Dance beneath the stars

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

A month or so ago, it was a case of one more sleep. One last head on the pillow and then it was up, up and away. Not like Superman, sadly. More a case of Turkish Airlines doing their remit. The delightful cultural exchange began in Changping, taking a taxi service to Hong Kong International Airport, then checking in before the mandatory waiting time of too long. At impatience o’clock, my flight began to taxy onto a slab of concrete far longer than my tolerance of a Star Trek DVD collection. Whatever the piloting term of putting your foot down is, thankfully the pilot knew of this. There was no room for winging it. Wings were needed for certain. I didn’t want Captain Miracle’s qualifications to have been the winner of Turkey’s Got Talent/Airplane Idol. I’d rather have taken a bus back to the U.K. All my bags were packed, and I was ready to go. I was leaving on a jetplane afterall. Carrying things in your pocket or giant cardboard boxes isn’t such a grand idea. Anyway, the flights back via Istanbul were most pleasant.

 

Anyway, here I am back in Dongguan, a whole 4 years after arriving here for the first time. And jet lag is making the whole return feel just as dizzy as day one of landing in Guangzhou. After departing a snow delay-hit Manchester International Airport, with several hours sat on a plane that wasn’t moving, the pilots lifted the Airbus A321 (32B) Transcon off the U.K.’s frozen terra firma. Around 4 hours later it touched down in Istanbul, before a sprint was needed to make the Hong Kong flight. I’m fairly certain that I left rubbery streaks from my shoes in Ataturk Airport. An uncomfortable 9 hours or so followed, not because of the airline or the seats, or the flight. Just me and my inability to sleep inflight. Alone in Berlin, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Renegades and On Wings of Eagles [终极胜利] (about runner turned Christian Minister Eric Liddell – the “Flying Scotsman”).

 

Eric Liddell [埃里克·利德尔] was born in Tiānjīn天津市 but raced for Great Britain and Scotland – as well as playing rugby union on the international team. He died at Wéixiàn Internment Camp [潍县集中营]. The movie is a tad flat, however, the story is fascinating and the history portayed is riveting. It is certainly one to look out for, and now I must seek John W. Keddie’s book, Running the Race – Eric Liddell, Olympic Champion and Missionary. Sadly, the movie was my final piece of time spent on holiday as the wheels lowered from the Boeing 777-300ER jet. I’d enjoyed the 28th of January to the 28th of February on British soil.


It all started with the British Track Cycling Championships final round on my arrival day. I caught up with my sister Christina and her nephew, then watched City beat Cardiff City in the FA Cup from the comfort of a sofa. Sleep followed not long after.

 

To start February off, I met up with my best friend Dan, on a train bound for Glasgow. After smooth talking the staff at the £30 a night EasyHotel, we had ourselves two single beds and not the accidentally booked double bed. A few ales, some scran and a wander around Glasgow followed before we arrived at the Old Fruitmarket. Here the band, Levellers did an acoustic gig. The Levellers setlist featured old, new and new versions of old songs:

The Levellers are a band I like very much. They are not Coldplay. They are properly political. They are as Mark Thomas (Comedian) is to Lee Evans. The marmite of their industry. The next morning Dan had to pop back for work early. I took in a self-guided walking tour of Glasgow’s Cathedral, Necropolis and the city centre before heading back to Manchester.


Meeting Astrid, Mum, and Paul, we all tottled off to see an exhibition called Robots at the Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester. It was a fantastic display but quite limited in size. Seeing Maria from the 1927 movie Metropolis amongst other movie stars and scientific advancements. The Great Western Warehouse first floor space features animatronic babies and useful limbs for those who have lost them or never had them. There is a real insight into the possible and plausible future of society.


Having missed the 0933 train from Manchester to down south by 2 minutes, I had to re-purchase new tickets and board the 1033 down that way. The train operators having zero sympathy for a connecting tram service delay. I guess in future, I must allow extra time for such trivial problems.

After pizza, on meeting Asa and Steph, we wandered around Gloucester Cathedral taking in the filming locations of three Harry Potter films and a memorial to World War One and Severn river poet Ivor Gurney. Edward II and other royal kings are buried there, but Albert Mansbridge is more important I feel. He pioneered adult eduction in Britain. Amongst the carvings and glassworks is an image of a game likened to be football, dated 1350.

Woodchester Park surrounds an unfinished mansion house, dating from 1845. After pulling up in an icy car park, a walk down a trail to the incomplete manor followed. Passing great trees and sweeping fields the view opened-up to a magnificent gargoyle-topped two Victorian Gothic house. A gentle stroll and a cute puppy whilst admiring the bat boxes and conservation efforts surrounding the house, made for a good wander. Next up and kind of just down the road was Newark Park, managed by the National Trust. It holds Newark House. The 750-acre estate has stunning views of the nearby Mendips and Cotswolds. Here you can hold a piece of mammoth tusk, view the WWI exhibition and history of the house. A good coffee outside and beautiful gardens are more than capable of captivating your attention.


Clifton Suspension Bridge has always been somewhere I have dreamed of seeing up close and personal. It didn’t disappoint. Clifton Observatory, on Clifton Down once was a windmill for corn, then snuff. Now it hosts a great camera onscure, one of a handful open to the public around the U.K. I’ve already seen the Aberystwyth Camera Obscura. The staff there that day advised the light level was low and the camera obscura would be obscure, at best. Payment was advised just for the cave, so we saved a few pennies and slipped on down through very tight passages to a concealed cave looking out onto the Avon Gorge, with the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Later crossing the bridge was pleasing and touring the small, yet well-thought out museum added to the joys of seeing somewhere new and all the history that surrounds it. The link to Egypt and the delayed and redesigned projects, before it opened in 1864 and a lengthy history featuring the last flight of BAE Systems’ Concorde. Nando’s the first of four U.K. visits followed. The spice is right?

SUSPENSA VIX VIA FIT

(The road becomes barely suspended)

On the 14th of February, from Cam and Dursley train station, the train hurtled north and east a little, towards Nottingham. Outside driving sleety showers filled the grey skies. Happy Valentine’s Day indeed. On arrival Aunty Carolyn and Phil were waiting. Next was a relaxed evening with enough Cottage Pie to sink a ship and a catch up. Also, seeing my cousin Gary wasn’t a bad surprise. The following day involved a short bus trip to Wollaton Hall (it doubled as Wayne Manor in the The Dark Knight Rises). Gotham village is around five miles south of the park and hall. Soon after touring the wintery deer park and café, a jaunt to Nottingham Castle (some of which has stood since 1067AD, under William the Conqueror) and Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem claiming to have opened in 1189AD. City of Caves added to the itenary but was quite disappointing. The sandstone conurbation of cellars features an Anderson shelter, a few tales and the odd pub cellar. The medieval tannery amongst the pillar cave and Drury Hill slums and a few brief points and Luddite connections, with the questionable origin of the phrase, ‘the penny dropped’. The outbound journey from Nottingham to Manchester on the 16th, involved no changes, only a flowing land of hills, greenery and eventually the arrival of the city of Manchester on the edge of the Cheshire Plain.

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

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