Across Continents

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Civic pride

Dark. The town square uncharacteristically poorly lit. But through the small crowd I could just make out the group. Line dancing perhaps. But a bit more fluid. Animated. Brightly coloured bundles of material in their hands, largely reduced to shades of grey in the gloom. Music from speakers dotted around on lamp posts.

Lights - web

I’d reached Shangnan, another provincial town. Relatively small by Chinese standards, it lacked the vibrancy of Shangzhou the previous night. But it at least felt different. For one thing, less of the familiar grid layout I’d become accustomed to. Forced instead to mould itself between the steep sides of the valley in which it found itself, a little off the main east-west highway. I’d imagined homes perched high up on the hillsides, hundred of lights visible the night before. But, next morning, nothing.

Pool - web

Shangzhou had familiarity. Appeared a little more prosperous. Yet still yielded surprises. Pool tables laid out in neat lines between bare bulbs in the town square. Played by young and old, late into the evening. And, like the previous night, I found myself attracting a modicum of attention. Less of than in Lantian, my first, and smaller stop, after Xi’an, but noticeable nevertheless. Mostly teenage girls, giggling and pointing. The novelty of which quickly tires. Especially when you’ve lived at a Girls School.

[Author’s note: The last sentence? Late Eighties. Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Never found anyone who’s ever accepted my assertions that the novelty, for a then teenager, quickly wears off….]

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