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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.