Hi and welcome to my blog site.
Well after 3 months in England I am now back in China, I left the UK at 8am Monday the 15th of September and arrived in Beijing at 3.30pm Tuesday the 16th ( with the 7 hour time difference) I was very tired and to make it worse Jun and I missed each other as I came through the arrivals gate, my phone had stopped working as soon as i left the UK so I couldn't call her and just assumed she hadn't been able to get away from work early to meet me, so I stood at the far end of the arrival gate for 1.5 hours. Meanwhile Jun is at the other end of the arrival area ( it is a huge area) trying to contact me and wondering why I hadn't replied to her texts that she sent me when i was on a stopover at Dubai and naturally thinking something had happened and I had either missed the flight from Newcastle or something had happened on route. I didn't dare move from my position in case I missed her and Jun was thinking the same,eventually she made her way to the information desk to check if i had been on the flight when she spotted me stood at the far end looking like in her words " dead on my feet and completely lost" ha-ha. Anyway it was all ok in the end and we got home at 7pm.
We had a lovely day out last Friday as it was the May Day holidays so Jun was off Thursday and Friday,but she had to go back to work on Sunday to make up for one of the days ( you don't get to many days from the government) We went to Tianjin which is a large city close to the coast by bullet train which reached a speed of 290 km an hour ( the world zipped by),they are beautiful modern trains very comfortable and smooth. Tianjin is a lovely city and very different to Beijing with a less frenzied feel and a large river running right through it down to the coast and a very large seaport,with ferries running to Japan and Korea. In fact looking up and down the river and at the buildings including their own golden eye,bridges and a Catholic Church you would think you were in London. There is one lovely bridge called Liberation bridge built by the French in 1903,and you can take boat rides from there up and down the river even going as far as the seaport although that one is an 8 hour round trip.
I find it strange though that if you travel by train you have to show your ID if you are Chinese, or in my case as a foreigner my passport in order to purchase a ticket yet i could drive our car there or take a coach without showing anything to anyone.I was talking to a Asian American couple in the queue who had asked me if they could get a ticket with other ID i.e a driving licence as they had not brought their passports with them,which of course they couldn,t so they had to cancel their trip. We asked if we could get tickets on the next train to leave which was at 11.05 but the booking clerk said no it was sold out so the next one was at 1.05. We were sat in the station waiting and watching the busy world go by and happened to check our tickets at about 12 o clock and discovered she had booked us on the 11.05 which of course had long since left so we had to go back cancel those tickets and get the last two seats on the 1.05 (only in China ha-ha).
We had a long walk through a very large Antique Market before going over to the area known as the Five Avenues which is where all the foreign delegations lived and is full of old preserved colonial buildings.Some are now private houses,restaurants,offices or empty awaiting refurbishment,plus two that have been converted in to visitor attractions with all the walls inside and out covered in porcelain and many other decorative furnishings.
We walked about till about 6 then went for something to eat and then made our way back to the river area near the station with lots of people walking about,taking photographs, selling goods on the pavements,and releasing loads of lanterns.We then caught the last train back at 10 o clock and just made the last bus from Beijing station back home arriving at 11.30 feeling very tired ha-ha.
There is a lot of history attached to Tianjin It was Tianjin port that the Western countries using as an excuse the alleged boarding of a British ship by the Chinese surrounded the area with gunboats and made them sign the treaty of Tianjin of 1856 which gave them access to nine concessionary bases on the mainland from which they could conduct trade and sell opium.This created lots of ill feeling and in 1870 a Chinese mob attacked a French Orphanage killing the Priests and Nuns believing that the orphans were being kidnapped and eaten by the foreigners.As a result 20 Chinese were beheaded and peace restored until the Boxer rebellion of 1900.
I hope the weather has started to improve back in the UK,we as you know had a terrible time recently with the smog it lasted 10 days and apparently the WHO states that the safety limit is 2.5 microns per cubic metre and during those days it was averaging 505 and one day reached 700,you might as well suck on a exhaust pipe ha-ha.But recently we have had some lovely warm,blue sky days and it is so nice to go for a walk in the parks and see Spring arriving.
I went and had a look at that old house the other week which is reputed to be haunted,it was built in 1900 in the colonial style originally to be a church,but became a house instead and was owned by a high ranking official in the Manchurian Government and when the Communists took over in 1949 he fled to Taiwan leaving behind his family and the story goes that one of his concubines was so distraught she hung herself in the house and the legend has it that on stormy nights or full moon nights you can hear her crying. Anyway as i said i had a good look around and took some photos,it is in a bad condition now and they say that at least twice before they tried to demolish it as it is in a prime location,and again legend says the last time it was halted when some workers mysteriously disappeared.So now no one will work on it and the Gov't have gave it a kind of unofficial listed building status.
I had a day out last week with Andy a friend of mine I met over here, he is a photographer and also married to a Chinese woman. We spent the day at the Heaven Temple and Parks,it's a grand place with loads of history where emperors of the past offered Taoist offerings for good harvests for the coming year, it was built in 1420, I think we walked for nearly 5 hours but it was a lovely day, quite warm and it was nice to be taking photos with someone else.I still like visiting old derelict places though,I found a great one the other week it was an abandoned small factory and i got in and wandered around taking some interesting shots,then later thinking if i had a accident in there no one would know,so that was a bit sobering ha-ha.
I have been watching all the news reports on that missing plane from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing I find it incredible that it could just disappear like that,it seems it was deliberately turned around and the transponders were disabled by someone on board ,and what makes it even more personal is that Jun and I were on that same flight last Summer returning from our trip to Indonesia and Malaysia.
I have wrote on other occasions about how many Chinese children seem to be over protected and allowed to have their own way to much creating a kind of me-me culture that gives rise to very self centered competitive people,the Chinese policy of one child probably goes a long way towards explaining it,and I was very much reminded of it again today when one of my young students aged 6 who has two lessons a week with me,was here this morning.At the end of the lesson I usually like to do something different with them just to break up the lesson play a game or something.Today i showed him a small game where a page is covered in dots and the aim is to draw one line each and the one who completes a square takes it with the one with the most squares being the winner.Well I took the first three squares and he burst out crying saying to Jun "billy is winning it's not fair,i feel shame" and after was inconsolable.I said to Jun later that kind of behaviour has to be changed for his own future good.
We will be traveling back to the UK sometime middle of June staying till July then Jun goes back to China and I will stay on for another 2 months or so finishing off decorating and furnishing the house,but we haven't booked the flights yet so its still a bit uncertain on the exact days.
Well it's the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations now most people are back at work tomorrow 10th of Feb as are the school children. Jun had to go back last Friday and work Saturday, as well as working some of the other weekend before the holidays.
We did go out a couple of times to visit areas as well as a few walks in the local parks.. and we got some snow the other day which ended nearly 4 months of dryness, but it is still very cold. The first day we visited the Hutongs and Markets at Liulichang in Beijing, it was very quiet walking through the old alleyways, the houses don't have toilets and the local residents have to use communal toilet blocks scattered around the area. But it was unbelievable when we came out of the almost deserted alleyways in to the market areas and confronted a solid mass of people. Later we went in to a restaurant for lunch and the staff were literally run off their feet, we observed a couple of the young girls becoming very upset as they had not had a break for hours, one was on the verge of tears. Eventually we got a table and we ordered our food and a short time later they brought us some sweet pancakes we told them we hadn't ordered them and it turned out it was the previous people at the table, either they forgot or just didn't want to wait any longer ha-ha.
Later we got off the main market roads back in to some of the alleyways and we came across this old guy with his bike and some small birds tethered to his bike, he released one of them after asking me to hold up a 1yuan note ( 10p),the bird flew onto my hand picked the note out of my fingers and flew to the old guy and gave it to him, he then opened a small box on his bike and put it in the box and the bird promptly flew down opened the box retrieved the note and gave it back to him again.
Another day we went to a large park called Lung Tan Hu as we had found out that there was an abandoned amusement park close to it and I wanted to explore it, we spent an hour or so in Lung Tan which again was very busy but it was a nice holiday atmosphere, we then went to a local kiosk for pancakes then had some local food in a small café for local people which was packed solid. We then went in search of a way in to the amusement park and were lucky to find that an area at the main entrance was being used as a overspill car park so we just walked in and started to walk around the dried up lakeside as the actual park is on an island which had 4 bridges leading in to it.However the bridges were sealed off with steel plates but as the lake was dried up we climbed down and crossed over and just climbed back up the other side. To say that it was eerie would be an understatement, there was a strong wind blowing and the 180 feet big wheel was making loud groaning noises as it slowly turned around, torn sheets were flapping and blowing out of buildings and windows. I found a large building with a roller door partly open so went inside, the first thing I noticed was the shadow of the pods on the big wheel moving down the wall followed by a door banging very loudly. I took some quick shots and left, later we came across a pile of abandoned pleasure boats all with duck heads on the bows with some of them broken off lying on the floor almost like a graveyard a very melancholic feel to it, but a great place to explore and we thoroughly enjoyed it, even bumping in to a young Chinese student as we were leaving who had the same idea as us. You can see some of the images in my website here in the set titled "abandoned things", our next one is a supposedly haunted 19th century house, should be interesting.
Well we are all settled back into our routine here in Beijing our trip back to the UK seems a distant memory now. We had a very quiet Christmas and New Year in fact there was nothing to show it was Christmas or New Year here apart from a few attempts to put up lights or decorations in some buildings, although I did see a nice display they put on at the Great Wall for New Year on the TV. Off course Chinese New Year starts on the 31st of January,quite early this year, and it will be the year of the horse.In fact fireworks are starting already this week which will increase with greater frequency as the day approaches and for a good time afterwards.
Things are about the same here weather wise, very cold but at least some of the days are nice and clear, but we have had some bad days of smog when it's bad it really is bad and then two days later you have beautiful blue skies, we have now had no rain for over 3 months so you can imagine how dry everything is,probably because Europe seems to have got it all ha-ha.
I just heard some news the other day that a village in the south of China was a giant Meth lab with most of the villagers involved as well as local officials and the police, who even used the police cars to transport the drugs, like something out of an Asian "Breaking Bad" ha-ha.The whole place was raided apparently by army and police from another area with over a 100 arrests. Unfortunately no doubt there will be a few executions taking place out of that many.I read an article recently about executions in China along with photographs showing the last days of a woman drug smuggler it's no coincidence that they all appear to be very poor and from deprived areas especially if you contrast it against high ranking politicians and business people who commit murder and/ or huge bribery and corruption crimes and have their death sentences deferred indefinitely,not that I am for executions for anyone.
I was in the hospital last week having some x rays of my knees which incidentally the doctor said although there is some damage it is to early for any surgery and for my age they are in pretty good condition, I said I will try and remind myself of that when I get out of bed in the mornings ha-ha. Anyway while waiting to see the doctor a woman had gone in to see one of the other doctors and of course the doors are always open and people wander in and out. So we could see and hear this doctor shouting at this woman so I said to Jun what's all that about and apparently there was something quite wrong with her that required immediate treatment but she had told him she couldn't as she had to travel to a business meeting down south, and he was shouting "why bother to come and see me then, you are just wasting my time, how many business trips do you think you can go on when you are dead". She left pretty quickly after that.
I started teaching little Ben again last week I have him for 2 hours on a Wednesday 6pm to 8pm and for the first time I collected him from home and took him to our apartment and he kept saying to me in the car " where am I going, where are you taking me?" I said you are coming to my home to stay with me till your mammy comes for you. Anyway he was fine and seemed to enjoy himself so the next day Michelle his mother phoned me and I asked her was he ok and what did he say. She said he had said to her "Mummy have I just been to England with Billy?" Ha-Ha.
We have just been looking at some photographs on the internet of a wedding from one of the Southern Provinces, they were two very rich families as you know some people Chinese included love to have the opportunity to show off their position, wealth and status. The photos showed the procession consisting of 24 Rolls Royces,40 Bentley's, numerous sports cars and 4x4's and the wedding gift to the bride and groom of a Lamborghini each ( just a little private family gathering ha-ha).
I have just put some new photo sets onto my website if any of you get the time to look they are Footprints, Shadows and Power of Pedals.
Well we arrived back in Beijing in the early hours of 4th of December the plane from London to Warsaw left on time and we only had a 40 minute stopover there which was just enough time to get off go through security and board the next one which was a brand new Boeing Dreamliner. It was very comfortable with loads of leg room as i was by the exit door so could really stretch out and Jun had all 3 seats to herself so she made a bed and had a good sleep ha-ha,but it still took me about 10 days to recover from the journey and readjust to the time difference.
We had a very busy but productive time back in the UK we viewed over 30 properties and drove over 2,000 miles covering all the North and the East of England as well as South West Scotland. We looked around some beautiful homes and it was quite difficult making choices,we ended up with four favourites out of which we eventually went for the one in Gainford Village set in Teesdale in County Durham a really lovely little 100 year old house with a nice homely feel to it . Our offer was accepted so it is all in the hands of our solicitors at the moment with a completion date of April,so we will be going back in June both to furnish and decorate our new home and go to our nieces wedding in Liverpool in July.
Connie our campervan served us really well and gave us no trouble at all, we even stayed overnight in a camping site outside Glasgow on our way up to Dunoon it was very cosy.The Dunoon area was very picturesque,with a nice ferry ride across and with stunning views across the Clyde and Holy Loch with some beautiful houses to look at, but we decided it was just to far from friends,family and our Buddhist Monastery.One amusing incident occured as we arrived at the ferry landing as i drove in there were three full lanes of parked vehicles so i just stopped behind the last vehicle in the third lane ( should have moved in to the next lane).After a little while one of the crew came up to me and said "congratulations you have single handly blocked the whole entrance into the ferry landing". When i looked behind me i had blocked the whole road in to the terminal and the traffic was backed up right back to the main road ha-ha.Another one was when we were driving through a town and Jun turned to me and said while pointing at an old victorian type house " look they have free swimming baths there".When i looked it was a big old pub with a sign in the window saying "free pool" I had to explain what pool was and snooker/billiards,Jun had never heard of pool,we both had a great laugh about that one.
We are settled back at home now poor Jun had to return to work the following day which must have been hard for her I only started teaching again last week,and now Christmas has passed as just another day here so we have not celebrated it at all which will also be the case for New Year.Then we will be preparing to box up some of our belongings that are going to be shipped back to the UK,as well as ordering some goods to be delivered for when we get back.Jun has created a great online 3D effect plan of our house and we can decorate it and place various pieces of furniture in it to see how it looks...Amazing!
OK I will finish this short blog and wish all of you a very Peaceful Christmas and hope you all have a great New Year.
Well we have just about finished packing for our trip back to the UK we will be leaving Beijing early Monday morning the 4th of November and flying to Warsaw then catching a connecting flight to London, We plan on staying overnight as we arrive late then travelling up by train the following day. We bought ourselves a Citroen relay campervan which we are looking forward to picking up and travelling about in, as we set of on the mammoth task of viewing 40plus properties in North and East Yorkshire,Durham,Weardale,Northumberland and South West Scotland as well of course visiting family and friends and going up to Throssel Buddhist Abbey to spend some time with the monks.
Local news here is that I have taken on a bit more work teaching two adults conversational English so still keeping busy along with the three children I still work with. The weather has changed quite dramatically these last two weeks now a lot colder and a lot more smog days, I am in the third week of a throat and chest infection so have only gone out on nicer days to the parks and taking some photographs. There was also the terrible attack last Monday when it seems three people in a car drove around the crash barriers outside the Forbidden City in Tiananmen Square drove through the crowds killing two people and injuring over forty before exploding the car killing themselves. The Chinese Authorities at first claimed it was just a car accident but later reported it as a terrorist attack, and will now I am sure tighten up even further their security measures.
Other recent news is that I was contacted by a well known Australian artist who is at present preparing for an exhibition in late 2014 of her paintings/photographs on the theme of nature/flowers in hard environments. She asked me if she could use one of my photographs as a model for one of her paintings which of course I was very happy to agree to. She will credit me with the photograph in the exhibition and catalogue as well as sending me a copy of the painting when it is completed, her website should anyone like to look at is www.rospaton.com
OK I will finish this very short blog off here and write again upon our return.