So we got back. And what's the first thing I see in my email after getting back? The news, thanks to a certain Monsieur Guerel, that the All Blacks lost. Well, I can't say I'm surprised, and judging by the comments in that article, it seems like the latest entry in the All Blacks' long and distinguished record of choking as soon as the tournament turns to sudden death. Of course, there's also the usual wave of childish hyperbole, as if a loss in the world cup were in anyway equivalent to Lake Taupo erupting, an earthquake in Wellington, Poverty Bay winning the Ranfurly Shield and NPC first division, and the capital shifting to Auckland, all at the same time. Take, for example, Stu Wilson's:
The country is in mourning. They've now got to be prepared for the tsunami wave of criticism from the fans and the media,
Well, he's right about the fans and the media, but mourning? Maybe that's why we wear black all the time- that way we're ready for the inevitable disappointment.
And I suppose I should point out that that article is headlined:
Inquest begins into shock All Blacks exit
Uh, right. Inquest? Grow up. Shock? They lost to France, not America. That's a reasonable opponent to lose to- France can really turn on the magic when they get going. No shame there, and no shock. Grow up.
But you'd think by now I was thoroughly sick and tired of ranting at the childish rubbish that passes for New Zealand's mainstream media.
Anyway, I promised Monsieur Guerel that if France make it to the final, I'll be cheering them on, and I'm going to stick by that. Especially if France faces Australia or England, but I'll support them regardless of who they face. And if France make it to the final, I'll be watching in the Den (wife permitting, of course) with a big black t-shirt on with a silver fern on my chest. Why? Because I don't have anything resembling a French shirt, and France beat us fair and square in what seems to have been a damn good match, so in my back NZ colours count as French colours for the final.
So we're back in Beijing.
The weather really did clear up yesterday afternoon, not just the fake clearing of the day before, and so this morning dawned bright and clear, although with broad streaks of cloud high in the stratosphere, and cold. It was actually a pretty spectacular sunrise, the kind you don't often see in China, air crystal clear, clouds and mountains on both sides of the basin sharply outlined, the sky between the clouds a hard, steely, cobalt blue, and the sun rising orange through the clouds over the Jundushan pretty much smack over Badaling. Brilliant. But cold. A sharp northerly blew up overnight, and judging by what we saw as the bus entered Beijing proper, it did the same job on the plain as it did on our mountains and basin.
Coming into Beijing the sun was setting bright orange through the clouds over the Xishan, the hills themselves starkly outlined, visible not just from the Badaling Expressway, but from the East Third Ring. One of those brilliantly perfect days Beijing turns on every now and then just to remind you how beautiful this city can be. Still, from what I remember of New Zealand folk meteorology (and New Zealand is a nation even more obsessed with the weather than Pommieland), that orange sky was not a good omen- red sky at night, shepherds delight, remember. And what does CCTV 1's nightly weather forecast predict? A low of eight tonight and a high of eighteen tomorrow. Not too bad, but a pretty solid reminder of what's in store over the next few weeks. And there's the hint of more of that north wind, but we'll see.
But we're back. We're cleaned up- seven days without a shower, man, it's not cold enough yet for us to not develop a noticeable fragrance- but we're cleaned up now.
And before we left we helped bring in one last load of corn. Apparently there's still a corn field to be harvested, so it's a "last load" only from our point of view. But still, even accounting for the fact that they only managed to get two mornings worth of harvest in while we were up there, it doesn't seem like much. National Day last year they bought in three full days worth, if not four, two loads per day. Still, this morning I watched the humidity indicator on our thermometer plummet as the wind did its work, and it looks like the weather is going to hold, so here's hoping... But lzh did just tell me that the growing season got off to a chilly start. I don't know, I'm not a farmer.
And we lost a lamb this morning. Not lost like we don't know where we put it. Lost like it's gambolling about the great pasture in the sky. The lamb in question was a sickly wee one that had lost its mother (I guess its mother was what was feeding us all week, but I have no proof other than the fact there was no shortage of mutton) and Ma had been feeding it out of a bottle. Still, the lamb, as all small children are wont to do, was looking for a new mother of its own species, but the ewes would only chase it away. Well, that's what ewes do, they only raise lambs that smell like their own offspring. Apparently one ewe had had enough of this wee lamb and late last night knocked it for six. She smacked that lamb so hard that she woke Ma up, and Ma ran outside to see what was going on. She picked the wee lamb out and laid it down outside the sheep pen where it would be relatively safe. She fed the lamb as per usual before going off to pick corn, but the poor wee one just couldn't last. lzh reckoned her parents would be pretty pissed off- sheep mean income, after all, at least from wool, and occasionally from the sale of a lamb or meat- but all they said- in my presence, at least- was that the dogs would have some extra meat.
And the dogs. Zaizai and Niuniu had puppies. Five in total, but one died, so now there are four, about six weeks old. But four very different puppies. The one who will first catch your eye we named Huo Yuanjia, because he's a tough wee bugger afraid of nothing and always ready for a scrap. The next one to catch my eye I named 笨笨 (Benben). She's the smallest, weakest and slowest, but definitely the cutest, even if only because it's so sad watching her trying to keep up with her sister and brothers. The others can get themselves out of the box and down the steps, and Huo Yuanjia can get back up again, but Benben is often left sitting in the box crying for help. Huanghuang and Baibai I named for their colour, but I don't think those names will stick. They're between Huo Yuanjia and Benben in terms of development and strength, but they're still pretty active and have their own strong points. Yesterday Baibai started trying to bark, and he sounds like he'll have a voice as strong as Zaizai when he grows up. Zaizai can bring the house down and give visitors a real fright when he's in form. Huanghuang isn't too far behind her brother in that respect. But it's fun watching these four puppies, all born at the same time to the same parents, all thoroughly different. Huo Yuanjia is always up for an adventure. Baibai is often running off on his own, hiding some small piece of bone or some other toy. Huanghuang is playing with whoever is available, trying to beat them but getting beaten as often as not. And little Benben is running along behind, trying to catch up, doing her best when she's on somewhere flat with no big steps to get up or down, but always a bit behind. But still, she's always in to whatever her sister and brothers are in to.
Still, it's no fun carrying sacks and baskets of corn weighing from 30 to 50 kilos from the gate right across the yard all the while paying very, very careful attention to the location, direction and velocity of these four unpredictable little puppies lest one do the wee cuties even the slightest bit of damage. Those weights aren't particularly heavy- I mean, my wife weighs less than 50 kilos and I can sling her over my shoulder and run until she smacks my arse hard enough to hurt- but the baskets and sacks are not the easiest kinds of 30 to 50 kilo weights to be carrying- this ain't no gym where everything is designed to make the weight lifted the key and not the shape or texture, this is the real world where a soft and flexible sack becomes as difficult as something twice its weight but rigid to carry, and those baskets are only marginally easier- and so it is not easy to run these sacks and baskets into the yard while paying such careful attention to what you do or do not step on.
But our rural life is over for another three weeks, and tomorrow it's back into the classroom for me- and I suspect that may mean bawling out a couple of students for plagiarism, just to get the new term off on a good note- and back into research, proofreading, and the occasional bit of translation for lzh. And buses, bicycles, car exhaust, noise, crowds and pollution, too.
Now, about finding a job in Yanqing....