Readers' Submissions

The Brokenman Is Repaired Part 12

  • Written by Phet
  • April 18th, 2012
  • 31 min read


Big Mango

In my last submission “The Brokenman is Repaired part 11”, I related the background to my visit to Asia and gave an account of the few days spent in Bangkok before embarking on a six-week work assignment in China. I also described my first weeks ensconced in a factory dormitory on an industrial estate outside the city of Kunshan.

In that last missive I left you hanging in eager anticipation as I was poised to make my first foray into the Chinese nightlife to a bar allegedly patronised by westerners. On the Saturday night I hired a driver recommended to me by the financial controller of the factory. The drive into the city centre in a dilapidated old banger took about 20 minutes. Kunshan city is described as a small country city with a mere one million inhabitants.

I had gleaned the details of this pub/bar from the internet (which is extremely intermittent and unreliable here) and had carefully prepared a map for the driver complete with Chinese script. Unfortunately he either misunderstood my directions or had the brains of a rocking horse and he dropped me off a quarter of a mile away from my intended destination. I finally found the bar, no mean feat in a strange city without any knowledge of Chinese.

It was a pleasant pub a bit like the Country Roads bar (or whatever it is called now) at the Asoke end of Soi Cowboy but without waitress service. It was not quite 9 PM so there were not many customers. I parked my ass on a stool at the bar and made myself comfortable. I was immediately cheered to see three delightful little minx serving behind the bar. I introduced myself to them and offered to buy them a drink. The first girl was Philippine, a trim little cutie named Anna. The other two were quite exquisite Chinese girls named Lisa and Lily. The contrast between the bubbly dark skinned Anna and the pale inscrutable elegance of the two Chinese girls was quite fascinating.

Sat next to me was a German guy of my age who clearly had already tied a few on before I arrived. He introduced himself as Andreas, his English was excellent and we quickly launched into conversation. He was also an engineer and doing a similar job to me at a German-owned factory producing lifts and escalators. He was a very amiable drinking companion and just what I needed after two weeks of incarceration.

When the conversation inevitably got to football he explained he was a supporter of Schalke FC, a famous German football club renowned for the fanatical nature of its fan base. He proudly declared he was a season ticket holder and showed me his actual season ticket with great reverence. I trumped him with my photo collection of Thai girls in West Bromwich Albion shirts (small youth size) and I think he was suitably impressed.

There was a live Philippine band …well a guy with a guitar and two Philippine girl singers. The one girl named Angel was an absolute stunner with an incredible pair of legs but couldn’t really sing for toffee but the other girl, a chubby little unit had the voice of an angel. They were most entertaining. Although quite tame by Bangkok standards the pub was lively and I suspected there was a potential for carnal mischief once I get to know the lie of the land and the rules about “availability”.

I staggered the quarter of a mile back to where my half-baked driver had dropped me to meet him at midnight to take me back to barracks. Once back at the plant the security guard steered me safely past the guard dogs and back to my room.

The next day was a complete contrast. It was my day off and Wang Wei, one of the chaps in the foundry, had invited me to stay at his home for the day. His English is basic but it offered an opportunity see how an ordinary Chinese family lives. At 9 AM he collects me from the plant and takes me on his scooter to meet his wife and 10 year old son at a traditional Chinese indoor market. The market is stocked with strange Asian comestibles and the inevitable stalls where live chickens and fish are killed and cut up in front of you, something you no longer see in the west.

His wife was a chubby girl, cheerful and as bright as a button. She worked as a CAD operator at a machine tool factory. I was taken to their home in a fairly modern 6-storey apartment building on what I can best describe as a housing scheme of about 500 dwellings. Although somewhat Spartan it was clean and welcoming. It was bigger than most apartments I have seen where Thais live and not much smaller than my own flat in Wednesbury but the layout was very different. I believe they pay about 300 RMB a month in rent on a monthly salary of 3k RMB.

Yen Yien was a friendly girl who clearly wanted to improve her English. She was also a gifted cook and I sampled some dishes I had never tried before. I find Chinese food is a bit bland but not her cooking. She presented a fish dish in soy sauce with fiery chillies that was reminiscent of a Thai fish dish I recall. After lunch we went to the park/children’s playground area in the centre of the estate to let the lad have a run about

It was a nice sunny day and we sat on the grass and were soon joined by one or two of her friends. One thing about children playing is that their yummy mummies are never too far away. I suspect they rarely see a westerner and I had a curiosity value. I am soon surrounded by a dozen young kids who want to practice their English …it was quite cute and endearing. Once the children got bored with the Lao tou (old foreign man) I end up in the company of half a dozen young Chinese mothers equally inquisitive to talk to me. Most of them were extremely tasty little morsels. My taste in recent years has been for dark Isaan bunnies but I am beginning to warm to the paler Chinese model.

We return to their apartment for dinner and I could tell Yen Yien had made “great face” in the community introducing her western friend. We later returned to the communal area for a 20-minute fireworks display. The chinks don’t piss about when it comes to fireworks; we are talking serious war zone ballistics. It was like a re-enactment of the siege of Stalingrad. Even Wang Wei who fearlessly throws molten metal around every day thought it was dangerous.

At around 6 PM some of the ladies of the community begin to arrive and enter the square. A sound box appears and they commence dancing in formation like a Chinese version of line dancing. Apparently this is their daily exercise routine. In next to no time there were 30 ladies of all ages, shapes and sizes dancing in sequence to traditional Chinese music. It was really rather charming.

At around 7.30 Wang Wei took me back to the plant on his motor scooter, and once again I was escorted past the six hounds of hell and into the dormitory.

Next day we had an English visitor to the plant. Dave was a seasoned engineer from a well-known engineering company in the North East of England. He had a large project involving a suite of cast parts he was looking to place. He was a smashing bloke (a Sunderland supporter) about my age and certainly knew his stuff. I could see the Chinese (even his interpreter) struggling with his North east dialect. I played my part entertaining him and answering his searching technical questions. I am certain he will place the business with them. It is worth about £250k a year so I hopefully gained some brownie points with my Chinese employers.

Whilst there is much to be commended here I do witness examples of Chinese paranoia and misguided Asian face on a daily basis. I know the rules of engagement with Asians and have learnt to employ “Mei Guan Xi” or “Bu Jie Yi” (the Chinese equivalent of “never mind” or the ubiquitous “Mai pen rai” in Thailand). Wishing to repeat my visit to the pub on the following Saturday but not wishing to repeat the quarter of a mile detour, I had a chat with the financial controller who had recommended the driver. To avoid further misunderstanding I enlisted the aid of Julie (the boss’s daughter) who has adopted the role of my personal interpreter.

It is explained that the driver could not stop the car where I wanted because of road works. Now we all knew this was bullshit but went along with it knowing the rules. The basic rule is everyone must maintain face except the whitey. I provided a new map, gave him a card from the bar and requested that his driver friend also take me to an ATM on the way. The next day I am assured all had been arranged.

I should explain a little about the financial controller as it is a further illustration of Chinese paranoia. He is a pleasant middle aged Taiwanese gentleman with whom I had a surreptitious and agreeable drinking session on German beer one evening when the Chairman and his family were away, although he has absolutely no English.

He is engaged by the owners to oversee every financial transaction; every document and invoice is checked and stamped by him. He was brought in from Taiwan, has no affiliation or friendships within the plant ensuring there are no fiddles being perpetrated. He lives and takes his meals with the owner and his family ensuring his allegiance. I suspect the owner puts his hearing aid in with his dentures at night to ensure they are not talking about him.

Saturday came I finished work at 6.00 and at 7.00 I was outside the gates with my drinking shirt on. The driver collected me and drove into the city. Once again he tried to deposit me in same wrong place as the previous week. Counting to ten and keeping my cool I directed him to the actual destination where he quickly got me out of the car in embarrassment and drove away. He had forgotten or ignored my request to find an ATM. I had some money but not quite enough for a serious drinking session so I needed to find one.

I went into the pub and explained my predicament to the girls behind the bar. Without hesitation, Lisa, one of the Chinese girls (the one who didn’t speak much English), grabbed her coat and led me by the hand back into the street. She hailed a taxi who took us to an ATM about a 10 minute drive away. I collected some drinking vouchers and the taxi then returned us to the bar. He only charged me 15 RMB which is about £1.50 or 30 bob in old money. On my return I see Andreas is sat waiting for me. He buys me a beer and the girls a drink as we pick up our conversation from the previous week.

The Philippine band was in fine form that evening and by about 10.00 the place was starting to rock. There was a solitary western woman in the bar, a quite attractive girl in her late 30s. She was with a western guy and a trendy young Chinese couple. The young Chinese guy was well refreshed and got up on stage to sing, however he didn’t know the words of the song he had requested and he couldn’t hold a tune in a bucket but he was enjoying himself. The western girl felt obliged to join him on stage.

It is often sad seeing western woman in Asia. They see that they are no longer the centre of the universe as they are back home so over compensate with excessive or unusual behaviour to gain attention. She didn’t know the words of the song either so after a few seconds of embarrassment she feels very self-conscious, climbs down from the stage and does a strange nervous little jig in front of the stage with a smile frozen firmly on her face. I have reported on this phenomenon before. I see it every weekend at the karaokes in my home town and refer to it as the “silly tart shuffle”.

You see a similar thing when white girls enter a gogo bar in Thailand. They get this strange compulsion to begin dancing in a weird shoulder swinging arm pumping manner in front of the stage. I call this the “farang wench waddle”. Whether it is to show the bar girls that they are all in a sisterhood together or whether it is to declare that they are liberated women and can behave as disgracefully as men I am not sure. But I suspect a good psychiatrist could supply an answer.

During their second set the band asked me on stage to sing with them. Now I don’t need asking twice, open a fridge door and I will do a 3 minute spot. I sang “Take me home country roads” as a duet, harmonising with the one girl singer then a few oldies like “Knock three times” and “Build me up buttercup” before giving them “Portrait of my love” which always gets the matrons moist back in blighty. I have no idea if the audience enjoyed my singing but I certainly did.

As I took my seat at the bar the western girl came over and informed me she had enjoyed my singing. We chatted for a while; she was a really nice friendly girl with no affectations like many pleasant lasses I meet in Asia, which makes their unusual behaviour all the more inexplicable. Or maybe I just don’t understand western women and probably never will.

At about 11.00 the owner of the bar makes her entrance. Andreas calls her over and introduces me to her. I was under the assumption that the bar was western owned but the enchanting creature before me, although named Eileen, was definitely Chinese. Asian women seem to have a sixth sense about which men have a predilection for Asian womanhood (aka jasmine or yellow fever). I have never fully understood how they recognise it. It may have been that my eyeballs were on stalks, my mouth agape with my tongue dangling down to my knees but I cannot be sure. To my delight she takes the stool next to me so I buy her a drink.

She was dressed in an exquisite little black number that hugged her body accentuating every curve. Closer examination of her face revealed quite soft features which suggested she may have been Eurasian or of mixed descent. She was quite divine and I was beginning to visualise her as the third Mrs. Brokenman. Her English was impeccable and in conversation it quickly became clear she was a real sharp cookie and an astute business lady. With a busy bar to run she did not stay chatting with me for long which was just as well as I felt a proposal of marriage coming upon me.

(Note to Phil, Barry and Union Hill who have threatened to keelhaul me should I ever contemplate marriage again…I is only joking.)

Andreas observed that she was a very shrewd lady and probably more western than most westerners he knew, like a banana, yellow on the outside but white inside. With her departure we turn our attentions to our Chinese damsels Lisa and Lily who had begun cuddling each other claiming to be cold. When I suggested in jest I would pay a lot of money to watch them kissing I could see their interest being piqued. Warming to the theme I joked that the next week I was going to rent a room at a nearby hotel to save returning to the dormitory. They would be welcome to accompany me and I could watch them fondling all night. It was all harmless banter but I got the suspicion despite their inscrutable demeanour they were not totally averse to the idea. I suspect they are somewhat inquisitive about western men maybe we have an absence of cultural baggage or maybe I was fooling myself?

Next day was a Sunday which is usually my day off but I had to work. In a demonstration of their perverse logic because Wednesday 4th was a Chinese national holiday (Tomb sweeping day apparently) so Sunday was transferred to Wednesday when I would get my day off.

The next two days passed slowly, although the foundry was working with all the staff on holiday I had no one with a semblance of English to talk to. There appears to be a convention at this plant that those with staff status adopt an English name whilst the peasantry retain their Chinese monikers. There are a few Kevin, Phillip and Alans knocking about amongst the Wing Wang and Wongs.

I am receiving several invitations from the ordinary people in the factory as well as the staff to have dinner with them at their home which is nice but I cannot take them all up as I only have one day off and I am only here for 6 weeks. One offer I did accept without hesitation was from Jane, the company’s accountant. This was not for any carnal purpose, although she is an attractive lady she is happily married to a Chinese guy from an influential family. But she is the company paymaster and holds the purse strings. She could give me problems by not paying me which is always a concern with any business but particularly Asian. However I had made friends with her on my first week and she has already paid me my first installment early which has addressed my immediate problems. I am therefore very careful to remain on good terms with her.

She collects me the next morning at 9.30 with her husband and 12 year old son. The husband runs two shoe factories but spoke no English and I got the impression he had no intention of trying. However her son Henry was a real bright lad and as we sat in the back of the car was determined to practice his English on me.

The conversation involved the usual what is your name? Where are you from? Do you enjoy my country? Then suddenly he asks do you like massage? I am completely thrown by the question my head spins as my mind-set cannot think of a possible context in which a 12 year old lad would ask it. I reply in the affirmative anyway and without pause he continues with the more conventional, what is your favourite fruit? Do you like basketball? It was a real weird moment that would have amused my pals Thai Ties and Boggi who are the veritable masters of surrealism.

All is revealed five minutes later when we pull up outside a small development in a quiet residential area. Jane asks me to get out of the car with her whilst her husband and son drive away on some mission. We walk through a newly refurbished area that was clearly the lobby to a small hotel or apartment block. I follow her up the stairs as she explained that she had recently invested in the building and now owned the third floor.

Arriving at that floor I was surprised to be in the corridor of a very stylishly appointed small hotel. To the left of the stairwell there were four bedrooms and to the right four rooms whose purpose I could not (as yet) determine. She showed me the bedrooms which were reasonably sized and tastefully decorated in a western style complete with en-suite shower and toilet tiled in a modish black and white marble effect. I was most impressed.

We then moved across to the other rooms which had a similar décor but instead of a bed housed three tables which looked surprisingly like massage tables. Jane pointed to the middle table and pronounced “massage” more in instruction than request. Not totally understanding the situation I began removing my trousers in a Pavlovian reaction to the word massage. Jane quickly asserts “No keep your clothes on!” so without further ado I climb aboard the table as Jane mounts the one to my right.

Two elderly Chinese men enter the room and it is clear that they are both blind. I bury my face in the hole in the table as I try to collect my thoughts. The blind Chinese masseur begins pummelling my shoulders as I hear Jane inform me “you can talk while you are being massaged” but I appear to have lost the power of speech. I reflect this is definitely a first being massaged with my clothes on by a blind Chinaman with a tasty Asian morsel receiving same not two yards away.

The masseur has strong gifted fingers and I soon begin to relax under his skilful ministrations. This is probably the first proper massage I have had and was surprised how restful it was. I have always been unsure of the therapeutic value of massage but there was no doubt I felt invigorated after it.

As we wait outside in the sunshine for her husband to collect us, Jane asks me if I can eat hot and spicy food. I explain I was recently married to a girl from the Isaan so could tolerate a reasonable amount of chillies. She explained she had spent her early years in Hunan province in south central China an area renowned for its hot and spicy fare. It was also the birthplace of Mao Dedong better known to us as Chairman Mao.

When her husband returns we repair to a restaurant apparently run by people from Hunan province. It was a clean modern establishment with a chairman Mao theme. The walls were festooned with framed posters from the communist period complete with dramatic piped music from that era. The food was delicious and spicy and the service excellent. There was a slight irony to sitting in a communist themed establishment with two committed Chinese capitalists. Jane expressed her surprise at my ability to eat the fiery offerings as none of her western friends (nor many Chinese) could handle it.

After lunch we take a drive to the town of Qiandeng the home of the Kung Gu Opera Company. It has some link to the famous Beijing opera but I couldn’t fully understand what I was told. It was a rather beautiful old town with a 4A tourist rating and quite fascinating. Apparently there had been a settlement there for 2500 years. This would be when we Brits were primitive savages, still painting our faces with wode and wearing Wolverhampton Wanderers scarves. It had apparently been through more imperial dynasty’s than you could wave a stick at.

I am later taken to Jin Xi another picturesque old town with a 4A rating. It is sat beside a lake and its history was clearly tied up with the river trade. A small internal harbour housed scores of traditional small boats were old ladies in traditional dress would ferry passengers up the various canals that led off it. In one of the houses there are two musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments and two singers belting out what I am told was an extract from a Kung Gu opera. It was all very pleasant and educational but by then I was experiencing a cultural overload.

Back to Jane’s house for dinner, the food was good but her father in law’s table manners left much to be desired and quite put me off. I am not particularly fastidious but I doubt I will ever fully get used to Chinese table manners.

Jane and her husband are from the new educated Chinese middle class so not surprisingly their apartment was larger than the one I saw the previous week and furnished more like the western model. They even had a very good upright piano taking pride of place in the lounge. The lad Henry proved to be a gifted pianist and played a piece for me by Mozart and a rather difficult Czerny with great panache.

At 8.00 I am taken back to the plant and steered past my canine nemeses to the dormitory. I am informed the Chinese only recently banned the eating of dog which is a pity as there are six that I could be quite happy to see roasting on a barbecue.

The next few days at the plant passed uneventfully and I reflect on a few aspects of Chinese life. The principle thing is the incessant noise. Vehicles constantly sound their horns, and the paper mill next door that run it rollers between 10 and 11pm at night that sounds like Concorde taking off at 100 metres. There is a local PA system that plays “Streets of London” and “Sound of silence” alternatively every hour on the hour. And of course the barking of those blasted dogs.

Most of my time has been spent in the factory. Now a foundry is a foundry whatever country it is in. But I must note the absence of any concept of health and safety as we know it; it is just not in the culture. Handling molten metal wearing trainers is a good example. In fact I was the only person to wear safety specs and steel capped shoes. The operation was not intrinsically unsafe, they just did not have the obsession that we have in the west. However in the UK I do feel the “elf and safety” bandwagon has little to do with saving life or preventing injury but is often just an excuse to justify inactivity or defer investment. It is also to keep unscrupulous solicitors engaged in litigation and bureaucratic silly tarts employed producing meaningless directives. The Chinese may actually have it right.

Saturday comes around so I take my now weekly pilgrimage to the pub in Kunshan I request of my driver that we visit an ATM, which he does. The first one we find is out of order but the second one is working. I think I am now on a roll and it may be third time lucky for my driver to find the destination. However he still tries to deposit me at the wrong location… I gently redirect him.

The bar is busy being the Easter weekend and my pal Andreas had returned to Germany but I quickly found a new drinking companion in the form of a Danish chap named Sten. Like most Scandinavians I have ever met he was an amiable fellow. He was about 50, had lived in Kunshan for five years and was technical director at a rubber mouldings factory. He was a regular in the bar unfortunately he was also the boyfriend of the Chinese barmaid Lily who I was considering throwing my cap at.

He did however enlighten me about the bar and Chinese womanhood. Apparently even the westernised girls remained extremely conservative. It had taken him six months of conventional courting before he had bedded the delightful Lily and two years before she agreed to live with him. The other Chinese girl Liza had a European boyfriend and the boss Eileen was married to an English guy named Dave.

Although it was a lively western bar and the only one that catered for westerners in the city that was all it was. I concluded that any allusions to Thai style “availability” were misplaced. This knowledge did not detract from my pleasure in fact I could now relax. Like most men I will readily accept if something is not available but it is the thought that you may be missing out on something that is always difficult to reconcile and drives one crazy. I definitely feel my relationship with Thailand has distorted my perspective.

Anna, the cute Philippine girl, held my attention most of the evening. She was wearing the briefest pair of micro shorts which showed her long slender legs to great effect. She proudly tells me she had obtained a DVD of the film Coyote Dancer which she claimed was her favourite movie. The resonance of this will soon become clear.

As I am returning from the toilet I spot a vision of loveliness in the form of a dark-skinned beauty wearing a stylish and tasteful orange dress. The dress was knee length and demure but tight enough to hug her shapely form. In her late 30s she was the most striking female in the room and was clearly Thai. As her escort, an elderly American gentleman was deep in conversation with his two pals I took the opportunity to chat to her. She informed me she was from Buriram and had been living in China with her husband for about a year. She came to this bar once a month to hear the singers who she was friends with. As I looked at this exotic creature I realised my true taste in womanhood remained firmly in the kingdom of Thailand.

As if by some signal at 11 PM Anna, Lisa, Elaine and Angel the singer climbed on the bar and began dancing in true coyote style. Angel and Lisa had the shortest skirts imaginable so had Eileen but she had augmented this with a pair of hold up seamed stockings. For a devoted leg man this was heaven and I took so many photos my camera overheated. <And they would have complimented this submission perfectly….!Stick> I will dedicate many a quiet personal moment to the image of those four sets of perfect pins. There was the inevitable fat white wench in jeans who felt compelled to climb on the bar and join them but I will reserve my comments, “enough said at our Elsie’s wedding” as the saying goes.

Sunday I am invited by another couple Alan and Jenny tor diner. Jenny works in the office as a production control clerk and her husband Alan the newly promoted quality control supervisor. Alan collects me on his scooter. I am taken to a ground floor apartment on a very pleasant development and was half way in size between previous two homes I had visited and comfortably furnished. There was quite a crowd there with Mike the production controller, Wing a machinist and Wong a security guard, all from the plant.

Lunch is extremely lively with eight people around the dining table. Although their English was basic, with the beer flowing liberally the conversation is quite animated. After a couple of hours someone decides we should go out for a drink. We catch a bus to the next town a journey of around 30 minutes which I found fascinating.

Once we arrive I am taken to a building which they explain is a KTV. This was a new experience for me; we all sat on sofas in a private room with a large screen and a computerised karaoke machine. More beer is drunk and we all take it in turns to sing. It was good fun, none of the guys could hold a tune but Jenny had a lovely sweet voice and a natural gift I could have listened to her all night. I sing every western song they have on the menu, the lads sing all sorts of odd Chinese stuff and after three hours we have had enough and we depart in taxis.

I reflect that they never once let me put my hand in pocket to pay my share. I am told by a couple of Chinese veterans from my Stickman contacts that this Chinese hospitality is common and very genuine. It seemed strange after my familiarity with Thailand. My experience has been if a Thai gives you anything for free you can expect to repay it tenfold.

I return to the plant with Wong, the security guard, and the dogs completely ignore me.

On Thursday we have visitors to the plant. I could tell something was afoot because all the workers were wearing protective hard helmets. I should explain these are not the hard hats that are the symbol of the rugged macho construction worker (and that bloke in the Village people) we know in the west. These are the Chinese version constructed from bamboo and shaped like a British policeman’s helmet. In truth hard hats are unnecessary in a gravity die foundry and would be bottom of my list of requirements from a risk assessment. I suspect it was the idea of management to create an image of old-world Chinese coolies to their western visitors, no doubt for some inscrutable purpose.

The visit was by two buyers from a key customer in the Czech Republic. The one a ruggedly handsome guy in his mid-40s and the other an extremely attractive and stylish lady in her late 30s named Anna.

Anna was an absolutely magnificent specimen of Eastern European womanhood – over 6’ tall, elegant, and statuesque with long black hair drawn back in a ponytail.

Assisting my Chinese employers in entertaining them over lunch was a real pleasure.

She was of course far too much woman for me (definitely a case of that’s man’s work and me a mere boy). If I had considered an attempt, I would have needed a chat with my lawyer to ensure all my affairs were in order. Or at least engage a team to tag me at some point in the proceedings. Even contemplating it I am sure would have negated my health insurance policy. Methinks my return to Thailand cannot come too soon

Oh… and the guy’s name was Vladimir.

My last few submissions to the Stickman site prompted an inordinate amount of correspondence, the majority from my usual pals but also a large number of interesting new contacts, all most supportive and complimentary about my resilience. I also had a note from an old friend severely admonishing me for squandering my scarce resources on a trip to Thailand. I cannot argue with his reasoning or take issue with the rebuke as it was delivered with the very best of intentions.

I was also quite rightly taken to task by an agreeable German fellow for my racial stereotyping and remarks about them throwing towels over sun loungers etc. I did acknowledge they were cheap shots, quite out of character and he gracefully accepted my profuse apologises.

But more surprisingly I received a note from a western lady, the first I have ever had in response to a Stickman sub. And rather than threaten to lynch me for my mildly misogynist themes her missive was supportive and most refreshing. She is clearly a tuned in, astute and witty lady with extensive experience of both China and Thailand. I suspect if we met we would get on famously. Her comment that I was seeing a side of China that visitors rarely see pleased me as did her remark that she felt the Brokenman was well on his way to being repaired.

To which end…

I am now on the home run and hopefully this weekend I will finally manage to get away to Shanghai. I hope to meet up with a fellow Stickmanite who wants to show me the delights of Changyi Lu in the Pudong district.

Then all that remains is to present my 50-page technical report to the chairman. His response will determine whether I am invited back in the future.

In a matter of days I will mount the Thai Airways flight from Shanghai which will deposit me back in Bangkok. I have a few plans; I will meet up with the usual suspects, make a few new friends and with any luck experience some harmless mischief and new misadventures. Hopefully you will hear all about my latest rosy cheeked capers in Brokenman is repaired part 13 in the fullness of time, should the good lord spare us. Continue to watch this space.


Stickman's thoughts:

It's good to hear that it sounds as if this contract has gone well for you, and you've been well-received by the locals. Being invited to people's house is always a good sign that they have warmed to you!

Call me prurient – but really, I am merely curious – I wonder what sort of delights are available in that town. As a country, China doesn't really appeal to me, but I have to say that Chinese women can be very, very attractive.