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China, humour, Just stuff (things on my mind that aren't to do with writing)

China 19: Innocents abroad

Copyright Elaine Canham, 2015

Copyright Elaine Canham, 2015


Continuing my 1985 diary of a trip to China

February 26

Back on that bloody bus. We sit at the front this time. The desert looks just the same, like an asphalt car park for some megastore, without the megastore. The slag heaps look just the same, too.

Get on the train to Lanzhou. Can’t get hard sleepers, so we sit up all night. The carriage is packed and everyone thinks we are great curiosities. When we get a pack of cards out, everybody perks up. There’s even somebody in the luggage rack watching us. They’re such great gamblers, the Chinese; I think they are expecting us to play poker or something. Don’t know what they make of Find the Lady. They look very confused, anyway.

February 27

Still on the train. Feeling extremely jaded. Two men in very smart blue uniforms get on and sit next to us. They say they’re judges, but they look very young; about 30. One speaks English, so we get the standard grilling. Where do you come from? Where are you going? Are you married?  I almost fall off my seat when he asks if Margaret Thatcher is a madam.

He means, of course, is she married, and can’t understand why I am laughing so much. The thought of explaining it is fairly mind-boggling, so I don’t try.

He gets quite paternal; insists on escorting us to the dining car, tries to get us beer (but even he gets  mayo la)  and tells us we must have a good dinner when we get to Lanzhou.

Copyright, Elaine Canham 2015

Copyright, Elaine Canham 2015

The Chinese are wonderful with children. There are several four and five-year-olds in the carriage, all running up and down and being petted and spoiled by everyone they go up to. They are all beautiful; great dark eyes in solemn faces, wrapped up in so many layers that their arms stick out from their sides and they walk with a rolling gait, like old sea dogs. One claims the hearts of a group of soldiers, who sit her on their knees in turn while they play cards.

Another walks up to one of the judges and is made a great fuss of. Our judge, in between polishing up his English, is having a conversation with a four-year-old sitting on the seat behind and who keeps popping up to have a good look at what is going on. It’s sometimes difficult to tell which children belong to which adults. The toddlers are so confident of affection from anyone, and the adults don’t let them down.

We cross the Yellow River. It’s raining. I never thought I’d be so glad to see rain. We arrive at Lanzhou, it’s taken 24 hours to get here. The length of the train trips in this country really makes you appreciate how vast this place is.

The judge insists we write him a message in his Chinese/English dictionary – much in use over the past few hours – and he writes one in the back of Cheryl’s paperback.

To my three English friends, wishing them much happiness. I hope you come to China again, from your friend Pei Ping.

He gets off the train with us to make sure we find the right exit. I promise to send him a postcard from London. He’s going to send me a picture of his wife and daughter.

Get on the train for Cheng Du. We ask for hard sleepers and wait an hour, but we get them.

About elainecanham

I started blogging because I'm a writer, and I thought I ought to. Now I realise that I blog because I lwant to; even when I can't think of much to say. I do a lot of work for local businesses - get in touch if you like my style.


11 thoughts on “China 19: Innocents abroad

  1. How much better would the world be if our kids had nothing to fear from strangers? I’m glad you finally got sleepers– I’d never have made it.

    Posted by naptimethoughts | March 7, 2015, 1:36 am
    • The Chinese are soppy about kids. All the ones we saw were treated as very, very precious – not to say that they were spoiled, but just that they were the most important things on the planet. Which of course, they are.

      Posted by elainecanham | March 7, 2015, 8:24 am
  2. Not at all – never never – tedious. (Incidentally, we hope to get a train service that works in New Zealand some time).

    Posted by Bruce Goodman | March 4, 2015, 7:24 pm
  3. What a contradiction are these people who were able to dump female children by the side of the road as valueless and yet loving children and showing great affection to all children even when not their own.
    Reveling in being able to catch you with a petty lie or silly rule and yet being capable of such generosity of spirit. Though that journey was long and uncomfortable it actually sounded quite fun.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    Posted by davidprosser | March 4, 2015, 4:06 pm
    • Well, there were nearly a billion people in China, even then. So you’re always going to get some who behave badly. And, we are all human, so there’s not so much difference in the way any of us are.

      Posted by elainecanham | March 4, 2015, 5:09 pm
  4. The more I read about your adventure–the more I know I couldn’t have done it. But I am thoroughly enjoying experiencing it through your eyes. Thanks.

    Posted by Vivra Beene | March 4, 2015, 3:05 pm
  5. This is wonderful reading. I am enjoying your bare bones adventure. 😛

    Posted by Let's CUT the Crap! | March 4, 2015, 2:24 pm

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