Robots in disguise.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste

For every minute that passes, a football pitch is lost in the Amazon. Tick. Tock. Tick. Well, rather an area of trees that could cover a football pitch. Is that why Brazil are so good at football? Are they chopping and sawing away trees in order to beat Argentina and co? Of course, the environment and conservation in general are taking epic beatings. It isn’t all doom and gloom.

Britain has flowery roads, replacing lost meadows; Sir David Attenborough is reaching the youth of today at music festivals; Sky are aiming to plant 3 billion trees before the year 2050; farmland is being explored as potential new forests; farms diversification for a public benefit; Shanghai is dividing litter and rubbish into four types with view to recycling more (although education is needed); Yangtze rehabilitation schemes are in place; actually, beyond the gloom there are some pretty selfless and amazing projects happening.

#QuicklyDividingRubbishSendsShanghaiCitizensCrazy (#快被垃圾分类逼疯的上海居民)

Yet dead whales are being found with 40kg of plastic in their bellies; Japan is whaling again; the Antarctic ice is falling faster then ever before; life is changing for many, it is getting warmer; poisoned farmlands; farms that need actions now; famine; or the Australian condemnation of threatened species over farmland necessity. Jakarta’s residents will sue their government due to bad air pollution. Surely, knowing a little how taxes work, they will realise that they will sue themselves. And, didn’t they cause the air pollution too? #SetorFotoPolusi – oops.

Stable ice may be shrinking fast globally. Israel may be ready to start a war with Iran. China may be ignoring sanctions and buying a few fighter jets from Russia. Radioactive magma may erupt from the Yellowstone national park in USA. The Ring of Fire may trigger a huge earthquake and the Phillipines is on high alert.

Conservation and envioronmental protection needs more. The world needs to pull together. Many great projects need government and world body backing. That’s the hard part. Some governments are petrol-backed and busy building walls, or destroying cultures using cultural genocide…


 

Meanwhile in China, many characters with their flyers have collared me this week. It is normal. Most cannot speak English as they thrust their gym advertisement leaflet into my chubby hands. This week, an exception, a man with clear English and knowledge about the U.K., “London is a big city” he shouted. He slammed his body in front of my pathway. It impeded me crossing at the green for pedestrian dancing man. The red man appeared. More solid. Less inviting. Cars quickly prevented me dashing over the wall. “You could move into an investment opportunity tomorrow,” he smiled through words that barely left his immobile jaw. His eyes beamed expecting an instant commitment to his probably well-tested sales pitch. He caught my apprehension and carried on, “You can move in tomorrow.” He then delivered many words in English, too fast for me to understand. I interrupted him, and said, “I’ll take two.” His face lit up. He seemed over the moon, and then a thought triggered across his eyes manifesting in one word, “Really?” So, here I stated, “No, thank you. I need to go across the road and have a coffee. Goodbye. Enjoy your day.” Did he lose face? Only to me – his pack of colleagues didn’t understand. He asked for this. The green man flashed after 90 seconds and off I went. Straight to the sanctuary of Starbucks. Well, it was Independence Day.


66346153_10158668691255760_6510162903012737024_n

This weekend I went to Shenzhen (44.5RMB train ticket each way), jumped on the subway (7RMB) and went to watch football at the Xixiang Stadium. Shēnzhèn Péngchéng (深圳鹏城) faced Sìchuān Jiǔniú (四川九牛), City Football Group’s Chinese partnership club. On the day, it appears, UBTECH of Shenzhen have changed the club’s name to Sichuan UBTECH. City’s partnership club had no away tickets available. They had to be ordered in advance, so I went to the home end. On passing through a metal detector security gate, I was handed a ticket for free. Not bad. The stadium was built around a running track, with only one stand in the east (I believe). The southern end displayed the China flag. The north faced onto a hill. The park around the stadium was entirely devoted to sports (basketball, racket sports and swimming) easy to see. A huge netting cast over the western end of the park. Presumably a golf driving range housed the emitting clinks of balls on clubs. There could have been pterodactyls there.

With the sun strong, and the temperature around 32°C, the game kicked off. Sporting a Puma kit in white, the Sichuan team soon turned the shirt translucent with sweat. A water break after 22 minutes gave the visiting team a kind of nudist look. The bench dressed in all-black gave stark contrast. All looked soaked with sweat, as was in the unwelcoming concrete stand. The 3,000 faded seat stadium could have been called the Bird’s Nest, due to all the dried crap on the floor from the birds’ nests overhead. I was trying to figure out if the team had changed name and abandoned their traditional yellow kit for this game, or forever. No-one that I spoke with had a clue. The board displayed the name Sichuan UBTECH in Chinese. The new away shirt was all white with a sky blue sponsor.

66508354_10158668659195760_4743651817764683776_n

Half-time refreshments involved water, or water. The only option was free and served from a hand-pump over a 20L water bottle. In the heat the water was certainly needed. With this I talked with a fan called Luke who was very familiar with Manchester City goalkeeper history. Hart was mentioned, Ederson too, and which was best, which was a Given, according to him. The fans mulled around, smoked a few cigarettes and talked. The teams reemerged and out came the orchestrated beats of a drum and megaphone induced Olé, Olé, Olés – from bullfighting to south China. I sat back and reflected on seeing a goal scored by the Shenzhen team, where the striker went through the defender… and then the net itself gave him a lovely Spider-Man promotion feel.

66132647_10158668656820760_8347157738777739264_n

Before the game there had been red scarfs held up in the home end, to no tune and certainly no hymns like “You’ll never walk alone.” They did have some songs and chants but I couldn’t follow most. Apart from when they were 1-0 up, they’d sing “Èr bǐ líng” [二比零] which means 2 against 0. That is a weird thing to say. Ttally unlike “C’mon City” or “We want seven!” The away end had a fair bit of noise, with the rat-a-tat of inflatable cheering sticks being quite visible. I love going to a football game, and I’ll happily watch the likes of Rhayader Town, Hyde Utd or in this case Sichuan UBTECH. My friend Chris Howells, a super photographer back in Aberystwyth enjoys the passion of the players and the crowd atmosphere. I’ve learnt from him to spend some time watching the people in the stands. It is a wonderful and quite relaxing experience. As summer swallows swooped over the field during yet another waterbreak, I thought to myself, a regular thought that I have, I need to watch more football from the stands.

66461712_10158668657620760_1806568827878637568_n

The Chinese Football Association Division Two League (Simplified Chinese: 中国足球协会乙级联赛) is the third tier of domestic football. It is split into a northern and a southern group. The top 4 clubs from each segment play off for promotion to the Chinese Football Association Division One League. Bottom of the league means play-offs or automatic relegation to the confusingly named 2019中国足球协会会员协会冠军联赛 which translates as the Chinese Champions League. These two teams reflected mid and upper table, with the Sichuan club bidding for promotion at the first chance following their takeover.

65991027_10158668659655760_2649611427081355264_n

Their new signing, number 32 came on in the 32nd minute and Yang Jun Jie seemed like a kind of Jamie Pollock player. The team were 1-0 down – after 26 minutes, and playing calm football, against the opposition and the late-afternoon heat. They soon went 2-0 down before a spirited second half, which sadly for the visitors didn’t result in an equaliser. An official report can be found here. Of the 600 fans in the stadium 200 had entered the away end. 2000km away games, in the third tier demand a bit of respect.

65959728_10158668663230760_2962556737271365632_n

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

66401820_10158668656810760_3569770232803229696_n

The £80 season ticket.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste

 

“Mr John, what’s your favourite season?”, Billy asked. His tiny frame jiggled around with excitement as he happily danced the question from his chirpy mouth. He looked in anticipation of my answer. In his eyes, I think I sensed he wanted me to answer winter. He could see that I was sweating from the 35°C heat. I have been quite vocal about my dislike of summer and heat since around March when the mercury hit 30°C for the first time this year.

To his surprise, I could see it in his eyes, I did not reply spring, summer nor autumn. The expected word of winter did not disembark my mouth. “Billy, I like the football season best.”

The response was quite international, “Huh?!” One simple sound of confusion with calculators flashing in his young eyes. And smoke billowing from his ears. His thought processes however surprised me. He understood, “You like the start and end of football games in the year but not no games.” Spot on. Grab your A-stars now and go directly to university. How perceptive of you Billy.

Now, flash forwards a day to older-than-eight-year-olds. During a conversation, I was asked which season I like best. I gave the same reply. Nothing. Not a single question or notaion of understanding. The boy in grade 8/junior school 2 was flummoxed. Uterrly mystified and totally foxed. So, rather than let him avoid the subject, I asked if he understood. He replied, “of course.” Very confident. So, I said, “please explain.” I didn’t expect much more information to come. The body language of the boy shown he had been thrown, possibly flabbergasted and bewildered. There was a rabbit in the headlights. He opened his mouth, “In winter it snows, so there is no football. In summer, it is too hot, so there is no football. In spring, it is too wet, so there is no football. In autumn it is windy a dry, so this is when the football season is.” I liked his answer, it had a kind of mathematican’s logic to it. I explained the traditional football seasons of Europe run from August to May. There are variations of course. I said summer football is a huge outlier and probably because the weather is too hot, the fields (pitches) too firm. His reply was, “Well, why is the World Cup in summer?” I said it probably boils down to availability and less interruption to less leagues. I said the winter World Cup of 2022 in Qatar will be an outlier.

My years have never been measured by lunar calendars, Gregorian dates, academic planners or such. No, I opted for cards handed out with the Manchester Evening News’s The Pink years ago, and other wonderful football season date lists.  That first date tunnels utter anticipation until the close season becomes pre-season. Pre-season dates are foreplay to the full activity of the football season proper. Waiting for the football season is a time in itself. Here shirts are released, players exchanged, cold, bought and loaned in or out. Words of war are spoke and expectations set, high or low. The battle is far from underway. The Community Shield is looked at as a friendly, unless you’re in and then it is a trophy, unless you lose. There are contradictions in the making from supporters everywhere. Prices of season tickets, games, and all the accessories of the devout football fan are bickered over. “I won’t buy that” becomes an impulse buy. Quarells placed on pause since May (or June) slide to on. Fantasy football teams are prepped. Bookies collect their bets and forms.

TV subscriptions and schedules are juggled around bills and holiday plans. The ripple of every change is mirrored by the frantic actions of a football fan cancelling a wedding in Benidorm in favour of a weekend wedding at Bolton’s Travelodge. Well, Bolton host your team that weekend. Aberystwyth Town’s last season kit is folded away, and you’re pestering Steve Moore at the clubshop on a daily basis. You’re pinging off text message after twitter message after Whatsapp group query, “When is the new Aber Town top out?” You know that by the time your £80 season ticket is printed, you’ll have the famous black and green on your chest but can’t be sure you’ll be wearing it before Gresford Athletic or Llanidloes Town visit. You’ll dig out your oldest kit and call it retro those days. When is the Nathaniel MG Cup Round Two draw? You overlook the first batch of round dates. It matters not to you.

This pre-season I will travel further than before for City’s four preparation games. Taking in the Premier League Trophy in Nanjing and Shanghai,  a game at Hong Kong Stadium versus Kitchee SC and then the EuroJapan Cup game in Yokohama against F. Marinos. Taking in a trip to Japan excites me. Time to do some planning.

Former City Manager Manuel Pellegrini returns to China having coached Hebei Fortune. Former sky blue hero, Pablo Zabaleta could face City. I’ve paid 288RMB ticket for each game on mainland China. Not a tenner in the sterling world, but not too expensive considering the tickets can equate to the below:

£71/£122 via ManCity.com. Newcastle Utd or Wolves v Manchester City. Fri, 19 Jul 00:00. Shanghai’s Hongkou Stadium.

£43/£65. West Ham United v Manchester City. Tue, 16 Jul 00:00.Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre.

I’m told my ticket in Yokohama was for a similar price to the 288RMB, although I’ve seen some weird four-figure numbers banded about too. This all makes Aberystwyth Town’s £80 season ticket look good value.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

Delete social media? Bye to glaciers?

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste

 

The trouble with the internet is us. Us. Them and us. Me. Click of a finger, bubble butts and exposed cultures. One day we’ll all be preserved in the London Museum. Relics, with no use. Everyone wants their piece of celebrity status on the internet or so it seems. Actually, no, they don’t. The people who have too much time to avoid looking for jobs, doing stuff that matters and being useful can be keyboard warriors. Just like me. Some spout off about this, that and the other. Some offer informed views or share their photographic talents. Others slip in their technical skills or artworks. Many view contents not really suitable for children. Don’t lie. Your internet history has been downloaded – the moment you clicked this post. It can be done. I have friends in high places, Huawei… then there are trolls, internet bullies, lies, spies and down right spies. Even Part-Man-Part-Cloth-Part-Stone, Donald Trump is allowed access to the internet.

Reactions to news, events, celebrities falling arse about face on Love Island or some such other lighter-than-light-floating-turdish entertainment can be shared. News and politicians can be slated, viewed and opinions slammed onto an electronic plain of imagination. Today’s thoughts become yesterday’s angst and we get to laugh at our previous electronic Dear Diary entries, when they pop up on Facebook as memories. Only these electronic reminders of something that happened before are flung at us digitally. I like writing. I’m not good at it. It is my ambition. I am writing more and more, because if you pile enough shit in the right place, somebody will notice. Why hasn’t The Guardian called me yet? The conservative government are gaining strenth from social division. Few engage the conversation needed to oust them. Maybe I can write some more crap and engage someone, somewhere. Unlikely.

Maybe I need to frame a crime. I’ve been studying detective shows and novels for years. I will train a wild Western chimpanzee (from Liberia) to murder. The victim will be a captive-bred but escaped stray Eurasian lynx from Iran. The weapon of choice will be supplied by Britain to Saudi Arabia and found in Yemen before being filed down to be used for the evil act. However, is it evil? No, the Western chimpanzee must end the life of the Eurasian lynx in order to prevent the death of an orphaned Muslim kid abandoned in Syria, because the transgender adoptive parents from Liverpool and Manchester were in the gender-neutral toilets of Starbucks – the Sana’a branch.

Who would you choose to support? The chimpanzee problem has multi-layed problems. An American pet chimpanzee once bit someone in Connecticut. Not everyone likes Travis. The Eurasian aspect gives a kind of cross-culture problem for the Eurasian lynx. Then, you must consider the location, race, and culture differences. What will the journalistic bit-part character Jeremy Corbyn do? Especially, when he finds that his salary is being paid for my MegaCorp based in its new office of Riyadh. What if this was a story inspired by real events? How would you react? Twitter. You know it. Two web browsers open, one for social media, and one watching kittens dance suggestively to the music of Gnarls Barkley. It wouldn’t be an easy scenario for a newspaper to report about.

“We don’t want paedophiles round here! Unless they’ve really worked on their choreography…” – 2009’s version of me, marked the death of Michael Jackson with an immature and tasteless comment on Facebook.

My Aunty Susan rightly put me in my place regarding subsequent jokes copied and pasted from recent messages marked the tenth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s plastic nose being melted down.  Even today, it is amazing how much respect Michael Jackson gets, despite the lawsuits and continual abuse allegations. Too much time is spent pandering to the needs of his estate and less talk or attention is given to the victims of abuse. Just like Jimmy Carr and other seemingly heartless comedians, sometimes something controversial needs saying or writing, even if the person doing so completely disagrees with it. Otherwise, we end up with a nation of Love Island watchers, completely devoid of conversation. England is becoming American on that front.

The bitter taste of supposed jokes about Michael Jackson still hangs in the air. It doesn’t mean that I am promoting said topic. I was quite shocked to see my words from a decade ago. Isn’t it time more voices condemned his music to the vaults of history? The talent and contribution to musical arts needs eradication through choice, not through censorship. The voice for promoting and celebrating Michael Jackson needs an airing too. He could have been innocent of historic child sex abuse. To quote MJinnocent.com there could have been “many inconsistencies, contradictions and outright lies being told about Michael Jackson” or not. Just like Operation Yewtree it is a mess, and one that may result in a desire by society to rid the worst types of crimes: child sex abuse. Or, we could do a Spotify and just add a mute button. Either way, the conversation cannot be ignored, because like historic sexual abuse cases, today there are in all probability a huge number of systemic problems likely being ignored by the top brass, globally.

Despite all of this, life is finding a way to eradicate these problems. Berlin is baking. Rome is melting. Spain is on fire. Britain is writing letters of complaint. The heatwave was warned to all. It arrived. It cooked. It killed. Like the Spice Girls it will keep coming again and again, and not just from the Sahara. Of course colimate change could be lies or truth. Greenland may be melting at an unprecedented level. Fake truth? Volcanoes going from dormant to active may be stronger reasoning. Is the weather stable near you? Are you experiencing snowfall or the falling of fires from the sky? Snow in June, in Italy? Are 8 billion tonnes of ice being lost from the Himalayas year-on-year? Do we need the third polar ice cap in the Himalayas? Is Greenland a safe place to travel? Should we still call Mont Blanc, Mont Blanc?

“Of course, snowfall can happen in mountain areas in June. But if global warming exists this shouldn’t happen anymore.” – Dr Marco Poletto, Geologist

If the world is warming, are you seeing flash floods and thunderstorms more frequently? Are these storms much more violent in nature? How many trees do we need to re-plant? Do sewerage works need re-designing? Should roads absorb more water? Do zero emission cities work? Are we thinking about the environment too slowly? Are European glaciers due to be extinct? Is plastiglomerate pretty? So many questions. Too many. Will mushrooms save the day?

“Let’s go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for this all to blow over…” – Shaun of The Dead

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

Lamjura La II: The Return

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste,

 

 

27th January 2019

In some ways the challenge of Lamjura La made me feel nervous. Last time round, it was not easy (see 2017’s post entitled Toils and rewards). Departing Sete (2900m) with a belly full of breakfast we started the walk at 0640hrs. The murky morning unveiled valleys below us and a clear pathway upwards. Rays of sunshine shit out from dark clouds covering Pikey Peak mountain and snow lay on the higher grounds that we approached. The cardamom plantation and streams by Kinja were long behind us. Chimbu village’s primary school squatted in a small area above the pathway but squeezed so tightly to the mountainside that a playground seemed barely possible.

A steady rhythm of one foot after the other didn’t matter. The most appropriate adjective is relentless. It is a tough, tough day. Moss-lined forests broke away and eventually a small hamlet appeared. By 0840 we arrived in Dakchu and spent half an hour so eating omelette and enjoying the view. After leaving the Sonam Guest House’s quick servce and reasonable prices, we headed off. The steam on the roof of the guesthouse, made way for a few rooftops of snow, and many places coated in the cold white stuff. Here the road reappeared and swept over the pathway time and time again. The snow went from light, to knee-deep quickly. A sudden drop down for twenty or so metres revealed an icy lake. Soon, we were heading uphill again. The mani stones became caked in snow. With the brighter sunshine, it wasn’t too cold. We stopped for another brew and snuggled two cute puppies. Beyond that we had yet another rise to clamber up. The trees became taller, wider and sparse of green leaves. The ancient landscape could have filled a Tolkein-fantasy novel.

Passing a stack of flat-packed wood, it seemed the same browny-grey cat was there exactly two years ago. The dramatic landscape smoothed off and we were at the start of the pass. The first few huts and buildings were crumbling. Spirit levels not included. The new road swallowed the original pass. This was for once, a good thing. The old pathway was narrow. The new pathway didn’t feel like the earth would fall away, despite the near waist-deep snow. Here, I had to add my thick snow gloves. The shadow of the mountain added extra chill to the occasion.

It was 1600hrs and we were in deep snow – and hungry. One single lodge, on Lamjura La, was open, high up at 3530m. We ate fried macaroni with rice and drank piping hot black tea. It was needed. The giddy puppy darting back and forth made it more of a game than a meal. The dog’s owners, a young family with a very young baby in a box, affixed to the head by a rope headband. Soon after we started eating Ishwor, Srirang and Livia arrived. After they drank and we had finished our reunion, we set out into the deep snow. Alongside us was an 80-year old Sherpa woman and her granddaughter.

We trudged slowly through our newly cut snow pathways for an hour or so to the final edge of the pass (3530m). Here a closed house, that I had black tea and a chocolate bar last time round, stood closed. The drift of snow covered one side. We took the odd photo here and eventually began our descent. The warm fire of the last lodge was now a distant memory. Light ws fading fast. Snow and hail began to shower down on us. The moss-covered trees on a rapidly steep descent hid the pathways below. The furrows and tracks resembled that of a toboggan run. Forest firs and rhododendrons cast out little sound and the air felt still despite a roaring blizzard rolling over the treetops. After a lifetime of torch-waving and some twists and turns below forest canopy, the pathway emerged by a few small houses. Many more steps were needed before the glow of the village of Junbesi could be seen in the valley below. I was at the point of utter exhaustion. Thirsty and without a single drop of water from the two litres available.

After some painful final few kilometres in a timeframe that seemed not to end, we arrived at Junbesi (2700m). The Apple Lodge made us dal bhat (#5) immediately after we arrived close to 2100hrs. Food was in the belly and an aborted attempt at a hot shower was had. The water was 60°C or 0°C – and could not be set between. In bed we all went, shattered.


28th January 2019

The following morning, Linda reported her blisters and some minor foot injuries. Livia and Srirang were knackered. Ishwor joined them for a rest day and another British couple, who had attempted Pikey Peak strolled by and said hello. A light lunch and by 1400hrs, Maria and I carried on, but not too far. At the Everest View Hotel, there was a view of clouds and a warm ginger tea to be had. Still we gently walked on, until reaching the Sherpa village of Solung at 1730hrs. Here was stopped for a brew, to be told that the pathway ahead was firmly frozen and a nightmare to pass. We accepted an invitation to stay at a Sherpa family’s home. Nawang and his wife Pupa lived with one of their three daughters. The 31 years old daughter cooked for us. They had attended a Sherpa wedding with Pupa’s older sister. The wedding procession was going on as far as Kharikhola village. Nawang was a former guide and porter. He claimed to be 80 years old but seemed much younger. From their farm came fresh milk, great vegetables and yummy eggs. Dal bhat number 6 was delicious. The best, so far, and in hindsight, the best overall.

Stories of Nawang’s hiking days, Sherpa lifestyle and the village’s culture stretched to quite late. With a frehs glass of hot milk in our bellies, we retired to the bedroom. The house, from the outside looked like a British detached two-up, two down. Downstairs half of the building served as an agricultural place and the other hald as a washroom/tool shed. Upstars the kitchen area had beds for four and the main social area. A second room, without curtains over the window (there is no invasive streetlighting), and a huge poster to the Tibetan flag and Dalai Lama stood. Maria, from China slept under that. I had the cool air drifting on over me from the window frame. Still it was a pleasant enough place to sleep. Very homely.


29th January 2019

The morning light crept through the windows. A cracking chapati with egg breakfast and wonderful milk tea set the day up well. We bid our farewell to the lovely Sherpa family and began the trek down to the villages of Ringmu. The ankle high bench of the previous lodge’s stay was a pleasant memory by now, as aches returned to pleasantly conditioning legs. I didn’t miss the playful grey cat that scratched my left hand as I slid into my sleeping bag though.

On this day the snowy peaks started to appear far closer. Ice lined waterfalls and melted under glorious beams of brightness. Numerous abandoned building ruins stood side by side their replacement housing. The scars of the 2015 earthquakes visible all over. Into a valley we walked, with huge prayer paintings that Google probably took inspiration from for its logo choice. Over a bridge meant one clear thing. The downward trend of the morning’s walk was now going to be an uphill strain. No pain, no gain – as they say. Passing orange-bellied rustic bird foraging in the damp dry ground a plateau revealed a dramatic landscape with fields towered over by nearby Himalyan peaks.

On finishing a brew in Ringmu, we passed by a ruined ghompa and mani stones. It looked dramatic on my last visit – but this visit it was surrounded by patches of scattered snow. Here we began the ascent to Taksindu (3000m) and walked through a monastery gate atop the peak, before a reasonable incline towards Taksindu monastery. The monastery looks shiny, bright and new. It was mostly a building site two years ago. On passing here, after a Mountain Man nutrition bar, the snow set in. Fearing a blizzard we moved down the mountain side at a steady pace, struggling over icy lips and frozen mud. Flocks of birds swept close to the ground, foraging whilst they could. At 1500hrs we arrived in Nunthala (2330m). A lodge was selected, one of two open in the sleepy village. Almost as soon as we dropped our things in the third-floor room, the snow stopped. Soon after a snow-swept Linda joined us with a French guy resembling Floki from the TV series Vikings. Dal bhat number 7 was greatly appreciated. Here we met a Bulgarian man, heading back from Everest Base Camp, who warned of serious levels of snow and struggles ahead. Nothing a warm brew couldn’t fix.


30th January 2019

The day had been intended to be a long one, ending in Bupsa Danda, but why rush things? From Nunthala we left at 0900hrs. A late lunch around 2pm was had in Kharikhola (2040m). Scarcely an hour later and we set down for the night at the Tashi Delek lodge (meaning hello in the Sherpa language), in the same village. We’d spent just under an hour dropping books with the Classrooms in The Clouds-supported Kharikhola Secondary School (with an attached tiny primary school). We’d even ate lunch at the Headmaster’s family home and met his son, and engineer of the mechanical kind. His friend was also an engineer, set to travel to U.S.A. to further his studies. After being shown their school grounds, a library and their new primary school buildings, we took some photos together and bid farewell. We walked a whole 250 metres in the village before meeting Srirang and Livia with Ishwor. We bunkered down for the night.

Classrooms in The Clouds have a short but rich history in Nepal. They prove that donations can make a real difference. £8.00 makes a day’s salary for a teacher. £10.00 will find three Nepali books. £15 will find three reusable menstrual kits for young women in school. Aside from sounding like just a charity appeal, they deliver. Their mouths put money and resource into action. Their expertise works with Nepali parteners, on the ground, focusing on education support, great quality new classrooms, teacher sponsorship and community work. They support their partners and their teachers. They have linked to the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service. If students can study and leave school with the School Leaving Certificate needed, then Nepal will reinforce from within. At places such as Lukla, Bakhapalam, Majhgaun and Kharikhola. My feeling is that, every kid needs to experience school. How can we inspire without a pathway? The early Everest expeditions gave us the gift of some of the finest Himalayan trail to tread upon. This gift needs repaying. Think global, act local? Ecotourism is more than not bringing food from home. Bring something rewarding and leave a place better. Just like picking litter up at the beach. There’s a classroom in the clouds just waiting to be imagined.

That day had been interspersed by numerous mule trains and lots of inhaled dust. The trail has been battered in the last two years. A quaint lodge at the foot of a hill from Nunthala had made way for a mud-spattered filthy mule resting point. Many plants including various fruits and vegetables could be seen today. The contrast between temperate, arid and mountaineous climates was very clear. The splashings of colour, the blue skies and the icy mountain peaks give a sensual overload to the eyes. Dreams could be seen here and there.

In the evening, we met Srirang, Ishwor and Livia. We ate Dal bhat number 8 and talked the evening away, occasionally pinching a look at the clear sky full if stars outside – and the Milky Way lines. Not a bad way to hit the icy cold pillow, as the walk up Bupsa Danda loomed overhead.

#3 SETE 0640 – JUNBESI 2100: ~ 15km.
#4 JUNBESI 1400 – SOLUNG 1740 / #5 SOLUNG 0830 – NUNTHALA 1500: ~ 17km.
#6 NUNTHALA 0900 – KHARIKHOLA 1500: ~8km 

 

To be continued…

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

Word Up: The Bland Mid December Update

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae,

Moving on from a splattering of Almost Everyday Shit™, this piece of writing is more serious. I find the lack of progress in my spoken Chinese not only unsurprising but also annoying. I need to dedicate time to progression. I need to speak more. I don’t. I lack focus. I am distracted by the slightest change of the winds or a cloud shaped like a crocodile. Don’t misinterpret my lack of learning as a lack of passion. The culture is much more interesting to me. The problem is that Chinese can often be cryptic. Having simple words translated is good enough for now. My listening is improving and more often than before, I can understand the conversations around me. Food is a common topic. Really common. Stupidly common.

妈妈骑马马慢妈妈骂马; māma qí mǎ, mǎ màn, māma mà mǎ;

“Mother is riding a horse, the horse is slow, mother scolds the horse”


In recent weeks, I have attended Clockenflap music festival, with Eddy one night – and Martin the next. The latter, all by myself. Alone. That being said, it was a wonderful weekend, if not a tad expensive. Drinks were 75HKD each, so around £8. Water was free. Pizza was 35HKD per slice. Two expensive coffees a day helped. The big acts delivered in Jarvis Cocker’s Jarv.is and Erykah Badu. I enjoyed The Vaccines, with frontman Juston Young seemingly under the weather, put on an energetic set. Friday’s big set from Interpol was quite flat – as was Cigarettes After Sex. Neither act could offer the energy that festivals require. Khalid wasn’t to my taste, too popular but I was pleasantly surprised by Japanese band Cornelius. Wolf Alice, from That London, were on spot and deserve their lengthy list of plaudits. They’ll go on to big things. Canadian band Alvvays are worth a gander and I’m currently listening to their album Antisocialites. The golden performances of the weekend however belong to husband and wife, Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia. The couple come from Mali and have over four decades of performances to their name. I couldn’t get enough of those funky Afro-Blues if I tried! Sensi Lion were good, but by far the best reggae and Jamaican sound came from the fusion of I Kong with Jahwahzoo. Chinese-Jamaican Leslie Kong (who launched a certain Bob Marley – also the likes of Jimmy Cliff and Desmond Dekker) had a son. His son followed the reggae producer into the music world. His son, I KONG, is 71 years old. He may have worn the body of an older man, but he had the grace and voice of one in his earl years. My ears feel graced by a reggae god. To cap it off, he fused his music with Chengdu’s Jahwahzoo. The city famous for pandas – has talent! By far the best act of the whole weekend’s art and music festival was that of David Byrne. The former punk-indie-rock-multi-genre spinning member of Talking Heads performed an unusual set, barefoot and with a fully integrated backing troupe. The traditional stage set-up was pushed aside for part opera-part ballet-part whatever it was. It was brilliant. Starting with an almost Hamlet-esque feeling and ending with the audience roaring for more. The disparate festival of Clockenflap had here and artist to fit all the billing. Exuberant and charistmatic, the Scottish born American singer with his support made quite an impression. To be active across five decades and evolve without feeling forced takes talent. To cap it all he is an active cycling advocate.


 

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana. It seems like only yesterday that I went to Nepal. Yet here I am, planning a return trip for Spring Festival in 2019. The adventure continues. Now I need to start thinking about what music I will take with me. Johnny Marr and The Smiths will be there. A touch of Happy Mondays and Oasis too. Home always sounds in my ears. I think I’ll need some Meat Loaf. I first listened to Meat Loaf on car journeys from Cleethorpes, back to Manchester and later Morecambe to Manchester. Dad got me into Meat Loaf via The Razor’s Edge and Midnight at The Lost and Found. Some of his songs don’t age or get tiring. Some don’t register – as they’re somewhere below average and some just tide you over to the next number.

On the 30th November 2003, at the Manchester Evening News Arena I watched Meat Loaf’s Last World Tour. I’d last seen him on the 6th May 1999 in The Very Best of World Tour. I’d always wanted to see Meat Loaf and missed the G-Mex gig in 1994 and the two Nynex Arena [now Manchester Arena] gigs in 1996. Fast forward to the 16th of October 2006, I watched Meat Loaf at the Royal Albert Hall. The Three Bats tour gig was awesome. My university friend Lisa Bates accompanied me. I’d enjoyed the Sieze the Night tour in May 2007 at the Manchester Evening News Arena. In 2008, I watched Meat Loaf both at Home Park [27th June 2008] and Hamburg’s Stadtpark [23rd July 2008] as part of his Case de Carne tour. On the 9th of December 2010, at the Manchester MEN Arena, Hang Cool Tour was expected to be Meat Loaf’s final farewell tour. On the 19th of April 2013, I watched Meat Loaf at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena. Last at Bat Farewell Tour, featuring the entire Bat Out Of Hell album in the second act. On August the 16th that year, I visited Newmarket Racecourse to watch Meat Loaf on the same tour. I’m now waiting for Meat Loaf’s final, last ever, absolute ultimate closing decisive tour… 2003, 2006, 2007, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2013… we must be due one from the man who has toured almost continuously since 1977 soon?

Music is important to me. Just as great music like Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, travelled via the medium of movies from the silver screen to our ears, sounds from John Barry, John Williams and a plethora of conductors have become synonymous with movies. Their emotive nature has strangled and captured my attention time and time again. Whilst John Barry and David Arnold have given the distinct sound of James Bond, it is Thomas Newman’s scoring for Skyfall that is foremost in my mind. Soundtracks offer the perfect opportunity to combine multiple genres and contrasting blends of music. They are the cocktail to the traditional beer of the album. Fine examples include Chameleon; Weddings; No Smiling Darkness/Snake Charmers Association; Ambulance for the Ambience; Major Label Debut (Fast) – all by Broken Social Scene. Ghostbusters, as a sountrack is multi-layered funky and dynamic. The Blues Brothers cannot be topped for tempo and feel good. Kill Bill’s soundtracks offer an incite into the director’s love of music. Due South, a TV series from the 90’s offers the buddy TV show in sound. Slumdog Millionaire, alongside Sons of Anarchy travel great grounds and make good companions. If that’s how you discover Black47, so be it. Like Lost In Translation, music is everywhere to be discovered, repleated and replayed. There’s nothing better than rediscovering a long-unplayed music track like Diesel Power by Prodigy or first hearing Arcade Fire. For new music I recommend BBC Radio 6 Music or just attending any music festival. To quote Limp Bizket, take a look around!

 

47442171_10156809556650699_5899347948554158080_nRecently, I joined Here! Dongguan magazine hiking. Following that I had dinner with several people including questionable-coke supplier Charli In China. Jokes aside, she doesn’t do drugs, or sell them on but her blog is located on WordPress alongside many, including this pile of crap that I keep typing on. I can’t recommend Charlie’s Blog, as I am only now reading it, but travel and culture enthusiasts can take my view and have a gander blindly. What is there to lose?

 

Last week on one lunch time I had beef and broccoli with rice. I felt hungry still, only an hour later. Increasingly, I feel more and more hungry, sooner and sooner after eating rice. Is this a sign of ill-health or have I become immune to the hunger-busting ability of rice? Answers on a postcard (edible, preferably) please. Last night, I ate hotpot with Obama, Stone, Maria and her mother. The kind of place where they make you cook. I asked for extra onion, expecting a portion but had a full (yet chopped) onion dashed at me. Can’t complain. It fried up well eventually amongst the pig’s stomach and various bits of vegetables. Winter has arrived and with it, the necessity to eat hotpot and devour soup more frequently. I don’t see it, personally, but then I’m not the one wearing five layers or thermals when it is 12°C. Don’t get me started in last week’s sudden ten degree drop in temperature! Dongguan went from summerwear to Baltic state overnight.

In recent weeks, school life has seen the obligatory Sports Days, talent competitions (I Dance Like This, being sang by 6-7 year olds was great fun) and the joys of midterm exams. We’re cracking on for the end of semester and Spring. The relentless pace now includes tonight’s Dance Extragavanza and Christmas activities soon after. Aside from helping to decorate Winners Pub and dress of Father Christmas at last weekend’s Shenzhen Blues’ event for Crimbo, I haven’t thought about the festive season. That way homesickness waits…


 

Words are great things – and a great song title too. So glad to hear that Doves are regrouping even if I can’t make any of the three announced gigs.

 

Words, they mean nothing 换句话说,他们的意思是什么
So, you can’t hurt me 所以,你不能伤害我
I said words, they mean nothing 我说的话,他们的意思是什么
So, you can’t stop me 所以,你不能阻止我
Words – Doves

I like wordplay and authors like Roald Dahl or Eric Carle have mastered repartee perfectly. Even influencing society and movies with their jousting words. I also like crazy sentences and riddles. Anything that somehow frazzles the mind and warps perception of simple English. When the meaning clicks, it clicks and if you can get a seven-year old kid to master just one little bit, then the feeling that wit and banter will forever enter their life is quite pleasing.

“Wouldn’t the sentence ‘I want to put a hyphen between the words Fish and And and And and Chips in my Fish-And-Chips sign’ have been clearer if quotation marks had been placed before Fish, and between Fish and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and And, and And and and, and and and Chips, as well as after Chips?”

Words can be powerful emotive tools to convey actions. They can be linguitic symbols that appear in memes, poems and other semantic forms. They are historical, computational, anthropological and applied in structure and field. Some words reveal lots about our heritage – and many have morphed or transisted cultural boundaries. They can be generative or specific. Our languages globally depend upon them. Each word and its origin can be found. At the very least a theory given to the origin story in ways that Marvel will probably film at some stage. They do everything else. Our words are elements – that give meaning, whether objective or practical.

Now words, as stones make buildings, form phrases, languages, clauses and sentences. I threw this sentence together so that you can put up with reading it and generally feeling that I am terrible at writing. You’re welcome. Below words are the protons and neutrons in morphemes. Oh – and some make words, like erm… oh! Many words have roots, affixes and some are made of compounds. I wonder how many words feature in in affixes or compounds. It must be wonderful to know. That or you’ll be wordless.

Words make good games, not that using pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis as a subject is wise, because it is no laughing matter. The definition being ‘a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand dust’. At least the Disney movie Mary Poppins went light-hearted with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The word, according to Dictionary.com, which can be found at www.dictionary.com, is ‘used as a nonsense word by children to express approval or to represent the longest word in English’. Most people with a sense of humour note it as something ‘extraordinarily good’ or ‘wonderful’ – with the movie intending it to mean, ‘something to say when you have nothing to say’.

In my opinion it is worth reading some of Richard Lederman’s books and checking out his webpage, Verbivore. English lexicographer and etymologist, Susie Dent, has some eye-opening mind-bending joyous books, and the popular title, Susie Dent’s Weird Words by Susie Dent is worth a perusal. That or you could read about uttering. They make lighter reading than the plethora of dictionaries available in the wide world. On top of that, I’d be up for a game of the best anagram game ever, Scrabble. Idioms, nautical term dictionaries, word play websites, prompts, blogs, rhymes, rimes – yùnshū (韵书), spelling bees and many more sources act as great ways to develop our language skills. Debate and discussion is one such powerful method. Choose a subject, such as antidisestablishmentarianism, then crack on. Or discuss your plans to visit Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – home of the Women’s Institute and Llanfair PG FC.

Swords are powerful, so are words.

 

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