Author: Martin

Grab vegetables 抢菜, Study Notes, I.

From the guanxi substack newsletter: https://guanxi.substack.com/. If you would like to support this project, please subscribe there. The lockdown in Shanghai is a challenge for the city’s residents. For some it may be an inconvenience, for others it has caused heartache, or worse. It’s a difficult time. As ever it’s worth trying to look beyond the news. For English-language views of what it’s like living in Shanghai at present, have a look at Jaap Grolleman’s most recent posts (https://jaapgrolleman.com/). For a cheerful and optimistic yet sensitive view, see 阿福Thomas’ latest video from Shanghai. Here in the UK, lockdown is a memory. We should keep the memory alive. We must keep learning from what happened.1 Resilience builds on memory. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. What’s the first thing that you think about when you see the situation in Shanghai on the news? Does it affirm your views about China. Does it challenge them? In any case, it’s worth distinguishing between news and real life. News from China is outdated by the time it is covered by western media. …

Just begin again… Learning 中文 after the Olympics. Can Olympic inspiration change your life?

From the guanxi substack newsletter: https://guanxi.substack.com/. If you would like to support me, please subscribe there. Can the Olympics change your life? Yes, why not? Sport models life. Elite sport distills the drama of life in the way theatre does. Everything is heightened: the years of practice and dedication, the suspense, the ups and downs, the triumphs and the disappointments. It would be strange if we couldn’t find something in the grand theatre of the Olympics to inspire us. It seems that all true things must change and only that which changes remains true.1 I’ve rebooted my efforts to learn Mandarin Chinese. The following is a set of thoughts and reflections on how this happened for me. Rewinding briefly, in the Tokyo Summer Olympics last year, I was fascinated by Anna Kiesenhofer’s victory in the cycling road race. She broke away from the field early in the race, then built, and then held her advantage to the surprise and chagrin of favourites picked for the win, mainly riders of an over-confident Dutch team. Here are …

XXXIV. Two trips, apart

This is a well-behaved train-set of passengers. A man with a colourful Amalfi coast themed shirt and a matching mask types noisily. And there’s a mother with her baby. The baby babbles and sings. What’s going on, asks the mother? The baby starts exploring the top of a bottle with its mouth. Direct sensory contact. Singing a sort of whale song. A girl on the table by the side has a water bottle with motivational text by the volume markers. It’s a kind of water clock with instructions on how much to drink by when. The last marker corresponding to 5 pm reads: “You’ve reached your goal, refill.” In the privacy of her row, the woman quiets the baby and a man in round glasses with his hair tied into a little greying bun looks at the baby happily. His round glasses sit low on his nose by the mask. This avoids the glasses steaming up. Outside, scrolling text on the outside of the train says “thank you NHS.” Once upon a time people stood …

XXXIII. Masked

Journey 1 There are more people waiting on the platform than I had expected. The 7:54 is delayed to 8:15 and a number of people take the slower train. Before the pandemic this would have been uncommon. Experienced commuters would know to wait for a delayed faster service. The delay is due to a shortage of train crew says the announcer. A familiar face walks by, a well kept mop of grey hair on a tall man, I remember standing next to him in 2019 at the far end of the platform for a chance to get a seat at the very front of the train for a faster jump out at the other end. He wears a mask lopsidedly, drooping down towards his chin on the right, and he carries a coffee that he might have just bought at the station shop.  The British Rail Class 387/1 comes into the station. It is gloriously empty, like a first class compartment all the way through. My bike goes into the lower part of the luggage …

#15 LZB-AWT-LZB

I ran this route 3 months and 1 day ago on a winter morning. This time it’s a spring afternoon. It is less atmospheric now, but it’s easier to run with the sun. There are moments when you can concentrate on your breath and your steps and on nothing else. Whatever else might have happened on a different path, in a different version of this life, you might well have ended up here on a day like this, running. The inner voice likes differences, real or imagined, between what is and what might be. The differences collapse around fixed points. Fixed points are points where we would always have ended up. They are determined not by choice but by intrinsic pattern and necessity. A run like this is a fixed point. Commutes were fixed points too. Most life-paths will converge at certain routes around certain time-slots. All the versions of yourself meet here. It’s like the inverse of the Frostian choice. The more and the less-traveled paths meet, joined back from a fork. Last time …

Arima Hot Springs and Mount Rokko, I

Free-wheeling downhill through the hot-spring town of Arima I almost hit a rubbish collecting truck at 60km/h. I couldn’t tell you exactly where it was. I can’t read the road signs. I need images to remember things. If you look at a map of Japan it looks a bit like a sausage dog with a long neck. It stands on short hind legs with one of its ears raised. Fukuoka is just above its hind leg and below South Korea. Tokyo is where the front leg is, folded in. Sapporo is the top of the neck.  I’m just above the sausage dog’s navel near Kobe in the town of Arima at about 350 m above sea level. My target up on Mt. Rokko is five-hundred meters higher, fifteen kilometers away. It took KMorita about 34 mins to complete the course at the Arima-Mt. Rokko Race five months ago. KMorita seems to be reference point for virtual cycling in Japan. He won the Digital Japan Cup in UTSUNOMIYA in October. Perhaps I should make Utsunomiya my …

Passo Giau II, Impure

I’m not the only rider this time. I think impure thoughts aimed at overtaking. When I get close to the first rider about a quarter of the way up the climb he speeds up. I stay at a steady 3 w/kg. The relationship between input and output is pure in cycling. That’s part of the draw. It’s what brings others to Passo Giau. Virtual purity. One should be mature enough to interact with one’s fellow virtual riders on positive terms or not at all. Maybe there’s a way of hiding them. I’d like to spend more time in the area. South-east from Cortina d’Ampezzo, it looks like you can take a left rather than the right towards Passo Giau. Then I’d eventually get to Lagole di Calzalzo with a 2500 year old shrine to a deity known in ancient times as Trumusiate. This was an ancient place of healing. A spa of sorts. The website of the local museum says the spa’s resident deity was Apollo. But was Apollo a healer? His son Asclepius is …

Passo Giau I, The Scotland of Italy

A travel writer called the Dolomite Mountains The Scotland of Italy “because of its character and that of its people, and the legendary and historic romance that surrounds them.” It’s an unexpected connection between places. Alexander Robertson wrote his travel book in 1896. We could try and put ourselves in his shoes. What sort of whiskey would you take to the Scotland of Italy to have on the night before an ascent of a famous pass? I chose Laphroaig, not least because there were two bottles available. Laphroaig Select and Laphroaig 10 year-old. They were both peaty. The 10 year-old had a darker colour. I didn’t want to spend very much time getting to know them better on the evening before the ascent. It’s safe to say that Laphroaig’s Select and 10 year-old are closer to each other than Scotland is in style to Italy’s Dolomite Mountains. I had enough comparisons in mind to make my nervous system jittery and to give me trouble sleeping the night before the first climb. A bird was singing …

GCR #14 – RYS – Ashwell – RYS

The use of a gold card is not essential to Gold Card Running. The gold card is now elevated to a mythical, spiritual realm: it explains the first move, the first run, it provides context and meaning tinged with irony as it languishes defunct, de-activated; a redundant relic in a folder somewhere. Perhaps I will never own an active gold card again… Walking and running are more important now that we are more attached to our abodes, snails clinging to our shells, workers of the rebooted cottage industry. Walks are significant events. Some workers of the new cottage industry schedule walks in their work-calendars. As the walk approaches the calendar pings into the virtual meeting. A run gives you greater variation and more distance. The only reason to walk when you can run is that you’re tired or you want to talk at the same time. I believe the home will assume a startling new importance in Third Wave civilization. The rise of the prosumer, the spread of the electronic cottage, the invention of new …

GCR#13 – BDK-RYS (top)

Running means self-isolation, I have never understood the point of running in a group. The pace of others distracts from one’s own. In Bath, runners wore face masks at a half-marathon staged in the twilight of free movement just before the realisation of viral risks had sunk in. The organisers engaged in hermeneutics of government apocrypha to justify their position. The Class 700 to Baldock is empty. Sunlight flashes on the blue hand-holds attached to each seat designed for passengers to hold on to when they must stand. 3 people get on at Baldock and I get off. I decide to take the “top” route to the hills towards the chalk escarpment of Therfield Heath. A bird of prey circles by the motorway and I overhear a father telling his two boys that it is looking for lunch. The motorway is proportionally busier than the train. A police-van drives down towards me and its driver waves. A cyclist passes telling me as he passes that he hadn’t expected so much wind. Driving lessons are in …