Hi there!Mark Whitworth I am Mark Whitworth -
writer, educator, traveller
and all round good guy.
Welcome to my website.

November 2009

markThe Return of Suzhou’s Prodigal Sun – Part 13

And so we have it...winter has arrived! For the last week temperatures have plummeted, snow has been forecast, windows have been shut and the air conditioners play their clever game of turning into heaters for a few months. It’s only dropped down to just above zero, but there’s been a chill wind, and the long johns have found their way out of the wardrobe.

Two huge pieces of news about friends this week; almost to the hour, Chuck and Lily gave birth to their first son, Christopher William Pollard, and Charlotte Paton married Paul in a ceremony in South London.

Chuck I’ve known for a few years and I’m delighted that at the tender age of 42 (!) he’s having to change nappies and put up with disrupted sleep. My warmest congratulations go out to all three of them. When Lily’s waters broke Chuck had been expecting to head straight off to the hospital, as most of us would. Lily had different ideas and insisted he boil some chicken and pigeons eggs before they left; Chuck admits that he didn’t visualise the birth of his first child being anything like this!

Charlotte is the sister of my Godson and daughter of two of my old friends from college. It seems odd that friend’s children are now getting married; obviously it makes me feel old! It’s been over thirty years since Bram, Charlotte’s Dad, and I first met, back in the October of 1976 at Leeds University and their family is one of the ones that I miss a great deal, being away from the U.K. So, my very best wishes go out to Charlotte and Paul. Just to provide a link here, I’m pretty sure that I’ve changed Charlotte’s nappies in the dim and distant past!!

Another mate with a dodgy past is Mister David Tyrer. Again a long standing friend, Dave recently sent me a link to a website displaying his photos of Scottish wildlife. May I seriously recommend that you all have a look at these shots; some of them are stupendous. Can you believe he’s giving up still photography for video? Dave...keep shooting!

markAnd so...finally...someone is publishing my writing. Not quite what I’d expected, but it has to be done. I never really wanted to be a travel writer but it seems that’s what is in demand, I never wanted to blog, but that’s what is asked for, and I didn’t really want to be paid peanuts, but that’s all that’s going! Echinacities.com is obviously in the process of setting up a trans-China network of information on cities and areas. This link takes you to the Suzhou site, where the cupboard is a bit bare to say the least; obviously they have space to fill. They’re asking for one or two pieces a week, of about 800 words each, which should be easy enough, as long as the research doesn’t take too long.  It should end up paying my weekly bar bill!

The two pieces written so far, “A Tale of Two Cities”, which defines a suggested weekend in Suzhou, and “Pints in the Park” , which is a guide to the best bars in Suzhou Industrial Park, are shortly to be joined by a third, which I’m tempted to call “Smashed in Suzhou”, which will be a guide to bars in the old town. If you don’t live in Suzhou obviously the pub guides are not a lot of use, but it would probably be interesting to have a read of the weekend guide. Oh...do yourself a favour...read “Pints in the Park” as well!

I’m not sure when they’re due to be posted on echinacities.com but I’ll let you know when they are. Whilst I’m disappointed that the first stuff I’ve had published in almost twenty years is going onto a website and that the returns are so low (actually less than I earned twenty years ago!) it makes sense to get some commercial stuff done. It’s not that I need the cash, in fact this next article will cost as much to research as I’ll get from it, but it makes sense to have a made a mark and be able to say, “I did that.”

markWriting is starting to produce some interesting leads, not necessarily money making ones and not necessarily all bar owners (!), but certainly interesting. I’ve started interviewing people in Suzhou for the comparison piece I have been planning, looking at people in the same jobs in China and the U.K. To undertake this project I’ve taken on Luna, a lass from Xi’an, and girlfriend of a friend, to act as interpreter. She’s a very bubbly character and one our most interesting interview to date was with a Buddhist monk who she just plucked off the street. Unfortunately it was the one interview when the digital recorder failed and we had to hurriedly write up everything we thought we had recorded. The project continues.

In my research into Suzhou I came across another website, Real Suzhou, which is run by Yan Qingyun, which I found interesting and I helped Qingyun polish up some of the English. In return she has placed a link to my website and a note of thanks on her own. She also provided me with a link to some older photographs of Suzhou held at the local chronicles office. This site is all in Chinese but if you click on the index icons, double click to expand the pictures and use the “back” key to return to the menu it is possible to find your way around. There is some English, in very small lettering on the photo icons and on some of the photos. This really is worth a visit, although all their expanded photos have copyright bars across them.

markA couple of weeks ago I took my first visit to the Bookworm on Shi Qian Jie. Oddly I’d not been here previously and was quite delighted to find some pretty handy musicians. It’s definitely going to be one for a return visit. I have to do a bit of a crawl down Bar Street to check out venues for the third article I’m doing for echinacities.com. The Bookworm’s a great place; nice to hear a non-Filipino band and good to have a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere in Bar Street! The ride back in Hamish’s sidecar at midnight was also a blast!

Readers of the last journal will have noticed a mention of Santel and my 7-balling him at pool. He’s been decidedly put out that I mentioned this to the world (I don’t think he realises how few people read this!) and has been determined to get his own back. I think he’s trying too hard, only a week later I had him again, all seven on the table and I was idiot enough to scratch on the black; I guess it’s the only pool game he’s ever won with seven of his own balls on the table and nothing else! Santel’s obviously put himself into some intensive training and improved his choice of eye-wear because in the last few days he’s been playing blindingly good pool. Let battle recommence! P.S. Try Googling seven ball Santel!

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