Long Live the King


“This is very impressive, I think it’s actually the best temple we’ve seen so far.”
“Yes. Shall we take a selfie?”


I spent the summer of 2015 in Southeast Nowhere, Beijing, scratching my balls and watching Michael Bay movies. The following summer was spent sweating through housekeeping duties in a hostel in downtown Vancouver. This year, I figured it wouldn’t break the bank to have an actual fucking holiday.

I considered disappearing, Sean Flynn style, into deepest Cambodia. I considered going to a hotel in Saigon, putting The Doors on full blast and staring at the ceiling fan. Eventually I settled on swapping TsingTaos for Singhas on a five day urban break in Bangkok. The gf was keen to come with me, her first time away from mainland China.

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My knowledge of Thailand is limited. Like, ignorant limited. In fact pretty much my only experience of the country was Thai boxing and Apichatpong Weerasethakul movies. I’m not saying I was expecting tuk tuk chases that ended with someone jumping through an exploding ring of barbed wire, or someone lying under an idyllic waterfall making love to a fish, I’m just saying that I really know bugger all about Thailand.

 
First thing to do was make sure we had enough money for our stay. Make seriously sure. The Thai government has started doing random checks at airports to ensure that people can actually afford their stay, as a way of cracking down on broke-arse hipster twats coming over and begging in the streets for enough cash to continue their travels.

 
We flew from Bejing in the early afternoon. Customs and baggage claim took a little longer than I’d have liked, so it was about 9pm local time when we finally got to the hotel. We had an exquisite dinner at the restaurant next door, stocked up on supplies from one of Bangkok’s 3,648 7-Eleven stores, and then I raided the mini-bar for Singha number 1 before falling asleep.

 
Coincidentally, our first full day in the kingdom of elephants turned out to be the king of Thailand’s birthday: the perfect day to visit Wat Pho temple and The Grand Palace, along with absolutely every other fucker in the entire country. We had chicken noodle soup by the river, watching the festivities from a fairly peaceful distance before heading to Chinatown for a coffee and getting hit by a hella downpour.

 
We spent the next couple of days getting used to the Metro and the taxis and trying to learn the Thai for “are you fucking joking, mate? That’s too expensive.” (turns out that the syllables are unpronounceable and that most people speak English anyway).

 
The gf is open to the idea of urban drifting* so we did a fair amount of walking during our stay. We’ve seen a lot of temples. It’s been humbling to sit on the floor (soles pointed away from the Buddha, of course) and contemplate one’s place in the great web.

 
We went to check out of the hotel this morning only to find that July has 31 days (who knew) and that we’ve actually got one more night here in glorious Krung Thep.

 

Meanwhile, a friend in the U.K. has started shooting that short horror film that we wrote together. The cinematographer is my arty mate from the Kazakhstan trip, who’s soon trading Astana for Cairo**. In a way, I kind of wish I was shooting it with them. In another way, though, I wish them well and I’m in Thailand.

 
When I made my first stab at becoming a screenwriter a main inspiration was John Milius, writer of Apocalypse Now. While director Francis Ford Coppola was going insane in the jungle, dealing with typhoons and infidelity and heart attacks as well as Brando and Hopper sized egos, Milius was lazily writing the surfing epic Big Wednesday, spending his days sipping whisky on a Californian beach and his nights riding a dune buggy with a bare-breasted Margot Kidder, shooting the bulbs out of street lamps with an antique shotgun.

 
I always felt that the writer won.

 

 

I still do.


*at least with the safety net of Google Maps (a novelty for her)

**he’s shown me the rough cut of the Kazakh video we worked on, which is quite the mini-epic.

 

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250 Lines of Definition


“The future is now! Soon every American home will integrate their television, phone and computer. You’ll be able to visit the Louvre on one channel and watch female mud wrestling on another. You can do your shopping at home, or play Mortal Kombat with a friend from Vietnam.” – The Cable Guy, 1996


A colleague and I were recently waxing nostalgic about the 1990s. We agreed that today’s knowledge-at-yer-fingertips world is marginally preferable, but we are both happy to have grown up in a slightly simpler time when a 3 and 1/2 inch floppy was nothing to be ashamed of, and when Netflix binges involved changing the cassette every two episodes.

Ours was a weird time: 7-11 wasn’t just a name, it was opening hours; TMNT cereal turned everyone’s shit green; we suffered weird, violent 16 bit hallucinations at the robotic hands of Earthworm Jim; and – for one night only – Paul McGann was our generation’s single Doctor Who.

The early nineties was a time of flipping POGs, blowing the dust off Nintendo cartridges, and taping shows on bootleg VHS (I’m old enough to remember my mum reminding me not to ‘get the little one’ from the video store, a warning against the dangers of Betamax).

The latter part of the decade was, in that pre-9/11 world, a time of looking forward: fiber-optic broadband in every home, Nu Metal in every nightclub, digital cinematography in every film. People weren’t worried that their neighbour might be an extremist plotting holy war, they were worried about the millennium bug and Bill Clinton’s dong.

I spent most of the nineties not staying in the same place, being U Haul-ed to various small towns in Alberta before seeing in the new epoch in one of England’s least interesting villages.

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Before video games started outselling Hollywood blockbusters, before The Sopranos and Breaking Bad finally turned television into a legit art form, movies were the dominant pop culture medium. 1999 is often cited as one of the great years for cinema: While James Bond hung from a thread above the millennium dome and George Lucas dropped the ball on Star Wars, young music video directors were breaking through with future cult classics like Fight Club and Being John Malkovich.*

Meanwhile, two film students used videotape and guerrilla marketing to show that an improvised folk horror about three kids and a fictional witch can make the sort of money that most of Hollywood only dreams about. A couple of brothers (at the time) from Chicago proved that it’s possible to make a science fiction kung fu action thriller that has a philosophical core (at least until it collapsed under the weight of its own cross-platform, multi-sequel bullshit). These were films that summed up ‘our’ decade and, more importantly, said and meant something.

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We Generation X-ers felt no highs or lows. There were rumours of those who did, but they were just put on Ritalin by their douchebag parents. Our spokespersons were the sort of people who dressed up as a bat instead of confronting their problems or who moved into derelict houses with their imaginary friends to plot Year Zero revolution. We didn’t even spot the irony in a monologue about how we’d never be famous or have rock hard abs being delivered by Brad Pitt.

Here in the present, there is a wave of eighties nostalgia. Touted soon-to-be sequels include Bill and Ted, The Goonies, and The Dark Crystal. Christian Slater’s agent has woken up after a long winter’s snooze where the speed dial was set on straight-to-DVD. I guess we have to wait a decade or so for Fight Club Too or Being John Malkovich Again, or yet another X Files movie.

Even if we do have to put up with a Matrix reboot.


*(a film that I swear I at least occasionally shut up about).

Pure Imagination


“There’s always gratification in self expression.” – John Horatio Malkovich


I recently watched a video of the brilliant writer Alan Moore being interviewed at the Odditorium. I’ve no idea what or where an ‘Odditorium’ is, but I do know that Alan Moore certainly belongs there.

I like Moore’s work very much. I like his ridiculously obsessive level of ‘quality control’ or ‘attention to detail’ or whatever it is that makes the great artists such control freaks. He once joked that if he was describing a glass of water in one of his scripts he would go so far as describing the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in it. For Show Pieces, the Lynchian film series that mixes the seemingly unrelated elements of sociopathic clowns, Northampton working men’s clubs, and Egyptian funerary practices, he wrote everything from dialogue and stage directions to songs, stand-up routines, and labels for imaginary products*. That level of control over a fictional universe is enviable (and almost certainly shows why he has disowned every film project adapted from any of his comic book work).

Speaking of which, I’m actually a lot more interested in Show Pieces and the other work that he is doing these days than I ever have been in most of his comic book writing. He may indeed be considered the best graphic novelist in the world (although that’s unfair to Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis and Neil Gaiman at the very least), but I find Moore’s current prose,  film and spoken word work far more engaging than his ‘heyday’ superhero stuff.

In the interview, he moaned about young people not knowing who Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary are. With all due respect to Northampton’s bearded prophet-magus, this probably just shows that he hasn’t met the right young people. I refuse to believe, despite some decidedly compelling evidence, that every young millennial is a half-sharp twat. I’d still like to think that most millennials are waking up in a way that young people haven’t been awake for a long time, and that some of them are even beginning the long search for a fire exit to the 3D movie theatre. Whether or not they will find it in time is another adventure…

As well as watching interviews with Northampton-based worldbuilders, I’ve been reading a bunch of screenplays that I found online. Most recently I read The Men Who Stare at Goats, the script behind the knockabout war comedy based on a slightly darker book and a much darker true story about the American military flirting with hippie culture as a way of appealing to young men of the post-Vietnam era.

Today’s lack of counterculture was another thing Alan Moore complained about, but do we really have much of a culture to counter these days?!? Anger will always achieve more than apathy, but does unbridled rage make any more strategic sense than going misty eyed or carrying lambs and flowers into battle like the goat staring men?

Historically, screenplays are grouped with cereal packets, technical instruction manuals and 17th century medical textbooks at the bottom of the list of things that people read for pleasure. I won’t go into the old ‘are screenplays art?’ debate but I do think that, if written well (perhaps obsessively), they are at least an often under-appreciated form of writing.

It can be edifying to compare early drafts to the finished version of some favourite films.** There are also the great unmade scripts: The Island of Doctor Moreau (adapted by the writers of The Wild Bunch and Full Metal Jacket); Sandman (adapted by the writers of Pirates of the Caribbean and Shrek); Neuromancer (adapted, for once, by the writer of Neuromancer). Films that you will never see anywhere but in your mind’s eye.

Screenwriting was always my own medium of choice. Despite the frustrations that come with it: Despite not feeling like a ‘real artist’. Despite directors/producers/other writers ‘reworking the material’, usually into turgid crap. Despite endless Skype calls answering questions like “but why does he stumble back, in awe? Wouldn’t it be a case of him jumping back, in shock?”**. Despite managing to upset aspiring producers by saying it’s perfectly alright for them not to ‘get’ the ending, but you’d rather find a producer who does than change it. Despite the drawers and drawers full of un-filmed work that people will tease you mercifully for: “was this written by a twelve year old?” (as if, at 23 and with your first attempt, you’re supposed to be the new frickin’ Shakespeare).

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A friend from England recently dug out an old horror script that we’d written together and has decided to film it (after rewriting it of course). It will be nice to see some ‘new’ work come to life, as always (even if the writing is only half mine, and even that half is not my best work). But I have yet to master the God-like level of control over my sporadic screenwriting that an artist has.

The Men Who Stare At Goats is not a great screenplay. It deals with a lot of the stuff I like: shamanism, counterculture elements, redemption stories. But it’s also a little preoccupied with Joseph Campbell and Star Wars references. I like my shamanism bubbling under the surface like an Alan Moore story, not smacking me in the forehead like a Dim Mak.

In a world that has lost its way, we need more people like Alan Moore (not people who copy his writing style or fashion sense, but people who do good, creative, uncompromising work). We need more artists, writers, journalists, performers. People who can see or do what others can’t and then try to explain some of those wyrd things to us.

When a world is undeniably fraying around the edges, the best coping mechanism is devoting time to something you love. Some people have the good fortune of being great at what they love, others just have to keep working at it and hope for the best. Ken Robinson, the educator and writer, calls this sweet spot ‘the element’; Joseph Campbell calls it ‘bliss’ (after a rough translation of ananda, one of the gateways to enlightenment in the Hindu Upanishads); I call it ‘the stuff you do when others have given you the courtesy of getting the fuck out of your face’.

FADE TO BLACK.


CODA:

But isn’t it frustrating?

Yes. It is. It’s frustrating to write short or long form scripts that you know are unlikely ever to see the light of day (for film, TV, web, or any other scripted media).

Yes. A script that isn’t filmed may as well not exist. Unlike an unpublished novel, one that can always be rediscovered and published years later, an unmade screenplay is just a map or a blueprint to a place that doesn’t exist or a building that was never constructed.

But as Vonnegut said in an earlier entry, “you will have created something”.


*One of which, Tunguska Vodka: This One Will Flatten You, could only be dreamt up by a demented alchemist like Mr. Moore.

**An epic puppet battle between John Malkovich and the devil may indeed have made great cinema, but it’s easy to see why it didn’t make it into the final draft.

**Yes, this was a real conversation.

Wayfinding

“Strangely clean, lacking in texture, like video games before they’d learned to dirty them up”
– William Gibson, on Vancouver


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If someone had told me a year ago that I would miss Beijing I’d have thought they were as crazy as the ‘brain infected’ old man from Shogun Assassin*. That I’d miss China? Maybe. That I’d miss my slinky, shoe-washing co-teacher? Certainly. But that I’d miss the smoggy North Capital itself? Nah.

There is a joke that certain people once whispered in pre-Brexit Britain**: “What’s the difference between yoghurt and Canada? Yoghurt has culture!” A similar joke is told here in Vancouver, except ‘Canada’ is pronounced ‘Calgary’ and ‘yoghurt’ is pronounced wrong.

The tricky thing about evaluating ‘culture’ is that it’s a pretty subjective concept. To me, culture is like a planet’s atmosphere: something fiendishly complicated and occasionally life-supporting that builds up in the right conditions over a long period of time***.

I’ve spent most of my 2016 working in a hostel in my adopted homeland, making beds and scrubbing vomit from washroom floors. Some might say it’s a step down from teaching the children of wealthy Chinese families but if you’d ever worked for the same company as me in the Beijing boonies, you’d know that it’s actually an improvement!

But I have missed the Jing, which is why I’ve decided to go back there. I like Vancouver. The people are, on the whole, both dope and chill, usually because they spend a lot of time smoking dope and/or chillin’.

To my eyes, Vancouver is a young city. Not jailbait young, but certainly not creaking at the knees under the weight of its own mythology (like, say, London or Paris). Van City, therefore, comes with all the advantages (and disadvantages) that youth has to offer: It’s beautiful, the air is fresh, there are as many mountains as skyscrapers; it’s got bicycles and beards and artisan coffee shops coming out the wazoo. A veritable Utopia for a pretentious hipster type such as myself! It’s even relatively safe to cross the street without worrying about being hit by a car.

So what has prompted me to return to the not-so-mysterious east? Why the sudden urge to re-enter the dragon? Why do I want to become Ben the Foreigner again? Was I polishing some fans at work when I suddenly inhaled dust that triggered a wistful memory of Tongzhou’s fecal smog? Had I run out of toilet paper and become misty-eyed at the recollection of squatting in a hutong with a red-raw medieval arsehole?

The short answer is, “No, don’t be silly.” I simply couldn’t shake the feeling that, like Stallone between Rocky 5 and Rocky 6, I retired too early. That there’s more of China still to experience.

I’m also a little tired of hearing myself start almost every conversation with the words “when I was in Beijing…”

I arrived in Hollywood North the same way I left the Big Dustbowl: with mixed feelings. There is, of course, the temptation to disappear into the woods like Emily Carr or Henry David Thoreau, to play at being Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans or to go on some sort of shamanic quest (at least as far as Banff). But there is also the temptation not to bugger about with that sort of thing and to face the fact that I’m still more interested in where the sun rises than in where it sets.

I told you I’d see you on the next adventure. Are you ready?


*see https://bentheforeigner.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/hello-world/. (I’m not made of film references!)

**(before nearly everyone there started Googling ‘How To Move To The Great White North’)

***(NOT something that happens instantly in scientifically inaccurate movies at the push of a button while Arnold Schwarzenegger’s eyes are popping out of his head).

The Hero With a Thousand Problems

“Life is, like, 93 per cent luck and 12 per cent judgement. The other 3 or 4 per cent is just shitty maths.”


Most people who know me* know that if there’s one thing that floats my boat it’s narrative storytelling. I have long been interested in screenwriting theories and playwriting manuals and anything that seeks to distill stories into their alchemical constituents in a crucible of… unfinished metaphor. I recently got ridiculously excited when a kung fu master showed me a book he had written about martial arts moves that revolved around the agricultural cycle (“agricultural cycle?” I beamed. “Man, do you know how mythic that is?”)

I’ve attended seminars by filmmaking gurus who claimed to have 22-steps to a successful story, or 3-week formulas in which to script an Oscar-winning masterpiece. I’ve read shite-knows how many pages of that grumpy old American bastard who seems to think he’s changed the landscape of screenwriting with a single application of his own magical piss, despite the noticeable handicap of never actually having written a screenplay. (Yes, you know who you are. And, yes, you are not reading my blog and are off counting money somewhere. Congrats!)

Swindlers, all! Busy guffawing their way to the bank and twirling their mustache while I was still sitting with my feet up in a filthy garret scratching my ear with a pencil, struggling to finish so much as an alchemical metaphor.

Paramhansa Yogananda said in the opening line of his Autobiography of a Yogi that “the characteristic features of Indian culture have long been a search for… [the] disciple-guru relationship”. That characteristic has definitely spread to China, and many in the west have also begun the search (fruitful or otherwise) for some kind of ‘guru’, usually being pedaled easy answers by an American guy in sneakers who offers some free snake oil before pulling down trou and applying butter for the financial equivalent of Last Tango in Paris.

A true ‘guru’, though, is someone who’s willing to share knowledge with you for everyone’s favourite price: Sweet Fanny Adams. A valued mentor who will sit with you over a cup of tea that he’s paid for, a favourite author who will dispense advice after a reading in Waterstones, even a mathematician who will tell you that an in-depth knowledge of Game Theory will not actually help you become a better writer (or find a girlfriend). A fake ‘McGuru’ is anyone, especially someone in sneakers, who’s selling something. Even that old kung fu guy wanted 100 kuai for the book, which looked like he’d illustrated it with a paintbrush sticking out of his arse.

Uh, maybe next time, shī fu!

I love ‘graphic novels’ (which is a pretentious term for ‘comic book’ that pretentious people who like comic books came up with in order to avoid the fact they were reading comic books). One of my favorites is Logicomix, which is about the seemingly-snore-inducing but surprisingly exciting quest to discover the foundation of mathematics. I know as much about maths as I do about agricultural kung fu, but Logicomix explains this mind-bending concept extremely well to the average dumbass layman.

For those unfamiliar with the quest for the ‘foundation of mathematics’**, it was basically a bunch of uber-nerdy mathematicians such as Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell and Ludwig ‘laugh a minute’ Wittgenstein who were all trying to break maths down to its building blocks, or foundations. People were writing papers and books on this for years until a young upstart called Kurt Gödel came along with his classic page-turner On Formally Undecidable Propositions of “Principia Mathematica” and Related Systems, which proposed something called the ‘Incompleteness Theorem’. At the risk of simplifying all of this horribly, he was basically saying that some things are just unprovable, or that the reason nobody could find the foundations of mathematics was because there aren’t any. This comic book revelation, an event which ended the careers of several mathematicians, became a turning point in my own quest to find some magic storytelling formula, and a great motivator to simply sit down and get some writing done.

There is no magic formula. Life doesn’t unfold like the plot of a screenplay or novel or multilayered epic graphic novel. That’s how maths works. That’s how narrative storytelling works. And it’s how life works, too.


*(and I’m aware that ‘people who know me’ make up a significant proportion of readers of this blog. Just slightly under 101% at my last estimate.)

**(and I’m aware that it may indeed be the same amount of people as in the previous note, unless you’ve read the comic too!)

The ‘p’ is Silent

Me: “You see why I keep losing my temper?”

My Co-Teacher: “Yes, because  you are on [your] period.”


There’s a scene in the kung fu classic Enter the Dragon where Bruce Lee is traveling on a Junk boat, where he ends up explaining the ethos behind his own badassery. In this scene Lee is approached by a shadow-boxing New Zealander who belligerently asks “what’s your [martial arts] style?” Lee’s character, imaginatively named Mr. Lee, can barely stifle a yawn as he replies “I suppose you could call it ‘the art of fighting without fighting’.” His Kiwi assailant narrows his eyes suspiciously and says, in no uncertain terms, “show me some of it!” Lee agrees, explaining that there isn’t enough room on the boat to demonstrate. He suggests a trip to a nearby island. The New Zealander gets in a wooden rowboat and Lee immediately casts it off, leaving the swearing bad guy adrift in the ocean, stinging from the realization that he’s just been had by the art of ‘fighting without fighting.’

Wangfujing, in central Beijing, has become one of the training grounds for my own martial arts style, which I have dubbed ‘the art of telling people to fuck off without actually resorting to telling them to fuck off.’ I like to imagine that if Bruce Lee was alive today he might nod with approval at the name of this style, and at its clever acronym: ‘tatpfowarttfo’.

Like any seasoned martial artist, I only unleash the power of the ‘fo’ as a last resort, and it is reserved almost exclusively for people who try to take me ‘tea shopping’*. Whenever I am approached by an individual who tells me how handsome I am or how they would like to help me improve my Chinese I resort to monosyllabic answers before unleashing an animal cry, tearing off the metaphorical black shirt and unleashing a deadly dose of tatpfowarttfo.

Note that when I mentioned the tea shoppers, I used the qualifier ‘almost’ (as in, “not entirely exclusively”). I have also body-slammed unsuspecting attackers with the more subtle moves in the tatpfowarttfo arsenal, often as a way of escaping the cast-iron death-grip of a night out in Sanlitun, which I usually find about as enticing and rewarding as my job doing the night shift in a care home run by nuns…

…Which, coincidentally, was where the very first movements in the training manual of tatpfowarttfo were stealthily developed. Yes, I know: If there is a hell, then my adventurous week-and-a-half working for the Nazareth Sisters or whatever they were called has guaranteed me a ticket there on the one-way bullet train.

My black belt in tatpfowarttfo has earned me many accolades and nicknames: “grandad”, “letdown”, “miserable old bastard”. In fact, only the other day a friend was lamenting the fact that I wanted to spend a day off writing instead of ascending the stairs of yet another temple devoted to some Chinese god or other: “There’s all these great parks and temples in Beijing and you’re sitting in a fucking Starbucks!” He said.

I stared at him.
He blinked.
He looked down at his feet.

When he looked up again it was with the face of someone wondering how the hell he was standing on a little wooden boat, shaking a fist and thinking This is going in the blog, isn’t it?


*See previous blog: https://bentheforeigner.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/tea-shopping/

Ní hǎo

“There was this one time…”
“Can this wait, because your stories always make me want to piss myself, and I really need to pee.”


Almost a year ago to the day I was watching Fist of Fury in a little garret above a recording studio in the UK. I’ve always liked Asian movies, particularly if they’re about martial arts.*

If someone had told me that a year later I would be sitting in a flat in Tongzhou, on the outskirts of Beijing, writing a blog about my life in China, I’d have thought they were as crazy as the ‘brain infected’ old man from Shogun Assassin.** Nevertheless, a flat in Tongzhou is where I am. And a blog about China is what I’m writing.

I grew up in small-town Canada (wasting most of my youth watching movies and TV shows). Beijing is, believe it or not, the first city that I’ve ever lived in. As ‘first cities’ go, it’s a pretty incredible one.

In a recent online article, the journalist Kai Lukoff said this: “[San Francisco] is often said to draw top talent because it has one of the best living environments on earth. No one would say that about Beijing. Beijing is an acquired taste, one that’s often smoky with pollution… The unpleasantness of the city, the lack of Shanghai’s creature comforts or Shenzen’s sunshine, gives it an edge. There’s a gritty determination to seize the moment, whatever the obstacles in the way.” That thwacking noise you could hear as you read this quote was the sound of a nail being hit squarely on the head.

If you look at a map of Beijing, and imagine the city as a man squatting on a toilet, it’s not hard to picture Tongzhou as the arse end. Nevertheless, it is still an interesting part of an amazing city. There have been a lot of ups and downs for me since coming here. I have learned a lot about myself and about the world, and I feel that I’m learning more each day. I hope, with this blog, to draw attention to some of the differences between cultures as well as the similarities between human beings. I hope to blow a hole in some misconceptions that Westerners have of China and Chinese people (for example, the stereotype that many casual racists have about Chinese people swapping the ‘r’s and ‘l’s? Sheer crap, at least here in Beijing. However, I hope one day you will understand the frustration of teaching a child the meaning of ‘quarter to two’, or how to pronounce ‘very delicious’!)

Over the coming weeks and months I will share some of my stories and observations of living and working in China’s capital, along with some interesting facts (did you know, for example, that since 2012, Beijing has overtaken Hong Kong as China’s biggest filmmaking community?) I will also try to offer some advice on what to do (and what not to do) if you are thinking of taking a trip to China yourself.

Please check out the contact page if you’d like to get in touch with any comments/questions/queries/etc.)

Hěn gāoxìng rènshí ni!


*One of my favourites is Chocolate, the Thai movie about a little autistic girl who learns kung fu after watching movies all day, then uses her newfound skills to extract the money owed to her mother by vicious gangsters. There is a gloriously un-PC fight scene where she battles a boy who suffers from full-body Tourette’s. If you haven’t seen it, then you pretty much owe it to yourself to get hold of a copy!

**I’m aware that the film is Japanese and not Chinese, but it’s another good martial arts reference!