I’ve never got over my love of English Pubs. Happy places with happy people enjoying themselves ? Well maybe. Back in the 1970s when I started drinking in them perhaps, but not any more sadly. Roger Scruton wrote a beautiful essay about the Melancholy of modern Pub life that I read recently? I still like to go to them though.  The great days of British Pubs are over now. Killed by a combination of Tesco’s cheap booze,  the smoking ban and the creepy advance of bourgeois individualism. “You come to us ?”.  “Oh no we’ll come to you”.  We can show off our new bathroom suite. Or more likely these days our sanded floors with expensive rugs. 

So I arrived in China. There are no Pubs here in the English sense, just bars. This is some of what I’ve learnt about Chinese bars, or at least the ones in my area. 

Firstly never go before 10pm. The place will  be empty. Unless there’s a singing competition on. In which case there’ll be 500 there in a bar that can comfortably accommodate 200. Then I order a beer. At this point the barman will give me a beer and often refuse to take any money. After an argument I accept the first beer gratis. When I order a second one I threaten to walk out unless I pay. This normally does the trick. We then have a stilted conversation which involves much typing on our phones. I’m asked about England and what I’m doing here. I’m then asked whether I can play the guitar. They know very well that I can play the guitar………badly !! I then play the guitar…..badly……

A Tshirt slogan I hadn’t seen before that I spotted yesterday. It reads *Fuck You, Fuck me. Fuck everyboddee *……..well it rhymes ; and scans ; nearleeeeee. 

7th October 2015

As far as I can see, and that’s  maybe not that far, many Chinese institutions are corrupt and mindbogglingly slothful. This is not really news of course and it’s not too difficult to explain. It’s partly for Economic reasons, China is still a Developing Society, and partly for Political reasons. Only a couple of generations back, well within the memories of many Chinese people The Cultural Revolution took place. A decade of insanity, basically.  During this period it was dangerous to do or say anything *wrong*, indeed it was dangerous, sometimes mortally dangerous to say or do the RIGHT thing at the wrong time.  Far better and safer perhaps to say and do nothing. This historical memory I think still affects people now.

But on the street in everyday ordinary transactions I’m sometimes quite moved by the honesty, hospitality and kindness that I encounter.

Two examples : Last week I went to visit a student in hospital. She’d fallen off a scooter. Not uncommon round here. I took a Taxi to get there as I didn’t know where it was but decided to return by bus as I was pretty sure I knew where I was and could get home. The bus I got on didn’t go where I was expecting it to of course. I got to a bus terminal with no idea where I was. Six months ago I would have panicked but not any more. I’d get home somehow but while I was there I may as well have a look round. I walked past a wet market and saw some oysters. I like oysters. The people who think they taste like you’re eating your own snot are misguided I think. So I went to buy some. I asked the woman how much and I thought she said 40¥ so I profferred  a 50¥ note. She smiled at me, gave me the note back and gestured to me to open my wallet. She took a 5¥ note out and gave me 1¥ back. Remarkable I think. I’d have been none the wiser and as everyone knows in China, Westerners are rich. Why did she act as she did ?  I don’t think it’s got much to do with the Law.

A second example : a while ago when Lemmy was still here we went one night to get some street food. I chose my food and went to pay. The guy cooking the food gestured to a plastic box at the other end of the stall out of his sight line. It was brimming with paper money. Then I realised what I should do. I should put my money in the box and help myself to the right change……. And this system works. I suspect it wouldn’t in many places.