7 Days Before Christmas 2009



After our busy Christmas 2008, I expected 2009 to be a far quieter affair, and for several days preceding this was so. I was busy working on several diverse projects, whilst Siu Ying carried on as usual – visiting friends, going shopping, going to the early morning wet market, cooking and cleaning house etc.


During the days before Christmas we were quite busy both for work and socially. The Thursday preceding, Siu Ying had planned to go to Foshan hospital, but I asked her to stay at home for a day because my good friend Jim was due to stay overnight. That was actually a blast and we shared a very chilled time talking about anything and everything, whilst watching the sun set from the deck of the floating restaurant. On Friday we had an engagement of a wedding reception, something Jim had tried to avoid before, but there was no way out of this one! We were actually given one whole table for ourselves, and invited friends such as Uncle Sam, Paul Yuan, Norbert and Nancy, Wong, and Anne. With the addition of ourselves and Jim, this made for a very relaxed and entertaining mix of people. Jim has lived in China for a couple of years and speaks reasonable Mandarin. However, the languages spoken at table were either English or Cantonese, and I think he found this a tad bizarre.


I have previously described a full Chinese Wedding, but allow me to spend a few moments recounting this reception as an aside for anyone who is interested:


The venue was one of the top restaurants in Guangdong Province, and we had a room for 300 people with roughly ten persons to a round table with large ‘Lazy Susan’ (The glass platter that rotates). Approaching the entrance we find the Bride and Groom waiting with their entourage to form a human welcome channel. I greet my good friend King Leung, who is Brother to the Groom’s Father. Our party is introduced, and we congratulate the couple + say how beautiful the Bride looks – and she did look quite stunning. None of us had actually met these people before, although I later did recognise King Leung’s Father, who was seated at a different table across the room. We tried to give them ‘Lai Se’ or red envelopes containing ‘Lucky Money’. It is traditional to put around Y100 for each attending person inside (A gesture of goodwill and a help towards the costs), but on this occasion they were emphatically refused – which is the first time I have known this happen! We pose for pictures with the happy couple, whilst another guy records the events on his movie camera for posterity.


One of the Wedding Party then shows us to our seats quite near the front, and next to the table where my good friend Zhao San is sitting with his Shipyard cohorts, and a foreigner who I later learn is from Sweden and looking to buy a boat from them. Zhao is a Mandarin speaker only, so his name should really be Zhou San. For some strange reason we simply get on very well together, and later end up toasting each other and associated companions, several times!


There is a long wait as people arrive, and then arrive late. The welcome party remains outside to greet people, and they are probably there for several hours in total. Inside a large screen shows the official wedding pictures album, accompanied by tasteful music. This is situated next to the stage, where there are two large round tables reserved, one for each of the Bride and Groom’s immediate family and close friends.


Meanwhile back at our table we are well into the beers, with glasses of rice wine and red wine reserved for later toasts. There are nibbles on the Lazy Susan, which are replaced as required. We have now got the staff trained re bringing the beers, and one keeps an eye on our progress, bringing a new and cold bottle just before the last one is finished. Excellent service and she even pours the beers for all the drinkers at the table. The others are drinking Chinese Tea, or soft drinks like coke, orange, or hot water.


At 7 pm the main doors are closed, and a hush descends upon proceedings. Lights are dimmed and the music changes to The Wedding March. Lights, Camera, Action! The doors are flung open and in walk the happy couple to an extremely warm welcome. Upon reaching the stage they then have several things to do. First they offer a toast to the, and then fill a tiered deck of wine glasses in the manner made famous by George Best in the 60’s. Then they drink a glass of Champagne with crossed, interlinked arms, as meanwhile the female MC conducts proceedings with great gusto and competence. There are some short speeches by Groom and Father, and then they then turn their attention to the three tier wedding cake, and ceremoniously cut it in true western style.


Siu Ying points out the amount of gold the Bride is wearing – half a dozen bangles and rings, necklaces, etc. Chinese gold is like Indian gold in colour = very light and sparkling, presumably from the inset diamonds. This is also a part of her Dowry, and an integral part of Chinese marriage customs. It is then I realise she has changed out of the white western style wedding gown she greeted us in, into the traditional slim fitting red silk dress with gold thread embroidery. She has also added a tiara and changed earrings. Finally all the traditional functions are completed, and they can sit down to share their wedding supper with us guests.


Food is served immediately by a very well organised troop of waiters and waitresses. I would estimate that each table has three dedicated staff + Supervisors and specialists such as drinks servers – hello England! First we are offered sliced suckling pig, which is one of my favourites. This is followed by Tiger Prawns, large chunks of beef in blackbean sauce, chicken, goose with crispy skin, abalone, alligator in a sort of soup presentation, some sort of turtle served in it’s shell, and various other dishes too numerous to mention, except for an excellent fish – probably of the Bream family = no bones. This is served sculptured and arranged for effect into mouth sized bites, so difficult to determine its exact species.


We have reached the point where dishes are being piled high on the large Lazy Susan, when the Groom and his party visit our table for toasts. Down with one rice wine, and then certain members of the group offer individual toasts to likely suspects. We set about the food again; whilst the Groom visits every table in the room, taking at least one glass of rice wine each time – and I seem to remember counting 32 tables! Ten minutes later the Bride visits with her entourage. She is offering toasts also, but this time of exclusive and beneficial herbal tea/medicine. There are rosehips and other good things in it, and it is a very pleasant and welcome contrast. She is radiant!


Things then quieten down a little, and I am sure the Bride and Groom had very little time for eating themselves. They will soon leave for a private gathering, whilst leaving the food and bar open for any stragglers who feel in the mood for further indulgence. With their departure we also begin to wrap things up, as do most other tables. On the way out we see a couple of groups assembling for further ‘Toasting’, and they entreat us to participate. I have done so on previous occasions, but this time I am mellow with great friends, and a most enjoyable evening. We decline their invitations, and head out for the next phase of our lives. We go our separate ways in the car park, with Nancy and Norbert heading back to Guangzhou, Uncle, Anne and Wong heading in the other direction and Paul Yuan insists on delivering us to the main coach stop on the main road to Foshan, some 6 miles away.


Up until this point we had not really decided where we would be spending the night. However, with my other very good friend Dave just arrived in Foshan from UK, we decide this is a good idea and places us well for tomorrow. I guess the time is now about 9.30, and arriving at the bus stop we wait for several minutes for an intercity coach. This will probably cost us Y7 each to Foshan + a taxi at around Y11 at the other end. 3 x people (Jim, Siu Ying and myself), so I check out one of the nearby Foshan taxi’s for a price (These are red in colour, as opposed to the local green ones). Quite often these are a good bet, as they are simply looking for a return fare = cheap price. I ask in good Cantonese and am quoted Y40 = excellent! Siu Ying reckons it’s too expensive, but I will leave you to do the maths and reach the same conclusion I did. Doing it her way we save a mammoth Y8, but land somewhere where we will have to walk in the hope of finding a taxi = ‘very not good’. We pile into the taxi and shortly arrive outside our chosen hotel, which is Y100 per night, and just 100 yards from where Dave is staying. This is not pre-booked, but we soon have rooms and fancy a nightcap on the local streets I know so very well.


I call Dave to let him know we have arrived, and he is up for a pint, so we meet 10 minutes later and pop round the corner to one of our favourite street bars. Siu Ying does not join us on this occasion, as I am sure that both she and we know boys’ drinking is not really her cup of tea! Despite being jetlagged, Dave is on form and we pass a very pleasant couple of hours. However he leaves around midnight as he has a very important meeting in the morning, and his main reason for flying over. We wish him well and vaguely arrange to meet sometime tomorrow evening. Jim and I chill a little longer and have given up trying to order spare ribs: as first they brought cold cucumber in chillie sauce, and the second time bread crumbed ducks bills. The staff don’t actually speak any Cantonese, even though they have lived and worked in Foshan for many years. Neither do they speak main-stream Mandarin, as they have a very heavy accent and decide to retain their native language, rather than speak a language their customers can comprehend! We chill and chew the cud until around 4am, when it is time to find some boy food. The Uighur chuck-out is open of course, and as we pass I ask Jim if he fancies a ‘Chinese Kebab Burger thingymagig?’ He is game, and we order two. These are basically part leavened (Day version) or unleavened (night version) five inch circles of bread, which are sliced to accommodate some minced meat that tastes remarkably like minced lamb with chillie sauce. Bull’s eye! We order two more and head back to the hotel, which is 1-minute away. Damn me, but at 4AM, and at Y5 per go, these things are totally excellent! Reaching the hotel, a dogsbody takes us to our rooms and opens the doors for us – which means that Siu Ying is not woken and will be very pleased with me I think : -)


Uh-Oh! Apparently I have woken her somehow and she is not pleased to see me. She goes to the toilet, something she has unnaturally been doing a lot recently? Returning to bed she embraces me and we fall asleep in each others arms. Not sure what that was all about then?


On Saturday we surface around 10 AM and vaguely wonder what today has to offer. Paul Yuan is calling my mobile phone to say he is waiting for us at KFC = 50 yards away.  Gathering our shit and hangovers together we meet Paul, with me picking up a KFC on the way. I also hit the Bank of China, which tells me to refer to my branch. I try a second time and it gives me some money. You have no idea how stupid withdrawing funds using an international Visa card in China has become. Hello Visa Inc! Instead of sending me stupid replies to earnest emails (Like make sure you enter the correct PIN number, etc. Or ring our helpline ‘Toll free’ [USA only], or UK helpdesk - which is a premium rate number! Totally stupid), why don’t you physically try it yourselves sometime??? You know, come out to China or Hong Kong, and see what happens when you try to use one of your own company issued cards. Nothing! I get really annoyed by this, compounded by my UK Bank and Visa Inc’s pious responses to an obvious and immediate problem in China - but let’s move on…


Paul is a stalwart, and takes us ad-hoc to Foshan University campus. Here Jim is hoping to meet somebody reference a Teaching job, but so far his emails to the University have not received a reply. We find the main building for International Affairs, and the only person there is a security guard who was probably expecting an easy day. Instead of which we turn up, and after due discourse, we agree that Saturday is a staff day off. I urge Jim to leave his cv, which he reluctantly agrees to – personal stuff you know. We collect a pamphlet with contact details, and know that somebody will register our coming on Monday morning.


We depart as I have a friends and business lunch planned with Eason, primarily to look at developing the two islands plus mainland bund of 20, 00 Mu (3, 295 acres). We head for Ling Dong International English School, and Paul ends up having an impromptu interview for a teaching post, and then a second interview. The overall package is about right given they will actually supply him with a Z visa (Work Permit), and decent rate of payment, but the hours are nearly double those of the University, which also offers an apartment to western specifications and an better overall package. I go outside to indulge my addiction to nicotine, and liaise with Eason regards lunch. He is nearby so we meet outside and remember why we are ‘Brothers’. We head for the inside, only to be greeted by Jim, Paul, and Siu Ying coming out. Ok, let’s lunch then, and I suggest the nearby and almost western restaurant called Golden Sun. Agreed; we hop across the road and are soon seated at a fine table on their third floor – this place is extremely busy!


This is not really Siu Ying’s thing, but there is stuff here she likes to eat. Paul and Eason have no problems, whilst Jim ponders the multitude of Steaks on offer. Without looking at the menu I already know to order the Pork steak with black pepper sauce, chips and possibly a side plate of broccoli in garlic. Beef steaks in this type of restaurant in China tend to be made from stewing steak at best, so I chat to Jim about options, and three of us (Eason as well) end up ordering the same dish. Very wise! Jim is up for beers already, but I linger over mine a tad, and am just starting to get the taste again when it is time to depart.


Eason will join us for dinner this evening + club after, as meanwhile Paul takes us to investigate the ‘Artistes Street’ in Shiwan, Foshan; somewhere I have never actually been before, almost. Paul drops us off in his car, and will meet us again in a few days time. This street turns out to be a hubbub of traders, most of whom are neither locals nor artisans. Jim is looking for something similar, but where artistes have studios and make things from porcelain or glass. The goods on display are ‘Mud-Work’ apparently = neither China nor Porcelain. I am getting a little foggy as Jim extols the various properties of each. But I do begin to understand at elementary level. Then he shows me a tall Chinese vase coming to about shoulder height. I thought it was just a mottledy brown thing, but he then explains this is a specific technique which uses Platinum Crystals, which when fired grow and create droplets a little similar to crystals of snow. The he explains in some detail about various forms of glazes and firing techniques … and I am left perplexed as to why this good friend wants to teach English, as he has too much experience and expertise to offer the world of ceramics. I know you will read this, so ponder about it Jim.


Anyways; this is basically a trader’s street, and not what Jim was looking for. He wanted to see artistes turning wheels with clay aboard, and discuss the finer points of Porcelain and glazes. I am pretty sure this does exist hereabouts, but without local knowledge we could wander the nearby alleyways for years and not find our goal.


Artistes Street finishes and we walk out onto a broad promenade that features a mystical lake with Traditional Chinese treasures of design at every turn. One feature is quite incongruous, and features a 100 yards long wall composed of toilets, complete with waterfall overflowing every one. This feature is about 30 feet high and totally burlesque, augmented by a ceramic structure 15 feet high by 30’ wide, which resembles a pair of shocking pink breasts. Whoaaa! Jim and I pass some ‘Boys’ topical comments, whilst Siu Ying looks skywards for divinitive assistance. She is also embarrassed by this work, which is very unusual for conservative China. Meanwhile, Jim and I remain a little transfixed. We decide to move on before Siu Ying gets really pissed-off with us = a fine pair hehe!


We then take up loitering for a while, and Jim notices some fish in the lake. I notice why I know this place, as my friend Z-Ray’s old office is nearby. We meander back to the main thoroughfare and catch a taxi back to the hotel. We have now moved to the hotel Dave is using, which is of a far higher standard. Booking in we soon find our rooms and then head out to visit a nearby glass showroom I know well. I hope this will intrigue Jim, which it does. We also view the upstairs showroom, which the new girl wonders I know about. Jim is interested in seeing some manufacturing or even glass blowing, but it appears these pieces are all made elsewhere and only showcased here. Disappointing, but very interesting all the same; so we adjourn to our hotel. We meet Dave and Candy, and they are just headed for the glass place we just left. Durrrh! We consider joining them or having a quick nap … but basically we are under orders to secure a good table at’ The Goose Restaurant’ within 30 minutes, and drink some beers. Yessir!


We get to the Goose Restaurant just after 5PM, and are informed that all the large tables are already booked in advance. Ok. So we get an ordinary table for eight people, with a possible eleven coming tonight. We order ice-cold beers and wait. And wait, drinking even more beers in the process. I do not expect Dave and Candy for a while, as they have technical business things to discuss in detail. Time passes, and then we are joined by Eason (Who has a pass for this evening from his wife!). Shortly after; Carrie and her husband Ivan arrive, closely followed by Dave and Candy.


This eatery specialises in ‘Shunde style’ Cantonese cooking, and after choosing dishes, a boy arrives with burning hot coals to add to the central divide furnace thingymagig. Soon a very large wok containing our main meal is placed atop, followed by sundry dishes. We later discover this is Goose, and there are two woks full of this bird, one being added after we think the first one has been eaten.


Suitably stuffed, we head for the Music Bar, except there is a quorum suggesting we go to a new music bar nearby. OK. Well, this turns out to be at the other end of the earth, and after 40 minutes driving we arrive at somewhere trendy, but a tad ‘odd’? Dave goes to the toilet, whilst Jim and I examine pieces of modern art made out of old American engine parts. He even recognises some of them … saying this is the engine block from a 1957 Chevy, I (Just for the hell of it) state emphatically that this clutch must be from a Dodge Charger, and similar – and we laugh at our own stupidity.


Dave returns and asks us what is wrong with this place. We don’t have any suggestions until he asks us where are the women?


Ahha! Looking around we see only men. Opps! This is a gay bar. Well done Dave! We hastily retreat our steps and head back to Foshan. Dave and I really enjoy what we call The Music Bar, which has live music played by people we know. It is not excellent, but can be very good at times, and also offers a great night for those seeking entertainment, and not critical musical acclaim. It was better when they had the Filipino girl singer of course, but then Beijing became anal regarding visas for the 14 ‘preferred countries’, of which The Philippines is a major one – so basically Filipinos don’t get Chinese visas in a workable form anymore. Hello Beijing!


We get ‘Shanghaied’ (A word Chinese people don’t know of and one which is very difficult to explain to them, quickly), and end up going to the Musical Fountain instead. This is more of a show club and they have some exceedingly good acts in the line-up + some missable ones. We order crates of beers, only to be stopped by Siu Ying, who then calls the manager? It seems she knows either this place or higher management very well, so instead of 24 beers for Y600, we get 36 beers for Y500 + free food nibbles. Never underestimate your wife!


We play the stupid dice game for a while, and drink and eat etc. The show starts and we all actually start watching it. I only notice this as by glancing around I see we are all watching the stage, and not playing Chinese dice. By this point another good Chinese friend Bill has joined our party + Fiona is coming also. I need a leak, so head for the toilet. Inside is the guy who looks after you for (Hopefully) a tip. Obviously I become his main target immediately, so whilst doing my business at the urinal, he is giving me a shoulder and back massage, and applying various hot towels to my neck. Now: If this was not an old man, but maybe a 20-something girl; and if I was not actually trying to attend to an urgent and serious call of nature at the time … this would probably have been extremely enjoyable. I leave him a 2 RMB tip in the hopes he will not try this again – which he doesn’t!


Returning to the Show I catch the end of a great acrobatics set, and then we continue to watch the good bits, play dice during the other bits. Fiona arrives and it is too loud to have a sensible conversation. We nip outside for 20 minutes and catch up – which is not quite long enough, but we cover the basics and renew old friendship. It appears that Fiona was actually working just across the road = 30 yards away, when she got the call from Eason to go to the Gay Bar. Having almost reached the Gay Bar, Eason again called her to say we were now headed for the Musical Fountain. Now I would have appeared upset, but Fiona was ebullient as usual, and thanked us for the invitation. We talked updates, education stuff, and trying to do something for Jim on Monday midday, which is still the day after tomorrow, I think?


Returning inside we rejoin the festivities and enjoy the show. It is actually quite good. We also manage to get through all the beers before midnight, whereupon Fiona leaves us and we adjourn to 007 Club for more of similar - but more club style. Bill and Eason actually designed this club’s interior several years ago, and were + are still very well known and respected patrons. We are shown directly to a very nice table, without paying stupid money for it; and order another 24 beers. Bill lays 100 RMB out, so we have no shortage of pretty girls at our table, and food is flowing as quickly as the beers. This is just for fun and to make a Party for the night, although one of the latter girls turns out to be a Witch at dice! Now regular readers of this column may know that these Party Girls are usually lethal when playing Chinese dice one-on-one. This girl is lethal with up to eight people, including other Party Girls and Management! I give her great respect and soon follow Jim’s lead by opting for chatting instead of playing. We do not need to get wrecked tonight, as there is more to do tomorrow. However, there is a principle at stake here, and I rejoin some while later for a laugh – in the knowledge I can really read the way Eason plays the game (We have done this for many years), and I also know more or less what Dave and Bill will call. Therefore, and without a spoken word between us boys, we sort of gang up on this good female player, and level the odds quite quickly. By 2 AM the main entertainment is showcasing to finale and wind down, so junior management descend on our table to wipe up the beers left by egging us on to play them at dice, get slightly wrecked at our expense, and try to persuade us to order more. This is going nowhere of course as we know what they are trying to do, although one of our party is suitably entertained in the process…


That was a great night out, and we are driven back to the new hotel – the one Dave is staying in. Dave retires as he has work to do tomorrow, and Siu Ying does likewise – telling me not to wake her when I eventually arrive back, but to get a boy to let me into our hotel room. Yessir! I must remember this I think?


Jim and I head out for a nightcap at a local street bar, well – it is only just after 2 AM after all! We chill and drink beers plus do ‘Boys stuff’. We talk about the option to meet Vivi tomorrow at midday, and plan it so. By 4 AM we have had enough and beds are calling us, so we head back to the hotel, only to stop for a couple of Chinese burgers each at the Muslim nosh place. This time I get them straight-off with chillie sauce = wicked! Back at the hotel and we arrive at the Fifth Floor, and standing outside my door I somehow remember not to knock for entrance, but to ask somebody to let me in – thus not disturbing my wife. To knock would be so very easy for me. But I have an order from my wife. My addled brain goes into shutdown mode whilst I try and work this one out. Jim is laughing his head-off, and retires to the room next door, leaving me stupoured outside my room looking for guidance from heaven or whatever…


I actually go down and get security to let me in, and this takes about 1 minute. I later learn that Jim came out looking for me 3 minutes later, only to discover I had disappeared. Hahaha! The next morning I surface just before Siu Ying does, and perceiving motion and a new day, she is amazed to find me in the hotel room and in bed with her. But of course, what did you expect. Yessir! It is around about 12.30 by now, and SY is not getting up yet. OK. I sort of manage to tag Jim and Dave, and we raid the only working International Visa machine in Foshan City en route, and then head for Martino’s – basically because it is our only nearest and easiest option for pretty damned good food. We all order the same, which is Baked Shepherd’s Pie, and Poutine Quebecois (Chips in gravy and cheese sauce). Boy food! Jim and I stumble through a couple of beers before Dave heads off for work commitments. Jim and I have another beer + one free on the house from Bill the owner. After which we conclude that ‘Today’ should not be happening yet, and we return to the hotel for a nap.


Opps! We forgot to go for the job interview with Vivi at midday – as we were still asleep then. Not good!


In the meantime, Siu Ying has surfaced and called to say she was going shopping in the city centre. Great, that’s one less thing to worry about then! Jim and I do make it back to the hotel in good time, and he goes to check his email, whilst I head for a well deserved nap. Nope! I almost get under the influence of sleep, when Dave knocks my door, and we spend a couple of hours altering his website (Which I write and host). Then Eason calls and we are being picked up at 5.30, or 6pm; by Eason, or Bill = whomever arrives first I guess? Dave has some work to quickly finish with Candy, so I leave them too it and knock Jim’s door, as our three rooms are all in a row. It appears he was just getting to sleep, so I make it worse for him by bouncing around enthusiastically and tell him that we are leaving in about 10 minutes. I go down to reception to wait for the team and Siu Ying rocks up. She is burdened down with shopping, which looks a tad expensive. Ouch!  She sets off on a mission to be ready for going our in 5-minutes, whilst I take a comfy seat. Candy appears soon after, then Dave, Siu Ying appears, then Jim, then Candy departs, and then Eason arrives outside. We recognise his car well and all pile in.


I had hoped to show Jim The Little Sheep restaurant, which is a cracking cook-in-the-pot style of thingymagig; but the others may have a different plan and it turns out we are headed to a restaurant in Namhoi (Nan Hai). This may all be well and good, but we are definitely headed in the wrong direction according to my internal map of a city I know very well. All is revealed when we pull into Eason’s ‘Garden’ (Condominium). I was last here a few months ago and at that point he was still installing fixtures and fittings. The place has come on dramatically, as you would expect from someone who is a very talented interior designer. We marvel at many of his creations and design concepts, whilst being very entertained for almost an hour. Fantastic! Bill calls to say he will meet us at the restaurant, which is very near his home in about 20 minutes.


We leave and later pass Eason’s present apartment en route to the other side of town. Eason says we are headed for the car showrooms area, and turning onto a freeway I know well, I suddenly know we will be going to the Artists restaurant – where I had planned to take Jim for lunch tomorrow. Then it gets a tad bizarre, as Eason circles the block with me directing him how to reach the restaurant. We park nearby and enter the restaurant. I show Jim around the art sections, which has two showrooms. I am a little disappointed as this very famous artist is not around tonight. I had hoped to get entrance to his studio which backs onto the rear of the eating area, which in itself is very ambient and well laid out. However, Bill arrives and we are soon escorted to the chosen room.


The main reception area is flanked by small art studios and showrooms. Much of the work here is made from massive stones or tree trunks, but very tastefully done. This gives way to a main courtyard bedecked with Chinese lanterns and tables set to a lovely pattern. There is also a tastefully set barbeque to the side, in its own Chinese gazebo. This area is very harmonious, yet allows glimpses of more surrounding. There are large rooms to the left, small private rooms in front, and VIP rooms complete with large balcony overlooking fish ponds to the right. Bill has booked us VIP tonight, and so we enter a lovely room which is furnished in traditional and rural Chinese style, but high class.


Being seated, a Manageress conducts initial proceedings, before leaving us in the personal hands of one Supervisor and two waiting staff. These three people attend to our every need, and never leave us unattended throughout the meal. The Manageress also pops back every so often to check everything is perfect for our dining experience. Top Hole!


 Eason and Bill begin the ordering process, whilst I indicate I quite fancy the crabs in curry sauce, which are excellent! Then Siu Ying takes over ordering, which has become her speciality for any group of dinners we seem to be with. I know this will take ages, so catch the eye of a likely lad and order some cold beers. He has a slightly amazed look on his face as I order specific types of beer in perfect local Cantonese, but he understands me explicitly and departing without a single question, soon returns with the chosen drinks. By this time both Jim and I are up for a few bevies, as Dave will be also. Eason and Bill are restrained as they have busy workloads tomorrow morning + Eason is driving.  By the time we have toasted, the food begins to arrive: Tiger Prawns, beef chops, raw jellyfish, some gourd thing that tastes better than pumpkin, pork in black bean sauce, abalone, possibly the best Goose I have ever tasted, a platter of chicken, fish presented in sexy scallops – a bit like the English serve butter, and various Chinese cabbagey things + rice for those who want it. Those not into rice can choose the hand-made noodles instead, which are excellent.


There is enough food on the table to feed a marching army at the end of a long hike. We do it justice, and Dave is very impressed that a lot of the food, although Chinese in presentation, actually has a lot of meat to offer immediately – we all hate this small meat and mega bones served in bite sized pieces thingymagig that is so prevalent hereabouts. Jim explains that jellyfish is basically tasteless, and so takes on the flavour of anything it is served with, in this case, very hot chillie! Dave gets into the fish, as there are no bones! I love the goose in crispy skin, again a rarity, and eat loads of meat. My wife’s Mother actually cooks this dish a lot longer and far slower, so it is served medium rare. I will give this Goose second place in her culinary honour, but only just = Totally Delicious!


Dave, Eason and Bill then form a clique on the balcony, whilst we continue to nibble and toast inside. Later the lads return to table and start arguing over who will pay the bill. Dave is set upon winning this battle, and as I paid for lunch I leave them too it. I take Jim for an informal tour as this most friendly of disputes unravels. We go to look at some huge pieces of art in the courtyard, and are immediately surrounded by staff wanting to help us. It then dawns on me they are not aware we have just finished eating here in the VIP room, so my Cantonese is put to the test, and again appears to work fine. Uh-Oh! Perhaps I am finally getting the hang of this most fuckwitted language. Jim is impressed, as he speaks Mandarin and hasn’t a clue what the staff and I are talking about. The he gets one over me by chatting to them in Mandarin, which leaves me cold. It then dawns on me how odd this must be for the waiting staff; as they have two foreigner who are obviously good friends. One speaks the local dialect of Cantonese well, whilst the other speaks very good Mandarin. Subsequently we catch them out changing Chinese languages depending upon which one of us they wish to address. I think what really throws them most is the fact that although we are both speaking pretty good Chinese language, but neither of us understands the others Chinese. Bizarre! Following our cultural exchanges and looking at some sculptures, we head back to reception, and later outside, whereupon we are finally reunited with the others. Dave won the argument about who pays by the way.


Heading for the car, somebody asks me if the tree we are passing grows in UK. I have a feeling it may do, but it was pollarded when young, so instead of one dynamic truck it has five. The lighting is bad, and if it does grow in UK, it is not common. My investigation is hampered by a guy who is trying to extract his car from the parking space directly underneath this tree, and eventually I give up and say = ‘probably’. That is the correct answer, so we move on. We are now headed for Bill’s apartment, so Siu Ying and I walk with Bill just up the road (Maybe half a mile), whilst Eason drives the others. We arrive just before them, so foot-power rules!


Bill lives on the 8th floor, which is premium and a Chinese ‘very lucky number’. His gaff is very nice and well laid out – as you would expect really as he is also an interior designer. There are a myriad of small features that work so well, and we relax. Bill then displays his sound and video system for an hour or so – which is excellent. I get them to play Shakira live in Spanish, in super HD Dolby (or whatever the latest marketing gimmick is actually called?). It’s great. Jim and I end up discussing speakers and speaker technology, before setting about headphones and db, sine waves, etc = some Pratt of a Doctor once stated with support from clinical tests, that the human ear can only hear 20-20 (20 to 20, 000 hz). This is incorrect, and excludes other medium such as the body and its bones. I prefer at least: headphones that deliver 10 to 40, 000; and Jim agreed with me. Wow! We chat about speakers and headphones for ages, and then I go for a wass (Apparently ‘a wizz’ in American English). Adjourning, I stand there attending to nature and enjoying Bill’s excellent facilities, and I become plagued by a momentary doubt – I may have a dose of the runs, and this is a Chinese trap! Hey-Ho! Off go my jeans immediately, and I swap from one bodily outlet to another with great expertise. Ahhh!  This was a steam train with no brakes! I am perplexed, and can’t identify anything eaten or drunk to cause this sudden onslaught, except to add that as suddenly as it appeared, it vanished again. What was that all about then?


Returning to the living room, and teaching Jim that the word ‘settee’ means ‘sofa or couch’; our visit winds up and we head off the ‘The Music Bar’.  Shakira is still strutting her stuff on the TV; which Dave finds amazing - as it is a 40 inch flat screen with letters after it. I was more taken with Shakira actually, but then he is younger than I. I am also very impressed that Shakira is not a flat 40 inches or so! Although whoever is in charge of her makeup wants shooting, as she seems to be into ‘the natural look’ in this video, which may also mean hairy legs and armpits! Sacre Blue! Siu Ying finds this very funny, which may even be a tad more bizarre!


Eventually the boys finish extolling the virtues of a flat 40 inches, having also spent a lot of time looking from the side angle; we head for the lift and car park. I tell Eason to drop us off and we will get a taxi, as he must be very near his home – and he is only dropping us off tonight, not seeing the show.  A no win situation and he drives a-ways up this straight road, eventually depositing us outside the Music Bar. Damn me! I never knew this road actually linked the music bar and the restaurant directly! Filed for later use.


The Chinese Band, which is basically the Bass player and Lead, have come on great over the years, and they have my greatest musical admiration for actually going out on stage every night and doing it! Tonight there is no Filipino singer of course (Directly as a result of Beijing’s stupid visa policies over the last few years, and no advance warning thereof, and actually, no discernable coherent policy backing it up either?), and the exceptionally gifted Chinese female singer is also not around either. However, the boys greet us and offer a pretty good band that now includes: keyboards, drums, and the most fuckwitted guy trying to play Chinese blues Harmonica. Save me! The set begins with an unusual rendition of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ = a Classic, something Jim finds quite distasteful. I mean the band is almost tight enough, but then they do a lot of improvised vocal overlays and harmonies towards the end, which I follow what they intend. I worry about Jim, but Dave and I enjoy, so we order another crate of beers and play Chinese dice to great ebullience.


What I actually want to do is get my longest old term male friend out here = Roger, I need you to teach these guys how to final deliver English songs!


We take pleasure in and chill … not hammering the beers as was the case the night before, but enjoying the ambience and friendly musical environment. Tonight we are drinking German steins of ‘Whatever-schwiss-bier’, and Jim is very happy because it: tastes just the same, and looks just the same; as the stuff he drank way back when - whilst on tour in Germany.  He then teaches the waiter how to pour it properly: delivering most to the glass, but whisking the residue in the bottle to re-activate the yeast (Simple version). The waiter then comes back for a second and third lesson, and is happy he not only understands what to do, but why! Cometh 1 am-ish and we are about done here. The band has finished, and the beers are all gone. There is no point in ordering more unless we dabble at American Pool, something we consider, but eventually decide against as there is a queue for the only table.


Catching a taxi outside immediately, we soon arrive at the hotel; whereupon Dave and Siu Ying hit the sack immediately. Jim and I head for a nightcap, and Jim surprises me by leaving early (3 AM!). We pick up yet another Muslim nosh hamburger thingymagig en route to our hotel, and crash out ourselves – I also remember to get the guy to let me into the room again = I am a very good boy, I think! I could sleep for a week…



Instead, Monday happens:

AM arrives all too suddenly, we meet in the foyer and Jim then transfers to another nearby hotel with Siu Ying looking out for him and fixing the room rate. Jim spends time on the telephone, whilst I manage to extract funds from China’s only working visa ATM. The contact numbers from the fliers we got from Foshan University (International Department foyer) don’t actually work properly, although one does ring out unanswered at 11.20 am? The rest are dead lines. We do some small email stuff courtesy of the hotel lobby for free, and then fancy some food. Siu Ying joins us as we do KFC – but the new girl only speaks Mandarin and totally gets the order wrong.  Even Siu Ying gets a bit pissed-off with her, and so after ordering: 2 coffees, two zinger burgers, and two large chips + a creamed thing that is vaguely related to iced cream in chocolate flavour – she dispenses: one milk drink, one small coffee (Not large), two small fries, one normal chicken burger and one veggie burger. She gets the ice creamed look-alike right! Siu Ying is immediately into Rottweiller mode! A more senior staff who does speak Cantonese soon emollifies the situation, but I am very not impressed. Jim is laughing his head off … well he would do as he only speaks English and Beijing language. He also got served immediately by a good staff, so we probably need to not order half of what we thought we ordered in the first place! However, it is the fact that Siu Ying has to speak Mandarin in order for the serving girl to understand what she is trying to say that puts me at ease. We end up talking to the Supervisor in Cantonese, and are given exactly what we originally thought we ordered via table service!


Today we are supposed to meet Fiona at 12 o’clock, so she can be our guide for Foshan University and the artist’s area in Shiwan. My mobile has a dead battery and her number is in my phone. Opps! We decide to return to the hotel, where Jim sets about his emails again, but nothing is forthcoming. He gets a call from somebody who only speaks Chinese, and this matches one of the numbers from the flier of Foshan University International Department – except it is now another department and they don’t have any ‘In-ger-wishy, vely solly’. We are pondering what to do, when Dave arrives in the Foyer and we bid farethewell’s again. About to close his email client, he has received a new message from Foshan University! Eager with anticipation they are asking him for: resume, portfolio, and another four documents he retrieves with some difficulty (Copies of passport, current visa, etc.).


I eventually get my act together, and remember somebody who does have Fiona’s number = my wife! Calling her, there is no reply. OK, it is before 12 and she may be working with phone off or muted. There is a mood about Foshan today which basically means that nothing is happening. Jim is now using the excellent facilities offered by an internet café, which is housed on the second storey of Dave’s hotel. These computers only speak Chinese of course, so unzipping attachments and manipulating files is accomplished with guesswork and a bit of luck. At 1.30, Fiona calls Jim’s phone in order to speak to me. Apparently she sent me a txt message last night cancelling today, which I never received because my battery was shot. Ho-hum! Siu Ying and I have things we must do, so offering Jim a rendezvous, we head back for our island home. Jim stays on an extra night or more to see the people Foshan University re a job



Late on Tuesday evening I get an email from Jim, which is his reply to Foshan University. I laugh my head off in sympathy, as I would have written them exactly the same, but in British lol! They state categorically that they do not have any current vacancies, but will keep his file open for September. Now; both he and I are querying why they do not have a current number listed on their fliers in reception, and why Jim had to go through all this trouble + stay an extra night … only to then be told they have no offers. Considering Foshan University (Via their agents) are still advertising new teaching posts on the internet (But at far greater package value), we assume they are actually not very good at this, and pulling our wires, so to speak! And just in case you wondered, Jim’s credentials are excellent! However, I did also note that the detailed reply (Eventually) from Foshan University to Jim, was written in ‘Chinglish’. Ho-hum!



I pick this up again two days later, with the birth of my first child – but in the meantime, we had a short break, and so should you…..