This file was generated from wmsg.txt
My passport is dead. I did not renew it because of lack of money. Many of my friends have let their passports die of starvation. I live in low class proletarian housing. Some people use the lifts for pissing in and for writing obscene or racist graffiti.
The British Go Association sent out some emails announcing the Beijing bash (WMSG 2008) and I quickly expressed interest. It had been my intention to visit Beijing ever since China had been bidding for the Olympic Games back in 2000.
I was able to offer to pay my own way because I had acquired some money from "home loss grants". This came from shuttling between council properties in phase of redevelopment. As I told all and sundry at the WMSG this involved living in the sort of places where being assaulted on the doorstep of ones own home is an ordinary occurence. Such is the social climate of contemporary UK.
Passport renewal under way. It seemed an incredibly long queue at the post office to send off may passport application form. Special delivery was required, along with a 70 GBP fee. In the UK the government is closing post offices all over the place as part of an "efficiency drive". Once the forms were sent off I waited. At about 7:45 one night a young woman called me on my mobile phone. She questioned my place of birth on the passport application. I had been born in a village in Gloucestershire, but my previous passports had not mentioned the name of the village. The young woman quickly ascertained that I wanted my new passport to say the same as the previous ones, and I felt reassured that my government was really taking steps to issue passports to bona fide applicants and veryfying claims by callback just like high class call girl operations call back a customer at his hotel just as an additional level of security. Of course the new passport was not like the last one. Their is no "Place of Issue" entry, and the new passport has lots of concessions to peripheral regions such as Wales and Ireland with all sorts of foreign languages adorning the document.
China is hosting the Olympics. The procession of the Olympic flame starts early. In London the run is met by protests. I see this on the TV. It seems moronic really, although it may be a derivation from the "Eton Wall Game" played by upper class boys at Britain's leading public school. At this stage I am inclined to cheer on the guys in tracksuits from the Chinese embassy (or wherever). There are clearly issues between China and Tibet, just as there were issues between the UK and its own Ulster Province. There are also issues between the Chinese elite and the Chinese proletariat just as there are also issues between Brits who own their own homes and those that don't.
I have met "Free Tibet" activists in Sheffield. Mostly they remain silent when I describe my experiences of seeing machine gun toting police dressed in black flak jackets mounting police / military check points in Belfast. The police even carry machine guns when they admonish youths for sitting on benches in the park and drinking cider from big plastic bottles.
Another thing that is held against the Chinese is the "Genocide in Darfur". For middle class kids in the UK (or some American film directors) the "Genocide in Darfur" is a burning issue as they consider how best to maximise their carbon footprint with a "Gap Year" project doing charitable work in the "Third World". The fact is that most of these projects are quite patronising. English charities have generally dismissed a tertiary education sector as an unaffordable luxury for poor countries.Few want to develop the brain power of the smart kids. To do that might mean issuing unpopular visas to let these kids study in the UK.
In fact Africa needs far more Chinese traders and far less gap year students. Gap year projects are a new form of snake-oil sold by commercial companies for a profit. These companies are infiltrated by sinister religious organisations some of which had involvement with the genocide in Ruwanda. In all fairness it should be mentioned that some good work on the Linux operating system has taken place in African projects managed by NGOs.
The real Olympics. The world's media are in Beijing. The Olympic opening ceremony seems notable for the dancers dressed as Confucian scholars. There were also allegations of fake footage of the lights illuminating the Olympic axis. 8-8-08. Ba ba liang ba. Lucky number.
Mariana Hyde reported for the Guardian from Beijing's media village. Her column was full of media gossip. Hardly surprising given the environment. Like many English speaking people I found it quite a surprise to arrive in a place where few people spoke English and were quite innocent about it. The chances of a western reporter getting a coherent interview from a Chinese in the street are very low unless the Chinese is a well educated beggar.
As for the Olympic medals China lead the field and England performed well in upper class sports such as cycling, rowing, and sailing. Our athletes are used to pollution. Beijing instituted an even/odd car driving protocol during the Olympics.
After getting a passport in February the next step was getting a Chinese visa. This involved some stress. First we sent all the passports to the team leader, Toby Manning. He went to the Chinese Embassy with these passports only to be sent away with the advice that all forms needed to be correctly filled in with full details of the itinary: flight details, and a list of hotels where we would stay in China. Toby mailed back the passports with visa application forms. There was also a considerable amount of email about a team uniform. In the event the French and Germans dressed informally while some of the other teams had tracksuits.
Getting a visa was a nightmare of uncertainty. I could not take any delivery to my flat as a certainty anymore because the building is surrounded by scaffolding as though it is a construction site. In the end I went to a shop on London Road which had a small sign advertising Chinese visas. The main business of the shop seemed to be Chinese health cures. Terence Ho, the manager seemed to know what he was doing and insisted on flight details. These arrived by email about 10 September and once this happened Terence checked that I had filled in the forms correctly and sent the dossier to the Chinese consulate in Manchester. He took my phone number and promised to phone when the visa arrived. This was much better than going through the post office. The cost of the visa was 30 GBP plus 30 GBP for processing and 20 GBP for late application. I paid Terence 85 GBP in cash, then got drunk that night and climbed onto the roof of my flat via the pylon conveniently posted by my balcony. From there I got a good view of London Road, famous for its Chinese shops.
The last few days before departure were taken up with shopping. I abandoned the idea of buying trousers in the UK. Waist sizes of most people have got too large for me. The final purchase was a digital camera. A shop on London Road allowed me to buy a very good camera for 30 GBP. The camera eats batteries but it can plug into the computer and look like a USB disk, or memory stick. A friend gave me an SD card on which I can store 6400 low resolution images. I practiced taking photos of Polly the Cat. The last photo I took before leaving was an "Autumn Scene".