“Tis now the witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business, as the day
Would quake to look on.”

Couldn’t have put it better meself.  These days, replace ‘churchyards’ with ‘public houses’ and it still sums up things quite nicely.  Even if you aren’t looking for it, you certainly get to see some weird stuff in the wee hours.

But the hours before dawn offer equal entertainment; these early risers can have an unhealthy amount of enthusiasm and can be unbearable to be around first thing, or so I’ve been told.  This morning I carried my bike across the lounge on tippytoes and was out before the sun had peeked over the horizon.  A perfectly executed stealth manoeuvre an assassin would have been proud of if I hadn’t tripped over the threshold and dropped the bike halfway down the first flight of stairs.  But hey, it was dark, and I bet even ninjas sometimes stub their toes on an unmarked coffee table.

Anyway, it was empty roads for the first 30 minutes or so and I was around the lake and off on a side road before the first overloaded truck could force me into the undergrowth.

Even the route through the market on the far side of the lake was deserted at that hour.  Most of the vendors were just showing up with their goods, their mode of transport determined by the quantity of produce.  A rusty bicycle was sufficient for those carrying a basketful of home grown veg.  The more established were rattling up on their three wheeled trucks, the bed filled with a pyramid of water melons, or the fruit that I still haven’t figured out the English name for.  It’s called youzi in Chinese and looks like a mutant grapefruit and has the texture of carpet.

After I’m through the market, I have to turn on to a large road that takes me back to the city.  The road used to be a small country lane but was targeted for development shortly after I arrived in the city.  A high speed rail link to Guangzhou is on one side, and an elevated highway is being thrown up on the other.  The road I use is still under construction in places, so there is another makeshift market that is setup on the one side of the highway that is sort of closed.  I say sort of because there are still dump trucks loaded with rubble passing through but at least they demonstrate some awareness for the pedestrians and exercise a little caution

Which is more than could be said for the bloke on the electric bicycle that came hurtling past on my left.  Even when I used to race, I had some awareness of when I was hitting the limit in terms of how quickly I could react to the next obstacle.  Beyond this point you do not pass and all that.  I was riding on a tricked out bike with suspension and good brakes.  This chump was riding an electric bicycle piled high with a variety of bags of fruit and veg.

Thanks to the dump trucks, on the other side of the market, the road deteriorates into a series of disconnected chunks of concrete. I was able to catch up with this guy to take a closer look.  He had the demeanour of a man detached from reality.  He never looked to the side, even when I was alongside, or checked what was behind, he just kept going with the throttle wide open.  What really got me was he had a dead chicken in his front basket with the head hanging over the edge and lolling from side to side as he hit each bump.  I couldn’t decide whether he had just nicked it and was making a hasty exit, or he was carrying it around just for effect in the same way some people have a ‘born to be bad’ sticker on the back of a poxy little two door hatchback.  I let him go when he hit 26 mph on a slight uphill.

A few miles further on and I was back on the lake and passing the park in which I used to ride my bike, but which is now out of bounds to cyclists.  I glanced over wistfully at the entrance and spotted two riders on flashy looking bikes and kitted out in the gear of serious bikers.  I turned around and went over to find out what was happening.

When I got there I saw it was a man and woman, probably husband and wife, and the guy was in a fully fledged shouting match with a little guy who was clearly the guard and who was trying to stop them entering the park.

There are still many bikes in China, but not as many as there used to be.  Cycling is either for poor people, or for the idle rich (and foreigners, which might be the same thing).  I was worried that my antics of high speed descents down the hills inside the park might have lead to the ban on bicycles, but listening to Mr Rich Guy on I realized the problem might lay elsewhere

“You can’t go in” said the guard
“Fuck off” said the rich guy
“The park is closed to bicycles, you aren’t allowed in unless you work there”
“Look you bastard, I’m from Hong Kong.  Fuck off”
And then he started shoving the guard until his wife intervened.  Then the two of them rode off into the park, ignoring the further protestations of the guard, aside from a parting ‘fuck off”

The guard finally noticed me and turned to look at me
“er, so the park is closed to cyclists then?” I offered weakly
Surprisingly, he wasn’t that he was embarrassed that I had witnessed Mr Rich Guy speaking to him like that, but that a foreigner had witnessed a Chinese guy being such a complete arsehole and he began apologizing for Mr Fuckwit’s behaviour.

But he still didn’t let me go inside the park.


2 Responses to “Dawn”

  1. janh1 Says:

    Damn! This time I thought you were in for sure.

  2. jaimeatdnmyt Says:

    Is that fruit a pomelo? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomelo

    Wonderfully written, as always. The adventures of bicycle man.

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