Maria, Me and the happy farmers
Maria, Me and the happy farmers

Dear Adam

I’ve decided to put an embargo on blog title puns as it’s become a tourettes syndrome condition which focuses the entire mind on the title of the blog instead of its content.

Today was a full schedule starting early with a lesson in the English Fry Up, or at least a fairly refined version with bacon, scrambled eggs and homemade bread toasted and drizzled with local homemade honey. The M&S marketing team would have been proud. Indeed, we seem to have momentarily become a training organisation for the company staff, which is semi-unsatisfactory in some ways but, the personnel get a lot out of it and it seems to spread the message of why we are here across Nanling far better than other means. And Xinghai seems delighted with the food as dialogue model, so we’ll stick with it.

I’ve been working on a poster for Saturday with the local calligrapher, not the high end moody gestural genius local calligrapher, but the Brian from Dalton tell it straight calligrapher. There has been a three day discussion with him, me, Jiaying and Xinghai over content, meaning and marketing strategy, which is all going to condense in a hand made A2 sheet of paper. There is no printer here in the village, so we are just making three with brush and ink. But the joy is that you put one up on each of the three official notice boards and everyone reads it. Apparently. After a meeting tonight where he sketched out the layout meticulously in pencil, he took it home to work on and will return with it tomorrow am.

Brian has made the maypole and the maypole looks good. It’s portable and is made out of bamboo so doesn’t look like a maypole at all really, more like a tree support in the Yu garden. Will test it out tomorrow. Welcome open discussion on the merits of trans-national folk references, post-ironic poles, the pleasure principle within public spectacle and the shelf life of such approaches.

Vincent made a great lunch for us today in the hotel bar. It was like Jamie Oliver in an eastern parallel universe. Some nice fish, some lovely noodles and some budiful tofu, well pukka. He’s been a breath of fresh air since he arrived – helpful, funny, enthusiastic, full of energy and most of all gets the project completely and helps sell it to the locals. His energy and validation of the project has given us all a boost just when we were starting to fray a little. He’s got to go back tomorrow at 6.00am but was trying to find a way to stay, he’s got to see his lecturer for his MA thesis on contemporary Chinese Art and the Spectacle and work on a new video show in Guangzhou museum but thinks our project is more interesting. He’s back Friday with Sue and more goodies. They are going to take us to a Guangzhou club when we get back to civilisation and put all those Harold Beyonce moves to good use – but maybe not as it could be too Parents at a wedding disco roadshow.

This afternoon Maria, Vincent and I went back down to the organic farm to talk some more about what they might do. We have moved away from dressing the room for the moment as actually discussing the concept and ideas was more interesting to them than making a photo shoot – that’s all detail that can come later they seem to say. We were joined by Jiaying, Xinghai and a journalist from a geography magazine who is here reporting and very interested in what we are doing. He is going to follow us roud and interview us at the weekend.
We did find a previously hidden room filled with what we think is really cool retro communist furniture, but it is clear there is a huge gulf between our idea of good furniture and theirs. Also whilst we think that ping fang 50’s stuff looks great, sort of red army Isokon, to them it just reeks of workhouse flats in the city. Black laquer is the ‘true’ county look. But I’ve yet to see any round here yet.

In the conversation we came on leaps and bounds and finally got over the hurdle of them thinking we were like the man from del Monte or that we were looking to invest, and that we were actually here out of our own interest and public good and art and to ultimately help our village etc. It took a while to work out the accurate position, neither business nor charity, but floating somewhere between. We are not in this for profit, but we don’t want to be a charity (although technically we are) handing out help for no return. Out return is the exchange of ideas and the chance to make life better back home through this exchange, to influence development in the Lake District in better ways than more bednights, more tourists and the largest cheap cheese factory in Europe (yes that’s a Cumbria Vision vision). You could see the penny start to drop and they are very enthusiastic to develop something or to work with artists, the company etc to push forward, but as long as it is for the benefit of the whole community. “Maybe you are socialists?” They are the Yew Tree Farm of Nanling, but possibly more interesting and with a wider range of products for sure.

They served us there own specially grown tea, a new product which is made from the most special tree in the region. At the moment they only have saplings but are looking to step this up. It is so special that they don’t label this tree to prevent it being stolen. The tea is said to have special powers, especially for cancer, and of course tastes like sour medicine. I’ve asked for the Latin name of the plant, but it looks like hemlock to me.

They have also just opened a dried food stall in the market yesterday, which looks exactly like all the other dried food stalls next to it. I am yet to figure this one out beyond a pre-capitalist hangover of equality. Ther stuff is great – mushrooms, peanuts, fish, dried fruit and super sweet sunblushed cherry tomatoes. The special tea he sells under the counter to his mates and he gave me a bag from the back of his van in town and I duly sloped off: well sorted for teas and whiz.

Walking back from dinner at Joes in the square, we heard music coming from a basket ball court next to the theatre. Sure enough it was the dancing girls practising for Saturday. They are taking this seriously but also enjoying it, it seems. They had wheeled out a TV and DVD into the court outside and were copying the moves on film. Quite a touching sight. They asked for a CD of Scottish Dance music to keep up the tradition after we leave – maybe you could email/yousendit some better tracks? After practice Jai, Jay and me sat inside the Workers Union with them,r a circle of cackling women and me the only male except for a giant statue of Mao looking at me from the corner. I’m hoping Jay got it on film – me and ten women talking about birth control before a giant bust of Mao.

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