Sunday, October 22, 2006


Shanghai intersection

I always enjoy coming back to a place. Even a brief acquaintance will have made it familiar. You have figured out the transport and know where some of the roads go. Sights are comforting: ah, you say, there’s good old Jinmao Tower. It is almost as though you have always known the place.


Shanghai is different though. It’s swarming with Chinese. It is nearly impossible to walk along Nanjing Donglu; people are taking up every inch of pavement and spilling into the road. Even in the pedestrianised section, it is a battle to make headway. Every three paces someone shoves a card with pictures of handbags or watches into my face. “Bag?” they yell. “Shoes, watch?” And then more quietly, “Massage?”

The Bund, Shanghai

But does anyone say “Gaffer tape?” Oh no. I have no idea where I’d find it. The Hualian supermarket has a stunning range of dry biscuits — although nothing that looks like you’d feed it to something with fewer than four legs — scissors, pencils (which I buy for C although they are not particularly distinctive, but hey, they are made in China) and a ton of other stuff, but no tape of any kind. I know, I know. Why didn’t I pack gaffer tape?