Archive for the ‘France 14’ Category

I had a sensory overload in Shanghai

Posted: September 21, 2014 in France 14

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                                                                                                                                                      Shanghai Skyline

 

I had a sensory overload in Shanghai.

I arrived in light showers which slowed me just a little on the first day (Friday).  It meant that I had to dodge umbrellas that were at an unusually low height.  Not being a giant myself, I have never had to avoid so many potential eye-pokes in one evening.  I had arrived in a damp but loud Hobbiton.

I had never been proposed to as much, touched by eager lovely ladies or their pimps in one stroll down any main street in my life either.  The next day an aussie I was recanting this story to remarked that he hadn’t been approached once.  I told him it was his accent and my good looks and physique that was the difference.  He just nodded, not knowing how to respond I suspect.  I think he thought I might have been right. These woman were happy to stroke more than my ego to get my attention …which was great for the first two or three hundred times.  I learnt that being polite was just a come on to them so I became impolite and the stroking stopped for the next 50 metres.

Shanghai is a smoker’s paradise closely followed by an expurgator’s one too.  To dodge the second hand smoke was one thing but to then hop around like some Highland fling proponent, avoiding the spitting required the agility of an athlete …then add in the low flying umbrella tips and unexpected stroking meant I was wired by the time I got back to the hotel. Just when I had my ‘moves’ sorted, the absolute disregard for any form of road signal by scooterists, motorists and pedestrians lead to much tooting, shimmying and ‘fuck that was close’ moments.  The only thing that has changed in the three days is that the umbrellas went away once the rain stopped only to be replaced with parasols (which looked the same to me) when the sun was out.  Scooters, especially the electric ones that would stealthfully come up behind me in silence from all directions even on the crowded footpath then blast their screechy horns forcing me to empty my bowels into my fresh undies!  I learnt to blend in as a form of protection and direction.  It was a bit like the dwarfs and me.  I felt quite superior at times with my height and round eyes.  This was a false feeling as I now stood out and it just encouraged the strokers and the pimps.

It amazed me how quickly these pimps could go from offering cheap watches or foot massage to full on ‘happy, happy time’ massage.  Within 5 secs the full illustrated menu was out there for me to choose from like I was choosing between beef or chicken on a stick.

I tried welks in the shell, duck head (whole and described as ‘in Chinese manner’), whole squid on a stick, blow your head off wasabi and bbq’d my own dinner at some side street café.  I tried Juan’s game of restaurant roulette hence being the only westerner among at least 50 ‘locals’. Not totally sure what protein I cooked at my tabletop bbq but I did a great job of it I thought.  I declined on the sweet fungus liquid at the dessert table as it looked hideous and smelt worse.  Another trip I thought.

It is Sunday 4pm as I am writing this.  Not sure when I will be able to send it as the hotel internet is being monitored and every time I log onto facebook, it mysteriously drops off.  I am waiting for my taxi to whisk me to the airport.  I hope to get my lunch there as the queues around here are horrendous and even the KFC menu is written in some form of hieroglyphics with no translation available.  Finding the loo is exciting.  The usual pictures of a man and woman can sometimes mean a lift (not sure if two woman want to go) and sometimes it leads you to wonderfully kept bathrooms.  Many corridors that look like they should be suitable places for loos in the malls turn out to be just that…corridors or cleaner’s ‘offices’.  I’ve met a few cleaners in the last couple of days!  I saw a woman pull the pants down of a 2 year old in the main shopping precinct, grab his willy and he piddled there and then amongst the throng.  I lined up but she seemed less interested in my dilemma.  MacDonalds, Starbucks and the usual suspects don’t all necessarily provide facilities.  I’ve unnecessarily purchased coffee only to find out they have no loos ….a trap for the inexperienced.

I met a real live Parisian baker yesterday.  I stumbled on his recently opened Artisanal Bakery just off the main precinct.  We were able to bonjour and bonjournee like real Frenchmen.  I left the baguettes alone but his tarte du pomme and pain au chocolat had to be tried to quality assess as is the international rule.  They were tres bon and we are going fishing when he visits in a year or two.

I’m not sure if I like this place.  It is very different, very colourful and as I found out, very tactile.  I have enjoyed my time but have not felt at home.  That is a great feeling for a giant like myself.  I get home within a day where I will miraculously shrink in stature and the anonymous touching and invites will stop.  But I will feel at home.

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                 Dancing in the Street

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 Flower wall at the Bund

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My hotel in the background …the tall building

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Heading back to Pomgolia

Posted: September 16, 2014 in France 14

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The TGV at Gare Montparnasse

On my way back to the UK.

A leisurely drive to the Bordeaux railway station was punctuated with the necessary wee stop at a motorway service centre. We had been on the road for an hour so it was to be expected really.  And while we are there, why not try some more of France’s food …it had been two hours since we did our best to eat our way through what was left in the fridge.  Chocquettes, €2,50 for six seemed a bargain.  Like little profiteroles in size but made from a pancake like batter and covered in some healthy sugary concoction, accompanied by yet another café au lait, I was set for at least another hour or so.

The TGV back to Paris is a 3 hour blast at over 250kh!  So excited were we that the hour we had to fill in before take-off saw us find the nicest eatery I’ve been in at a railway station as some kind of celebration.  Before I knew it, a glass of cold and refreshing rose was in my hands and then a sandwich that had melted cheese over it and béchamel sauce and ham inside accompanied by what looked like half a lettuce as a salad arrived.  It could be called a salad as there was a cursory baby tomato atop the lettuce. Dejeuner had been sourced.  This train is so quiet that in a straight line you don’t know you are moving if it wasn’t for the green blur on the other side of the window.  It is only when it lurches around a bend that the forces start to help you appreciate just how fast you are travelling.  I suggest that all Ford drivers experience this on the train…. you will never in a Ford.

The Metro across town to the Gare du Nord had us checked in and ready for leg 3 of the journey….Paris to London. The seats on these trains if you are lucky enough to score a table configuration where two face two and share a table, are too close together and knee rubbing is the order of the day.  With all the pretty ladies on the train, I got to knee ‘dance’ with my brother!  I was forced to drink on the train, paying over €20 for three little bottles (glasses) of red wine and one of water.  I could have bought 5 bloody bottles (normal sized) back in Hautefort.  It was very nice and thanks for asking.  We finally got home at just before midnight but adjusting the clocks back an hour to London time seemed to make it earlier than it was.

I now have 3 days in London left.  I can sense a trip to the supermarket to see if they have any Melton Mowbray pork pies (a long shot but one I am willing to try), some wine and might as well check out the patisserie section as one has become accustomed to.  I do have to get a few things before I leave England and I am hoping that I will be able to vote at New Zealand house when I spend the day riding the tube and popping up wherever I feel the urge….. like some crazed Meercat.  The Hard Rock café is my concession with regards to touristy things.  It’s kind of more like a pilgrimage for me going and ogling at the guitars and rock memorabilia… and they serve food!

To my surprise, most of my clothes still fit.  My new undies are working well and there are no complaints from down below. I will however need to visit the lingerie section of Marks and Spensers as my moobs have developed like some eager pubescent girl.  As I am such an active person, I thought I’d be best with a couple of sports numbers!

See you later,  Kerry

France 14

Bordeaux and I could be great mates

Posted: September 10, 2014 in France 14

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 No Shit… Striped shirt, bicycle and baguette.  Brilliant

 

Bordeaux and I could become great mates.

 

Bonjour mes amis,

 

Spent the day on Tuesday in and around the Bordeaux city and the vineyards that are on the south east extremities of this wonderful area.  It’s fucking chateau, vineyard heaven.  We were chasing the elusive Saint Emilion grape like it was some kind of endangered species or Holy Grail.  It did involve driving half an hour past it, taking a celebratory piddle at some KFC we stumbled on to reset the Tom Tom and then back tracking the half an hour required to get us to the spot.  This is red wine mecca in my mind.  The Pechamant area in Bergerac we had found the day before was good but St Emilion was great.

 

This medieval town with bombed ruins still in place and steep cobbled roads to the town was special.  For a town that is built on, in and around a castle, it contained well over 100 wine shops selling all thing vin.  I could have done with a cold shower.  I had a salmon galette instead. The town was filled with the most obnoxious Americans you could imagine.  How proud must that country be of these several busloads of citizens?  They were of all ages, of all 3 genders, loud and dumb.  We saw some last week of the same ilk that had bought a souvenir at Monet’s house.  It was a postcard that this woman honestly believed was a signed print.  He’s been dead nearly 100 years for god’s sake.  God bless America.  What a pity a race can spoil a beautiful place by just opening their mouths or even getting off the bloody bus!

 

We were unable to visit the Rothchilds due to a bereavement.  Mrs Rothchild actually.  So there was to be no tasting of any Chateau Lafite Rothchild or Chateau Mouton Rothchild but we did get a lovely e mail advising us of her passing.

(no kidding).As disappointed as we were, I’m sure not as disappointed as Madame was,   So close are we to the Chateau, we were prepared to put on our best black jandals and go to the funeral (imagine the wake at that bloody funeral) but alas that invite wasn’t included.  We decided 4 hours in the centre of Bordeaux which included the obligatory drink at a bar that gave us suitable visibility to the throngs.  Our French is getting good, but no so good as we mucked up the ordering and ended up with an extra large beer. Rather than sound like twats, we accepted the extra beer as if we were expecting someone else to join us.  Tout est bien qui finit bien (all is well that ends well) I believe.  Those that were in town were beautiful people.  Even the men looked attractive and that is from the only straight bloke at the table.

 

We have our baguette purchasing under control.  Just because we see a boulangerie, we have agreed we don’t need to buy bread.  But brioche and assorted bakery items including pain au pomme, (apple turnovers like you dream of) pain au chocolat, (little croissant pastries with big ass choc chips in them) citron tarte or wonderfully formed mini lemon merangues are still just free-for-alls!  Sometimes we even have café au lait to accompany them. Got to keep the fluids up when the wine is not at hand.

 

Pamplemousse supplies dried up this week.  I had to make do with some inferior juice and sparkling water which has a hint of citron in it.  The sacrifices I make.  Never mind, I have pamplemousse rose ready to go from this morning.

 

My brother and I have a pact that we must say ‘Epernay’ several times a day along with my quota of Bonjours etc.  We so loved the way this lady pronounced the home of Champagne….Ep- PEAR-nay. and with our lack of conversational French, the dropping of pretty sounding place names wherever possible should be mandatory and fills the conversation out.  We now have Nick and Simon joining in much to Darren’s consternation.  Even in the Supermarche at the checkout, Epernay sounds appropriate to me along with a new addition to the vocab, bonjournee which takes the ordinary bonjour to heady heights of have a great day! I’m bloody bilingual….chur bro.

 

The pool is lovely and a fantastic way to spend that time between heavy duty travelling/tasting/eating/sipping etc and dinner.  As Sheldon calls it….Prevening.  However, I am aware of a Greenpeace presence.  I feel one of the neighbours has warned them of beached whales lounging around the pool.

 

Must go ….it is 6pm and time to get the now 10 different types of fromage. The 2 types of foie gras and our selection of saucisson ready for the degustation which will be a leader to the duck breasts we are having tonight.  More breast oiling for me tonight.  The gay boys don’t seem as interested as I am….not sure why?

 

We have been invited to the local town of Badefols d’Ans annual harvest festival on Saturday night. Free food and drink along with fireworks celebrating all things walnut and melon.  Nothing like a good melon has always been by mantra, not sure on the nuts though!

I should fit in well with my newly expanded French vocab and my love of a good pair of melons…

 

Au revoir et bonjournee, Kerry

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Real Truffles ….first 2 on left = 55euro ($90)

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My 2 new Girlfirends from the Sarlat Market.  The foie gras lady and the saucisson Lady

I’ve made an observation or two.

 

If the bible had been written by a Frenchman, there would have been many recipes included.  Probably been a commandment as well.  You can’t live in France if you are not interested in food.  The French will not respect you if you deny yourself the pleasure of eating good food.  They take it more seriously than sex. If you are unable to groan orgasmically at the mention of duck gizzards, pigs entrails and suchlike, you are seen more akin to an impotent monk.  Vegetarians are seen in the same light as a guest at a spa pool orgy that stays dry and fully clothed, with their back to all the action.

 

Food is handled differently here too. Cheeses are sold and eaten when the rinds are mouldy, meat and eggs are eaten half cooked or raw and early morning deliveries to restaurants are often left outside on the pavement where poodles also make deliveries.  In short, the French believe that bacteria have the right to live and breed, preferably in people’s stomachs.

 

It is common to see waiters or cooks carrying an armful of unwrapped baguettes through the streets of towns and cities.  When the loaves get to the restaurants, they are cut up into slices by the waiters, who also handle money and cigarettes.  The baskets of bread are served at one table, fondled by various diners, and leftovers then taken back to the breadboard and topped up for the next lot of diners.  So the delightful bit of bread with which you soak up the last drops of garlic sauce or vinaigrette from your plate may have been squeezed by the boulangerie, rubbed under a staff member’s armpit, fingered and fondled by a previous diner before you pop it in your mouth and pronounce it to be the best bloody bread in France…… but it works wonderfully.

 

I love some of the rituals around dining especially when out in public.  At the table, diners must be seated man-woman-man etc even if some of the guests are gay.  Woman order first.  At the table there should always be glasses for wine and water. The water glasses should be larger than the wine glasses. This seems a token gesture towards sobriety rather than anything else.

 

Good brioche is to die for.  Be it a lightly toasted slice or bun-like with chocolate chunks, it should be always taken with a coffee or if you must, tea.  And then there is the saucisson.  Like a knarly salami that is smaller and slightly soft to the touch and not so dried as a conventional ‘Verkerks’ special.  They are also covered all over in a white mould like a damp shoe left in the garage all winter.  My favourite at the moment has walnuts through it and is surprisingly lovely.

 

When old Jean-Claude or whatever he was called discovered foie gras, it must have been like Dom Perignon when he discovered champagne.  A mistake that still needed to be consummed to prevent waste regardless of consequence.  Both turned out to be monumental successes.  This new pate JC invented must have sounded odd to his mates.  I can imagine him explaining it, ‘Oh you don’t take the minced up offcuts like you do with pate Pierre.  You take a good goose or duck, stick a funnel down its throat and pour as much dried corn as you can three times a day until the bugger is so fat it can’t walk hardly.  Then you rip out its now massive liver and spread a slice on your toast.  Voila!  It will catch on wait and see.’  Whatever, the two are firm favourites of mine now.

 

Until today we hadn’t found a bad wine either and we have been averaging at least a couple a day for research purpose of course.  Today’s white was like I used to buy along Lincoln rd in the 80’s….. a bit thick and a little too sweet (like some of my girlfriends from that era actually).  We struggled on and finished it though then washed the memories away with a couple of pastis and a wonderful Bordeaux.

 

We have developed a habit we are trying to break.  Drawn as we are to any boulangerie (bakery) we can’t resist buying the good old French stick.  We are not keeping up with the consuming so next time we ‘Bonjour madame’ to the next lovely lady in the boulangerie, we will have to resist the baguette and just go for the tarts, the pain au chocolat or the croissant.

 

One of our local restaurants is run by Sylvie and Denis.  Sylvie has no English in her vocab so we get on well.  She reminds us of Edith from Hello hello.  Denis (whom has even less English) and I had a conversation yesterday purely with our hands and facial expressions.  It was two profoundly deaf people with poor signing skills.  I got what I wanted, we shook hands and promised to return as his cooking is wonderful.  I think I might know more French than they know English ….combined.

 

For dinner tonight we are staying in.  We have pain originale, duck saucisson, pork and walnut saucisson, more cheese than you can shake a stick at, duck breast, poulet (that’s French), and a tomato.  Finished off with leftover walnut gateaux wand coffee ice cream. That should get us through until we can get to the super marche tomorrow.  That will be after church in St Robert and the obligatory trip to the boulangerie and the café (because we can) for some treats and more baguette.

 

Au revoir Kerry

 

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Bonjour…..I have a new game.  Greeting complete strangers and fellow pedestrians with a smile and a welcoming ‘Hello’.

 

Making eye contact let alone acknowledging others in this country has become illegal I think.  The trick with my new found obsession (this is other than eating and drinking) is to look them in the eye before they have the opportunity to look away, look down or look through you as if you don’t exist. Once you have eye contact, smile and greet them with a ‘hello’, ‘g’day’, ‘how they hanging’ or ‘morning’ etc. I have resisted the odd ‘kia ora’ as that would be an offside in this game. For most, it is treated akin to an insult.  My score this morning was 1 reply, 2 acknowledgements and 5 ignores.  Neither age and gender nor ethnicity seem to influence the outcome.  I’m having a ball and feel I am channeling Crocodile Dundee or something.  I shall try my Bonjours and suchlike with my Gallic ‘friends’ on Saturday.  All subsequent postcards should be read in an outrageous French accent also.

Went to Chartwell house the other day.  No bloody Westfield Chartwell either, but where Churchill hung out.  I used the lavatory there (as is my want).  No toilets, bogs or dunnies here!  Highlight was being inches away from a Monet.  I was so excited I think a little wee came out.

 

Melton Mowbray was a brisk trip up the A1, south east of Nottingham.  The pies and all things pork pie in particular were centered on “Ye Olde Pork Shoppe”.  You just know they have been doing this for a long time when the shop is spelt with an extra ‘p’ and has and ‘e’ on the end.  The Stilton factory was very alluring for me also.  However like many of our factories, not open for a quick viewing ….even the bullshit I spun was insufficient to weedle a little look.  Travelling home, we stopped at an airfield (Imperial War Museum – Duxford) full of all things war time aviation.  Pretty impressive including the fly past of a Spitfire and a fighter jet that was only meters from the ground.  But hidden in the back of a hanger full of planes of all ages was the Concord.  Fuck yes and I got to go on board!

 

Went to Greenwich yesterday and was able to cross the time zone many times.  From today to tomorrow and back again with ease.  It meant I could drink my day’s allowance then like some Time warp move, a jump to the right put me in tomorrow and I could drink some more!  Fan –fucking –tastic.  Stumbled on to a magnificent drop in Greenwich also.  Whitstable’s Blonde ale it was called. Had to have a second to make sure though.  Went to the O2 dome and on the cable car too.  Was let loose in the city for a few hours on my own.  Bought some new undies you will be pleased to know. The thrill of putting on new undies is a thrill I have saved until tomorrow when my supply of clean ones ends.  Something I can report on next time maybe. But it is always a wonderful feeling having virgin clothing around your bits. Actually, anything virgin I suppose.

 

I am writing this on board the Eurostar.  You may need to adjust the brightness as I am in the tunnel and the view is dark currently.  We have loaded a tuckerbox for the journey.  It includes proper champagne and some of the stinkiest cheeses I could find in Waitrose and of course, there are two magnificent pork pies too.

 

For the second time this week my bladder has allowed a little wee to come out as a form of acknowledgement of my excitement.

                      PS  Undies feel great.

 

   Au revoir Kerry

France 14

I Found Jesus

Posted: August 26, 2014 in France 14

Jesus

I went to Borough Markets in London the other day and look whom I found. This is what happens when you hang
around all Easter apparently… you become a salami.

London is treating me well. The flight from Shanghai was the opposite to the previous leg where I had a row of 4 seats to
myself. Dora and her companions from the convention had all got off along with ALL the ankle-biters and their ineffectual
parents. As by way of making me happy, the Virgin Atlantic flight was less than a third full. It struck me that Virgin Atlantic was a                             weird name as we were not flying over the Atlantic and a quick scan of the crew confirmed there would be a dearth of virgins onboard as well.

Lets call him John, but a bloke I met on the plane was a pom that lived in South Africa as a child, grew up in NZ and now
lived in Panama ‘growing’ for a living. He kept me enthralled for some of the flight with his tales of all things horticultural in
Central America. I was able to sleep for most of the first 6 hours which gave me enough time to watch a few chic flick movies as research for my time with the boys and the gay community of London. I could now with confidence, discuss all things from shopping, the other man and also personal grooming of which I lacked.

I am enjoying the village life that the burbs of London offers. The boys live in a very Remuera-ish part of London, about 20 mins on the train from Tower Bridge. I keep expecting Margot from the Good Life to pop out from one of the front gardens with a cheery hello. Today I went for my walk in a light mist that is normal for a summer Bank holiday apparently. As I walked further away, the light mist turned to a shower that had raindrops like bloody water balloons that unleashed the coldest and wettest liquid I’d experienced. With that icey dunking, I postulated that I had now completed my icey challenge for charity.

The earnest training I have been doing for this trip is paying dividends. Melton Mowbray pork pies have been sourced and mostly consumed. Then I have managed to source and consume a wonderful cheese from eastern France. It was a Camembert style that was so ripe it was more like a dip than a cheese. One has to spread it on your cracker rather than sliced. A beautiful smelly wash rined lovely. Made lovelier by bottles of French and Argentinian reds and whites from our part of the world.

Then there was a cheese toasted sandwich that even though cost 5 bloody pound…contained two handfuls of mature cheddar and a swiss something or other that was pretty fantastic. There have been a couple of ales but it is the wine I’m training for. You
will be pleased, I’m training hard.

A trip to Luton to visit relatives/inlaws was a lot of fun. Fish and chips at the biggest bloody chippie I’ve been in. A
menu that looked like an upmarket Maccas that included the traditional F&Cs as well as the whole kebab selection, pizzas and a selection of gravies and sauces to smother your comestibles. I was impressed. Every 2nd car was a Vauxhall (think Holden range and double it). It turns out that Luton is the home of Vauxhall even after the assembly line closed some years back. The closure made for a tired looking city, akin to Detroit and suchlike. Quite sad for what was a proud town. I swear I saw 100 Vicky Pollards and nearly all pushing prams or drugs instead of finishing school.

Planning our trip to the home of Stilton cheese and Pork pies is all but complete. The planning involves tasting cheese and pies. It is a mission but one that I am taking on like some fat Bear Grylls. He drinks elephant pooh…..I do wine I don’t recognise! I’m that bloody good. We shall be heading north on Wednesday so will get to see more of the A25 and the M1. It is off for a curry tonight, then it is London town on Thursday. France on Saturday …. I hope my training and study has been enough….I’d hate to fail Eat, Drink, Sleep in France.

Au revoir Kerry

 

France 14

I slept with Dora the Explorer

Posted: August 26, 2014 in France 14

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Hola! I slept with Dora the Explorer last night.
As my new trousers and I descended the escalator to gate 9 at the airport last night I thought I’d stumbled on to a conference of Dora the Explorer impersonators. Everybody around me had that lovely olive skin, almond shaped eyes and a hairdo that was Dora to a T. For a long time it seemed I might be the only westerner (and non-conference goer) on the plane. But the crew arrived and 50% of them were of the same ilk as I. By the time I boarded there would have been two dozen of us but they seemed to be all sitting up the sharper end of the craft. A lesson to be learned I thought.
Prior to embarking I was reminded why my love of other people’s kids has always been at odds with my head. Kids of all nationalities share the same snotty noses and unyielding whining and crying that is audible to all except their muslin skirt wearing, hairy armpitted hippy mothers and equally unresponsive new age fathers. And as I sat down in 25F I realized I was now buckled in and surrounded by both the kids and selectively deaf parents. It was as if I had been seated in the middle of some Titirangi mum’s coffee morning. My thinking was taking me back to my observation at the pointy end of the plane again. By the way Air New Zealand, what happened to rows D and G? They appear to be absent right through the plane.
My neighbor for the next 12 hours was a larger version of Dora that believed that she owned the armrest and bits of her bum owned parts of my seat. Her elbows enjoyed my left hand rib cage, seemingly attracted to my taught torso every time she turned over or I had drifted off to sleep. When I woke after 5 hours of infant issues, elbows and very bright reader’s lights, I opened my eyes and saw just a hand span away, the most lifelike Dora in the world. I was waiting for the cheery ‘Hola’ but she just smiled, jabbed me in the ribs and turned over again. We did get to chat later on and I was surprised not to hear a hint of Spanish accent from this Shanghai resident. I did ask if she had heard of Dora the Explorer and she told me her 5 year old daughter had a DVD. She didn’t share my keen observational skill.
I now have a 4 hour stopover at this magnificent airport even if the carpet has stretched so much the ripples created are actually signposted as a hazard. I’ve arranged to get it into Inform for those of you that give a damn.
Another 12 hours in the air and I’ll be able to see my English family and maybe start my new diet of Eat, Drink and Sleep. I wonder with whom I’ll sleep with tonight?

Kerry

 

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