Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Nanjing Jazz - COOL ?

We had the Nanjing International Jazz and World Music festival last weekend so we went out and watched a few bands. Friday night was a freebie invitation to opening night – crowd of a thousand for a very eclectic jazz band (Torsten De Winkel the Canary All-Stars). Picture these: the 6’6” sax player - seemed like he’d be right at home in big boots clodding around the Welsh moors with a herd of sheep; a bass guitarist - looked more like an escapee soccer thug from Coventry prison; a percussionist - straight out of the annals of Clive’s India, a blind Spanish lead singer, and a 6’4” Dutch lead guitarist who’d have been more at home in a Hoffbrau Haus with a litre of beer in his hands. The drummer was the only normal (?) looking one there. But could they play!! Oh yes. AND sing.

Next day we had a lovely lunch at the Sofitel – full buffet with bottomless glass of wine listening to Tango Extreme playing music inspired by the Argentina of the 30’s and 50’s. And all for $50 a head. We sat and drank a bottle of wine each and ate for about 2 and a half hours on and off – V nice!

Weather wise - - -It is b***y freezing here – it snowed yesterday & last night - down to MINUS 10. WHAT am I doing here?? I seem to recall saying I’d go anywhere there WASN’T snow !! ??

We had to go out on the Saturday (between Jazz bands) and buy me some thermal underwear. Cheryl doesn’t need it YET because she doesn’t go out in it much unless absolutely necessary – and then it's in the middle of the day instead of at 6 in the morning like this dope!. So I had a choice of white which made me look like a stretch Mr Magoo, (or the Michelin man – take your pick) and camouflage which made me look like Rambo (well - - - you know what I mean)! Cheryl likes the Rambo look, though she says that the virginal white has its own attractions! So I left for work in the morning with the new thermals on under my shirt and trousers, a new wool jumper over that, then my suit coat and to top it all off my winter parka and my leather driving hat that is lined with quilting. And carrying an umbrella and wearing 2 pairs of socks! - - - And that was just to go out to the road and catch a cab! When I got home this afternoon I walked through the door with the chin chatters, & feeling like an Eskimo. But I was then met with some nice thick hot vegetable soup and a chili for dinner - - gotta love that woman.

Cheryl is still not working and even though she don’t really get bored (doesn’t know how!) she does get a bit lonely. She’s met up with a couple of nice people, has a coffee on a regular basis, but having seen them once in a week there is not much more to it really! Writing and painting are keeping her occupied, but it’s not the same as working. Even so, she is happy and settled and really getting to know her way around Nanjing far better than me – all I do is go to work and come home!. (Late addition - some part time work is coming her way – nice).

And now it's Wednesday, and although it's not snowing any more, it is still below zero. How long is summer away???

Putting up the Christmas tree

I always think it is just amazing when things fall into place as if they were planned that way. Ron invited some people over for a get together on Friday night this week - that's the 20th November. Now I am a complete sucker for Xmas - love all the bling and baubles, flashing lights, food and wine, nativity's the full razza mattaz for me. Each year Ron just sighs and says - "What ever makes you happy - go for it!" So when the whiff of a party was in the air I thought it just must be time to put up the Chrissie decos - of course.

So out came our gorgeous nativity set from Italy, the Christmas lights and baubles we had left from the UAE and a determination that Friday was going to be the start of the festive season. I needed a Christmas tree and some more decorations and I just didn't know where I would get them. I have been wandering the shops and have seen no decos on sale, though all the Malls have Christmas written all over them right now!

I met a couple of my friends for coffee and mentioned I wanted to find a tree. I suggested I thought IKEA may have some by now and I would probably make the trip (which it is from our house - about 30 minutes on the bus) and pick up a tree and some baubles. Lynn suggested she was also going to get a tree and that she thought she knew of this shopping mall that had a Christmas section, but was not sure she could find her way to it again. She gave me some general directions and I thought it was probably both too hard and perhaps a bit hit and miss and IKEA would be easier. So I set my mind to catching the bus on Thursday and getting a few small decos (IKEA is expensive!) and making a pretence at Xmas cheer! And then on Tuesday night Lynn phoned - "Guess what - I have a driver for tomorrow. Bruce doesn't need him for work and I thought we might go find that mall and get a couple of trees!" Without a second thought I agreed and we made the arrangements.

I caught the bus from my place to Lynn's, passing IKEA along the way, and the driver and Lynn studied the map and decided they knew where they were going - so off we went. Well - I couldn't believe my eyes - she took me to a place that is 3 stories of "Made in China" and cheap as chips! There was a section that had Christmas decorations that had been sort of subsumed into the Chinese souvenirs section - Christmas trees in all sizes, with and without optic fibre lights, baubles and snowflakes and ...well... really - it was ALL there. We both decided it would be a Chinese Xmas theme and proceeded to buy lanterns and charms in a red and yellow theme. It was great fun.

We then shopped the other sections of the three floor supermall and got a few little goodies and headed home for dumplings and noodles - what a great day.

Here is the Christmas tree with all the Chinese charms and the lanterns, as well as lights and baubles - Christmas has come to Nanjing!

Friday, 6 November 2009

UAE Impressions series

Well it took a while but I have finally finished my "Impressions of the UAE" painting series. The paintings were finished a couple of weeks ago but the vector diagrams have just been completed and they are all now looking pretty great I think!

I have placed all these designs at 2 print on demand websites. That means that anyone can go to the websites and order calendars, gifts, cards, mugs - even baby bibs and barbecue aprons!

There is an Aussie website and an overseas one. The Aussie one does not do gifts but does a great job on calendars and cards and framed prints. Here is the link - Cheryl Malloy on Redbubble.

The overseas site posts to any country in the world including my favourites - Vanuatu, the UAE and China! There are heaps of nice gifts and cards, calendars and prints to buy! Here is the link - Cheryl Malloy on Cafepress.

I would love it if you could buy some of the gifts, and better still get your friends to buy them as well!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Russian porn stars, Chinese horror movies and Halloween.

A cloak of smoke descended on Nanjing for Halloween. And rain drizzled. Everywhere people in hoodies and under umbrellas. It was as if Halloween could not happen under clear skies and clement weather. Halloween brought Autumn to Nanjing. However there is not much that can dampen the spirit of Nanjingren when it comes to an excuse for a night out.

We had read about a jazz guitarist appearing at one of the restaurant nightclubs and decided to brave the scary streets and see how Nanjing does jazz. As we approached the restaurant we were greeted by Chinese staff in masks and cloaks and looking particularly ghoulish in a glamorous kind of way. The restaurant had all the usual Halloween trappings, pictures of pumpkins and ghouls, candles inside watermelons (they are cheaper than pumpkins) and the staff were really getting into the swing of it.

We were shown to a table and given masks to wear. The masks were more of the Venetian Masquerade Ball type, glitter and feathers – but hey, we were not complaining. It was all in the spirit of the night and so we put them on.

Some musac was playing, the sort of background but soft loungey type, until a young Chinese man approached the stage with an alto saxophone (maybe Kenny Chee?). We settled to listen to some cool New Orleans or R&B then for his last few numbers he played the Carpenters and Lionel Richie while in the background there appeared Russian music videos that were verging on pornographic – we glanced at each other and made the comment “Only in China” and had a bit of a giggle! He wasn’t a bad saxophonist, save for a poor choice of music, and his friends thought he was just great, each song being enthusiastically applauded and smiles all round.

At about this time we were approached to draw a card from a tarot pack. Later in the evening there would be a card draw with prizes. The first prize a large handmade clipper style model boat, second prize a new antique toy truck and third prize a toy cricket bat with a boat in a bottle set into it. (???) We spent a few minutes wondering just what we might do if we won first prize and decided we could put a message in the boat and put it into the Yangtze. We wondered who might find it and if they would give us a call.

The next artist to grace the stage was a young Chinese woman complete with waist length wig in marvelous curls. From the waist up she was pure glam and bling. Below the waist denim mini shorts, black stockings and a pair of knee high cream stiletto boots. This young woman had a delightful voice and proceeded to deliver a few popular Chinese songs – they were nice and she sang well. The songs she sang in English sounded Chinese too. Her voice was nice and, after all, we are in China and Chinglish is accepted and used everywhere. The Chinese don’t get it when we don’t understand!

The Russians were still cavorting around bedrooms and bathrooms in a marble mansion and by this time they were naked and being pretty risqué! There was a spa bath in there somewhere and at times there were different men and women making out with each other but the singer held her own and charmed the audience with her repartee and rendition of Chinese pop.

A magician visited our table and performed some sleight of hand tricks. He was very clever. Dinner arrived and we ate while the Russians got it on in the background, the Chinese girl sang up a storm and some people played darts very close to our table. All the while the floor was vibrating to the bass of the discotheque next door and I am not too sure that the walls were not vibrating too – or was that the Russians cavorting!

The food was delicious and served with a glass of champagne (well, sort of champagne) another glass of red wine (well, it was also sort of red wine) and some watermelon juice – presumably made from the hollowed out watermelons. The staff fussed over us and did everything they could to make us feel comfortable – at this stage the Russian porn stars had been replaced by a Chinese horror film – lots of gore and angst, just what you need as you are trying to consume a plate full of food in the dark.

I have never been in an environment with so much sensory overload. Clearly the Chinese cope very well with this and it seems that if you add more and more fun elements to the night ( did I mention the DJ/MC, the cocktail mixing performance, the maitre de hovering within a few feet, the waiters visiting the table every few minutes, the mirror ball spinning on the ceiling) the night will be much more fun, fun, fun. Not too sure what happened with the advertised jazz guitarist – the waiters and the manager had no idea what we were talking about when we asked. Perhaps the guitarist got caught up in some other pursuit that night. Perhaps we had been in the wrong restaurant all the while. I came home exhausted and happy – it’s fun living in China!

Fireworks and chickens cause chaos…and hilarity!

It is not unusual to be walking down a street in China and “Kapow”, bang, bang, bang – fireworks just start going off all around you. It could be because there is a funeral, a shop opening, someone getting married, a birthday, or just to honour some long lost ancestor and bring luck and good fortune.

This morning I was on my way from the bank, where I paid some bills, to the telephone company and then to the laundry to pick up some shirts. Just a normal day really, wandering the suburban streets and doing my chores. When it all started! Bang,bang,bang – only about 50 metres away. Well I have to say it always takes me by surprise and I nearly hit the deck thinking that there was a battle beginning in the streets of Nanjing. However before I had the misfortune of placing my face on the concrete I looked up the road ahead of me and couldn’t believe my eyes.

A lady had been approaching me with several boxes piled high, she was just a few feet away. She was getting ready to strap the boxes to her bicycle, when out jumped a couple of chickens! They had obviously been startled out of their semi comatose state by the fireworks and they were on the run. The lady had some experience with these fowl creatures and she quickly grabbed one by the wing and hung on despite all the squawking and fluffing of feathers, however she wasn’t quite so lucky with the second one and it took off like a Ferrari down the street. So off she went with the other chook firmly in the nook of her arm, leaving her other parcels on the roadside.

As the escapee reached the road a #121 bus came around the corner and went straight over the top of it. I held my breath, I didn’t want a dead chook squished in front of me and I knew the poor Chinese lady was also holding her breath – this bird was probably on the menu for her restaurant tonight! The bus continued on its way and the chicken emerged startled and more frightened and determined to outwit busses, cars, people and bikes and head for the hills.

Now chooks don’t seem to run in straight lines and also don’t seem to know where they really want to run to. Add in a healthy dose of adrenaline and you have a chook doing circuits at pace, being chased by a Chinese lady who is yelling to all her ancestors and clutching her other precious cargo to her breast.

I am not one for chasing and catching chooks. I have no experience in the field at all. All the chickens I have cooked for dinner come frozen from a deep freeze and ready plucked at that! But I was up to clapping my hands and steering the chook back in the direction of the lady. I hovered back and forth at the edge of the road clapping and flapping and keeping the poor thing from become a drive thru corpse!

The neighbourhood had all come out to see this mad foreign woman clapping and dancing on the edge of the road; the chicken panicked and prancing and the poor Chinese lady huffing and flustered, with the other chook tucked firmly under her arm. I was successful at keeping the chook off the road, however it darted straight into an open door nearby – a restaurant where people had just sat down to tea. They all jumped up and the chook started flying from table to table and finally out the door. The mechanic from the shop next door, the security guard from the bank, the waitress from the restaurant and the poor Chinese lady chased and cornered the chook and managed to capture it.

Meanwhile I gathered the boxes back together thinking that she would need them to put the chooks back in. The people in the neighbourhood were looking at me quite suspiciously – I think they thought I was going to light off with the boxes. So I waited and watched till everyone had calmed down, meanwhile tidying the boxes and getting them ready to become chicken prisons again.

The poor Chinese lady had gathered her dignity again and with a chook under each arm she managed to mount the bicycle and stuff them into one box. She left the other box on the ground where I had put it. She must have said “Xie Xie” (Thank you) about 20 times in a few minutes as she rode the bike out onto the road and off to home. A few minutes later you would never have known – all had returned to normal, except for the giggling laowai woman, strolling up the road with happy tears rolling down her face. It is so much fun living in China!