Markets, hills and endurance in China

What a varied day. Moving on from our peaceful village we came into the county capital of Longshen.
The colourful, chaotic market with every imaginable edibles beautifully arrayed.
We have again cycled through gorgeous landscapes. . largely agricultural, with every available, inaccessible space tilled and cultivated with such care. Countless white wrappers protecting mysterious fruits. 400 year old wooden dwellings in minority villages.
Bamboo and the wheel seem to be the infinitely versatile backbone of human industriousness. All manner of goods are transported by bicycle, tricycle, wheel barrow, trolley or motor bike; all manner of construction, scaffolding, basketry, cladding, building, pulp, fabric, provided by bamboo. Scaffolding reaching to 8 storey building work, for example, or being trimmed to delicious edible shoots. Slung across shoulders to support timeless pendular baskets, or just a simple, supple plank suspended over a gutter on which to sit and ponder by the roadside.
Hens in wicker (bamboo probably) baskets being transported on bikes. An elderly lady sitting in a tricycle carriage while her ancient husband puffs and blows from the saddle.
It is deeply impressive.
A are staying atop a famous paddy field complex, and the power is off for the moment. .
A day to rest/hike/tourist shopping tomorrow, and hope to get washing dry ish in the immense humidity!
Our ‘place’ tonight is called Ping An. . meaning peace and harmony. . . the food is the best yet. .
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Pingan terraces, early morning, from the balcony of my room.beneath me, people carrying people down the steep steps. . . at a trot!

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Challenges in China

Without thinking much about it I joined the walk on our first day in the beautiful geo-park a few miles outside Guilin.
This involved a steep flight of hundreds of deep steps with vertiginous drops on either side of a chain hand rail and mid air views of the extraordinary rock formations as well as visit to a little temple high on the hillside. Even without completing the last few hundred more steps, my legs were shaking well before the descent (equally taxing) and the result is that whilst we are mostly comfortable on our bikes. . . (and the last couple of days have been big, energetic rides), off them, many of us are still hobbling, with exquisitely tender calf muscles.
The footplate style of loo is thus the subject of much groaning and laughter as we compare notes about descents and rising and the degrees of pain and daring required

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The scenery is just wonderful though. . Misty bamboo-clad and steeply terraced hills. People carrying, tilling, enduring, producing in very basic conditions and yet ever ready with smiles and a kind of gentle curiosity.
Road subsidence or the effects land slide is a regular feature on new and old roads alike. . .vast mounds of deep orange clay and rocks piled into the road. The night before last a strange roar disturbed me momentarily in my sleep. . a huge landslide had engulfed the road on the opposite side of the river and the traffic at each end was just calmly turning around. The hotel standing adjacent was lucky not to have been swept into the river.
Today a small rock bounced down from a nearby promontory . . I was spinning along in time to miss it and then around the next bend had to brake in order to negotiate deep mud and earth that was part of another slide.

The food is simply brilliant! Great daily banquets and a well earned beer at the end of each ride.
So much to see it is impossible to cover it all, but in the company of a lovely group I feel so lucky to be seeing rural China as she has been for many ages and to be in such outstanding landscapes.
comparing China to krgyzstan? lets say  China as being more like the south hams while krgyzstan is more like the wild spaces of Scotland. . .then multiply the scale by loads, if you see what I mean?
In other words we are doing some very ‘cheeky little climbs’. .
I am just about managing to keep going on the smashing bike that is on loan. Mr.Tang (one of our lovely guides and mechanics) is completely devoted to Jenny 2 so I would say all is very well. Sadly I can only load photos from my phone, but may be able to get a shot of one or 2 sketches, later.
Xie xie. .
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Guilin on a Sunday

The gentlemen of Guilin love their cards while 2 and 3-wheeled variations on bikes and surreptitiously silent motorbikes amble past in all directions carrying all manner of people from infant to geriatric with all manner of loads. Noisy, full on, China.

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Heathrow-China

Opus 109 plus Chopin’s first prelude in the foyer of the airport. . Not bad for starters! Flying in just over 2 hours. . 

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Heathrow-China

Opus 109 plus Chopin’s first prelude in the foyer of the airport. . Not bad for starters! Flying in just over 2 hours. . 

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A day out with BBC radio 3

I forgot to mention that recently I had a gorgeous day in the foyer of the Royal Festival Hall with the inimitable presenters of radio 3.
I wanted to thank them for over 50 years of dedicated presenting and the long term enrichment it has brought me over the years.

Radio 3 or the third programme, back in the day, has been my companion, inspiration, teacher, solace and so much more….. I owe much of the contents of my huge music library to those moments of hearing something scrumptious and wanting to play it!

Listen with Mother…. as a four year old on her knee
As a bewildered 11 year old under my horse hair boarding school pillow while the ‘in crowd’ listened to radio Luxembourg or radio 1
As a geeky Physio student, I remember banging my head on the bookshelves as I flew out of bed to Mozart
Vivaldi Lute and Mandolin concertos while beard preening and practising anatomy with the adorable medical students!
Newly qualified in a freezing bed sit in Leicester…. Brendel playing Brahms D minor….. This on my death bed please, with strong infusions of port
Anthony Hopkins talking about music and the Poulenc Gloria
Rachmaninov in a car full of screaming small children, bringing me to my senses and preventing child slaughter
Speeding up the motorway to visit my desperately ill father, unbeknown, we were both listening to Lang Lang’s breathtaking performance of Tschaikowsky’s piano concerto, tears streaming down our cheeks, despite the impossible distance between us. Later sharing that experience we were brought so intimately together in a way that everyday conversation could not have done.
Spellbound by Richter as he played Schubert….. time stood still
In a lay by with Mitzuko Aichida playing Debussy
In a field on my back abandoned to Beethoven’s 7th symphony

Countless countless moments of ecstasy, delight, wonder.

So I swallowed, bought my train tickets and soared up to London with flowers in hand to say a huge THANK YOU to them all.

Those friendly voices that have become so familiar over the years now have lovely, smiling faces. The presenters, released from their anonymous studios also seems to be having a lovely time. I am sure they are all consummate performers too. Quick thinking, light hearted, funny and so very erudite on their subjects.

I spent much of my time sketching….. people, with headphones amidst the bustle of the large numbers coming and going all day, have seraphic expressions when they are lost in a world of music…. the knitters on the front row….. the marvellous hats and hair-do’s….. a visual feast along with the music.

Have a lovely Easter break. The countryside en route to China via Salisbury and Winchester is simply beautiful

Zài jiàn and duo xie!

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In order of appearance…. Sean Rafferty, fame on Facebook, seraphic faces, hats and hair-do’s, Sean has an impish little smile…..

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Rob Cowan and Sarah Walker snuggling in the pop up studio.

It was a truly joyful day amongst heaps of other devoted radio’ers. . . . the train fare didn’t really come into it. Priceless!

Also you may like to check out this lovely article written by a friend and quoting my book synopsis!
http://www.aelproject.com/beethoven-by-bike/

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Packing. . .

Have you ever tried to squeeze a grapefruit into an egg cup?
Now try it with 3 . . .
At this rate I don’t think I will have room for any exotic souvenirs. . .

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