On being ‘dahn sarf’

We have had a short break.

Dahn sarf.

Cornwall being about as ‘dahn sarf’ as it is possible to get in this highly entertaining country of ours.

Newquay was hot.

Not in a sexy way.

I got sunburn.

Also not in a sexy way.

Sainsbury’s, dahn sarf, sells a distinctive range of clothing

Wetsuits in Sainsbury's

Wetsuits in Sainsbury’s

We ate at the local chippy

Rick Stein's gaff

Rick Stein’s gaff

We saw some penguins having sexy time

Penguins doing rude things

Penguins doing rude things

And we saw the sun setting on the British Empire

Cornish sunset

Cornish sunset

This was the view from the hotel bar

Hotel view

Hotel view

It was a nice little battery charger.

Blogathon 13/16: Snapshot Saturday

As the kitchen roll of doom meets the snotty nose of eternity, it’s time for another Snapshot Saturday – a story with pictures and occasional words.

Today we return to the People’s Republic of China.

And to Shanghai.

First of all, let’s refresh our memories. Where exactly is Shanghai?

Shanghai on a map

Shanghai on a map

Now let’s take a first look out of the hotel window:

Shanghai hotel view

Shanghai hotel view

A second view from the hotel room:

Shanghai Hotel View

Shanghai Hotel View

And a third:

Shanghai Hotel View

Shanghai Hotel View

That’s sort of the same view out of the hotel room as the first view.

Except for the bottle of Ribena.

Which shouldn’t be there.

Because you can’t buy Ribena in Shanghai.

You can, however, buy Ribena in Sainsbury’s in Keyworth.

And you can put it in your rucksack.

And forget about it for a week.

Or two.

And then get processed through airport security at Birmingham International.

And then get processed through airport security on transfer in Dubai.

And then, when you’re in your hotel room in Shanghai, you could find the Ribena nestling in the bottom of your twice-airport-scanned rucksack.

Well that’s comforting.

Blogathon 07/16: A Really Big Motorbike Trip?

I’m reading a couple of books at the moment.

One of them is ‘Through Dust and Darkness’ (a motorcycle journey of fear and faith in the Middle East), by Jeremy Kroeker.

This post isn’t about that book, as such. Though there may be a post along those lines later.

This post is about thoughts that the book has inspired.

Reading Jeremy Kroeker’s book has rekindled memories of my much less worthy motorbike trip around Spain, a couple of years ago. And those memories, together with Jeremy’s narrative, have refired my imagination.

As I lay in bed, this morning, dozing lightly, I started to stitch my imaginations together.

Where did I want to go? What did I want to see? What experiences did I want to notch up?

I mentally compiled a to do-based travel list, and then ordered the list in to a logical travel plan.

These aren’t ‘legs’ as such.

These aren’t a list of ‘sights’ (many of which would be seen along the way, but aren’t commented on in this list).

These are just the ‘stopping off places’ that I would want to visit as I executed the itinerary.

1. UK to France
Base of operations: Reims
A visit to the historic city of Reims, in the heart of the Champagne district. There’s a lot of history in this city (there’s a lot of history everywhere – except in the USA), but because I can’t be everywhere, Reims is as good a place as any to stop and browse and look and learn.

2. France to Switzerland
Base of operations: Lausanne. Or maybe Geneva
I have hardly spent any time in Switzerland which is very poor of me. Lausanne or Geneva? Hard to tell right now. But the lakes? Definitely. And leaving the area, one would have to try out the San Bernardino Pass (I have heard that despite Top Gear bigging up the road, the Stevio Pass is actually not good because it’s full of 4x4s and people-carriers, driven by middle-aged roadhogs).

3. Switzerland to Italy
Base of operations: Bergamo
A mere 30km from Lake Como, this little Lombardian town is on the southern foothills of the Italian Alps. From its sacking by Atilla the Hun in the C5th, to the district’s post-war history, there’s a lot to see here. Too easily overlooked, Bergamo is a good base of operations from which to spend some time cruising the Italian countryside.

4. Italy to Slovenia
Base of operations: …?
I haven’t figured out the base of operations in Slovenia yet. It’s a really long slog to the capital, Ljublljana, which is very centrally located. And a cross-country tip to Ljublljana would take me out of my way by a significant distance.

5. Slovenia to Croatia
Base of operations: Crikvenica
This beach resort will make a handy place to recharge one’s batteries, and have a look around the area. I don’t know much about the town (or about the region), but that’s why we travel, eh?

6. Croatia
Base of operations: Dubrovnik
How could anyone visit Croatia, on a motorbike, and not dream of riding down that stunning-looking Adriatic coastline?

7. Croatia to Montenegro, to Albania
Base of operations: Vlorë
I’m sorry, Montenegro, but there is some kind of a clock (calendar?) ticking away on this trip. So I’m just going to pass right through you and head to Vlorë. The one-time former capital of Albania, and former very important Roman colony, Vlorë is a port and a sea resort. And therefore it would be another good place to rest up and look around.

8. Albania to Greece
Base of operations: Sparti
Who could resist a visit to the ancient home of Sparta? No I’m Spartacus! Well actually he is. Him. Over there. But Sparti just has to be a base of operations.

9. Greece
Base of operations: Thessaloniki
From here I could make little forays in to (FYRO) Macedonia, as well as trips across the north-eastern Greek coastline before heading even further eastwards

10. Greece to Turkey
Base of operations: Tekirdag
A motorbike trip in to Asia? Well of course. Tekirdag is in another rich historical region (you might know it as Thrace, from your history lessons). The Kipoi/Ipsala crossing between Greece and Turkey is busy, and crossing can take some time (and bureaucracy). A stop in the coastal resort of Tekirdag would be a welcome relief.

11. Turkey to Bulgaria
Base of operations: Burgas
Another coastal stop, but this time on the edge of the Black Sea. There’s a lot of mountainous coastline to explore in Bulgaria, and this sparsely populated countryside could be interesting to venture through.

12. Bulgaria to Romania
Base of operations: Tulcea
Tulcea alone is rich in local history. But it should be very worthwhile to spend some quality time in the nearby Rezervatia Biosferei Delta Dunarii.

13. Romania to Ukraine
Base of operations: Odessa
Freddie Forsyth, anyone?

14. Ukraine
Base of operations: Kiev

15. Ukraine to Belarus
Base of operations: Minsk

16. Belarus to Latvia
Base of operations: Riga
The thing is, having got this far, do I continue north to take in Estonia? Or do I begin to close the circle by heading southwards in to Lithuania? Decisions, decisions.

17. Latvia to Lithuania
Base of operations: Šiauliai (or possibly Kryzkalnis)
The whole reason for this stop is to mentally prepare myself for the next part of the journey.

18. Lithuania to Russia
Base of operations: Kaliningrad
Despite heading southwards from Lithuania (ie, I have been travelling further and further away from Russia), this leg of the journey will take me in to… Russia! I have always wanted to visit this spooky (in both senses of the word) Russian enclave. It’s a country within a country. Kaliningrad is also headquarters of the Russian Baltic Fleet (this being the reason Russia has refused to let go of the territory so far outside of Russia, when Lithuania gained independence).

19. Russia to Poland
Base of operations: Szczecin
By virtue of the out-of-state Russian enclave, I could ride the mind-bending journey from Russia in to Poland *without touching any other country*. I would want to see Gdańsk, home of the Solidarity ship-building union.

20. Poland to Germany
Base of operations: Berlin. Or maybe Magdeburg
There is so much I would want to see in Germany: Dresden, Leipzig, Halle, Weimar, to name just a very few. I would leave Germany via a long stop at Brüggen/Elmpt, to pay respects to the former nuclear strike air force base that was the home of my squadron for so many years. The former RAF Brüggen was handed to the British Army, but has been decommissioned now, and is temporary home to Middle-Eastern refugees.

21. Germany to Netherlands and Belgium
Base of operations: Antwerp
From Antwerp one can easily access much of Belgium and the Netherlands. There’s a lot to see here, and we seldom give our closest neighbours the time and attention that they deserve.

22. Netherlands to UK
The final trip would be back to the UK via Rotterdam to Hull. It’s a longer sea journey than Calais to Dover, but it would bring me closer to home, and a shorter road-journey at that stage, would be very welcome.

23. Summing up
Allowing for deviations from the planned route, and factoring in some mileage for sight-seeing, I estimate the total two-wheeled road trip would be in the region of 6,700 miles.

And that would probably take around 35-40 days of travel time.

But man, what a trip!


Flights and Films

It is about 18 hours of flight-time to get to Shanghai.

That’s a round-trip of 36 hours.

Sitting in an aluminium tube.

With all of the excitement that one would expect from such amazeballs activity.

Once one has finished criticising the civilian pilot for the sloppy take-off and the unnecessarily heavy bang-in on landing.


Civvy pilots.


Anyway, how does one pass these swathes of time?

I know!

Let’s watch some films!

The Wittertainment podcast (Hello to Jason Isaacs) criticises unsubtle product placement in feature films.

I don’t know what they’re on about.

I watched a long BMW advert.

It featured BMW cars.

BMW motorbikes.

And Dell hardware.

And an A400 airplane.

The commercial must have cost a lot of money because Tom Cruise was in it.

After the BMW commercial, I watched a lengthy Mercedes advert.

It featured Mercedes cars.

Mercedes trucks.

Mercedes 4x4s.

And, because Mercedes don’t make anything special in the two-wheeled world, a Triumph motorbike.

This commercial also seemed to feature a lot of dinosaurs, for some reason.

No idea why.

Maybe it’s a social comment on the people who don’t drive Mercedes trucks?

Time passed.

Another commercial I watched seemed to be about Disney products but I fell asleep.

I also tried to watch an advert about some kind of robot that looked a little like the former Governor of California, but it was beyond dull so I fell asleep through that too.

Amongst the other commercials I watched, was one that featured Simon Pegg, in an advert called Man Up.

I’m not too sure what the product was – other than having a strong anti-dating-website message.

However, I would rate the BMW commercial and the anti-dating-website commercial as joint winners in the Best Advert In The Sky category, at next year’s BAFTAs.

The other commercials were just rubbish.

Maybe that’s what their message was?


Fuel for thought?

I couldn’t help noticing that the vast majority of Shanghai scooters had ‘LPG’ stickers.

LPG scooter

LPG scooter

Does this mean that LPG is more widely available in China?

Answers on the usual postcard.

Temple of… Love?

(with apologies to ace band Sisters of Mercy, for stealing the title of their best track for the title of this post)

Rather than trudge the streets of Shanghai in aimless fashion, today I went out with purpose.

Now let’s remember that I’m in the bosom of the communist People’s Republic of China, right?


I decided to visit an obvious anachronism, the Buddhist Jing’an Temple.

Yes, that’s right.

A Buddhist temple.

In communist China.



From outside, the first thing one sees are the golden temple guardians, atop of their commanding viewpoint.

Temple dogs, Shanghai

Inside, the open air courtyard is awash with the smell of burning incense.

Clouds of incense, Jing'an Temple, Shanghai

The worshippers buy bundles of incense sticks, and set fire to the whole bundle.

Sometimes they carry the bundles around, stopping at points of devotion, where they will then stand, with the non-lighted end of the sticks on their forehead, while they bow and pray.

Amongst the points of worship is this impressive ‘lucky jade stone’.

Lucky jade stone, Jing'an Temple, Shanghai

I spent about an hour wandering around the temple.

It felt odd, being in such a religious place in the middle of communist China.

But as a place to watch devoted Buddhists at worship, it was a very interesting visit.

Two-wheeled confusion

I saw a smart scooter today.

It was in Royal Blue, with the Union Jack boldly painted across the front.

A scooter in Shanghai

I mean it was a big paintjob, not that it was a bold decision to paint the UJ on a Shanghai scooter.


The thing that made this particular scooter stand out, though, wasn’t the trim.

What made it stand out was the way it was being confidently, nay, assertively ridden, through the wall of pedestrians, as they went about their business.

It seems to be accepted practice here, that scooters, like pushbikes, and electric bikes, can thread their way, at speed, through the near impenetrable wall of footists.

Yes, it is a word.

Do keep up.


I reckon the reason why the cyclists, mopedists, and electric bikeists use the pavements, is because duelling with pedestrians is considerably less life-threatening than duelling with the wall of metal, that slowly/speedingly grinds/darts its way through the city streets.

None of the two-wheeled brigade have any lights.

This makes an evening constitutional somewhat more of a challenge than back in the UK.

I managed to get some photographic evidence.


Shanghai pavement-riding scooterist

Shanghai pavement-riding scooterist

Shanghai pavement-riding scooterist

Shanghai pavement-riding scooterist

The global economy

We are accustomed to seeing the inevitable stores in ‘other’ countries.

Countries we don’t live in, but visit.

You know the stores.

Starbucks, Costa, Chanel, D&G, Levi, Subway, Marks and Spencer, Zara, McDonald’s, KFC, and all the other usual suspects.

We’ve seen them in a dozen cities in Spain.

And France.

And Italy.

And everywhere.

Sadly, while on walkabout in downtown Shanghai today, I saw them.

Costa, McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks.

And all the others.

The Nanjing Road West is Shanghai’s equivalent of London’s Oxford Street.

And that makes me feel sad.

As you can see.

Me, being sad on Shanghai's Nanjing Road West

Local businesses being swamped by the global economy.

Unexpected, in The People’s Republic of China.

Subway (the store) in Shanghai

And why not feel sad, at encountering this in the People’s Republic of China?

Westgate shopping mall, Shanghai