To celebrate the National Day of the People’s Republic of China, some friends and I chose not to stay in and think quietly about what Mao Zedong and the Communist Party did for us. Instead, we bought eight-hour standing tickets to Hohhot in Inner Mongolia, giddy with the prospect of fresh, non-polluted air and of open spaces more expansive than Tiananmen square which are often hard to imagine with a view like this:
The train journey could have been horrendous. Raquel, Maddy, Jaq and I stepped onto what can only be described as the livestock carriage at the very back of the train and hopeful visions of the long journey ahead were suddenly humbled. Luckily, paying the equivalent of a meagre £3.50 to the right lady, gave us the privilege of a seat in the American diner-style canteen car, free cups of green tea, a hot dinner and an extraordinarily uncomfortable series of short kips on the benchseats.
The book that I brought for the week was ‘The Tao of Pooh’ by Benjamin Hoff, a present from my ‘incred’ friend Coco. It lent to the week a near-spiritual dimension in the most secular sense. It very lightly discusses the most simple, fundamental principle of Taoism, before its more deep and complicated branching off into the monastic and folk religious threads. Hoff does a great job. Not only was I so happy to be reminded of how enchanting the Winnie-the-Pooh stories are (and hopefully the others were too, once I inflicted narration upon the group one evening), but its’ beautifully simple message, dressed up in the calming-in-itself language of natural harmony and ‘The Way’, was that we should all be more like The Bear Of Very Little Brain.
Part 2 to follow.