Chalkface: From the mouths of Chinese babes

This is a breakout blog.

I’ll do this from time to time, get outside of the Block 6 Lifts and write about something wider in scope. Chalkface is one such project. It is intended to share some of the observations from the Chinese language learning environment. We’ll get back to Caffeine Man, the Mad Tapper, and Sir Pick-n-Flick in the next Life In Lifts blog.

Chinese kids are busy on the weekends with loads of extra-curricular classes. It seems that the Chinese middle-class want their kids to be calligraphers, scientists, mathematicians, structural engineers, TV hosts, pianists, polyglots, and NBA All-Star team members – all before lunch time Saturday.

I taught ten lessons this past weekend. Ten different locations, with varying degrees of ambience, air-quality, size, materials, and linguistic skills. And ten traffic jams to negotiate. It’s a good thing that the job is a blast.

In April, I gave the students three weeks to complete a task: design a travel poster for the summer holiday. It had to be an overseas destination, limited to 10 days travel, with a clear itinerary of fun things to see and do. A route map was also part of the requirement (e.g. Day 1 – Pyongyang, Day 2 – Kim Il-Sung shrine etc.). Sixty percent of the mark was to be allocated to the poster (size, colour, visual effect) and 40 percent was for the oral component (pronunciation, grammar, vocab, length, and delivery).

Well, the posters were great. Some real passion went into the production of these posters with colour photos, drawings, computer-aided design, clearly-written paragraphs and neat layout. It made my school homework look embarrassingly inept. Most teams scored full marks.

 

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Where’s Bossy Town?

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Then came the spoken part.

There was one girl who spoke beautifully about a tour of New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Bossy Town. She lost half a mark for that. Bossy Town is home to both M.I.T. and Harvard universities and the Red Sox baseball team (have you guessed it yet?).

Here are some of the other things I heard:

“After Black Forest (breakfast) we will make a trip to the female agitation (what?)”   Tommy, 10

People like beer very much. Then it’s time for lunch” – Davy, 10, about a trip to a Swiss zoo

American food is very unhealthy so we will stop at a Chinese restaurant for lunch” – Jessica, 11

“New Zealand is made up of the North Iceland and the South Iceland. You will be arraigned in Christchurch.” – Connie, 10

“Sweetland (Switzerland) is in the middle of Earache. It is home to chocolate watch cheese.” – Lisa, 11

Quebec is the best city to cultivate children. It has many interesting topographical features (how do you know such complicated English – you’re 10 for goodness sake?!). The Canadian frog is red and white with a maple leaf….” – Ada, 10

After arriving at the sandwich hotel, we will get our passports (followed by  indecipherable words) from the Internet and visit  the old naughty (Nordic?) museum, then on to a ski Russell to try skiting” – Leo, 12

There were many examples of this but also lots of really good English too. The most touching thing was their attitude towards this assignment. They didn’t really have to do it. I would be powerless to contact their school teachers and have them fail English. They were incredibly self-motivated. Many parents were kind and said that I had been their child’s motivation but I disagree. Their collective effort made me yearn to take this  freshly-acquired inspiration and repeat my childhood all over again!

Do you ever wish you could go back and do things differently?  Feel free to leave a comment.

 

Old Man’s River

Keep it together man, just another floor or two to go, no-one is going to get in on our way up. The journey will be short. By all means decorate your door, wet your welcome mat, or throw up all over the threshold but open the floodgates once you get out. Don’t do it here.

These were my thoughts last night.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen in an elevator?

We’ve seen pretty much everything in Chinese lifts except X-rated activity. Thank goodness. People here are still pretty conservative.

I got into the lift on the minus one carpark level and proceeded to the 35th floor. It stopped at one (the ground floor in British Commonwealth countries). In stepped a youngish woman and her father. She smiled and said hello. He slurred something to me and tried to keep his balance. They were going to the 20th floor.

He smelt like a distillery.

There was a little burp, a bubbling sound emanating from deep below. Being vomited on by a sick toddler is one thing, how about by a 70 year old man?  This was becoming a very real possibility.

The lift wall was his pillar, his bastion of support. He head slumped forward. We’re not going to make it. Or are we?

“Have you been out tonight?”  I winced at my own question. It was blindingly obvious they’d been out. They probably thought it was none of my business. It would quickly become my business if I wore his technicoloured treacle.

Yeessssh” came his reply, sounding like a certain New Zealand prime minister of yesteryear.

Time slowed as it does when you’re exceedingly uncomfortable. His daughter looked worried. She seemed to have taken on a maternal role. I wondered if she had experienced this many times before. Certain parts of China seem to produce some of the hardiest drinkers in the world, up there with the Russians and Germans. I’ve also seen people turn pink after a glass or two of beer. Which category did he fall into?  Ironman or jellyfish?  Hooch hound or schlemiel?

He cocked his head, one-eyed, and looked in my direction. This is what a deer must feel like when he realises he’s in the hunter’s sights. The moment before impact, the calm before the storm etc. etc.

The lift stopped and dutiful daughter took him by the arm and led him out of the lift. There was a real urgency to her movement as she fiddled with the door keys. That was a narrow escape. As the lift doors began to close, I heard a sound…

SPLAAAAAAAAT!

A narrow escape indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello! Racist?

Thanks for the encouragement, comments and support. A couple of questions came in these past few days:

“KJ, what do Chinese do when it rains?” – Brian, South Africa

Great question Brian. They get wet!  (will answer this question in another blog)

“Just wondering KJ, do you often encounter racism in your daily life here in China?”  – Tom, Canada

Another really interesting question. Thanks Mike. This leads to today’s topic:

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The picture above was taken by a friend in an lift across town. The elevator accesses a gym frequented by many Guangzhou-based foreigners. Curious, my friend scanned the QR code attached to the sticker and found a link to a dubious website. No one seems to know who put the sticker there but judging by the site’s content, it was mostly likely an expat.

I’m not going to provide a link to the site. Why?  Because it’s a site that purportedly supports expat rights but seems as much a vehicle for hate-speech as anything else. Let’s not mention the frequent spelling mistakes in the site’s blog posts (shock horror!). It should be easy enough to find if you’re really interested.

Flimsy journalism backed with dodgy statistics – yuck. A sample size of ten does not “maketh” an accurate result!  The message boards are worse. Swear words, some I’ve never heard before, describing people of both Asian and European descent. I guess this partly helps answer Tom’s question. People are free to rant and rave under the cloak of anonymity and often true feelings come to the surface. People complain about being “helloed” everywhere they go here. Some Chinese get annoyed about being “Ni haoed” too, especially those with advanced levels of English. Africans appear by far to get the worst treatment.

I’ve noticed a degree of unintentional racism here. China is still so homogenous, so completely Chinese, that your brown / blond / red hair and white / dark skin will make you stand out. The locals are simply not yet used to foreigners. My daughters get a lot of attention from people, most of it admiring and very kind. Their eyes, skin, hairstyles (and inevitable shyness from the attention) get remarked upon. “Can they speak Chinese?”  “How about English?”  “Can they speak at all?”

People point at my nose. One little boy took his fingers and tried to stretch his mini-snout, hoping to equal mine in size. No show on that score buddy. I’ve been called a few rotten names over the years (it’s funny how one remembers the insults) but I think people are generally pretty nice to me. The loud “helloooooos!” and mocking of my Chinese used to grate. Then I discovered meditation. Thanks Headspace. I might have said one or two naughty things to one or two Chinese people here too… some time ago. None of us are robots.

So Tom, is there racism here in China?  Yes – lots of it. But I think we’re all guilty of it at some level or another.

 

 

 

 

Ahmed and Mustafa

French wine is very famous. Wine is a kind of beer.

Mike, 13, Guangzhou in speech given yesterday.

 

Good Monday morning. Hope your weekend was a great one.

I was at the chalkface for much of mine (I’ll create a “breakout blog” with the name Chalkface soon). It meant I got to see people going to work and one or two colourful characters coming home late. Most seemed to know who I was which was a little bit awkward. Especially when they asked after my wife and daughters. Fine I said. What was I supposed to ask them in return?  How’s Granny? (“What Granny?“)  How are your kids? (“I’m not married!”).

Some of my fellow passengers may have been drunk.

But not Ahmed and Mustafa of the 42nd floor!

They are a couple of friendly Iraqis that buy and sell clothes in the large wholesale clothing market nearby. This place really is the U.N. of the city with foreigners of all shapes, sizes, colours, and dispositions.

It was a Saturday evening, after 10, when I arrived home from a lesson. Mrs Too-Cheap-to-Buy-Her-Own-Carpark (long story) had returned and was waiting on minus one. She’d closed the doors from the carpark to the lift lobby which was a little bit irritating. It necessitated a deep-sea bag dive for house keys and the attached microchip which allows access to this area. It added another ten seconds to my journey home. She was on her phone.

We stood there in silence, well I did. She carried on her conversation. Suddenly a loud banging noise came from the direction of the locked doors. I walked over to meet the angry bashing and saw our two Iraqi friends through the glass pane. They looked relieved to see a friendly face. “Thank you my friend” said Ahmed. Mustafa kept his head down as they walked towards the lifts. There Ahmed spotted his object of opprobrium.

“Hey, why you close de door?!”

It was not clear whether Mrs Too-Cheap understood his words or could even speak English. She seemed unthreatened or simply unaware, and ignored him

“There’s no need!  Leave the door open.”  He was really hot under the collar. By the way,  nice salmon-pink shirt Ahmed. Good style.

“How are you?” He asked, smiling at me.

Great thanks” I said as a tribe of strangers poured out of Lift B.

You’re up close and personal in an elevator. Sometimes too close. I was sandwiched between the two Iraqis and standing behind Frau Frugal. As Mrs Too-Cheap alighted, Ahmed flashed a white-teeth grin. His dark eyes sparkled.

How are you?”  he said in a thick Middle Eastern accent. The kind of accent a Western actor might try to adopt when playing the role of an Arab in some B-movie.

Fine thanks. Say, where are you from?”  I replied.

“Iraq. Baghdad. You?”

“New Zealand” I offered.

“Ah New Zealand, very beautiful. How are you?”

Are you kidding me?  You’ve asked me that question three times now. It’s turning into a kindergarten-level English class.

“(Exactly the same as I bloody well was 30 seconds ago) Fine thanks. That’s a nice shirt you’re wearing. Nice colour too.”

 

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Cool!

The shirt clings to his muscular body well. You can see why apparel companies are so keen for athletes to endorse their products. I’m not sure Ahmed is an athlete. Mustafa certainly isn’t. There seems to be a league of Arab nations that plays soccer nearby. He doesn’t seem to understand my comment until I point at his shirt.

“Ah, yes. You can have it if you want?” He moves to unbutton his shirt. He is literally about to give me the shirt off his back. I am not sure whether this was his way of having a little joke or an Iraqi attempt at friendship. In any case, his kind offer is refused. We’ve arrived at my floor and I bid them farewell.

I haven’t seen them again. This might have been the first time I’d met someone from Iraq. I hope it’s not the last.

 

 

 

 

The Daily Commute

You can’t beat the feeling!  The stupor of a broken night’s sleep coupled with a long wait. The lifts take an extraordinary amount of time to arrive this morning. We watched Lift C pass our floor on its way up and stop at the floor above us. Oh no not the 36th floor!  I briefly mentioned them in the Neighbours…. post a couple of weeks back. They take forever to get into the lift and take their tank of an electric bike with them. The girl loudly slurps milk through a straw. Maddening. Thankfully we got Lift B today.

Mrs. Tai Chi and her daughter are inside the lift. It’s awkward to share a lift with them as Mrs. Tai Chi is either arrogant beyond belief or (more likely) painfully shy. It’s not easy to differentiate sometimes. You get a half-hearted-hello-you-speak-first-and-only-then-will-I-talk-happily greeting. The daughter slouches against the wall looking like she’d rather be in bed.

Four people in the lift.

We stop at the 23rd floor and in steps James and his dad. James is one of my students and quite a hard worker despite his lack of “finishing”.

“Hello James”

“Grunt”

Six people in the lift.

We’re descended a level before three people I don’t recognise get into the lift. They look tired. Everyone remains quiet.

Nine people in the lift.

And we’re off to the races as we hurtle towards the ground. Oh… nope. We’ve stopped at the 15th and a young woman enters. She looks professional. I don’t recognise her. She is sneaking a glimpse of Miss K in the reflective doors. We arrive at the eighth floor. In hops Cici (pronounced Sissy) – another one of my students and her ever-cheerful mother. She’s the same age, eight, as Miss K.

Twelve in the lift. Someone has bad breath. I think it might be the old man wearing a trendy orange Under Armour t-shirt.  His face is merely inches from mine.

We have a spring outing today!” declares Miss K. I hadn’t heard her talk proactively to anyone in an elevator since we’ve lived here. Suddenly the ice is broken and people are chattering away about the weather and spring outings. Mrs. Tai Chi’s daughter plus James and Cici look crestfallen. Their school has already had their spring outing. Their faces show it  – just another boring day at school. Another three people enter the lift.

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Fifteen sardines trapped in an elevator. Imagine if it broke down. We had 16 people yesterday. I think the record might be 22.

“It’s raining today” someone offers by way of consolation “which means it doesn’t really count as a fun outing.”  Spoil sport.

The lift capacity record remains unbroken as we reach the first floor. Miss K is unperturbed by the rain and her excitement is palpable as she skips to school. Wary looking parents and busy office workers all head out the front gate in anticipation of the day ahead.

This is a typical day in the Block Six lifts. We weren’t attacked by bandits nor did Superman save us from impending doom. It did however offer an insight into a little slice of humanity going about its daily life.

That’s the final blog of the week. There will be more posts next week. Thank you for your continued support.  Have a super weekend.

 

Pee in a Pod

Lifts become funny places after dark. They take on a different “feel” once most people are home, snuggled in their apartments for the evening. There are those that head downstairs for an evening walk but by 10pm, things get pretty quiet. The cleaner has gone home too.

This might explain the prevalence of rubbish, cigarette ash, and mud inside the elevators during the late hours. We arrived home late the other night and we preoccupied with getting the kids to bed. Eagled-eyed Miss K spotted a liquid substance in the corner of Lift C.

Someone has spilt their orange juice in the corner of the lift!” She said excitedly.

We looked closer. It didn’t seem like the 100% pure orange juice brands that are so popular in the market place. It didn’t smell like orange juice either, more like strong, salty vegetable soup. Too much information?  I’ll go on.

Perhaps it’s apple juice, Daddy?

Um, maybe, but apple juice doesn’t smell like vegetable soup either.

Perhaps a pet dog went pee pee here?” She theorised.

Yes” I replied “but a dog doesn’t normally get its business halfway up the elevator wall.

The topic arbitrarily turned to something else as it often does with eight year olds – My Little Pony, or an incident in class that day. But my interest was piqued. I’d once overheard primary school boys bragging about piddling in a lift but thought it that – braggadocio. Lifts stop pretty quickly and it would make an embarrassing situation if a male was caught by others midstream. How could one possibly explain the situation?

Um, sorry…. just watering the pot plants” (?)

As I mentioned above, it was after 10pm and someone might have felt a little emboldened. Perhaps they’d had a bit of liquid courage and were caught short. Maybe it was a dare?  Maybe it wasn’t anything other than spilt soup splashed 1.5 metres up a wall… but I was reminded of this incident (below) that occurred in Chongqing earlier in the year.

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Apparently he managed to short circuit the electrics and stop the lift. He was left to stew in his own juices (in pitch black darkness too) for quite some time before technicians rescued him!

Thanks for your comments and feedback. It is nice to see viewers from different parts of the globe. Your viewership is much appreciated.

Cheers, KJ

Chatting with Granny

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There’s nothing like a good listener. One who really understands what you’re trying to say. You look into their eyes and know that there is a connection. They’re not thinking of what to say next, or looking over your shoulder, or checking their phone. I’ve found that Chinese are remarkably good listeners with a natural curiosity. You’ll find that they ask intelligent questions and prod deeper if they find something amiss or out of place with what you’re saying.

Then there are the over 65s. I’ve met a few that were university educated and once held professional positions. They are great to chat with as they can form their own opinions and don’t believe all the propaganda promulgated via the media. However the majority of this generation had a fairly tough time growing up and missed out on many opportunities that the later generations enjoyed.  The old Li Wan District, where this blog is set, is home to many true-blue elderly Cantonese. They’re loud, brash, and don’t give a hoot about politics. They’re interested in more pressing problems like home economics (the price of this week’s cauliflower) or helping family members. Many cannot communicate well in Mandarin.

I’ve included a conversation with a grandmother that occurred in Lift B last week. She was bringing her granddaughter home. We’ve known each other for about three years  and it made me question our entire history together (translated from Mandarin):

KJ (me):  Hi, long time no see!

Gran: Ha ha, long time no see!

KJ: I see your granddaughter has just finished school for the day.

Gran: Yes, she’s finished school for the day.

KJ: How are her studies progressing?

Gran: Good.

KJ: That’s good. I saw her old kindergarten classmate recently. Actually I teach him nowadays – Chen Han Ling, remember him?  He’s still very naughty.

Gran: Good.

KJ: What are your plans now?  Is there lot’s of homework to do?

Gran: Good.

KJ: (confused and getting out of the lift) Um… bye.

Gran: Ha, ha, bye.

I don’t think she understood a word of mine. I don’t think she has ever understood a word of mine. Ah (he writes sobbingly), to think of those many wasted moments with  her discussing metaphysics, game theory, theology, and the existential meaning of life….

Mrs. Pigeonface

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It’s not very nice to call someone Mrs. Pigeonface. I can hear my late mother’s voice with a mild “It’s not becoming of you” rebuke. It’s probably not very PC to liken someone’s appearance to a pigeon either. Mrs. Pigeonface doesn’t even look like a pigeon, much.

The thing is, there are probably much harsher descriptions for this 11th floor woman (and her six year old son). Apartment living means that you’re living in close proximity to a whole bunch of different people. You don’t get to choose who these people are. Some are friendly, cultured, and even outgoing. Others are more reserved, preferring to keep to themselves. You don’t really mind what they are like so long as they can behave themselves in an enclosed space for what really is a small amount of time.

We have quite a bit of history, Mrs. Pigeonface, son, and I. Her kid (let’s call him Horace) goes to the same school as Miss K. We’ve seen Madame Pigeonface and Horace galloping erratically, if pigeons can gallop, down the road on the way to school. They’ll stop to admire a kitten, a flower, a large advertisement, have a laugh, play peek-a-boo, or tie up shoelaces before charging forth all over again. This sequence is repeated several times – often on the same journey! She’s invested in a bicycle with a small Horace carrier which has rendered her even more of a threat than before. Balance doesn’t seem to be her thing. Just ask the vendors lining the narrow lane near the school.

Mrs. Pigeonface and Son (sounds a bit like an fishmonger) have mastered the Delay n’ Dash – the subtle art of delaying entry to an elevator just long enough till the doors begin to close, then bashing your way inside with all the grace of a rugby prop. They’ve also pioneered the Surge and Stop – the exit-first-at-all-costs method of lift departure followed by an abrupt stop a metre from elevator to check mobile phone. This guarantees a small jam behind you.

We encountered them yesterday in Lift B. Horace’s perfectly executed Delay and Dash nearly wiped out my daughter. He decided to press the close door button, even though my finger already occupied this space. I told him so too. Horace ignored me and pushed my finger off  (the temerity of it!) as the lift carried on its merry descent. Mrs. Pigeonface absent-mindedly rummaged through her bag and Horace edged closer to his reflection in the doors. His mouth began to take on a different, deliberately grotesque shape. Slowly, one large wobbling, perfectly-formed saliva bubble appeared from his mouth. It clung to his lips, taunting us until it popped, as if on cue, as we arrived at level one.

They lurched forward, crashing into others exiting from Lift A. There was no Surge and Stop this time but a slow hand-in-hand stroll that irritated the living daylights out of the 20-odd time-pressed people behind them. Mrs. Pigeonface and Horace looked happy and that was the main thing. A tender and loving moment between  mother and son.

Perhaps ignorance really is bliss.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Feel free to leave a comment. Hopefully you won’t need to go through the rigmarole of registering beforehand. Have a good weekend.

 

 

 

Falling

Have you ever thrown anything from a great height?  Perhaps from an office window or hotel balcony?  Ever launched leftovers, slung scraps, tossed tissues or projected pot plants?  Worse things have been hurled from Chinese apartment blocks, much to the alarm of those in the gardens below.

The Internet is full of such accounts. Air-conditioners, glass vases, meat cleavers, and other unusual items have been biffed from above (falling at dangerous speeds) to paths,  pavements, streets, shrubs, and people beneath. Writing personally, I’ve collected a bit of soapy water and a rubbish bag or two – usually from a lower level abode and it ain’t fun!  I’ll admit to hurling a bucket of water from my eighth floor apartment over 16 years ago. This was to address the problem of four 3am revellers singing an extended rendition of the Mickey Mouse Club theme. I aimed my H2O at a safe distance from them and SPLASH!  No-one was injured, and the concert ended abruptly. I was awarded a public service medal for my efforts.

Last month China Daily reported that a three month old girl was in coma due to being hit in the head by a falling apple. She was in a Shenzhen hospital undergoing brain surgery. Little Fanfan had been out for a walk in the garden with her grandmother when the incident occurred. Apparently the villain was an 11 year old girl that lived 24 floors above. It was a terrible accident caused by the innocuousness of throwing a half-chewed apple out to her dog on the balcony. The apple slipped through the cracks and the rest, they say, is history.

You’d think that the adults in our compound (including my own Block Six) would have enough common sense regarding good balcony behaviour. One look at the gardens below our building tells a very different story. The amount of ‘stuff’ that ends up among the plants is quite surprising including: socks, pyjamas, small bottles, plastic, nappies / diapers, wastepaper, toilet paper, shoes, and food wrappings. Who is responsible for the cheeky chucking?  Perhaps it’s the kids who find it funny to discharge Duplo blocks from  the dreamlands, or catapult clothes pegs and hangers from kingdom come. It’s no wonder that someone from some department posted the following announcement in our lifts:

falling objects

It’s fairly obvious that sticks and stones (and empty metallic water bottles) will break bones and cause death if dropped from a reasonable height. But what about eggs and fruit?  Mahjong tiles?  Goodness me, I’d never thought that such inoffensive items could become murderous. It reminds those of us that need to walk daily underneath tall buildings (that may include you dear reader) that life is so very fragile. Indeed one could imagine the ridiculousness of the news headlines:

Expat felled by watermelon peel. Friends say he was one in a melon. 

Popular local man Mr. Wang erased by egg. Onlookers shell-shocked.

Thanks for reading my little blog posts. I’m eggs-pecting a few food puns over the coming days.

Now that’s food for thought!

 

 

 

A Pig Walks into a Lift….

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Weekends are funny times to be in Chinese elevators. People are busily coming and going. Kids slouch off to extra-curricular lessons, workmen carry tools upstairs to continue unfinished work, oldies return from riverside walks, grandparents take toddlers to the playground, and newcomers visit Block Six relatives and struggle with the swipe-card floor access. I see all this and more on my journeys to and from lessons.

At 11:30 on Saturday morning, Miss K (my older daughter) and I were waiting for a lift to take us to the underground carpark. Lift A (it’s always Lift A darn it) arrived from the 45th floor already carrying Ms Tall and her two miniature versions of mummy. We exchanged pleasantries and she was surprised to learn after six months of polite conversation that I teach. Oh good I thought, perhaps I can drum up some extra business – her kids were my in target market segment.

The lift stopped at the 29th floor.

The doors opened but the floor appeared to be empty. Seconds passed and we attempted to shut the doors before an elderly couple muscled their way in with no apologies offered for the slow entry.

Ah, Mrs Battle-axe and her beleaguered husband. I’ve seen her before, the purple hair dye masking an undergrowth of grey roots. She’s short, compact, and forever grumpy.  I smiled and offered a “Ni hao” greeting. No response. The husband carried a pretty box with a transparent top revealing a roast suckling inside. It was not apparent whether this piglet was their lunch or something to be offered up at an elaborate ancestor worship activity in the city outskirts.

“Have you got the keys?” She barked in Cantonese.

“Um no, I forgot” he replied while unsuccessfully trying to reopen the doors of the now- moving lift.

“You bl–dy b—–d!”  She roared, spittle flowing forth like lava from an erupting volcano. The kids (both Ms Tall’s and mine) hid behind the taller adults. The lecture continued: “You’ll have to head upstairs and get them you useless loser!  You’re a  #$%$#% moron!”

The roast piglet looked on.

With public humiliation complete, the husband mumbled something rude about his wife’s sterling personality before they (plus suckling) alighted on level one. Presumably they were going to take another elevator back upstairs.

Ms Tall, visibly shaken, and with the topic of education long-forgotten, attempted to clear the air by remarking on what wonderful weather we were having. They trailed the unhappy couple out to the lobby leaving Miss K and I in the lift. As we continued our ride to the basement level I asked what she made of the terse exchange (she is fluent in Cantonese and very used to the boisterous nature of Canto-speak). She said simply:

“That old woman was very rude but that roast chicken looked nice!”