Suzhou to Shanghai

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…the observation deck on the 88th floor. The views of the city are wonderful.

In transforming backward agricultural China into an advanced industrialized country, we are confronted with arduous tasks and our experience is far from adequate. So we must be good at learning. Mao Zedong’s opening address at the eighth National Congress of the Communist Party of China. (September 15, 1956).

25 October Pan Pacific Hotel

We awake around 8.00. There’s genteel start today, breakfast lasts till ten.

Made out of large granite blocks, the Pan Pacific hotel has an inclined ramp up to the top, third, floor giving it the feel of a Mayan temple. It is also in harmony with the old city wall, but inside it has the complexity of a pharaoh’s pyramid with false passages and little straightforward. We did find our bedroom eventually after visiting a boiler room and confronting a ‘No Entry, Staff’ sign.

However, the hotel does have some elegance and it fits well with low housing all around. Its downfall is the staff who seem at best indolent and at worst downright unhelpful. The evening pianist played more on her mobile phone that the piano, during our brief stay and at breakfast, Amy, our waitress stared into spaced ignoring her guests.

Francis is very quiet this morning, Chris said the hotel had been rather snooty and refused him a room. Finally, they found him a store cupboard at about three in the morning. Although he looks weary, he is with us.

We have round-faced, black-haired Selina (Liu Yu Jia) to lead us to the canal. The red-lipped former schoolteacher in the clearest English tells us the famous Chinese general Sun Tzu, beloved of management consultants and military strategists, was born here two and half thousand years ago. Some things endure. Continue reading “Suzhou to Shanghai”

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River Cruise to the Three Gorges Dam

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The gorge becomes more and more spectacular with mountains soaring up on either side.

When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills. Chinese Proverb

Chongqing is now a skyscraper city with the feel of Manhattan. In the centre of the city is People’s Liberation Monument, locally called Jiefangbei. It commemorates China’s s victory in the Sino-Japanese War, Francis says it was the highest building the city, which had been heavily bombed in the war when it was built in 1946. Now, it is only a child coming up to the knees of all the adult buildings surrounding it.

Marjorie likes central Chongqing especially the diamond jewellers, CRD, where the diamonds look so cheap, but we don’t purchase any, it is so easy to get carried away.

We board the MV Century Diamond after a quick visit to an old riverside temple-cum-house complex in painted in yellow emulsion and a rushed and disappointing Lazy Susan dinner on the eighth floor of a city centre restaurant. However, our cabin is a delight with red bedsheets and two swans made from towels. Our 42nd wedding anniversary will occur on this boat. Continue reading “River Cruise to the Three Gorges Dam”

Beijing to Chongqing

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Francis’ Family in Tianamen Square

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Lao Tzu.

Our journey nearly faltered at the first step. In the comfortable Titan chauffeur-driven Mercedes beside Ioan and Anita, we sat in a motorway jam. We were going to miss our flight. However, thanks to the mobile phone and the responsive Titan employee, Jo Kavanagh, we were re-booked on an Emirates flight via Dubai and we would arrive only a few hours later than originally planned.

During the trip, I was about to experience so many new superlatives, greatest, biggest, longest and the door to door journey time of 32.5 hours was the longest I had ever undertaken. We arrived in the Landmark hotel at 00.30 on Saturday 13 October in the company of the most helpful guide, Yang Zhen Xiong, who preferred his “English” name of Francis. Continue reading “Beijing to Chongqing”

Referenda and the ‘People’s Vote’ on the Final Brexit Plan

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Michel Barnier must be under as much pressure as Prime Minister May….

The first ever referendum related to an electoral procedure. It was ordered by the General Court of Massachusetts in 1641. It was embodied in an order passed on June 2, which set forth that “The freemen were growing to so great a multitude as will be overburdensome to the country, ” and “the way of proxies is found subject to many miscarriages.” The Court proposed, subject “to the advice and consent of the freemen,” that “every ten freemen,” in each town, should “choose one to be sent to the Court (of Elections) with power to make election for all the rest.” The order provided that the Deputies should “carry the copy hereof to the several towns and to make returns at the next Court, what the minds of the freemen are herein, that the Court may proceed accordingly.”

As there is no evidence that the proposed plan of voting by tens was ever tried, it would appear that “the minds of the freemen” were adverse to it. However, no return of the votes can now be found.

It marked the way for referenda.

Continue reading “Referenda and the ‘People’s Vote’ on the Final Brexit Plan”

A Birthday Party

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A few patches of blue, snatches of a flowery design and plain white triangular pennants fluttered and flew in the light breeze, transforming the garden into an oasis of happiness.

 

As the English summer climbs to the August Bank Holiday it’s high water mark, families up and down the land prepare for a final outdoor celebration, a christening party, a twenty-first, a silly dressing-up party, a wild music rave and in this case, a premature 40th birthday party. Daily examinations of the weather forecast had pointed to a sunny and calm day, but it was only a window in an otherwise dull, cool and wet jet stream.

Continue reading “A Birthday Party”

Yanny or Laurel – the death of the spoken word?

Geschichte / Deutschland / 19. Jh. / Wilhelm I.  / Deutsch-französischer Krieg 1870-71 / Emser Depesche

Bismark cleverly manipulated the words. He altered the Ems Telegram sent originally by Heinrich Abeken…

On 16 May 2018, the BBC television news finished with an unusual item. Perhaps, the producer was fed up with stories about the antics of Donald Trump, or the atrocities wrought on innocent populations by ISIS or the perennial BREXIT machinations by the British political elites. So Auntie or the Beeb, (or 2LO London calling, for older listeners) played a short sound clip and asked the viewers to identify it. The screen went white as the sound was played accompanied by a digital signature, a series of bars above and below a single line like some crazy barcoded xylophone.

It caught my attention and I listened ears back and alert for the sound. I heard the single word ‘Yearly.’ Continue reading “Yanny or Laurel – the death of the spoken word?”

Double Standards

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Natalie Portman or Sarah Lane?

It’s all about perception, so they say.

We installed French windows in the downstairs lounge below our bedroom.  But each morning, since early April, we have been awoken by loud tapping noises. What was it? The cat demanding that we should feed him now that the sun had risen. Someone throwing stones at our windows? Or was I hearing things? The repeated tapping annoyed and disturbed me and, worse, my wife. I couldn’t ignore it. Reluctantly, for now in retirement I am never one to rise early, I knew I had to find out the reason and that would involve getting up. At first, I was confused and could not understand what was happening. I got up and put on my dressing gown in a semi-comatose state without a clear or definite idea of how to solve the problem. I had a vague idea that somehow I must stop that damn noise. No sooner had I opened the door to the lounge than the explanation was clear. It was a case of double standards. Continue reading “Double Standards”