November 18th: An Art Deco Abattoir

Qiandeng

A bus load of people outside Qiandeng

The months of October and November represent hairy cab season in Shanghai.  Farmed in speciality lakes between Shanghai and Suzhou, the crabs draw vast crowds of visitors from neighbouring provinces.  On Saturday, our Marketing Team arranged a coach trip to experience them first hand, along with a visit to a couple of local scenic spots.  I’m aware that with some foods there’s an art to eating them, but this was the most complex thing I’ve ever been faced with; dissecting a rat in biology lessons at school was far simpler.  The crabs don’t come with instructions but require a different technique  for the male and female of the species, and different rules for which bits of the innards can or can’t be eaten.  I gave up after breaking the legs and opening the lid to reveal a mass of different coloured insides.  Bron persisted.  Bron’s hands still smell of crab.

Inside the slaughterhouse

Inside the slaughterhouse

Today we’ve been to see a 1930’s slaughterhouse restored in 2008 as a commercial building.  A vast, open space made entirely of concrete and previously used to herd cows up four floors of ramps to meet a somewhat grisly death.  A common analogy for the building is M. C. Escher’s famous painting of impossible constructs since the stairs and ramps in the building seem to cross and change angle incoherently (although supposedly by design to allow the separation of animals and humans).  Hard to picture what it must have been like.

On Friday of last week I had my first real Chinese telephone conversation following a phone call from our ayi.  Normally when this happens I  just pass the phone to a Chinese colleague and have them translate for me.  This time we were in a supermarket.  I could have passed the phone to a random Chinese person in the shop; not sure it would have helped.  According to Google Translate (after the event), what I actually said was “I am not going to work, so I cannot say to colleagues.”  Close enough I reckon.  Followed by “We go home in 20 minutes”.

She kind of understood.  I think.

Anyway, our ayi has an easy life at the moment.  We’re getting to know a few people locally, and so we’re not as home as much as we should be (or probably need to be at our age).  And so our ayi has very few dishes to clean and almost no vacuuming to be done.   We even moved the sofa cushions around last week to pretend we’d sat on it between her visits.  Although if future weeks are like this one, with Indian, Nepalese, Thai and Cantonese food on the menu, she may have to cope with bigger clothes to iron.

The end of my blogs feel like a perfect opportunity for a rant.  So here goes… I appreciate that 7.30am on a Sunday morning is obviously the optimum time to read a gas meter.  But with both of us in desperate need of sleep, this is not good.  A message to Chinese gas companies that may randomly read blogs (albeit blocked in China) – please let us sleep!  After 9am, please?

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