The Beer Festival That Wasn’t. 

Images may appear much more fun than real life

History would be a lot different if everybody got their dates wrong. Imagine if Lenin and his Bolsheviks had decided to stage their revolution in July and not October. All the Communists would have found when they prematurely stormed the Winter Palace would have been a couple of idle serfs draining the Tsar’s pool. What if Lee Harvey Oswald had got stuck in traffic on his way to Dallas, and missed JFK’s visit? Marilyn Monroe would be raising an illegitimate Presidential baby, and Oliver Stone would never have made a career out of movies. And consider a world where a foolish Arthur C Clarke decided to set his Space Odyssey in 1452 instead of 2001. Arthur would have been laughed out of the Science Fiction Guild before he could say “Han Solo”. So it is no wonder that I have so far failed to become a noted historical figure. My ability to confuse dates is outstanding; if ever I succeed one day in conning some unfortunate woman into bearing my child, I’m sure I’ll be dismantling my Corby trouser press while my other half shits a placenta into a net.

It’s this complete inability to grasp the simple concept of time that foreshadowed my first ever trip to Qingdao.

August. Hangzhou. 2005. A city so hot, even Ethiopians would be shaking their heads in pity if they had seen scenes of it on TV. The air was drier than Oscar Wilde’s wit. My friend and I sat sweating together like two Prisoners of War building a railroad, whilst we racked our sizzling brains for a solution to our heat problems. As we sat discussing the logistics of dragging a glacier all the way to China, my gaze fell on the Tsingtao I held in my hand. The nice, ice-cold, refreshing bottle of Tsingtao goodness…

“That’s it!” I shouted (actually, I didn’t really shout that, this is something we writers call a “literary effect”), “We can go to Qingdao for the Beer Festival!”

It was a perfect plan. Head north for a week to a refreshing coastal city with a nice sea breeze, and drown our sorrows away with bottle after bottle of cool Tsingtao alcohol. I was about to get fired from my job anyway, so giving myself a week’s holiday was going to be no problem.

A quick Google search provided the date of the hallowed Festival of Beer. I felt like Augustus Gloop preparing to enter the gates of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory; only better because instead of fudge it would be beer. Plus, there would be no danger of getting sucked up a chocolate pipe by Oompa Loompas.

We packed everything we would need for our formaldehyde filled frolics: swimming trunks, beach towels, alka-seltzer. In short, everything but the kitchen sink which we would inevitably need to vomit in when the hangover kicked in. Once the packing was done, it took us nearly a day by rail to get from Hangzhou to Qingdao. We prepared ourselves on the train by playing a few rounds of Extreme Scrabble (you know, the version where you have to down a pint if you use a vowel), and wondering where it all went wrong. Everything was all set for us to have the best time since sliced bread.
Except it didn’t happen. When we arrived at the beach, we saw the work monkeys dismantling the few remaining Tsingtao stands. We saw the empty beer tents that had once contained the kegs of wife-beater fuel. We saw the litter strewn everywhere by people who had obviously had a fantastic, and environmentally unfriendly, time. And, if you had looked at me, you would have seen a broken man.

I had gotten the date wrong. My friend checked the website I had looked at, and pointed out that I had taken the date for LAST year’s Beer Festival. I had never felt so stupid since the time I told my mum that my new study desk was made from monogamy.

We tried to do it ourselves, but it wasn’t the same. We had the beer, but no festival. It was like meeting Laurel without Hardy. No matter how many beers we drank, or how many times we were violently sick, nothing could replace that festival feeling. We went back to Hangzhou like the sad losers we were.

Thus, that was the Beer Festival that wasn’t. I’m positive, deep down, that the only reason why I later moved to Qingdao was to make certain I didn’t miss the Festival each year. My therapist says that writing about it will help me to get over it, and then the healing can begin.

Oh well, at least I’ll never forget that Christmas is on December 27th…


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

The Genius That Was

Officer Balloon

It’s sad when great pieces of art don’t get the recognition they deserve.

Nope, I’m not talking about sales figures for Party Members, but in fact one of the funniest, wittiest and most original China satire sites of all time.

And you’ve probably never heard of it.

I know very little about the people behind Gou-Rou. The main writer was a “Tom” who used to comment frequently on the dead and sadly missed TalkTalkChina. Little is known about the mysterious Tom other than the fact he was based in Hong Kong. Many is the time I have pondered whether some famous China journalist like Tom Philips of the Morning Star Grauniad or Tom Hancock of the Soros-owned Zionist Conspiracy Mouthpiece Financial Times could in fact be the mysterious Tom, but neither seem to possess the necessary devilish wit and biting sarcasm,

Gou-Rou was a website that existed during the Golden Age of China Blogs – before the internet destroyed everybody’s attention span and nobody could concentrate on anything more complex than a Spongebob Squarepants meme. Obviously heavily influenced by British comedy legends Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris – with a ton of shout-outs to their masterpieces TV Go Home, Nathan Barley and Brass Eye – Gou-Rou had the type of dry and acerbic humour that can only be seen today in the occasional China Daily Show post (also well worth checking out).

Like Brass Eye and TV Go Home, Gou-Rou was a fake news website that also contained satirical spoofs of Chinese TV shows and pastiches of awful CCP propaganda and even more awful expat-magazine listings. Sadly, once the unspoofable Goebbels Times came along there was no need for Gou-Rou anymore, but the site remains online in a “that which is dead can never truly die” state like some nightmarish Lovecraftian god. I highly recommend checking out the still-alive Gou-Rou archives for the gems contained within before Mark Zuckerberg becomes the 46th President of the United States and the entire internet is replaced by a looped image of Mark’s head spinning around 360 degrees surrounded by the word “OBEY.”

Hypno Zuck

Here are a few of the choicest slices of Gou-Rou to whet your appetite…

CCTV Shows during the 2008 Olympics

Hello, readers. Here in China, there’s an awful lot of Olympic-themed TV on now and probably for the next few years. In this, our Olympic special TV rundown, we give you a taster of some of the highlights of what’s on during the Games themselves!

Olympic Breakfast with Wang and Zhou
Each morning during the Olympics, Consterna Wang and Gilette Zhou bring you a light hearted (and at times hilarious) look at the Olympics and the previous days events. Video montages of foreign athletes making mistakes will provide humourous asides from the main content – interviewing Chinese medal winners + members of the public inside a gigantic swing shaped like the Olympic Rings. (BTV6, 4:30am – 6:00am every morning)

Bending Balloons
Just because children might not be naturally excited by the Olympics doesn’t mean they can’t also be manipulated into thinking about it all the time! Starting in July, “Uncle” Feng will demonstrate how to make olympic shapes out of balloons to an in-studio audience of 3-6 year olds. Highlights will include “Uncle” Feng’s Bird’s Nest Stadium, “Uncle” Feng’s Inflatable Javelin, and in the final week, a step by step guide to building a life-size working replica of Liu Xiang, no longer the World Record Holder for the Men’s 110m Hurdles. (3pm – 3:30pm CCTV Kids. Also Available on CCTV 9 – with voice dubbing provided by 2004 US presidential hopeful John Kerry as “Uncle Feng”)

Isn’t Beijing Great?
Foreigners attending the Olympics will be interviewed to ascertain their positive impressions of Beijing. In Episode 1, a group of Dutch visitors explain how the “Great Wall is really long, the Forbidden City is amazing, and the Chinese people are so friendly and welcoming and rich”. Several visitors will be filmed as they apply for Chinese citizenship. (CCTV1 – Midday till late.)

Welcome to Chinafood
Introductory show, aimed at the tens of foreigners permitted into China for the Games, highlighting the wide variety of traditional Chinese food. Each episode goes to a new region of China, where three dishes are prepared, one consisting of stewing some meat and then chopping it up, the other two of chopping up all the ingredients into small pieces and then frying them.(CCTV-9, 2.30, 5.20, 11.12 pm daily)

Zhongguo Aoyun Lishi
History series drawing tenuous links between famous Olympic success stories and China. Episode 1: Chionis of Sparta and Leonidas of Rhodes were two of the most famous runners in the ancient Olympics. Two Harbin Technical College students, who have chosen Chionis and Leonidas as their English names, are interviewed about how excited they are for the 2008 Beijing games.(HLJTV, 7.20-7.53 pm every Wednesday)

Caring Han Athletes
Heartwarming programme showing that members of China’s all-conquering, non-drug-taking Olympic team have not forgotten their roots. Each week, we follow a different athlete as they visit hospitals, schools and local government buildings in bottom-rung single-industry cities around China to hand out trinkets to children and old ladies, accompanied by a relaxing piano moods soundtrack. Episodes end with most presentable children available waving Olympic and Chinese flags and shouting “中国加油!” while performing the state-mandated arm movements.(HBTV-2, 5.35 – 6.45 pm Mondays)

Officer Balloon
Enthusiastic police officer Xie Fei attaches helium balloons to his body and becomes Beijing’s leading expert in high-rise crime and prevailing wind directions. When it Rains, It Pours! – special Olympic themed six-parter. Floating gently in a south-westerly direction over Xizhimen bus terminus on the lookout for dissidents pretending to be beggars in order to discredit China’s economic miracle, Officer Balloon stumbles upon a needlessly complex plot to undermine the Olympics. However, before he can report back to his superiors he is caught in a sudden downpour caused by government weather management techniques and gradually forced to land — will he be mangled by the terrorist types? And how is former Tottenham and Olympique Marseille winger Chris Waddle connected to the whole thing?(BTV-2, 7.15-7.43pm Fridays)

How to market Chinese books in the UK

From China to Britain, a Book Odyssey

by Freddie Toastfork

With the unveiling of the five hideous mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there has never been a better time to raise the profile of Chinese literature in Britain, particularly for a number of companies specialising in publishing translated Chinese literature in Britain. So that’s why I’m here, to provide my integrated consultancy services and encourage those companies to get their books into the shops and flying off the shelves, as part of the British Council’s current Do China Favours With No Apparent Reciprocity campaign.

At this point you may be thinking. “How do you know what works in the book-selling world? I’ve never heard of you. Who are you?” Of course you’ve never heard of me. I was always in the background, working from the shadows. Pulling strings, toggling switches, slowly rotating dials until they produced an audible electric hum. But the fact is, I’m the expert on book marketing. I practically invented the modern concept of selling novels. If it hadn’t been for me, nobody would have even heard of books, let alone read them.

I came up with all the classic methods to induce book purchasing and the catching of eye to cover. Hideous shiny embossed lettering on the cover? I came up with that. Making the author’s name bigger than the title? That was me. ‘Recommended’ novels stacked in a less formal manner on tables in the middle of the shop to create a friendly, market stall ambience? Me again. Cluttered quotes from critics on the dust jacket? Actually, that was J.G. Ballard’s idea, but I came up with putting quotes and award names on giant round stickers that obscure most of the cover.

Now, the main problem is that while the money-burdened public like serious world literature, that doesn’t mean they’re going to read it. We don’t care if they read it either, as long as they buy it. So, my advice to anyone wanting to sell classics of Chinese literature is this: lie.

Specifically, the blurbs on the back covers should be punchy paragraphs of mendacity. The public want to be really grabbed by the blurb – they don’t want to hear from some crusty academic saying how great the new translation is.

Let’s try some examples.

The Family by Ba Jin
In rural China, respect is everything. In his latest hard-hitting thriller, ex-cop author Ba Jin takes on a brutal journey into the heart of organised crime. Xiao Dong is a young man about to “make his bones” for his crime family, but can he go through with it? His target is a wealthy businessman who will not kowtow to the Family – and the father of Pingping, the girl he loves. “Gripping, taut, a bloodied tour de force,” said the London Review of Books.

Camel Xiangzi by Lao She
Xiangzi is special – there aren’t many camels that live in their own apartment in Hong Kong, and even fewer that can talk! But Xiangzi feels lonely and alienated in the big city, so when a local zither enthusiast offers him a place playing the trombone in a modal jazz ensemble, he jumps at the chance. An international hit with young adults and literate camels alike, Camel Xiangzi is a heartwarming story of life on tour, the struggle for success and staying true to yourself.

Rainbow by Mao Dun
Mao Dun is sometimes hailed as ‘China’s answer to Nick Hornby’. In Rainbow, we can see why. The story follows teenager Nick as he grapples with the troubles of life, love and rock’n’roll in late 70s Iowa. Nick’s family is troubled, his school grades are low, but one passion holds his life together – the newly formed rock group of ex-Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, Rainbow. When Nick gets the chance to tag along on Rainbow’s US tour, it seems as though all of his prayers have been answered, and he even falls for the girl of his dreams. But traces of the past, and a bizarre conspiracy surrounding the band’s vocalist, Ronnie James Dio, may yet come to haunt him…

Beijingese-Actual Meaning Phrasebook

Beijingese-Actual Meaning phrasebook

by Rudolph Bracket

What Chinese people say, and what they really mean, presented in pinyin for the ease of our Chinese-deficient readers.

In the shops

Wo bu hui pian ni xiansheng – Wo xiang pian ni xiansheng

Ni hao pengyou! – Ni hao, you qian de ren

Ni hui putonghua ma? – Ni de yisi wo wanquan mingbai, danshi wo bu zhidao zenme huida ni de wenti.

In the Taxi

Women zou er huan ba, bijiao kuai! – Zou er huan wo hui zheng duo yi xie qian!

Ni shi nali lai de ren? – Wo hen congming, zhidao ni bu shi Beijing ren

Oh!! X – Hao! (X=the country you say) – Oh X mei you zhongguo hao!


Ni hao – Ni bu hao

Ni chi fan le ma? – Ni juede wo chuan zhei jian yifu wo pigu zenmeyang?

The Market

Waiguo pengyou – Waiguo ren.

Hello Hello! – Wo xiang he ni de xue!

Look look! – Ni kan zheibian, wo hui sha ni!

Heckling the Communist Party: A How-To Guide

So you’ve decided to heckle a plenum, committee or other meeting of the Chinese Communist Party. Good for you. As a veteran of this pursuit (I once heckled the late, geat Deng Xiaoping, though it was admittedly sort of an accident), I felt qualified and obligated to provide people with the following tips, which will begin…. now.

1) Choose your moment

Don’t be a jerk. This may seem like odd advice considering I’m advising you on how to interrupt a meeting with uncalled-for derogatory remarks, but bear with me. You’re trying to liven up this meeting with witticisms and insults, so make sure it’s actually necessary. If the speaker is witty, erudite and fascinating to listen to, don’t bother – you will only ruin the meeting for everyone. Now, I know people say that Chinese Communist speeches that are actually interesting are as rare as hen’s teeth, but with the increased industrial pollutants in the Yangtse and Yellow Rivers, hens with teeth are more and more common in China these days. So you never know.

2) Politics

The CCP isn’t a monolith, much as it would like to be. It’s also not a monograph – that would be a detailed treatise on a particular, usually quite narrow, subject.

So the CCP does have different factions and its politics does change – you can use this! Read up on how the speaker has conducted himself in the past. Or use Maoism as a weapon – although the Leftist faction is regaining influence in Chinese politics, it’s still uncomfortable for many to be seen as too close to Mao-era politics. Try comparing the speaker’s assertions to something from the Yan’an era. That should get ’em riled up.

3) Keep it simple

When you’re heckling, you’re on a limited timescale. Very limited. You’ve got to yell out your piece, get the punchline in and then BAM, out of there. You don’t have time to ramble about the massive number of problems caused by and facing, say, the Three Gorges Dam. Just point out it was a decades-long demonstration of how not to do civil engineering projects and be done with it.

Another facet of “keep it simple”, is don’t be afraid to go back to basics. Yeah, it’s great if you can come out with some epigrammatic number that cuts to the heart of the current debate, belittles the speaker and references a classic Rolling Stones track at the same time, but don’t belabour it. Sometimes it’s enough just to shout “why don’t you give a speech standing up, shortarse?”

4) Do your research

I can’t stress this enough, people. And I’m not even talking about studying CCP agricultural policy in depth or any of that kind of thing, I’m just saying get your facts straight. If all the speaker has to do to respond to your heckle is say “I think you’ll find it was not Jiang Zemin who coined the phrase ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, actually”, you’re history. I’ve seen too many good but overconfident hecklers come a cropper on this one.

Well, that’s it for now. Enjoy yourselves, take care out there and remember – always heckle the Chinese Communist Party responsibly, even if at times it seems trivially easy. Peace out.

Jobs Available

Native Teachers Wanted
A world famous state primary school in near south 5th ring road, seeks two motivated, fun, presentable Native speakers to teach starting from September 1st. Hours will be Mon-Saturday, 10am-8:45pm including free dinner. Salary 4000Rmb / month.

Sales Manager Position available
A joint-venture company is seeking a sales manager for its Beijing Office. You will be well-educated, white, with excellent Chinese and English. Available to live in Beijing for two years.
Desirable traits: At least 14years managing Multi-national Company preferred. + at least 2 years extensive experience in the copper plated gas-pipe seal industry preferred. Age over 35 years Able to invest in company also a benefit.
Salary range : 8000 – 9000Rmb / month depending on previous experience.

English Teachers Urgently Needed
Come live in Beautiful China!!! We have vacancies for the English teacher must urgently need to filled. Salary 5000rmb / month, positions available:
Jilin, Zhengzhou, Chengde, Dalian, Wuhan, Chengdu, Hefei, Taiyuan.

I am lovely tall Chinese lady. I offer full massage for you 24 hour discreet location. 300rmb / hour. Send me mail yes to

Foreigners Required
We urgently need foreigners for Modelling and Acting. Please send photo and resume to .

Assistant required
World famous exports company requires Assistant for the china manager. Necessary requirements: Female, 20-24, pretty, shapely, able to work late, desirable features, 160-180 cm
Secondary requirements: English speaker, able to use computer / office / word, honest, reliable, hard-worker, relevant experience, education.

Engineer Wanted
Engineer with experience on the Trio-tech production line software system control apparatus (Gamma version upgrade) required for manufacturing firm in Guangdong. Pay negotiable. ( Position to be filled urgently – The manual is in English and we don’t know how to turn it off)

Native American Teachers Wanted
No Cherokee.

If this kind of stuff doesn’t have you snorting milk out of your nostrils or calling up your doctor to report a serious case of split sides then I don’t know what will. Go check out Gou-Rou and laugh: laugh like a drug-addled hyena being forced to watch looped re-runs of Police Academy 4. DO IT.


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

The Ex-Chairmen

Alan and Tony
Alan: Thanks for inviting me over over to the BBC, Tony. I haven’t been here since Bill Oddie’s leaving party when SpringWatch was cancelled. Messy business.
Tony 2
It’s my pleasure, Alan. Now, I wanted to talk to you about new sitcom ideas for the China market. China represents a lucrative new territory for us and research says they are just crying out for a new sitcom. Any ideas?
Alan 2
Ermmm…. yeah. How about this one? It’ll blow your socks off.


Scene: (Images of Chairman Mao overseeing the masses in Tiananmen Square, Deng Xiaoping visiting the States in a cowboy hat, Hua Guofeng being driven about in an open-top car, and Hu Jintao masturbating into an oven glove. After two clips of each, a bright red “YOU’RE FIRED” mark is stamped over each Chairman. Next clip shows all four ex-Chairmen carting their stuff on a tricycle to some random down-and-out apartment in Beijing)

Caption: The Ex-Chairmen!

(Shot of Mao Zedong trying to unblock a sink, shot of Mao Zedong falling over, shot of Mao Zedong being chased by a goat)

Caption: Starring Adam Sandler as Mao Zedong!

(Shot of Deng Xiaoping with his face glued to a window, shot of Deng Xiaoping kissing a man dressed as a woman, shot of Deng Xiaoping looking shocked)

Caption: Co-starring Ellen DeGenerate as Deng Xiaoping!

(Shot of Hua Guofeng punching a policeman)

Caption: And Charlie Sheen as Hua Guofeng!

(No image is shown of Hu Jintao)

Caption: Episode Five – Revolution is not a dinner party.

(Scene: A dirty, dingy hutong house with unwashed cutlery everywhere. Mao is walking around in his nightgown, Deng is making tea, and Hua is sat with his head in his hands drinking a bottle of whiskey)

Mao: Oh bloody hell, look at the state of this place! I mean just look at that cup, it’s actually got bloody mould growing from it!

Deng: Well, if the rest of you did some cleaning, instead of just me all the time, I’m sure it would be a lot tidier.

Mao: Shut up, will you? When I was Chairman, I had an army of Red Guards who I could call on at anytime to clean my cups.

(Hua takes a swig from his whiskey and shoots a passing rat)

Deng: But you’re not Chairman anymore, and the sooner you get used to that the better.

Mao: Oooh, you’re not Chairman anymore, you’re not Chairman anymore. That’s all I hear from you! You’re just jealous because my picture is in Tiananmen Square and yours isn’t.

Deng: They only put that up to keep the cats off the lawn.

Mao: Go fuck yourself, you capitalist running dog. I’m too busy for this – it’s time to feed Jiang Zemin.

(Mao walks over to an empty fish tank which enclosed a huge slimy toad. He sprinkles some flies into the tank which the toad greedily gobbles up)

Mao: There you go, my little baby. Eat them all up. Crush them in your maw.

(A letter pops through the door. Hua stands up, smashes a picture frame over Deng’s head, then falls over)

Deng: That’s the second time he’s done that this week!

Mao: (Looking at letter) Oh God, look at this. It’s a stupid postcard from Xi Jin bloody Ping. “Hi guys, really busy right now publishing my memoirs, hope all’s well with you.” Bastard. Bloody bastard. I hate that wind breaker wearing cunt nearly as much as I hate you Deng.

Deng: Oh, look! My two cats have come back! Hello boys!

(Two cats enter via the window – one black, one white)

Mao: Useless reactionary remnants of the feudal past. Did any of them bother to assist the masses and at least catch a mouse?

Deng: Yeah, one of them did.

Mao: Which one?

Deng: It doesn’t matter.

(Hua Guofeng moves to slam the cats with a giant hammer but is interrupted when Hu Jintao suddenly bursts into the room)

Hu Jintao: I’m pregnant! And the father is one of you!

Mao and Deng: Say whaaaaaaaaat?

Jiang Zemin: Ribbet.

And so on, and so on; for another seven seasons.

Alan 1

Tony 1

Smell my cheese!
Smell my cheese, you mother!



If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

Book Review: Expat Jimmy by Travis Lee



Within certain expat circles, stories about one’s first day in China are almost akin to stories about losing one’s virginity. There is a certain oneupmanship involved in trying to depict the first moments of one’s time within the Middle Kingdom that wouldn’t be out of place within a male locker room. Considering the physical symptoms of jet-lag that normally occur after a long-haul economy-class flight it’s amazing how few people readily admit to just falling straight asleep on their first day in China, but these are probably the same people who claim that the first time they had sex it was with their Double-D endowed babysitter and lasted all night till the bed broke.

(When people ask me about my first day in China I normally regale them with the tale of how I went alone to a hotpot restaurant and ate all of the food when it was still frozen as I didn’t know I was supposed to wait for the waitress to bring along the bowl of hot soup. That actually happened… but it was not until about three weeks after my arrival. If I was to tell them that my first day in China involved nothing more than a three hour wait in the airport for somebody to collect me followed by nothing more exciting than an early night and 45 minutes trying to translate the remote control for the air-conditioner than I imagine that they’d probably wander off bored and look for a Hunter S Thompson novel.)

Travis Lee may be known to long-term China expats as one of the occasional writers for the now defunct Lost Laowai blog. He has previously released a novella entitled The Seven Year Laowai which is a semi-autobiographical story about being an English teacher in the third-tier city of Wuhan and the strange types of fellow educator that is often found in these schools. Now Travis has released Expat Jimmy – another short story (very short, in fact) which acts as a spiritual prequel of sorts to his previous work.


Across its hundred or so ebook pages, Expat Jimmy details the first day in China of the aforementioned “Expat Jimmy”. Like the protagonist in The Seven Year Laowai, Jimmy appears to be a semi-autobiographical stand-in for the author – a fact he clarifies within some of his blog posts. Jimmy arrives in Wuhan and is shown around the city of Wuhan by long-term sexpat expat  and Head Teacher Adam. Throughout the long day they go through an implausible number of activities and places for just one day – let alone the first day in a new country fighting against tiredness and jet-lag. Jimmy visits a few bars, a nightclub, a KTV joint, a restaurant, the house of a Chinese family, the house of another foreign teacher who wishes to buy drugs, and even witnesses an attempted suicide on the streets. Compare this to my own list of activities that I accomplished last Sunday which is composed of nothing more than ordering a pizza and watching five back-to-back episodes of Breaking Bad.

The amount of places visited is unrealistic, though I can understand that the author is trying to present an introduction to all the weird and wonderful aspects of life in China within the vehicle of a one-day timeline. It doesn’t quite work and there is almost a little too much happening within the one hundred pages of this story for it to settle in the reader’s head and leave an impression. In addition to the numerous places visited, there is also an underlying story of Adam’s past hinted at, as well as fears within the newly arrived teacher that he is setting out on the same path.

Travis is a good writer and has a knack for describing the feelings of emptiness and vague fear that are experienced by young rootless individuals seeking out meaning in a new set of surroundings. His characters all carry an air of being lost or searching for something that isn’t there to be found. There is an existential dread lurking in the background that I enjoyed. Both Expat Jimmy and The Seven Year Laowai have some great elements but I felt both were not quite the finished product. Now that Travis has some experience in writing I would like to see him perhaps combine his two stories into one whole and create a tale greater than the sum of its parts. I hope he can rise to the challenge.

Travis Lee blogs at and Expat Jimmy can be found on Amazon.


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

Ed U Cator: TEFL Detective. The Exciting Conclusion!


Scene: The camera shows a sky-high view of the Number 8 Happy Giraffe Kindergarten. On the streets surrounding the Happy Giraffe Kindergarten are the usual detritus found nearby China’s junior academies of learning: namely, unscrupulous principals with bags full of ready cash and middle-aged TEFL teachers rolling on the floor clutching their hangover-induced aching heads. The camera zooms in on Officers Rocky Zhang and I Like World of Warcraft Liang who are stood by the main entrance.

Officer Liang: So, our detective friend has finally gotten over his mini-breakdown?

Officer Zhang: So he says. He sent me a message on WeChat last night. Here it is.

(Officer Zhang shows Officer Liang the message on his phone. It says “I’M FEELING BETTER NOW PLS COME OVER. PS DO YOU KNOW HOW I CAN ASK THE WOMAN IN THE DIY SHOP FOR NEW LIGHTBULBS?”)

Officer Liang: He sure likes to use capital letters.

Officer Zhang: Apparently the caps lock on his phone is broken.

Officer Liang: And why is it we have to meet him here? Can’t we just meet at the police station like normal procedure?

Officer Zhang: He told me that his school forces him to do “office hours” so he isn’t allowed to leave the building between classes. He’s got a spare hour now between Listening Comprehension and his 8th Grade Conversation class and he mentioned that he should be able to fit revealing the murderer of Tina Budong within that time.

Officer Liang: Right. Let’s get this over with then.

(The two policemen enter the school and make their way to a spare classroom that Detective Ed U Cator has set up as his investigation room. Within the room Detective Ed U Cator is stood in front of a whiteboard while three other adults are sat on chairs in the front row. Officers Zhang and Liang stand by the open door deliberating whether to knock first.)

Detective Cator: Come in! Come in! You’re five minutes late though so you’ll have to sing a song. Can you sing Jingle Bells for us?

Officer Liang: Fuck off.

Detective Cator: OK! Take a seat then. Now, let me introduce what we are going to be talking about today. I’ve created a short powerpoint presentation. Eyes forward!

(There then follows a twenty minute scene where the overhead projector fails to operate properly. Several hilarious scenes ensue: Detective Cator banging the laptop and getting increasingly angry; Detective Cator screaming down the corridor for someone from IT to help him; Detective Cator crying as a useless oxygen thief from the IT helpdesk just taps at the screen and repeatedly says “Uh? Uh?”; Detective Cator finally throwing the laptop out of the window and proclaiming that this kind of thing would never happen in a “proper” country.)

Detective Cator: Right, we’ll do this the old-fashioned way then. After analysing the evidence of the Tina Budong murder, I have established that it was only logistically possible for one of the other foreign teachers who live in the same seven storey walk-up to have committed the murder and escaped unseen to their respective apartment. I have gathered all of the foreign teachers here and will introduce them for the benefit of Officers Zhang and Liang.

(Detective Cator approaches the first teacher: a dishevelled looking specimen who has three empty bottles of erguotou already in front of him.)

Detective Cator: Bryan Scumis. 61 years old. Australian. After teaching TEFL in Saudi Arabia for twenty years he swore in 2013 that he would never return to the Kingdom but blew all of his cash in Thailand during one long hot summer. Forced to do “one last trip”, Bryan was unable to re-enter Saudi due to certain comments on his social media channels. China welcomed him. Bryan’s hobbies include drinking, online pornography, painkillers and white-water rafting. Say hello to everybody, Bryan!

Bryan: You can all go fuck yourselves (vomits).


(Next, Detective Cator approaches what on first sight appears to be a stranded whale that has been covered in clothes by Greenpeace in an attempt to keep it warm. On closer inspection, it turns out to actually be an American woman.)

Detective Cator: Elly Mint-Fresh. 43 years old. American. Cis-gendered and unmarried. Identifies as “Gender Queer”. Teaches conversational English and second-wave feminism to six year olds. Was close friends with Tina Budong and both were working on setting up a regular slam poetry session at the local English Corner. Elly has told me that her preferred pronoun is “zhe”. Is there anything you’d like to say to the class, Elly?


(Finally, Detective Cator indicates the last foreign teacher: a young man in dated clothing who has a scruffy-looking goatee beard.)

Detective Cator: And here we have…

Teacher: Dzień dobry! Ah am der native Engerlish speaker!

Detective Cator: …erm, here we have “Kevin” who according to his CV is from Manchester in England.

Kevin: Tak! Ah am loving der Manchester footsballs! Eet always raining der dogs und cats een my hometown. Very rainy!

(A female student walking past the room looks up when she hears the word “rainy” but quickly scuttles away.)

Detective Cator: Kevin has told me that he enjoys collecting surplus military equipment and that his favourite film is The Human Centipede 2. Also, he told me that his name is not – absolutely not – Mateusz.

Kevin: It’s true! Fish und chips!


Detective Cator:
Now, as part of my excellent TEFL Detective process I have utilised the finest detective methods known to mankind to eliminate the suspects and find out – resolutely and with no doubt – who was behind the brutal murder of Tina Budong.

Officer Zhang: Do you implement DNA testing within your process?

Officer Liang: Do you use advanced algorithms to calculate a rate of possibility?

Detective Cator: No! I simply asked each of the teachers to write me an essay of no more than 250 words explaining what they did on the evening of Tina Budong’s murder.

Officers Zhang and Liang: Ohhhhhhhh…….

Detective Cator: (Pulls out three exercise books and hands them back to the teachers) First up: Bryan Scumis. Please read out what you wrote for me.

Bryan: Darkness. Endless darkness. I tried drinking bleach tonight so that I don’t have to fuck around finding mixers for the erguotou. That fucking bitch upstairs is stomping around with her big fucking hooves again. She’s always sneering. Just like all the other white bitches. In Saudi they’d be burka’ed up and not allowed to speak. That’s how it should be. I’m gonna show her what…. That’s it.

Detective Cator: That’s it?

Bryan: Well, there’s more but I can’t read it ‘cos the page is covered in blood, cum and vomit.

Detective Cator: No problem, Bryan. Good effort. Elly?

Elly: (Stands up) On the evening of my friend Tina’s brutal murder I was, as always, at home working on my blog: “White men and their venomous impact on Asia”. Most importantly, I was busy putting the final touches to my lesson plans as unlike the other teachers in this school, I take my role as an educator of young minds quite seriously. This entire exercise is pointless and a demonstration of Detective Cator’s male privilege.

Detective Cator: OK, thank you. And… Kevin?

Kevin: Ah am sorry. Ah did not do der assignment. Ah was buzzy wiv reading der Shakespeare and watching der Human Centipede 2. Have you seen eet? Eet bardzo dobrze… ah mean eet very good! I like it.

Detective Cator: Officers, it should now be clear that one of these teachers is not telling the truth. One of these people gathered here is not who they claim to be. The one who is hiding the truth about their identity will undeniably also be the killer of the unfortunate Tina Budong.

(Everybody sits up straight in their chairs. The tension is high. All eyes are on Detective Cator.)

Detective Cator: The murderer of Tina Budong is…

(There is a suitably dramatic pause.)

Detective Cator: Elly Mint-Fresh!

Elly: What?

Detective Cator: That’s right – the clues are obvious. You’re a liar and have been hiding your real identity all this time!

Elly: What the fuck are you talking about you cis-gendered scum?

Detective Cator: Simple. Allow me to demonstrate.

(Detective Cator pulls out a marker pen and begins writing on the whiteboard.)

Detective Cator: In your statement you wrote that you were working on a blog entitled “White men and their venomous impact on Asia”. Any educator with even an ounce of training will know that although the word “impact” has in colloquial terms come to mean “to strongly influence”, this is technically incorrect. The verb form of impact means “to strike with force”, not “affect”. The noun form of impact can mean “to strongly influence” but the verb form cannot. Furthermore, you began the next sentence with the words “most importantly”. Within the established rules of adverbs, “importantly” means “in an important manner”, hence “most important” would be the correct construction in this case. A genuine English teacher who has been offered the privilege of teaching the young minds of China would know this; therefore you cannot be who you claim to be. Officers! Arrest this woman!

Elly: Noooo!

(Officer Zhang leaps out of his chair and clubs Elly Mint-Fresh around the head – knocking her unconscious. With the help of seventeen nearby police officers – who just happened to be around – they soon succeed in carting her comatose body to the police station. Bryan Scumis and Kevin leave the classroom with grins on their faces. Only Detective Cator and Officer Liang remain in the classroom. Officer Liang shakes the detective’s hand.)

Officer Liang: I have to hand it to you, Cator. I doubted your skills. I thought that English teachers were worthless members of society who had nothing to offer anybody, but you showed me today that I was wrong. Please accept this duty-free box of cigarettes and a bottle of Maotai as thanks.

Detective Cator: You’re welcome, Officer Liang. Just doing my job.

Officer Liang: Tell me, now that you have solved the case of the Tina Budong murder, what’s next for Detective Ed U Cator?

Detective Cator: (The camera zooms in for a close-up) A teacher’s work is never done, Officer Liang. Whenever there is need to sing the numbers one to ten to children: I will be there. Whenever there is a spare five minutes in a school’s New Year performance that needs filling by a foreign man singing the Little Apple song: I will be there. Most of all, whenever a young girl from the countryside absolutely must jerk off a man in exchange for 150 RMB: I will be there. Because, my friend, I am and always will be…

(The camera zooms in even more.)

Detective Cator: AN EDUCATOR!

(Exciting music. Closing titles.)

Caption: Next week’s episode – P is for… Paedo?

Edward Ulysses Cator contemplates his future


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

Ed U Cator: TEFL Detective

A new television detective drama brought to you by Arthur Meursault.


Voiceover: In the aftermath of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, crime and despair had descended upon the once harmonious Middle Kingdom. Without the concept of a unifying effort to rally behind, moral decadence now gripped the hearts and minds of the descendants of the dragon. Terror stalked the lower tier cities. Dogs were raped. Women were eaten. The people cried out for a saviour, but the corrupt police were too busy with their banquets to listen.

An alternative was needed.

A search took place throughout the land for that one man who could help fight crime with astonishing powers of deduction and reason.

Eventually that man was found.

Unfortunately, he was immediately hit by a bus and died.

Instead, the only available hope was a new type of detective. A detective who had ample time to solve mysteries due to only being on a 15 hour per week contract with his school. That man was…

Detective Ed U Cator: TEFL Detective!

SCENE: Funky 70’s music plays over the backdrop of an urban tier-88 cityscape. It’s the type of music that makes a man want to grab a woman by a log fireplace and force her to caress his masculine chest hair. Suddenly a red sports car is seen pulling up beside a police station. The camera then totally ignores the sports car to centre on an overweight foreign man in his 40s riding on a beaten-up e-bike. Huge letters in an aggressive yellow font zoom out to announce the title.

TITLE: Edward Ulysses Cator is…


The foreign man on the bicycle pulls out a bottle of erguotou from his jacket pocket and takes a swig. After a brief sick, he turns to the camera and smiles. His yellow broken teeth demonstrate his Britishness.


A montage of exciting scenes commences. Detective Cator handcuffing a trio of sex traffickers; Detective Cator singing in front of a Kindergarten; Detective Cator rolling over a car bonnet with a murderer in a headlock; Detective Cator stood in a Kindergarten office demanding to know why he hasn’t received his salary yet; Detective Cator firing a gun into a suitcase full of drugs; Detective Cator in front of a room of children crying over a photo of his ex-wife and kids who he hasn’t seen in 6 years.

A huge explosion fills the screen.


SCENE: The camera opens on an average tier-88 police station. Faded posters cover the walls carrying bold statements like “REPORT A FOREIGNER TODAY” and “COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS A CRIME UNLESS APPROVED BY THE GOVERNMENT”. Behind sturdy wooden desks, several diligent police officers bravely do their part in the fight against crime by sleeping. However, two officers are awake: Officer Rocky Zhang and Officer I Like World of Warcraft Liang (English name chosen by himself). The two officers are inched over a series of grisly photographs depicting a murder scene.

Officer Liang: The facts still don’t make sense to me, Officer Zhang. For the sake of clarity, and needless exposition, would you mind just walking me through the details again?

Officer Zhang: No problem, Officer Liang. Even though it makes no sense why I would didactically recite the basic facts of a murder case to my close colleague when we’ve obviously been working on the case for some time, I shall proceed to do so.

Officer Liang: That’s what makes you a great police officer, Rocky!

Officer Zhang: Yes, that and my shoot-to-kill policy towards elderly Falun Gong practitioners. Anyway, let’s go over it again. Victim is a mid-twenties Caucasian female named Tina Budong who was grossly overweight by our harmonious standards. Her body was found at the stairwell of her apartment by an elderly neighbour who tried to recycle her. Cause of death appears to be either massive damage by a blunt weapon to her head and body, or a Pumpkin Spice Latte deficiency. Forensics aren’t sure yet. We’ve tried to analyse her intestines, but the pure vegan diet that this feminine expatriate adhered to has made it impossible for any of our laboratory team to be in the same room as her stool sample for more than one minute. So far we haven’t managed to find any further clues.

Officer Liang: It’s certainly a mystery. No leads. No clues. I just don’t know what we’re gonna do. If we don’t solve this case soon then the resultant loss of face for our department will be worse than that time the Chief of Police was caught in a cheap hotel room… with his wife.

Officer Zhang: (Shudders) The shame. A man of his seniority should never have contemplated sleeping with his wife. What was he thinking?

(The two officers sit silently for a moment)

Officer Zhang: You know, there is one man who might be able to help us. Have you heard about that new maverick laowai detective who assisted Officer The Diaoyu Isles are Ours Chen in the fake fake milk powder scam?

Officer Liang: Hmmm. You mean that fat freelance guy who worked out that the fake milk powder was actually real milk powder so the resellers were losing out on profit?

Officer Zhang: That’s the one!

Officer Liang: How did we find him again?

Officer Zhang: He was stood on Zhongshan Road handing out leaflets for No. 8 Happy Giraffe Kindergarten and on the back of the leaflets he had scribbled a note claiming that he was a freelance detective. Apparently he has a lot of time on his hands as he only has a 15 hour per week contract with his school. We could give him a call and get his take on the case.

Officer Liang: That’s not a bad idea, Rocky. Just do me a favour: make sure he comes over here to the station rather than we visit him. I know how these foreign teachers live and I don’t feel like walking up six flights of stairs in a grotty apartment that doesn’t even have an elevator.

Officer Zhang: I’m on it! I’ll send him a WeChat message right away…


SCENE: A large interview room within the police station containing several empty desks and stools. Officers Zhang and Liang wait patiently upon the stools while smoking. A large whiteboard covers the front wall of the room covered in facts and details about the case.

Officer Liang: I thought you said he was due at 2pm? He’s already an hour late.

Officer Zhang: He sent me a message to say that he’d be late. His school re-arranged his schedule at the last moment without notifying him and he had to teach a bunch of special needs kids that pay double. He’s on his way.

Officer Liang: He’d better be. It took me all morning to write all those case details up on the board. If he…

(The door suddenly swings open and an overweight man in his mid-forties bounces into the room. Detective Cator has arrived)

Detective Cator: Hello everybody!

Officers Liang and Zhang: Erm…. hello?

Detective Cator: Hello! I’m Detective Ed U Cator! Do you know how to spell Ed U Cator?

(Detective Cator uses the edge of his food-stained sleeve to wipe off all the case notes that Officer Liang wrote on the whiteboard. He grabs a marker pen and replaces it with the words ED U CATOR in large letters)

Officer Liang: My notes!

Detective Cator: Ssssh, no talking in class. Now, I’m going to throw this small rubber ball around the room and when you catch it I’d like you to tell me your name and something interesting about yourself. Catch!

(He throws a small ball towards Officer Zhang)

Officer Zhang: Erm… My name is Officer Zhang Lei, but you can call me Rocky. I am a police officer. My hobbies are eating and sleeping, do you know it?

Detective Cator: Very good, Rocky. Now pass the ball over to your friend there.

(Officer Zhang flips the ball to Officer Liang who throws the ball to the ground in disgust)

Officer Liang: We’ve no time for this – there’s a woman dead in the autopsy room and we need to find the killer. We need your help Cator, but if you cock up then it’s my ass on the line. You understand? Your cock-up – my ass!

(Officer Zhang flashes his colleague a brief look of confusion)

Detective Cator: Don’t worry! I am not just a teacher – I am Ed U Cator! And I will solve this as easy as A, B, C…

Officer Liang: That’s a relief to hear, Cator.

Detective Cator: …D, E, F, G…

Officer Liang: Erm… you can stop now.

Detective Cator: …H, I, J…

Officer Liang: Stop it!

Detective Cator: Oh, ok. Sorry about that. Sometimes it’s hard to forget about the day job. Show me the facts.

Officer Zhang: (He places some photos of the corpse in front of the Detective) This is the victim, Sir. One Tina Budong. American citizen. Had been in China for only six months. Her body was found like this.

Detective Cator: I see. She was obviously attacked in a very vicious fashion. I can see that there has been massive damage to the heads, shoulders, knees and toes.

Officer Zhang: And the eyes, and ears, and mouth, and nose.

Detective Cator: Hmmm. Heads, shoulders, knees and toes… knees and toes. What could it mean?

Officer Liang: Do you think you can help?

Detective Cator: It won’t be easy, but I think that it’s possible. With a case this serious I’ll have to create my own lesson plan first. I just hope that the school photocopier is working. Give me a call in two days and I’ll let you know what I’ve deduced. In the meantime, I’d like you both to write 250 words about your hometown. Now you’ll have to excuse me gentlemen, one of my students is waiting outside and I need her to help top up my phone credit.

(Detective Cator leaves)

Officer Liang: Mao damnit… are you sure about this guy?

Officer Zhang: I know he’s eccentric, but they say he’s one of the best. (He picks up a pen and opens his notebook) How do you spell “delicious” in English? I want to write about the sweet and sour chicken in my hometown.

Caption: Two days later…

Scene: Back in the police station. Officers Zhang and Liang are back behind their desks.

Officer Liang: Where the hell is he? He was supposed to report to us today on his findings!

Officer Zhang: I’m not quite sure. Officer The Diaoyu Isles are Ours Chen did warn me that sometimes Detective Cator gets a bit depressed and can sometimes go quiet. He did leave me a voicemail at three o’clock in the morning though.

Officer Liang: Who the fuck leaves voicemail? Anyway, let’s hear it.

(Officer Zhang pulls out his phone, accesses his voicemail and puts it to speaker)

Voice of Detective Cator: (The voice is very slurred) Wei, wei, wei, wei, wei, wei? Fucking wei! That’s all you bastards ever say. Wei, wei, fucking wei! I fucking hate this place. I fucking hate this job. I’m Ed U Cator! I’m fucking better than this, you fucking cunts. Eight yuan for erguotou? It tastes like fucking piss. Fucking school. Don’t trust these cunts. I wouldn’t be teaching these fucking brats if that whore wife of mine hadn’t left me. Barbara! Why? Whhhhyyyy? I loved you! Just let me speak to the kids. Just once. Pleeeasssse. Fucking Chinese fucking…

Officer Zhang: (Hitting mute) It goes on like that for another twenty minutes. I guess he meant to call somebody else.

Officer Liang: Hmmm. I’ll give him two more days to let him recover. He’d better come up with some results fast though, otherwise I’ll be taking a very close look at his work visa. A very close look indeed.

Voiceover: Will Detective Ed U Cator catch the foul murderer? Has Detective Ed U Cator been working illegally on a tourist visa? And just how will he stretch his measly teaching salary to cover his alcohol expenses? Find out in the next thrilling episode of Ed U Cator: TEFL DETECTIVE!

To be continued…


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

White working-class men aren’t allowed to write poetry… but here’s some anyway.

Pretty accurate

A few months ago I had the pleasure of throwing myself back into that most enjoyable of activities: moving house. Moving house is always a wonderful exercise – my favourite aspect is always dealing with those efficient and responsive people who work at some of the globe’s finest internet service providers. It has been a few years since I last moved house so I was astonished at how much their service level has improved in the interim. This time it only took me four months to successfully relocate my internet connection.

While going through boxes of junk, I stumbled upon some note books from my younger years. Immediately upon opening the books a dark cloud of self-indulgent adolescent emotion flew out of the pages and infected my surrounding neighbourhood. A group of passing teenagers were unfortunately quite badly contaminated and have now got heavily into grunge music and experimenting with razor blades.

Now, everybody knows that white working-class men aren’t allowed to write poetry. The art is solely reserved for those with better families, better educations and better connections. There may have been a time in the more aspirational 1950s, ’60s and ’70s when bright young talents were plucked out of their council estates and given a chance at a better life by admitting them into a Grammar School, but thankfully we live in more enlightened times today. The Arts are firmly back in the hands of the bourgeoise, with the exception of a few publishing deals and scholarships thrown to ethnic minorities and women to make everybody feel better. We are so lucky to be living on the right side of history, aren’t we?

I took this photo. The following Wednesday I popped my head round to see what these drama classes entailed and it was just an empty room with two women having a conversation about whether they needed to print more flyers.

Browsing through some of my younger self’s poems, I discovered that the exact same realisation had occured to me over fifteen years ago. Here’s one poem that I remember writing after watching a bunch of overly-privileged luvvies slapping each other on the back on BBC2’s Late Review and telling each other how wonderful they all were.

Fuck Byron

I will not see my father die,

On a deathbed he won’t lie,

And I’ll not hear his final sigh,

I’ll work instead.

I will not meet the perfect girl,

We’ll never dance, we’ll never twirl,

No poems on her hair that curls,

That’ll be unsaid.

More with a slapper I’ll get pally,

And fumble in a backstreet alley,

She’ll notch me on her bedpost tally,

Perhaps I’ll pay.

And as children we never played,

But wondered who would first get laid,

We never skipped along the glade,

That would seem gay.

Scenes like this aren’t for the masses,

They’re only enjoyed by upper classes,

Or in the heads of literary asses,

A false concept.

So I’ll not hold my dying dad,

He wouldn’t want that from his lad,

I’ll go to work and feel sad,

And soon forget.

Looking back on that poem I can’t believe how woefully immature I was back then. Just look at that pathetic usage of metre, rhythm, verse and rhyming. Here in #2017 I now know that proper poetry should be blank verse, contain no rhyme, and is only fit for publishing if it mentions homosexuality, the suffragettes or racism: preferably all three.

Still, talent I may not have possessed, but foresight seems to have been mine. Here’s one poem that analysing my life so far has turned out to be stunningly accurate and probably will continue to remain so.

The Evolution of Man

At one he didn’t know what to think.

At ten he wanted to conquer the world.

At twenty he wanted to conquer the girl he adored.

At thirty he wanted to conquer the job he abhorred.

At forty he wanted to conquer his children’s ambition.

At fifty he wanted to conquer his medical condition.

At sixty he wanted to conquer his world.

At seventy he didn’t know what to think.

Any example of poetry written by young people wouldn’t be complete without some good old-fashioned emo-wallowing on not getting enough sex – it’s the stuff that indie band dreams are made of. I wasn’t cool enough to join a band or learn how to play guitar, so I wrote crap poetry instead. Here’s a couple of examples, again containing that pesky use of verse and rhyme. Don’t worry though readers – I’ve since matured considerably and brushed up on my Maya Angelou. Now I finally understand what great poetry should be.

Old Man Love

Here he comes, Old Man Love,

With helmet of steel and an iron glove.

He comes on a horse as black as the night,

Fiery eyes gleaming and burning bright.

With weapons of sex, passion and lust,

He reduces strong men into nothing but dust.

Hunting’s his game, the thrill of the chase,

Breaking men’s hearts by swinging his mace.

Trailing behind are the hearts he has gained,

Each one blackened, shattered and strained.

Slowly he counts them, one by one,

Spearing them all until they’re all gone.

The day’s work is done, he has enough hearts,

Steadying his horse he turns and departs.

Tomorrow he’ll be back to collect even more,

Be careful, my friend, avoid Old Amour.


The Dead Man at a Wedding

A friend of mine

Whom I had not seen for a long time

Invited me to his wedding yesterday

I went, but it wasn’t easy

For you see, I was dead

I had been dead for some time

It was terribly inconvenient

But I went anyway

A dead man went to a wedding

In the church I sat on the back row

Decomposing slowly down the pew

And as the couple exchanged vows

When two became one

I slowly fell apart

Letting the worms nibble away my insides

Later the bride threw the bouquet

It came flying my way

But I could not catch it

Because I was dead

So it just bounced off my side

Knocking an eyeball out as it did so

The meal afterwards was nice

Though I could not eat anything

For the food just fell through me

And littered the floor

The best man’s sister also complained

That my stench was putting her of her food

So I sat and rotted on the verandah…

… for a little while.

I did not stay for the disco

My dead legs aren’t used to dancing

My friend thanked me for coming

Though his wife didn’t look so sure

She did not like to see

A dead man at her wedding

I caught a taxi home

Lowered myself back into my grave

I left my piece of wedding cake

By the side of my headstone

And let the rats devour it

I haven’t been invited to the Christening

That last example is actually not too bad. You can see that by that time I had discarded punctuation and any attempt at rhyming. Perhaps if I had carried on with the poetry I might have finally mastered the art form and stopped using capital letters too.

Well, that’s enough poetry for one day. Since this is still for the time being a supposedly China-centric blog, I guess it would be wrong of me not to include at least one example of one of my failed efforts at writing a China themed poem. Here you go. In all honesty though: this one is genuinely terrible. Author Simon Clode will enjoy the pot noodle reference though.

The Centre of the World

Dust, dirt, sandstorms and grime,

Dry stinking streets covered in slime,

Discarded pot noodles, packets of tea,

Beijing is really getting to me.

No electricity, everything dim,

Wheezing buses packed to the brim,

A million taxis go BEEP BEEP BEEEE,

Beijing is really getting to me.

People wanting you only for cash,

Others pestering for an English class,

Selfish strangers are sending me crazy,

Beijing is really getting to me.

Life without any deep, happy meaning,

Cheaters smiling but lacking in feeling,

This desert decay makes me feel empty,

Beijing is really getting to me.

Join me next week on this blog when I’ll go back to acceptable topics for white working-class men to write about; namely football, tits, and how fucking terrible they are and how they deserve to be wiped out.


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

This week’s HOT TOPIC: Which is better? Deng or Dung?

Hello Gemerrs!

Over the celebration of the Christ child’s birth, I got the chance to visit lots of rural areas in under-developed countries. When not being asked to give money to perfectly healthy looking people, the one thing that I noticed is that I saw a lot of shit. And I mean A LOT. So much shit that I thought it was going out of fashion. Surrounded by such sheer amounts of shit everyday I couldn’t help but ponder on the following question…

Which is better? Deng Xiaoping or actual cow dung?

During my 4th seven-hour bus journey to nowhere I actually gave some serious thought to this.

In 1949, Mao Zedong told the Chinese people to stand up. Then, in the mid 1970s, Deng Xiaoping told them to sit down again… and perhaps enjoy a glass of fine wine. Ever since that fateful day, the Chinese people of the world (mostly based in China) have been free to earn money, go for handjobs in massage parlours, and exploit black people – just like their privileged evil white male cousins. And they’ve been doing it very well. United Nations League Tables this year have shown that China is ranked 7th in the world for earning money, and 1st for illicit handjobs! Racial persecution is still slightly lacking though: China was listed a disappointing 29th, getting beaten slightly by the Solomon Islands.

Truly, Deng Xiaoping was a great man – but would we have seen the same results with just a piece of cow dung in charge of the Politburo? I’ve identified several key areas where the merits of both Deng and dung can be evaluated. So who will win? 4ft 7 inches tall Deng from Sichaun Province, or a three inch long piece of shit straight from a cow’s arse?

Let’s see!

Round one: Smoking

Deng: 80 a day man Deng Xiaoping was truly the smoking man’s Chairman. Never seen without a packet of Chunghwa in his hand, Deng would often entertain fellow world leaders by smoking up to fifteen cigarettes at one time, whilst blowing smoke rings in the form of Idi Amin’s late mother. Deng also spread the joy of nicotine addiction to millions more within China: by lowering the legal smoking age to just three months in the womb! Deng Xiaoping: with our yellow, nicotine-stained hand, we salute you!

Dung: Anyone who has ever been to a completely organic farm in the Philippines will testify; nothing steams and smokes quite like a freshly laid turd. Once mistaken by the early Celtic tribes of Britain as manifestations of God, cow shit will continue to give off a pleasantly smelling sulphuric mist, until it dries up and goes all hard. The steam emitted from a fresh “moo’ers egg” is so strong, that Napoleon actually covered his ships in layers of shit in order to disguise his navy beneath a layer of mist. Shit’tastic!

Verdict: Due to his ability to smoke not only cigarettes, but also cigars, cigarellos, and erections; Deng Xiaoping wins the smoking round hands down.

Deng 1 Dung 0

Round two: Rotting

Deng: A bit of a latecomer to the wacky world of decomposing; Deng only really started rotting seriously after his death in 1997. Though some of his critics would say that his post-1989 policies were already lifeless and irrelevant, and that his rule has helped to keep in power a corrupt and out-of-touch gerontocracy, Deng only has a history of about twenty years of being genuine wormfood. The man from Sichuan has also lost out to Chairman Mao in the rotting stakes: Deng Xiaoping was cremated after his death, whilst Mao’s rotting corpse continues to pollute the atmosphere in Beijing. A poor performance from the late dictator in this round.

Dung: When it comes to slowly decomposing, breaking down chemically, and emitting nauseous gases: cow dung really is the shit. It’s brown, smelly, and rots in the ground. If I hadn’t already made a cheap joke about Idi Amin’s late mother, I would have just done another one there. In fact, cow dung is so good at fertilising, it was once number one on in the UK for a record 37 weeks under the pseudonym “Bryan Adams”.

Verdict: Cow dung thoroughly trounces Lao Deng in the rotting round, leaving Xiaoping looking timid in the corner and covered in poo.

Deng 1 Dung 1

Round three: Chinese characteristics

Deng: Our Deng is as Chinese as rice, pandas, and female infanticide. One little known fact, is that not only was he born in China, but Deng Xiaoping could also speak Chinese, cook Chinese food, and is rumoured to have held a number of posts on the Chinese government later in life. Mr. Xiaoping loved China so much, that during the Cultural Revolution he actually jumped out of a window so that he could be closer to the Chinese soil. His three children, Cathay, Middle Kingdom, and Sick Man of the East, are all named after the country he loved. When once asked at a state function in 1987 what his favourite country was, his famous reply was “Probably China”.

Dung: Pathetic. Cow dung displays about as much Chinese characteristics as Big Macs, the French, and rational thinking in the face of justified criticism. Let’s look at the facts: Can’t use chopsticks. Doesn’t like Chinese food. Has no concept whatsoever about “One Country, Two Systems”. Doesn’t take selfies. Can’t name even one Chinese dynasty. Doesn’t harass westerners on the streets of Beijing for free English lessons. It’s about time somebody went up to Mr. Cow Poo and told him: “If you don’t like China, you can go home!” That’ll show him.

Verdict: Following in the footsteps of Fu Manchu, Ming the Merciless, and Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid films, Deng Xiaoping shows his Chinesey-ness with pride. Cow dung, on the other foot, just proves itself to be a running dog of the imperialist, capitalist, scum.

Deng 2 Dung 1

Winner: DENG XIAOPING! Well done Sir!


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

The Pigeon Responds!

It’s Chinese New Year… which means the arsenal of fire crackers exploding outside my door make it impossible to compose a proper blog post. Plus, several discounted bottles of baijiu are also not helping the cause.

So, in place of a carefully crafted series of witty bon mots, instead we pass this week’s soap box to one Simon Clode – author of the book The Last Flight of the Pigeon that was reviewed here last week. You may recall that I dissected this prose as particularly and peculiarly Partridgean… and Simon has responded in the same vein. Rather than cut-and-paste his response to my review here, I instead encourage you to pop over to his blog and take a look at it yourself. It’s a masterclass on how to reply to book criticism.

Now where did I put that baijiu? I’m feeling dangerously sober…


Celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Cock by purchasing my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that also features a giant Chinese cock. It was meant to be.

Book Review: The Last Flight of the Pigeon by Simon Clode

Disclaimer: Normally when I write book reviews I add a little disclaimer that, unlike all my other posts, it is written in a spirit of some seriousness. That will not be the case today though. A second disclaimer: this review is going to be packed with references to British culture that will only be resonant with British men of a certain age; so if you’re American or under the age of 25 you might as well log off now and go look at Buzzfeed or something. Third disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book by the author to review who wrote: “[I] would love it if you would review Last Flight of the Pigeon. It’s deliberately not a book aimed at China experts or people who’ve been here long enough to claim anything more than a visit. You can savage it as much as you like, it was a hobby project to fill the hours of visa limbo I willfully put myself through. Is that a defensive enough proposal for you?”

Last Flight of the Pigeon is a structurally sound, inoffensive and workman-like account of an Englishman in his early thirties who decides for no reason at all to cycle from Beijing to Kashgar. Why he decides to do this is beyond me. His passion for navigating by bicycle between one pollution-heavy city to another is never fully explained in the book. Such Quixotic endeavours have never made sense to me. I can understand the desire to conquer more primal challenges – like wanting to sleep with a redhead or trying to finish a triple-deck cheeseburger in order to get a discounted lunch – but I personally can’t relate to those people who want to put themselves through extreme physical punishment in order to climb a rock or walk really, really far. The response of some mountain climbers to why they put themselves through the ordeal of climbing a mountain is “because it’s there”. I still don’t get it. As Jasper Carrott once noted, an elephant’s bottom is also “there” but you don’t see many people trying to climb up them.

The title is a misnomer. The “pigeon” in Last Flight of the Pigeon isn’t one of the feathered variety that are rumoured to carry TB and Jack Duckworth used to keep in his back yard on Coronation Street, but actually one of the iconic “Flying Pigeon” bicycles that were China’s mainstays before everybody decided to become cunts and drive Audis instead. Simon points out that it was actually meant to be “Flying Dove” but since there is no differentiation in Chinese between the words “dove” and “pigeon” the translation came out slightly less poetical than intended. At least a popular chocolate bar managed to get the translation right otherwise I’d be sat writing this whilst chomping on an unappetising bar of hazelnut pigeon.

(For a book saturated with obscure British pop-culture references, I’m upset that Simon didn’t include John Shuttleworth’s classic Pigeons in Flight at any point)

However, after about four chapters of Simon writing in detail about his efforts in buying a Flying Pigeon bicycle, his desire to want to ride a Flying Pigeon from Beijing to Kashgar, the history of the Flying Pigeon, a long list of the Flying Pigeon’s technical aspects, and what the Flying Pigeon means to him, China and the world… the Pigeon breaks down on the very first day of Simon’s bike trek before he’s even left Beijing and he covers the rest of the 4,999 kilometres to Kashgar on the back of a Giant mountain bike instead. (“Giant” is a brand of bicycle by the way, I didn’t mean that he was actually riding a giant mountain bike. That would be preposterous. As far as I know the author only has normal sized legs.) So after all the initial build-up, the Last Flight of the Pigeon turns out to be a short ride out to the fifth ring-road. Despite this, the title remains unchanged, though I personally would have changed it to Riding on the Shoulders of Giants.

Safely ensconced on his new mountain bike, Simon then proceeds on his 5,000 kilometre journey to Kashgar. To give credit to Simon, with Last Flight of the Pigeon he has really managed to create an astonishing writerly achievement, as reading the book genuinely felt like I was riding 5,000 kilometres to Kashgar. I felt every single one of those kilometres. Every. Single. One. I have to admit that I almost gave up on Last Flight of the Pigeon more than once, but luckily for the author I was on my Christmas holiday in a third-world country with several very long car journeys to endure, so with nothing better to do I persevered to the end.

It’s remarkable how little anything of interest happened to the author during his long journey to Xinjiang. Apart from one or two incidents with sand storms and the hazards of attempting to pitch a tent within one, the journey is mostly a catalogue of tyre punctures, checking into hotels and what he had for lunch each day. At the back of the book is a list of all the statistics that were accomplished during the journey. One of the stats is that 51 pot noodles were consumed during the journey. This is certainly true as almost every single one of those pot noodles is mentioned in the book. Being the sad bastard that I am, I actually did a Ctrl+F search through the book and counted mentions of 32 of those 51 pot noodles.

The author doesn’t provide much background on himself or why he decided to move to China, but we do learn that he previously worked in the public sector back in the UK. His public-sector background shows as anyone who has had to work in the competitive private-sector would never have the ingrained habit of writing long statistic heavy reports that nobody reads. At times I felt that a Project Manager approach had been used to formulate the book. I could imagine the creation of each chapter… a long list of boxes waiting to be ticked off one by one and inserted into each chapter before it felt complete.

Something like this

Each chapter cycles (ha!) through the same structure: description of the journey so far, pot noodles, some historical facts thrown in on the particular town or city featured in that chapter, a handful of comedy references to spice up the writing, and a couple of lazy liberal sideswipes at how awful UKIP is or how the British are bigots to show that he has the correct opinions on things. Sometimes the references to British culture from the 1980s or 1990s can be really obscure – even when I myself am a British man who grew up in the 80s and 90s. The book should come with a trigger warning to Americans that it contains dangerously obscure references to Ed Miliband and Kajagoogoo. This brings me to my next point about the book: it’s difficult to understand who the audience is that the author has in mind to read the book. Non-British will find most of the language and references baffling, Old China Hands will find nothing new here about the country, and those without an interest in China may not be interested in it at all. Sometimes I felt that the book was intended for the author alone.

If it sounds like I’m being a bit harsh on Last Flight of the Pigeon: you’re right. The book is largely inoffensive (apart from the asinine virtue-signalling swipes about the British and colonialism) and there are people who enjoy such books detailing long journeys from Point A to Point B – Simon would probably get along very well with Christopher Rehage who wrote about walking from Beijing to Urumqi. Unfortunately, I’m much more degenerate than Simon and prefer a bit more colour in my stories. The author freely admits that he wrote the book as a hobby project when going through a period of not having very much to do. It’s an unpretentious book that doesn’t pretend to be anything that it isn’t.


About three-quarters of my way through Last Flight of the Pigeon, a remarkable revelation hit me. Prior to reading the book, I had just completed Nomad by Alan Partridge which also features a journey by the renowned broadcaster and radio DJ. In Alan’s case it is a journey by foot from his beloved Norwich to a nuclear power station in Dungeness. The more I read Last Flight of the Pigeon the more I slowly realised that it wasn’t about cycling from Beijing to Kashgar at all. No. Last Flight of the Pigeon is in fact an affectionate tribute to Alan Partridge written by a true aficionado. The similarities between Alan and Simon are startling:

  • Both spend a lot of time sleeping in motels.
  • Both seem to only communicate with hotel receptionists and/or petrol station attendants.
  • Both have weird fascinations with vehicular transportation and like to describe it in detail.
  • Both talk constantly about their obscure hometowns and music that ordinary people have forgotten about.
  • Both have strong views on the pedestrianisation of city centres.

There were moments within the book that were straight out of Partridge:

“So before we get to that point I should make two things clear. First, they are both very clever people.”


“There is more to Xinjiang than this”


“These establishments always – and I mean always – possess at least one angry dog. This one was no exception.”


“Other journeys of a similar length include: for fans of a good time – Dublin to Galway; for fans of Didcot Parkway – Bristol to Oxford to London; for people on Spring Break – Los Angeles to Tijuana; for EU workers wanting a filthy weekend away – Brussels to Amsterdam; and for residents of North London – It’s like cycling around North London a lot, whilst refusing to acknowledge anywhere else exists.”


“Where are you from?”
“I’m British.”
If inquisitor is female – “Are you married?”
“Why not? How old are you?”
“31, but I have a girlfriend in Beijing”


And how could one read the following beautiful Partridgean-style quote and not be in any doubt that Last Flight of the Pigeon is actually the finest Partridge fan-fiction ever created?

“When I wasn’t sleeping in a tent near a graveyard, rubbish tip, or jaw-dropping scenery, I would be frequenting one of China’s business hotels. They often award their own stars but by global standards, they’re somewhere around two or three. What is not in doubt is the value they provide. I didn’t pay more than £35 a night, the average price was under £20, and some were as cheap as £12.

Five-star they may not be, but more often than not you get at least one bed and a clean bathroom with a powerful shower. You don’t need more than that, but how best to maximise the Chinese business hotel experience on a bicycle journey I hear you ask.”


Once I realised that Last Flight of the Pigeon was actually a love-letter to Alan Partridge, my whole perception of the book changed. I began to read the book with Alan’s voice in my head. Immediately it transformed from a dry account of a long bicycle journey to a hilarious experience of one man struggling to find his place within the universe. I then proceeded to enjoy the book immensely.

Oh, and I also enjoyed the stunning finale to the book when the author announces, for no reason at all, that he has herpes. I certainly didn’t see that one coming.

And on that bombshell… all that remains to be said is that Last Flight of the Pigeon is available on Amazon. If you’d like to see more musings from a man who really missed his calling in life to be a provincial radio disk jockey, you can find Simon’s blog here.


If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.