.

However, I had heard that the A-level programme was also going to be starting at another school here, albeit one that’s unfashionably distant from town. If that is true (the place isn’t mentioned in official records), it may not be up and running till next year. If it is true, that may be how I get to come back to Chengdu. We’ll just have to wait and see.

But Wuxi?! Well, at least it isn’t 奔牛, so I can expect a better class of diarrhoea from the food; and since the place will be flat, it’ll be good cycling country – with nowhere to go.

19.01.13 In some respects Wuxi isn’t so bad. It’s not without something to cater to a fairly large number of expats. On the other hand the climate is a little extreme, being hot and uncomfortably humid in summer, but cold and often wet in winter.  We even get frost, which is saying something. There’s also a decent amount of sunshine, but the smog can be seriously bad at times. The locals are a bunch of rustic, pyjama-wearing clowns, although the traffic is marginally less retarded than it was in Chengdu.

The school has generally better quality students than those in Chengdu, but some dribbling idiots always manage to get through to blight our classes, and we can’t get rid of them. In fact, there’s not much we can do about them at all. The school also seems to interfere less in our business, and we have our own (half of a) building, although it wouldn’t surprise me if the rest of the students call it the Zoo or the Animal Farm or Millionaires Row.

The accommodation is marginal. I have a view at long last, but the rent is ridiculous and the place is a refrigerator in winter, which forces me to shift from the bedroom to the study when it turns cold because the latter is the only room I can effectively keep warm.