My journals get used for many things - bad poetry, clumsy observation, half-formed thoughts, the odd sketch, and other trivial miscellany. Sometimes, my writing takes place in the quiet of the tea-table. It is a conversation with myself, in a way, or a conversation between no-one and no-one else. No purpose, just writing. It just is.
Flipping over the front cover of my current book, I see that it is "Book 37". Even discounting the fact that I skipped "Book 13" due to my much-ridiculed susperstitions, that still leaves three dozen books filled with nonsense. "Book 1" was started in the back seat of my parents' car, as they drove me off to university for my first term as an undergraduate, over twelve years ago. Much has changed since then, but there is something special about having a direct link with the thoughts of this other person whom you once were. Strange, but familiar. Distant, but somehow immediate.
A small portion of my journals, as you will have gathered from the photographs shown on the Half-Dipper, contain thoughts on teas that I drink, which are entwined with my thoughts for the day. There are plenty of examples of my warblings cluttering up old pages here and there on this web-site, which form the subset of my writing that I hope you, Gentle Reader, might find appealing.
Some days I write, some days I just drink, some days I fret, some days I sit contented. It just works out the way it wants to work out. The tea-session is a remarkable experience for me, akin to my zazen or taijiquan. It's something that is easily missed when it is not available.
As I flicked back through the pages of a few journals, I noticed that it has been exactly five months since we began renovating our house, and thus it has been five months since my last tea session, office tea not withstanding. My last tea-related entry was two journals ago! Heavens, has it been so long? Even given the fact that one journal is a haibun of sorts from our recent Chinese wanderings (excerpts of which I shall inflict upon you in due course), that's a lot of ink that has flowed since my tea-table last saw action.
Dusty week-ends, builders coming-and-going, a winter without central heating - the process of renovating an old house is not a light task. However, it is coming to a completion. The closer we get, the more vividly I can taste the tea.
Tea and the process of writing are so closely coupled in my habits. I look forward to excerising myself back at the tea-table.
You know that you've been away a long time when you realise that your fingers have forgotten how to type.
Visiting our Chinese half of the family is always a lovely experience, but I have to admit that it is good to be home.
"What should they know of England
who only England know?"
To me, Kipling's words used to mean "travel the world, broaden your mind".
Now, I feel that the meaning of those words has changed to "the purpose of travelling is to remind yourself how much you love your home".
The Li river, near Guilin, is possibly the only famous sight in China that remains relatively unspoiled, but they're working on it
After travelling the length of China, the thought of returning to our humble house became mightily appealing. Our house may be a building site, with radiators and floors removed, but it's home. After a few weeks, everywhere seems ghastly when compared with the halcyon aura of your home.
We arrived back in Oxford at midnight, greeted by a gentle snowstorm. Lei's mother is staying with us, her first trip outside of China, and the city welcomed her with a full display of its snow-covered beauty.
Almost immediately afterwards, I was sent off to the south coast of Spain for a conference...
(More bad cartoons may be found on my much-neglected Facebook page, as ever)
The tropical Mediterranean climate came as rather a shock, after the snow of Beijing and England.
It takes just six minutes for the sun to rise above the horizon at this time of year
I even found that it was impossible to enjoy a restaurant surrounded by an aquarium without my dear wife to experience it with me. Although it was rather impressive...
I'm probably going to start adopting the practice of the late pope, HH John Paul II, and start kissing the tarmac every time I land at home. It really is great to be back.
I have a few tong of various decent cakes from one of my favourite shops in Beijing (run by a friend of MarshalN, no less), and some others from another decent shop in Maliandao, so please watch your mailboxes for strange samples arriving whenever I finally get around to unpacking.