Some of Ava's well-to-do customers go to quite extraordinary lengths to show their gratitude for her special help and generous discounts. Last week, one such lady had a box of live crabs airmailed to us from Suzhou, 2500km (1600 miles) away. So yesterday we invited some friends over to help us eat them. I didn't partake myself, because of possible gout repercussions, but I did enjoy watching JD's mix of curiosity and revulsion as he gingerly fingered one of the (dead) hairy creatures. Very funny.
Having access to Facebook once again (via my new VPN) has re-ignited a lot of old memories, as names and faces from my distant past pop up on the screen with all their latest news. And old photos such as this one bring back a flood of nostalgic recollections. This was a story in an American newspaper where I and seven fellow students from Westminster College, Oxford, were asked to contrast our usual UK place of learning with the much larger Connecticut College where we were studying for four months on exchange [I'm far left]. Most of us had a fabulous time there, although the article does lament the lack of custard! For me, it was notably the place where I cemented my love of (solo) travelling, heading off for a 3 week trip alone around Eastern US on a shoe-string budget (hence being a registered vagrant in Florida ...free bed and breakfast! Woohoo!).
And, after being unable to update my blog for nearly a week because the "powers that be" here recently decide to block Weebly, my wife decided to give me a year's VPN subscription as my birthday present. This is special software which links me with servers that bypass the "Great Firewall of China" and allow me access to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and, most importantly, my blog! So, all being well, look out for my occasional visits to Facebook this year too!
So here it is. I'm 50. "Officially old" as Esme, my niece, pointed out in a video I watched today. Josh, my nephew, added, "I thought my parents were old, but you....!" Neither comment as gutting as my sister-in-law accidently referring to me as her children's "granddad" before swiftly correcting herself with, "err... I mean uncle"! Great!!
My other brother's family sent this more respectful piccie below:
I'm off to the north of Kunming this afternoon to share a Burger King meal and watch "Interstellar" at the cinema there with friends. Less fun was waking up today to find that our water has been cut off again.
And so here ends my list of the fifty craziest things I've found myself doing over the first half-century of my life!
41. Thirty dwarves danced for me
42. I was within an arm's length of a wild hippo
43. I played cards for 24 hours non-stop
44. I sang and danced on a school desk in front of an angry teacher
45. I hit Cliff Richard
46. I wrote a speech which was read out in Parliament
47. I climbed a mountain in 0ºC temperatures to visit a monastery
48. I own part of a windmill
49. I watched a witch doctor sacrifice a chicken
50. I travelled in Concorde
The penultimate list of the fifty oddest things I can recall doing in my fifty years of life so far:
31. I walked into an off-license dressed as a ghost and asked the shopkeeper if he served spirits
32. I watched two stag beetles having a fight
33. I have visited all 5 Disneylands in the world
34. I touched something which had touched the moon
35. I jumped out of a hot air balloon
36. I had two students in my class who were born within a few minutes of each other to the same mother, but weren’t twins…
37. I visited a gallery devoted to art made by the criminally insane
38. I got lost in an aircraft carrier
39. I won a clay pigeon shooting competition
40. I saw a machine gun being fired inside a building
More of the fifty strangest things I've done in my virtually 50 years of life so far...
21. I bumped into a wild elephant
22. I sailed in a 20m yacht which was later attacked by pirates
23. I asked Patrick Moore a question I knew the answer to
24. A landslide once forced me to climb over a mountain
25. I appeared in a Radio 4 play
26. I fell into the Zambezi river
27. I chatted with Rolf Harris as he wandered around my school
28. I sat in the cockpit of a 747 jumbo jet flying to America
29. I have climbed volcanoes in three different continents
30. I saw a world record being set
Here are the second ten in my list of the 50 most unusual "experiences" in my almost 50 years of life so far.
11. I ate bees
12. I saw the first single by a famous 80s band being cut
13. I arrived in Iceland, in Winter, without a coat
14. My bus was narrowly missed by a TV-sized falling boulder
15. I was locked inside a park
16. I paid good money to see a freak show
17. I suffered from “raptures of the deep”
18. I wandered around the Pentagon
19. I fell into a vat of whitewash
20. I ripped my skin open during a 110m bungee jump
With my 50th birthday coming next week, I thought I would reflect a little on my life so far, and came up with a list of the 50 most unusual things I have ever "experienced". Here are the first ten:
1. I was nearly kidnapped by two fake Bolivian policemen
2. I’m a registered homeless person in Florida
3. I was in a bus which forded a metre-deep river in a thunderstorm
4. I visited a travelling zoo whose tiny cages included an eagle, an ostrich and a tiger
5. I was kicked off a Polish train
6. I scuba dived to within a metre of a 2m-long shark …without a cage
7. The inside of an Egyptian pyramid disappointed me
8. I pressed the red button in a nuclear missile silo
9. I showered with 30 naked strangers
10. I sneaked into North Korea
Ava asked me to make some fresh bread in our breadmaker yesterday. I added all the ingredients but, 3 hours later, had to chip out a rock-hard lump of brown stuff. It turned out ma-in-law had decided to refill the flour bag with casava powder which looks the same but simply doesn't make bread. It's cheaper though, she explained.
A second attempt with proper flour turned out great. JD enjoyed the fresh bread, butter and marmalade so much that he smeared it all on his head. So his hair was marmalade-sticky until bathtime.
My latest published article in the "Chinese Cultural Group - Merton" newsletter is about the increasing mobility of the Chinese...
The rest of the family's coughs seem to be fading fast. I'm still struggling with mine and the exhaustion which is, apparently, very much a symptom of pneumonia. I walked down the hill yesterday on a chore and had to sit down in the supermarket for 5 minutes to recover! The walk back up the hill meant a half hour resting on my bed. Crazy.
After missing only one class in the last seven years working at Robert's School, I'm now facing a second weekend off work, which will mean 18 classes missed in total! Thank goodness for an understanding boss.
"KongLong" - just one of the many words JD has learned to say in the last week or two ...."dinosaur"! He also surprised me the other day by saying "dao" when he saw a knife - not sure who taught him that. He can also say, "digger", "bulldozer", "crane", "mixer" ...guess where his interests lie! Then, when I suggested to our Nanny in Chinese yesterday that JD might like some "xiangjiao", JD immediately jumped up and shouted, "banana!". That's the first time he's clearly "translated" one language to another.
For those following the family's health situation, basically we've all got hacking coughs; JD, Nanny, Ma, Ava and I. Mine is the remnants of pneumonia, while everyone else's is apparently a regular (if very tiring) cough. That's not stopped all the women downing antibiotics though. They are wildly overused here - bought over the counter and taken (seldom a full course) for any slight cough or cold. Highly inappropriate but, try as I might, they will not be convinced.
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