Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat

Hallowe'en seems to have lasted days. The girls wore spooky outfits to school last Friday, we hollowed out a pumpkin yesterday and made soup out of it, and today the girls trick-or-treated around Golf Apartments with various other children. I don't think Hallowe'en figured at all in my childhood.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How's about that then?

This was the sight that greeting us on opening the curtains this morning. Fog or haze or pollution or whatever you want to call it, so thick you could feel it. So, a day spent largely inside.

Now then, now then, guys & gals, as it happens Jimmy Savile died yesterday, two days short of his 85th birthday.
What a character: teenage coal-miner, wrestler, 'Britain's first DJ', Top of the Pops' first (and last) presenter, Mr Fixit, ghastly tracksuits, gaudy gold jewellery, weird hair, big cigars, clunk click, charity-man, drove a Roller, but lived in a caravan (or am I making that up?). Anyway, TV won't see the likes of him again. But even Jim couldn't have fixed today's weather.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fave films: 1930s

The 30s were the Hollywood 'golden age' of the big studio star system, the all-singing all-dancing musicals, the first great horror movies and, conversely, Disney. These and a still-strong European cinema makes a top 15 a hard choice, but here goes:

- The Blue Angel (von Sternberg, 1930)
- L'Age d'Or (Bunuel, 1930)
- Frankenstein (Whale, 1931)
- City Lights (Chaplin, 1931)
- M (Lang, 1931)
- Freaks (Browning, 1932)
- King Kong (Cooper & Schoedsack, 1933)
- The Goddess (Wu, 1934)
- The 39 Steps (Hitchcock, 1935)
- Things to Come (Cameron Menzies, 1936)
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Disney, 1937)
- La Bete Humaine (Renoir, 1938)
- The Adventures of Robin Hood (Curtiz, 1938)
- Goodbye Mr Chips (Wood, 1939) 
- The Wizard of Oz (Fleming, 1939)

I probably first watched most of these on TV - Wizard of Oz, Goodbye Nr Chips, 39 Steps, Robin Hood etc on Sunday afternoons, The Blue Angel, M, Frankenstein etc late at night... but the arty ones would have been at Brighton's Duke of York or London Scala in fabulous double (or even triple) bills.   

OK, the two weirdest ones first: L'Age d'Or must have been seriously shocking at the time, was certainly strange when I first saw it, but now seems quaintly 'avant garde'. But Freaks is just amazing and still shocks. I remember seeing it for the first time and thinking, is this real?? The rest are all fairly obvious, and don't need elaboration.

Could have gone for some (or all) of the big studio musicals like Busby Berkley's 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933 and Footlight Parade) or Leonard's The Great Ziegfeld ,or any Fred & Ginger title. Never could get into the Marx Brothers. Also just missing out is John Wayne in the first great Western, Stagecoach, Bette Davis in Jezebel and Korda's The Private Life of Henry VIII... as well as Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, Renoir's La Grande Illusion, Jean Vigo's L'Atalante and Cocteau's The Blood of a Poet.

And what, no Gone With the Wind??

Thursday, October 27, 2011

We are the World

Another school show. (Do they do any work?!)  This time it's songs of the world with quite a bit of dancing and occasional playing of instruments. Our two did well with a Brazilian samba concoction and an African megamix. And then all the classes got together to blast out We are the World, sung with a healthy smidgen of irony by A, I was pleased to note.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Went to the opening of the 4th EU Film Festival this evening. (Is it really a year since the last one?)  The usual format: a film from each EU country spread out over a fortnight in Beijing - followed by Chengdu and Shenzhen. In the spirit of Entente Dordiale, we've contributed Ken Loach's Looking for Eric which stars a hapless Mancunian and a suave Frenchman.

The organization of the Fest has been somewhat fraught, alluded to in the introduction by the visiting Ms Androulla Vasiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth: "I am told that Chinese people love European cinema, and yet only a handful of European films are shown in Chinese cinemas each year due to various constraints and restrctions".  Hmmm, say no more.

Anyway, post speeches, relaxed and watched the opening film: a mildly diverting Polish politics & prison caper called Trick

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thai flooding

Poor old Thailand... The worst flooding in decades. I remember our soi being ankle deep on occasion and those off Sukhumvit rising to the knee, but this rainy season is off the scale. Add to that continued political instability (will Yingluck Shinawatra usher in her brother?), the north-south and Bangkok-rural divides, insurrection in the south, disputes with Cambodia... and you have a fairly sad state of affairs. But we miss it!  Our friends, our old home, the general laid-backness, the less-frantic job (to be honest), the holiday breaks, the beaches, even the shops, and of course the weather... when it wasn't raining.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Shadows of Progress

Following the first box set of BFI documentary films from the years 1930-1950 (see June post), I've just finished the sequel, Shadows of Progress: Documentary Film in Post-war Britain 1951-1977 which comprises another 32 films ranging from 5 to 44 mins, sprawled over 4 DVDs and a book.

It's all riveting stuff, capturing the half-hearted boom of economic development in the 50s & first half of the 60s, and then the political & economic stagnation of the 70s. Like the earlier volume, they're all public information films, commissioned by local or national government, charities, the Post Office, a few commercial companies and so on. As far as I can make out, none of them made it onto TV.

There are films about the march of progress: steel industry (actually in the descendancy), the car industry (Ford Anglias rolling off the production lines)... there's even a doc about - yes, really - conveyor belts!  There are propagandist films extolling the wonders of new towns (Faces of Harlow [1964]) and another one on how Shetland bargained with the incoming North Sea oil compannies and won.

On the more earnest side, there are films about epilepsy (People Apart [1957]), polio (Four People: A Ballad Film [1962]), Down's Sydrome - 'though it's not mentioned by name (There was a Door [1957]), terrorism (Time of Terror [1975]) and a terribly sad one about what it is to be old and alone in a 60s tower block (I Think They Call Him John [1964]). Of course, they're insightful in their own right, but what makes them particularly interesting is how people viewed the issues 50 years ago. There are also two commissioned by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children whose briefs required the directors not to show cruelty to children.

Perhaps the most tellingly apposite in terms of mood and message are two films commissioned by oil companies. The brazenly confident Shellarama [1965] features gleaming pipelines snaking into and out of futuristic looking refineries and sports cars driving along the Riviera in a combined Technicolour cry of 'Progress!'. Its 14 minutes took two years to shoot. On the flipside, BP's The Shadow of Progress [1970] is hard-hittingly earnest about pollution and so downbeat that it almost got quashed by the Board. 

Amongst all the men are two women directors: Jill Craigie, who appropriately directed To Be a Woman [1951]; and Sarah Erulkar, who directed Birthright [1958] for the Family Planning Association and the gender-neutral Picture to Post (1969) about the process of designing commemorative stamps - a surprisingly diverting little film. The fact that Erulkar was also Indian makes for a refreshing inclusion.

Add in a few nostalgic and light-hearted films about the last tram journey in London (The Elephant Will Never Forget [1953]), the British love of cold, windswept, beach resorts with songs replacing any narrative (Sundays by the Sea [1953]), and a wonderful snapshot of East End life in Queenie [1964], and you have 27 years of Blighty covered in six hours.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rome trip

Bad news this morning. Liz's mum fell and broke her hip. The added complication is that she's in Rome, on a special 80th birthday visit. Don't know the details, but she's in safe hands with not only Nick & Kate, but also Sister Margaret who's based in the St Cecilia convent there. She'll have to have a hip replacement op, and stay for a while to convalesce. What a shame. Could so easily have happened to mine when she visited Beijing...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

10 Year Old iPod

The iPod is 10 years old today (a month after the guy who brought it to us, died). My first was a third generation 40GB model which I bought in Tokyo in 2004. It seemed very slim & cool at the time, now laughably  chunky & heavy. After a couple of years the battery gave up and I got the 80GB Classic which I still have. I now have around 11,000 songs on it. To be honest, I don't listen to it as much as I used to, except on the rare occasions I go to the gym. But what to listen to when you tread that mill? For me it's steady rhythmic electronica as opposed to earnest Alt Folk or trip-me-up tricky jazz in 5/16.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Jarre in China

It is exactly 30 years ago that Jean-Michel Jarre played his famous concerts in China, the first Western 'pop' musician to do so. I'm not a big fan, though he was 'interesting' in the 70s and Oxygene and Equinoxe were and remain guilty pleasures. He was one of the first users of a Fairlight, clumsily, like most people, and was also using a Laser Harp, though as much for visual effect as anything else (I saw it in inventor Bernard Szajner's studio in Paris at the time). And then, as the 80s progressed, his music took a back seat to overblown spectacle, as we all know.

Nevertheless, the concerts in China were major affairs, if not for the music, then certainly as a cultural event. Two years of preparation, endless red-tape, major technical problems, and all the major cultural differences you'd expect from a country that hadn't even seen a rock band, let alone an electronic one with lasers & all. Apparently it was the British Embassy (eh?) who gave Radio Beijing copies of Oxygene and Equinoxe which set the thing in motion. The concerts took place in Beijing and Shanghai between 21-28 October 1981. They must have made an exotic couple: the suave Jarre and his glam wife Charlotte Rampling.

A rather dull double album of the shows was released a few months later. Far more interesting, though, was a documentary made by British TV (Director Andrew Piddington who went on to make The Killing of John Lennon). It never got a DVD release but you can see it in 5 parts on YouTube here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Man with the Golden Gun

The capture and death of a once feared and all-powerful leader is a strange, almost surreal affair. Saddam Hussein in that hole near Tikrit, Osama Bin Laden in the house in Abbottabad, and now Muammar Gaddafi in a drainage pipe in Sirte. There was something unreal and yet totally understandable about Gadaffi's end - that he was in Sirte in the first place (but then why not?), that he was found where he was (but then what other place of refuge did we expect?) and the parading around of not only his wretched body but also his golden gun (which looked just like Christopher Lee's). Anyway, fingers crossed the new Libyan Government works out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blake & Fripp

Not entirely by coincidence I heard from Karl Blake - multi-instrumentalist, singer, ex-Lemon Kittens, Shock Headed Peters, The Underneath etc - the week I received the Pump LP which he features on. Good to be reconnected. I remember him turning up in the studio on Goldhawk Road in Shepherds Bush. Andrew and I played him a backing track and asked him to add guitar and vocals, which he did to great effect. It became Lung. He wrote the words in five minutes.

I first met Karl in 1980 at a Lemon Kittens / Metabolist / They Must Be Russians gig in London. I must have been 19. Also in the audience was Exposure-era Robert Fripp who had taken an interest in the Kittens' Danielle Dax; she would go on to design the next two Fripp sleeves plus sing on one of them. Anyway, I was a big King Crimson in the 70s, so I plucked up the courage and walked over to him. "Excuse me, are you Robert Fripp...?", I asked nervously. "No", he replied. The two friends he was with sniggered. I didn't know what to do, so simply said "Oh, sorry", and retreated into an embarrased hole. I've never forgiven him. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Decoration of the Duma Reissued

The Pump re-issue campaign continues. Our first preposterously named LP, The Decoration of the Duma Continues, which originally came out in September 1987, gets a re-release on the delightfully named Forced Nostalgia label through Boomkat. It actually came out last month but I finally got my box load of vinyl today. Yes, vinyl. A CD version will follow but for now I'm delighted to be holding a 12" gatefold (thanks Fre!) sleeve with a lovely slab of vinyl tucked in. Pleased with the design and photography; it's come out pretty well.

Listened to it at home this evening. They've done a good job on the re-mastering. As for the music... well, I still really like a good half of it: Dance Without Music, A Veiled Woman, Drop, Brinkmanship, Raft - basically the instrumentals. The vocal tracks are perhaps less succesful (were we trying to be Joy Division?). But overall, it still holds up well. For a well-informed Boomkat review, a sample of tracks and to buy, see here! And more at Forced Nostalgia too.

The re-release has prompted a few interesting posts and reminiscences. There's one about seeing us supporting Danielle Dax. I like this one: 
"I saw her live in London in, ooh, must have been late 1987, and she was really boring. The support band, called Pump, were far better (and I’ve recently digitised their LP The Decoration of the Duma Continues, too).
Pump were AWFUL - didn't they eventually become the junior manson slags..?
I have no idea whether Pump became the Junior Manson Slags. I don’t know anything about the latter, other than the name. Pump was two blokes called Andrew Cox and David Elliott, and that’s all I know, so if anyone can shed any information on them, I’d be interested to hear. As I say, I’m quite partial to Pump, so it’s a matter of taste.

And this, reacting to a metal band, apparently of the same name:
The Pump that I know and love, of 'The Decoration of the Duma Continues' cult legend, are very different to this bunch of poodle-haired guitar-phallicising circle-jerkers that now have their ridiculous photo in my library.

Quite right, sir. Imposters!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Brit Musicians in Residence

Imogen Heap
The first of four British musicians, chosen from around 40 applicants, arrived in China today for the start of a residency programme we're organizing with PRS For Music Foundation. Welsh folk multi-instrumentalist Gareth Bonello arrived in Chengdu today, while Grammy-winning singer Imogen Heap arrives in Hangzhou tomorrow. Jamie Woon (dubstep singer & producer) and Matthew Bourne (experimental composer-pianist) will come to Xi'an and Xiamen at a later date.

Gareth Bonello

Each musician will spend about six weeks meeting and working with local musicians, reacting to their new surroundings and writing new material. We've deliberately chosen Tier 2 cities and four very different musicians. And the plan is that the new music will be performed publicly in China and hopefully the UK in 2012. Fingers crossed they settle in and everything works out as planned. See more here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fave films: 1920s

It's time for some more lists. Films: in chronological order, initially by decade, then when we get into my era, by half-decade. I'm going to skip 1895-1920. Apart from Méliés, it was all pretty unsophisticated stuff until the 1910s when Charlie Chaplin, DW Griffith, Mary Pickford and Abel Gance entered the fray. I have a soft spot for Chaplin having produced a small exhibition on his life 20-odd years ago and still love The Immigrant. 

But let's move on to the 1920s, when things got more interesting. Here are my top 15:

- The Cabinet of Dr Kaligari (Wiene)
- The Kid or The Gold Rush - can't decide (Chaplin)
- Way Down East (Griffith)
- Haxan (Christensen)
- The Thief of Baghdad (Fairbanks)
- Nanook of the North (Flaherty)
- Safety Last (Lloyd)
- Battleship Potemkine (Eisenstein)
The General (Keaton)
- Metropolis (Lang)
- The Unknown (Browning)
- Sunrise (FW Murnau)
- Pandora's Box (Pabst)
- Un Chien Andalou (Bunuel/Dali)
- Blackmail (Hitchcock)

If I'm honest, I've probably only seen around 30 films total from the decade but most of these have been great. Most of the above list is pretty obvious, although I'm surprised by the lack of Hollywood and the heavy (er, pretentious?) lean towards Europe. 

I could have added Cecil B De Mille's The Ten Commandments; Murnau's Nosferatu and Faust; Rene Clair's dadaist Entr'acte or Germaine Dulac's surrealist The Seashell and the Clergyman; Ruttman's  Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (seen just a few weeks ago), Fritz Lang's Dr Mabuse; the first talkie,The Jazz Singer; Lillian Gish in The Wind; Asquith's Underground; Hitchcock's earlier Lodger; Vertov's The Man with a Movie Camera; Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc; or any number of early Garbo films. And if I was a proper film buff, I'd have to add Abel Gance's Napoleon, but actually I've never seen it.

I'd say the majority were seen in either a cinema or on DVD, but also a fair few in concert halls with new scores played live: eg John Cale (The Unknown) on the South Bank in London, Michael Nyman (The Man with a Movie Camera) in Tokyo, FM3 (...Berlin) in Beijing, etc.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wild Wall

A rare thing: Liz and I left the girls at home with Ayi and went off for a hike along the Great Wall. It was an organized trip with a company called Beijing Hikers who were set up 10 years ago by a Brit and a Chinese, and it took us and some others to a fairly wild stretch of the Wall north of Mutianyu. Fine autumnal day with the trees turning to yellow, gold and red. Stiff climb up through woods and then on to the ridge where we followed broken sections from turret to turret. The view was fabulous - a bit like Mordor if it wasn't such a nice day. In parts it was quite dangerous with nasty drops either side so you had to watch your step. Great to get out into some clean air, escape the crowds and get some exercise.

The last hour or two saw us join the renovated Mutianyu section and the tourists. Also, walking down the steps was killing my knees so we took the toboggan down which was fun. Lovely to see the girls when we got back and took them out for dinner as a treat.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Insanely busy: emails - 100+ of them today - landing in my inbox faster than I could reply to them, meetings, three teleconferences with the UK, and fun & games with SAP, our sprawling financial management system... which may be good for companies that make wigits, but for a cultural relations organization it is maddeningly ill-suited. Anyway, everything inching in the right direction, but glad it's the weekend...

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Some birthdays today: Margaret Thatcher is 86,  Nana Mouskouri is 77, Paul Simon is 70 and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan would have been 63. And had Mary Kingsley, the great travel-writer, not succumbed to typoid at 38, today would have been her 149th birthday - a world record.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Another world

Went to a dinner for about 20 business leaders tonight, to drum up more support for the UK Now festival. Sat next to the President of something called Beijing Sparkle Roll Investment Co which turns out to be the distributor in China of Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Lamborghini cars, luxury watches, jewelry and fine wines. Oh, and he's Jackie Chan's agent. We swapped photos of our families and he told me that his children go to a local school. I almost thought he was normal, until I realised the photo showed them on the steps of a fabulous Lear Jet... his own. At the end of the evening as the limos turned up, Joanna and I slipped out to a side street to wait quarter of an hour for a beaten-up taxi.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bye bye Granny Jean

So, took mum to the airport this morning and off she flew, back to Blighty. It seems like only yesterday that she arrived. We'd been anticipating and planning her visit for ages and it just seems to have flashed past. I think she enjoyed herself; we certainly packed a lot in. She's amazing really, so much energy, positive, up for everything. And it's been great for the girls - a good influence. They seemed quite shocked that she's actually gone. As was I when the Beijing Airport member of staff took her through to Immigration, and then swivelled her round in the wheelchair for one last wave. We won't miss the feedback in her hearing aids, though.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another birthday

After the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 2009, and the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party earlier this year, today is the 100th anniversary of the end of the revolution which brought to an end both the Qing empire and the 2000-year imperial dynasty, and began what might be viewed now as an 'interim' Republic between 1911-49, brought about by Sun Yat Sen. As such, the present Government's celebrations are apparent but somewhat muted, the line being that Sun Yat Sen opened the door, but the Communist Party built modern China.

On a lighter note, mum's last day in Beijing was spent shopping, visiting the girls' school and sitting in on their drawing class. As for me - back to work...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Revolutionaries in Oil

Mum and I paid a visit to the National Art Museum of China this afternoon. All three floors are taken up with a sprawling exhibition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of imperial rule and the beginning of the Republic. Needless to say, it was heavy on portraits of revolutionaries and soldiers, with particular emphasis on Sun Yat Sen. But the complete lack of English captions made it difficult to get your head round it all, let alone identify who we were looking at. However, we liked a lot of the work and it was good for mum to see some art.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Hutong life

Afternoon spent wandering the hutongs, just mum and me. Nice to go slowly and just take in the atmosphere - a latte & ginger tea in a lovely cafe on Mao'er Hutong, a peek inside the courtyard home of Mao Dun (revolutionary writer and the Communist regime's first Minister of Culture), and a late lunch in another nice cafe. We're easing up the pace a bit - not sure if it's for mum's benefit or mine!  
The Apple Store in Sanlitun still has flowers and photographs and iPads with flickering candles propped up against its window in memory of Steve Jobs who died three days ago. Interesting to see how he touched a nerve amongst young Chinese.     

Friday, October 7, 2011

Red Detachment of Women

Another action-packed day. Don't know how mum does it. First the Forbidden City, from south to north gates and a lot of gates, halls and vast open spaces in between. It's designed to impress, and it does. But we also like the more intimate courtyards on the west side where the concubines and families lived, and the garden by the north gate.

An early supper at Dadong Peking Roast Duck Restaurant (mum tucked it all away), then off to the National Centre for Performing Arts (aka The Egg) to see the National Ballet of China perform The Red Detachment of Women. It was originally a novel, and then two films, plus an opera. The ballet was one of the 'eight model plays', the only ones permitted during the Cultural Revolution, and was seen by Nixon when he came to China in 1972. 
It's a fairly run-of-the-mill political tale of a peasant girl who joins the all-female Special Company of the Red Army during the 1930s Civil War, but beautifully choreographed, danced and staged. It's based on fact: there were a hundred women in the brigade, and a handful are still alive. I have an original 1970s China Recording Company 10" EP with piano versions of some of the music which I 'inherited' from a decommissioned public library. Incidentally, The Egg lived up to its name tonight, reflected in the mirror-like lake that surrounds it (see left).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Back to Nature

A beautiful autumnal day in the midst of trees and lakes, just to the north-west of the city. First the Summer Palace (too many people in the north part so we jumped on a boat and ended up on the quieter east bank), then lunch near Fragrant Hills Park where Liz did well ordering in Chinese, and the rest of the afternoon in Beijing Botanical Gardens. Nice place, not too crowded, slightly dull conservatory, but with a beautiful temple, Wofo, founded in the 7th Century (although most of the buildngs are inevitably much later) and with an exquisite 14th Century reclining (actually dying) Buddha. One of the nicest temples I've seen in China. Also wandered in and out of the former residence of Cao Xueqin, who wrote Dream of the Red Chamber there, and which would become one of China's four great classic works. Will I ever get around to reading it?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


A sleepless night for mum but she seems no worse for wear. Off to Beijing Planning Museum late morning which, apart from the ubiquitous massive city model, was underwhelming. Lots of empty spaces and hardly any visitors which was odd for a public holiday. Even the '4D' film was disappointing: the seats moved about a bit but it was short and the remaining 3 dimensions weren't. However, fabulous lunch at Capital M, a stroll around Qiamen and then off to see a late matinee performance by the Chaoyang Theatre Acrobats. It's mainly for tourists, a bit cheesey, the costumes & music are naff and the theatre looks a bit worse for wear... but all that aside it's undeniably impressive. Amazing ball-juggling with feet, ballet pointe on a partner's head, jumping through hoops, how many girls can you fit on a bicycle, motorbikes roaring round inside a globe-shaped cage etc. Incredible really.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Stayed local today, exploring Chaoyang Park - once we'd found the way in. Picnic by the lake with the sound (though thankfully not the smell) of a truck emptying a sewer behind us. Wheelchair a godsend. Not sure what we'd have done otherwise. It's a big park.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wall without Wheelchair

A day out at the Great Wall - Mutianyu section - driven by the unflappable Harry, who also helped me push mum-in-wheelchair from car to ticket office but stopped short of taking it all the way up. Gorgeous weather, so half of Beijing came out with us too, but never mind, it was bearable. We took the cable car up and walked a small section. Half wondered whether mum would be interested in tobogganing down but thought better of it. Anyway, I think she was impressed, but a relief to escape the crowds and steps as we adjourned for lunch at the Schoolhouse down in the village. Funny place: all very American with lots of talk about 'sustainability'... including glass-blowing complete with shop full of garish, multi-coloured vases and whatnots. There's no history of glass-blowing in the village so they bring them in from another province. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pottering around with Harry

By a stroke of good fortune, my boss has a wheelchair. She's not disabled, just happens to have one at home. So we're borrowing it for the week. Luckily, mum's not too proud. Her ankle gets swollen and it's going to come in handy. We've also hired a car & driver called Harry. So off we go to Houhai, Gulou and Jingshan Park for the afternoon. It's crowded but bearable - the best bit being the park, watching the oldies sing, play music and dance. We're used to people looking at us, or rather the girls, but my mum - white haired and sitting in a wheelchair with some cool sunglasses borrowed from Liz - puts us centre-stage. At one gathering, a lady came up to mum and pressed a Communist badge into her palm. Perhaps they think she's a one-time Hollywood star?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Granny Jean in Beijing

Met mum at the airport this morning. Mary & Nick had put her on the plane at Heathrow yesterday with BAA special assistance and a 14-point plan of what to do & when, and out she emerged 10 hours later having not slept a wink, but looking fine nonetheless. Got to hand it to her: 84 and continuously up for new experiences. And so begins a 10-day visit. Ed Vaizey's has nothing on this.