Author: Martin

XXXVI. Grab Rail

From BER (Flughafen Berlin) to Spandau: S9 all the way. I couldn’t find the Berlin Express line. This is slower but there’s enough to do and see: read, revise, see Berlin go by. There’s the Bundestag, the distinctive tiled interior of Hackerscher Markt station. The Hauptbahnhof looks imposing but its glass roof is fragile. The panes are individually cut to fit into the curved roof. When panes break it’s difficult to replace them and wood is used instead. A man sat down next to me. He wore Jeans, he was young. He started looking at me and smiling and I noticed he was building up to something. Then he suddenly asked me about how I was using the camera on my iPad to broadcast myself. I told him I was only watching a recorded classroom video on Chinese Grammar, not broadcasting myself. He seemed disappointed and moved away. Later a girl ran down the carriage and started throwing herself around the pole in the middle of the carriage. I couldn’t understand what the girl was …

A language is a long way

From the guanxi substack newsletter: https://guanxi.substack.com/. If you would like to support this project, please subscribe there. This is post about working through frustration in language learning… It includes various citations from the Zhuangzi, prompted by a WeChat comment of encouragement from Liz, a language teacher who has been a coach to me ever since she assessed my level, helped me get over my fear of speaking Chinese and placed me on a year long course of Mandarin-learning adventure. Don’t worry, a language is a long way, but it’s interesting! (Liz) Teacher/Language Consultant at GoEast Mandarin: Here’s a referral link (https://goeastmandarin.referral-factory.com/RiHNMR/join). Signing up through the link gives you a free lesson, and gives me a free lesson when I renew with GoEast. ‘Way’ is the perfect word to reflect on when frustrated with anything (much better than the over-used ‘journey’), and Zhuangzi is a master of such reflection, hence all the citations… The Way cannot be treated as Something, or as Nothing either. ‘‘Way’’ as a name is what we borrow to walk it. (Chuang-Tzu, A.C. Graham – ‘Rationalising the Way: the …

XXXV. Striking Out Again

It’s a day after a rail strike and the 7:38 train to London is full. I’m on a priority seat, on the inside by the window. The woman on the outside seat let me pass to sit there. She had to get up and stand against an incoming stream. It wasn’t easy. People were rushing through the train to get to the few seats still available. I was lucky to be on the platform at the right place to be first in line standing by the train doors as they opened. A cyclist exited generating an eddy to move in through, un-rushed but firmly and with purpose because I could see a few empty seats. A few seconds determine whether you will sit or stand for fifty minutes. There’s a smell of tea tree oil from the person next to me. Masks do not filter smells. It could be worse. One passenger in twenty wears a mask. Sometimes when people look at me I sense a disapproving or condescending smile aimed at the motive behind …

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 …