The Beginning of Winter, Beijing 2015: Knickers in the Wind

One of the good things about going it alone is that you can stop and make notes in your own time. These are observations that have been sitting in my phone for months. It’s full of ramblings like this.

The Beijing DaFeng (big wind) is whipping its icy fingers from Mongolia across the city today. Powder snow cascades down from avenues of trees illuminated by the dazzling winter sunshine and crystal blue sky. The early cold snap has taken them by surprise and a lot of the leaves still haven’t fallen. They flutter down all around forming a green-white frozen carpet which gives a satisfying crunch as my bike passes over. Cold aside, the wind means that we’re having the luxury of an extended period of excellent air at the moment and it’s a blissful time.

Girls still wear high boots, a fashion that never seems to diminish. This year though, it’s spray-on shiny black leather trousers that are ‘in’ (no really) and are being worn everywhere at the moment. The logic is that they keep out the cold (yeh right!) As per usual although the temperatures are plummeting there are still guys wearing small undone jackets who refuse to wear a hood, hat or anything practical. Bent over with hands thrust into tiny pockets one chap recoils as the cold gusts down the street. Risking hypothermia for sake of ruining one’s hair hardly never equates now does it?

People who work outside all day wear their usual protective cold weather gear. There are thousands of delivery drivers and couriers who mostly drive three wheeled motorized carts with a large metal box mounted on the back. They wear masks, heavy padded coats and protective leg guards that cover their knees. One chap cycles past with his cart load of sweet potatoes leaving a fragrant trail of smoke behind it. His radio loudly plays traditional Chinese flute music though you can hardly complain about that now can you?

The only part of the ride that isn’t flat is the dip under the expressway and I pass one of the street cleaners going in the other direction. I often see her here. The street carts are pedal powered and look really heavy so it’s no wonder she always stops half way up the hill to take a break. As she unscrews the top of her flask a slight plume of steam is immediately taken by a brisk air current. Our frequent passing means we’ve started making eye contact; a fleeting but intense second; dark eyes framed by her thick burgundy scarf and dirty grey hood both tightly wrapped across her head. I wonder what it must be like out here pedalling that great hulk all day in this. I know I live a life of luxury in this country. Mei cuo! (‘you’re not wrong there!’)

Parking up outside the supermarket, the road is more like a wind tunnel of swirling vortices that project dust and detritus in icy blasts from end to end. Larger fragments of rubbish have become caught high up the bare branches of the trees which strangely includes a large pair of white knickers defiantly flapping away, clinging on or held captive among the bare winter fronds. How did they get there? The wind isn’t strong enough to lift them. Maybe someone threw them out of a top storey apartment window; a jilted lover in a fit of rage perhaps?

Questions and wonder at this unexpected mystery, I go about my way.

35 replies

    • Hiya Bruce. Thanks for dropping by and especially for your kind words. I had this post as a draft for ages and was worried about how it would go down. I’m presently about to embark over your way and have a good wander around. Have a wicked weekend mate.

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  1. The photo is outstanding! The writing superb! I love the humor interject. When I read about the cold air and the young men’s attire I could fully picture this as I live in Wisconsin–and I see young people wearing shorts in zero degree weather! Young girls walk around with their jackets open. Must be a body image thing with the purpose of attraction! LOL People of all cultures have similarities it appears. I love your little anecdotes!

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    • Thanks for your kind words Jane. Glad you liked it. Yes, I must admit that shot was a one in a million. I did wonder what people would think about this post but it seems to be one of the most liked at the moment, phew!

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  2. I always wonder about discarded clothing items and shoes lying on or in the street, especially one shoe. I know there is a story there. I think that would be a good writing quest. Take a photo of a discarded item and create a short story around it.

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    • Yes I’m kicking myself I never took a shot of that giant white pair of bloomers flapping away vigorously. I moment of mental dullness there I guess. I shall now be on the lookout for more clothing, pref underwear LOL. Did you find my e-mail link? Above the RSS link ‘Follow Just Turn Left via Email’

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      • I must be worse off than I thought. I am touching, clicking every link but not getting an email option. Mine is in with the other tabs below my post. Maybe it is due to my being on the ipad. Let me grab some coffee, nudge the brain into full activity and get onto the laptop. Thanks again! I will share whichever way works out. I look forward to that knickers story too! 😉

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      • Ha ha ha > No worries. Honestly I really appreciate you taking the interest Dweezer. Maybe we are talking about different things > Here is a copied and pasted from the widget: Follow Just Turn Left via Email

        Click to follow Just Turn Left and receive notifications of new posts by email.

        Is that the one your looking for? If not I’ll jump into my Admin page and add it.

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  3. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Andy has such a great blog where he travels around China and shares images you don’t see on television often. The people and the culture there. I love it! I am also happy he allows me to promote his book which you should also check out on his blog! -OM
    Note: Comments disabled here. Please visit their blog.

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  4. Wonderful descriptions, Andy. I could easily visualise those girls in their high-heeled boots and ‘spray-on’ (!) black leather trousers, and the men with tiny jackets and no hoods. I could also imagine them shivering their backsides off! As for the rubbish up in the trees…the mind boggles! A really entertaining read. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much Millie. Glad you liked it. I did wonder how people would take this post. I should learn to do more like this rather than the longer posts but I just cant help myself ha ha. Wishing you a great weekend 🙂

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      • I know how you feel. Most of my posts are very long and I know only too well that shorter ones always attract more views etc. But I can’t manage to do short posts about places I’ve visited – which are the main ones I do while I’m working on Book 3. I really miss doing the flash fiction but it’s ‘on hold’ for the present.
        Sorry for the late reply, Andy, but I’ve been down in Somerset for the past week. 🙂

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      • Hiya Millie > Its tough writing short posts but that’s the name of the game. Some people post one photo a day and have a lot of followers. At the end of the day its about doing what WE want though. I love my blog the way it is 🙂 Its miiiiiine all miiiiiine ha ha. Somerset? Where did you go in Somerset? My old back yard 🙂

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      • Hi Andy. I know from your book that Bristol was your old part of the world! (I have started reading you book but haven’t got too far yet with being away last week. I’ve read about 30% so far and am enjoying it very much.)
        We simply wanted to visit some sites down there that we’d never been to – not all in Somerset but easy enough to get to from there. We went to the Cheddar Gorge and Stonehenge, but the main event was a Viking v Saxons re-enactment at Corfe Castle in Dorset over the Bank Holiday weekend. I’ve already written that up and the others will be blog posts sometime in the future. As for blog styles, I couldn’t agree more. We have to do what we want, or there’s no point having a blog at all. 🙂

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      • Hi there Millie > I must admit that I’m a Vikings fan now ha ha > I am addicted to the series. Have you seen it? I’m reading your book Shadow of the Raven though I am a slow reader. I’ll get there though 🙂 Really glad your enjoying JTL.

        You’ve brought back thoughts of Somerset for me. Hope to get back there maybe next year. A bit homesick today 🙂 I love the Mendips. Wishing you a bright and sparkling weekend Millie 🙂 Andy

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  5. You have poetry in your words, Andy. Do you write poems? I loved the silent exchange between you and the street cleaner woman. I wonder if you or she will wave to each other one day. I felt as if I were riding alongside you and seeing and hearing all the captivating sights and sounds. This is definitely one of my favorite posts of yours.

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    • Thanks Rose. Yes I still see her often and normally its in the same place down in the underpass. We always exchange looks. I wonder what she thinks. Maybe I’ll nod first and see what happens > in a month maybe it’ll be a wave 🙂 Thanks for your kind words mate 🙂 Really glad you like it 🙂

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