Tuesday, 25 September 2007


Spent the other weekend in Shanghai, (work related, no fun) and man is it crazy. I wrote the following about 11 years ago when I was last there.

Peace Hotel. Roof. Flag poles atop alabaster stone buildings lining the west bank of the Bund shudder in a November breeze. Not a single piece of cloth snaps. Poles themselves are rusted, paint peeling off like sun burned skin, ropes struggle to free themselves from the charade. In the past each of these building belonged to a different flag. A hidden radio still picks up news of Kuomintang victories and the boxer rebellion.
10:44 am. An eager bell sounds the toll, keen to have the job over with. The clock-tower is underscored by a thin shallow arc of laundry roped between pole and air-vent. Yellow tea-towels. Grey jocks. A pair of stiff brown socks: the unratified flag of humanity.

Up the street, the Shanghai Club is now a Kentucky Fried Chicken. It's grand entrance, once filled with French perfumes, cigar-smoke rolled in Havana, Cognac and Champagne, is awash now in the heady aroma of the Colonel's eleven secret herbs and spices; the unmistakable fizz of Coca-Cola adding life.10:59 am. The clock issues a much more solemn note regarding the full hour. Sad almost in the racket that is Shanghai. A tug replies, mock mournfully, 'Is this what it's come to then?'

Other ferries chatter as they cross the dirty effluvia, towards the concrete apartment karsts rising from the re-educated swamps beyond the river. Much of Shanghai is floating, deaf beneath the torrent of air compressors and pneumatic drills: massive black pylon-drivers pounding foundation holes into the mud; taxi-drivers dead on their horns; grinders and drills and hammers slapping rusty iron rails; bone-dry brake-pads, screeching buses, trucks heavy with coal accelerating between clouds of bell wringing cyclists.

And, believe it or not, bird song, echoing up from the urban ravines.


Anonymous said...

the colonel doesn't look too happy about it either

weekendbingedrinker said...

F sounds almost delighted that the Shanghai Club is now a KFC....i can almost see the drool in the corner of his mouth as he wrote 'eleven secret spices'

Anonymous said...

Are we missing October altogether? surely you can misuse a colon or 2 for it. After all it was the month Che Guevara was shot dead. At least post a picture of you wearing a shirt with his face on it. Obviously a small boast about how cheap you bought it from the starving vendor on the corner would be inappropriate

weekendbingedrinker said...

what is this bloke on? i mean, 'flagpoles that shudder in the breeze'? His florid verbosity is getting the better of him. A metal flagpole wouldn't 'shudder' in a 'breeze', it might, and only might 'shudder' in a typhoon. A breeze would have no effect on a flagpole, not even a rusty one. I simply don't know whether to trust this blogger with the truth.

Anonymous said...

don't be like that Weekender. This story made me feel like i was in China. And the tragedy of its ongoing Westernisation made me feel really really sad.

tell us more stories Rex. but can you tell us a happy one.

i don't like feeling sad.