Sunday, 18 September 2016

HS031 - China and home




Hastings Diary Day 12 May 2016 TEMPLATE
Sharing our stories and making connections…
Write whatever comes to mind, hour by hour, a reflection or something that stands out. It’s up to you. Photos and drawings welcome.

Wake suffering effects of over-indulgence on ‘Beijing’s largest pizza’, a claim validated on arrival at our table of a pepperoni-clad concoction the size of a small Hebridean island. Refrain from Imodium intake and, in preparation for journey home, set to packing rancid clothing - a victim of suitcase inadvertently being dipped in Dragon River in course of prior emergency exodus from flooded Yangshuo retreat.
Daughter and I check out of purportedly hip (pool table in reception) hotel. Relieved no significant action (detention, incarceration) taken by Chinese state in retaliation for Queen’s recent comments (censorious blackouts during BBC World News broadcasts our only minor inconvenience). Her majesty really should consider potential implications before airing views. Over-excitement at 90th birthday celebrations absolutely no excuse.
As hurtle by taxi through Beijing streets, contrast stimulating and diverse cityscape with that of Xi’an where town planners, seemingly inspired by their famous terracotta residents, appear intent on vigorously pursuing the construction of a grey brown army of identikit tower-blocks.  Recognise lack of vision in relation to the built environment not the sole preserve of minor officials of Chinese emerging megacities and resolve to alert Hastings Council to town-twinning opportunity.
Miraculously, given traffic lights in China are taken as ‘a suggestion’, arrive at terminal intact. Approach check-in with trepidation. Previous day’s attempts to secure low cost advance premium economy upgrades had been thwarted due to daughter being in possession of a group-booked ticket. Flying to China for purpose of trekking Great Wall to raise money for a good cause apparently does not merit an advance upgrade offer from The World’s Favourite Airline. Excessive cost at check-in precludes purchase and aspiration to complete China venture with luxurious treat duly capitulated.  Memorandum: draft vigorous letter of complaint to BA Chairman concerning disgraceful discriminatory attitude towards intrepid charity fund-raisers.
Speedily navigate airport security by following example of two entrepreneurial German gents who duck under tape into conveniently shorter queue. Do innovative travel practices of continental neighbours constitute a compelling enough reason to vote Remain? In tandem with horrific prospect of Boris as PM, most definitely. In departure lounge, daughter procures several boxes of panda-shaped miniature chocolates in memorandum of delightful visit to Chengdu Panda Research Centre. Thankfully, excitement on encountering the monochrome fur-balls had in no way been diminished by insight gained into murky breeding practices (panda porn employed apparently).


Take transit to gate and board at designated time. A gratifying experience given previous Xian-Guilin and Chengdu-Beijing flight delays of nine and five hours (including confinement to inauspicious airport hotel) respectively. Wistfully glide through sumptuous premium economy cabin and slump into cattle class. Voraciously consume in-flight entertainment - Eddie the Eagle (fun), The Danish Girl (inspiring), The Big Short (gripping) - and forgo pot noodles in lieu of dishes masquerading as goulash (meal 1) and pasta (meal 2). Take extra care in raising seat armrest given prior toe-gate incident on Chengdu–Beijing flight. In absence of eyes in back of head, how we were we to know the lady in row behind us had perched her bare feet against our seatbacks? Had defiantly donned headphones and viewed The Revenant (gruesome) to counteract ensuing hubbub of screams, accusatory stares and rigorous completion of accident report forms. From the overly-dramatic reaction of the lady in question, anyone would have thought that, rather than having her toe trapped by an errant armrest, she too had been mauled by a bear.
Turbulent descent signals arrival into Blighty and completion of eleven hour journey devoid of mishaps. This in stark contrast to outbound London-Beijing flight during which a British passenger had engaged in a physical contretemps with an air steward and been forcibly restrained for the duration. Episode had culminated in aircraft being greeted on landing by a (less than) welcoming party of Chinese police. Muse on fate of air-rage gent. Instant repatriation? Imprisonment? Would such a misdemeanor warrant execution? 
On emergence into terminal, daughter is romantically reconciled with beau (ah, young love) and two weeks of inaccessible emails bombard inbox including latest news from Root1066. Ponder propensity for arts festival activities to stipulate need for ‘collaboration’ and ‘community-involvement’. Can great work ever be created within such constraints? Would Francis Bacon have entertained work-shopping with vulnerable adults? Methinks not. 
Resolutely squeeze onto rush-hour Underground network and bid fond farewell as daughter and beau exit at Victoria and I progress to Embankment.  Deem lugging suitcase from Villiers Street up vertiginous steps to Charing Cross concourse equal to challenge of scaling Great Wall and am compelled to circumnavigate to Strand entrance.  Encountering (yet another) lengthy staircase down to Ladies restroom, divert to ground floor ‘accessible’ facilities. Sign on door advises of closure and informs an engineer is on way. No indication of where engineer is on way from or anticipated arrival time. He or she could be coming from China for all I know.  Memorandum: draft vigorous letter of complaint to Network Rail Chairman concerning flagrant disregard for DDA compliance at metropolitan railway stations.
Slump onto 18.45 Hastings train. Encounter smattering of fellow St Leonardonians but exhaustion suppresses capacity for conversation. Rock through green and pleasant Kent and Sussex countryside amidst recollections of China. The Great Wall snaking majestically through the mist. Blaring, neon Bladerunner-like cities. Drifting on a bamboo raft between towering limestone peaks. Magnificent pagodas and palaces. Clay soldiers and porn-induced pandas. Guttural spitting and al fresco ear-waxing.
Carriage eventually jolts to a halt at (pre-empting goodwill re-naming gesture in support of Xi’an town-twinning application) Terracotta Warrior Square. Tip onto platform despairing of 21st century train travel from Capital to home town, incomprehensibly lengthier now than in 1880. Memorandum: draft vociferous letter of complaint to Southeastern Trains Chairman concerning heinous journey times of modern-day East Sussex coastal services. Warmly met by his nibs who is limping profusely due to the onset of cramp. Absorb the welcoming and familiar surroundings of chi-chi boutiques, cafes, restaurants, street-drinkers and feral children. Astonished to discover no new retail establishments or eateries have opened during two week absence. Is the seemingly unstoppable pace of St Leonards gentrification slowing, perhaps?  
Arrive Chez Nous. Step across threshold and greeted by exquisite fragrant country garden bouquet (florist played a not insignificant role in bloom selection, no doubt). Sink onto sofa and contemplate this time last year. Daily walks up through St Leonards Gardens. The stunning hospice care. Mother’s incomprehensible calmness and bravery in the face of the inevitable. Her unfulfilled ambition: to travel to China.  


The cat meows needily. Has his nibs been feeding her? Expletive-laden indignation ensues. Daughter telephones. The miniature chocolate pandas are past their sell-by date. Fleetingly consider drafting vociferous letter of complaint to Beijing Airport Authority Chairman concerning blatant contravention of trading standards but, as close eyes and succumb to jet-lag, concede there is absolutely no point.

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