Archive for September, 2010

Eight Tyres

September 26, 2010

Buying a bicycle tyre is a fairly straightforward in the US or UK. In the US you go into a bike shop and, after the dudes have sized you up, they will either recognize you as one of them and give you respect, or else they will classify you as a ‘cyclist’ and decide everything needs to be explained or punctuated with condescending questions (“you do know how to pump up the tyre right?”).


Batteries Not Included

September 23, 2010

Having given up finding an oversized bicycle in a bike shop I went and bought on online. Or, to be more accurate, a friend bought one for me and then I gave him the money. I don’t have a Chinese credit card so buying anything online is difficult. In fact it’s so complicated that even when the same guy helped me it took 90 minutes to download and configure the various security packages, enter 3 different codes, none of which were less than 20 digits and only then could I buy a four dollar USB cable I could have bought up the road for 50 cents more.

Fight Club

September 20, 2010

I generally like the people in Wuhan. When I first told my Chinese friends back in the US I was moving down here, after commenting about the Wuhan summer, they all warned me to watch out for the Wuhanese because they were a bunch of hot headed nutters who spent all their time fighting. It wasn’t far from the truth, barely a day goes by that I don’t encounter at least one scuffle between at least two people. I’ve even gotten into it with a local driver because I gave him the finger when he cut me off on my bike, but it never came to blows because when he was mouthing off at me I had to say “look old chum, I’m sorry, but I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”

You say potatoe

September 18, 2010

If you ever start to feel you are mastering the local language, all you need to do is take a trip to the local hardware store to bring you back to reality.

Recently I was beginning to feel some sense of achievement. I was talking more easily with the locals, I was following a bit of what was going in the meetings, never an easy task when 10 people are shouting at the same time. Last week, I even watched the first few minutes of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon before I realized I’d forgotten to turn on the subtitles. But today I went to B&Q.

Buying a Bike

September 15, 2010

I started looking for a new bike recently. The old Flying Pigeon was definitely past it; it’s when you are spending more time fixing it than riding it that you begin considering euthanasia, or at least leaving it propped up against a wall to collect dust.

I searched to the East and to the West, I went South of the border and then back up North but I couldn’t find a bike I wanted. It wasn’t that there weren’t any to choose from, it was just that they were all too small.

If you listened to the sales pitch of any shop owner you’d be thinking the bike might have been made for me; it was just waiting for you to walk in and you couldn’t find a better fit etc etc. Suits you sir. And if you were the sort of rider who enjoys having their knees (more…)

At the Station

September 6, 2010

Apart from the trains, the other part of the Chinese railway experience that has changed recently is the stations. When I first got to China, the Beijing mainline stations were already quite natty, entrances embellished with vast architectural creations of sloping pillars and roofs. Inside, there were polished stone floors and high ceilings, electronic announcement boards announcing trains arriving and heading out to places all over the country, and gated departure halls which could only be entered by showing your ticket.

The Rain In Spain

September 4, 2010

I’m writing this while I’m sitting on a train. I don’t take the train as much as I used to, time constraints generally force me to fly, that and the fact it’s still a hassle getting a train ticket. Granted, picking up the ticket for the outward journey is straightforward, but most of the time you can’t buy the return ticket. (more…)

SIM cards

September 2, 2010

I don’t know what it is with me and SIM cards. I just can’t seem to keep track of them. I tend to shuffle between countries quite a bit and, not working for a large international corporation, I take public transport rather than rent a car, reside in cheap hotels, frequent budget restaurants, and I don’t have international roaming on my cellphone. Instead, I have a rather impressive collection of SIM cards, all of which have cute but unrecognizable logos and writing so small I need to bring a microscope. Well, at least one of those loupe things that i’ve only ever seen in dentist offices or in black and white movies when they are examining a photograph to show that the guy couldn’t have murdered the dame because of the date on the newspaper tucked under his arm. Adobe Photoshop is a lot more convenient but somehow lacks both the thrill and romance.