I have always dislike alarm clocks: they wake me up when I do not want to be woken up, to go somewhere I do not want to go, to do something I do not want to do for the sake of someone I do not want to see. Recently, an enterprising Swede has come up with the best reason to hate alarm clocks. Go to minute 3.18 if you do not wish to see the preamble.

On a recent rail journey around Australia (stories here and here), I checked my email once in two weeks. For some reason, the removal from my daily life of one significant source of consistent interruption meant that I could relax in a way I have not done for a long time. Of course, on return home, I began to check my email many times a day – until today. As part of my semi-retirement, I will check my email again only on Thursday next week, and then at most weekly after that. However, I did find that when you get in the habit, another day or two extra makes little difference.

In my long journey of learning Chinese, one the greatest pleasures concerns the myriad measure words. Every time you use a number with an object numbered, you need a measure word. The ones to use have an internal logic that defies me.

For example, long narrow things like rivers, snakes and trousers use:

条 tiao

‘Two snakes’ is: liang tiao she

However, when you want to speak of a section of something long, you use:

段 duan

‘The northern part of the canal’ is: yunhe de bei duan

In an earlier post concerning my winter swim in the ocean, I mentioned that the water was somewhat chilly but that the swim was glorious. Of course, I used some poetic license to emphasise the water’s temperature. My mother decided to write me an email to point out that the water in these parts was 18.1 degrees and that such a temperature is not so cold. I am not sure where my mother found such a statistic, for today I went for another swim. This time I was in the water, swimming laps in the ocean baths, for about 20 minutes. And the temperature: 15 degrees. This was obtained by simply putting a thermometer in the water (as the lifeguard does each day).

I have always marvelled at the old fogeys, who manage to swim throughout winter in these parts, even in water that would make a normal person blue with cold and suffering the effects of the cold on motor control. I speculated that perhaps such people had begun to lose the function of some nerves, so that they lost feeling to some extent. I wondered whether the many experiences of life made what once seemed like extremes into rather normal events.

Today, 9 August 2015, I decided to go for a swim in the ocean. This is the last month of winter in these parts, with chilly nights and fresh days. The water still has its winter feel. Down on the beach, I was the only person headed for the water. The few others present were rugged up, seeking to find some quiet on a winter’s afternoon by the water – albeit only for a look and the touch of the biting wind.

As I strode towards the water, I expected a brass-monkey and breath-taking dip, for perhaps a few seconds. Instead, it was glorious! I dove under waves, caught a few, sensed once again the salt water on my skin. Eventually, I came out of the water and went to change. I felt as though I was glowing.

Instead of a once-off event, I do believe this is the beginning of yet another swimming season. They seem to get longer every year. Another pleasure of age – they keep increasing in number.

I must admit I have a love of pocket watches, carrying one of my collection around with me at all times. So I was thrilled to read this, an address given to collective farm workers from Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in December, 1935:

Secondly, that the government has decided to make a gift of an automobile truck to every collective farm represented here and to present every participant at this conference with a gramophone and records (applause) and watches – pocket watches for the men and wrist watches for the women. (Prolonged applause.) (Works, vol. 14, p. 123).


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 and zhou

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

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