I’ve been in China for three days now, and it feels like three years. In the good way.
Thanks to the amazing services of my Beijing Bookworm Festival volunteer, June, I’ve managed to fit about four days into every one.
I’ve met what feels like hundreds of wonderful people — teachers, students, festival workers, book people, the 23-year-old son of a very old friend, a photographer from London, and an extraordinary variety of people who seem just to have ended up here — for reasons they can’t always explain.
And they all say the same thing. They love Beijing. Really, really love it.
‘It’s the energy,’ they say, ‘the opportunities.’ ‘The Chinese are so welcoming.’ ‘Anything is possible.’ ‘It’s changing so fast.’ And….’I can’t explain it, I just fell in love with the place.’
It suddenly reminds me a little of how I felt when I first arrived in London in 1977 — it was raw and grimy and nothing worked very well. The winter was cold, everything was on strike and there was no central heating. And the food…at least Beijing has amazing food. But the music was fantastic and the place buzzed with life. Anything was possible. Life hadn’t quite jelled. You could live cheaply. It was amazing fun.
And I was twenty. That didn’t hurt either.