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.