I’m only in bloody China, innit.
So after a week at home with the missus and Dribble Boy I packed my £1 charity shop faux-leather case and headed for Heathrow once more. Terminal 4 this time, which I like. I always want to get Oysters and champagne but usually opt for Garfunkel’s scampi and a pint of watered-down Stella. Flew Air France first to Charles De Gualle and then onto Guagzhou (pronounced guang-joe). It’s hot here, about 28 degrees during the say and humid enough to swim at night. We’re staying in The Garden Hotel, which I guess equates to a four star plus hotel by English standards. Facilities wise, that is, the quality of everything is much higher. The breakfast buffet is immense, everything from hash browns to dim-sums via cheese, German sausage and pak-choi. I had two breakfasts this morning in fact, the hotel one and then more dim sums with Grace and Susan from The British Council in Guangzhou. I bloody love breakfast.
We went on a sight-seeing trip today, which I was initially not really up for given I have woken up at half three. However, it was pretty good fun. I’m here with fellow UK poets Francesca Beard and Aoife Mannix, so I’m in good company. We went to Foshan, which is the home town of Bruce Lee. Actually town isn’t right, it’s all just city. The city sprawls as far as you can see and beyond. We drove for 45 mins today without any sign of it letting up, crossed rivers, left Guangzhou and still the sprawl sprawls. This is a city of 14 million and it’s nearly all new, very little from pre-war. The ‘opening-up’ happened in 1992, but being so close to Hong Kong this area began to experiment with the free market before then and the city grew immensely.
Our sight-seeing involved us: visiting the temple where Bruce Lee’s master trained him; taking loads of pictures; trying our hand at making ceramics. My tile was cool and Wharhol-esque. Francesca’s looked a bit like a vagina. It was actually a river in a basin leading down to the sea, or so she claims.
Here are some things I know about China:
1) They still have ring pulls on their cans
2) Chinese poets used to be paid by the state, a pittance, like everyone else, but it was a legit job with the salary. Then the ‘opening-up’ happened and there was not money in poetry, many poets gave it up to become businessmen. “Poets used to high status” a journalist tells us, “a women would even be proud to marry a poet.”
3) The Chinese seem unable to make a dish without sprinkling just a little bit of pig on it. I love it. Vegetarian Aoife, less keen.
4) You can’t go on Twitter here so I have a large amount of epiphanal discharge building up in my brain. Something’s gotta give.
5) Everything is cheap here, except beer. That’s still cheaper than back home, 50p a can.
6) No coins from what I can work out, they have notes worth 50p.
7) Their statues of threatening men and gods all look really funny.
I went for a swim on the roof today. Win. The hotel is really spoiling us. I had a a sweet sauna too.
We start our work tomorrow. I’m reading my poems in front of 400 people. They’re translated in the program for non-English speakers. As you can imagine a lot of people speak English here.
Right, spent. Bed calls.