Tag Archives: dining out

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.



“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?

Diligence personified

Once again, Mr Bamboo is greater than the sum of his parts. No, I didn’t grow an extra head.

I was the epitome of diligence this morning and would’ve won a prize for it if they were awarding them. I wrote the lesson plan for class this afternoon (all right, there was some cutting and pasting involved), and the one for the AS class tomorrow; marked the AS class’s vocab test and recorded the marks, and decided at that point that I wasn’t going to sit around at school playing chess against Shredder 3 (although I did and defeated it using the Dutch Defence; I’m getting a bit bored with Shredder play 1. d4 when it’s white because it’s a rather vague sort of opening; it seems Shredder has been trying to play the London System; I did try playing a King’s Indian Defence in another game, but it ignored my efforts).

So I came home, did a little more work cataloguing the openings in the various pgn files I’ve got because the name on the box is not an especially accurate representation of the contents. For example, a file called Nimzo4Nf3.pgn has 58 different openings and not just from ECO E00-99 (which includes various and numerous Nimzo openings).

But I also thought that I ought to go and do some shopping while Carrefour might be a little deserted since the place is an utter nightmare on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

I went to Gizma for tea the other night for the first time in ages. The area outside Walmart was actually comparatively empty, although when I came out of Gizma, the usual hordes of rollerblading children were out gliding across the paving. As I was heading down 青石路 there was the inevitable traffic jam. This one, though, was not the product of the usual discourteous motorists but caused by a small mob of people who had gathered around a police car. I’m guessing that Plod had nicked some nefarious local villain and the mob wanted to see what a nefarious local villain looked like. Meanwhile, black cars being driven by far worse villains were passing by.

I finally finished off Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, a series of three [I think the word “trilogy” gave that away. –ed.] novellas with an existentialist theme a couple of days ago. Then last night I put an end to A Bottomless Grave, which is an anthology of 19th horror stories published by Dover Books. I’ve read them slowly over rather a long period of time, but if I remember rightly, I’d classify one or two as ’tec fic rather than horror. The final story in the collection was about a vampire mummy; but from what I read in The Guardian just recently, zombies are the new black (though only if you’re a boy). Can’t say I think much of zombies, which are too dull-witted to be of interest. Hmmm, rather reminds me of my little darlings from the other programme.


Or, It Got Me out of the House.

What has this blog come to when I start talking about trips to Tesco? I wasn’t utterly bored, but I needed to get out of the house for a bit and headed over there through the dust of 锡沪西路 where the demolition work up at the corner has left stumps of concrete out of which twisted reinforcing rods are growing in a sea of rubble. There’s a line of shops further along which, it appears, is also going under the hammer, but as I came along, the shop front signs had been pulled down and were being broken up for scrap. Now where I’d naturally assume that you might use cutting torches or, failing that, hacksaws to cut the metal frame up, our enterprising migrant workers were using a sledgehammer. One woman bashed the metal with a hammer and her colleague twisted the piece sticking out trying to fatigue the metal so that it’d break. 

I assume, because I have low expectations of life here, that the employers are too stingy to supply the proper tools or the workers are unable or unwilling to afford them. Perhaps they really are just a bit dim. 

I went to a restaurant called Wish Doing (味之都 wèi zhī dū in Chinese, but written on the sign as W之sh Doing; the 之 looks more like a distorted i in the actual logo) in Baoli this evening. The menu was labelled “Recipes” and the title of the snacks section was “Nosh”, which is ironic because my trip to Tesco was N.O.S.H. – North Out, South Home. By the time I headed off for tea, the cloud had thickened up even more and it was starting to drizzle when I returned home.

One of the things I’d forgotten about this part of the country was the penchant for fireworks, which you don’t hear anywhere in Chengdu. Where the apparent ban of fireworks in many places is regarded as a suggestion to be ignored, the good citizens of Chengdu take no such liberties. I assume that’s so when such an over-militarised city wakes up to fireworks, they know, in fact, that the Тибэтанс are revolting and General Kang didn’t drop his cigar in the ammo dump again.

[22.08.13. In more recent news, Tesco is pulling out of China. I haven’t been back to the Tesco in Wuxi in a very long time because it’s simply not conveniently located. Wish Doing has also long since gone, having been replaced by some Taiwanese restaurant.]

There goes another milestone


wuxi_evening01Two and a half days ago, the clouds gathered and it eventually started raining. Two days ago, we might’ve seen the eclipse, but it rained almost all day. Yesterday it was overcast and very hazy, which in Wuxi seems to suggest that it may start raining at any moment. Of course, it rained a little in the afternoon, but saved its heaviest downpour for the evening when I happened to be at Carrefour. I knew something was up because a large group of people had gathered at the exit from 保利. It was a short-lived thunderstorm and I actually barely got wet at all in the end. I did at least have my umbrella with me. 

I went to the Sichuan restaurant across the road from 保利, but that turned out to be a slightly posher affair than I was expecting. Because it was up on the first floor, I couldn’t tell exactly what I was going to find inside, but it’s the sort of restaurant where people go in mobs rather than singly. The 宫保鸡丁 was actually decent enough, but it wasn’t a dish intended for one person.

Anyway, the weather has left me stranded inside. Two days ago it was raining and yesterday, there was the perpetual threat of imminent rain. The cloud has broken up a little with hints of blue sky and even a threat of a little sunshine. There might be a short adventure this afternoon. (I’m thinking about a circumnavigation of 惠山.)

But while I’ve been idle,[1] I see that Green Bamboo has now passed 60,000 hits, although that’s mostly from searches via bing (formerly Windows Live Search) on indefinite subjects. I have no idea who the 60,000th caller was. That was 109 visits ago.

1. Actually, I haven’t been that idle, although I was a little yesterday when the afternoon became snooze time. The point is that just because there’s nothing worth posting here [Like this whole entry. –ed.], it doesn’t mean that I’m not busy doing something else.

Christmas 2008

Dinner and a tragedy.

(Before I begin the main entry: I’m sitting here at home listening to We wish you a Merry Christmas blaring out of the primary school. I assume that it must be morning exercise time there.)

The school took us to 老房子 (lǎo fángzi) for dinner last night. The restaurant is on the side street just south of Wuhou Temple. The food was good, but I’d had a biggish lunch yesterday and wasn’t that hungry.

Last night, Tianfu Square was full of policemen with others in coaches and police vans waiting in reserve further up Zongfu Lu just near the mobile phone district. I think it must’ve been inflatable bat night last night, which we went along to last year, although fun was verboten. I saw some people with those inflatable bats a couple of days ago, although no one in the square appeared to have them.

I had to go over to school this morning on a small matter of business this morning. I wondered what the security guard was looking at and could see a crowd of people outside the library. There’d been an accident. Some old woman had been knocked down and killed by one of those large construction site trucks. She was lying there in full view while the police cordoned off the area. As I stood there, a bus full of people stopped right beside the body.

The intersection is dangerous because the back street behind the school is quite narrow and usually has little traffic, hence cyclists and the electric bike jockeys ride through there against red lights. I have no idea what the exact circumstances of the accident were, but all things considered, I wouldn’t be surprised if both parties were culpable in some measure. Pedestrians and cyclists don’t pay proper attention; motorists are arrogant bastards who think they own the road.

It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a dead body and a death from a traffic accident in China. It’s a surprise that I haven’t seen a great many more, although I’ve seen the aftermath of a fair few crashes. I don’t think I mentioned another road safety campaign I saw not so long ago. The images in this were even more gory than the images in the other, including a sequence of pictures showing some guy trying to cross a motorway, getting hit by an SUV and getting flung into the air. But such campaigns seem ineffectual because people still go around as if they still live in a pre-industrial age.


The local tapas bar.

We had thought we were going to a Spanish restaurant last night, but the establishment turned out to be a tapas bar on 凉水井街 (Liáng Shuǐ Jǐng Jiē), which is that side street off 武侯祠大街. I’ve passed it many times, but never been down there. We ordered the food from the bar quite literally because there were examples sitting on the bar from which to choose, but no menu. The portions we were served weren’t as large as what we saw when we ordered it, but I thought it was tasty enough. 

The service was a little chaotic. We had to ask for extra napkins about three times, and the girl working there should’ve been the star of a training video as an illustration of how it’s not done. But I don’t think it was her obvious lack of experience alone that was the problem. Were more staff needed? Two to man the bar (and stay there) and perhaps three to work the tables, or something like that. 

I don’t know whether I’ll go back. It’s not really because of the service or the food that would deter me from returning, but rather because that area’s a tacky tourist trap and, therefore, somewhere I tend to avoid.

Safe-ty first

Giving consumers the choice they demand.

Not only are there a lot of shops around here selling police gear, but there are also quite a few selling safes. I wonder whether there’d be the market for half a dozen such shops (typically clustered together on the same stretch of road), but I suppose corrupt officials are always needing somewhere to keep their bribes safe. Or perhaps every time the police buy some new kit, the Chief Superintendant tells Constable Li to nip down to the safe shop for somewhere secure to keep it.

Speaking of corrupt officials, the hotel up on the corner is the haunting ground of the black-car mafia.

I went to KFC tonight where there were foreigners. I got my order, and went and sat down. next thing I know, the foreigners are sitting beside me, and I get the sense that the people at one table were staring at us, probably assuming that I’m Mr Foreigner; she’s my wife, Mrs Foreigner, and the child, Foreigner Minor, is our offspring. Anyway, my putative wife is babbling away to, er, ich weiß whom nicht about how she didn’t get what she ordered. Fortunately, I was out of there before they’d even started.

It certainly was foreigners’ big night out, though. There were a couple of them in Carrefour, including one guy who should really stay away from long shorts at his age. Also, his legs were too short compared with the rest of his body to get away with it. I observe about all the foreigners I saw that they tended to be on the large side, less vertically than sideways.

Actually, one thing that’s obvious about the locals is that they tend to be on the tall side for Chinese people. Also, given the mania for short shorts, you can see that many Chinese girls here have very long legs. I happened to see one woman this evening: short shorts, long legs and – uh-oh! – high heels. Really cool fashion combination, and not in the least bit tarty or anything like that.

Nine years before the mast

And precious little to show for it.

Although we aren’t formally charged with teaching our pupils grammar, the nature of the tests that we give them means that we have to deal with whatever grammatical structure the textbook covers in each theme. It’s stuff that they should already know, but their grasp of grammar, in spite of their allegedly extensive knowledge, is often weak.

Today we were doing the perfect continuous (have been Ving). One of the questions for speaking practice was “How long have you been learning English?” After a few moments of counting on her fingers, one girl said she’d been learning English for nine years. Her score on the occasion of the last exam was equivalent to IELTS 3 (actually just short of 3.5). IELTS 8 or 9 is native speaker level. Although I might not expect someone to be as proficient as a native speaker of English after nine years (interspersed with other subjects, of course), I might expect such a person’s English to be better than IELTS 3.5.

[20.08.13. At the end of last term, Fred Voelkel and I interviewed some prospective students. I asked one how long he’d been learning English and got the same answer. Once again I thought Nine years and not much to show for it.]

All right, the joke’s over.

I went to the DVD shop opposite the gates of the university on Monday evening only to find that, Chinese films aside, it was very, very bare. I went again this evening, hoping that things might be back to normal. Wrong.

How many of them are there?

We went to the Macao/Portuguese restaurant last night to celebrate Glen’s birthday. But having hailed a taxi on Cang Qian Lu, we wondered where on earth we were going. I thought that he was taking a circuitous route because the route the driver had decided to take was blocked at one point. (I watched a car with military reg plates squeeze through a barrier only to note that the off ramp from the roundabout was completely blocked beyond that.) It turned out that Barby, who’d spoken to the taxi driver on the phone, had sent him to another branch of the same restaurant, this one being on the corner of 华林路 (Huálín Lù) and 鼓屏路 (Gǔpíng Lù), while the one we’ve been to twice before is on 八一七北路 (Bāyīqī Běilù), which is what Guping Lu becomes south of 天桥 (Tiān Qiáo).

If that’s not enough, there are three other branches, all with different names, on 湖东路 (Hú Dōng Lù), two of which are almost opposite each other.

Anyway, the food was very nice, and I noted as we left that there was a large half-node of amethyst, probably about 30cm tall and about 15+ cm wide at the base sitting on the counter. I’ve seen the price of these things somewhere in Fuzhou, and even the small ones are prohibitively expensive.

That was quick

They’ve arrived already.

When I got back from tea last night, I was given a message to say that June, who works in the International Office, wanted to speak to me, but hadn’t been able to phone me. There’s a good reason for that – the line’s dead. I saw her this morning and explained that the phone didn’t seem to have been working (I didn’t confirm that until later); the washing machine is a piece of junk; and the flat’s too small to accommodate me and everything I own.

This last fact is exacerbated by the presence of my boxes which arrived here in record time. Friday, I think. I’ve asked for them to be left where they are because there’s no point in hauling them to the shoebox if I’m going to go somewhere else. [07.08.14. Big mistake because I never did get moved to better accommodation.]

I’ve now met Jane who’s going to be the team leader here. She’s here for a week and going back to Beijing on Friday.

After lunch I went for a walk in the direction of Santanzhou Bridge, which is the suspension bridge to the west of Jiefang Bridge. I found a large temple on the corner overlooking it, but I’m not sure who it was dedicated to. Although there are a larger number of churches here than I’ve seen anywhere else in China, there are also quite a few temples around as well.

The name of that so-called ancient culture street is Rongcheng Gujie. I couldn’t find the first character in my dictionary, but I managed to track it down in a character dictionary here in the office. It can either mean some sort of ancient tree or something which appears to be characteristic of Fuzhou, but the crucial characters defeated me because each has two readings and the possible combinations don’t make a lot of sense. [07.08.14. Actually, this will be 榕 (róng) “banyan”, which is an alternative name for Fuzhou. Just to confuse things, Chengdu is also known as 蓉 (róng) “hibiscus”.)

By chance, I happened to walk back up the street to where this excellent little restaurant is, so it was quite easy to get back home. [07.08.14. This was probably XXKX, which did the best gong bao ji ding I’ve had, although it was a stir-fried dish rather than the gooey fare I’ve had in other places.]

When I got to school, the noticeboard said it was 41°. Oddly enough, it doesn’t feel that hot. Nor does it shut the cicadas up.