• At 1.87 metres 108 kg (well before I left, let’s hope all this delicious Chinese food hasn’t added to my paunch!) I stand out in China. So suddenly I find myself a minor celebrity,

    people and children stop and stare and take pictures. Mothers and fathers gesture to ask if I would be willing to have a photo taken with their children. I agree of course, as disconcerting as it was at the beginning it is really lovely to see the happy smiles and real pleasure it gives. Young people, especially round the University campus, stop me and ask to do selfies with them, again I’m happy to oblige. As nice as this popularity is though, it’s best not to let it go to one’s head. I’m no longer a new and exotic sight (me?!!) round here and my daily doses of adulation are nearly gone. Yes people still smile but I’m steadily becoming part of the furniture, perhaps a more comfortable position for an elderly Englishman! One thing fascinates me though. My first night here, sitting in Bar 7, I look up at the black painted wall and I’m confronted by a white stenciled picture of me. Well OK not really me it’s Santa; all bearded and jolly smiles with Merry Christmas in tunefully twisted text next to it. It seems that Christmas is also observed here, albeit not as a Christian festival (except for the Christian Chinese of course of which there are a few). The students tell me that on the 25th they buy apples and wrap them in a box and exchange them as gifts with their friends. Amazing how I have to travel thousands of miles to discover Christmas being celebrated in such a simple and becoming way. It knocks the Christmas consumer bonanza I’m used to into a cocked hat.