I walked through Huzhou last Saturday in a desperate attempt to change money. I did not expect a good rate of exchange or stellar service, but I did expect it to be possible. After all, even with the rise of touch-pay mobile phones and nearly-universal use for bank cards it is still advisable to carry some cash. My efforts were futile. Most banks only exchange money on weekdays and only for their customers. The one bank that will exchange currency on weekends for non-account holders is the Bank of China but they require extensive documentation and special residence papers. At that point, I had neither. In frustration I quietly returned to my flat with a small pile of cash in hand that might as well have not existed. I went to sleep nervous. The internet installer was supposed to have come the following day and I could not pay him. At around 1 AM I woke up and decided to give it a last go. A bank was 2 blocks away and they had a secured cash machine. My losing streak broke – my account was open and I could withdraw cash.
It’s almost worth getting this week’s Spectator for the competition. I’ve copied some of it below.
Competition: Open and shut case Lucy Vickery.
In Competition No. 2908 you were invited to submit a comically appalling opening to an imaginary novel. Thanks are due to the inventor of the annual Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest from whom I have pinched the idea for this challenge (Edward Bulwer–Lytton is often described as ‘the worst writer in history’). It was a pleasure to wade through your florid, convoluted prose, over-elaborate metaphors and inconsequential tangents. Dishonourable mentions go to Bill Greenwell for an opening composed entirely of hashtags and to C.J. Gleed. The best of the worst earn their authors £25 each. The bonus fiver is Edward Gilbert’s.
Inspector Falcon Foot was an experienced murder investigator. He had seen it all in his long and distinguished career. This case felt very familiar. A body lay cold on the beach, barely a world-class javelin throw from the morning tides, which foamed softly like partially flat, inferior lemonade. Foot examined the corpse carefully. He could see that the man had not died peacefully in his sleep. Aside from the compression marks on the neck, the irises of the victim were like those of a Pacific chinook salmon that had swum up the Sacramento river, made it beyond Red Bluff but had expired from exhaustion before Battle Creek after numerous near-misses with natural predators (excluding the now-extinct Californian grizzly bear). Foot lifted his handset and spoke to his colleague. ‘Dead body,’ he said, laconically. He clicked the receiver off. He raised his eyebrows resignedly, reflecting on the banality of evil.
My grandparents and a family friend, an eccentric Pole of partial German parentage, drove me to Konz Hbf. I felt little when I left. To say that my efforts in Hunland were in equal measures frustrating and frustrated is to verge past the point of understatement. Yet, I could not manage to muster much enthusiasm for China. The process thus far has been long, costly and drawn-out. That my nerves were already taxed to the breaking point led me to having a certain measure less patience than I normally would have had. Still, it seemed as if things worked out in the wash.
Then he lost a leg.
By this time he’d become accustomed to this. It had ceased to embarrass him but it had caused a bit of hysteria from the crowds intent on their Christmas shopping, because he looked so human, he supposed. He’d stepped awkwardly on the edge of the kerb and it just parted company with the knee joint. He picked it up and stuffed it into his rucksack, and hailed a passing taxi home.
Hip Hip Hip Hooray
We’re off to the Pyrenees
Tomorrow, not today
To test out our poorly knees
Hip Hip Hip Hooray
We’re going to escape the heat
I tell you where we’ll stay
A place that little can beat
A country very small
Where Catalan is spoken
Where mountains stand very tall
And the Euro is just a token
So see you when we get back
Next weekend hopefully
That’s if we don’t lose our track
And end up in the Alps :-)
This is one of our favourites – Protein-Packed Prawn Stew
It is an ideal meal after a hard day out walking or when time is short as it is high in protein and is ready in just 15-20 minutes.
A fresh baguette is also a must for mopping up the tomato sauce.
Preparation time is short – 15-20 minutes.
By 1980, I was ensconsed in Embra and had been a member of North Berwick West for five years.
A notice went up in the locker room advising members that volunteer stewards were required for that year’s Open at our neighbouring course. Muirfield, home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.
My mate Dave and I signed up instanter. In due course we got the call to go for training on a Wednesday evening in June. We took an hour off work, drove the 25 miles to NB and smacked our drives down the first fairway just after 5 pm. Read more…
There’s a readers’ poll in Le Figaro this morning. The question is “Was Hollande right to make public the fact that an Islamist plot has been discovered and dismantled in France?” Seventy-seven percent of those who responded voted that Hollande was wrong to do so. (Of course 77% of the French would say Hollande was wrong to say it was raining while standing in the middle of a downpour!)
One would hope that Hollande had the agreement of France’s security and intelligence services to make this announcement, but we don’t know. So, is it better to rub the noses of of wannabe terrorists in France in yet another failure? Or would it be better to simply jail the would-be perpetrators quietly and leave the terrorist community in the dark? I should imagine that the first alternative might simply spur them on to greater efforts, while the second might spread disquiet and despondency “pour décourager les autres”.