Isn't it strange how for some periods time appears
to pass so slowly, whilst at other times it simply
I was reminded of this a few days ago just after
watching the Monaco Gran Prix. I had rescheduled my
day so that at 8pm I would be ready to sit down and
watch the race live in China on CCTV 5. It had probably
been nine months since the last time they did not
actually show F1 live (Including practice and qualifying
on the days before), so I settled down to watch …
three and a quarter hours of some badminton cup.
TVS, the other sports channel we get was the same,
but at least they sometimes spoke in Cantonese or
Toisanwah. They actually had a break to watch the
football match in the middle – some definitive game
between Guangzhou and I think it was Shandong? Guangzhou
equalised in injury time, and this appeared to mean
they had won something…
After China had won the ‘Suliman Cup’ (Something
like that) by beating Denmark 3 : 0 I stopped to wonder.
You see there were five matches total, the ones not
needing to be played being the women's singles and
doubles. For interest, South Korea and Indonesia came
joint Third. CCTV5 stuck with the show and we saw
them all get medals and then flowers (?) Important
people gave speeches, and so it went on.
Meanwhile TVS was into a 1-hour sports news review,
and I determined not to watch it for fear of learning
the result of the Gran Prix. I started channel hopping
and found a disastrous B movie on Guangzhou English
channel, Pearl was showing Pirate’s of the Caribbean
– the locker one – which I tried to get into before
finding it totally fuckwitted and giving up. TVB was
by then showing CSI Miami, a repeat but a decent enough
episode all the same.
By chance the adverts came on at 23.30 and I flicked
over to CCTV5 just in time to catch the start of the
Gran Prix! It proved to be quite an entertaining race,
although the end was perhaps ‘arranged’ and certainly
full of controversy. For me, Driver of the day was
yet again Kamui Koyabashi who I believe will one day
become world champion.
You may be inclined to infer from the above that
I think watching Badminton to be a waste of space?
This is definitely not the case, and I would prefer
it to watching the vast majority of modern football
games (Soccer for my US readers). China also shows
a lot of women's volleyball, another great spectacle
to behold, and again preferential to the fixed and
deeply flawed version of the beautiful game that suckers
most into watching nowadays.
Now for me, football lost its appeal many decades
ago when diving and fouling became the norm, and football
skill was made irrelevant. A person I used to work
for was a coach for nine and ten year olds, and he
once told me that he spent his training sessions teaching
the kids how to dupe the referee = how to foul and
not get caught.
I doubt I will ever bother to watch football again
until they get rid of the cheats, and by that I mean
the executives of FIFA and the FA, who are all in
on the scam. Next, introducing Goal-line technology
a minimum; with off-side review as standard practice
+ action replays and a second referee for all events.
Shirt pulling = 5-minutes in the sin bin. Do it to
prevent a goal being definitely scored, then goal
awarded, player banned for 2-weeks, and has the 5-minute
sin bin to start his next appearance. Football is
in a very serious mess, and at times resembles wrestling
A third referee is also desperately required to monitor
off the ball incidents, and criminal proceeding brought
against those players who still think it their sporting
duty to elbow people in the face and especially –
the back of the neck! I have no idea in any true sport
why such measures are not already in place, as they
have been in Rugby and Cricket for decades … or are
the football results already fixed?
I will leave sport for now with the wish that Li
Na manages to do in the French Open what she so narrowly
failed to do in Australia – not that western media
every gives any Tennis reviews of unfavoured players
I have called this missive ‘Timeline’ for several
reasons, which will become apparent as we progress.
The first occurred just after I finished watching
the Gran Prix from Monte Carlo. I wanted to find out
which idiot decided to red-flag the race, and yet
let it continue, and why? Then there were updates
required to Hamilton's suicide mission of the day,
and some other stuff I was interested in.
I thought to have a look on www.F1.com
only to find I couldn't access the internet. This
was shall we say, ‘A tad irksome’, but it does happen
in China sometimes. Occasionally the internet will
be gone for 24 hours or so, for no apparent reason,
and then come back. Therefore the next day found me
getting more and more upset, as the 24-hour mark passed
and still there was no ADSL! I was cursing like a
trooper truth be known, but then my wife solved the
situation for me with one phrase, “It’s one year”.
What? It can’t be for we have only been here … let
me see, erm…
I get out the paperwork and find that 1-year and
1-day has passed since I opened the broadband account.
So the next morning I go to China Telecom, pay Y800
RMB, and have another years’ broadband connection
activated before I walk the five minutes to my home.
That is what I call excellent service!
Siu Ying did ask me to top up the landline whilst
I was there, which is a sort of ‘pay as you've gone’
as opposed to paying before use. I couldn't find the
number of the phone. I asked her for it, and it seems
she doesn't know it either. To top up all we need
to do is wander into China Telecom, punch our phone
number into a machine, and feed it some cash – maybe
four or five quid for the month. Easy – if you know
your own phone’s number. If you do not happen to know
your own telephone’s number then topping-up becomes
highly improbable and certainly a quantum dynamic.
Meanwhile many of you regular readers have been asking
for more missives, and when they will be due. All
I can say is that ‘I just got busy writing my Trilogy’.
I also considered that little happened during the
period, except that my best friend Eason got married,
Vilma came to stay, and Rhiannon is growing hourly
into her future. Apart from my funniest missive ‘Wasabi’
and my all time most viewed one ‘Fat Cats’, I have
shared little since early January 2011 – so let me
put this right…
Therefore I’ll start filling-in the gaps towards
the end of January, when I had planned to join my
buddy Jim in Siam for a few weeks. This looked to
be a go before the dates of Chinese New Year put the
kibosh on our plans. You see, China is closed for
this period, especially where governmental departments
are concerned. Therefore I had delayed joining Jim
so that I could attend for a medical in order to apply
for a one-year ‘Residency’ visa. Please know these
things for ordinary mortals like yours truly are as
frequent as rocking-horse shit, and I was having me
My intention was to go for my medical in Jiang Men
at the approved hospital for issue of the obligatory
‘Chinese Health Certificate’ around about Monday 25th
January, thus allowing three clear days to receive
and action the application before the Chinese holidays.
All was going well until a few days before I was
due to head for Gong Muen (Jiang Men in Mandarin),
when I developed an extremely painful foot. I couldn't
put any weight on it by the end of the second day,
and even bedcovers brought intense pain. We sent for
the Doctor as I simply couldn't walk – I was even
using a wheelie chair to get about on! The Doctor
was great and soon had me sorted. He gave me a thorough
examination and basically told me I needed to exercise
more. Moderate drinking was encouraged, and smoking
was never mentioned – how nice. That night I got my
first proper sleep in days, although it would take
about three days for me to fully recover.
I thought better of going for the medical, as the
day was soon the Friday before the holidays began,
and I could guarantee nobody would be working – and
even if they were it was definitely not the ideal
day for a medical exam! So this was put on hold with
a chance to do it after the Chinese New Year still
Then Dave my great friend from UK wanted me there
in Blighty to attend to some take-over business he
was planning, and so a couple of days slipped as we
looked at logistics and timeframe's. Meeting Jim was
getting a tad iffy for the next week or so, but was
still the plan for later in February.
Then Chinese New Year happened and basically China
closed for two weeks – just like British Christmas
and New Year. As it was coming to a close, so I came
down with an infection that was like a bad flu that
just hung around and would not go! Siu Ying had it
also, and it was very debilitating, especially where
breathing was concerned. One of the many checks for
the Chinese Health Certificate is a breathing test
… therefore time passed and I decided it better not
to go for the examination this time.
The week-days were dropping very badly for our calendar
anyway, and to such a degree that I had to virtually
cancel holiday plans with Jim – but we still held
out a hope of meeting up. Therefore I apply for a
6-month family ‘tourist’ visa instead and it takes
a few days longer than planned due to the holiday
backlog. However, I am strongly informed that next
time I must apply for the 1-year residential visa
– something that I really want! Out of interest, it
will actually cost less than the 6-month tourist visa
– Here is China!
Anyway, it turns out that Jim needed to return early
to prepare for teaching in GZ, and this leaves us
a period of a couple of days when we could be together
in Thailand = not an option; so we postpone it for
another year. Let’s hope we make it next time!
The next event in my small life came with the advent
of Eason's formal wedding. I have written that as
a separate missive for your ease of reading. However,
March was a popular time for weddings so I will pick
this up with a mention of my dearest friend Meals
You can find the missive here:
We were also invited to Neal and Jacqui's wedding
in Thailand at the end of March, this time way up
north in Chang Mai, which is very popular with Expats.
Their trip would cover several weeks, so there was
also the chance to catch up in Bangkok, or even head
south to the islands after the wedding.
I thought this would be a far more interesting trip
for my wife, as her previous experience was with a
Chinese tour group, and even I thought it was virtually
like staying in Canton. It took a while to actually
confirm the dates, as in the meantime I checked out
local hotels on the internet. Flights were extremely
cheap, and I am talking fifty or sixty quid here,
return; so it was all looking very promising.
Unfortunately both time and circumstances got the
better of us, so we had to tell Neal we could not
make it. It was a great shame as we both really fancied
the trip, but it was not to be. However, he did send
through some great wedding photo’s and proved once
again what a resourceful and international person
he is. Nice one mate!
Jim comes to Visit
Having failed to meet-up in Thailand, Jim found himself
with a few days free, so came down to stay for a while.
It was great to catch up with him and do ‘boys’ stuff.
He caught the inter-city coach from Guangzhou (GZ)
in the afternoon and was scheduled to arrive just
a couple of hours later. There are actually only two
major bus stations in Toisan, so I knew he would be
arriving at either one of them, and probably the one
across the road from where we live.
Time passed and then I got a call on my mobile from
him asking me if I knew where he was? That's a tad
odd I thought. It seems he got off the coach with
everyone else, and this was somewhere near a roundabout
with a lot of sculptures on it. I think I knew which
roundabout he was talking about, but it was a long
way from where I was. Having tried his phonecall,
he then asked the audience, which didn't get him far;
so he hailed a cab and managed to get dropped of outside
the main bus station where I was waiting for him.
Time was getting on and we both fancied a beer, so
after dropping his stuff of at the gaff we headed
out and went to the best local western restaurant.
What can I say? It was fine and hit the spot exactly.
Having ordered cold beers and made it plain we would
order later, we chatted for an hour or so before tackling
the menu, which was only in Chinese.
We both knew what we wanted to order, but neither
his Mandarin nor my Cantonese seemed to quite be getting
us there. However, eventually we did make a breakthrough
of sorts, and our order was placed, with more beers
on the way. Then the food arrived, well the steaks
and broccoli in garlic sauce instead of black pepper,
but the chips (Fries) did not. I complained about
this, and eventually we got a large bowl of excellent
chips. We actually ordered another they were that
good, which arrived in due course.
Then it was time for a wander, and rather than go
to any of the centres we wandered up the road and
found a street bar almost opposite the road to the
apartment. We got through another dozen large bottles
of beer before ordering a stir fry and calling it
Rising late the next day I was surprised to find
myself teaching Jim how to make Nescafe – for it seems
he only ever uses a cafetiere (Plunger jug) or for
best coffee, the Italian / Spanish pot thing – one
of which I have thanks to my dear friend Marisol,
brought all the way from Madrid.
With the caffeine hitting we plan a wander around
the shops, as he has eyes on some more crockery and
things for home if we can find them. Therefore we
headed off to the pedestrianised area where Jim picked
up some local food for breakfast, whilst I raided
the ATM. Then we headed to where last time there were
some excellent ceramics for sale – art nuevo plates
and that sort of thing. Unfortunately the stall wasn't
there this time, so we wandered around for several
hours, generally browsing and doing a loop.
From previous we both new we were near the serious
catering section of the city, and Jim was hoping to
find a particular type of cast iron plate with which
to cook on. It was the sort of thing I would use to
make chapatti’s on, plonking a large and flat lump
of iron on top of the gas ring – if you get the idea.
I then found a deep fat fryer! I mean, a proper restaurant
kitchen one and wanted to buy it, except for the logistics
of getting it home. The marked price was Y220, which
is very, very cheap. I almost bought a consumer version
in Hong Kong a year ago, but $ 985 HK for something
that was flimsy and felt really cheap and nasty put
me off. I will be back!
Having tried a few shops we actually found what he
wanted, and this included something to lift it with,
and almost a lid. Well chuffed we continue on thinking
to look for a taxi somewhere. One sidestreet backed
along a wet market, and here we found supposed western
ingredients. I was first, buying some Miracle Whip
and other jars of stuff. A few stores further on Jim
found some Worcestershire sauce (That was a horrible
Chinese copy), and I found the holy grail – Hellman's
mayonnaise! This later turned out to be another Chinese
copy, containing three tons of sugar to each small
jar. Thankfully I only bought one of the ghastly things.
I admit I was flagging a little, so we stopped off
nearby for a coffee, finding a Catholic church in
one of the roads along our way. I found the cappuccino
was totally excellent, but the thirty minutes serving
time was a little odd for a place that was pretty
empty. There is a picture of this in the gallery,
and for a couple of $ USA I really cannot fault it.
I have paid a lot more for far worse coffee all over
China. Jim had a standard coffee which he also enjoyed,
so that was a hit.
By this time we were beginning to catch the evening
rush hour and having failed to get a taxi we started
to walk back along the main road. We didn't have to
walk too far before we got a ride, and returning to
the apartment chilled and took a while out before
showering and changing to go out for the evening.
It took us a while to decide where to go, for although
there are thousands of places to eat, we didn't want
Chinese Tea or a posh restaurant. We had tried one
of the streetbar areas before when Duma was with him,
so it was either do the same as last night – which
we both really enjoyed; or try somewhere else. I already
knew there were a dozen decent restaurants near Number
2 bus station, so we headed there. I was in front
and got my wallet out to pay, before getting out and
actually looking up.
All the restaurants bar one were gone – closed down,
not there any more! I couldn't believe it. If I had
noticed this before we left the taxi then I am sure
we would just have headed straight back to last night’s
venue. As it was, this still remained a strong option,
but we sat down for a beer while we were deciding
what to do. Looking around the food was actually quite
decent looking, and soon staff came by to practice
One young thing became a great laugh and even sat
down with us for a while, as we ordered food in three
languages and relaxed in fine spirits. Then many of
the staff left, including the girl we had gotten to
know; who came to us as she was leaving and wanted
to know if I wanted to take her shopping? This was
certainly no ordinary request, for the air was thick
with double entendre, supported by her cheeky smile
and wandering eyes. Oh my life! I told her I would
take her next time, planning to never go back there
again – at least without my wife to protect me!
With the place closing and we getting thirsty, we
repeated the streetbar from late last evening, and
being greeted back enjoyed another case of fine cold
beer. It was perhaps 2 am before we got hungry again,
and we saw several things that we quite fancied trying.
So we ordered by using the little communal languages
we had, and basically pointed at things. This time
we did not quite get everything we had expected, but
one of the things that happened instead was monstrously
good – a sort of miniature pasta wrap with minced
meat and lots of flavour inside.
Jim and I have a similar outlook to life, and so
we went with the flow and simply enjoyed the experience.
I have no idea what time it was when we got back,
but we had another couple of beers before going to
bed at our customary 4 am. Jim is adamant that I am
a bad influence; whilst I am convinced it is he that
keeps me up all night drinking!
However the next morning rolls around far too quickly,
and with it Jim returns to GZ for he has other plans.
It was great to spend some quality time together and
know that our friendship deepened through the contact.
He made it back to GZ inside 2 hours, and therefore
you may wonder why it takes nearer three hours to
get to Foshan, which is an hour closer? I’ll let you
into a secret. The destination is reached by using
the expressway, not having to use the ordinary road,
that apart from busy has the roadwork's on it = total
I’ll finish here with an example of why Siu Ying
and I simply get along so well together, for we both
accepted she would not enjoy being with us all the
time = us speaking English and she getting bored from
not understanding anything much. Jim and I also discussed
the same theme at some length, the other way around
– for the number of times we have both gone for a
meal and then sat alone as everybody else has a great
time speaking quickly in languages we only have a
slight grip on, and doing things that may not come
naturally to us either.
So, some weeks later I was finished for the day and
it was maybe three am. She got a call from a friend
wanting to know if she fancied a ‘Siu Yeahr’ or eats
and drinks. She was game and so was I, and do you
know where we went – the same streetbar Jim and I
had used. Apparently she uses the place often as it
is the best around. We thought the same also.
Switching on the old mobile
After the holiday disappointment above, life continued
as normal for about a week, and I continued to baffle
Word (English UK version) with my British English.
However I had been in contact with Vilma from Porto
Rica for several months, and she wrote to say she
would be arriving in Canton around the end of March.
You may be aware that I had switched my old mobile
phone off for several months because people kept ringing
me on it. You might be forgiven for thinking that
is the whole idea of the things? Let me put it to
you another way:
I spent a very large proportion of my life waiting
for the telephone to ring. This is because I was on
call, my job required me to be contractible 24/7/365,
or during later times of my life when I was the operations
manager, keyholder, whatever. It seemed to me that
since I was late teens, until very recently; I always
had to be available to leave for work or an emergency
as soon as the phone rang. This makes life a drag
But then things change as always, and my last year
or so in UK was fine as I was able to view the communication
aid in a more convivial way. This lasted well into
my time in China – but there is one thing Chinese
always do that infuriates me … if they do not get
an immediate answer from you, they simply keep on
ringing you until they do.
Now, I am of the opinion that I have a display of
all missed calls, and if I was busy when you rang,
then I will get back to you as soon as possible. Some
Chinese cannot accept this, and by force of numbers
of telephone calls, coerce you into answering.
Well, I also have another idea about this: it is
my choice whether I choose to answer a call or not
– regardless of who the caller thinks they are. We
all get busy sometimes don't we, and I repeat for
effect. Three times now I have had people sent to
my home to check if I am all right – simply because
after fifty phone calls I had switched the phone off
so I could concentrate on my work – which when you
are talking about computer code or laying a delicate
plot in a novel can become extremely complicated and
So to cut a far longer story short, one day I was
trying to write an almost ‘love’ thingymagig; a bit
like the old Nescafe series of adds along the lines
of ‘will they, won’t they’. I'm actually weaving this
into certain point’s further back in the book also,
and trust me, altering something that is already written
throws up all sorts of wobblers!
Then the phone calls started, and did not stop! I
knew who was calling and why they were ringing – basically
to confirm a vague appointment for next week. I would
be very happy to reply to this … in an hour or two’s
time – but definitely not right now!
So I switched the mobile off and couldn't be bothered
to switch the confounded thing back on again. Well,
what I actually did was swap the sim card into my
stupid Vizaz and use a new sim card in my old, cheap,
and reliable Nokia. However, with Vilma's impending
visit I felt the urge to turn it back on again – and
contacting some old friends, so the stupid calls started
multiplying once more. They spread much like a ‘pandemic’
An example: Knowing I am very, very busy these days
I get three calls one morning aimed at browbeating
me into attending a dinner near the island where I
used to live. It will take me three hours to get there,
but less than two to get back – Chinese coaches are
like this sometimes.
My problem is the timing, for my last bus home leaves
at 8 pm, and the meal is eventually scheduled so it
will ‘suit everybody’ for 7.30. That would be everybody
except me then! But I am told this is no problem because
I can stay on the island and join them for Chinese
tea the next morning. Then we can visit a factory
for the boss wants me to look after all his export
business, and then we can have lunch. Isn't that grand!
It was grand the first dozen times; and sometimes
entertaining the hundred times thereafter – if I had
nothing better to do. These days I have a lot else
to do; so I ask myself, ‘Jonno, what is it about you
being busy that they do not understand?’
By the forth day I the stupid phonecall's were in
the dozens per morning, totally disrupting my work,
and more importantly, my equilibrium – for you cannot
write a delicate love scene if you are fuming mad
because of constant interruptions!
So I switched the thing off again : -)
The peace and quiet was wonderful. No people always
wanting a piece of me (On their terms), and so having
lost the best part of a whole week, I was once again
able to get on with my work.
Now; you can call me selfish, disrespectful, or many
other terms. But do not forget, a telephone is simply
a device. It is not something that is supposed to
run or ruin your whole life.
Some of you love to hear about my life with Siu Ying,
for we are from very differing cultural backgrounds,
family beliefs, etcetera. We tend to speak our own
language, which has bits of English, Cantonese, Toisanwah
and occasionally Mandarin in it. We both laugh that
we are waiting for Nonni to grow up so that she can
translate for us and we can talk to each other properly
However, our level of instinctive understanding goes
far beyond words. Perhaps it would surprise you to
know that my wife appears to have the exact same philosophy
regarding telephones as I do! Let me explain:
She was very happy using her mobile phone and the
landline when we first came to Toisan. Then I noticed
her checking the landline caller id, before many months
ago she didn't bother to top it up at the months’
end. Then she went off to buy me a new mobile, but
came back with one for herself. This then got a new
sim card and she was using two phones for a while.
A little later she gave her old phone and associated
sim card away to a friend, so now she only had the
new number. A month later she came back one day with
a new mobile for me, but kept it to try for a week
lol. I knew that eventually I would get my hands on
it, even though I hardly use the things; but this
had great camera and video just like the stupid Sony,
so it suited me well, especially as the camera automatically
activated when you slide the lens cover back.
We now have four mobiles and four sim cards, so Siu
Ying takes over the old Sony, which looks great, and
she hates immediately – a loathing that grows ever
stronger as the device’s total fuckwittedness becomes
ever more apparent over the forthcoming days. Two
weeks on and she has given up with it all together,
swapped the sim cards, and turned her old phone number
off. I asked her why and she said “Stupid people calling
me”. Same as my reasons then!
It is small things like this, or both of us independently
preferring the same street bar; where the love grows
between us, for I guess neither of us is normal?
This story is again presented as a separate missive,
and details how Vilma contacted me in 2010 simply
because she was searching for her ancestral home town
- Gao Gong, or the place where I used to live at that
time. Her Grandparents married in the town, and then
moved to the States and Costa Rica circa 1918.
This missive relates to her recent visit and our
first meeting, which you can find here:
In 2011 my birthday fell on a Sunday, which is the
actual day of the week I was born on all those years
ago. They say the good die young, so I am coming to
accept my aging and longevity hehe! As you get older
I think it is fair to say that the occasion of your
own birthday takes on less significance, excepting
for a few major milestones yet to come.
This year the Gran Prix was due to run on Sunday
afternoon, so I cautioned everyone that birthday dinner
would not be before 6.30 pm, by which time the chequered
flag should have been waved. As it turned out, we
planned a family get together for the Saturday evening
and a meal at the local hot pot restaurant that is
owned by a lad from the next village to the one where
The meal was made from two main meats, chicken and
pork, which were cooked together in the creamy sauce;
to which we added other things such as mushrooms and
later, other vegetables. It was a shame that due to
unforeseen circumstances Siu Ying's brother and his
family were unable to join us, but of our small group,
Nonni enjoyed herself greatly – and especially after
a high child seat was brought for her.
Later that evening we enjoyed a hair-washy and massage
before making our way home at around midnight. The
next day, and the day of my birthday proper passed
quietly as I worked on the second book of my trilogy
until mid-afternoon. I then watched the Gran Prix
and broached a couple of well deserved beers. The
evening arrangements were a little vague with the
timescale varying quite a bit. The evening meal had
been scheduled for around 7 pm, but in fact this never
sort of happened. Therefore I went back to work for
a couple of hours while I waited for an update of
the evening plans.
At twenty to ten Siu Ying rushed home and said we
had to leave immediately. I was already prepared,
simply needing to change my top and put on my shoes.
We then walked very quickly through the backstreet's
and shortly came to Club 520, where Siu Ying had reserved
a large room with two tables and enough seating for
more than twenty people, without needing to use the
stools. We sat down and I ordered thirty six beers
to begin with, and another twenty four for later.
This was the first time my wife had ever been the
hostess of such a large gathering and she wanted to
make face by paying with one of my foreign credit
cards. It seems that whilst they did accept a wide
range of cards, my Visa was not one of them, and so
she ended up paying cash. Then a guy came in to get
the karaoke working, only to discover it was a serious
fault, so we moved to an even larger room across the
hall. This room again had two tables, but as well
as one large video screen, had two smaller ones beside
the main one. In addition to the main room, which
was large enough for thirty people to dance on, there
was a private toilet by the entrance, and a rather
curious room set to the other end, complete with bench
seating and a lockable door. I’ll leave your imagination
to answer the possible uses for that room!
A little later the beers were brought in, the first
dozen being in a large bucket filled with ice. Siu
Ying chose music by our favourite rock band Beyond,
and we settled in to enjoy ourselves whilst waiting
for our friends to arrive. As the time passed so we
were asked if we wanted some ‘pretty girls’ to sit
with us for the evening. This is common in better
establishments, and basically they come in and drink
your beer, play drinking games, and add a lot of fun.
We did not need these girls tonight, although we did
order one dozen mixed plates of snacks and fruits.
It was eleven o'clock before the first party joined
us after finishing work. I knew several of them and
soon a second group arrived consisting of the owner
of the restaurant from last night, plus some of his
staff. As often happens one or two naturally gravitate
to the control panel, whilst others grab mic's and
start singing. Soon the beers were beginning to disappear
and so before long the second and then third buckets
were brought in. We confirmed the order was five buckets,
and then the place became manic. People continued
to arrive over the next couple of hours, and interest
was provided when one of the buckets of ice melted
and sprang a serious leak. There was water all over
the floor and vain attempts were made to mop it up,
without first removing the leaky bucket. You have
to wonder sometimes?
We were on the point of considering ordering yet
more beer when people began to drift off and soon
the evening came to a timely end. The clock said it
was two thirty already, and I have no idea where the
hours went to. I enjoyed the evening and the people
were great. We were then driven to a streetbar afterwards
where another crate of beer was ordered, along with
a lot of food to soak it up with. This was just round
the corner from our apartment, but not the one my
wife and I independently prefer. However with good
company it hit the spot that night, and we eventually
staggered home around five in the morning.
Mama stayed with us for a few days after the party,
and so one day we went to ‘Wah Yuen’ to do some supermarket
shopping and I had an ulterior plan! But first let
me explain about this major centre of Toisan, one
of only two that are connected by a pedestrianised
shopping street well over one mile long.
Wah Yuen has a monument set in a small traditional
display area to recognise the achievements of one
of the city's most notable sons. The locals will all
tell you that he was the first ever Chinese person
to drive a motor vehicle, but I saw a television program
recently that credited him with making China’s first
manned aeroplane flight way back in 1908. Which ever
version you support, he is a very famous man in Chinese
history, and did this at the time of the last great
Chinese Empire, The Qing Empire. In those days Guangdong
(Canton) was a very forward thinking hotbed of revolution,
due mainly to the local hero of the revolution known
as Sun Yat Sen. Although the founder of the first
democracy in China, and forefather of those who now
live in Taiwan; he is still classified by Beijing
as being one of the three great leaders of modern
Chinese history – Mao ZeDong and Deng XiaoPing being
the other two.
However, let us leave politics and history aside
and return to my small future. Every birthday deserves
a treat, and playing this card most insistently, I
headed for the shop that had two deep fat fryers in
stock. The girls were mollified when I let them spend
time shopping for shoes, Siu Ying almost buying several
pairs, and her mother buying something that suited
her rural life, although would never grace the feet
of modern streetwise girls in the city. Siu Ying stated
as much, but Mama was well satisfied with her weird
Once back on the street I headed for KFC and turned
right into a sidestreet. Siu Ying was not a happy
bunny, but did help be to carry our heavy bags of
shopping. I think she may have revolted, except for
the fact that now the nearest taxis were in the direction
I was headed. However, her enquiries of ‘How much
further’ were becoming more frequent until I spotted
the shop I wanted a short way ahead.
I lead her inside, greeting the owner and staff who
remembered me from Jim's visit. I walked straight
up to the deep fat fryer and stated that this was
what I was buying today. My wife insisted on seeing
the inside, and then got the price down to Y200 plus
a couple of free bamboo mats. I then chatted in Cantonese
to the owner and his mother who was guarding the till,
whilst my purchase was packed for carrying. Having
complimented me on my Cantonese during our conversation,
it should come as no surprise to anyone reading that
when I asked the price, it was given to me in Mandarin!
I then stated it in Cantonese, which they all agreed
was correct, and so we left shortly after, although
it was clear to see that Mama really liked the shop
and on another occasion might have bought several
items for her kitchen at home.
As a footnote I should add that after buying a gallon
of good fat some days later I soon got the thing up
and running. It is totally excellent, although on
the third use I did suffer a small drama: Normally
I stick the chips in whilst it is still heating-up.
This saves time for hungry boys, although I am well
aware the correct temperature for cooking chips is
130 degrees Centigrade. However, using my preferred
method I save ten minutes and end up with chips finishing
around 175 degrees = crispy on the outside, and nicely
cooked all the way through.
On this occasion I was delayed because my pork steaks
were still a little too frozen to cook with, so thawed
them quickly using the cold water method. We have
all done it I am sure. With spuds peeled and cut,
rinsed and left to dry I attended to other things,
and once set with the crackling already in the pan
for a crunchy treat, I tipped the chips into the fryer
and shook them until they settled. Apparently settled
The chip fryer, along with my small oven is in a
nearby room, as our kitchen is just too small for
these extra devices. I set about cooking the pork
steaks and preparing the rest of the meal; fried eggs,
chopped tomatoes, and a little onion relish.
I swear it was only a minute later when I checked
back on the chips, only to be confronted with hot
oil foam bubbling out of the top and drowning not
only the work surface, but also dripping down to form
a large pool of very hot oil on the wooden faced MDF
floor. I recall thinking to myself, ‘Jonno, this is
not good, especially as the wall plug is on the far
side of the pool of hot fat on the floor’.
‘Uh-Oh! Houston we have a problem’. I look down at
my flimsy cheap flip-flops and decide they will likely
melt if I step in the oil, or even worse, cause me
to fall into it. Neither is a good option, so I think
laterally as foaming hot oil continues to leave the
deep fat fryer in copious amounts. ‘A chair, a chair,
my kingdom for a chair’, I shout; and unlike Richard
the Third have one handy in the dining room where
I am watching the disaster unfold from.
Reacting quickly I throw the chair in the middle
of the small room and first remove the lid from the
fryer. I then carefully reach across and pull out
the plug from the wall socket. I then remove the chip
basket from the fryer, and all is well for the moment.
Obviously my cooking strategies have been marginally
compromised by this unexpected event, so I take the
meat out, but leave the crackling chunks to continue
cooking, if on a low heat.
Once more I survey the room and find the fryer has
now stabilised and dunking the chip basket back in,
find only a small reaction as the fat has cooled.
I guess it was all down to excess water in the bowl,
something I will monitor closely next time. However,
I am hungry so plug the fryer back in and settle it
to cook without the lid on. I watch for a minute and
all is fine. I return to the kitchen and finish off
the meat, with very regular checks on the chips, but
all is fine this time. Then with eggs cooked and everything
ready to eat, I sit down to watch Criminal Minds series
6 on the internet, and will worry about the cooking
oil problem another time.
The next day takes several coffees before I know
I must go and clean up the mess. I am slightly worried
about the floor more than anything else. I use an
old tee-shirt to get rid of most of the excess oil,
before cleaning the surfaces also and then mopping
the floor. It is actually pretty easy once I get started
and completed in five minutes + our floor is definitely
glossier than before!
Since then I have used the fryer, albeit with a lot
more caution, several times each week and have found
it to be one of my very best investments of all time!
Ping-pong Nonni, Nonni oh!
As April becomes May and then turns to June, we have
a new system in place regarding our daughter, Rhiannon.
During March she had attended a local kindergarten
for very young people a few days per week, but this
was not quite working for us, and Mama was definitely
not impressed. Therefore the girls took the decision
that she would be shared between us, one week with
us followed by one week with Mama.
Therefore this became the plan that is still running
to this very day in late June. As you may know, toddlers
are very time intensive, and in China this is moreso
because they accompany the Mother or Grandmother everywhere,
and for all hours of the day and night. I have become
a great advocate of the papoose thingymagig, as the
baby is always safe and secured either to mother’s
back or front. We do have a baby chair, but have used
it only a very few times, as this seems very impersonal
and unless the situation is exactly right, the toddler
does not like it as much.
This is in fact a natural extension of Chinese communal
society, for the Grandparents traditionally look after
the babies whilst their children go out to work and
make money for the greater family as a whole. In their
turn, the sons and daughter will eventually become
grandparents themselves, and acknowledge their own
duty to look after their aging parents, now great-grandparents,
plus the next generation of babies produced by their
own sons and daughters. Chinese society can still
accommodate this philosophy as being a duty and a
right. However, the times are changing and I worry
that future generations will become mired in the same
distant relationships that require state support of
both the youngest and eldest members of society, whilst
the ‘family’ as a unit become more self-centred and
devolved to parents and children only.
However as you might expect, I look at this situation
through different eyes at times, and monitor how things
are going. Nonni is fine and I have ensured she enjoys
both her times spent with us, and that other spent
with her grandparents. With us she has a modern lifestyle
and an emphasis on learning, regardless of what hour
the clock reads – for we are two very crazy people,
with Rhiannon sure to be a third. On the other hand,
life in the village is safe and Nonni can wander around
as she likes, safe and secure. There is one dog I
do not trust, but her truculence seems to be reserved
only for me, as she is fine with the local toddlers.
And yes, this is the thing. Whilst Siu Ying's brother
Yee Lo (Number 2 Brother) is one of the very few twenty
or thirty-something's to still live permanently in
the village, the numbers of old and young people are
Yee Lo’s own daughter ‘Loi Loi’ lives in the parental
home with him, and at four years and many months,
is now one of the eldest of a dozen kids, some of
which are younger than Rhiannon. I have watched as
Loi Loi speaks ‘Baby Talk’ to Nonni, a language they
both understand, yet seemingly passed-by by modern
science. Today Loi Loi is a mentor, and perhaps our
daughter’s only source of Mandarin.
However, they speak Toisanwah (Taishanese) at both
homes, whilst other’s and I provide Cantonese and
English. I know she can understand questions in all
three languages already; and she is only 18 months
old. Example: “Hoi sai san-san”, “Hoe clie shin-shien”,
and “Go for a wash” all mean exactly the same thing
to her. I do not know what the Mandarin phrase is,
but she will learn this when she starts school proper.
Understanding a language vs speaking it are two very
different things, as I and many other students of
languages can tell you. Regards speaking, Nonni is
doing fine, and has learnt the most important words
first of course – the ones that matter to her view
of the world: Mama, Baba, Lie-Lie (Milk). Every day
she surprises us with a new word, some of which are
forgotten quickly, but most are added to her growing
repertoire, regardless of which language they are
from. What pleases me the most is that already she
has many of these words and phrases in three languages,
and has learnt to swap between them depending upon
who she is talking to. Amazing!
Meanwhile her walking has turned into running everywhere,
and her feeble scrambles are now definitely classified
as ‘climbing’. Reaching 18 months I am very aware
that this is the time for her to begin comprehension
of more abstract ideas, such as numbers and counting.
Having a child also changes the way you think and
the way you see life. Through the eyes of my books
I also look to examine what sort of crazy world she
will grow into, and worry for humanity as a whole.
I can only be optimistic, whilst ensuring she has
the skills to cope with our contrary world, and worlds
to come. However, I am blessed with the chance to
observe the world through a child's eyes as our precious
moments take on fuller and greater meanings.
2011 has seen us witness unseasonable storms, early
heat in April, and with the arrival of June the blistering
hot temperatures of high summer. We have missed all
the typhoons and earthquakes, associated floods and
disasters, for we live in a special area that just
seems to miss all these things. The predominant wind
is from the south-southwest, which also ensures we
have a clean and pollution free city. In turn this
means that by day the sun is fierce, and by night
we get to marvel at all the stars in the heavens above.
Seeing either the sun or moon in Foshan was a very
rare event, the pollution hanging like a stationary
pall of smog over the entire area and surrounding
You may also be interested to know that the word
‘Typhoon’ is actually an English corruption of the
Cantonese ‘Dai Fong’ meaning great wind. Nearby Taiwan
is also more normally referred to as ‘The Island of
typhoons’, for it naturally lies in the direct path
of the majority of cyclones as they head up from ravaging
Normally the weather in this area is quite predictable,
with each month seeing an increase in temperatures,
which steadies in May as it rains for about four weeks.
This year the temperatures kept rising and during
April were already in the high 30’s. We experienced
about the normal level of rainfall, but instead of
it mizzling for weeks on end; this year brought many
hot days punctuated by a day or two of monsoon rains.
This trend continued into May before early June saw
the mercury hitting the 40’s.
I was suffering badly as my office receives little
wind, so many days I found myself walking around the
apartment and taking a break where it was a lot cooler.
Then by the middle of the month the heat became unbearable,
as hot air was added to the already overly heated
office by my computer, monitor and modem. There is
only one solution, ad that is to install air-conditioning.
I discussed this with Siu Ying, stating that I wanted
a good quality unit that also did heating (For the
very bitter winter months), and that I wanted the
heat exchanger put on the roof above. Normally Chinese
fit these units just outside the window, which is
very stupid as the heat simply comes straight back
into the room you are trying to cool. She has spent
the last week looking at all options and we have finally
decided on a unit by Electrolux, which offers everything
we require at a very good price, and it will be fitted
on our roof for free.
However, just before we placed the order a couple
of days ago, so two things happened: the weather got
a lot cooler, and my gallant old pc started playing
up again. I can be typing away when it suddenly freezes
= no mouse, no keyboard – nothing! The only option
I have is to reboot it and hope I haven't lost too
Fortunately this has occurred after I finished and
completely saved book 2 of my trilogy, and had updated
pages on the website. These recent missives are really
the only things affected, so I am typing them on my
laptop and taking the chance to upload them whilst
the pc is behaving itself.
Yesterday I rebooted fifteen times within one hour,
so the a/c is now on hold pending either repairs to
the old computer, or buying a new one. One of my problems
is that I cannot work out if it is a software problem
or a hardware failure. This is important, because
if it is software then I will simply reinstall the
operating system and set it to my preferences. However,
this will leave me spending days adding all the applications
that I want, such as Dreamweaver, CorelDraw, and Acrobat
writer. There are hundreds of them, although most
are already in a reinstall file saved separately and
on many discs and memory sticks. I see no point in
creating all this extra work if it is actually a hardware
failure, like a resistor somewhere breaking down every
so often. I’ll let you know how this develops over
the coming months.
I still continue to update the main China Expats.
website, although this year I have been primarily
focused upon writing my trilogy. However, after spending
the majority of every day for the last six months
writing, I simply need a short break before continuing.
I need to spend a little time in the real world, not
the imaginary society of my own invention.
Therefore I have been catching up on the basics;
updating the home page and adding new content to the
recipes and missives sections. I have also included
a page regarding Vilma's homes for rent in Gaogong,
and added a few other specialist pages.
However, the next major update is to add a full index
cross referenced in both English and Chinese to the
recipes section. There are now over one hundred items
and around five hundred recipes, so this is becoming
an urgent improvement, for the existing menu system
is simply becoming unwieldy and incoherent. Therefore
I have designed a simple A – Z index and am currently
listing all manner of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish
et cetera in alphabetical order. Most have two entries,
which are cross-referenced in English and Cantonese
Yueping (Spelt using English letters). I have added
a small thumbnail for each and also a short comment,
plus indications for recipes, so it is compact and
full of information.
The thumbnails are deliberately very small with my
idea being to provide a larger image when the surfer’s
mouse passes over the picture = no clicking. That
is quite easy to do, but what is not easy is to have
the image close when the mouse is moved off it. This
sent me back to coding school and many hours of research
plus trial and error. Over the days I came up with
several very suitable alternatives, but each required
a ridiculous amount of code to be added at two places
in the page. I also had the distinct impression that
both methods may not be accessible to older browsers
– for Internet Explorer 2 is still our fifth most
popular browser each month!
The only alternative I had was to make a separate
small pop-up page for each picture, which eventually
I have done. It is simple to do, if quite time-consuming
and boring. However, the good thing about this approach
is that I can also add an extended description and
make the image clickable to take you to the page with
the details and recipes.
However, to automatically close this new window on
‘mouseout’ as we call it; meant that once again I
had to write a line of code that is seriously not
approved of by those self-appointed idiots at W3C
Schools (Coding Standards Police for very large and
rich companies). I had to do this before with the
printable text pages of my 10 Word Cantonese – for
you only want to print the actual text of the main
section don't you, and not the whole webpage with
its menu’s and pictures? However, my close pop-up
window code is understood by all browsers and most
importantly – it works perfectly, where all approved
alternatives do not!
Hopefully I did not loose you in computer gobbledygook
above, but please accept my apologies if I did. The
results are very good and I am now slowly updating
the Food Index to include every possible item and
recipe. It is a lot of work, but hopefully when my
main computer is working properly again I can finish
it off quickly, and hopefully before July when I will
return to my trilogy.
Just to let you know my main desktop computer has
now been fixed and my hours of torment reference remedial
action were correct, for several condensers on the
circuit board had fried = not holding charge. I had
a sneaking suspicion is was hardware failure, and
not a virus or operating system problem. The cost
of five new condensers and new CPU fan + two home
visits and fixed within three hours came to £8.
As you will have gathered, my main interest this
year has been to write a trilogy of books that are
highly readable and very original. For budding writers
or those wishing to learn more about the books I have
written a separate missive that is almost complete
apart from final review.
Final review and editing are probably my next target
when I resume writing at the end of this month (June
2011). However, I may continue and write book three
instead, I really have no idea until I begin. I know
that book 2 is highly readable and that through both
tomes I have grown considerably as a writer. I actually
do consider myself to be a writer of novels. These
missives are of a considerably different approach
and style in case you wondered.
At one point quite near the end of book 2 I did have
a problem, for I couldn't remember specifically which
year I was now in. Sounds crazy? Well read the book
and you will understand – for time jumps 18 months.
I had also changed the original 2010 start date to
2011, which I later changed back again. Now perhaps
you begin to see why clearing your mind and re-reading
the work as a whole is so very important.
What I decided to do was write a ‘timeline’, which
saw me going back to day one of the story and date
stamping any notable event or passage of time in a
separate document. What I was not expecting was to
be drawn into reading my work on several occasions,
for the story kept grabbing my attention and making
me want to finish reading the whole chapter – and
then the next!
If it can do that for me in its unedited form, then
hopefully the same will hold true for readers. However,
the editing process is an unknown factor for me, as
I need to proof read it, and also second guess criticism
– so any offers to read it and offer constructive
criticism will be favourably received - and yes, it
is already subject to copyright. On the other hand,
with each book around 190, 000 words and likely to
exceed 500 pages in standard paperback form, it is
not something for the light reader to take on, enjoyable
though it may prove to be.
This missive brings us up to date with my small life
and the small events that is encompasses. In six weeks
time I will be applying for my first Chinese Residential
visa, and then later we will see if the British government
will allow Siu Ying to have a visa to visit UK. Last
time I was in Blighty I suffered culture shock, and
I am expecting it moreso during this forthcoming trip.
However, my Father is now my wife's Father also, and
she desperately wants to meet and care for him.
So we will have to wait and see what comes to pass.
Details of our exploits here of course in a few months
time, and with that I will wish you adieu until the
next time we meet on these pages.