China 2018: Day 12 Tuesday 31st July

As we had a free morning in Taizhou, Mrs Martin asked a local Chinese travel agent what there was to do in Taizhou. ‘Nothing’ was the answer. And when she asked if there was a tourist map the answer was similarly unequivocal – ‘no’.

‘Nothing’ and ‘no’ are not words that Mrs Martin either understands or approves of, however.

It is genuinely interesting to be in a less modern area of China, where tourists are rare. We are in no doubt that China is advancing at an astonishing rate, with hi-tech modern buildings replacing old ones everywhere we look, so it is interesting to see the world that is being left behind.

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As an aside, when a building has been demolished and the building of the new one begins, this is celebrated with fireworks; not the pretty sort but the explosive ones. This began next to our hotel at 6am today. They don’t hang about.

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Mrs Martin found that there was a people’s square close to the hotel so, equipped with hats, insect repellent and suncream, we set off in search of people. Of course, we didn’t find many people as the Chinese sensibly stay inside when it is this hot.

We had time for a quick shop when we left the park and we found an amazing fruit shop. Mindful of Mr Brookman’s advice about the digestive system, we ploughed in, vowing to accept the consequences.

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Lunch was back at the hotel and was rather good. Mr Swinson didn’t appear, though. This occasionally happens and he usually says he has been for a run. We reckon he just goes to his room for a quiet cry, reflecting on what his life has become, following us around the world. On this occasion, though, he brought back photographic evidence of another beautiful park he had found.

We had been a little worried about Mr Swinson as he was due back for a rehearsal with some of us for an opera we are soon rehearsing in Paris and there was no sign of him. He was back much later than we expected and he explained that he had been completely lost. He says this often happens: as he runs so fast, he can sometimes miss key landmarks. We politely don’t reply but quietly smirk as we have seen him run.

Sometimes Mr Swinson tells us things and we wonder if they are always true. We have yet to meet his Chinese wife and children, for example.

Anyway, this is the story he told us. He got back to the hotel in good time and was happily showering when a distressed Chinese man came running into the room, shouting at him and brandishing a room card. Mr Swinson had no idea what the man had said but was concerned to see that the room card had the same number as his own room. A quick look around confirmed his worst fears as there was no sign of his Superman pyjamas. Fleeing the hotel, he noticed that there was an identical hotel on the opposite side of the road. Although this immediately reassured him, he entered this hotel rather more cautiously and was disturbed to see that this one didn’t look quite right either. 45 minutes and a Google map search later, he arrived at the right hotel – which looked exactly like the two previous ones.

With the drama over it was back to business and our sixth concert, this time in the Taizhou Grand Poly Theatre. All went well but there was extra excitement as we were joined by a Chinese children’s choir for the encores and they were keen to have lots of photo opportunities.

We took a last glance at today’s venue, and we have a day of sight-seeing in Shanghai to look forward to tomorrow.

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