And the roses

On the edge of the front meadow, behind the barns facing the house, there is a single tall Leylandia, or similar, with a Paul’s Himalayan Musk rose scrambling up its forty feet or so height. They are perfectly matched and for me are a little random triumph of placement on our hillside property. The small, open flowers are abundant. They are palest pink and seem to be washed with gentle colour rather that designed as a proper ros shade from The Maker’s trade pallet. The colour runs like aquarelle over the sweet blooms and I feel guilty stopping too long to look as there is certainly something silky and underneath, secretly but purposefully displayed. A standard Leylandia can grow magnificently alone on an estate, or if you have the room, and I have several on the slopes. Here it is the perfect dark green foil for the musk. Like the darkest green, almost black, satin of a Buenos Aires flamenco dress of my mother’s which shares an old steamer trunk with faded silk underwear, but in their case more a salmon pink

It has been wet this June but I go to look often to see if the show is on and today the ringmaster had begun! On a warm evening the whole little meadow and nearby yard will be scented by the musk. And musk it is, sweet and underneath in tone that makes you draw deep to the back of your senses to take it down to the shadowy libidinal place it belongs. But light and pretty too. A confusion of rose blossom.

Scent is fundamental and so powerful. On the dark waters of the Amazon above Manaus, many years ago, in a small canoe, I smelt the overpowering smell of a huge forest tree blossoming. There was a great mantle of heavy exotic scent thrown over the broad evening river. As I remember it, our Indian guide said that the huge forest tree only flowers every many years and was several kilometres away.

I am mixing! To return to the roses. Paul’s Himalayan Musk was a cutting from Lesley Baker Jones’ lovely Manse garden. He had many old roses and urged me to just stick them in! He died at over 90 but lives on through his roses which trail, climb and scramble all over the place. On the dappled edge of the coppice there is a dark red rambler climbing, or rambling to be accurate, up the sweet chestnut. In the late evening the frequency of the colour shines out of the darkness of the wood. Again, a good match. Usually we only see wild roses on the woodland edge or in the hedgerow, an unnatural man made thing after all, but it is on the edge of the wood that I believe the rose developed. Snow White is proof of that liminal space.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night, 
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon, Act 2 Scene 1

And the roses

Coming Home

A life less ordinary. We take our separate rustling courses on the forest floor although our common matrix is the will to life and the beyond.

I return to the quotidian, sleep adjustment and what felt like 48 hour flu complete with inability to walk, aches, sweats and a shockingly dark urine just now! Marco Polo. I’m afraid that’s what you get told if you follow a poet acupuncturist! No more Mr Nice Guy.

These things are more interesting than painful to the practitioner. The personal teachings that are delivered intensely are the best. The wounded and battle scared.

I always return for comfort since 1973 to John Martyn and one of two tracks. I think this one was recorded over his lake at home with his Echoplex.

And thanks to Fudeli for the common sense sino advice, “have you had breakfast?” Porridge!

Coming Home

Going Back 上飞机 (shàng 上 , above, and machine and by easy stages to slang for masturbate!)

8.40 am, the impossible levitation over. Timberland boots off and body scan excitingly completed in secure efficiency. Yang scanner glides over my yin channels. Jing Luo, Jing Luo, Wei me away.

Again, the scale. Hēilóngjiāng, Black Dragon River (apologies for previous misspelling and lack of tones for the Great Guardian of China’s North East and thanks to my most adoring public ed) Below, the river coils over the black earth plain, it’s tributaries dammed. Every sixth industrial field or so is a squarely formed settlement of a few hundred ordered buildings. There are areas of the world, Celtic Wales for instance, where settlement was denser 2,000 years ago than today and the shape of the places far below would have been familiar to the denizens of Pax Romana but the density, scale, speed and extent of the productive power of China today is unique in human history. 42 years after the death of the warrior Emperor in blue when her GDP was 5% that of the United States, her recessional growth is now 6.5% and GDP per head is $8,000 and rising where it had stood at $155. (For discussion and credits see the inimitable old CPGB member Martin Jacques, political economist extraordinary, writing on line and hard copy in China (Pinch of Salt) Today. Jacques was a young theoretician in my own Party days in the late 1970s when the CPGB was traumatically and tardily abandoning the Soviet line and aligning with the progressive Eurocommunists. It was an exciting, if sometimes bemusing time for this young Comrade selling the “Morning Star, paper of the Left” outside Wimbledon underground! Martin Jaques went on to be an editor of the Independent and is now a leading Sinologist. Thank goodness not all the old theoreticians have turned to drink in this our time of need. I digress, again.)

9.04 and the landscape is unchanging. Calculate. Wind speed. Knots. Galleons. Kerosene.

The earth below in the heart of the Middle, 中 zhong, Kingdom is the fertile black soil of the North East. The earth of the South is yellow, the forbidden Colour of the Emperor. The Yellow Emperor, enthroned, bear like, Manchu bearded, Mongol eyed, resplendent in Yellow Dragon Catching Pearl Embroidered silk, the colour we know from the walls of the insane, the daubs of Van Gogh, the robes of Tibet or Antiques Road Show where the small yellow enamel box found for pence in a car boot box once sold for hundreds of thousands.

Contradictions or Xi Jingping Socialism with Chinese Characteristics? Monsanto sells the soya and wheat seed of the North at a dollar a ton cheaper than homegrown. The GM seed is specifically adapted to Monsanto fertiliser and is sterile. The farmers thereafter can neither fertilise nor reseed with traditional stock. The wildlife disappears. The people catch the single falling Autumn leaf like the Happy Prince’s last flower. The once fertile alluvial land is soon barren and reduced to dust. Monsanto raises the price of seed and rots in hell. The old trees of the plain were cut for firewood in the hardships of the mid years of Reform in the 1990s. The deforestation further erodes the soil.

9.12 am. Rocky small hills outcrop. The freeways from Beijing have straightened out for the people of the plain. The rays of power. President for life, Xi Jingping, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPC and Chairman of the Technology, Political and Everything Else Committees has declared that the Principles of securing Quality Reform and Growth will be progressed though AI and infrastructure. Belt and Road. The Scale of Development will now Deepen with Quality. (Enough capitalised emphatics!)

1.10pm. Relatively successful negotiation onto the London-Beijing flight. Below, the hilly, much less densely populated plains West of Beijing, the upper slopes, snow covered. I had forgotten a small pack of sweet strawberry juice in my hand luggage and there ensued drama at security. In the melée the red stamp on my boarding pass was forgotten and a last minute call is made for the panting, sweating, black clad, bestarred and blazoned youth. I am photographed, again, stamped and board.

In the Forbidden Palace the Emperor kept the Great Seal, large as an elephant in its own dedicated room. There are scores of neat black, linen bound books in the elegant Harbin bookshop recording contemporary and historic chops (seals 印章 ). Chinese is a representational language, I was told by my teacher, Dolly Yang, back in Lampeter and on the smartphone the Chinese keyboard can have a western, pin yin, keyboard with a line of characters above. The busy Beijinger may move dextrously from Chinese characters to pin yin so ensuring concise and accurate text speak with the economy of the modern medium. I wonder how German fits with Mandarin (discuss)?

3.30 pm Somewhere half an hour West of Irkutsk. I mean who on earth lives below? Did the horde cross? The rivers already frozen. The svelte fit Frenchman from Bordeaux at Beijing airport whose conversation in four minutes encompassed early snow conditions, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the battle at which Talbot lost and ended the 100 Years War (My Kind of Guy) said that the early snow is unprecedented. He said this with grim cheerfulness. He was en route to Pyongyang to work on Olympic Solidarity. He is based with the Olympic Committee in Lausanne and he said this with grim determination. He was a good looking, fine man and we promised to keep in touch through the usual channels.

3.55pm I begin to be fearful and strangely attach this to the man who knows the danger of the tipping point of the Empire I see far below. The quality of sleep. And the snow and ice has come. The frozen element of water sets.

The Northern Cold

The sky glows one side black, three sides purple.

The Yellow River’s ice closes, fish and dragons die.

Bark three inches thick cracks across the grain,

Carts a hundred picules heavy mount the river’s water.

Flowers of frost on the grass are as big as coins,

Brandished swords will not pierce the foggy sky,

Crashing ice flies in the swirling seas,

And cascades hang noiseless in the mountains, rainbows of jade.

Li Ho, Tang Dynasty. 791 – 817 AD

Who did he share it with, was it late at night when the others slept the sleep of the just, scribing the wonders to make sense of it all to himself only, did he have a wife, a secret friend, an unlikely companion? But no jet lag. Twenty years and plenty of time in prison.

Going Back 上飞机 (shàng 上 , above, and machine and by easy stages to slang for masturbate!)

Wednesday and more of a diary

I settle into this city with only two days until I return to Wales with a new awareness. The pink crisp dawn, the occasional heavy hammer blows of the construction sites beginning to turn and the roar of the city like the engine room of a great liner are now in a new consciousness. I sleep better, a little earlier, with my familiar dreams as companions. The dreams are the complex interior places and journeys, often with acupuncture and journeys. Always a little anxious and responsible and always alone but today somehow in a bigger place with a bigger consciousness.

Yesterday had more coherence. A works coach down the urban freeway through the ordered rush hour to the North of the city to the equally large Second Affiliated Hospital which lies just South of the great Eastern Railway to which Harbin owes its existence. There are two other hospitals within walking distance of the Second. As I stalk at lunchtime, now almost comfortable with the risk of getting lost, I explore the area. The other numbers are of course named 3 and 4 in Orwellian manner but in reality a sensible nomenclature for one of these two pillars of Communist China, the great national health service, the other being Mao Tse Dong’s People’s army. Historically the control irrigation in this vast continent was the material base to the Empire’s legitimacy according to the great structuralist Marxist sociologist Perry Anderson who coined the term, hydraulic society. We turn to the Social Scientists as always to fathom the global forces and differences which turn the modern world where once it was the Historian and Priest who were able to make some sense of it.

At 8.30am and as usual, punctually, we were met by the extraordinary Dr Li in his immaculate large floor on the 5th level of the Second Affiliated Hospital.

To be continued. I pack, layering herbal remedies like contraband in my overstuffed small bag and as I shave so as to be up and running at 5am, I think of coffee which I will be able to get in international transit. Here only coffee as an exotic in large swanky hotels and the rare hip bars. Now there’s an opportunity in the rising stress of Xi Jingping’s “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”!

Wednesday and more of a diary

If it’s Monday it’s got to be Dumplings and War Games

“The reality of China is so outrageous that it renders realism inert.” Yan Lianke controversial (very) potential Nobel winner (New Yorker, Oct 15 2018).

Apologies to anyone who was subject to my Breakdown ce soir! All 7 family Apple devices on E f’ing E got blocked due to misunderstanding about calls. I’ve spent about a Million Quid on these things over the last 20 years which I never….pigeon? Blocked so couldn’t even call E f’ing E, Captain Yossarian.

The day was as usual, a roller coaster and ended mid evening with the above WeChat summary. The sublime was the floor upon floor of TCM therapies in the Second Affiliated Hospital. Large dynamic wards full of therapists and senior hands on doctors effectively and lovingly treating stroke, head and spine injury and cerebral palsy. Babies, young people, soldiers and the very old who might elsewhere be in their drooling isolated Bath chairs. 90% of stroke is effectively treated here. A 28 year cerebral palsy patient rehabilitated and back in business, a “very famous” soldier walking out where four years ago he was wheeled speechless in. Happy children and strong little babes. I kid you not. I have seen it.

Why do we not have teams of medics and therapists having a look see? Is it that to see Consultant Professors with their sleeves metaphorically rolled would rock some archaic boat or fell the ancient rotten trunk of wealth and status?

It’s late and ee and a dissident author has tipped me!

Fantastic “Sand Pit” figures in ranks on the way to the magical and beautiful Dr Qi who in her yellow room pursues Daoist elemental sound therapy which is combined with Western psychology. Here we found more of the resonant magic which was up our alley. (To be fair, only one of she! But nice office bang in the centre of stuff).

Simple cross body and brain supported action. Pursued wilfully with endurance and intention. The combined Will has something of a revolutionary sans culottes army about it. Is it all in the mind? Where for goodness sake else can a human hold it?

My friend who quickly learnt to speak and write my name and pronounced it better than some back home! He had balance problems following accident.

If it’s Monday it’s got to be Dumplings and War Games

Sunday What will happen without the Peasants? A day of Glitter, Loss and Revolution.

Now there’s a question to tax the thinking races and one which has heavily engaged the great philosophers, activists and politicians of the Great Socialist Experiments. I sip early black tea (Warming. Green cooling obvs) and fail to remember my Marx and Lenin and the little Maoism I studied in a hilariously titled module, “Revolutions”, borrowed by the archaic Historians from the Progressives in the Social and Political Theory sub faculty at Cambridge. Of course the devastating solutions of the great leaps forward were, well speechlessly awful. Are we all peasants now? Sort of land workers for the All Consuming Beast? On a practical level I enjoy sharing broad smiles with the efficient dishwashers, dumpling servers, courtyard sweepers and all who ease the passage of the shiny faced ridiculously young undergraduates at the University here. It must be a problem that occasionally sometimes engages the farting sweaty cabals of the Brexiteers.

From China Daily, Friday October 19th 2018. Reference the major Beijing Cultural Exchange Conference, TAIHU, “Wu Weishan, chief artist of the forum and director of the National Art Museum of China.

“Cultures created by different people have their unique value,”he said. “We have to respect each other to better display our own glamour.”

A famous artist in his own right, Wu has produced full body sculptures of both Leonardo da Vinci and Chinese painter Qi Baishi.

Wu’s recent project with the Taihu Forum is to create a series of sculptures on “smiles”.

“Smiling is the best facial expression of mankind,” explained, “Thanks this friendly gesture, we can sail from culture to culture.”

Sunday What will happen without the Peasants? A day of Glitter, Loss and Revolution.

Saturday First Snow

Like clockwork the 24 phases of the great lunar timepiece turn. We pass from the second frost to the time of the first snow and snowing it is today. Doctors and patients have been excited and anxious all week. Diets have changed and food is hotter, more substantial and delicious sweet soups are allowed to support the spleen. Medications have been changed and the great hospital starts to see the first input of wind stroke. Helongjiang Hospital is China’s formost neurological and stroke hospital because of the many stroke cases caused by diet, alcohol, stress, and the severe impact of cold. There is self-fulfilment in this process as the people have a rich hot diet because of the cold. There has been an expectancy and palpable nervous excitement in the air as the vast continent turns down the blankets and shakes down on us the first snow flakes. The air bears the cold of the landmass that I have only felt before on the Hudson River.

To be cont.

Later, 11.30pm and I should be asleep…This whatever I call it will be occasionally updated with syntax, composition and grammatical corrections. The internet in some ways lends itself to process.

Today was 17, 224 iphone steps of urban Saturday. Bus ride, back street scrappy hive of industry workshops in the old Sino Russian area, fur coats, shopping malls and department complexes, one of the largest herbal shops, night neon happy promenading down the famous long 1920s Central Avenue, glimpses of old Manchu tenements and decayed grandeur, millionaires cheek by jowl with trending youth, perhaps my first metrosexuals, my first donation to a street alcoholic and a four story bookshop complete with bars, sushi and calligraphic department which knocked the old Simpsons Piccadilly Waterstones into a Manchurian Soviet hat and finally borscht in the famous Tsarist/White Russian restaurant.

The long day was guided by Maggie, our Tibetan Buddhist from Malaysia who speaks fluent Mandarin and smoothed us dharmically through the challenges, delights and contradictions. Derek from Shenfield and I were boyishly liberated from our larger group. Group dynamics? We had a laugh. Wanna know a highlight? After arriving in the restaurant and after some time menuing, Derek announced with pride, a breakthrough in his Mandarin. This was a relief as he is to set off solo after our return next Friday. So, the large conventionally and heavily folded carte obviously bore the ancien regime, 1920s Mandarin name of the restaurant (remember it was Russian). Derek is coming to grips with the four tones you see, which can change a phrase from “where, please, is the fire hydrant” to “is your underwear modern” etc. “Men U” he proudly and authoritatively said, was the name, suitably flexing, spacing and elongating the characters. We laughed like drains all afternoon and shared my own HAY FOR SALE story of the Welsh for SALE being HAY FOR on my arrival in that country in 1998. Innocents go Abroad!

I intend to attempt to Sociologise an entry soon if youknowwhatimean but am nervous having been monitored in the late 70s as a CPGB member.

Sweet dreams in whatever zone you all be.

Immaculate litter policing everywhere!

Ginseng, Ren Shen, Manroot.

Manchurian salesman in Russian tat shop. Fine scary Russian Nutcracker doll, faux suitcases, Lenin, Stalin and Putin cigarette boxes.

Bibliophiles the world over you have nothing to loose but your…

Saturday First Snow