Turkeyphant (turkeyphant) wrote,

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Cultural Revolution

Read this because, even though it's stupidly, stupidly long, some of it is good.

Days one and two:

The night before, I'd stayed up late playing Metropolis Street Racer. Still, I woke up on Saturday morning at seven a.m., stood under a trickle of water and managed not to forget my wallet. In the car, I suddenly realised that I had to remove the spikes from my bag to avoid being cavity searched and accused of belonging to Islamic Jihad. I swiftly did so. I found out we would be travelling on Aeroflot, even it was only marginally cheaper than a direct Virgin flight. My parents spent the car journey to Heathrow regaling me of tales about their friends' previous experiences on Soviet Airways. While waiting at the airport, I downed some breakfast stodge and purchased some CDs from Virgin - £25.52 for five:

  • Idlewild - 100 Broken Windows

  • Iron Maiden - The Number Of The Beast

  • Death In Vegas - The Contino Sessions

  • Underworld - dubnobasswithmyheadman

  • The Mad Capsule Markets - OCS-DIS

And then, a few hours after a painless check-in [no queue due to promptness and aisle seat reserved for my father], we boarded the 'plane. Pretty old and tatty thing, but no use in complaining. I marvelled at the Russian in-flight magazine, which only had the titles of each article in English, and the Cyrillic headrest logos: АЗРОФLОТ [note to self: chief one on the return journey]. They even had those cool, 256-colour displays that cycled through airspeed/altitude details [metric and imperial] and progress maps. It turned out that the Aeroflot horror stories I'd been hearing dated from way back before the wall fell and nowadays, there was no danger of the dehydrating because the water ran out halfway down the rows. In fact, they handed out about three servings of free drinks! Including a rather nice red wine and decent-sized cans of cheap Ukrainian beer. The food was even bloody nice, as they gave enough for make-your-own prawn sandwiches and Cadbury's chocolate bars. I was relatively comfortable for the three-hour-plus [assisted by nice, breezy winds] trip to Russia.

We arrived late in Moscow but still had to wait in a dingy, under-lit airport for a couple of hours with no seats or decent duty-free. I searched in vain for a copy of Pravda to bring home, and my father and I whiled away the time over cheap beers in a crappy "Irish" bar. We found our way to the correct gate and barely managed to take off for Shanghai. This plane was pretty huge, with the middle column spanning five seats wide. I was assigned a seat next to typically overweight and sweaty Russian dude. I got quite worried when he whipped out some plastic cups, a bottle of Pepsi and a bottle of whisky from his hand luggage and proceeded to challenge himself to some sort of shots competition. He was obviously well-versed in surviving long distance air travel and when the "J7 100% COK" tomato juice came round, he fished about for a while and brought out some brown sauce to down it with after just one more whisky. Thankfully, he soon fell asleep and I didn't mind too much that he'd chiefed my entire arm rest. I survived, thanks to hearty quantities of alcohol, but still spent tortuous hours trying desperately to get some sleep. I noticed that one woman on the flight was wearing a huge, very-warm-looking puffy sailing jacket despite the aircraft being packet with many large and sweaty men. I soon noticed had a tiny dog, perhaps nine inches tall curled up inside it against her body. She was casually smuggling it back into her country and flippantly playing with it as the attendants walked obliviously by. I have no idea what she did to stop the poor little thing barking, eating and carrying out other, less pleasant, bodily functions for the entirety of the flight... It seemed that she got away with it too. Still, music helped make the nine hours fly by a little faster...

We arrived in Shanghai a bit before lunch, local time. Pudong airport was amazing. Just over two years old, it was ultra-modern, spacious, light and clean. The was no evidence of the Chinese's most infamous pastime I'd been reading about in Lonely Planet on the 'plane - incessant spitting everywhere and anywhere. We followed the reasonably-translated English signs to a nearby desk. Here we marvelled at some young woman use a roman-alphabet keyboard and decipher the tortuous on-screen DOS-esque-command-line abbreviations [e.g. "probably" = "prbly", or something]. She informed us that our economy tickets had been cancelled and there were none left [we later found it was because we hadn't paid for them two days after booking - this can only be done from Shanghai itself]. However, for a fiver more, we could get first class tickets. "What the hell!" Credit cards were swiftly swiped and after changing money for some sort of airport tax, we ran down mile upon mile of travellator to reach the first class lounge. I downed free beer and foul-tasting biscuits before grabbing a few minutes of sleep to loud music in the first soft chair I'd experienced in hours. Our flight was called up soon, so my father and I chiefed as many drinks as we could carry and made our way to the correct gate. We boarded some tiny rickety old 'plane which was probably one of the first jet-era craft designed. And then, I wasted my only-ever experience of [Chinese] first-class air travel by immediately falling asleep for the entirety of the fifty minute flight. My father did too, but we doubted they would lay on anything particularly special for us.

We woke up to old, crappy, provincial Hefei - a city of about five million. There wasn't a word of English to be seen, nor anyone who could understand us, but luckily my maternal aunt was there to summon a taxi for us. The fare of about a pound took us through the city to the posh part of town where she's living. The spacious three-bedroom flat gets thrown in with a twelve month post in the China office of Save The Children. After unpacking and other familiarities, we were taken out for dinner at the Holiday Inn's revolving restaurant. Surprisingly, the food was not only cheap, but rather good too. A good mixture of Western and Chinese dishes, though I especially liked the dude who would speedily fry you fish and meats steaks while you waited. I ate until I was full, then topped up on ice cream with a multifarious choice of nummy topping bits. And then, we went back to the flat where, happily content, I collapsed and immediately fell asleep after being up and about for about thirty five hours.

Day three:

I was woken up at some ungodly hour [before twelve] and grumpily showered and got ready. We hailed a taxi and hit the town - my aunt showed us the main attraction - a bustling market where you could buy anything from tropical fish, clothing and joss sticks to VCD players, antiques and Playstation chips. Even though that was the worst example range of good things ever... My father and I were left there to explore for ourselves and we wondered around looking at souvenir chops and medals from the Revolution. There was lots of Mao memorabilia - even the notes still pictured him - but not as much as I'd expected.

In other news, my father made a fool of himself yet again. Chinese currency [twelve yuan, which are called quai in the vernacular ≈ one pound] is divided into various denominations - there are ten jiao [colloquially know as mao] in each yuan and then ten fen in each jiao. Fen are worth so little, the tiny coins are practically redundant nowadays - they are actually quite rare to come across. But on with the story: we espied an elderly man dragging a cart laden with puffed rice down the pavement. He was selling it by the bucketful - only four jiao for a rather hearty portion. Having never encountered a bargain such as this in his life, my father pounced upon the old man and warmly proffered an offering of a shiny silver coin with a large 5 emblazoned upon it. Seeing this, the old codger looked as though his children had been shat upon and hurriedly packed up his cart and relocated faster than anyone would have thought such a grandsire capable. It turned out that, in the day's previously transactions, my father had been outwitted and some market vendor had felt no qualms about short-changing the ignorant lao wai. He had inadvertently offered to pay just five fen for this old man's produce, the price of which he depended upon in order to survive. In Chinese, the word fen also means "shit".

In my [now ancient] holiday notes, I wrote that we bought a decent selection of pirate DVDs and ventured deep into the town to have a haircut. We bought mini kebabs from street stalls for lunch and I also ate a seemingly raw sausage. In China, food is everywhere along with its accompanying sights and, rather more unpleasant, smells. We went to eat at some posh restaurant where we were waited upon hand and foot by a team of waitresses. We arrived perhaps a little early, but there were still ten girls ready to chant greetings as they opened the door for us and six [none of which had needed to speak English before in Hefei] to help take our order. It turns out the labour is not only cheap but plenteous in China... The meal was superb - our first real taste of CHINESE FOOD! proper. It was nothing like the shit masquerading as Chinese takeaways which is usuallymore English than Yorkshire pudding. Nevertheless, when we ordered Beijing Duck along with several other dishes, we never expected a whole duck to be spread out over four large platters padded out by all sorts of other goodies. Suffice to say, at the end, we were glad of the proliferation of doggy bags. I also wrote something about a "giant orange", though I can't for the life of me remember what I was referring to.

I stayed up that night listening to moop threes and reading the most fantastic book ever. It was called Trojan by James Follett and, ignoring certain anal discrepancies and scientific fallacies, was a superb read. It wasn't really about |=|@><0rz and, in actual fact, it was unusually technically accurate. I loved the writing, which employed cunning techniques, and the style of which and made me think of an amalgam of the best parts of the writings of amoe and I. Yes, I do have some good aspects... It was, in fact, rather acez0r and the most interesting and addictive book I have read in some time. In the end, I fell asleep halfway through very late indeed, though probably before the Tai Chi brigades came out to scare the birds out of the park.

Day four:

This day, I ventured into town by myself, catching the number 123 bus for eight pence and exploring without my father and aunt. I purchased yet more DVDs while the kind woman attempted to practise her English on me. There are many "English Corners" set-up in various public places where droves of Chinese head in order to speak broken English to strangers. I spent more money on yet more coolio medals and also purchased two superb pairs of trousers for a fiver each. Bargaining in Chinese is no mean feat. After I nearly lost my precious shopping, we returned to the district where the flat is to eat a meal with the nice Chinese staff where my aunt works. Everyone seemed to be very shy around us and a nice man called Smiley helped me convert my name into Chinese for the chops. Nothing else happened, apart from me bargaining down a nice knife from ¥30 to ¥5 so I could feel cool. I had to swiftly duck away into the crowd to avoid a cop [uniformed personnel both police and military roam the streets in large volumes] and went to buy a million incense sticks for one yuan. We found a nice local Chinese restaurant for supper.

Day five:

I was woken by the most horrendous banging at some ridiculous hour. It was unfeasibly loud: they were sledgehammering out some floor right next to my head. I couldn't shut it out at all, and only grabbed a few more winks of sleep courtesy of Mr. Alec Empire and my full-volume iPod.

For the rest of the day, nothing much happened at all. The instant my father woke up, he got into a massive strop - probably because he'd been working till about seven in the morning. And so, he took it out the brunt of it on me. I hid in my room and looked down from the balcony onto the smooth beckoning asphalt below. I burst into tears as I realised Philly would never care as much as I had. I wept because it couldn't and wouldn't affect her at all. The tears kept falling as I remembered, I couldn't do it anyway. I didn't have the guts to do maybe the one thing that would make people think, even if I had really wanted to. I walked out and wandered around until I found a nice cheap cyber café. I walked around to the night market where all the locals buy their groceries and saw people scoffing pig snouts and toads along with the usual steamed goodies...

That night, when things were a little calmer we went out and consumed foul pizza.

Day six:

The same: very little happening, very much hammering. We took a twenty-minute trip to an out-of-town flea market only to find it was closed. However, we were still determined to see some of the real China outside of the bustle of five-lane highways in the city centre. We looked around all the fantastic little shops where anything could be bought. Each road had its own speciality: electronics, windows, signs, laundry, spices. There were things for sale on the shelf, which are simply unavailable for an ordinary consumer in England - huge bearings that would cost hundreds and rope and wire so thick it would usually have to be specially made to order. Venturing down some back alleys, we discovered another market and wandered around. We bought a few copies of Mao's Little Red Book and then ate in a nice little street-side stall.

When we got back, I played on the intarweb a little, encountering very little governmental information restrictions. In the evening we went out to the cosmopolitan part of town and ate a rather lovely meal in a smart restaurant before browsing Chinese department stores.

Day seven:

I went out to town by myself. I managed to find some guys selling slices of melon and toffee grapes to alleviate my hunger. I also saw so many sad things.

China is a country striving to keep up with the rest of the world. Looking around at the marble pavements, newly landscaped parks, artificial lakes and high-rise office blocks, you would be forgiven for not realising the pain experienced by some people. To the casual outsider only offering a cursory glance, many parts of China, such as the conurbations, are technologically and economically far ahead of England and much of the West. Hey, the World Bank predicts China will have the largest GDP in the world by 2020 once they overtake America. In twenty years, the Chinese may well rule the world, such is the power of population. It's really quite wondrous. However, things such as the simple lives of so many people and their daily struggle are enough to show how wrong such an assumption is. Then factor in the one-child policy causing such torment to families and an uncontrollable orphan problem - millions of kids have no one to look after them at all and the conditions crossed the borders marked inhumane and cruel long ago. Censorship is rife and the politics are screwed up beyond comprehension.

However, for a street-level observer like me, someone who had only been here for a week, the most striking things were the extensive and sweeping poverty, child beggars and poor conditions everywhere. Labour is ridiculously cheap and most people only just get by. There was a woman paid a pittance to clean my aunt's flat everyday - her dream is to one day be able to save up to afford a flat of her own, but on her pay, it's nearly impossible. She's a single mother, working all day to come home in the evenings for her young daughter. There are millions and millions of women just like her in similar situations all around the country. On the roads, I saw a horrible disfigured woman with a mutilated and scarred face sitting on the side of the road with absolutely nothing. There were young boys crippled by deformations and discarded by society literally have to drag their bodies round the streets to beg. Most heart wrenching of all were little four- and five-year-old kids kidnapped faraway from their parents and forced into street begging gangs by ringleaders who pocketed the takings. There's very little a foreign holiday-maker can do, but it's still painful to watch. Most of these people are invisible even to the poorest Chinese - they are below the lowest of the low, not even worth a passing glance. And there I was, scoffing food when so many people had nothing.

I walked around for a few hours taking it all in. I spent some time just sitting there watching and thinking. And when I had to go, I felt guilty taking a ten pence taxi just for a few miles I could have easily walked. My conscience-absolving excuse was that I wasn't sure of the way back home.

My aunt picked me up and took me to a nice park and temple. We went out in a pedalo for a while and the fish literally jumped out of the water beside us. She then took me for a game of pool in a nearby hotel while we waited to meet my father. We ate there for supper; a buffet with a rather excellent selection of food. Already, I'd forgotten about the poor people I'd been watching that morning...

Day eight:

Still woken up by the incessant banging. It was our last day in Hefei. We went to some new parts of town and I bought more DVDs, Chinese army epaulets for my jacket and looked around an ace security store. It sold self-destructing briefcases, flashing police lights, Kevlar vests, assorted weaponry and bomb disposal suits. All very reasonably priced. I bought six very cool caution-stylee warning signs for forty pence each. In China, they have notices that warn you not to stand on spikes or drink Half-Life-style radioactive waste barrels. I had the pleasure of experiencing a filthy Trainspotting-esque squatter toilet at the Hefei airport whilst waiting for our flight. It was marginally less uncomfortable than when my father told my aunt all about the pr0n he found on my pook back then.

We arrived quite late at Pudong Airport, Shanghai. Again, I was overawed by the modernity of it all. Pudong was sparkling: shiny, lit-up glass everywhere you looked, a mile long with a nice high ceiling spreading out across the length of the runway. Huge six lane highways and overpasses zoomed overhead, the spiralling roads cutting through the sky were leading out toward the sprawling metropolis. They were set in beautiful lakes and illuminated by bright colourful lights like nothing I'd ever seen before. The main junction had six levels of road from top to bottom. It truly was acez0r. Amazingly, we found our way to the modest hotel, which was set among towering skyscrapers that gallantly cleaved into the silhouette of an ocean-side skyline.

After unpacking and exploring the immediate area [nicest sweet and sour pork evaar], I snuck downstairs to utilise/steal teh interweb thingy on the expensive computers. Fastest connection evar you are fun. I spoke to McD who revealed his shocking Philly-related revelation. It only made me hate her more... But then, as he told more of his tale it seemed more than ever that perhaps, after everything, she liked me or even cared about my feelings. [How foolish I was.] I thought about things some more and read through LJ. I spoke to McD some more on Messenger, and also Banks. I told McD everything about it all, but couldn't bring myself to say a word to Russell. I was kicked out of the room at about two or three by the nice reception man, so went back to bed and lay awake thinking about it all forever.

How fucked up is this life?

Day nine:

Everywhere I look, so very many people. Shanghai has about sixteen million people living in it. Such a vast magnitude, density, volume of human beings going about their daily business, whatever that may be. Most places you go, you'll be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people. Department stores have hundred of staff per floor who won't leave you alone to browse in privacy and it's the same in any other shop or restaurant or stall. There are so many girls and cute couples to painfully remind me of what I can't have :(

I can spend the whole day looking up to the heavens, staring in awe at the beauty of the skyline. Each tower built up to heaven is another realised millionaire's dream. Every building built up from the ground because someone had a vision of it standing tall up there. So many successful people with so many beautiful dreams. Some of the dreamers have never woken.

My mum arrived from the airport late in the morning and we went to visit The Bund - the posh area on the riverside. We looked at more fantastically tall architectural and engineering masterpieces. I avoided the street vendors selling tacky plasticy trash and walked round the boring museum. The most exciting part was playing the separate-history-from-propaganda game. We then went and tasted various Chinese teas, bought some and wandered around the local shops. We lunched at some nice place and had supper at the bestest street stall ever. All three of us ate lovely dim sum style stuff and soupy noodles until we were full for less than a quid. We returned home after some more shopping and I did beaucoup de exercice et natation at the hotel. My parents retired to bed and I stayed up watching the same three news stories repeat themselves on CNN until four.

Day ten:

We woke up early and went to the bird and fish market. It was rather amazing, and somehow, didn't smell bad at all. Off a few side streets there was a huge covered area containing hundred and hundreds of stalls selling fish, dogs, cats, piglets, little fighting insects and assorted birds. There were thousands of these tiny grasshopper-type beats in little bamboo containers stuffed with cotton wool at each stall. The old men would put them in little arenas and poke their antennae with specially made sticks to aggravate them and try and motivate a battle to the death. Thus, the shop owners were amused while they played cards and the birds fed whenever a victor emerged. Walking around watching everyone get on with their lives - drinking tea, eating rice and selling fighting crickets - made the place very interesting and also, rather awesome. Plus, there was the most incredibly cute puppy with long floppy ears whimpering and pawing its pink cage. It looked exactly like the first teddy bear I ever had.

Afterwards, we spent ages in a huge antique market where I bought some old ancient dynasty coins, got lost and dad got a coolio Chinese character combination lock which still worked.

Day eleven:

I went down to breakfast for the first time; it was surprisingly nice. Would have been great but for some fucking stupid gweilo woman who stole my toast I'd been patiently waiting for. I glared at her and muttered conspicuously loud remarks about retarded toast stealers as I sat down. Went to the train station to [rather painlessly due to an English-speaking desk] buy tickets for the next day's excursion and then walked miles to some supposedly ace market. It was gone, with a couple of muddy cranes taking its place. Shanghai is the sort of city where you can go to sleep and wake up to find the whole place has completely changed and that you're now two hundred stories up a shiny new skyscraper. Anyway, we pointed to some Chinese writing in a guide book and soon, a taxi driver had taken us to the market's new location halfway across town.

When we had finally arrived, the market was rather ace. We walked around for ages and I bought a jacket as well as a couple of belated presents for my sister's birthday. More stuff was bought and later, a new case to carry it all. Everything was criminally cheap. We ate some snacks and a nummy doughnut each, then my parents wandered around some more shops for a couple of hours while I sat outside to think and watch the world go by. Again, I was reminded of the cuteness of some Chinese girls and also, two chicks with clipboards and surveys tried to approach me only to find I stared blankly back at them, unable understand a word.

I went back to the hotel for a nice long swim, some time in the gym and then, time to sleep. But only after the infamous chups saga: My parents wanted to eat at some crappy restaurant and by now, I was getting rather fed up of constant Chinese food no matter how good it was. And so, I was allowed back to our room for a one-time-only taste of room service. I ordered a nice burger and beer, signed for it after it was a little late and happily guzzled it in front of a good film. However, at twenty to ten, I realised I was still quite hungry so I quickly phoned in for a nice portion of French fries - the final orders would be taken at quarter to. I was glad because I managed to get through and get my order accepted. At quarter past ten, I phoned back again to enquire about the progress of my chip order - I was told it was definitely coming and, after some moaning and complaining, I was promised that the night manager would call back in a couple of minutes to apologise and explain the situation to me. At half-past, I phoned back again, was put on hold a few times and told to fuck off a few more. I carried on complaining to anyone who would listen, but no one could even give me an answer as to why I hadn't got any chips and why my order had been accepted when they clearly had no intention of getting me any food. By now, the kitchens were closed and I grumbled about how hungry I was and that all the shops outside were now closed - even though I rejected it they even offered to go out and show me somewhere where I could grab a bite to eat at such an hour of the night. Of course, this was entirely unsatisfactory as I'd been waiting for hot food delivered to my room for nearly and hour. In the end, I gave up trying for some justice or explanation after they promised to phone me back yet again. Because of the Chinese way of being unable to admit they can't do something for you and instead, making promises they know they won't keep, I struggled to sleep that night rolling over and over trying to get away from the feeling of my rumbling stomach. Grrr...

Day twelve:

We had to wake at some ridiculously early time to go to Suzhou - a distance of about fifty miles. We ate and were rushed to the station where we got onto the nice new double-decker train and sat down in our nice comfortable 'soft-seat' area. The journey itself was fast and sufficiently relieving. At Suzhou, we were immediately set upon by people selling junk, so quickly ran away.

We chanced upon a wonderful silk factory where you could watch the rows of women unravel cocoons to make raw silk thread or stretch them a stupid amount to make blankets. They use over seven thousand silkworm cocoons per quilt. Lunch cost the whole family less than twenty pence and, after that, we went to the most amazing old perfectly sculptured Chinese gardens.

I started off being even more sceptical than usual: years of having National Trust properties forced upon me hasn't made me particularly favourable to public gardens. But this place was something special. It was truly wonderful. Huge shapely thought-provoking rocks stood as though they were on pedestals exhibited such profundity that it was ruined by the presence of humans. There were the most fantastic, awe-inspiring water views; a plethora of secret places to hide away; those fantastic rocks naturally sculpted with irreproachable tools by Nature herself and also, an elegantly named Listening-To-The-Rain Pagoda. I couldn't help thinking it was all meant solely for the trees and nature itself - mankind certainly doesn't deserve to feast eyes on such beauty. Especially such uncouth, noisy, thoughtless humans. Certainly not the people there that day: tourist group leaders with megaphones; Americans with cameras that had never been used to record thoughts; mobiles et al; the supremely overwhelming arrogance of my father. Even with the overcast sky permanently on the verge of release, the perfection and splendour of those stones was older than any memory and wiser than any person who had ever walked these those grounds - they had seen everything that had ever happened and everything that ever will. It was complete omniscience. I couldn't walk past it all too slowly. At the time, the effortless natural beauty reminded me of Philly. Oh, how I longed to bring her here at the crack of dawn one summer's morning to frolic by ourselves. Perhaps together we could be worthy and let the essence of the garden enter us and be there always. Together we are more than human and exude beauty. Quixotic yes, and remarkably similar to the time I wanted to sit with Lois on the Seine all that time ago...

Then we saw hundred of bonsai and they were the most beautiful things ever. Thousands of years old, simultaneous defying geometry and being precisely perfect in shape. The reckless disregardful for gravity and shapely elegance was seemingly designed by God himself and her angels. I made an excuse and went down by a narrow pond by myself. I sat in a luxurious enclave to listen to songs but none of my music was perfectly wistful and full enough of divine grace to fit the moment. I ended up sitting there and cogitating about things. About art and about me. And also, I wrote all this down to make sure I'd not forget forever.

The rest of the day was rubbish.

Day thirteen:

Not much at all. I slept in late and woke to find it was pouring with rain. I ventured out to food stalls for lunch but realised there was nothing I wanted to do and no want to do it anyway. I stayed in watching cable movies, reading, listening, thinking back and yearning for times past.

Day fourteen:

I went out by myself and decided to go to the Shanghai Museum. I saw loads of stuff and while it was rather boring, some artefacts were incredibly cunning and I surprised myself by appreciating it all. Especially the chop exhibition and the ancient bronze stuff. I didn't even start moaning about the extortionately priced shops...

I thought more about Philly and walked around Shanghai by myself trying desperately to soak it all in. I noticed the sheer density of bus services in China [both in Hefei and Shanghai you never have to wait more than five minutes for any route]. Also, the main high street has six McDonald's down it as well as four KFCs and four Pizza Huts. China's brand of communism truly is unique.

Days fifteen and sixteen:

I skipped breakfast and went to the gym and jacuzzi for the first couple of hours of my morning. I realised how late it was [on my last day and everything], so changed and quickly headed out into town munching on ice cream and sautéed pork skewers. Walking around, I kinda came to the conclusion that Shanghai would be an absolutely fantastic place to live for budding young revolutionaries or anarchists. Hey, it'd be fucking cool for just about any teenager, what with running through the parks and back alleys away from the cops and stuff. Also, I felt that being in China had kinda reawakened my inner sense of Chinese culture which is a strange but cool thing.

I had decided to spend my time in the Shanghai Art Museum, and absolutely bloody ace it was too. On the way there, as I walked, two cute girls arm in arm pointed at me and smiled before being lost in the crowds behind. It made I think.

Walking rounds the galleries made me realise how much I yearn to be artistic and make a good piece I'm actually proud of. And always will be. There was so much insane talent on display there - it was just all far, far too good. It was all very political [not surprisingly] and mostly utterly superb. Some was very modern and a refreshing change from the wall-to-wall bamboo scrolls and ancient calligraphy at the museum the day before. I won't even try to describe the genius behind some of the pieces there for fear of not doing them justice. I bought many postcards.

And just think, I still haven't set foot in the art rooms at King's [and probably never will] despite intending to so much. Hell, I don't even know for sure where they are. I wish I were back at RGS with Mr. Tinney so I can create. However, even there I don't have true freedom to imagine.

All my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as through they're here to stay
Oh I believe in yesterday

Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh yesterday, came suddenly

Why she had to go, I don't know; she wouldn't say
I said something wrong, how I long for yesterday

Love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh I believe in yesterday

After that, I walked for miles and found myself sailing down the Bund at night. I stood there alone on the bow of a boat steaming down through the night. The wind blew round my ears and I looked up to the neon lights of the Oriental Peal Tower and the art-deco magnificence of the Jinmao Tower. My hair blew about, my face was being battered by wind and spray and my hands were too icy cold to write. I listened to this song and thought of Philly and nothing much else. It wasn't quite cold enough out there on that river in Shanghai.

Why she had to go, I don't know; she wouldn't say
I said something wrong, how I long for yesterday

Love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh I believe in yesterday...

I walked back to the hotel after stopping off in some piss poor areas and looking around before being scared off by some old women. And after all that, we went to see some crappy acrobats put on by some posh hotel. They were rather suckiii. Supper was at an absolutely ace Japanese place - beautiful, beautiful tepenyaki. I loved it but drank too much beer so, straight after our miraculous packing feat [somehow, we fitted everything TARDIS-style into our cases], it was time to sleep. But only after I'd watched some acez0r film...

On the Sunday, the flight was delayed and, after waking up far too early, we had to wait at the airport for six hours. Of course, my parents decided on now to start being gee and sat there wolfing down greasy chips as they refused to feed me. I got hungry. In the end, we barely made our connecting flight in Russia and were only a couple of hours late back in England. The 'plane was packed with slutty Russian preteens on a school trip. But we got back okay. I played Metropolis Street Racer and packed for school until four thirty.

As well as all the other cool stuff I'd bought, I spent a long time unpacking all the DVDs from my cunning hiding places to evade customs. Fifty pence each, I ended up with all the good ones available:

  • The Godfather trilogy box set

  • Swordfish

  • Fight Club

  • Mulholland Drive

  • Snatch

  • The Shining

  • Full Metal Jacket

  • A Clockwork Orange

  • Insomnia

  • Lolita

  • The Usual Suspects

  • Trainspotting

  • The Three Colours trilogy

  • The Silence Of The Lambs

  • The Shawshank Redemption

  • Pulp Fiction

  • Apocalypse Now Redux

  • The first Star Wars trilogy

  • Road To Perdition

  • Ash - Tokyo Blitz

  • Enemy Of The State (for Kapmandu)

  • Suede - Lost In TV

I only wish I could make all the cool Chinese characters show up to make this look all spiffing and clever...
Tags: books, emo, films, girls, holidays, music
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