Sunday, 14 February 2010

Tiger Paws and Ten Foot Roses.

A few months ago I spent hours hunched over my computer in my wee office, rain and wind howling outside the window, the sky a vile pollution-tinged shade of purple-y yellow, and tapped out an eloquent yet efficient and wryly humorous summary of my time in Beijing from the most previous blog post to date. And accidentally deleted it. Being the grown up lady type I am, I went in an almighty huff and refused to go anywhere near the blog till... well, now.

So here we are, 1 year and 4 months on. Cripes. Today is 春节 Spring Festival - aka Chinese New Year, the first day of the Year of the Tiger. What will this year bring? Well no spring for a start (the Year of the Ox had 2 apparently, so that's that..). Because of this, I have been advised not to get married or have any babies this year because it would be unlucky. So, ok, ok I'll try not to.

Last year we were invited to our neighbour's flat for a midnight meal of jaozi (dumplings) and watched the sky light up with thousands of fireworks, this year though they had their family staying so we were left to our own devices. So last night, I found myself having drinks with friends and as we were wandering back through the streets a man proffered a half-smoked cigarette at me, I smiled bemusedly at him until I saw him gesturing at a brightly coloured box in the pavement and realised I was being invited to participate in an age old Chinese New Year tradition - setting off masses of fireworks in the street mere inches from people, cars, buses and overhead tram lines. Naturally I enthusiastically took this opportunity to risk having my face melted onto my hand bag and spent a good 20 minutes lighting a whole range of fireworks, as more cigarettes were lit and handed to me, a never ending supply of whizzers, bangers, and general sources of ooh-aah-ness were brought out of this fellow's house. Eventually my friends called me away, probably for the best as a rogue component of someone else's fireworks had just ooh-ed and aah-ed right into my knee and burned through two layers of tights.

Having had a fitful sleep interrupted at 20 minute intervals by unnecessarily loud explosions of pure Chun Jie joy I joined approximately 98% of Beijing's native population and hopped on a subway to my nearest Temple Fair. Despite going with my friend Shirley, who is a genuine Beijingren and goes to at least one temple fair every single Spring Festival, we managed to get lost in the grounds and ended up at the performance area just as it was finishing and so managed to see nothing of any cultural worth. We did however play some fun fair type games (of the hooplah type which one never wins, and sure enough with my unrivalled hand to eye co-ordination, we never won) and had a pleasant time browsing the stalls selling an enterprising mix of New Year and Valentines paraphernalia. I bought Shirley an inexplicable hair band with rabbit ears and she got me an enormous plush red rose and we both looked longingly (but skintingly) at the inflatable ten ton weights, fake sugared haw berry sticks and huge tiger paws-gloves with claws. We ended the day by drinking the world's most expensive and tiny hot chocolate in a small bar which never quite managed to get the door shut and thereby left us frozen throughout. Good times.


  1. Let that be a lesson to you - back up yer data! Not to mention don't light fireworks in the street even if given half a fag from a stranger with which to do it! Still it's not November so that's probably ok then...
    Sounds like you had a lot of fun, hope the year of the tiger brings you lots of luck - who knows maybe even the unadvised marriage and baby? :D

  2. Yes, it's a little known fact that ususal firework health and safety advice only applies within the boundaries of the Commonwealth on or around Guy Fawkes day.