November 1st “'Cause nothin' lasts forever, Even cold November rain” (November Rain by Guns N’ Roses). It is November, it is raining, again, and it is cold, I’ve even got a T-shirt on! Hopefully it will not last forever. This morning Huan didn’t go to her singing practice, the teacher cancelled via WeChat because of the weather. That of course means my ears are being punished! Still, I did get some extra guitar practice in. I also turned the volume way up while listening to ‘November Rain’ and searching for the lyrics. I’m not sure if I have mentioned before that I was a radio DJ for a while, on the air for Capital Radio in Abu Dhabi, later to become Radio 1. Well I often played this song on my Monday night rock show. What the audience didn’t know though was that I played it to give me enough time to sprint down the corridor to the loo, praying at the same time that nothing would go wrong with the equipment before I got back! The song is almost nine minutes long.
November 2nd Lovely day today so I was all prepared to take Huan on her favourite walk, up and down the scenic hill. However, there was a problem. Remember the last two days of rain? Well, I had left my boots outside the window to air, instead they got washed! So it was a sandal walk around the town taking a few of the side roads to make sure we, or I, got ten kilometres in. The first thing we saw was the bridge blocked to traffic. We weren’t sure why as there are no student exams at this time of year, but, as we got closer these signs showed us why. The red one says “Public office examination” and the green one says “Chinese public teacher” so the exams are for government jobs, or as they used to be known in the old days, “Iron Rice Bowl” jobs. In the past, they were for life, not quite so guaranteed these days.
Walking past one of the hotels on the river, I decided to check on the swimming pool, expecting to see it empty. It wasn’t. Huan told me that it is open for four seasons now; I may have to start paying it a visit. It’s a nice pool, but I hate wearing goggles and caps.
After that, it was a trip through the market, up and down the riverside, through the Saturday farmer’s market, past the lottery shop and then home for our first weekend ‘full English’.
Some more guitar practice for me in the afternoon and out singing for Huan. I am still not sure I will ever get the ‘F’ chord right, never mind before Christmas and our promised video for the family. I’ll keep trying! The evening was more of the same, guitar for me but Dama dancing for the ‘Three Little Maids”.
November 3rd Another nice day, boots on, but no scenic route. I took Huan to visit the family we took pictures of last month so that she could share them. That turned out to be a waste of time. The ‘thumbnails’ were there on Huan’s phone but the pictures had disappeared. I’m not sure how that happened. On my phone, if I delete the photos the thumbnails go too. I suppose that’s the difference between Windows and Android and between English and Chinese.
Anyway, from there we went to check on ‘the hotel up the hill’, that’s what we call it. Its English name is “Oasisland Grand Hotel”. It was dead the last time we came, maybe a couple of years ago, and today it was still dead.
Sometimes I wonder how they plan these things because there is now another hotel coming up right next to the bridge to nowhere, which is at the bottom of the hotel hill!
Behind the dead hotel there is quite a nice new apartment complex, with its water features still working. I say “still working” because once all the buildings have been completed and the apartments have been sold, in all probability maintenance will cease!
On the way back down we noticed that the back door to the ‘government houses’ was open. These are the apartments that face our building, where the mountain and rubber trees used to be. I suppose we would probably call them ‘council flats’ in the UK. We decided to ‘slum it’ and go and have a look around. Now in the UK, council estates would normally be in worse condition than private ones. Here, it looks like the opposite is true!
After that it was another river walk, no pictures except for one dead rat, I’ll spare you that pleasure. My monthly trip to the chemists’, (pharmacy), or as we call it, the medicine shop was next on the agenda. I needed to top up my Aspirin and try and get something for my hands. They come up with fiercely itching red lumps every now and then and so far, even before we came to China, no doctor has found the right treatment. Today’s recommendation was some kind of Chinese medicine; I’ll give it a go.
After a hearty English breakfast, I was left to my own devices so, just like last week and the week before, I had a nice long soak in the bath. Today I even had salts. Mind you, they weren’t bath salts; according to Huan it was salt for making Chinese salty vegetables. I guess I was almost soused when I got out.
November 4th There was an overcast sky this morning, a perfect day for a nice long walk, but not for me. The ‘Minister of Health’ had put both our names down for a check up at the local ‘area hospital’. It seems that it’s a government initiative, and the clinics carry out these check ups free of charge. Here we are in the second queue.
The first queue had been blood pressure, height, weight and ‘belly measurements’. The second one was for blood samples to be taken. So far, all of this was done outside; here are the two ‘workstations’.
The third queue, this time inside, was for our hearts to be checked. This they did with a small ECG machine. At least this one involves no needles or pain. The photo is of me and not Huan, for fairly obvious reasons!
Next up was the loo, with no queue, for a urine sample. Our last queue was for an ultrasound on our liver and kidneys etc. I tried to take a photo of Huan’s ‘scan’ but failed, so you’ll just have to take my word for this bit.
So after all that, how healthy are we? The hospital will call us for another visit once the lab tests are complete but we seem to be OK. Our blood pressure was fine, Huan’s weight was very good, mine could still do with being less. Her belly was slimmer, mine is still too big. Her height was as expected, mine was completely wrong. It seems the machine, it’s a digital one, has a few problems, it said I was 1.3 metres tall. Going back to basics, I ended up being 1.77 which is roughly what I thought it would be. Our hearts are ok, Huan’s insides look good, but, I have a ‘fatty liver’. I shouldn’t worry about it though as “most fat people have this”. Cue me getting home and searching Google for ‘fatty liver’ and how to fix!
No walkies this morning, none this afternoon either, it’s Monday, hence shopping day.
November 5th This morning I had a plan. It wasn’t a ‘cunning plan’, just a simple one. I wanted hills and distance but no speed and I wanted to pass by the outdoor market of Harbin sausage fame to buy some baps for our lunch. Off I went, up the hill to the reservoir. To make sure I got the distance I wanted I went just a little past the top of the reservoir today so here’s a view you haven’t seen before.
I carried on a little bit further to the next village whose name I didn’t get because I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the market. This is the spot where I turned round to retrace my steps back across the reservoir and down the hill.
Once back at the reservoir, instead of walking on the road at the top, I walked along the bottom of the bank. The overflow was not in full flow but enough for me to make a little video. This is what it looked like before I got to my filming point on the bridge.
Over the bridge I turned right back down the hill and had a very relaxed walk back into town. Just past our banks I was going to buy myself a bottle of water and then continue along the river to the outdoor market. This is when the plan failed. I reached into my back pocket for my wallet and it wasn’t there! No, I hadn’t had it stolen; I don’t think we have pickpockets in Wuzhishan. It was my fault; I had left it in my ‘car bag’ after yesterday’s shopping trip. So, a diversion was called for and by quarter to eleven, I was sitting outside Huan’s music school waiting for her. She was quite surprised to see me, even more surprised as I dragged her to the nearest shop to buy some water. By now, I had walked fourteen kilometres without any! If my plan had worked, with the extra distance for the baps I would have made another twenty today. I couldn’t ask Huan to walk the remaining six kilometres with me so we went off home and used burger buns from the freezer for our lunch instead. Maybe we’ll have baps next week.
November 6th My plan for today was executed successfully! No hills were required, just some distance and some speed for the first part. Six kilometres was completed in the first fifty nine and a half minutes, including a stop to buy the lottery tickets. Now that may not seem fast to some of you young bucks but to a geriatric like me, it felt like warp speed! The four and a half kilometre walk back felt very relaxed after that spring, I can tell you. The boss had given me orders today to go and buy those baps that I didn’t get yesterday so that was my stop on the way back. Another success! Not only that, one of the ladies in the market told me that Harbin sausages would be back on sale tomorrow! The third part of the plan was the usual, try and make sure to get ten kilometres in. By the time I got home it was 10.69, in two hours, so chalk up success number three! Now one problem with a fast walk is carrying the camera, so I didn’t and thus, there are no photos for this walk.
However, I know how much you like photos, to see how we’re getting on in this far off place in the world so, here’s today’s dinner. I don’t cook as often as I should, I hate using just one induction hob and, as you know, we still have no gas. Anyway, I cooked today, a Philippine dish called ‘Sinigang na Hipon’. “(From Wikipedia - Sinigang is a Filipino soup or stew characterized by its sour and savoury taste most often associated with tamarind.”) “Hipon” is shrimps or prawns. Her Majesty was well pleased!
And, who’s a lucky boy then, I got another five kilometres in this evening. That’s the round trip to the bank; cash was needed to fill my wallet prior to this month’s visit to Haikou. I went past the town square, sneakily, to spy on the ladies. They’ aren’t “Three Little Maids” anymore; there are five of them now. I suppose we could call them “The Famous Five”. I was going to take a furtive photo of them but they were learning a new dance so it wouldn’t really have been fair. It was also a little too dark when I reached them.
November 7th This morning was a lazy one, only because we decided to go to Haikou today. I did my daily guitar practice, packed my stuff, copied the files I needed for the PC, and then cooked lunch for us both. I should really say I warmed up yesterday’s left over sinigang na hipon. There was enough to fill us for our “long” journey.
As usual, we stopped after about an hour and a half for a short break. Here’s me on my way back to the car. At least it made Huan chuckle, I heard her on the dashcam later.
Once At the hospital things went swimmingly. We had no problems getting into the car park, the wait for the doctor was minimal and the queues at the cash desks weren’t too bad. The doctor did tell me I needed another blood test this time, not just PSA, but “male hormones” too. I presume he means testosterone. There was nobody in that queue either so my arm was emptied rather quickly. The last job at the hospital was the dreaded subcutaneous needle. This month I took a photo of it for you. I still can’t see what actually goes into my belly!
The results will not be available until tomorrow so it was across the road to our usual hotel first, then off down the road to buy me another pair of cheapo reading glasses. Then, for a change, we went to Pizza Hut for dinner. It was almost empty but then again I suppose it is a bit expensive for Chinese people and you do have to wait a while. As well as pizza we also shared a plate of snails. The picture looks terrible but they tasted much better than they look and, not having had snails for years, I really enjoyed my four.
After dinner Huan wanted to have another search for the shop we didn’t find last time. This time we followed my (false) memory. However, because I used this time to also get some kilometres in, we actually stumbled across it. This time, we managed to get a business card so we should have no problems in the future.
We didn’t buy too much today but we’ll probably stock up more next month, in time for Christmas. They will be having turkeys but we’ll probably give them a miss. They do have a large stock of sausages and other meats from “The Sausage Guy”, Herr Rainier, who lives and works in Haikou. Anyway, here’s today’s shopping basket. It may not look much to you, but it’s all stuff we can’t buy locally.
We then walked for less than ten minutes back to the hotel. Both of us were wrong with our memorised locations for the shop but we won’t forget it again!
November 8th We had a lot of time to waste today so we had a nice long walk, all the way along ‘5th street’ and back along 6th street until we reached Baishanmen Park. Here’s a view of the beach road just before we reached the park.
Back at the hotel I lapsed into another OAP doze while Huan practiced her singing. Once booked out of the hotel we did our usual RT Supermarket shopping. I bet not many of you have to travel over three hundred kilometres just to get a decent loaf of bread! It’s worth it though and we have to visit Haikou for the post prostatectomy treatment anyway. Back to the hospital we drove, after lunch and shopping, to get the results of yesterday’s tests. We thought we’d get there early on the off chance the results would be available. We were wrong and spent over an hour and a half in the car park. Two more OAP car kips were taken! I’m not quite sure what the results mean, we’ll find out next month when we return for the next, (do I really have to go Mum), needle.
It was nice to get on the highway towards home, for some reason we were both exhausted. Luckily for us both, I enjoy driving! We stopped at the usual place and had dinner, where I had one of the worst魚香肉絲, (yúxiāng ròusī), that I’ve ever had. The taste was completely wrong and for some reason it had seaweed in it. It filled the space I suppose. You’ve seen the place we sop at before but today I thought I’d show you the view from the men’s toilets. Oh, I’m so good to you, aren’t I? It was a nice day but this photo was taken around six in the evening so the sun had already disappeared behind the mountains.
Once home it was scanning for me, followed by the transferring of files from the laptop to the PC, sorting out the photos, sorting out the dashcam videos and writing these few words. I did it all to the dulcet tones of Huan doing her homework in the living room. Of course I also had to do my Chinese homework before I went to bed but, I regret to say, I skipped the guitar. My reasoning was that I was so tired I would end up making too many mistakes and not be very happy with myself. Well, it works for me!
November 9th Two tired little teddy bears this morning so no long walk was planned, just a short one, with no speed either. As it happens I had forgotten it was farmer’s market day so we had a leisurely stroll through there. You’ve seen plenty of food from there before, alive, dead and vegetarian, so today I’ll show you some Chinese medicine instead. Don’t ask me what it’s all for though, I have no idea, maybe the chappie at the end can help.
Today being a weekend day it was ‘Full English’ for lunch and being the (occasional) gentleman that I am I cooked. In the afternoon Huan was dozing in the living room and my head was occasionally trying to fall off in the office. I was busy with dashcam work though so no afternoon sleep for me.
I had another job to do after we’d had our afternoon sandwiches, change one of the downlight bulbs. No problem there, it’s an easy enough job. However, Huan then pointed out that one of the others was beginning to lose its decorative part. I should have just left it where it was! There was no possibility of repairing that part and once it was out, one of the spring holders broke. These lights are twelve years old so they haven’t done too badly. The only problem is they don’t seem to make them anymore, all the shops in town only have the LED type now. Well, if I change one for an LED type I will have to change all three. Looks like we’ll be doing another Taobao search tomorrow.
Did the usual Chinese and guitar practice in the evening. I broke my first plectrum! Well, I am using a thin one, 0.46mm; it’s much easier than trying with a thicker one, especially on an acoustic guitar.
November 10th We, that is the Royal we, as in both of us, had a plan for this morning. Huan was going off with the ladies for a little early morning shopping at an old supermarket that is closing down. I set off on the scenic mountain walk. The plan was that Huan would call me when shopping was over and we would then meet and carry on walking for a while. As I was on the final stretch towards home I got a phone call, Huan wouldn’t be joining me but would be going up the easy scenic route with the ladies. If I had known this, I would have set off into the blue yonder for a couple of hours before turning round thus getting a lot more kilometres in. Oh, I hadn’t been home more than ten minutes before Huan turned up. She hadn’t gone with the ladies because they insisted on taking a bus to the beginning of the walk. I ask myself, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Doz5w2W-jAY Still, I did manage to get my daily ten done.
We had our usual Sunday brunch, then Huan had an OAP kip while I sorted out today’s photos, not many, there wasn’t much to see.
I then relaxed by surfing the web and having a bath while Huan set off for her evening’s dancing. After the bath my dressing gown was needed, the temperature here seems to have dropped somewhat.
November 11th I went to bed feeling rough last night and woke up feeling not much better, probably sat in the bath too long! Consequently, no long walk was planned nor hills nor speed. I decided to just go round the river and sneak up on the singing class, who I’m told, have been evicted from their normal place and are now singing at the riverside. As usual I took far too many photos on the way round but I’ll start from when I found the lovely ladies. Here’s the whole group, practicing “lip trilling” sometimes known as “motorboating” or “blowing bubbles but not in the water”.
And here are “The Fab Four”, on a short break. I wonder if I could convince them all to get the mop top haircuts and the collarless suits to complete the illusion.
Not being in tip-top form, I took a detour through the outdoor market to check on baps and things. All were available so money changed hands and I went off home with five baps and a handful of these – sausages!!
Today I was even able to clean my dirty boots on the way home by walking alongside the river where it had overflowed onto the path.
Still not feeling 100% I then had a lazy day, an OAP kip in the afternoon, and sheer laziness when Huan went to he d3 evening. I didn’t forget my Chinese and guitar though!
November 12th Rain stopped play, at least for me. Huan was OK because today’s singing was at the government’s old people school, hence indoors. The rain had stopped by the evening but I was too lazy to get dressed. I did read a lot today though, finished another “Le Carre” and started a “Wendelin Van Draanen”. I’ve read all the books in my bookcase before of course but it’s been a long time and I read books in the same way I watch movies, it’s all forgotten within a very short time. Guitar and Chinese were not forgotten either, but for those I wish my memory was better!
November 13th There was no long walk today, no fast walk or hill walk either. Huan woke up with a toothache so it was off to the dentist for her and I could hardly let her go alone could I. However, I did insist that she went to the ‘new’ dentist this time, he’s only been here two or three years which shows how often we go to the dentist. This is a posh one; it has doors that separate it from the street and air conditioning too.
As you can see, there is no divider between the surgery and the waiting room. Luckily there was no drilling today, not for the lady in the above picture and not for Huan in this one.
It seems she has a problem filling which will require two more visits to sort out, the next one being in ten days time.
On our way home Huan decided we should go and pick up our medical results from a week ago. It would appear that I am still fine apart from my ‘fatty liver’ but that Huan has a problem with her “blood being slow to return to her heart”. The doctor prescribed “BuChang NaoXinTong Capsules” but only for a few days. Of course doing a Google search for that gives us all kinds of scary results such as, “to prevent the onset of strokes”. The doctor said more along the lines of preventing a heart attack. What puzzles me is why the medicine only needs to be taken for a few days.
Tonight it was the turn of “The Secret Seven” to go dancing in the town square. Yes, the numbers have gone up, a few more snowbirds have returned. I also found out that I’m not the only husband whose ears are being assaulted all through our waking hours, but I do seem to be the only one who has been woken up in the middle of the night by a “wailing wife”!
November 14th Well, we all got it wrong this morning! Huan and I looked at the sky and thought the rain was imminent, Water Lily and Fish checked their apps which said rain was imminent too. Consequently, when they went to school I stuck to a walk around the river, never too far away from shelter. Guess what? It didn’t rain. How far did I walk? To be honest, I’m not really sure. The GPS went crazy this morning and had me starting the other side of the river, on the bridge to nowhere and then walking in the opposite direction to the way I went. After about four hundred metres I got my “notification for 1k” and then about eight hundred metres later I got the ‘2k’ one. I did try and make sure I got more than ten; my statistics say that I did just over thirteen. Checking the map, the first three are definitely wrong; I completed them in twenty minutes! However, the last ten look to be mostly correct so I think I made something around eleven, maybe. Now, because we all thought rain was imminent, I didn’t have the Fuji, it’s not water resistant. Instead, I only had my phone, so this is all you get. It’s a lovely reflection of sunrays through the clouds, in the water.
Our new downlights arrived yesterday so I was tasked with replacing the old ones this afternoon. As always when I do any work in the house, Huan went crazy with the phone and took almost forty photographs. A lot of them had a very visible belly so they have either been cropped or deleted. Here’s a cropped one.
And here’s a couple of the finished job. The boss was suitably impressed!
November 15th We both thought rain was on the way again today, although my PC only said cloudy. Check out the clouds and also the already wet pavement.
Consequently, I took almost the same route as yesterday but with a spur for length at the beginning and not at the end. The GPS appeared to be behaving today, checking the map it shows where I actually walked and the distance of ten and a half kilometres looks correct too.
This next one is to show you the difference from the flooded river of four days ago.
And the last one, because they have given us a small walkway over the top of it now, is the inflatable dam. You can see that today they are allowing a bit more water over and how powerful it is by the ‘natural’ washing machine in the second photo.
As you can probably guess, the rain stayed away again today. Let’s hope it stays like this for tomorrow so that I can drag Huan on a long hike through the countryside!
Continued in part 2.