Dancing In The Dark

Um, I’ve been busy again, and another month’s slipped out of sight into the Beijing haze. Apart from the stifling sauna / oven heat (depending on the time of day), which forces me to buy 600ml bottles of ice cold Nanjing Pi Jiu (that’s beer to you) and sit in my pants under the air con, I’ve been planning my wedding. Yes, I’m married already (see earlier Stamp Collecting blog entry), but that was just paper. Then we did a photo shoot in June. We are spreading it out, see, to seriously increase our Facebook congratulations tally; or in the words of Blackwatertown, to compete with Betty and Dickie Taylor on the number of weddings front (only to ourselves, mind, not several other progressively younger people). But anyway, the wedding’s this month, and things are getting hectic. Various international and north Chinese clan will land in Beijing these next two weeks, and it’s our job to shuttle them into their hotels, brief them on how not to cross the road, and make sure they see the most Beijing has to offer. As well as finding a way to look smart AND not sweat on the wedding day, I have had to source some appalling quality Queen, Michael Jackson and ABBA karaoke DVDs, in the hope that some of my guests might contribute some vocals to the night’s festivities. The crate of imported Spanish Cava should help things along.

Anyway, those are my excuses.

But, I remain the only Fuxingman in Fuxingmen, and here is the latest news (and it might actually end up shorter than the preamble):

As soon as the snow disappeared in April, something happened. Every night at dusk, strange little men all over Beijing started appearing in parks, next to their home made sound systems: bicycles, with huge cupboards bodged onto the back, even huge-er speakers poking out at random angles, like something out of Yellow Submarine. Some have deluxe bicycle trailers, allowing for a sleeker, more sophisticated rig. Most of these guys are old. They presumably have conventions where they get together to compare bodge quality, after they spend the winter building the things in their sheds. No it’s not the refugees from Major’s criminal justice act nineteen ninety whatever it was. They didn’t all run away to China. But they have come to party.

These rude boys fire up their systems when it gets dark, sending a bizarre mixture of Latin, Techno and Europop into the summer night’s sky. And the Wild Rumpus Starts.  Suddenly all the local old folks appear. Or rather they don’t because you can’t see them. It’s dark. But they’re there. Dancing the cha cha, or the tango, or whatever mix of ballroom dancing they feel like. If you stare hard enough into the pitch blackness, you can just about make them out. Filling the whole park, twirling and trotting around. All perms, comb-overs and wide waists, two-ing and fro-ing delicately. But dare you go in…? It seems too exclusive.

It’s the old folks again you see. I’ve blogged about this before too. They’re everywhere. Tai Chi-ing in the morning, playing ping pong in the afternoon, and dancing… in the dark… in the evening. They rule, they’re the boss. They take no shit.

So my obvious question is, who knows what’s going on in there, when the sun goes down? Every time I walk past (there’s a small park right by us, pitch black, booming happy-house music), my depraved English mind wanders. A twirl here, a grope there, a fondle… and onto a new partner. I wonder. Could it all be happening in our very own local park, right beneath our balconies? Maybe this is the long sought after secret behind millennia of Chinese social stability.

And the youngsters can only gaze into the darkness, waiting for their time to come…..

Getting serious for a moment, WHY HAVE WE LOST THIS? Brits I mean. This is where the whole of the local community gets a chance to meet each other and TALK. It’s free (although I’m sure they bung Mr Sound System a few Kwai for his trouble). There is no booze. Inner city or not, you see this all around China. An urban space is there to be USED, and has been designed as such. Not JUST to walk through, sit quietly in, or look at. I’m sure there was a time when people in England met in squares for a dance every night. But because the music changed, somehow it all got confused. There are no complaints here that they’re not dancing to traditional Chinese folk music. They are dancing to banging thumping loud modern dance music, albeit a slightly strange brew. And they like it like that.

Why, at the merest hint of loud music, or social gathering, do we clamp down on it, taking the lone voice of complaint as a higher priority to the enjoyment of the many? Or let bureaucracy dictate that any outdoor event with amplifiers must be sanctioned, insured, risk assessed to the max, and be inoffensive to anyone (impossible).
When it’s an accordion and a man with a beard with his finger in his ear on a village green, it’s apparently OK. Or a raving Christian with a megaphone on a street corner, or even Sunday church bells – why that’s not an offensive noise at all is it?

Britain is too watered down, diluted and stuck in reverse gear. China bubbles. But for how long?

Here is a picture of the old folks dancing

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Dancing In The Dark

  1. blackwatertown

    This is brilliant. Just brilliant.
    I’m relieved you were able to include a picture too. I thought you might shy away from it for fear of being misunderstood while snapping the wild things.
    And surely this solves your wedding music dilemma. Can’t you get old Bert the bicycling beatbox bodger to put on a show for your guests. Switch off the lights and let your guests become acquainted.

    • woo, quick off the mark there! I was still adding the final typo edits! yeah had to hide behind a few bushes to get that amazing shot.
      can you tell I was drinking a Nanjing as I wrote? Hence the progression from humour into soapbox.
      It’s a good call, I might go down to find the mobile sound system man and get a price for t’wedding. Pay the hotel owner to lean on the power supply switch…etc

  2. Pingback: The pram in the hallway « Blackwatertown

  3. It is a very British Thing.Everywhere else in The World, the elderly oranise themselves.but British Wrinkles evaporate as the Sun Goes Down…..

    • Thanks! And Happy Christmas to you too! Um… time I wrote something… I’ll admit I could never keep up with your scorching fingers, but 4 months is a bit long. I was in England for 6 weeks, so blogging about China would have been cheating.

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