• Bob Taylor

Musings - Day 17

Day 17 – 12th January 2020

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The start of the day was replicated from yesterday at ZHANGZIZHONGLU subway / metro station. From there following the simple pattern south on Line 1 for five stations, I then change at CIQIKOU to line seven. On this line I travel for a further eight stations until I reach the terminus of that particular subway line, Beijing Station West. Around forty five minutes travel for around £0.80p or $1 US.

It is here that I actuate a decision that I have come to over the last two nights. The city of Xian was big on my initial planning schedule, mainly for the “Terracotta Army.” However, now Xian is off the scheduled. I have now watched two television documentaries about them, consulted other travellers, and my decision was finalised a couple of nights ago when talking to a German guy in the hotel. He said that he was disappointed as a spectacle, mainly because he had built up the pressure of wonder at these pieces that it was a little bit of a let-down. He had researched, both from photographs and video, only to come to the conclusion that it wasn’t quite the spectacle that he expected. He showed me his own photos, that did not really do justice to the ones I had previously seen. So decision made, culturally overloaded, Xian was out! Not entirely out though, because the direct train to Chengdu passed through Xian to give me an impression of just how big a city it really is. Block after block of domestic apartments being built, already built and occupied, or just left abandoned after the structures had been erected. This was on the scale of Beijing, being hundreds of concrete towers for mile after mile, rather than dozens.



The train that I have taken (G307) was a bullet train but today only reached a maximum of 324 kph. (around 195mph)

When you take a train journey that starts and ends in the dark, it gives you a lot of free thinking time. Musings ostensibly, idle ponderings. Today I was thinking about missed business opportunities that have passed me by over time. For example: Would the world have been better off with mittens for fencing spikes? Or individually wrapped peanuts? Or underwear for pets? Or food bingo, perhaps? Er… yes it was a long journey today.





The temperature, according to the train display has markedly improved over the 700 mile plus journey. It is now a balmy 9°C outside. The landscape has changed too, having become hills and valleys, with finally rivers transporting water rather than ice. I had to change my seat at Xian and go the rest of the journey in a different compartment. (A ticketing mix up that I wont bore you with) The point of me saying this was because here I sat opposite and English speaking Chinese guy. He noticed my lack of Chinese when the stewardess came around with complimentary packets of nuts and nibbles. He introduced himself (I think to make it easy for me), as Ken. His English understanding came from a University education in Oxford, where he had studied literature. He then stayed in the area for another eight years after his courses were done, because of a love entanglement. (Strange term to use to a stranger?) We chatted and laughed quite a bit actually to make the journey pass, and I think that he was glad to exercise his knowledge of English once again. I have no idea of how we got onto the subject, but he told me of a Chinese dinner party game he’d played recently, called ‘Dianhua.’ (The literal translation means Telephone) Apparently it is based on the traditional Chinese whispers game but it includes drawings and points are scored for and against. Now this was where his English faltered slightly and the humorous side of the game became lost a little bit in translation. He gave me an example which he thought was unimaginably so funny, that he had to remove his glasses in order to wipe the steam from them. He actually started laughing before he had finished explaining the game. Setting the scene there are four couples who have finished dinner in the hosts house, and they are partaking in some Baijiu. (strong liqueur made from various grains)


For me the jury is out but see what you think….


So player one has the start sentence. “Phoo has lost her cat named Chan, last seen by the fountain in the garden.” Okay you might need to bear with me on this one, and please sympathise with me trying to get involved with the fun aspect. So the whole essence of the game is the way the sentence gets distorted depending on how many players are involved. I am thinking that another indicator of accuracy may be down to the number of Baijiu’s consumed. So remember the sentence, “Phoo has lost her cat named Chan, last seen by the fountain in the garden.” Turns into… “Phoo the cat is in the cinema with Chan the postman!” How the fireman’s helmet did that happen? Well at this point Ken is apoplectic and not able to get the full sentence out that he is trying to repeat. I am laughing along mainly out of politeness, but mostly at his reaction, but my mildly humorous face is making him laugh even more. He keeps trying to say “Chan the postman,” but cannot get the words out without exploding into his permanently exposed handkerchief. The stewardess came round again pouring Jasmine tea which brought a little calm to poor Ken.



When the tittering had lessened I told Ken of a game that I played years ago, when a sales conference that I was on in Scotland got temporarily postponed, due to extreme weather. There were probably upwards of fifteen of us that had flights home cancelled and were stranded in the small hotel. So after dinner we all assembled around three coffee tables fronting a large open log fire. All the participants were seated around the tables so that the fire was the central focus. After a few local drams of whisky the games started and the two hats were passed around. In one was your first name, in the other was a part of the body – each player putting one of each items in by writing them down on paper. Now when all was complete the game started. Now the rules of the game were simple. You had to pick one piece of paper from each and make up the name of that person only using three syllables. Then when you had the name sorted you had to introduce them to the rest of the collective, giving a made up explanation of what they did for a living, and where they were from. There were the usual wags who had put the vernaculars for various parts of the anatomy that made for the fun side of it. (It is important to bear in mind that it is the early 1980’s and we were all on company expenses, so the drinks were liberally partaken.)

First up: “ Ladies and gentlemen may I introduce you to Lesley leg from Aldershot who was an Olympic fork bender.”

Second up going round the table to the left: “ladies and gentlemen may I introduce you to Dickie dick from Didsbury, who is a hose consultant.”

Third up: Ladies and gentlemen may I introduce you Tanya tit from Tottenham who is a trainee tackle trader.

Are you getting the picture? All the way round the table, causing great mirth all concerned. Then eventually it came to me being introduced as “Bob Ovary.” Now who the hell would put ovary in the hat? It isn’t exactly the first body part that comes to mind is it? It was the only name that stuck after the game finished, with all kinds of accents used when either referring to me or calling my name. Future conferences people made sure that it was always the one going to be referred to. One wag had a new name badge made up for me in the name of Bob Ovary, that I had to wear for the remainder of the next conference, some twelve months later. Only four weeks ago, whilst Christmas shopping in Birmingham in the middle of Debenhams store, I heard a voice from behind me, “As I live and breathe is that Bob Ovary?” I hadn’t seen the guy for around five years or more, but he still uses my epithet from nearly forty years ago.




Ken got off the train returning the lack of understanding of my game that I must have portrayed of his. Two stops later I hit Chengdu. Now, I am inside one of the biggest train stations that I have ever come across, knowing that my hotel is only five to six hundred yards from it. But there is a snag, because there is a choice to be made. East square exit or West square exit? You know that I am going to pick the wrong one don’t you? Well I did – I picked West. Google maps do not work in China, but location services do. So whilst it is showing me walking towards the hotels location, it isn’t giving me streets, it is just a grey map of the terrain. I believe that I am walking towards, or at least in the general direction of, my hotel. Wrong! Some hour and a half, two requisitioned taxi drivers, five locals, a security guard who flagged down and put me on a bus later, I am pointed to an underground entrance to it. The next day I walk out of the hotel to see the station literally in front of the exit to the railway station that I didn’t take last night. Hells Bells!



Position: 30°37¢55” N 104°08¢31”E – Miles completed: 07771

Location: Chengdu, China. 21:19 - 12th January 2020 - Journey 17 days 18 hours

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