Cran What?

Flying from Barcelona to London with British Airways on Sunday afternoon, I was sat next to an Englishman and next to him was a lovely middle aged lady from the United States.  When the time came for refreshments to be served, the flight attendant asked the American lady what she would like to drink.

“Cranapple juice please” replied the lady from Kentucky.

“Sorry?” enquired the attendant.

“Cranapple juice” repeated the Kentuckian.

At this stage, the attendant, the Englishman and myself are totally confused.  It reminded me of an episode of the popular TV show, House, where a patient is speaking incoherently BUT she doesn’t realise that she is and assumes she is speaking perfectly normally.

Even Wikipedia doesn’t have the answer and as we all know, Wikipedia has the answer for EVERYTHING!

Posted in Language, Travel | 13 Comments

It’s Not Just China!

I used to give some people the impression I hated China because I was always blogging about odd situations that irritated or frustrated me. I would always respond by saying that this was clearly not true, it’s just that I am living in China, so I write about stuff that happens in China. A good example of this would be this conversation I had at the currency exchange counter at London’s Gatwick airport as I was about to fly to Spain:

WoAi: Good afternoon good sir, I would like to exchange some British pounds for European money – I believe they’re called euros.

Currency guy: Yes sir, how much would you like to change?

WoAi: Well, let me see, I am going for a week, so let’s call it 100 pounds, shall we?

Currency guy [with a puzzled look on his face]: Only 100? Are you sure?

WoAi: Erm, yes, is that okay?

Currency guy: Well you see, we charge 3 pounds per transaction regardless of the amount, so by changing such a small amount, the percentage works out very high.

WoAi [Always a sucker for the upsell]: Ah yes, good point, and thank you for preventing me from making a catastrophic mistake. Let’s make it 150 pounds.

Currency guy [still looking like he's slightly constipated]:
Hmmm, are you sure that’s going to be enough and you’re definitely not going to change more later, because then it will work out more expensive?

WoAi: No, 150 will be fine.

Currency guy: So just 150 pounds yeah, you sure you don’t want to make it 200, which would work out at 250 euros?

Now at this point, even mild mannered WoAi is starting to get a bit irritated by this guy’s attempts to get me to change more money than I want. I consider the various responses I could offer:

(1) Yes, yes, you’re absolutely right, let’s make it 50,000 pounds, just in case I go shopping or something.

(2) And if I don’t use all the euro, are you going to change it back for me free of charge?

(3) Well, I am going for 6 days, the company is paying for the first 3, I’ve paid online for my hotel for the second 3 days and I expect to use my credit card for any transaction over 10 euros, so actually, 150 euros for bus fare and a coffee or two is more than adequate, but if it’s not, well, I’ll just have to take the hit and change more money bearing in mind there are money changers on every street corner in Barcelona.

(4) [In my best Bob Geldof accent]: Listen mate, JUST GIVE ME MY FUCKING MONEY!!!

I decide on option (4) and I think it was the correct choice.

Posted in Arrrrggghhh!, Travel | 3 Comments

Barcelona: Adios y muchos gracias!

It’s been a short few days. I don’t have the energy to wake up early and tick off 5 or 6 activities by lunch time, so I haven’t seen much of the city, but I’ve seen enough to know that I’ll be back here one day. Here are a few images I’ve captured of this vibrant little city.

Gaudi’s La Pedrera

View of the city from one of the towers of Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia

Mercat de la Boqueria, one of the city’s oldest food markets.

Street performers and tourists on La Rambla.

La Rambla, the most famous boulevard in Spain.

Gaudi’s Park Guell in northern Barcelona.

Barcelona’s Museum or Eortica (sex museum).

Skater girl by the beach, close to Selva de mar.

Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia – Construction began in 1882 and to this day it is still not finished but despite this, it is the most visited tourist attraction in the city with over 2 million visitors a year. It’s scheduled to be completed in 2026, 100 years after Gaudi’s death.

My beloved Nokia 6300 – Adios, Barcelona!

Posted in Travel | 2 Comments

Fashion Friday : Adieu, Yves Saint Laurent

Fashion Friday is brought to you from Spain, in the week that fashion legend Yves Saint Laurent – the designer who gave women the tailored trouser suit, way back in 1966 – sadly passed away.

I’ve spent the last few days attending a conference near Marbella on the south coast of Spain, very close to the northern tip of Africa (Morocco is just a short ferry ride away) and now the conference is over, I’m in the capital city of Catalonia, Barcelona, sightseeing and enjoying the amazing food.

Putting my feet up at the end of a hard 3-day conference in Marbella. Shoes by Oliver Sweeney, Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London.

Jeans – Puma Evisu Denim, 100 pounds from Puma, Biceter Village outlet shopping, Oxfordshire. Tee – Calvin Klein Jeans, 600 RMB, Citic Plaza, Shanghai.

Outside Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. Construction began in 1882 and is STILL under construction (due to be completed in 2026)! Shirt by Ben Sherman, about 750 rmb from Raffles City, Shanghai. Jeans as above. Glasses by Guess. Necklace – Tiffany 1837 tag pendant from Tiffany, Palace Hotel, Beijing.

I’m in Barcelona till Sunday, so next week’s Fashion Friday will be brought to you from London.

Posted in Fashion, Travel | 13 Comments

Crime Ravaged Britain

People often ask me if I have any plans to move back to London and they are often surprised when I say no. Career opportunities, lifestyle, standard of living are all reasons I choose to remain an expatriate, but I have to say that reading about “crime ravaged” Britain every day in the newspapers here is not exactly motivating me to rush back any time soon.

The Evening Standard ran a single word front page headline on Friday: “ENOUGH”, referring to the alarming number of teenage stabbings around London in recent months. So far, 11 teenagers have been stabbed to death in the capital, including Robert Knox, the 18 year old actor who can be seen in the forthcoming Harry Potter movie – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – who died after he tried to protect his younger brother from a youth, trying to steal his mobile phone. Robert belonged to the same rugby club as 16 year old Jimmy Mizen, who was killed 2 weeks ago in a totally separate incident in a bakery in south London, following a confrontation with another youth.

The Daily Express also ran a story on Saturday, giving suggestions on how to stop the knife killings, while in the same paper, there was another story of a police officer who was attacked by a “frenzied gang of teen yobs” in Plymouth in Devon.

I can’t imagine a group of kids attacking police officers in Shanghai, although perhaps it could happen in Tibet, where I hear they are a rowdy lot!

NEWSFLASH UPDATE: And only this morning, The Guardian reports that a 15 year old school girl has been found in an elevator, stabbed to death, still wearing her school uniform and still with the knife stuck in her body.

Posted in Britain, Current Affairs | 15 Comments

Oops, I Did It Again

Well it’s been a few days but still worth mentioning Sharon Stone’s idiotic comments about the earthquake in China that killed close to 100,000 people in the south western Sichuan province.

I’m not sure what it is about Hollywood actors, with Mia Farrow and her Darfur / Death Olympics comments and now this, but dear Miss Stone, the earthquake was a tragic natural disaster and the Chinese people didn’t do anything to deserve to suffer like that.

Aside from anything else, it’s the government that is responsible for policy on Tibet and not the thousands of innocent people who died on May 12th.

She has of course since apologised, after realising the stupidity of her words, which were widely condemned even in the western media and sent anyone associated with her (including fashion hourse, Dior) running for cover.  She has even offered to help with the relief effort in Sichuan in a remarkable u-turn which I am guessing is not completely unrelated to commercial interests :

“Due to my inappropriate words and acts during the interview, I feel deeply sorry and sad about hurting Chinese people,” Stone said in the statement.

“I am willing to take part in the relief work of China’s earthquake, and wholly devote myself to helping affected Chinese people.”

Let’s see how forgiving the Chinese people will be …

Posted in Current Affairs, Entertainment | 11 Comments

Only 1518 days to go!

Some of you will remember that I was in Beijing a few weeks ago to ensure that the preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics are going well and I was happy to report it’s all under control.

Yesterday, I flew home to London – also home of the 2012 Olympic Games – to see how well the preparations are coming along. I suppose this is a good opportunity to show (again) the London 2012 official logo, which controversially cost 1.2 million pounds (seriously, 1.2 million pounds!) to design. It is supposed to represent the numbers 2012 with the 5 Olympic rings embedded in the zero, but some people claim looks like cartoon character Lisa Simpson on her knees performing ….. oh never mind, I personally can’t see it myself!

Tonight I’ll be heading to Marbella in southern Spain, for a 3 day work conference, after which I’ll spend 3 nights in Barcelona followed by a week in London catching up with family and friends. So you can expect some on-the-road blogging over the next few weeks, but I expect China will still come up in many of the posts.

This is the plane I took, a British Airways Boeing 777 which they use exclusively on their Shanghai to London route, which runs 5 days per week since the service was launched in 2005.

I checked in online the night before, which relieves some of the stress and means my chosen seat is already reserved and I only need to drop off my bags at the airport and not worry that I’ll be sandwiched between two fat guys for 12 hours.

The sharp eyed among you will notice that written on the side of the plane are the words:

“Official Airline England Football Team”.

That’s all very nice, especially with the UEFA European Championships about to start next Saturday in Austria and Switzerland (it’s like the world cup, but only for European countries). Sadly though, England failed to qualify, so we won’t really be needing an official airline this summer – thanks Mr McClaren!

Posted in Amusing, Sport, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Yes, It’s Fashion Friday

Horology fans, you’re in luck. This week’s Fashion segment is all about fine time pieces, or what less knowledgeable people call “watches”.

I’m off to Europe tomorrow and will be passing through my home town, a small city in southern England called London. My brother being a bit of a horologist himself, gave me a list of a few watches he’d quite like to get his hands on, namely this, this, and this. Some of these watches sell for over 10,000 US dollars, but the ever increasingly sophisticated Chinese counterfeiters have long moved on from just producing fake Rolex and Cartier watches and now copy many more niche and obscure brands as well.

I like a bit of a challenge, so I popped down to the fake market on Nanjing Road West (corner of Chengdu Road) to see if I could find any fake versions of these watches and here’s what I managed to pick up:

Audemars Piguet – Not the exact model requested but the fact that they make fake versions of this brand at all amazes me.

IWC “Ingenieur” with steel bracelet

Again, not the exact model requested but I quite like this one so if he doesn’t want it, it’s going in to my own collection.

Panerai Luminor Marina (44mm)

Not on the list, but I myself have a genuine version of this watch (the smaller 40mm version) with a leather strap and love it. It’s interesting how the dial that shows the seconds is far closer to the centre than the genuine model. I guess they had trouble making the mechanise so close to the edge of the face.

My genuine Panerai bought in HK in March 2007 for 31,500 HK dollars.

I was in HK recently and the price is now about 42,000 dollars due to both currency appreciation (Euro vs the HK dollar) as well as Panerai’s own rapid and frequent price increases, so I did quite well on that deal.

Oh, just one important detail missing – the price.  He started off at 760 rmb for one watch (over 100 USD) but I brought my Shanghainese colleague along with me and after I left the room to let them discuss the price, she came out 30 minutes later and announced she got all 3 for a total of 520 rmb (74 USD).  All I could hear was the sales guy still in the back room, sobbing like a baby.

Just for laughs, my hilarious brother optimistically mentioned that he’d be really impressed if I managed to find this watch in the Shanghai fake markets. Well bruv, not this time but my peeps down the market are working on it as we speak!

Posted in Fashion | 22 Comments

Wen Jia Bao Just Added You As A Friend

Well okay, not exactly, but according to the New York Times, China’s popular premier does now have his own Facebook page, set up and supported by adoring fans. Funnily enough, I couldn’t find a Gordon Brown supporters page!

Posted in Amusing, Current Affairs | 7 Comments

Rain, Rain Go Away …

It’s amazing how rain can affect how you feel. I’ve been pretty jolly for the last few months. Everything is going well and I had a great 40th birthday party. But all good things come to an end and all it took was a bit of Shanghai rain to transform this great city into a living hell.

I finish dinner and it’s raining and I’m on Huai Hai Road, so as any Shanghai resident will tell you, don’t even think about finding an empty taxi. I take the subway (line 1) and change to line 8 at People’s Square. A few weeks ago, they’d already shut the gates to line 8 by 10pm because this line stops running earlier than the older lines. But I’m in luck, the gate is still open and I rush down the escalator to the platform, only to hear an announcement that line 8 is no longer running in the southerly direction (the platform is full of people waiting to head north). It’s 9.40pm for f*ck’s sake – what is wrong with these subway people, what could possibly make them think that 9.40pm was a good time to shut down the subway in (supposedly) the most modern city in China.

So I have no choice, I go back up the escalator and walk the long walk to line 2 which I take to Nanjing East and from there I get a number 66 bus home. Of course they haven’t turned on the air con yet in the stations (luckily the trains do have air con) so by the time I leave the subway station, I am dripping wet, not from the rain, but from the perspiration.

And to top it all off, my 3000 rmb Tods loafers are soaked though, ruined. Oh well, it could be worse, my blog could be blocked by the Chinese censor!

Posted in Arrrrggghhh! | 23 Comments