You may have noticed, dear readers, that this blog has gone quiet in recent months. On the one hand that was inevitable after five years of regular pontificating without payment – anathema to the professional journalist. On the other hand, there’s more to life than running, and talking/writing about it. I have been waiting for an appropriate time to inform you as to the reasons for my absence, and one of them has recently surfaced; in the China Daily newspaper, no less. So, here we go…..
As a former champion runner back in the United Kingdom a few years ago – OK, many years ago – I learned the importance of timing. I didn’t have to be a Usain Bolt wannabe to realize that you can lose a middle-distance race by one hundredth of a seccond just as easily as a sprinter can in a 100 meters. My friends and acquaintances would say it’s a shame that my recognition of the tyranny of the stopwatch didn’t extend to respect for the clock, since I was frequently late for meetings. My excuse remains that winning or losing by a hairsbreadth meant that I needed more latitude off the track.
Of course, they are different examples of timing; and here’s another one that’s afflicting me at the moment. Having retired from a job which took me to the four corners of the earth over the past 30 years, I arrived in Beijing recently, with a view to finding an apartment for a few months, in order to start learning Chinese. And since I still run most days, albeit more slowly than those ‘few years ago’ my stipulations for flat-hunting were that it had to be near a park and a subway. Now, unlike my home in London, that cuts down the options considerably.
I met a young Beijinger in New York a few years ago. He’d just visited London for the first time, and I asked what he thought of the English capital. Eyes wide, he replied, “It’s like a big park”. OK, so London has a lot of parkland, and Beijing doesn’t. But what Beijing does have a lot of at the moment is smog; which has meant that while staying in a hotel initially, I was able to use the heath club, to plod on the dreaded (for me) treadmill; but when I moved to a friend’s place for the weekend, there was no escape. I could barely go outdoors.
Now, Beijingers don’t need me to tell them that pollution levels have been ‘hazardous’ for days. But for those few China Daily readers elsewhere in the world who remain oblivious, I’ve even seen young guys who you could describe as ‘macho’ wearing face masks on the street. Smart kids!
“Has this put you off staying here?” asked one of my Chinese friends. It’s certainly given me pause. There are a lot of good Chinese teachers in London. But it’s just not the same is it? I’ve got a pal in Hainan, who tells me the air quality is among the best in China – whatever that means. But as much as I detest smog, my fair hair and white skin means I equally hate the sun for long periods.
So, dear Beijing friends, here I am, for better or for worse, sorry, for worst. I’m still looking for an apartment near a subway and a park. But don’t rush to email me yet. I can just about see the neon sign for the restaurant across the street, but that’s because it’s big and red. I can see little else but haze. And I won’t be going to the restaurant anyway. If I can’t run, I need to diet.
If you want to see the original, follow the link –china daily article