Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Day 14 Monday 16th Nov

Today was stricken down by the aftermath of a stomach upset. The cold weather didn’t help either. I’d felt ominous pains throughout Saturday and spent a large part of Sunday evening squatting over my toilet, erupting the weekend meals in stylish fashion, between watching Gone With The Wind with Chinese subtitles.

Monday morning is grotty, grumbling stomached. I surface half way thru the day, feeling sick and with cramping guts. It is part of living somewhere new that you develop new flora and fauna and occasional wildlife in your digestion. It’s never a comfortable experience and it often seems to involve getting rid of all previous foodstuffs.

I post some things to Julia (upcoming birthday) at the local post office and for the first time am staggered by the expense of something in China. You might be able to shop here at cutthroat rates, but once you’ve got it, you can’t get it out of the country. I gape at the postmistress and she smiles sweetly at me, while counting out a lot of my Yuan. A friend of hers peeps over her shoulder at the pile of money and murmurs “Beautiful.”

I walk up the hill to the studio. On the way I haggle for a small electric heater and when the price doesn’t go my way, stomp off in a sulk, leaving the shopkeeper yelling after me. Yan Yan is in my noodle shop, cheerily slurping a bowl of miantiao. I sniff them enviously but my stomarch lurches and I give up on food for the moment. The manager looks worried as I leave unfed. The studio is bitter too. Deng Chuan is wrapped in a coat and bids me goodbye as I arrive – “Too cold. Need soup,” she mutters.

I send some emails and bail out for a walk with Koko, who approves of the cold and is looking sprightly. Most of his walk companions from the studio let him cross the road and wander the park off the lead happy and freeroaming. But he also runs rings around them, so I keep him on the lead the whole way. Anyway, I am bad-tempered and determined that others will suffer too. Koko doesn’t care. He actually is quite biddable 20 minutes into a walk, once he’s got used to the lead and trots along happily beside me, making the occasional random lunge to keep me off-balanced. At intervals I get him to sit and wait until I give the order to start again: ‘Qu!’

This time he seems to be charming the student populace. He gets his photo taken, small children come and pat him, old ladies come and pet him and by the end of it all, he’s preening. Just as we are exiting, he half climbs a small tree and performs an enormous, leg-shaking defacation in view of a crowd of his admirers and of course the guardhouse at the campus gate. The guards look at me icily as I leave.

I spend a couple of hours working on the Speech is Code tracing paper poems – I think I’ve botched one, but the other feels alright. The pressure of these is that you only get one attempt and only about 20% actually work, because either I or the other writer (or both) make a poor version. Even if the other side is great, the whole thing has to be scrapped. One of the most striking was written by Xu Guang Fu and I screwed up the reverse side of it. But as I observed to Dan Dan, it was too lovely for this world anyway.

I bring the electric heater that Yan Yan has loaned me back to the flat and toast gloriously, while watching a DVD of Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood. Over my head, rats skitter around the ceiling cavities, enjoying the warmth too.

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