Monday, 28 November 2016

China Journal 3

Mask by Clarissa!

Terrifying students!

Barbara and Larisa

Runar and Gudrun change genders and Barbara

Daan and Ravi as the night wears on!

1 November
Yesterday was Halloween and Barbara, the Mexican playwright, got together with Ravi (Indian-American poet) to arrange a trip into Yangshuo city to buy drinks and nibbles and prepare for a party. The trip to Yangshuo suddenly became very popular and most people went and spent the afternoon there as well as dinner in an Indian restaurant. We stayed behind with a couple of others, I to write the penultimate section of the last part of the book, Clarissa to paint and to prepare for the party by making me a vampire mask (eyes and top of head the rest rudimentary make-up combined with natural aptitude). Larissa, the German novelist continued working, as did Katherine, the American short-story writer. So those of us left walked round to the 3-minute restaurant (je the restaurant that is 3 minutes away) and ordered something quick and fast, a sandwich and a sode in my case. Then back to the house to prepare.

We were fully choreographed to make an appearance downstairs at 8pm. Clarissa wore the garland we had bought from the old woman together with a veil and with a bit of mean make-up looked like a beautiful haunted version of La Cicciolina, but with clothes (again, photos later). The turn out was terrific. Everyone was there, Runar and Gudrun in reversed genders, Daan with a sinister Good Farmer mask, Merlinda as half a pirate, Barbara as a form of Catwoman, the students as various ingenious zombies, warlords etc. After an initial awkwardness the dancing began and picked up pace, continuing solid for three and a half hours to anything from Bee Gees to Bowie to Gangnam Style, to The Ronettes. To my own astonishment I danced solid, with full energy throughout, without sitting down or resting more than once for ten minutes of conversation, Clarissa (Bride of Dracula) likewise. Everyone admired everyone's costume and make-up. It was the most fun we had had for years. We were the last to pack up and pack away.

Although I felt fine when dancing, once in bed my right hip was so stiff and painful it took a couple of hours to get to sleep. My hearty congratulations to my surgeon, Mr Ali. We're through the MOT with flying colours. Next step: hip replacement.

This morning I finished the book about my mother, now provisionally titled Time Runs Out (first draft)!!! Actually finished!!! I had given up hope of it at times but being here and simply working and thinking and working again has done it.

I am inwardly opening bottles of champagne.

Now, after checking drafts, we'll see how the world takes to it.

Domestic Science GCSE Chinese style

2 November
Yesterday four of us went to a cookery lesson in the afternoon. It was at Cloud 9 in Yangshuo where we ate after the Mountain Song festival. So we got a taxi into the city, that dropped us at an appointed spot ready to pick us up again and walked the short distance to the restaurant. Jenny, the chef and tutor, sat us down, offered us tea, then told us the first step would be to take us down to the market where we would see where the ingredients were bought. So we set off down the street to the big indoor market where she showed us the various vegetables remarking on what each was and its role in this or that dish. In the meantime people buzzed around on motorbikes conveying this or that from place to place. Along the way we pass a fish tank was jammed with fish. Later as we progressed to the meat market there were chickens and geese and rabbits in cages waiting to be slaughtered and, right at the back of the hall, cats and dogs too. I won't describe the scene here only to say that this clearly was nothing extraordinary to people. Not all of us could look at this. The sight was hard.

From there straight to cookery. Aprons and hats on. Fourteen gas rings, seven on each side, the implements and ingredients laid out. We made three dishes, one featuring aubergines, one featuring cuts of chicken (we didn't have to slaughter them ourselves) along with peanuts and onions etc, as well as some dumplings that needed to be pinched into shape. Clarissa's were very beautiful in the conventional way but mine would surely have got a prize for their conceptual references to twentieth century art, being a mixture of Picasso's early cubist work and Dali's melting clocks. There was a touch of Rachel Whiteread too in the spaces between them, but perhaps not enough because a couple of them insisted on clinging together while being steamed.

Did it taste good? I reserve judgment on that. I have enjoyed finer gastronomic treats but as conceptualists are wont to say, it is the process not the product that really matters.

Otherwise writing and, occasionally, talking. The talking most usefully about the finished book since Daan offered to read it and did so with marvellous care. I should add he was extremely positive about it too. All his suggestions were good and right. So I have more hope now and a great deal of encouragement.


Today's distraction was a bike ride to Moon Hill, that needs special description. I'll do that tomorrow morning. Meanwhile the arrangements for my literary prize event are becoming grander by the day. I feel myself shrinking under them as the weight grows. God help me if I ever take myself seriously. The exciting thing is the book I have just finished not the ones I have already written.

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