Ahead of leaving Shanghai on Monday, a good chunk of my belongings are now in transit. I have 25 kilos going by post, plus an 8kg rug I just bought in Kashgar in northwest China. I also have a trunk full of books and things I’ve collected here which is now wending its way by ship to Felixstowe.
This trunk and its contents have prompted the most surprised reactions from Chinese people. Last week, I arrived home pushing the 1940s relic from the lift to my door and our ayi, Qian Zhi Hui, was at home. She helped me push it into the living room and then within seconds was wiping it over with a cloth, disgusted at how dusty it was. In my eyes, I had got a bargain from the junk shop. I had found it sitting amongst the general clutter of Chairman Mao tapestries, old light fittings, biscuit tins, suitcases, a typewriter and crockery. To me this place is a treasure trove as you never know want little gem you might find there. I had bought the box because to me, it was perfect for transporting my belongings and will be something nice to keep. I got a 1950s biscuit tin thrown into the bargain, and together they cost 35 pounds. The first person who turned his nose up at it was the driver of the taxi who took me home. He said his mother used to have one but no-one does now because old stuff like this is not good and everyone likes new things. He wasn’t telling me anything new. I have seen hundreds of historic buildings be demolished since I’ve lived here.
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