Life In China, Part The Second

The Chinese have much the same approach to queuing as the French, they line up obediently until the bus arrives, or the door opens, or whatever it is they are waiting in line for, and then it is suddenly survival of the fittest, and the whole point of queuing becomes lost in a struggle to the death.

Well, everyday I had to catch a bus to get to the place where the school’s bus picked me up and the daily experience of this “queuing” was a deeply depressing experience for me as a Good Englishman. It led to my actually punching a couple of guys on one memorable occasion, not something I am prone to do by any means, but on this day I hauled off and really clobbered a couple of guys.

The situation was that the bus had arrived, and as normal, all hell broke out and everyone did their darnedest to get onto the bus, but this time there was a mother and her small kid also trying to get onto the bus, and the kid was forced off the bus whilst his mother managed to get on the bus, and I saw that the kid had no chance of getting onto the bus, nor his mum a chance to get off the bus to join him. So I tried to help the kid get back onto the bus, but a couple of young men wouldn’t make way for this to happen and simply trampled the kid into the ground, literally! So I tried to make them aware of what was happening to the kid, but they didn’t give a damn and carried on trying to clamber over the kid to get in the bus. So I felt that this was not tolerable, and simply hauled off and gave them both a good punch in the face, and made it obvious that I was prepared to go even further. They were both really surprised at my actions, and I simply grabbed both of them by their collars and yanked them off the bus, and then stood in the entrance of the bus making it obvious that I would clobber anyone who tried to get into the bus until the kid had managed to get on the bus and joined his mum. Which he did, whereupon I simply went to my seat and let anyone on who wanted to get on…….. Curiously enough, there was no reaction to my hitting those two guys, every one simply got onto the bus and that was that.

On another occasion in the bus to work, there had been a horrible earthquake in the south of the country, and the government announced that there would be a 2 minute silence for the victims of the earthquake, and to my amazement all traffic suddenly stopped, including my bus, everyone went silent and the two minute silence was observed. An amazing experience.

Another odd thing about public buses in Beijing, and probably in all cites, was the fact that all the busses had colour TVs in them, several of the things hanging from the ceiling, all tuned to the main news channel, so one could see the news on one’s way to work. Quite fun really.

Ah, memories, memories….. I had a really good time (generally) whilst living in Beijing. I suspect I shall write more about the oddities of living in Beijing soon…

Thoughts about living in China – All quite random – Part 1

Between about 2006 and 2009 we lived and worked in Beijing, Lotty in one International School (Beijing City International School) and I in the Western Academy Beijing (WAB). I was employed as what they called their Production Engineer, which effectively was the equivalent of what I used to do at the Roundhouse in London, in other words, I functioned as their Production Manager, being responsible for the sound and lighting crew of the school. As we had something like 7 venues to deal with, and as they tended to start each morning at about 8 am and finish some time in the evening – with rock concerts, classical concerts, film shows or whatever, we tended to work for about 70 hours a week.

I had a number of Chinese guys working with me, so I found it relatively easy to learn Mandarin (the Chinese dialect spoken in Beijing, and thus the official language of China), except that it is a tonal language, and the tone used can change the meaning of a word totally – for example, the word “Mar”, can mean the following:- Horse, Wife, Arrow and who knows what more? So if you happen to get the tone wrong, you could be saying something like, “I shot my wife at a straw target”, or “I would like to introduce you to my arrow”. When the Chinese use their tones, it is very subtle, and hardly noticeable, but for us Long Noses (Western foreigners) it is extremely tricky! Which makes a language that on the face of it is very simple and logical, incredibly hard to use properly, so I spent my entire time making that sort of mistake – oh well……

While we were living there, the number of cars increased exponentially. When we got there, most people still used bicycles, but by the time we left, every week another 10 000 cars were registered in Beijing alone! This, of course, caused huge traffic jams, sometimes they were up to 100 km long!!!!

Also, the Chinese hadn’t grown up with cars, the way we in the west had done, so they did the most extraordinary things when in cars, or even when simply crossing the road. For example, when driving on a motorway, if they happened to miss their turning, they were perfectly happy to turn around, and drive against the other traffic until they got to their turning, and then leave the motorway. I have seen the crew of a police car happily having a picnic on the hard shoulder of a motor way, and I have also seen a shepherd happily putting his herd of sheep across a motorway – altogether extraordinary!

Also, in all the cities, the two opposing lanes of the roads have large, and very secure, fences on them, to stop people crossing the road anywhere but at the places intended for them to cross – this because people tended to simply wander across the roads anywhere they happened to be – the results of many, many years of only bikes on the roads.

Another hang-over from the days of no cars (for the ordinary people), when an official is being driven somewhere, they have a total right of way, so all other vehicles have to give way to them and their hugely important passenger(s), and the military have even more right of way than the politicians – so if you happen to be driving in Beijing, watch out for large cars with special number plates, they have, and will take, an absolute right of way!

In another post, I shall dwell on yet more curiosities of life in Beijing – a city that I truly enjoyed living in.

Thoughts about the Olympics in Brisbane

Having experienced quite a bit about the Olympics while I was working in Beijing during their Olympics I have rather strong feelings about the lunacy of wanting them in our fair city of Brisbane.

My introduction to the Olympics started about 8 months before they actually happened with a bunch of TV technicians who arrived at the huge International School I was working in (I was called a Production Engineer, and was responsible for all the stage sound and lighting stuff, in a school that had about 7 stages and arenas).

These technicians were there to train a large number of locals in how to use TV cameras as there simply were not enough trained people available locally to cover the many events of the Olympics. And a damned nuisance they were too! I was basically working a 70 hour week, as we had events to cover that started at about 8 am and other events (rock concerts, talks, film shows etc. that went on until about 10 pm) and to have these guys and their many students milling around the place was tricky. Curiously enough, they worked for a British commercial TV company (ITV) who in the UK were responsible for ordinary TV programming.

As things went on, I discovered that there were no end of companies who simply worked on the Olympics, going from city to city as it was decided which city would have the next Olympics – TV people, physio-therapists, uniform makers, builders, decorators and so on, an almost endless collection of people whose only work was the Olympics,, and who earned damn good money from their work.

In other words, for a lot of companies, the Olympics was how they earned their living.

As time went by, I discovered more and more about the way in which the Olympics work, and how – to be honest – the athletes were the industrial equivalent of the coke in coke bottles, in other words, their presence was the justification for the rest of the huge, money earning, circus that was the commercial side of the Olympics. And was the whole reason for the Olympics as far as I could see.

The other side of the Olympics is the building of huge arenas in which the various sports will occur. In Beijing this happened too, of course, and since the Olympics most of the huge arenas have rotted away as they are simply too damn big for normal use – Huge, expensive white elephants.

The other lousy thing about the Olympics is the way it snarls up the traffic. In Beijing there was a section of the road which was reserved for the cars and buses that were ferrying the athletes and officials from event to event, or from the “village” to the arenas. But not all the vehicles – of course – stuck to that lane, so the awful traffic jams that Beijing was famous for, were made even worse.

If the Olympics should continue (and for my part, I see no reason why they should), then there should be a permanent summer games stadia and village (probably in Greece) and a permanent winter venue (probably in Russia) and the TV crews, sound crews, maintenance crews and so on will all be permanent staff, employed by the Olympics and the whole thing continued thus.

In other words, instead of building totally useless stadia, training loads of locals to do work that disappears as soon as the Olympics are finished and so on, we have a set of stadia, villages and technicians all trained to work on the Olympics and the whole thing becomes a normal commercial operation – which, of course it absolutely is!

Also, it might be fun to run the modern Olympics in the manner of the original ones – ie. the athletes have to be nude, they have to be only male and all wars have to cease for the duration of the games. Now that would be fun!

Golden Biker – A Superbly Funny “Road” Ebook

The author of this wonderfully funny and surreal ebook (The Golden Biker) has made a short video in which he tells us the history of how this ebook came about.

Some time ago I read and reviewed this truly funny and anarchic ebook, which I recommended to anyone who enjoys silly reading, as it is both very funny and also has some really quite relevant points to make about how we live our lives and the values that we believe are important to us.

If you read my original review (link below) you will understand better why I am so fond of this absurd ebook, and its weird and wonderful cast of characters, all of whom have remained in my mind ever since I read this enjoyably silly ebook.

Anyhow, as I said, I came across this video in which the author Alexander von Eisenhart Rothe  (now that is a name to conjure with!) talks about how he came to write this ebook, and the various hassles he had before it finally became a fully fledged ebook.  I thought you might enjoy seeing it and getting a feel for how he thinks, and what he finds important in life.

Continue reading “Golden Biker – A Superbly Funny “Road” Ebook”

Ebook Review – Golden Biker; An Insane Romp Through India.

I have just read an amazingly funny and anarchic book called Golden Biker, written by the splendidly named Alexander von Eisenhart Rothe which apart from anything else disproves totally the idea that Germans have no sense of humour.

This wonderful ebook which is a sort of “The Marx brothers Meet Easy Rider” story is set in contemporary India and tells the tale of a most unlikely group of people who are – for a whole range of idiotic reasons – chasing each other across India.

I can do no better than quote, rather fully, from the author’s own description of this story. This description sets the tone of the story and is written in the same style as the story itself, so it will give you a good idea of the atmosphere of the ebook:

Brought together in India through a series of hare-brained adventures are Arthur, an old bohemian from Cologne; Albert, otherwise known as Bear, a snack bar owner who emigrated to Goa; Gerd, a German businessman with a mid-life crisis; and Sherie, a stunningly good-looking prostitute from Bombay.

Together, they embark on a mission to find a mystic figure in the Himalayas: The Golden Biker, who supposedly cruises through the mountains on a golden motorbike, to punish the evildoers and give to those who mean well some of his no less mystical marihuana… known among aficionados as the best grass in the world.

However, the route the foursome has to undertake riding some ancient motorbikes called Enfield Bullets, across all of India is rather long and full of danger. Increasingly so, if you have a gang of ill-tempered Indian Mafiosi, two permanently stoned Israeli secret service guys, a gang of politically correct gypsies, one involuntary guru, a stark-naked blowgun expert, a muddle brained but fanatical old Nazi including his private army, as well as two freelance killers from Bombay at your heels.

Continue reading “Ebook Review – Golden Biker; An Insane Romp Through India.”

How to Read a Book – Is This the Future? Funny Video

So, how do you read a “real” paper book?  I know, we can all do that, but will we still know how to in, say 50 years time?  We have all seen those videos of small children trying to swipe to the next page in their kiddies books, as they have been brought up on iPads and similar devices and found those videos to be charming and funny in a nice and fuzzy way.   But in fact they are showing us the future of reading.   Like it or loathe it, ebooks are where we are heading, and patently paper books are slowly but steadily being superseded by their digital descendents.

And it is possible that in the not too distant future, paper books will only be read by academics in pursuit of their knowledge of these primitive predigital eras.   Depressing thought isn’t it?

In spite of the fact that I own a blog that is devoted to all aspects of ebooks, I am also a passionate lover of the paper variety as well, and have  thousands of them which I read and reread with enormous pleasure.   Loving the feel, the smell and the weight of a real book – And those rows of book spines on my bookshelves, all of which promise me so much pleasure and escape to new and different worlds.  Whilst I am very fond of my Sony, Kindle and so on, and truly appreciate their convenience, a couple of lonely looking, albeit sleek and smooth ereaders on a book shelf, each containing an enormous number of ebooks are in no way to be equated with the pleasure of the real thing obviously.   A total lack of the sense of adventure that a decently filled book shelf offers us.

Paper books sitting there on the shelf offer us in a highly visible manner an escape from the daily grind, romance, friendship, relaxation and all the many benefits of reading, and they do this in a tangible and individual manner.  ereaders obviously offer the same experiences, but they are discrete, nothing to be seen, no visible promise of pleasures, actually really very sterile objects.

Continue reading “How to Read a Book – Is This the Future? Funny Video”

We head north and get a better idea of how huge Australia is.

Recently we (Lotty and I) went for a trip to the north of Brisbane, our first time to the middle of Queensland, and it was an amazing experience – to put it mildly!

The first thing that it showed us was how damn big Australia actually is – we drove for days and hardly covered any ground on our map of Queensland. The trip north was reasonably quickly done, as we were signed into a Yoga Retreat at an area called Mission Beach, about almost 2000 km north of Brisbane, so we simply went up the coastal road, which was for the most part, a motorway.

Once the Retreat was over, we headed further north, through Cairns and onto Daintree, where we camped for a few days. Whilst there, we indulged in a river expedition to gaze at the millions of different birds who live in the rain forest up there – and in passing, also gazed in horrid awe at the huge crocodiles who live in that river.

A huge male crocodile, at least about 5 meters long! – king of that section of the river!

We also saw cattle drinking from the river, with a female crocodile about 2 meters away from them – happily she didn’t grab any of the cattle, presumably she was full?

We then set out to get back to Brisbane, but this time taking our time about it, and using the “inner” road, so we could see the actual scenery of Queensland.

This was an odd experience, not least because of the distances between towns (mostly actually small villages). We quickly came upon road signs that said that the next village was about 400 km away. And that was actually how it was! The road disappeared into a geometric vanishing point.

And the only thing we saw on this road (apart from the very occasional village) were trees and Termite nests and very occasionally, another vehicle.

There were literally thousands of these huge towers dotting the landscape

We passed small villages, small towns and occasionally even ghost towns, sundry old buildings, but no one living there, which was odd, but given that most of these villages were built by prospectors who when the gold, coal or whatever mineral they were after was finished, simply moved on, leaving their town to rot. Odd though.

And to cap it all, on the last leg of our journey we found ourselves in a forest, just about 200 km north of where we live, this forest was about 100 km wide, and the road through it was simply a dirt track, so for about 100 km we bumped along a very rough road – which caused my back to be screwed up for several weeks after our trip – the infamous corrugated dirt tracks of the Australian outback!

Almost 100 km of this track….. Not good!

So, an amazing trip which told us a wee bit more about the country we are living in.. an amazing place!

If you have ever travelled in this area, please let us know via the comments below, so we can share your experiences.

Some of the joys of hitching around Europe

Way back in my youth – in the ’60’s of the last century – every summer holiday I used to wander from south England (where I lived in those days) to go down to Greece, via sundry other European countries. In the course of these journeys I had a number of experiences, both pleasant and very much less pleasant – though I am happy to say, that generally they were pleasant.

One thing I did notice however, was the weird way in which men felt that they had an absolute right to touch women’s bums and other parts of their bodies.

On one journey I was with a girl (not particularly my girlfriend, simply a girl who was travelling with me) and we were in northern Greece and were offered a lift in a truck, so I sat next to the driver, and the girl sat on my far side, thus as far from the driver as she could get. This in no way interfered with the driver’s attempts to grope the poor damn woman – he merely stretched over me and groped her groin as if I wasn’t there. To be honest, neither she nor I knew what on earth to do about him so we managed to say to him (in our broken Greek) that he should stop and we would find someone else to drive us to Athens – which happily he was OK to do. This sort of experience was, sadly, all too common in southern Europe.

On another trip, whilst walking around in Florence – this time with an American girl – we found ourselves surrounded by a group of about 10 young Italians who proceeded to grope her bum, even though this was in one of Florence’s main streets. Her reaction was superb however! As soon as they started to grope her, she stopped, roared in good American a load of swear-words and generally gave them hell! This was the right way to react, as they were covered in embarrassment and quickly disappeared. She later told me that she was regularly treated in this manner, and had evolved this technique to deal with it, and by and large, she told me, it had worked.

But one has to wonder why men behaved in this fashion, did they feel that it was their “right as men” to do this, or did they feel that somehow girls would value this form of behaviour? Or did they simply assume that any young women from other countries were sluts? Altogether very odd.

Did you have any similar experiences whilst hitching? If so, do share them with us here please.

Images to spark ideas………

What on earth is this all about?

As always, I have tried to find some weird and wonderful images to inspire your creative juices – whether you happen to be a teacher or a writer. All of them (see above and below) have been chosen because they are totally weird and wonderful, and generally defy any sort of logical reason for happening. In other words, I hope that they will inspire you to extreme creative imaginings. Do let me know if you use them to inspire or as central to a story please!

I love the addition of the one boot

Er………………. A party anyone?

Well, an innocent way of passing the time, I suppose

Not real, but fun………………………………

Dangerous people to know… I can imagine a serious story about hill-billies here

Er……………… Yes…………..

We have all met such people in Walmart……

I love the way that people have indulged their passions and fantasies since time began..

The times I have been confronted with someone dying.

During my long life I have not been confronted with too many people dying, but those I was present for, made a huge impression on my life and how I viewed the world and life generally – as death rather tends to do………

The first time I was consciously aware of someone’s death was in Port Said in about 1947 while we were on our way to Australia (the various deaths I must have seen during the bombardment of England during the war I have no recollection of), and that was a pick-pocket who was on the ship among loads of Egyptian people trying to sell stuff to the passengers, which was the normal way when ships went through the canal.

Anyhow, this fellow carried out his profession but was seen by the victim, who shouted out something to the effect of “Stop thief”, whereupon the Egyptian cops who were also on board , simply shot the poor bloke, which made a heck of an impression on this 5 year old! I can recall standing near to his body as the cops sorted out what should happen to him now that he was dead. Like all dead people I have seen, he looked very peaceful, as all the facial muscles relax when one is dead, so a bland expression is the norm for all corpses – which is a pity for those writers who delight in phrases such as:- “The dead guy’s face showed sheer terror and showed how terrible his death had been…..” Never true I am afraid!

Anyhow, the body was duly hauled away, and we carried on to Aden, a God-forsaken place if ever their was one, where I saw my second corpse. This time it was simply a bloke lying on the pavement who I was told was simply dying – though of what, wasn’t specified. Anyhow, there he was, about to die, and I had to step over him to carry on with our wander around the town of Aden. So that is exactly what I did, but I stopped once I had stepped over him, and stayed to see what happened. What happened was that he carried on with the business of dying, and duly died, while I watched in fascinated horror. As I have since noticed when someone dies, peacefully, one knows exactly when he has departed as there is a marked change in how someone seems, it is hard to describe, but in all the occasions I have been present when someone died peacefully, it was totally obvious when they actually died, even if they were unconscious as they died. A change that is impossible to describe happens to them, at the moment of death.

Odd.

The next time I saw someone dying was many years later, when I was about 17 or 18 years old, and was working in a lunatic asylum (as a holiday job) when I was present for several deaths (patients). All died peacefully in their beds, and all of them died in the same way – while asleep. Even so, I knew exactly when they had died as that change happened that I first noticed with that guy in Aden.

Since when, happily, I have not been present at anyone’s death, and frankly, I hope that the next one I am present for will be my own – but in the worlds of Spike Milligan, “I am not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens!”

If this post sparks any thoughts in you, please share them via the comments section below – simply scroll on down and you will see it. We will be really appreciative of any thoughts you might have on the topic of dying.