Sunday, 20 January 2019

A sudden loss of brain function

Almost exactly a week ago today I had a stroke. Completely out of blue, I had just finished a 10k run of moderate effort (48 mins) and swung past Sainsbury's on my way back. Everything was fine until I got to the till and then all of a sudden my body decided to malfunction. A small gathering formed around me, trying to pin me down, awaiting an ambulance. Against better judgement, I wriggled free and marched home.

I spent a good 5 mins trying to get the key in the front door. In denial still. 45 mins later I was on the floor, in a heap. Still in denial. I managed to get dressed, did my hair obviously, and crawled in to the bed. Which was where Andrew found me. I'd been reduced to saying 'yeah, yeah, yeah' and 'no, no, no' by then so the more alert of us rightly decided to phone an ambulance.

Things are a bit of a blur from then but I know had a thrombosis which cleared the blood clots. I was kept in for two days more days, and been recuperating at home since. Retail therapy of course.

I've gone from not knowing my name or address last Sunday, to a reasonably functioning individual today. Quite the journey. There's something quite bewildering about getting a fork confused with a knife whilst being able to discuss the the various Brexit permutations.

A week on, I've come a long way but there's shitloads over yonder. But as long as the route there is reasonably straightforward, I be alright.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Yuan note

There are shops everywhere. Literally everywhere. Hardly surprising seeing I'm currently in the manufacturing heartland of the top ranked country in the 2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index, but astounding, and a little bit headspinning, nevertheless. Though that might owe more to the irritating practice of having sound systems at shop entrances, blasting out noxious beats (the Chinese happy hardcore scene is live and kicking) interspersed with jolly announcements. Some shops even go the extra mile by deploying actual humans to stand outside and frenetically clap their hands at noone in particular.

More is more appears to be the modern Chinese approach. There's seemingly a shopping plaza attached to every metro station in Guangzhou. That's a whole lot of plaza. Floor after vast floor of shop units selling a bewildering amount of consumer goods, often of an indistinguishable nature. Chains are plentiful of course, you're never far away from a mobile phone shop especially. I stumbled in to one chain with seemingly hundreds of outlets in Guangzhou alone, Miniso (think a Muji and Tiger crossbreed), and came across this little gem:

A Moomin portable device charger! Practical and good fun.

One of the city's better shopping experiences is offered by the Fashion Tianhe Plaza in the Zhujiang New Town area, home to three of the tallest buildings in the country. More is more see. Housed in a huge and hugely stylised underground arcade maze, the shops essentially sell the same things but the staggeringly elaborate shop fronts make for an amusing stroll. One section was named Shanghai and featured a fake(?) railway and a 1920s street scene for selfie posing. Another section had cages with fairly apathetic birds. And anyone looking for a break from the hardcore beats and hand clapping can partake in a spot of archery. Westfield should take note.

If shopping malls aren't your thing then worry not. The streets are lined with shops, and eateries of course. And for ease of use there are streets dedicated to specific items. I've walked down florist street, hardware street, fabric street, lighting street and gift wrap street to name a few. Again all selling the same things. And you don't necessarily see all that many transactions occurring, in the plazas or on the streets, apart from in eateries. Maybe the more is more approach has its limitations. It's all a bit one note, or (terrible pun spoiler) Yuan note.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Lost in translation

My partner is currently in Guangzhou, China exploring business opportunities so I've rather fortuitously been afforded the opportunity to come out and visit. 5-star hotel stay in a sprawling urban metropolis. Solo exploration during the day, social time in the evening. Think Scarlett Johansson minus douche bag, self-obsessed husband and friendship/romance with Bill Murray. Oh and less the existential crisis. Here I am doing my best Lost in translation re-enactment:

We're staying in the architectural splendour of the Langham Place Hotel, which resembles wonky Jenga on the outside and features trippy optical illusion balcony walkways on the inside. Hitherto my experiences of luxury accommodation have been scarce to non-existent so I'm the veritable kid in a candy store. The dubious stenches, questionable cleaning practices and 'interesting' interior design choices that I've come to accept as my holiday lot are nowhere to be seen. Instead you get your ice bucket filled up every night and a plate of delicious macaroons delivered to your room at weekends. And the breakfast is MEGA. I've had to admit defeat in my quest to sample every single item, every single day.

Whilst my attempts at urban excursion have been somewhat lost in translation, my lack of Mandarin makes for an often bewildering experience and Google Maps and Translate are keenly felt absentees, I have successfully navigated the shops, purchasing a rather fetching rose-printed t-shirt and a pair of shorts that were too big for Andrew (the intended recipient) but perfect fit for me (the ever obliging back up). In the sale of course. Turns out 'sale' transcends all languages. No translation necessary. Suntory to that!