Monday

V’s been reading my old blogs from my days in Prague and asked me why I don’t write about my life any more. I said that it wasn’t that interesting, and that as I bored myself writing about it, I dread to think what anyone else will make of it. She disagreed. The upshot of all this is that I’m going to try to write a full record of this week, and see if it’s in any way readable or interesting. Please let me know what you think, usually-non-commenting page-hit-people.

Woken up by the baby at just after five am. At first he is crying, but later he is just crawling around, gurgling, making strange noises etc. Either way he needs watching. Carry him around for a bit, then at seven thirty V’s mother takes him off me so she can give him his bath. Go back to bed but not sleepy any more, so just sit up for a while, then go off to have breakfast. Baby is having some too, but V’s parents are on the case (and having a very minor row) so I have some toast and an egg, then take my tea upstairs to study Chinese for a while. V gets up at 9.30, still not a full night’s sleep, but enough for a while.
I’d had a plan yesterday to make sausages and mash for lunch, but it turned out the bag of potatoes had all been used. It’s always a bit of a struggle to make anything – V’s parents are quite posessive about the use of the kitchen, and have little or no desire to try “foreign food” and while V is usually keen, she has a few too many ideas about what she wants. I get dressed and am about to go out to the market when V’s father suddenly finds more potatoes, so I cut my trip short and just take the dog and the rubbish outside, then come back to wash the potatoes and put them on to boil.
While I’m waiting I read this, before going back to finish cooking. Mash and sausages are good, gravy is a bit rubbish. A marginal success, but at least M gets to try mash for the first time, clacking it around his mouth.
After lunch V tells me she hasn’t got around to telling her parents we want to go out in the afternoon, so I have to do it. They take it fairly well. Then we take nearly an hour getting ready to go as V can’t find a skirt. The delay suits me.
Eventually we get out of the door. M is learning how to wave goodbye, so we make a big show of it and upset the dog. The bus into town is even more packed and uncomfortable than usual, then there are two subway trains and another, much nicer bus. We get to Nanluoguxiang around 2.30 and spend an hour and a half looking in various shops for Christmas presents. V had already done the reconnaissance on Saturday, so it was fairly painless, and we buy three whole presents. Before V came along I’d never spent more than a day Christmas shopping, but now it’s a serious business, made more difficult by the inescapable fact that everyone probably already has all the Chinese stuff they need.
After shopping I persuade V to come to a cafe. She selects the Tibetan one, and we try yak butter tea for the first time. It tastes a bit like milky bovril. V says it isn’t tea, so I tell her all about beef tea.
It’s getting a bit late so we leave Nanluoguxiang and go to catch the bus. V gets off after a couple of stops – she has something else to do and I’ve got a class to teach. It’s a ten minute walk from the bus stop and two subway trains again, and for a while I’m concerned that I won’t get there with enough time to make copies. In the end I reach the school with fifteen minutes to spare, most of which are spent fighting with the photocopier. There are twenty students there, and I trot out an old class on writing e-mails. I’ve misjudged the level a bit, and it’s too hard for them, but thankfully I know to overprepare these days, and we cut to the activity before everyone drifts off.
After class I take the subway home, listening to a podcast where an American guy talks about his experience of spending eight months in a Chinese jail. It doesn’t sound very nice. I get home at quarter past eight and eat dinner. V’s father has cooked a hotpot with radish, beef, tofu skin and Chinese leaf, which I eat by myself as everyone else already had their share hours before.
I spend the next couple of hours on the internet. M is sitting in the cot next to me – sometimes I pick him up and play with him, but he’s in an odd mood today – hard to entertain and east to upset. When we put on his pyjamas he screams with annoyance. After 11 we watch another 40 minutes of ‘Eat Drink Man Woman’ – but then it’s midnight, and we should really both be going to sleep.

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