pastimes


James Endicott (1898-1993) was both a Christian missionary and a communist. Of Canadian background, he was ordained as a minister in the United Church. His claim to fame was active support of the communists leading up 1949 and then, back in Canada after more than two decades in China, speaking and agitating openly for support of the PRC. He was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize in 1952, for his work towards peaceful coexistence between communists and Christians.

endicott

endicott and zhou

This was a meeting between Endicott and Zhou Enlain in 1972.

Earlier, I commented on a glorious pleasure of age: the afternoon nap with snoring. I have them now on an almost daily basis. But I have always envied the ability of an old professor to nod off during a lecture given by someone else. He or she may give an introduction, especially if it is a visitor, and then promptly fall asleep, with snores, for the full stretch of the lecture. At it’s close, he or she is then able to ask a question and end with words of thanks. So that is my next aim: the lecture nap. I have a few conferences coming up, so intend to use them for some serious practice.

For many a year I have been looking forward to this time of life: when an afternoon nap becomes irresistible. (One of the many pleasures of age, which I have been noting from time to time.) I mean not the occasional nod at a meeting, or the brief kip on a train. This is the real thing: lean back on a reclining chair, or perhaps on an old day-bed in the sun-room, close your eyes, and soon enough you are off. The trick is to snore, for without snoring it is not an old-fogey nap. Since I am not a natural snorer, I ensure that I lie on my back. The first low rumble in my throat indicates that sleep is about to come upon me. And about an hour later, I will wake with a snore, thinking, ‘I hope I didn’t snore too much and disturb people’. This is best done when visiting others and is a very appropriate act for grandfathers.

Today, on Mayday, we had the inaugural Stalin Prize film night. More than I expected gathered to watch the epic Fall of Berlin (winner in 1950). We drank vodka, soaking it up with various nibblies. Some extraordinary scenes, such as the one when a mad and rat-like Hitler meets prelates from the Vatican and promises them that he will save ‘Western civilisation’, or the Stakhanovite themes at the beginning, replete with the rich harvests and steel plants that smiling children simply visit on a whim, or indeed the calm, measured, albeit somewhat stiff Stalin himself, who calmly directs the Red Army with insight and brilliance. Not a few laughs, but most stayed rivetted to the end. After all, it is really is a love story between Alexei and Natasha.

fall-of-berlin

More film nights to come, with other winners of the Stalin Prize.

Strange how “Blue Skies in Beijing” is not a headline. If you believe international reports, Beijing is constantly shrouded in impenetrable smog, like being inside a cigarette. To be sure, it can get pretty bad on some occasions, but it can also be clear, crisp and sunny. Like now. I’ve been outside running each day, sucking in the air with pleasure.

As I settle into Beijing for a while, with much peace and quiet and opportunities for writing (and the pleasure of being in a country where the government is mainly the Communist Party), I have been enjoying my favourite restaurant. I treat myself to a meal there once or twice a week, while mostly eating in the dining halls.

One of the pleasures at this little eatery concerns some of the dishes. These include:

Husband and wife lung slice

Thread jujube in Sydney

Boiled salt bath chap

Sneak liver pointed

Beijing heaving

Needless to say, the only way to find out is to order them – in Chinese characters, as is the custom here.

In 1929, Elena Mikulina published a work called Emulation of the Masses and Stalin provided a forward. The work was written by a young, unknown writer, and caused many among the intelligentsia to mock the work. In reply, Stalin writes (with a biblical allusion or two):

We have hundreds and thousands of young and capable people who are striving with might and main to rise to the surface and contribute their mite to the common treasury of our work of construction. But their efforts are often unavailing, because they are very often kept down by the vanity of the literary “lights,” by the bureaucracy and callousness of some of our organisations, and, lastly, by the envy (which has not yet evolved into emulation) of men and women of their own generation. One of our tasks is to break down this blank wall and to give scope to the young forces, whose name is legion. My foreword to an inconsiderable pamphlet by an author unknown in the literary world is an attempt to take a step towards-accomplishing this task. I shall in the future, too, provide forewords only to simple and unassuming pamphlets by simple and unknown authors belonging to the younger forces. It is possible that this procedure may not be to the liking of some of the snobs. But what do I care? I have no fondness for snobs anyhow . . . (Works, vol. 12, p. 120)

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