Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hill with a Hole

Hired bicycles and pedalled through a mixture of narrow, barely cemented lanes and dirt tracks to Moon Hill, an impressive karst hill with a natural cresent-shaped hole in it. Stiff hike up but rewarded with fabulous views, as well as the sight of climbers making their way up a pretty challenging cliff-face. Amazing to watch them navigate what seemed like impossible overhangs. I did a little bit of rock-climbing in my teens, nothing too strenuous, and quite enjoyed the technical aspect, but not keen on the heights. 


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Grantchester Meadows

This morning we somewhat reluctantly checked out of Yangshuo Village Inn and into its bigger sister hotel, Yangshuo Mountain Retreat. But if the former was great, the latter is perfect, sandwiched between a karst cliff and the Yulong River... which we wasted no time in rafting down. But this was no white-water adventure; instead a sedate punt à la Oxbridge. Liz even had a straw hat. Back at the hotel, the gentle music playing in the lounge even included Roger Waters' ode to lazy summer days by the River Cam, 'Grantchester Meadows' from Ummagumma. Someone knew their stuff.   
It's a small world. Staying in the same hotel are a British family from the Alyssa & Naomi's school, and we met another Brit family from Hong Kong who know our friend KC (they work for the same company). This often happens. I remember queuing up for the loos in a campsite in Brittany in the 70s and my teacher being four in front; or ten years ago when we first visited Beijing, bumping into some friends in Tiananmen Square.
Anyway, in the evening we went - without newly found friends - into Yangshuo town which 20 years ago was visited only by a few adventurous backpackers but is now full of (mainly Chinese) tourists. Its main pedestrianised street, Xilu, is a riot of cafes and tourist shops but it's pleasant enough. At times it was quite otherworldly, as the karst hills which loom over the town take on the appearance of darkened giants.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

No Room at the Inn

Next week China shuts down for National Day holidays but, owing to a flight mix-up, we've jumped the gun and at crack of dawn flew to Guilin in the deep south. It instantly reminds us of Thailand: the heat (30C), the greenness, the landscape (peppered with karst hills, like in Krabi), the fruit, the laidback people... Like coming home.
The flight mix-up also meant that our first night was in the Not-The-Hotel-We-Originally-Wanted, but it turned out fine. Lovely place, the sister hotel to the one we we'll be moving to, with an Italian roof-top restaurant called Luna, from which you can gaze at Moon Hill. 
For some reason - in my case, manic wind-down from work? - we had the hysterics all evening. A real tonic to be en famille and just laugh and laugh about nothing in particular. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wrong Way Round

Weird being in our new home. The tower we live in has two flats per floor. Our old one was on the right, the new one is on the left. So it's the same layout, but in reverse. This subtle change makes a surprising difference. Go into the kitchen and it looks the same but the oven is on the right, fridge on the left; the cupboards are all 'wrong'; and I can't find the light switches.
Aside from that, we're stuck with the landlord's furniture which is Fancy French Classical, too big and too much of it. Same with the lighting fixtures which look like they belong in the Louvre. And speaking of which, we can't hang up all our pictures. 
Still, we'll get used to it and make it ours... starting with the records & CDs.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Things in Public Spaces

Seph, who did all the work
Yesterday was kind of by the way. The real reason I came to Wuhan (with four of my team in tow) was for two big public art projects. 
The first was set in a massive housing development in the north of the city, with Architects of Air's Miracoco luminarium. It’s the ‘thing’ I saw in Edinburgh last summer with Liz and the girls. Fiendishly hard to describe, but let’s go with ‘giant, light-infused, multi-chambered, maze-like adventure-playground tent', beautifully designed & engineered for adults and children. Whatever, it’s dead impressive and has wowed people in 37 cities across the world. Surprisingly this is its China debut.
The opening ceremony, outdoors, was a scream. Big stage, guy-&-girl MCs, speeches, ribbon cutting, fireworks, gold cannons firing confetti and a finale of Abba’s Dancing Queen. And somewhere amongst it all, Robin Robertson read out his short poem, Donegal. I could see him cringing, especially when ‘sad’ music wafted from the PA, but it was saved by an excellent translation which brought a genuinely warm response from the audience. I've got to say it was a real slog pulling this thing off - not that I did much: new boy Seph did all the work. And the two managers from AoA who went through minor hell.  
From there we headed south to a press conference for our Poems in Public Spaces project, which is essentially Poems on the Underground but on the Overground. Great project. Together with the local Writers Association and Propaganda Department, we managed to secure 337 hoardings (many of them huge) on the overground light rail network, on which is a mix of Chinese and British poems. I spoke at a press conference, with one of the poets, Robin Robertson, and the really good Wuhan team who worked so hard to make it happen.  
I'm always proud of my team and the work we've been doing, but today it really hit home. They're fantastic. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Audience Halts

Early morning flight to Wuhan with Yuxi. Yes, it’s huge and sprawling but I rather like it. We visited Hubei Art Museum and Wuhan Art Museum, the latter for the first time. It’s in a grand, classical building, what used to be a bank, renovated four years ago. We were shown around by Mr Liu, Deputy Director, including an interestingly presented exhibition on traditional ink painting. Instead of simply hanging them on walls, limited numbers of visitors sign up for exclusive ‘private viewings’ complete with tea ceremony, the artist explaining the works on a table top, and an opportunity to try painting something yourself if you wanted to. It was a zen-like experience, perhaps a little elitist – but then that kind of art was always by and for the few.
It was hard to imagine the Rankin exhibition here. I couldn’t think of anything more different. Lovely signs in out-of-bounds areas by the way, poetically saying “The audience halts”. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Poem about a Daughter

Continued packing, but eventually curtailed by dinner with the poet Robin Robertson who's just arrived from London. Together we'll go to Wuhan for our Poems in Public Places project. Meanwhile, we got to know each other over Yunnanese food. Like me, he has two children, both girls. Here's a poem called Donegal, about the elder of the two: 

Ardent on the beach at Rossnowlaghon the last day of summer,
you ran through the shallows
throwing off shoes, and shirt and towel
like the seasons, the city's years,
all caught in my arms
as I ploughed on behind you, guardian still
of dry clothes, of this little heart
not quite thirteen,
breasting the waves
and calling back to me
to join you, swimming in the Atlantic
on the last day of summer.
I saw a man in the shallows
with his hands full of clothes, full of
all the years,
and his daughter going
where he knew he could not follow.


Saturday, September 22, 2012


Today we moved home. Or rather, we started moving from the 17th to the 21st floor of the same building. Long, boring story. And long boring process. Even if it's just four floors, it still means we have to move all our stuff  from one place to another, including - sigh - around 4,000 records & CDs, hi-fi and accompanying shelving system, which took me most of the day while Liz and the girls took care of the more important stuff. 
The girls were great. They chucked out so much stuff. Me? I continue to carry around twenty-odd Nurse With Wound LPs and thirty-something Cabaret Voltaire CDs and a massive box of 7"singles I('ll) never play, from country to country, floor to floor. 
And then there's the books. Acres of them. As I was transferring them from shelves to boxes I kept thinking: Crikey, I'd like to read that one now, and that one, and I forgot I had that one, and I can't throw away that one... And then there are the books I've read and won't read again but I simply cannot be parted from them.
My young Chinese colleagues think I'm mad. Get rid of them! Get a Kimble. Just use iTunes. Think of the space you'll save!
But I cannot.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Delights of Perivale and Cockfosters

Many years ago, I undertook a project of photographing every single tube station in London. It took around five years, and started out as simply a way of getting to know the city. I would travel to the end of a tube line – Epping, Upminster, Morden, Cockfosters – wander around a suburban hinterland of housing estates, light industry and sad, red-bricked parades of shops, and then make my way back into town stopping at each station along the way. Photographing each station was more an exercise of ticking them off than a studious interest in architecture, although I liked Charles Holden’s 1920s & 30s buildings, amongst others. Many were unremarkable, at best functional; some didn’t have anything to photograph at all, just a tube sign and some steps disappearing below street level; others were subsumed into railway stations or office blocks. 
I wondered what to do with them. They weren’t technically good enough to make a book, but reproduced as a huge grid of 272 tiny colour Xeroxes, looked quite impressive, so that’s what I did. It’s still hanging in our home.

The reason for the reminiscing is that I received an email today saying that a friend of a friend had heard about it and did I still have all the images?... digitized by chance? No, but there’s a box of negatives in a warehouse in Neasden which he's welcome to go through.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Architects in Technicolour

Quick flight back to Beijing, into the office for a couple of hours, then off to the opening of the Richard Rogers From the House to the City exhibition at the Capital Museum. We've played a piggy-in-the-middle mediating role between his practice, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, and the museum, which has been a bit of a slog to be honest. Still, the exhibition looks fabulous, taking up the entire length of the museum: full of models, screens, photos, even some bespoke furniture, all colour-coordinated in bright oranges, blues, pinks and greens. Not to be outdone, Lord Rogers turned up in green & blue, and his son, Ab (also a designer), wore the most extraordinary green flowery trousers.
It was also good to meet up with Ben Warner, who was Rogers' rep in Tokyo while we were there, and now heads up RSH+P's Shanghai office. His clothing was rather more muted. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ageing Rock Star

All the weather forecasts said "sunny 24 degrees", yet we awoke to a chilly thunderstorm. Which must have given the photography festival organizers the heebie-jeebies as the opening ceremony was outside.Thankfully the rain went away as quickly as it had appeared and we were treated to dancers, drummers, fireworks and speeches outside the south gate of the city.

Pingyao International Photography Festival is in its 12th year and is presented in a bunch of disused factories and warehouses in the north-west of town - a sort of less developed version of Beijing's 798. Much of the industrial paraphenalia is left as it was, which is great in some ways, but distracting in others. I found myself gawping at the rusting hulks of incomprehensible, yesteryear machinery rather than the photographs. It was n interesting mix of big worthy shows and smaller amateur efforts. There was a good one about migrant workers by Ouyang Xingkai, and I was amazed to see a big exhibition of photographs by Joseph Koudelka documenting the Soviet invasion of Prague in 1968. 

Our Rockarchive exhibition looked good, thanks to Liu Lu's sterling efforts. They gave us a building to ourselves which had a big diesel engine at the back but we chose to screen it off. Our trump card was to hire a local band to play a few numbers outside which blocked the road in and brought the place to a standstill. This meant they also had to listen to my speech before being ushered in, after which I gave a talk across the road in a big building with an even bigger chimney. It was funny: for a couple of hours I was treated like a rock star. Being western, dressed in black, clutching a microphone and wearing shades probably helped. Anyway, I quite enjoyed the endless interviews: "Why are you touring this exhibition? Which is your favourite group? What do you think of Pingyao International Photography Festival?". I like it very much thank you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

To Pingyao

From one courtyard hotel to another. This morning, I was in the quiet Bamboo Garden Hotel down a narrow Beijing hutong for yet another planning meeting. And this evening, I checked into the Yunjincheng hotel in Pingyao (see left), which is straight out of Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern. Inbetween which, one hour in a plane, two hours in a car, and half an hour in a little electric buggy - all that's supposedly allowed within Pingyao's ancient walls. I'm here for Pingyao International Photography Festival, and have brought Dominic along for the ride. Liz, the girls and I were here for a weekend last November. Nice to be back. It really is a lovely town. Touristy yes, but not enough to spoil it. And if you deviate from the four main axis, down a labyrinth of hutongs and alleyways, then it's like going back a hundred years.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hole 'n Oats

This morning, in the continued search for new and interesting cereals, we tried Hole 'n Oats. We're not sure whether it was the intention to ape the rock & soul duo from yesteryear, but there are indeed similarities: outwardly wholesome and ultimately bland. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Forced Nostalgia

Another gorgeous day. Did the Houhai thing: boating on the Lake (girls steering, me & Dominic pedaling); lunch at Hutong Pizza; Bell Tower; tea ceremony... Touristy, but such a nice day that I didn't begrudge it at all.  
Email from Frank Maier who runs Vinyl On Demand, frothing at the bit re the forthcoming MFH compilation and waxing lyrical & nostalgically about YHR's contribution to cassette culture. And following on from that, an email from Maurizio Bianchi, 'noise musician' from Milan, whose very early tapes were released on YHR in 1980. It's the first time we've been in touch for over 30 years. Interesting times...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mutianyu (again)

Off to The Wall with Dominic. For us the usual stuff: Mutianyu section, chairlift up, stagger between turrets, toboggan down. But all new for Dominic.Gorgeous day and not too many people. Mutianyu is fairly close (2 hours), not as touristy as Badaling and well preserved. Dates from the 6th Century but was rebuilt in the 16th. Nice day out.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fish 'n' Chips

It's Friday, it's five to five (the earliest I've left the office in weeks) and it's... not Crackerjack... but it is fish 'n' chips night at the girls' school. Bite size fish in not-bad batter and chunky chips in a cone plus bottle of ale. 
Is the fish 'n' chips meal still popular these days or has it been usurped by Mcdonalds and chicken tikka masala? It was certainly a pretty regular fixture when I was a boy. There were around a dozen fish 'n' chip shops in Chichester in those days. Now?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Flatwood Alien

Sixty years ago today, a UFO landed in Flatwoods, West Virginia, skidded to a halt and out popped an alien. Take it away, Wikipedia: “Most agree that it was at least 10 feet tall and that it had a red face which appeared to glow from within, and a green body. Witnesses described the creature's head as having bulging, non-human eyes and as either being shaped like a heart, or as having a large heart shaped cowling behind it. The creature's body was described as being man-shaped and clad in a dark pleated skirt; later described as being green. Some accounts record that the creature had no visible arms, while others describe it as having short, stubby arms; ending in long, claw-like fingers, which protruded from the front of its body”. 
Turned out that the UFO was a meteor, the tracks belonged to a 1942 Chevrolet pickup truck and the alien was probably an owl (presumably a very big one). Flatlands now has a Green Monster Museum and 3-day music festival. Way to go, Flatwood!
95% of the world's UFO sightings are in USA, which either means that aliens rate it as a top destination or that a good proportion of the population is wacko. There haven't been many reported sighting in China. The most recent was above Hangzhou Airport, but it was probably a plane. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Met up with old friend Jeff and his girlfriend Katya this evening. They're on holiday visiting Shanghai, Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin and Hong Kong. Jeff and I go back to 1985 when we were spring chickens at the British Council. Our friendship was based around music, football and mountain-biking. He was good at footie - top scorer for BCFC. How could he not be with a name like Jeff Hurst, which we shortened to Thirsty on the pitch. 
Anyway, Thirsty moved to the BC's Manchester office in the early 90s so we drifted apart. He took voluntary redundancy a couple of years ago and is now happily dabbling in photography. Interestingly, he said it was my brother who got him going on this; Patrick had lent him his Nikon F2 when we stayed with him in Paris. We had slept on his garrett floor on the Rue St Jacques, me under a table, Jeff to the side of P's bed. It was a bitter-sweet visit as I had to tell Patrick our cat had died. We'd brought him a bottle of vodka which he drained that first evening. In the middle of the night he was sick on Jeff. 
Nice to catch up, though I could have done without the cycle home in the pouring rain.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Shinkhansen China Style

This morning P & I parted company: he took the Maglev to the airport (450kph / 8 mins) and I took the regular high speed train to Beijing (300kph / 5hrs 20mins). Not done this before and wanted time to think instead of all this haring around. Was hoping also to see some nice countryside en route, but it was fairly unremarkable: flat terrain punctuated by concrete and in parallel with expressways. 
Nephew Dominic is here. Liz took him to the Forbidden City this morning and we all met up for dinner after the girls' art class. Nice to see him.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


A day out in Shanghai, ferried around in the Range Rover by our trusty driver, Charles. In the end we spent most of the time in the Shanghai Museum, taking in 4,000 years of Chinese sculpture, painting, jade and – best of all – its exquisite collection of bronze-ware.
Then, on to the old quarter of Yu Yuan, heavily touristified but still a pleasant hour or so’s stroll. We ate dumplings and bought signature seals (or ‘chops’) for Catherine, Alyssa and Naomi. The first attempt at Catherine’s name resulted in characters which somehow transcribed as ‘Moist Sven’. Tempting, but we got them to come up with something a bit more feminine & poetic.
Last night in Shanghai – very enjoyably spent at Rambert Dance Company’s quadrouple bill at the impressive Oriental Arts Centre. We’d been worried about ticket sales but actually it was very well attended, maybe 1,000 people, which is pretty damned good for contemporary dance. Unusually there were two intervals, to cope with the set changes. In the first one Artistic Director Mark Baldwin stood in front of the curtain and gave a witty introduction to Rambert, as well as bringing on a couple of dancers to show some moves. I’m not sure I’ve seen this done before, but it was an inspired move – establishing a warm rapport with the audience. And it was nice to see our very own Ophelia in the spotlight too, interpreting proceedings. The giant wasps which hung from the flys in the last piece were cool too.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Brother, Bund

Goodbyes to various people over breakfast. Rest of the day catching up on emails but thankfully broken midway by Patrick’s public talk about Tony’s work and a guided tour of the exhibition. He’s a very engaging, witty speaker. Brotherly bias?!
Enjoyable evening beginning with a couple of exhibition openings: one terrible, the other an excellent 4-floor installation by Italian-born, Alaskan-based artist Paola Pivi at the Rockbund Art Museum. One of the floors contained giant taps with multi-coloured water streaming out of them – so visitors were issued with raincoats. It was raining outside so we kept them on.
Walked down the Bund for dinner at M and drinks in the old Waldorf Astoria Long Bar. Nice, finally, to have some leisurely chat-time with Patrick, set in an intriguing contrast of early 20th century, languorous colonial club-like ambience and early 21st century new China skyline, alive with thrusting skyscrapers and lightning.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cragg Opening

Opening of Tony Cragg exhibition, but plenty else besides. To begin with, a talk about art education at Pudong Library. Afterwards, we felt the full benefit of Jaguar Land Rover’s sponsorship. In addition to the cash, they’ve kindly given us on-tap use of a Jag and a Range Rover – the latter coming into its own when were faced with an absolute downpour. It was only 50 metres from the library’s front door to the street but we would have been drenched. So the Range Rover mounted the kerb, drove up a pedestrian ramp and all but parked itself in the lobby. Would have made a great ad, or perhaps a light-hearted scene from a James Bond film.
Not so impressive was the pre-opening talk which was supposed to be a dialogue between Tony and Patrick, but at the last minute three Chinese speakers were added to the bill – which would have been OK had it still been a dialogue, but unfortunately they were badly briefed (by the Museum) and simply gave powerpoint lectures, and we just couldn’t stop them.
The gremlins continued with the opening ceremony in which a waitress dropped a tray of champagne glasses, a bird somehow flew in and then a combination of bad acoustics and the constant babble of a (gratifyingly) large crowd meant that no-one could hear the speeches… which may have been a good thing. But no matter, it was a good turnout, nice atmosphere and everyone seemed happy… which carried on to the Museum-hosted dinner afterwards with speeches by Tony (discernible this time) and an important Chinese art collector who looked the spitting image of 90s superstar footballer, Ronaldo.
Back to the hotel for drinks with Lorand Hegyi, Director of the St Etienne Museum of Modern Art, and his lovely Korean wife Eunmie Lee. What a nice crowd Tony’s attracted to Shanghai.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Under Construction

Quick check on the installation which seems to be basically on track now, then – with Patrick in tow – we head off to see the Shanghai Art Museum's new home in what was the China Pavilion in Expo Park and is now renamed China Art Museum, Shanghai. It is of course massive, with a hell of a lot of gallery space to fill. They will open on 1 October with a suitably grandiose exhibition: a cultural perspective on the history of civilization with iconic works from a number of world-class museums, including the British Museum.
And from there, a quick drive to the Power Station of Art, which is not dissimilar to Tate Modern, big chimney and all. This is the new venue for the Shanghai Biennale which is also supposed to open on 1 October – three weeks from now. Three months would in my view be optimistic, as we are taken around the scarily unready construction site. However, this is China, so I wouldn’t bet against it. We met Deputy Director Li Xu and the Biennale’s Chief Curator Qiu Zhijie. How they had time to see us I have simply no idea.
Back to Himalayas Art Museum for the press conference which went OK, then to Shanghai Grand Theatre for a very different type of press conference – high tea with actress Tang Wei (star of Ang Lee’s great film Lust/Caution) – to announce the Edinburgh Fringe shows we’re doing next month. She’s a big fan of British theatre (here she is at the BAFTA Awards in 2008). Really nice of her to help us with the promotion.
Then to the newly renovated former British Consulate building, now owned by the Peninsula Hotel and beautifully restored to its former ‘glory’. The toilets, particularly, are amazing. We’d arranged dinner and a talk between AS Byatt and Chinese writer Wang Anyi (The Song of Everlasting Sorrow etc). Nice to see Antonia again, still clutching her big roll of sellotape. It was great – absolutely packed with people standing in the aisles and wedged into every nook & cranny. The Q&A at the end was feverish, with people clamoring to ask their questions. Could have gone on for hours.
Finally to SH Contemporary, Shanghai’s version of Frieze. Bumped into various people, including an artist called Gregory Burns who also turns out to be a swimming multi-medal winner in both the Barcelona and Atlanta Paralympics.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Himalayas: a Mountain to Climb

Early flight to Shanghai. Funny thing: I was reading about Baffin Island and the Canadian Arctic in Sarah Wheeler’s Magnetic North. Started chatting with the chap sitting next to me, who turned out to be a Brit whose business is transforming shipping containers into accommodation units for remote mines. “Just had a big order for a really remote iron ore mine. It’s on Baffin Island”.
Rest of the day at Himalayas Art Museum mediating in the installation of the Cragg exhibition. The space is wonderful, huge (including a 16m high main gallery), semi-industrial and very new. In fact so new, it’s not really finished yet, which has presented a few problems, but a combination of diplomacy and doggedness seems to be having the desired effect. It will look amazing godwilling.   
Patrick meanwhile has been giving a lecture in Hangzhou today and got back very late. Great to see him. How funny it is that all this has come off.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Vanishing Horizons

Tony Cragg phones me from the installation in Shanghai. Problem: the galleries still look like a building site. “We can’t do anything. Have them call us when the museum’s ready and we’ll come back”. Cue: a day of fire-fighting which gets progressively more positive, and I feel I can go to see the first night of small theatre company Idle Motion’s 3-week China tour which kicks off this evening. It’s a play called Vanishing Horizons which I saw in Edinburgh last summer. Nice, inventive production interleaving a daughter-mother-grandmother relationship with the history of female aviation.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Osashiburi desu

Yokatta! The little, tucked-away Japanese restaurant in the building opposite my office is open again after a summer renovation. Which means that we can continue our Monday 6pm dinner rendezvous after the girls' art class next door. It doesn't look wildly different, but that's fine, we like it as it is. Then back to work...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Classics

Mr Byatt, Zhi, AS, Lu,  me
9:30am Sunday - the perfect time for a press conference? As our American friends would say: go figure!  It was for the Beijing Music Festival, China's most respected classical music jamboree which kicks off in October, and in which we have four major events this year: Halle Orchestra, London Sinfonietta with George Benjamin, James Galway, and Northern Ireland Opera's Noyes Fludd. Didn't have to do anything other than sit and smile and try to look like a VIP which is hard anytime, but particularly on a Sunday morning.
From there to lunch with the Byatts and Lu Jiande, an English Lit scholar with crisp Oxford accent, and the writer Zhi An. We chose the ornate Fangshan restaurant overlooking Beihai Lake, famous for its imperial court food, although our meal looked just like any other (very nice) Chinese spread. 
Stuffed, we made our way across to the other side of the lake to the old National Library of China building where Byatt, Lu and Zhi did an 'in conversation' event. Huge, slightly musty hall, packed with students majoring in English plus the odd - because it's a publicly accessible library - retiree who'd wandered in by accident. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Penguins, Pelicans & Puffins

This afternoon I dragged the Liz and the girls to the opening of an exhibition of Penguin book cover designs in a gallery in what was once a temple. Beautifully installed with hundreds of first edition books under glass, more on the walls, activity packs for children (yes!) and Penguin branded cupcakes (double yes!). It was partly my fault. The exhibition had been at the V&A several years ago, as part of the Penguin 70th anniversary celebrations, and over a beer I'd innocently asked Penguin China's Jo Lusby what had happened to it. "It's in storage in Bristol University". Could it come to China? Yes it could. 
The girls were intrigued by the presence of Pelicans and Puffins. Any other birds beginning with P? "Peacock !" Yes, that would make a good coffee table imprint. "Pigeon!" Yup, cheapo editions. "Is partridge a bird?" Yes, maybe for Christmas specials. I suggested Ptarmigan. "That doesn't begin with P!", said Naomi.
Continuing the literary theme, the novelist AS Byatt arrived in Beijing today. It was touch & go whether she'd make it as she had a fall a week ago, but nothing would deter her and here she is, with affable husband Peter in tow. I took them out for dinner. A colleague had booked a Japanese restaurant for some reason but it turned out to be an inspired choice. They loved it. Her only other visit to China was in 1988. It's changed a lot since then.