Nobody Expects The Chinese Inquisition!

Recently we met a descendant of the last Chinese emperor. He was camping. How strange it was to meet this ridiculously high born man in such a lowly place. It was an exceptional encounter which we thought would bear retelling, in view of this weeks announcement by the British Government to remove all Huawie products and services from all telecom businesses operating in the UK.

Our new best friend.

We were visiting Morocco, motorcycle touring with no plan, and had come to the lagoon town of Moulay Bousselham. On our first afternoon in the stunning campsite a fellow English man turned up in a tatty pickup truck, and we fell into comfortable conversation. In no time at all we had agreed to share an evening meal and the three of us took a sunset stroll to the little market to see what we could find to eat.

Moulay Bousselham market

Well provisioned, we headed back to the campsite to prepare a feast. Now this guy had it all, a tent on top of his pickup truck, and in the bed of the pickup, under the base of the tent, was stored all his ‘essentials’, accessed by dropping the tailgate. Where we had a simple trangia to cook on, a plate and a fork each and a couple of penknives for food prep, he had the works. Out came a home made, three part bar-b-q, plates and cutlery galore and cooking pans of all descriptions. What his vehicle lacked in style, it more than made up for in substance.

Three part, homemade BBQ

The three of us chatted as we ate a delicious and very simple meal. We agreed that what had caught our eye here on site, was another pick-up truck; pristine, bright, cherry red, with a tent on top, and sporting a blemish free, bright daffodil yellow, sea kayak. This was pure bling. It had Chinese number plates and everything looked brand new. Who on earth owned something like this? What were they doing here?

Camping in Moulay Bousselham, Morocco.

We went to bed that night full to bursting. The next morning our new friend was gone; we had said our goodbyes the night before, as he had planned a dawn getaway. The super-duper pick-up truck was still on site. We admired it before heading out to explore the lagoon. When we wandered back, there was the cherry red pickup truck, parked outside the campsite cafe. We decided it was time to have a drink and strike up yet another conversation. We stepped out of the sunshine and into the cool, dull gloom of the cafe.

This way to the interrogation centre

Sitting at a table, facing the door, was a robust Chinese man. As we entered, I said, in my very best, ‘help the foreigner understand’ simple English, “Hello. You have kayak?” Point at the boat on the pickup truck. “We have kayak. We kayak sea,” Point at myself then, wavy hand gesture. “You kayak sea?” We waited, as, saying nothing, he fixed us with a condescending stare. Then on I blundered, “Where you from? We from England.” He pointedly looked us up and down. I began to feel a bit of a Wally as I stood at his table with his contempt washing over me .

He drew a languorous breath, swished a regal hand and asked, “Would you care to join me? You’d be most welcome. Please, sit down.”

His English was flawless, well pronounced and more complex than my first few sentences to him. And so began a long conversation, or interrogation, lasting several hours.

We had stumbled into a trap which has left us pondering the Chinese State ever since. He told us his name; we forgot it, he said that he is a non teaching professor who is married to a professor, who teaches in a German university; we cannot remember which university and finally, he is a direct descendent of the last Chinese emperor; that much we remember about him. He was a drifter, who could come and go from China as he wished, sponsored by the Chinese government. It soon became clear that, what at first seemed to be a flattering degree of interest in us and our lives, was really a quest to garner the zeitgeist of us and the non-Chinese peoples and how we perceived China, it’s people and it’s politics.

It was interesting to hear how the Chinese people had to be governed by a totalitarian state, as they were happy with this and would find it impossible to cope with a full range of choices, should they ever be afforded the chance. The State oversaw all businesses, so no business was fully private. As all business exists for the good of the nation, it is only to be expected that the nation is involved in all businesses. He had difficulty understanding why we found that preposterous. He felt all peoples would be happier if controlled by a paternalistic state. Of course he was looking for a visceral, honest response, rather than a polite, British understatement. The conversation was wide ranging and frank. He was phenomenally well read and intelligent, able to call up any and all facts, figures, international historical details and dates as well as financial and political information, as needed to illustrate his arguments. Academically, he left us standing, and we have our foot on at least one rung of the clever ladder.

The Emperor’s descendant’s rig.

So we now knew who owned the red pickup truck and what he was doing here. The emperor’s descendent was wandering the world to find out how the people of other nations, any other nations, would respond to being ruled by a Chinese Government. How hard might it be to subjugate an entire nation? Would it be worth the trouble? Would we, the non Chinese, submit to totalitarianism and, if not, would we at least be happy to keep buying their goods?

We enjoyed the conversation that evening. It is not that often that we have to work hard to answer deep and searching questions whilst parrying with our inquisitor. He was leaving early the next day and he asked that we meet him before he left as he wanted to exchange details. He hoped that we might get together again in the future. He offered to drive with us across Europe and into China. Sadly, by the time we crawled out of our tent, he was gone.

We were relieved. I think we got off lightly.

Weird as it may seem, this is a true tale. If you’ve an unusual encounters tale to tell, please share it with us; we love hearing from you. Simply use any of the options below. The Wallys xx

Denia home from home

The following video explains some of the reasons we love our Spanish winter home in Denia.

You may have read some of our postings about the town and the video illustrates the essence of it’s charm.

The Mediterranean coast of Spain is a perfect place to spend time and I hope this video will encourage you to explore it. Spain isn’t only about beer and sunburn, travel a few miles away from the coast and discover much, much more.

Thanks for watching, if you enjoyed our efforts please comment, share or subscribe xxx

A Mosaic of Meditation

At the bottom of this article you will find an 11 minute video detailing how you too can make your own mosaic at home. Why not watch it and then give mosaicking a go? It could change your life.

A small detail of the 8 metre mosaic that changed my life.

Life throws a huge amount at us, and yet we cope remarkably well. Sometimes, when we are being brutally honest with ourselves, we do not want to cope, we want to live, to have the freedom to go where we want and do what ever we please. A chance to be truly happy, or perhaps, simply contented. Coping, with it’s subtext of busyness, pressure, deadlines and the pleasing of others is not a positive state, even if it often makes us feel noble. I am pretty sure feeling noble has never made anyone truly happy with their life.

There are many reasons why we do not manage to take the time to do the things that we dream of, even when that dream is perfectly achievable. Instead, we battle on in coping mode, losing sight of our hopes and wishes as they slide away from our grasp to be come distant memories. Unable to do the things we really want to, we end up juggling, spinning plates, pleasing our audience, looking and sounding the part, whip in hand, assuming the posture, the perennial ring master controlling the circus clowns, when the only clown is us.

Bring on the clowns!
(Giffords Circus, 2018)

So what of Wally and I? Did we harbour long lost, buried dreams? Yes, of course we did. For many years Wally and I have dreamed of having a voluptuous mosaic in our courtyard back garden. Our retaining wall had a horizontal strip left un-rendered, ready to be filled with a work of art; no pressure. We had seen the mosaics made by Gaudi and decided that creating a little corner of Barcelona in our home would suit us. The problems were legion and until each had been defeated, we could not get started. The main difficulty was accepting that if I devoted an evening a week to the project, it would take me about eighteen months to complete. If, instead, I decided to get started and keep going until it was finished, it would take about a month of working full days. Both of those options were daunting. We also suffered a complete lack of any great idea for a design. Nothing we sketched out ever really pleased us. This process must be the same as getting a tattoo, because it will be there forever, it must be exactly right, causing delight whenever glimpsed and that is a huge amount of pressure. There is no easy way to get rid of a tattoo or a wall mosaic, so you had better be confident that you will always love it. We thought about having Lizards, about playing with advancing and receding colours, with garlands and sashes and plain tiles. We could not whip up any enthusiasm to get started, because we did not have a stunning design. 

The retaining wall waiting for a mosaic to fill that horizontal gash.

In the meantime, I headed off to an evening class to learn how to it was done and asked my friends to give me their broken crockery. At home, I mosaicked an old table top and was now confident that I had the basic skills needed to make a mosaic for our home. If only we could come up with a design we liked.

The Crockery collection, colour coded and ready for action. All we needed was design inspiration.

Suddenly, there it was; the design we had been searching for, the one ‘we would know when we saw it’. It was in a small photo of a living room, in a building magazine. The image was a couple of inches square and in it, was the tiniest picture hanging on the blank magnolia wall; it was perfect! I blew up the art work and took a screenshot. This was to be the basis of our seven metre long mosaic. We checked the long range weather forecast, it was due to be hot as far as the eye could see. We were unable to go anywhere, or see anyone because of the Covid19 Lockdown. There would never be a better time to do this. We could not find any reason to delay getting arty and it was all systems go.

The picture that inspired us to get on with our mosaic project.

Three weeks later I finally stood up, shook off the shards of pottery that covered me and walked into the house a changed woman.

The days had merged into one. My thoughts, unable to meander too far from the task in hand, had settled in the here and now. For three weeks I was in a state of mindfulness for seven or eight hours a day. I would creak as I stood up and my joints were agony. I am pretty sure that I have never spent so much time sitting still, very very still, with a simple repetitive task that totally consumed me. I fell into the rhythm of drawing a 50cm section of the design, cutting and laying out the shards of pottery, moving to the wall, sticking the shards onto the wall and then cleaning up the current section; and repeat, sixteen times. 

The completed mosaic. Now all we have to do is the rest of the hard landscaping …
luckily, I can cope.

I had started, just under a month before as a very busy person, who was, I thought, coping perfectly. I emerged, serene. Mentally, I was smooth, nothing jarring, everything slow and clear; as if my mind was on casters, rolling along, observing passively, with absolute calmness and without concern for irksome details. My body, usually flexible, and under control was ravaged, painful and weak. 

For those few long weeks I had floated in my bubble of freedom, my life suspended, my mind fully focussed and alert and yet totally relaxed. It is a condition which I want very much to maintain. I know that with a little effort my body will return to normal, but I do not want my mind to leave it’s new home and that will take effort too, of a different kind. I no longer want to cope. Coping is not for me.

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A Quiet Moment to Reflect…

Us Wallys have spent the last three weeks in a frantic whirl. We have worked very long, hard days; stopping at dusk only to find the food fairy has not fluttered in and prepared a meal for us, which means that one of us has to don the sparkly wings and things and set about being the chef of the day. This evening the fairy kit goes to the lovely Wally. While he creates a culinary masterpiece, I am writing this for you, and me, of course.

At last we Wallys are coming to a point in our struggles where we can have a day, or even two, off work. My mind has wandered onto the things we might indulge in. Well, we can dream, if nothing else! Of course our reality is that movements in the UK are still restricted. What a bore this is for everyone.

Red Hot, Sizzling Spanish Beach Umbrella

What I fancy is a trip to a beach-side cafe. I would love to sit under a big, bright beach brolly, with blue sea, blue sky, and a golden beach stretching out, lazily in front of me. Any beach will do for me, after all we live on an island; the one thing we have in plenty is beaches. I feel like using my time to watch folks as they saunter by; families with their kids over excited and fully tooled, buckets, spades, ice cream and their parents, wishing they had stayed at home; young fellas out to spot a toothsome someone and make a pass, if they have the bravery, and the oldies, plump with billowing clothing and waney gait, glad to see yet another summer. Almost every single person sharing that same, one thing on their mind, fish and chips, accompanied by a sea view with the delicious waft of vinegar breezing under nose.

We do not need to to go far, maybe something simple and close to home would give us a lift on a day off. A chance to hook up with friends for a natter would be a boon. Nonchalant, care free, normal.

Chatty women, Denia, Spain.

Soon, all this will be acceptable again, but will we take it all for granted? For us, having access to ordinary activities should not be a luxury, it should be something we do without a second thought, as long as we all keep washing our hands and wearing our masks, oh, and, as long as nobody gets within six feet of us. In the meantime, we will consult our list of tasks and plan tomorrow’s work. Yes, it will be another day in paradise for the Wallys.

We hope you enjoyed this little peep into our world of sparkly wings and things. Let us know what you think of it by using the buttons below. We love to hear from you. All the best from us Wallys. xx

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inoculation!

Friday 13.3.20

Today we head back towards the UK in the midst of a Coronavirus storm. Back to the mythical land of rainstorms and tea. From royalty down to the average citizen, a land of disunity. But fear not, the pandemic has brought us something to unite against. Expect the good old British wartime spirit to emerge, minus the mortal combat, of course.

As we drifted northwards I was staring out Barri’s passenger window, aimlessly counting magpies.

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl and
Four for a boy,
Five for silver and
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.
Eight for a wish,
Nine for a kiss and
Ten for a bird you must not miss.

Ah, ten, surely a good omen, I mused, the bird of good fortune. With Covid 19 closing in with zombie like persistence we might need some folkloric protection. Having seen ten magpies, and avoiding the sorrowful number one position this leaves me trying to evade further encounters. Luckily no more magpies. Phew! Coincidently it’s Friday the thirteenth, it’s a good job I’m not superstitious.

Who knew that the whole of Europe and us, the UK, it’s stiff, upright, tiny neighbour, would begin to close down all fun? Our drive back has to take into account that whole areas of Spain are closed to itinerants passing through: actually it is two areas of the country and four villages relatively close to our Friday 13th campsite. Both of the locked down areas are on our route to the north. Like the entire human race, we have spent our lives navigating a path through this life; so, how hard can it be to do it now?

I glance out of Barri’s window and catch a glimpse of an ancient fort, high atop a rocky hill. Over the centuries, terrified communities have retreated up into these bastions until all danger has either passed, or been fought off, or they all die. Which ever comes first.

With Coronavirus closing in from every quarter, we are in the same situation. No castle to huddle in, to share our meagre resources, or our weapons. We have our homes, some have freezers and our weapons are soap and water. Vats of boiling oil wont cut it this time, but strategic thinking always comes in handy, I am reliably informed by Radio 4 and it’s never ending stream of experts. Well, we all need to be experts now. It really is do or die.

At our first overnight stop on the way north, we are greeted by a young man in reception, who wears a hygiene glove and tells us that we can stay for tonight. We had pre-booked for two, with an option for a third. He has no idea if we can stay more than one night, or if we will need to stay for two weeks. The Spanish president had just made a speech on national TV saying that he will announce his intended measures tomorrow. He is considering locking down the whole country for two weeks meaning that we may have to stay here, in Ampolla, on a decent campsite, whether we like it or not. We like it. It has FLAMINGOS!

On the flip side? The campsite might be closed down for the two weeks and then …… what?

It is Friday the thirteenth

It is Friday the thirteenth
I have now seen eleven Magpies – Sorrow!
And a whole host of Castles on hilltops

We are in a little red van.
We have no freezer
We need our oil for food – not for warding off the enemy.

How hard can this be?

The original version, as published 1846:

One for sorrow
Two for mirth
Three for a funeral
Four for birth
Five for heaven
Six for hell
Seven for the Devil, his own self.

Yep, it could be pretty hard.

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