3 October 2010

Good morning to you all.

This week the weather has been playing a game of “Good cop, bad cop.” We’ve had some wonderfully splendid days followed by a day of unremitting downpour, only to be followed by another splendid day. Tuesday was lovely; Wednesday it rained. Thursday was bright and sunny; Friday it poured. Yesterday was gorgeous; today it is wet and grim again. And, the forecast for the next few days is more of the same – good day, bad day, good day, bad day. What’s up with that?

One of the tasks we carry out each week, like most of you, I guess, is putting our rubbish and recyclables out by the roadside on a Wednesday evening ready for collection early on Thursday morning. This week, as I was putting the paper out to be recycled in the drizzly rain, I noticed that in the distance that the sky was beginning to clear (ready for Thursday’s fine day, of course). It was quite stunning, I have to say – the sky in the distance was bright blue and the light was that kind of bright, golden light you sometimes get in the early evening after a grey and miserable rainy day. I looked toward the church just as a rainbow appeared and as I admired it all I noticed our resident swallows swooping all around the neighbourhood with their two latest fledglings in tow. We have been quite concerned about these late arrivals having witnessed the parents frantically feeding them, trying to get them sufficiently fattened up for the long expedition to the south. From our limited knowledge, these seemed to have been a very late brood and we were not convinced that they would have time to grow enough feathers, let alone build up sufficient strength to survive the trip. It was very reassuring, therefore, to be able to see them out flying and doing quite a credible job of it. They’ve gone now so let’s hope they all make it there and back next spring.

Had a nice chat with Adam on Skype yesterday morning. He shared with us the fact that he won an award from the Hunan Provincial People’s Government for his work at the school. He and Tang had a slap-up couple of days along with the eighteen other winners and a couple of government big-wigs. Apparently, they were treated to a couple of days in a 5 star hotel about 10 minutes walk from their home and the activities included a tree-planting photo opportunity, a couple of huge feasts with all the other foreigners who work in Hunan complete with speeches and performances and the award ceremony itself.


Adam and Tang at the presentation Adam receiving his award

As well as the shining gold medal, the citation he received says:

Mr Adam Gregory Stragnell,
This Certification of the “Xiaoxiang Friendship Award” is bestowed upon your contribution to the economic and social development of Hunan Province.
Hunan Provincial People’s Government
September, 2010

A citation from a Communist regime – what next?

We had a splendid walk last weekend during one of the “good” days of the week. We took Molly over near Broughton Castle not far from here and spent a couple of happy hours trudging across the fields. We only went wrong once, I think, and the final part of the walk, the approach across the parkland towards the Castle was gorgeous.


Broughton Castle

I ran across several “wacky” things this week, or so I thought. A couple relate to cunning acts of thievery in France. It seems that a bunch of thieves worked out how to hoover up nearly a million dollars from a number of Parisian supermarkets.

“The key to the thieves’ nearly uninterrupted streak of success, per French reports, is the way that Monoprix delivers money from the checkouts to its safes: Envelopes of cash are funneled in via pneumatic suction tubes. Whereas breaching the safe itself might be considerably difficult, requiring explosives or safecracking, the thieves realized that if they just drilled into the delivery tubes near the safebox and hooked up a powerful vacuum, they could suck the money out and get at it much more easily,” or so it says here.

As if that wasn’t sufficiently daunting, it seems that a group of thieves have stolen an entire crop of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from a vineyard in France. They came into a somewhat remote field in the middle of the night with a large harvester and made off with the lot! What I want to know is what impact will that have on the price of a decent bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon in the future?

Finally, I guess many of you will have heard of our dear friend Miles’ recent surgery; he is recovering from a triple heart bypass and valve replacement, according to our sources. Keep him in your thoughts and send him good wishes.

Love to you all,

Greg