Tag Archives: National Day Holiday

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.

Shanghai

03.10.13

It was so bright and clear in the morning that it was impossible to lie in. In fact, there should’ve been no lying-in at all because Linda and I needed to have been at the station about an hour ahead of the departure of the train.

Fortunately, when we got to the station, some nice person let Linda push in at the front of the queue, and we got to the gate as the train was being boarded. There were stops in Suzhou and Kunshan, and about an hour later, we arrived in Shanghai.

It was quite easy to get to Sichuan Beilu Station via Hailun Lu, although we had to get the Line 4 train that was going in the right direction before switching to Line 10. (Line 4 is Shanghai’s equivalent of the Circle Line.) When we got out of Sichuan Beilu, we got in a taxi, but the driver explained that because Zhapu Lu was behind us and the hotel was not that far away, there was no need for him to ferry us there.

We walked down the street to Zhapu Lu, went across the first main intersection, and arrived at the Hanting Hotel soon afterwards. There was a wedding in progress, and shiny confetti was being blown along the street. Our room had a view of the building next door, which was separated from the hotel by a narrow alley.

Young Allen Building, Zhapu Lu, Shanghai (2013)Zhapu Lu is a lively, old and somewhat dirty street with plenty of relics from the time the city was mostly run by foreigners. On the opposite corner from the hotel was the Young Allen building, which was built in 1923, and there was a Hindu temple at the northern end of the street. (A lot of the buildings in Shanghai have plaques on them, explaining what they used to be.) The south end of Zhapu Lu was dominated by restaurants (and the street is marked in the Lonely Planet guide as a food street). There was a very popular Hong Kong-style place which did pre-cooked meat outside of which there was almost always a (long) queue. (Even yesterday morning [06.10.13] as we passed it, there was a small group of people waiting for it to open.) We went to one particular restaurant several times, although I’ve forgotten its name.

Our search for the Bund took us on a wild goose chase because when we got to the Russian embassy, it appeared that we should’ve gone straight ahead. In fact, it was to the right across the bridge beside the embassy, and we walked some way before eventually asking a security guard at the entrance to a passenger terminal for directions. I suppose we ought to have followed the hordes across the bridge; or the city council could’ve erected a sign. (I note that the signs for tourists are unrelentingly in Chinese, which is a minor bother for me, but doesn’t help foreigners find their way about.) We got back to the embassy just as the guard was being changed.

The weather was a real nuisance. It was very clear in Shanghai, but windy and cloudy at the same time. When the sun was hidden by the clouds, the temperature dropped; when the sun blazed down, the temperature shot up. Half the time, I wished I had been wearing something a little more substantial, and half the time, I was fine.

Nanjing Donglu, Shanghai (2013)We crossed the bridge where we, and everyone else, took photos of the buildings on the far side of the Huangpu. We then made our way along the Bund until the sun drove us to seek some shade closer to Zhongshan Lu. At Nanjing Donglu, we saw huge numbers of shoppers flowing (literally) along the street in both directions. The ones from the street streamed across, and up the steps onto the Bund. The sensible thing would have been to close the street to cars, but sense will forever remain in short supply here. After going a little further, we went back and joined the masses on Nanjing Donglu, turning aside when we reached Sichuan Beilu and making our way back to the hotel.

We had a much-needed snooze in the afternoon because we’d done a lot of walking not only in Shanghai, but also in Wuxi the previous day when we’d been on a long walk through the park and over to the island, which provided us with some brilliant shots as the sun set.

We roamed around for tea, eventually finding a branch of KFC where the service was less than competent. In addition to that, Linda burnt her mouth on the soup she ordered. We then went back to our favourite Chinese restaurant down Zhapu Lu where we had soup dumplings while the local bore banged on at a couple of people sitting at the table beside ours. I’m sure he would’ve started on us, but we left.

Oh, lordy, he’s heading for the microphone

And he’s going to make a speech.

Yes, it’s that time of the year once again when back in 1949, Chairman Mao stepped up to the microphone and announced the opening of the People’s Republic of China, and the audience departed from Tiananmen Square in a sea of lively chatter: “Who was he? What was he talking about? Did I vote for him? What about the workers? I hope they remember that violence doesn’t legitimise them. Oh, bugger, I left the gas on.”

The week leading up to this year’s National Day Holiday really was a week, fraught with anxieties about the contrary weather and the maddeningly transitory forecast for Sunday which veered from heavy cloud to light to moderate rain and back to heavy cloud again – and then ended up being sunny spells. If the weather had been bad, we might’ve had a nine-day week.

The centre of the city gets worse with one of the busiest sections of 人民路 being narrower than ever and now congested by cars, electric scooters, and pedestrians. Motorised traffic really needs to be directed away from the centre of Wuxi while all the work is being done on the Metro, but that would be sensible.

That section was especially bad yesterday because the mall beyond Parkson was having some sort of grand opening, and there were a lot of people around there. The bike park outside Parkson was completely packed. I could see somewhere to park my bike, but it was a row in, and I had to carry my bike over my head to get in and out.

I still haven’t been into Centre 66 yet to see this fabled supermarket with its Western goods. I need to reconnoitre the area to find somewhere to leave my bike, but there seems to be nowhere to do that along 人民中路. I might just have to park outside the Xinhua Bookshop instead.

The Ferrari-Maserati shop is under wraps at the moment while they no doubt make it look pretty for the arrival of all its odiously wealthy customers. In fact, the whole complex looks to be yet another paean to the massive wealth disparity in the Empire. The poor may be less poor, but the rich are vastly richer.

Anyway, Linda is arriving tomorrow to spend a few days with me. Hurrah!

Vowel stems and consonant stems

Indo-European spam.

Most of the spam comments which are marked for my consideration are the usual cretinous drivel along the lines of “Great post”. Today, though, I had one about Indo-European nominal morphology, which might have had a vague chance of getting past me if the accompanying e-mail address had been remotely plausible. However, the chance I would’ve let that little turd plop onto my blog was very remote. Try again, spam boys.

The holiday has unofficially started, and although the afternoon might’ve been a bit gloomy, we were not cowering under leaden skies as we often are around this time of the year. Tomorrow is meant to be clear and sunny.

In spite of finding an alleged solution online to my problem with Firefox, I’ve had no joy and have, unofficially, switched to Chrome at least until the next version of FF comes out. I have too much bookmarked via FF to abandon it quite yet.

We had a departmental meeting this morning, which was followed by an IB meeting. The news from the latter is that our classes are being reduced to 40 minutes. I’ve been here before, but I can’t remember where and whether the class time was lengthened or shortened. It doesn’t affect me too much, but the proper IB classes, which are already struggling to meet the overall time requirements, will be squeezed even further. The idea would appear to be to squish an eleventh period into the day because we know that our pupils really need that extra class.

I’m not quite certain what’s going to happen to lunchtime, but if my calculations are correct, probably nothing. The one, small benefit may be my awful Tuesday because the library periods, a symphony in awfulness, won’t drag on into the very depths of the afternoon like a Batman film.

And that reminds me of the bad-quality, cinema-taped version of The Dark Knight Rises, which I watched a few days ago. Bloated. In fact, I stopped watching the movie just as Robin entered the cave because by then it was at least twenty to thirty to forty-five minutes too long and my patience was at an end. Also, by that stage, sound and vision were completely and annoyingly out of sync. Catwoman and the actual villain were both annoyingly similar and tiresomely smug. Bane was annoyingly pointless and cartoony.

I see there’s an article on the Beeb about Bo Xilai who, according to the Party sock puppets, “is accused of abuse of power and corruption”. I thought that was all of them. (And no, I haven’t missed the ambiguity of that sentence: ‘abuse of… corruption’.) Meanwhile, a Chinese forensics expert, Wang Xuemei, has been casting doubt on the evidence surrounding the death of Neil Heywood. She does not appear to be someone to be dismissed lightly, but this is much like opening the lion’s jaws and then sitting down inside them for a nice cup of tea.

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.

Autumn Holidays

Grey, damp, cool.

It was another National Day yesterday when the new emperor stepped up to the microphone and apologised to the crowd for the delay, but he was going to have to move his Audi A6, which was blocking the entrance to Zhongshan Park. (The next day it was reported as ‘Grateful nation gives Emperor Audi A6’.)

When I did venture out, the day, which seemed to have been dry, turned damp, and when I did a similar journey at lunchtime today, the same thing happened, and we’re now enjoying steady light rain.

I finished reading A Brief History of the Future, which I reviewed on my LJ blog (link). Overall, I was disappointed because once again, Clarke has shown that when he strays away from France, his skill as an entertaining writer desert him. This had the feel of a book which got initially got no further than a first draft, got revised once, and then published. I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but I assume the publishers were hoping for people like me, who had enjoyed Clarke’s Merde series to buy this book without considering that it might be, well, a bit naff.

The problem for me is that I’m generally unaware of what has appeared in print until I go to Swindon Books or Page One in Hong Kong, or I might be in some civilised country where books in English are more than just 19th century prose fiction. In Hong Kong, I don’t have the luxury of noting titles and then toddling off to the Internet to peruse the reviews, which will be one of the reasons why I’m intending to buy one of those notebook things next year to take with me on my travels. Unlike real bookshops, Amazon isn’t so easy to browse because only a few of the titles have that Look Inside option. Besides, I want that 3D thing in my hands.

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.

National Day No. 6

Well, No. 58, actually.

A floral display near Tianfu Square, Chengdu, National Day 2007 Yes, it was on this day in 1949 that Chair­man Mao announced to the throngs of shoppers passing Tiananmen that the People’s Republic of China (sponsored by Coca Cola) was open for business. Then half a dozen hawkers tried to sell him socks, shirts, pirated DVDs, and fake Rolexes.

I took a little trip up to Tianfu Square this morning to see what was going on. There was a horde of people there (well, as many as count as a horde in Chengdu), but no displays I could see apart from a few banners where the statue of Mao is and some floral displays at intersections like the one in the picture.

Many of you may be wondering why statues of Mao always have one arm raised. That’s because it’s based on a photograph of him a moment after he was asked how high he wanted the garden hedge. You just can’t make this stuff up. [It seems you can, though. –ed.]

Meanwhile, it seems that the National Day is an auspicious day for the primary school next door to have the artificial grass stripped off and replaced. Oh, that’s right. Every day in China is an auspicious day for building work.