Wednesday, April 18, 2012


In one of his most inspired moments, Morrissey, that most miserable of British sods who used to front the band The Smiths - wrote the following:

It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate,
It takes strength to be gentle and kind.

It’s one of my favourite lines, and one I like to quote to my daughters. At the same time it’s one I don’t apply to myself exactly all the time in the writing of this blog. This is what I like to call a “double standard”.

Yes it’s easy to poke fun at Beijing. If it were hard, no doubt I wouldn’t do it. For some other lines I quote to my daughters include –

Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow.


If at first you don’t succeed, lie on the couch and watch telly.

China can be a challenging place for a westerner. But thankfully, lots of things happen here to make you smile, or laugh out loud, and I try to document some of them. I don’t think I’m ever guilty of being churlish, petty or nasty in trying to see the funny side, but I do like to call a spade a spade.

And right now, to dish out some credit, the spade is looking quite lovely. For finally it is spring!

Yes, that most wondrous season is here, or in Beijing’s case, those four or five days between freezing cold and boiling hot when the blossoms come out to give Kublai Khan’s old home town a makeover. And then we get a big thunderstorm like we did last night to wash and blow them all away. But nomatter, for a few days there it was a brilliant patchwork of colour. Let’s have a look shall we? Hmmm?

There - see the blossoms?

That's enough of that mushy nonsense. Now here's some other signs I saw on my walk.

Do NOT walk through this park if you're
acutely paranoid ...

... or prone to self-loathing.

Back to the blossoms. They really are spectacular. So
hard to imagine during the long, bleak winter.

Just beautiful.

Blossoms, willows, bridge,
reflection, soldiers. The lot!

Looks like an ad for God's sake!

These ones were out too, though to be fair,
they are plastic.

Then there were these blossoms by a canal, which
reminded me - Beijing is also a great place if
you like wire.

Now I don't mean to highlight a downside, but perhaps
some of Beijing's wiring could be fixed up a little bit?
Just so it's maybe not so unsightly, or life-threatening?
 I'm no expert, on anything, but my dad the electricity
man says this is actually a phone line, so kids won't
get shocked if they want to play skipping games
with it. But my wife the doctor says it is
a strangulation hazard.

I'm not sure why but in Beijing, if your piece of wire is
a bit long, the trick is to just coil it up till it's the right
length. I used to think this arrangement beside the
Golden Pineapple youth hostel was one that would
draw my dad's most bitter professional scorn.

But then I saw this one. Dad says that
in the trade, the technical name for it
is "a rat's nest".

Whereas this is what's  known as
"a friggin dog's breakfast".

This looks quite neat really in comparison
to some others. To think someone actually
knows where all these wires go ... is just
way too optimistic.
That yellow bit is not a short-circuiting
captured on film but is in fact the sun,
sweetly filtered by some of the city's
distinctive haze.

Here the workers were getting creative,
with a production sympathetic to its
Chinesey surrounds. I think they were
attempting one of these ...

It's a fancy little Chinese knot called a
 Zhongguo Jie, which means, err,
a "Chinese knot".

I'm thinking I could get rich if I could
just import the only thing they don't
seem to make in this country -

This one I call Pig Pen from Peanuts.
It's not all wire though.

And at times this merging of with nature can look
almost bucolic.

This looks like an unfolding tragedy. But no,
Dad says it's another phone line. I noticed
this a week ago and when I went back
yesterday it was still there. So maybe
it's meant to be like that. If you pick up
the dangling end and hold it to your ear
you can still hear Mrs Zhou going on about
the woman from downstairs.

My study of old Beijing: An alleyway
and some bikes. A wire runs through it.

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