The International Steam Pages
Shibanxi Holiday 2011 - They think it's all over...
Click here for the main Shibanxi Holiday 2011 page.
"They think it's all over... It is now."
The late Kenneth Wolstenholme uttered these memorable words while commentating near the end of the 1966 World Cup Final as Geoff Hurst piled in England's 4th goal while spectators poured onto the pitch. Unlike most of the population of the UK, I never heard the words live, I was one of the lucky 100,000 packed into Wembley Stadium; I recall that my ticket on the black market cost me a week's wages. As far as Shibanxi is concerned, I would rather say "It is for now."
Suggestions that this place might either have been spoiled already or is likely to be spoiled by the new road, are in my opinion wide of the mark. With our regular extended annual visits, Yuehong and I are something of an institution these days. "Are you leaving so soon?" came across more than once on our final day, our guest house lady at the Tianya gave us a whole duck for our journey and Pop at the restaurant donated our breakfast steam buns and a bag of tea from the Mountain King Shrine area in the hills south of Bagou. Sod's law dictated that we saw our first view of the sun for 8 days although as it happened it barely lasted long enough for me to snap some scenes in Bagou which show that the heart of the place has not changed in the 7 years we have been coming here together.
The stage was nearing the end of its restoration, these days the Maoist trappings are very definitely 'tongue in cheek':
Breakfast was over, there was plenty of time before our train so I bashed the market shooting off what would once have been several rolls of expensive slide film. The people here are totally relaxed as long as you use a 'happy snapper'. I'd love to upload these in higher resolution but I can't afford the bandwidth:
First up - eggs, fruit and two lots of tafu.
Bamboo, general vegetables, chilis and if you don't recognise the meat, look at the top...
Something fishy, three old ladies who took breakfast everyday together, Pop's famous steam buns and Pop himself...
Finally a couple of cameo shots including a Hitchcock reference...
We relaxed up at the station until a coal train was announced and I ambled down towards the bath house:
The photo opportunities were not yet exhausted even though the light had died: It was not the only thing that had passed its best by date, my 'Made in China' belt had disintegrated, but I didn't have far to walk:
Two ladies with very different priorities... A rare chance to get the washing dried and some extra passengers for our train down.
Some Bagou people are photo shy, others are delighted to smile first time for the camera... Nearby was bamboo out drying in the warm weather:
I don't know how old the gentleman is, but the lady talking to Yuehong is a sprightly 80, five years ago she loaned us a flat after we fell out with the notorious Bagou granny. Needless to say, she absolutely refused payment for it.
All we had to do now was get our suitcase on the train and chill out - not forgetting to wave to Wilson Lythgoe high above the 'tourist curve' near Jiaoba. As we rounded Caiziba curve, Yuehong decided to prove she could do it better than me again:
At Mifeng, the coal train had been held for a charter train (of tourist empties) for a film crew who had been playing in the rain with the loaded version in Bagou and Huangcun the previous day to judge from the extended whistling we heard. They were obviously enjoying every moment of their visit, just before we left they dragged themselves to the station throat to film our departure and demanded extra whistling. Unfortunately for them one lady turned up late for the train and it ground to a halt right in front of them, then some strange foreigner leaned wide out of the window with his camera in front of his face as the train went past. At least the local children were showing some interest in what was going on.
"They think it's all over... It is now."
We're back in Beijing now, Yuehong has collected her passport with her UK Settlement Visa and after seven long years of 'exile', we are 'going home' for good.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson