Hi there!Mark Whitworth I am Mark Whitworth -
writer, educator, traveller
and all round good guy.
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December 2009

The Return of Suzhou's Prodigal Sun - Part 14

You’ve probably all seen the news about the eight school kids who died in Xiangxiang; they were crushed in a stairwell when they stampeded out of an evening lesson. This is not the first time this has happened here; I believe 2002 was the last such incident.



I think it should act as a salutary lesson to all us teachers that the advice we received in training, to be at the door at the start and end of lessons, should be observed more rigorously; I think it likely this incident may have been prevented if the teacher had done so. It appeared that the school next to where we live had a special assembly yesterday; I suspect they were mourning the dead.

As this will probably be my last journal before the festive season, I guess I should wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. On Christmas afternoon turn off the TV and try to solve the puzzle in "Brittney’s Tale"; as yet no one has succeeded!

I’ve had a pain in the butt session with our favourite Chinese travel agent! C-Trip, who have been consistently good over several years, but went out of their way to irritate me yesterday. I went online to book our Fujian trip and found some excellently priced seats. Progressing through the booking everything went fine until it came to the payment and then the system began to behave weirdly. Firstly it wouldn’t allow me to put in “United Kingdom” as a location for my credit card, although it would allow “Uganda” and “United Arab Emirates”. After working with this issue for a while I overcame the difficulty and proceeded to the authorisation, whereupon the system crashed. After trying this a few times with different cards I decided to phone them; this proved impossible as a flood of white noise issued from their phone system. As a last resort I emailed them with the details.

Some two hours later, while enjoying a quiet pint with my crossword, I received a call from a female clerk at C-Trip. She excitedly explained that she’d made the booking for me and there was no problem. Except...there were two problems! Firstly the price was higher and secondly they would not issue e-tickets so there would be a delivery charge. I stayed quite calm as she explained that prices did change and so forth, it was only when she started to repeat this mantra for the tenth time that I cracked. Again calmly, I explained I was not interested in the tickets, nor was I interested in using C-Trip if I couldn’t book online and receive e-tickets. Her answer surprised me when she said, “It’s too late, and they’re already booked.”

At this stage I told her I was going to put the phone down and contact them by email. I checked the prices again this morning; they’re still advertised at the low offer price I’d first seen. As a result I’ve fired off a letter of complaint pointing out that they are in breach of Chinese Retail Law. I await the reaction!

markA friend of mine in Texas has really taken to the idea that Santel can be Googled on my site by entering “seven ball Santel”. In fact he’s so thrilled that he’s been encouraging others to try it out. In an effort to encourage such activity I’ve determined that the words “seven ball Santel” should appear in as many of my journals as possible. As Bob Seger once said, “If you sing real hard you might just end up on an album.” Well, if we can make a cult figure out of Santel I’m happy to sing real hard! The oddity of this Google search thing is that it only seems to work for Journal 12 and only on Google, when my website pops out top of the list. Any attempt to get the phrase to have a similar affect in other pieces seems to fail; no one has been able to explain this!

So, Frank, keep banging away, get everyone Googling “seven ball Santel” and anyone else who’d like to have a go...just join in...but...remember to visit my website at the same time!

As the wind whistles around our 22nd floor eyrie I’m quite pleased to be inside. It’s actually been warmer for the last two days and we’ve had bit of rain, which is a welcome change. John Taylor has filled me in on the damage up in Cumbria (England’s Lake District) and says there’s significant destruction of farmland that has gone unreported.


My Mom tells me that they’ve had more rain up there than in any of the last 1000 years, but even she points out that the data could be dodgy. With Australia suffering again, the U.S. mid-west being hit by a serious ice-storm, together with other global weather anomalies in the developed countries, it’s quite timely that there should be a few serious events to concentrate peoples’ minds at the Copenhagen summit. I did like the quote from a negotiator, used in the Guardian’s multi-paper editorial, "We can go into extra time but we can't afford a replay." But the fact that is not credited to an individual suggests it could well have been made up! I think I’ve made the point as firmly as I can and it’s interesting that the Economic Tsunami has had the largest number of readers of any of my articles.

My apologies in advance to my Australian and American readers; this next paragraph is highly critical of your governments. This is not a criticism of you, whom I like and admire; it is a criticism of the people you vote for.

The latest news coming out of Copenhagen is not encouraging with China and the U.S. at each other’s throats again. The news a week ago, about  Australia’s parliament failing to back their prime minister’s efforts to put forward a sensible programme, fly in the face of commonsense after recent environmental issues there. In the U.S. the back door approach of reclassifying carbon emissions, as a public safety issue, so as to avoid the need for congressional approval, simply indicates that their Congress is quite clearly as stupid as the Australian’s. It is these two countries that have already delayed constructive and comprehensive action for ten years already and now both, in different ways, are trying to put the blame for failure to reach agreement on China.

markIt’s quite clear that Tuvalu and the Maldives will be lost as nations; it is now too late to stop this. It is equally clear and recognised by all the developed nations, with the exception of Australia and the U.S.A., that it is they that will have to rectify this situation; it is simply not credible to expect China and India to be responsible for the mess the west has made and it is not acceptable to ask them to leave the majority of their people in poverty so as to support the continued gluttony of the richest countries.

I’d like to make it quite clear that I believe it is too late to stop this process, we can only minimise the damage; things are going to get very bad. I have to return to my previous warnings, there is going to be mass migration, this has already started, but in thirty or forty years it will be THE global issue. I still find it incredible that so many heads are stuck so firmly into the sand. Enough!