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An Englishman in Hainan, Wuzhishan, September 2019

September 1st “What shall I write? What can I say? How can I tell you how much I miss you? The weather here has been as nice as it can be, Although it doesn't really matter much to me For all the fun I'll have while you're so far away, It might as well rain until September” No Jethro Tull this month, instead it’s “Carole King” with “It Might As Well Rain Until September”. It is September of course and it didn’t just rain until September, it’s still raining as I write this.

However, today started off well enough, we were able to get our daily ten kilometres in. To start with, we went across the river to see how they are getting on with the new park. Sometimes I wish it could just stay like this but I guess progress will mean a paved footpath.

Mind you, where they have already landscaped it does look quite pretty.

After that, we walked down by the riverside which, because of the rain, has become almost impossible to walk in places. Here you can see why and also the poor workers who are cleaning it all up before the river swells yet again.

Home for breakfast at lunch time again, I would call it brunch but we already had our cereal before we went out. The rain came after lunch so it was keyboard for Huan and Chinese for me and just general lazing around doing nothing.

September 2nd It’s still raining! Today being Monday, is shopping day of course. I thought the only photo I was going to show you was our car, all clean in the rain. However, later in the day we had a Taobao delivery, my guitar has arrived. Yes, I bit the bullet and decided to go for it. Andyguitar.com is where I went next, first to learn how to tune the guitar, quite easy with the built in tuner, apart from the lower E string, that’s a little harder. Second was learning a couple of chords, E and A, followed by a little strumming practice. A lot more of that has to be done before moving on to the next stage. I had to show the world of course so a little video was made for Facebook, here’s a screen shot.

The rest of the day was taken up with intermittent guitar practice and Chinese practice. I was very lazy while our guests were with us last month so I’m reviewing all the tests before moving on. It’s amazing how soon you can forget things.

September 3rd Guess what? It’s raining, again! There are three typhoons in the area.

They are not near enough to worry us, but near enough to give us lots of rain!

We had to go out again today though, shopping for an amplifier for the new guitar. I won’t be using it for quite some time but we needed to know that the pickup in the guitar was working correctly. What a time we had, three women, Huan, a friend she met in the store and the sales girl. I don’t think anyone knew what was going on. Eventually we made a choice, made sure we got all the correct bits and a nice hefty discount and brought it home.

After lunch I unpacked my ‘new toy’ as Huan called it and then she discovered it had two microphones included. There was no stopping her after that! It’s a good job I won’t be needing it for a while otherwise I would probably have to fight her for it!

I took myself off to the bedroom and did some more guitar work. Some people will tell you that the guitar is easy to learn, others will say the opposite. All I know is that in less than twenty four hours I have progressed more than I did in six months in Hong Kong forty six years ago. (I was single then and magnetically attracted to beaches, bars and the nightlife.) It will still take a long time of course and my fingers already hurt. They say it will take four to six weeks to develop the calluses required. No days off will be allowed, if we have to go to Sanya to renovate our apartment there, the guitar will have to go with us!

I also did a lot more Chinese practice and I’m now back up to date. Isn’t it amazing what you can do when it’s raining outside.

September 4th We had a small break in the weather today so a quick walk was called for. Huan met ‘shop lady’ friend as we were leaving our place so I walked behind, as a dutiful husband should! A leaf caught my attention, but it looked a little strange. Have you ever seen a pregnant leaf before?

Another motorbike was next, this time a BMW 750, (I think), outside the same shop we saw the Honda last month. There must be some rich boys in there!

Now Huan, for some reason, decided to tell ‘shop lady’ that I still have ‘fat feet’ sometimes. You may not know it, but here in China almost everyone has ‘cures’ for almost every medical problem that you could possibly have. I tried to get Huan not to listen, without success of course, so this little pile of shopping is for me.

At the top there is pearl barley which I have to have in a broth tomorrow, supposedly with the rock sugar you can see at the bottom. Today I had some of the bit in the middle, 山药 (Shānyào), yam as you probably know it, along with some of the red fruit, 枸杞, (Gǒuqǐ), otherwise known as wolfberry, and some rock sugar in a soup. I have no idea how anything that tastes so sweet can possibly be healthy for you! Try to imagine a cup of tea with five or six spoonfuls of sugar in it!

We were housebound for the rest of the day again so it was keyboard for Huan and Guitar and Chinese for me. I found a new teacher, no, I’m not ‘blaming the teacher’, but I think this one starts me off better. I will end up using many teachers I’m sure, but first I have to finish the ‘free’ course provided by .justinguitar.com. I learnt a new chord, D, and then spent some time trying to move between the three I have learned so far. My fingers hurt! I’m following the advice though, little and often is the best way to practice.

September 5th The typhoon that had been moving like a pinball between Vietnam and Hainan has finally disappeared so the weather was reasonably OK this morning. It was ‘back to school’ day for Huan, her singing class started again today. This meant I could go out for a walk alone. I’m not used to it but I did manage to get my ten kilometres in and within two hours, just. I met a few of my four legged friends, all happy to see me but one did get a little too boisterous. I thought he was going to actually sink his teeth into my arm. I did take a couple of photos of the scratches but they ended up very blurred so instead I have these two photos for you today, both at the furthest point from the house. After four years, I still love the scenery around the town.

As you can see from the clouds, the weather is far from perfect but at least the rain held off until I got home, after meeting Huan on the way. My lunch was a not very tasty pearl barley soup today; I hope Huan soon forgets this latest ‘fix Bob plan’!

The rain did return in the afternoon so it was more keyboard for Huan as well as collecting some kind of leafy green vegetable from her garden for tonight’s fish dinner. For me it was more guitar of course. Why do my fingers appear to be so much fatter than they were when I was younger? My ring finger also seems to lean towards my middle finger so I think I might need a small piece of apparatus to help with my finger strengthening exercises. Of course, Huan can use it too to help with her finger strength for chords etc. I didn’t forget my Chinese either, even used the flashcards again today.

September 6th The weather has definitely improved! However, we decided to stick to going around the river and not venture further afield. Not a great deal to report, no photos were taken, instead I filmed three videos. One was of a butterfly, one was of a dog, and one was of ‘Gentleman Bob’. Huan had decided that although it was a nice day, she wouldn’t be needing her Japanese hat. However, it became a little too warm for her so I graciously handed over my shirt to use instead. Here’s a screenshot.

Just the usual for the rest of the day, keyboard and singing for Huan, guitar and Chinese for me. At the moment Huan has a recording on her WeChat from the singing teacher so she sounds a great deal like ‘Hyacinth’ a lot. I’m not quite as bad as ‘Emmett’ yet!

September 7th Aren’t we the lucky ones, yet another nice morning. It was boots on today and a trip to the countryside, staying on the roads and paths though because Huan didn’t have her ‘off road’ shoes on. She did keep nagging me to make a video of this, or that, or the other, so I ended up making one. At the beginning I said it would be a little video, it ended up being fifty two minutes. If you want to see it in full, you can watch it here: - https://youtu.be/_B9hPoLvaWg

I’ll just add a couple of screenshots in here. We filmed a butterfly yesterday and lo and behold another one today. This one decided to settle on Huan for a while.

The second one is just to give you an idea of how pretty it can be on some of our walks. We are lucky in that we have forests, mountains and country lanes like this.

We got home just as it felt as though the rain was starting but, as soon as we were indoors, the sun came out again. It did rain again later, but we can cope with that.

Huan seemed a bit worn out so I volunteered to do the ‘full English’, today being Saturday. Normally, I would have to fight but today she gave in immediately, a sure sign that she is not 100%. At least she enjoyed it, even commented on the taste. “Lard, my dear” I said, “not oil”. If you don’t use lard for your fry-ups I seriously recommend that you try, it makes for a much better tasting breakfast all round.

My guitar practice today was abysmal, brain and fingers did not appear to want to work together. In retrospect, my posture may have been wrong; I think I had my fretting elbow on my knee.

September 8th Today we were blessed yet again with nice weather for walking but couldn’t go too far as we were expecting a Taobao delivery. Some more ‘sofa pants’ were arriving for me, this time 4XL instead of 5XL. I suppose you could say I’ve downsized from a ‘three seater’ to a ‘two seater’! We still had a nice long walk and met a few of our four legged friends. I suppose I should say mine really, Huan puts up with them but it’s me that really likes them.

Today’s photo concerns trees. I have seen trees before, usually on the edges of forests, that are growing at an angle to try and ‘reach for the sun’. I’m not quite so sure about today’s. When we first saw it I thought it was some kind of strange pod but closer examination, and trying to lift it, showed that it was indeed a tree, not just growing at an angle, but growing completely horizontally. Perhaps it was too exhausted to go upwards. It will be interesting to look in on it in a few months, that is if it hasn’t been pruned by the authorities by then. It is beginning to go across a pathway.

Lunch today was not quite the full English, the bacon and sausage were replaced by a tin of meat, think spam or luncheon meat. Well, we all need a little change now and then. I did the cooking again, more healthy today, I had to use oil because we’d run out of lard!

The sofa pants arrived after lunch and a quick comparison between these and the last lot show the only difference is in the label. They are still enormous!

Happy to say, I was right about my guitar posture yesterday. That doesn’t mean I’ll be brilliant anytime soon but at least I found the problem.

September 9th Woken up by ‘The Big Dragon’ at quarter past four this morning. No, I know what you’re thinking, it’s not another moniker for Huan, it’s the name of the music on my phone alarm. We were on the road within half an hour, making for Haikou and my favourite hospital, and my (NOT) favourite needle.

Even with all the usual palaver, we were finished quite early today which was just as well because we had a detour to make on the way back. Huan’s dancing friend was returning from Changchun (长春; Chángchūn; lit. Long Spring), by rail, bringing her daughter with her and we were picking them up and driving them to Wuzhishan. Not having been to the railway station before, it is quite a long way out of the city, we used our Sat Nav to get there. That worked well enough but using the same procedure to get back to the highway led to some fairly hairy roads. Huan still won’t buy me a four wheel drive though! (Hint to self: - keep guiding Huan to pictures of the new Land Rover Defender!)

In the afternoon it was time for the ladies to go and sign up for their keyboard lessons. What a farce that turned out to be. The office was packed, people were being given a form to fill in and then told that a photocopy of their ‘Hukou card’ was also needed as well as a one inch colour photo. Much later, after a visit to the nearest little photography shop we returned with everything needed only for Huan to be told that she may be too late. I certainly hope not because she has been down to the office three times in the past fortnight, each time being told to return at another time. I have my fingers crossed for her, she will find out by the 16th September whether she’s in or not.

By this time, we were both completely worn out so a buffet meal was called for outside before we wearily meandered home again. No guitar for me today, brain is just not there. They do say you should have one day off a week, so today is the one day this week!

September 10th Huan was back to singing class today which meant I could have gone for a walk. I didn’t, because I still felt washed out from yesterday. Never mind, I met Huan from class and we did the weekly shop.

In the evening, as it was ‘Teacher’s Day’, we all had to go out. Huan’s singing class were treating their teacher. We went to the wrong place, not my fault I can assure you, I was just following the ladies. We had a short, but very enjoyable time. No photos were taken but, I did make a video. You can see it here: - https://youtu.be/mQXokE4mZuI.

September 11th On the road again today but thankfully, not an early start. A trip to Ledong was called for by the Minister of Finance to renew the lease for our tenants there and of course, get some loot. This time they only extended until May next year when they will return to Harbin. They’re a very nice couple, both in their eighties, and always glad of a chat. I find it amusing how they are so different to each other in their ‘temperature needs’. He is always hot and she is always cold. Today, on this semi-tropical island, she was in bed with an electric blanket before we arrived. He is always in his shorts although we are told that he’s down to his undies if there are no visitors. Luckily Ledong is less than an hour away so we were back in Wuzhishan before lunch. I did take one photo in Ledong though, what do you think about this little bit of poetry?

In the afternoon Huan’s singing partner’s daughter came round bringing gifts for our dinner. They insisted because we had brought them from Haikou to Wuzhishan. Our protestations about being there anyway fell on deaf ears. What gifts did they bring? They brought steaks, which they had ordered from Taobao on the 9th. They arrived this morning in a polystyrene box padded with some ice bags. Included were some sachets of black pepper sauce. Of course I had one for dinner but I forgot to take a photo of it. Instead you can have a photo of the three different kinds they bought for us. Not bad at all and if you are in China definitely worth ordering.

September 12th Huan had to go to her singing class this morning, but not to sing. The ‘chosen’ group were doing their thing along with some dancers so the other students had to go and ‘be the audience’. Being the gentleman I am, I walked her there. Right outside our door we spotted this little creature and Huan gave me explicit instructions not to touch it as its hair would burn my skin. Needless to say, I obeyed!

I was able to go for a nice long walk of course and test out my nice new monopole. It does the job well enough and is a great improvement on the one that seized up on me. As well as the videos I took some still with the Keymission and then tried to stitch them into a panorama. It didn’t work but I was able to take ‘pairs’ of the eight photos and stitch them together. Here are two of the four results.

An old people’s nap was needed after lunch, it turned into nearly two hours, much too long. Still, I read this week that an afternoon nap a couple of times a week is good for you! After our nap the rain came back with a vengeance so that was it apart from our usual educational lessons. We are both improving, honestly!

September 13th Today is 中秋节 (zhōng qiū jié) – the beginning of Mid Autumn Festival so Huan is on duty! There will be a celebratory lunch for our committee and for members of the new maintenance company. (Yes, they actually did it, the old company is out, and a new one is in. I wonder if anything will change.) So, Huan had to start by going downstairs to help prepare all the vegetables and then return upstairs to steam the shrimps. I stayed out of the way and went for a walk. I had to keep it short though, only seven kilometres, as I have to look fresh and presentable when we go downstairs again.

Well our dinner went well, lots of nice food, good company and far too many ‘bottoms up’! I didn’t take any photos but I did take lots of video footage. Here’s a couple of screen shots of the food and the drinking.

Followed by an unusual one of ‘er indoors with a drink in her hand.

And finally one of me during one of my breaks on the balcony!

Now the boss and I are not so used to lunch time sessions, in fact we’re not used to them at all, so another OAP sleep was taken when we got home! We had planned an evening walk to try and remove some of the calories we had consumed but wouldn’t you know it, rain stopped play yet again. Still, we both managed a bit more music practice, although, to be honest, I’m not so sure mine sounds anything like music yet!

September 14th Huan decided we needed a ‘small’ mountain walk today, off San Yue San, the main road out of town. She fancied walking up to one of the many smaller reservoirs but we, or should I say I, took a wrong turning and ended up going to a small village called Fan Dao Cun instead. It was still a ‘small’ hill so Huan was happy enough. Today was a Fujifilm camera walk as we hadn’t been that way for quite some time. Not many photos were taken, only one hundred and twenty two! Don’t worry; they won’t all be included here.

Let’s start off with the animal world and tree climbing chickens. I suppose it happens a lot in the mountains but when we see them they are usually grubbing around on the ground. These three reminded me of three old dears having a gossip.

Staying with chickens, I learnt something today. Here’s a few hanging around the village rubbish bin. Even though I couldn’t get near them, they seemed more docile than some. Huan explained that they were male chickens who had been made into females. She pointed out that they had the head and front of a hen but the back of a cockerel. Of course I had to Google this when I got home and I guess what they are is ‘Capons’.

When we reached the village we were very surprised to see just how far the highway construction had progressed. The last time we were up here, there were only holes in the ground where the four front supports are in the photograph.

We always stop and buy water in this village before retracing our steps back home. This is the shop that we usually use. It seems the government decided it was a dangerous building. Luckily for us, we found a little hole in the wall shop just a bit further up into the village so our thirst was quenched!

And now it’s back to the animal world again. I took quite a lot of photos of the water buffalo but this is the one I got nearest to. I did have in the back of my mind the lady that was injured by cows in the UK last week but this gentleman seemed fine.

And our last photo for today is full of students. You may notice that they are all wearing blue military uniforms except for the teacher who is wearing ‘olive greens’. Well, all Chinese students go through 军训 (Jūnxùn) military training in middle school, high school and university. According to the law this training should be carried out as soon as term starts or after National Day which is October 1st. This week is the first week back at school, this particular school is a vocational college. You can find more info here: - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_education_and_training_in_China Sometimes I think the UK should have something similar to this too, albeit not exactly the same.

Lunch today was the first of our ‘doggy bags’ from yesterday, cold tofu (the chewy type) salad. I added red cabbage, grape tomatoes and a little bit of vinegar, very tasty.

We were supposed to be going out for dinner but our guests were unavoidable delayed in the mountains so the second doggy bag came out for dinner. This one was chicken, potatoes and vegetables, nothing needed to be added. Aren’t we the lucky ones, no cooking today at all. Mind you, after what we’ve eaten this week, a full English was definitely not needed today!

In the evening we were visited by the ‘Quinn Boys’, Patrick, Podraig and Dodo, they had been to Shuimanshang for the day and Podraig was in need of some TV while Patrick required liquid sustenance. Dodo was just happy being here. The fourth member of the gang, Flora, was unfortunately a little too worn out after the days activities. A good evening was had by the men though, especially Patrick and myself, (Uncle Bob), putting the world to rights on the balcony. Patrick even showed me that my new guitar is capable of sounding very good, and sweet little liar that he is, told me I wasn’t doing too bad! Even though we live a very contented life here in Wuzhishan I do so appreciate the visits we get now and then from like minded souls. Needless to say, a little too much of the amber nectar went down the hatch and I ended up going to bed very late after allowing my stomach to settle a bit.

September 15th Slept well last night, maybe I should have a few beers a little more often. This morning I had planned to go out for a nice long walk while Huan stayed in and waited for our friends to pop in before heading back to Haikou. My plans were thwarted, not by the weather this time, not by Huan either, but by the ‘leader of the committee of eleven’ who wanted me to make a video for her. As you know, we have a new maintenance company and she wanted a video showing the ‘state of affairs’ at the beginning of their contract tenure. There are dual reasons for this, one to show if and how things improve from now onwards, and the other to show all the absentee tenants how things are now. It’s done, the video was made, compiled into one and handed over. Personally, I don’t believe a great deal will change and I think they have no idea of the actual costs of putting right many of the things that are presently wrong. Ah well, we’ll wait and see.

Once we had seen Patrick, Flora, Podraig and Dodo off we sat down to an easy lunch, boiled eggs with toast. Perhaps we’ll go back to fry-ups next week.

In the afternoon Huan did lots of music searching, I did lots of Facebook surfing. Dinner was next, re-heated dumplings and sweet potatoes that Huan had previously cooked, simple and tasty. There’s nothing like a relaxing day now and then. In fact it was even more relaxing than planned. We were going to at least have a stroll around the river this evening but, would you believe it, rain stopped play, again!

September 16th “Monday is washing day, is everybody happy, you bet your life we are.” Of course, for us it’s not washing day but shopping day. We’re still happy though!

Happiness can be fleeting. Our tenants in Sanya are giving us headaches. In order to increase the rent by a mere ¥200.00 a month we are going to have to fit a new front door, probably costing us over ¥2000.00. To ease Huan’s troubled mind I agreed to this but there is no way we are going to rent it to them for a further year next time. The wife there is very clever and as far as I can see is just trying to take us for as much as she can. Lesson learnt, maybe.

To relax ourselves a little we had a stroll around the town in the evening and then Huan hit the keyboard and I hit the guitar and a bit more Chinese.

September 17th Highway bridges again today, on our way to Sanya. No walkies, we were off to see about a new front door for our tenants. As usual, when we go the mountain route to Sanya, we stopped for coffee just outside the city, underneath a highway bridge. Don’t you ever wonder just how all those tons of steel and concrete, (or tarmac), are held up? I know it looks like they are on big fat legs, but take a closer look. The surface area that actually supports the bridge is much smaller than the support itself. I’m not even sure if they are physically joined together or if the highway just ‘rests’ on the supports. What do you think?

So, in due course, we arrived to meet our tenants. Huan sat getting the contract signed and hopefully the money transferred while I went to measure and photograph the old door.

Now you would think it would be fairly easy to locate a ‘door shop’ locally, after all, we can do that in Wuzhishan which is hardly a big city. It took us a little longer in Sanya and, contrary to what we expected, the prices were higher here than in our own town. We did eventually settle on one for a price of ¥2,800.00 That includes removing the old door, fitting the new one, cleaning surfaces around the door, (sort of), and then disposing of the old door. That alone costs ¥300.00. Hopefully this will keep our tenants happy until next year.

It was not an especially warm day, or so we thought. However, this was the temperature when we got back in the car, and it stayed like that until we stopped for lunch. PS I wasn’t feeling any sadness, I actually love the heat!

The place we stopped for lunch was a new one for us, a little shopping centre complete with a ‘snack street’. Here’s what it looks like.

You might notice that it’s not very full. Well, that’s because Chinese people have their lunch earlier than we did today. What did we have? Huan had what looked to me like fried noodles but it was cold and a little spicy. I had ròujiāmó (肉夹馍), (translates as ‘meat folder’), which unusually, was made with chicken and flakey pastry. I had to ask because to me it tasted a little like tuna fish inside, possibly because the chicken was “chicken floss”. (You can google that.) Whatever, we both enjoyed our slightly different from usual lunches!

Our first stop when we got back to Wuzhishan was Huan’s bank, we hadn’t seen a branch all day, and we wanted to be sure that the rent had been deposited for her and, more importantly, that it was the agreed contract price. Sighs of relief from both of us, all was hunky dory. No music for either of us today, both ‘brains’ not functioning at 100%. On the plus side, I did get a little Chinese practice in.

September 18th Today started with rain so I surfed the web while Huan went to pay our electric bill and maintenance fees. She paid only for September to December, due to the change of companies. Usually we pay¥1662.00 per year, more than most because we have a three bedroomed apartment. The fee for everyone is ¥1.21 per square metre per month. Now, people complain that things don’t get done, but when you see how little money is collected it’s no wonder. Many of the apartments here are unattended most of the year, some have never been lived in since they were bought, which means most people either pay a reduced charge or don’t pay anything at all. I have no idea how private apartments work in the west but I’m sure it can’t be as inefficient as this is.

What a couple of layabouts we were this afternoon. Despite the weather improving we just lay around like beached whales again!

Of course, after dinner we were forced to go out and buy our lottery tickets for the next two days. We strolled around the river and managed a little over five kilometres,  we felt pretty good about that. Then got home and forgot to turn off the fitness tracker until we’d both had a shower. I guess that will be a long 5k! No photos today.

September 19th Her Imperial Majesty suggested the reservoir walk today, the one we got wrong last time, so I agreed. It would also give us a chance to check out how the highway was coming on in that are. It is usually quite a pretty walk and a lot of it still was today.

Unfortunately, as we got nearer the construction area it changed, just a little.

We managed to get through this part reasonably well and eventually saw the progress we had been looking for. It will still take a little while longer to complete methinks.

We carried on up the mountain until we reached the reservoir. This also used to be a fish farm which, on one occasion, we watched them stocking up. It looks as though that business has gone into liquidation because there was no sign of life in the buildings at all. I was able to go upstairs and check, on some very dodgy stairs though, I made Huan stay down. We couldn’t see any fish at all although there were a couple of people fishing across the other side. Today was another Fuji walk so I tried a panorama and failed miserably. I just can’t seem to get it right, a visit back to the handbook may be called for. However, the trusty Nokia phone came through as it always does so here is the panorama.

Having seen what we came for we started on our way down again. The first stop was in a little village near the top, cold water was required, especially for me, I was parched. From there we took a detour via another country road that we had spotted on the way up. The plan was to keep our shoes a little cleaner and give us an easier walk. It worked, for a while. When we got to the highway construction area, we had to cross the road the trucks were using. This caused a slight problem, slurry I think you would call it. It was only about five metres wide but there was no way round it, and a long walk back. There was nothing for it, ‘Gentleman Bob’ to the rescue once again. I carried Huan over this part. It’s a good job I did, this is what my boots looked like afterwards.

Almost back home and Huan did something that she doesn’t usually do, picked up an animal. She thought this kitten was so cute but would only consider having one if it never grew any bigger. Anybody know of any ‘Peter Pan’ kittens for sale?

Having drunk two bottles of water on our walk, which by the way was longer than we both remembered, (over fifteen kilometres), we decided that lunch could be skipped in favour of milk shakes. They went down well!

I had another OAP kip in the afternoon, Huan, being the hero she is, did some housework. After dinner we both managed some more music practice. I wonder when my fingers will be hard enough to practice for more than fifteen to twenty minutes at a time. Mind you, there’s no deadline so I shouldn’t really worry just yet.

September 20th With the weather on our side and not having had a lot of rain in the last few days we decided to go on our ‘normal mountain scenic walk’. We both started to realise that we have lost some fitness over the summer months. It was enjoyable, just not very fast. It’s uphill all the way to the bridge, near which today was a Godsend, a little waterfall coming from up above. Cool, clear water, what a refresher. Mind you, I didn’t drink it, only used it to cool down. The last time we drank stream water still brings back bad memories! Who knows, this may well have been OK but, once bitten, twice shy.

Going down was much easier, so much so that I was able to convince Huan to carry on and complete our daily ten. I did stop off for a couple of bottles of water though, don’t want to overdo it now, do we. I almost had another OAP sleep in the afternoon but just managed to stay awake through the ‘nodding head’ stage.

September 21st A late start today, one of us was late getting up. “Guilty as charged your Honour!” Both of us were also still feeling washed out, probably me more than Huan, so no strenuous hills or mountains today. Instead we took a very leisurely stroll around the river and the farmer’s market. No photos were taken but I did make a little video which I may upload to YouTube, not sure yet. Anyway, here’s the first screenshot, two cheeky little ducks, I wonder if they were asking me to rescue them.

The second screenshot shows a lamp post. Well, it does have a sign on it; the workers were changing the signs as we were walking round. I made sure I got this in because Huan was having a little trouble translating it for me. 不忘初心, 牢记使命, (Bù wàng chūxīn, láojì shǐmìng). Google wasn’t a great deal of help, “Do not forget the initial heart, Keep in mind the mission”. I believe it may have a more cultural and patriotic meaning that is not so easy to translate, something to do with not forgetting to keep China in your heart and remember to keep following the correct path.

And the last screenshot is when we were almost home. I had made sure I had the camera filming when I met my little buddies. This is ‘Mum’ who was all over me today; ‘Baby’ did come out but no good shots of him. Maybe I should hand the camera over to the ‘director’ next time, give her something else to do!

I had planned to cook ‘brunch’ today, not a full English, but poached eggs on toast with beans, using our English egg poaching pan. Guess what? The pan is made of aluminium so it doesn’t work with an induction hob. So, I made the toast and the beans, Huan made the eggs, we still enjoyed it. In fact, it was a pleasant change from the usual weekend fry-ups.

Dinner was an unusual Chinese one. We had dumplings, but instead of the usual fillings, pork and vegetable, or just vegetable, we had chicken and vegetable The last time Huan was making some to freeze she had no minced pork so I suggested shredded chicken. To her surprise, not mine of course, it worked very well. They were “tasty, tasty, very very tasty”!

September 22nd Today was another Fuji day, the weather was brilliant albeit a bit on the warm side. We decided to do our mountain (hill), village walk contraflow to what we would normally do so that we could avoid being bereft of shade at the worst time. As it’s a Fuji day I took far too many photos as usual, here’s one from the river. Hopefully they will forget about landscaping and just let the sides grow; it would then be far more beautiful, well in my eyes anyway.

Let’s follow that with a nice little bit of Chinglish shall we. Why, oh why, won’t they ask a native speaker to ‘proof read’ signs before they’re made?

There were no warning signs here so Huan got the fright of her life when she tried to pull this plant out to take it home for our balcony. In this photo there are already less ants than the armies that came out and scared her. I told her she was lucky it wasn’t a great big snake!

Lots more photos were taken but we’ll just show you another panorama. This one was made by taking five photographs with the Fuji and then stitching them with Microsoft’s “Image Composite Editor”. It’s free, very good and simple to use, even your Granny could do it!

Lunch, or brunch, was another English variation, this time scrambled eggs and beans on toast. Luckily the milk pan works well on the induction hob. The ‘old man’ had to have another kip this afternoon, well, it had been another long walk, fourteen kilometres. However, the ‘young lady’ stayed awake, frightened that she wouldn’t sleep tonight.

More dumplings this evening were followed by each of us doing our music lessons. In fact while I write this I can still hear Huan singing something in the living room, using the Chinese version of the ‘sol-fah’ scale. I’m not sure if she is singing something she will later sing, or something she will play. As for me, well I wonder if this is normal after three weeks trying to learn the guitar. I need them to harden up quickly so that I can practice more than ten to fifteen minutes a day. PS Some focal zoom was added with Picasa so you can’t steal my fingerprints!

Oh, I almost forgot, SWMBO gave me a pedicure, half a manicure, (I do my ‘chord’ hand) and also cut my hair. I’ll be very weak tomorrow!

September 23rd Another Monday, another shopping day so nothing really to report. I did spend some time doing something I haven’t done for years though. I read an English newspaper, the Sunday Times, left here by #1 son. Unfortunately, he didn’t leave it all so when I reached the end of page 72, half way through the obituaries, there was no page 73!

September 24th “Three little maids from school are we”, with apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan. Yes, the leader of the pack has returned, a.k.a. the dance teacher, so the gang is now complete. I guess I’ll be seeing a lot less of Huan. Here they are posing for a ‘class photo’.

They were all off to their singing class so I went for a nice long walk. Today, as it has been a while, I walked up to the reservoir. Here’s a lovely reflection on the river near the start.

Because it had been such a long time since we went up to the reservoir I took the Fuji with me. Unfortunately, not a lot of wildlife was to be seen so you’ll have to make do with a couple of construction photos where they are re-routing the road over a new bridge. The old one was in danger of sliding down the hill.

It was a great walk for me though. Apart from the construction work there were hardly any other people on the road at all. The snowbirds must not all have returned yet. Once past the road works I had the pleasure of trees providing me shade until I reached the top and the sounds of insects and birds to keep me company. It took longer than usual to get from home to the top though, an hour and thirty nine minutes, but only an hour and twenty minutes to get home. The weather was so good to me I only needed one ‘small bottle of water’ stop.

I arrived back at our gates at the same time as the ladies where I was told, they will now be singing every week day, twice at the OAP centre and three times elsewhere. Lonely times have begun, poor me! Ah well, more long walks will have to be undertaken.

In the afternoon Huan was off to court along with the leaders of the ‘eleven’. It was about our gas supply yet again. When she got home she told me that the outcome was that we will probably have gas again within a month. I’ll believe it when I see it!

September 25th For me it was yet another Fuji day. Huan was off early, this time to a real singing class where they give them exercises and teach them how to use their mouths and their diaphragms. I may well join her for those lessons, get my voice back into shape.

So where did I go? I decided on the landfill route or rubbish mountain as we call it, (垃圾山, lā jī shān). It has been a while so I thought I’d check the highway progress on this route too, where it will cross the road to Changhao village. It’s coming on well.

Mornings aren’t really the best time for this route, even though I was earlier than usual. There is not a lot of shade at the beginning.

Still, it is not quite as steep as the road to the reservoir and the ‘peak’ of the walk is 150 metres lower as well. I might give it a miss for a while again, as the trucks were back in force along with the dustbin lorries so there was a lot of dust. It did give me this nice photograph though; you probably wouldn’t know it was road dust unless I told you.

Once down at the bottom on the other side I took my usual water stop where I was grilled by the old lady, and her daughter. They both wanted to know where my wife was. I spent a little time with them explaining and then set off to get another hill in. I walked through the town and took the anti-clockwise route around our scenic mountain park walk. It is slightly harder than going the way we usually go and I didn’t much care for the stairs but I got there. It was so relieving to arrive at the bridge to go down the other side. I even spent a few minutes taking a few pictures to stitch together as a another panorama for you.

Not a lot of wildlife was seen again today although I did spot a couple of pigs on the way up the first mountain. Unfortunately, the sun was in the wrong place for me to get a picture. Mind you, I met some more when I was almost home, these were on the way to market and none too pleased about it at all. I’ve never heard so much arguing!

It had been a beautiful day this morning but, from out of nowhere, the rain appeared this afternoon. Never mind, I didn’t need to go out again anyway, not after walking sixteen and a half kilometres this morning. It only took me three hours and forty minutes, not bad for an old codger eh?

For me the afternoon was spent chatting with my VPN’s technical support, it’s now nearly two days since I was able to access anything the other side of the great wall. It seems we are all in the same boat and I just have to wait and hope.

Evening time I hopped into the bath, my legs have already started to stiffen up. I must remember to order some more bubble bath. Huan’s not a fan of baths but I like one now and then. While I was in there, busy soaking myself and reading another volume of Carl Hiassen’s Florida tales Huan had a phone call from the ‘dancing teacher’ and that was it, she was off to the town square for some more practice. Facebook was back on for a short while so she missed all her birthday greetings from my family. Despite my tutoring and the fact we’ve been together over fifteen years she still doesn’t ‘get’ foreign families.

September 26th I think I’ve worked it out now, Tuesdays and Thursdays are not singing classes, more like choir practices, whereas the new Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are actual singing classes. Anyway, today being Thursday it was ‘choir’ practice for Huan.

A long walk is what I had planned for myself but in the end I just let my feet go at a speed they thought was ‘happy’. I did get my ten kilometres in for the day but it took me nearly three hours. I can blame the camera for some of that, I was messing about with the controls, trying to wean myself off ‘automatic’. I think it will take a bit longer. I took so many photos today I don’t know where to start. You could say ‘the beginning’ and finish at ‘the end’ but that would be sixty eight photos, too many even for my little blog. Let’s start with the fauna shall we, I’ve never seen ducks in the irrigation canal before and to be honest I thought it would be a little dangerous if the opened the sluice gates at the end. I did notice large grills on them today which would at least stop the ducks disappearing into the hydro-electric turbines. On the other hand, it’s also a good way to catch your dinner!

Next up was one of my friends peeping over the wall. Mind you, I couldn’t get any of them to come to the gate today, must be deodorant!

Chickens followed, then a cat, totally surprised by seeing me while it was stalking something. After that it was pigeons on a village rooftop and then a creature in a waterlogged rut that I believe was a shrimp. That particular photo is not good enough for you to help me out or I’d share it with you. I was heading for the old medicine factory at the time so I stopped and took a few more photos to ‘stitch’. Here’s the result, this one’s long enough to go on the longest wall in your house!

Just after I’d left the factory I came upon a gander strutting his stuff. He then did something I thought was very weird, rub the under part of his neck on the ground.

No sooner had I walked past him than he started chasing me, neck lowered and really moving. I didn’t stop to argue!

And I think we’ll leave it there for today’s pics. There are more but nothing unusual, nothing that you haven’t really seen before. I took a fair number of black and white photos today as well, especially of the old buildings. One must practice one’s art you know!

Speaking of practicing your art, Huan’s dance teacher came round this afternoon to deliver some black mushrooms and have a gossip. I pointed out the amplifier sitting in the corner of the living room and before I knew it, they were both at it, with a microphone apiece. She does have a very good voice though, which is why she doesn’t go to the three singing lessons weekly, only the choir practices.

September 27th Today was a perfect day for sitting in the garden, reading a newspaper and drinking a nice margarita. Of course we don’t have a garden and I didn’t have the newspaper or the margarita either! On top of that I had promised Huan I would go to ‘voice training’ with her. It seems they have to arrive early and go through some meditation type exercises first. Here they are holding up an imaginary ball.

The class itself wasn’t too bad although I don’t think I’ll be going back anytime soon. I didn’t understand a great deal of what the teacher was saying, my Chinese isn’t good enough yet. That meant Huan had to try and translate on the hoof which took away some of her enjoyment. Much better she goes alone I think.

Huan went to visit ‘Bridge Lady’ in the afternoon. No, she doesn’t play cards, she’s a retired bridge engineer and she is also learning to play the keyboard. She’s teaching herself too but has been doing it a little longer then Huan. It would appear that Huan didn’t get into the classes she wanted to, as we haven’t heard anything from the school. Ah well, maybe next year. As for me, I did some Taobao searching, my electric toothbrush gave up the ghost this morning. Would you believe it, a well known brand name in China, but they no longer make the toothbrushes. In the end I decided on a cheaper version then if it does break down after eighteen months like the first one, nothing really lost.

Laziness had set in by the time dinner was over so no walking today, only guitar and Chinese. Huan of course was out again, Dama dancing.

September 28th Today being Saturday, Huan wanted to walk through the farmer’s market. That meant it was another Fuji day for me, and sandals, not boots. The market was a lot busier than last week, that would be because the National Day Holiday is coming up. I took a few ‘crowd’ photos, some ‘still life’ ones of fruit and believe it or not, animal heads. Pig’s face is quite a delicacy it seems, and not so cheap either. The other heads, (don’t worry, I won’t show them to you), were from this little creature. Unfortunately, the bars on the cage prevented me from getting a better picture. According to the Chinese name, it’s a ‘Fruit Raccoon’, according to me it’s either a ‘Raccoon Dog’ or a ‘Chinese Ferret-Badger’. Answers on a postcard please.

Full English for lunch, cooked by yours truly. We’re not so sure about our new sausages though, the skin is a little odd. We’re going to try boiling them first and then removing their skins, see if that makes any difference. I had to have another OAP sleep this afternoon, don’t know what’s wrong with me. When Huan got up and went for her afternoon sing-along, I fell asleep again. Luckily I managed to drag myself up and drink some coffee before she returned. It was my turn in the kitchen again, but an easy turn. I’ve convinced Huan that as we have a cooked breakfast for lunch at weekends, we should just have sandwiches for ‘tea’. It makes life easier all round. Luckily for me, she loves sandwiches!

September 29th Both of us slept badly last night, Huan probably worse than me. I suspect that it may be my tossing and turning that disturbs her. I blame it on my female hormone injections, sending me into menopause! Anyway, we decided the scenic mountain route was enough for today and not too fast. Part of the way up and what did we do? Well, we saw some steps that we have never been up before. They look a bit steep don’t they, but we decided to go for it anyway.

On reaching the top, we found it was an electricity sub-station and the steps were for access. However, there was a track the other side so we followed that. It led us to a small irrigation canal which we followed to a small house.

Not long after that there was another small house which took us just above the bridge crossing on our normal route so our luck was with us. The path was a bit thin at times but no brambles, sharp twigs or insects today.

Crossing the bridge put us back on track for a leisurely walk down. Unusually, our ‘pooch’ was not there today, in fact he wasn’t there when I went alone last time either. However, there was something else, a small family of geese. I got quite close before they scuttled up the hill but they didn’t go far. They seemed reluctant to go any further so I got quite a lot of photos of them. Here’s one where I am being watched.

Just a little further on we surprised a lizard who stood still long enough for me to get this picture. It’s a good job I had the Fuji with me today. He’s a handsome fellow with quite a long tail, you can follow it right off the RHS of the picture.

There is a new shopping mall in Wuzhishan, whether it will work or not who knows. The hoardings around it have only just been taken down so we had a wander through and found this restaurant. Huan doesn’t know what the characters are but take a look at the English name. Do you think it will be a ‘love it or hate it’ restaurant?

And our last photo for today, is a ‘stitch’ again, but only of two this time. This is the location of another new shopping centre. Not long after the hole was dug, the owner of the project passed away. Since then, nothing has been done at all so whether a shopping centre will be built here or not remains to be seen. I like it the way it is!

Remember the sausages? I tried boiling them and then removing the skins. They were a little better but the skins were not so easy to remove at all. I wish we could get good old British sausages here, for breakfast of course, and German ones for other times.

The rest of the day was almost the same as yesterday. The only difference being I refreshed my excel skills and produced a file, including a chart, to help with my guitar practice. It’s called “1 Minute Chord Changes” and the idea is to change chords as many times in one minute as possible. You start off with two chords of course, with a single strum, and then as you improve you can add as you please. (You don’t count chords that don’t ‘ring out’ properly.) My first day’s results are not as bad as I thought, others have done better than I have, but some have also done worse.

September 30th Woke up to a blocked internet again, no Gmail, no YouTube and no Facebook. I guess it could take a while. I got some morning guitar practice instead before we went and did the usual Monday shopping.

After our shopping trip, for a short while, we had connection to the world but then it disappeared again for the rest of the day, and night! Still, it gave me three guitar practice sessions today instead of the usual two. I also cleaned out one of my ‘man drawers’, you know, that draw where you keep all your “it may come in useful one day” stuff. Not only that but I began cleaning up the laptop prior to sending it for repair. I deleting all the data with a ‘three times wipe over’. I had thought about using the D.O.D. approved wipe over but that takes even longer!

So, all in all a boring day for you, dear reader, let’s hope next month improves. Until then, it’s goodbye from Her Majesty and the fool!

Unclebob 01.10.2019 0 66
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