Run for Cover


It's defrosted now

It’s defrosted now

My local playing fieldYesterday I was walking on snow-sprinkled astroturf, today I nearly combusted in just a long sleeved top and my new Tsinghua hoodie. I should have listened to advice not to exercise in heattech thermals but prior to today it has been freezing; thank goodness I didn’t wear my long johns too.

I took a little trot around the northern half of the university, located in part in an old Qing dynasty pleasure garden. The campus is completely self contained and has quite a jumble of architecture dating from the Qing through to the more recent Concert Hall built in honour of the school’s centenary in 2011. According to the blurb I’m housed in the most modern dorms on the campus; the whole north eastern area is residential and a little bit council projecty but softened by a healthy distance between buildings and proximity to the sports fields.

The Qing garden’s heart is a lake with an island in the middle and pagodas and pavilions scattered around. A beautiful white hump backed bridge spans the water on the north side and a classical stone walkway crosses to the island on the west. At the weekend the ice between the two was dotted with skaters and the pagoda on the island housed a group learning a dance routine. Winding from north to south through the ancient park is a river with carved stone walls and long stretches of pedestrian and cycle paths running alongside. The waterways are peaceful and will be quite lovely when the green starts to come out in spring.

The birds seem to like it here already. We have everything from sparrows, sorely missed in London, to magpies, for whom the reverse is true; these lot seem to be a particularly vocal tribe and have reps posted outside my window. I also spotted a flock of unidentifiable birds rustling about in the denuded shrubbery by the river today. They were similar to a magpie in form but with quite different colouring of grey bodies and bright blue tails. Will take suggestions from the ornithologists out there.

Running west seemed to take me into increasingly dense smoke and I naively thought I must be venturing too close to an incinerator at burning hour. When a group of rowdy students chased me from a pagoda lookout it spurred me to head home towards cleaner air. Wishful thinking that I would evade what was evidently an atmospheric change: within fifteen minutes we went from glorious blue skies to choking yellow smog.

Intending to finish my run with a lap of the track I returned to my local football field to find it divided into numerous mini-fields with mixed games underway. Wednesday afternoon seems to be sports practice worldwide with China no exception. On the encircling running track male students in electric blue tracksuits kept pace in ordered formations of ten or so yelling “one, two, hai!” at random intervals. Undeterred, I slotted in in front of three bunched groups. There’s nothing like the sensation of being closely pursued by thirty young men to motivate a bit more speed and distance than planned. I managed a lap and a half of pacemaking and retired while I could still breathe, leaving the boys chugging around quite unperturbed.


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