A little boy is often found outside JD's Kindergarten as the children leave, selling different things each week (second-hand toys, coloured balloons, cheap sweets, etc). I have always been impressed by his entrepreneurial spirit so, the other day, when JD and I saw him selling silkworms, we invested in one (2RMB, 20p) and took it home with some mulberry leaves. A few days later it spun itself into a cocoon and we hope to see a small moth eating its way out in 3 weeks or so. I've asked Ava to spin the remainder of the cocoon into a silk shirt for me.
Then today, as JD was playing on the slides, I spotted a tiny insect, no bigger than the nail on my little finger. On closer inspection (and the photo isn't very clear, sorry) we could see it was a tiny baby Praying Mantis, fully formed with moving head and bent arms. Who knew they started life so small? Hopefully we'll find it again, all grown up, someday soon.
JD has been sleeping in a proper bed for a few months now so, a couple of days ago, we decided to dismantle his cot (and donate it to friends in due course). The only reason we could think of keeping it longer was if JD was so ill that he needed to sleep in it with an adult sleeping alongside in the proper bed. Sod's Law, then, that the day after the cot was removed, JD came down with a nasty infection and two feverish nights (so far). After a hospital visit this morning, he's now on a course of antibiotics and, in the meantime, I've been having to share a bed with a screaming, sweaty child!
Today marked my final swim for a while. Last year I bought a special Teacher's Card for the University's Olympic-sized swimming pool, valid for 50 visits within 6 months. I thought I could manage a couple of visits a week, especially as JD loves the water, but it turns out that the pool, whilst huge and clean, is always too cold for a small child to play in, so he's only been once. Instead, I decided to try and use the visits to go regularly by myself to get a bit fitter.
However, family commitments, work duties and illnesses (mine and JD's) don't always allow personal fitness targets to be met and, after 4 months, I'd only been a dozen times. Over the last two months, though, I've really pushed myself to go whenever there was a free moment - usually 4-5 times a week - and my card ran out today with a total of 46 visits made. A visit usually means a kilometre-long swim (20 lengths), taking me about 40 minutes, but today I pushed myself on to 1.5km - a personal best. I'm not sure I'm a lot fitter, but my breaststroke is pretty good now and it's always nice for an old dog to learn new tricks.
Sad to hear of the death today of "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince". My strongest memory of his music was the single "When Doves Cry" which was the third song I ever played on my weekly Radio Show, "British Tea Time", on WCNI - Connecticut College's Radio station, during my time studying in America. In my opinion, Prince was more talented than even his peer, Michel Jackson. A lot weirder too - and that takes some doing! There have been far too many talented celebrities dying (or getting jailed!) this year.
P.S. Saw a documentary about Prince where Cocteau Twins and Gary Numan were cited as influences. Two of my very favourite artists. Great taste, mate!
Despite predictions of heavy rain, JD and I went out to try and find a new park with what is said to be Asia's largest man-made waterfall. After a bus, subway, electric bike journey we found it. The park still being finished, so entry was free. And the waterfalls were indeed very impressive, 400m wide and a mixture of cascades and straight drops. My photo below seemingly managed to catch an image of a ghost, too, which is a little bit worrying!
JD attended his first Birthday Party last weekend (apart from his own ones). He joined half a dozen other kids for his friend Zaden's 4th Birthday. It was a mix of Chinese and foreign families and at one point I overheard JD and an American boy chatting in Chinese - neither of them aware that the other spoke English! Zaden's parents are American, so the party included a piñata which is an activity originating from Mexico which I'd not seen first-hand before. However, the ball had been made so strongly that none of the kids were able to smash it and release the candy inside, despite many heavy blows! I brought along a pass-the-parcel and an "eating crisps from a string" game which were enjoyed. The weather was warm and dry with snacks aplenty. JD was happy but exhausted by the end.
JD tried out a class at "Lego Club" last weekend. It's an after-school franchise run by an ex-colleague of mine which promotes learning through playing with Lego. JD went to an hour's demo class which started with a talk about animals and a viewing of a clip from the Lion King before elements were recreated in Lego. He seemed to enjoy it at the time, although afterwards he said he didn't want to go back again. Unfortunately, the school require an advance payment for months of lessons and we just can't commit to being available every Saturday morning. So we'll wait for half a year or so and see whether circumstances change.
The current Panama Papers leak is making news around the world but not in China. With relatives of a number of prominent leaders - past and present - being named in the documents, all news of the leak is being repressed here. The BBC website has an interesting article about the flow of money out of China in recent years. It's an issue Ava and I have faced as we plan to move enough money from China to the UK to buy a property to retire in. But with a maximum of $50,000 of transfers allowed per Chinese person per year, it will be some time before we can legally send enough to buy something reasonable.
I've been fired. Well, from my job of cutting JD's hair, anyway. Despite pretty positive reviews of my previous attempts, we decided he was old enough to have a first trip to the hairdressers safe in the knowledge that, with an ice-cream promised for good behaviour, he would be calm enough to let the professional do her thing without too much fuss. Ava was on hand to explain exactly what look she was after (I'm more of a short back and sides man) and the result was pretty good.
I've long wanted to catch the subway to its final destination and see what there is to see there. It terminates at "University Town", which I'd hoped offered the chance of some campus scenery and cheap eats. JD, Ava and I were joined by our good friends Peter and Judy and their visiting Beijing friend Kiki [looking at JD in the photo] for the hour-long journey. Sadly, the final station turned out to be in the middle of nowhere and we had to get a minibus-taxi to find somewhere that had any food at all. And the food was awful. Ah well, at least we know now!
Past blog entries