Walking along a Wall

giphy

Latimer: There are lots of things to be excited about when you’re going on holidays; you don’t have to worry about work, you’re going somewhere new and you can relax and do what you want – it’s a great feeling. Aside from the food, which is one of my most favourite things about being on holidays, one of the best things is getting to see famous places you’ve only seen on the TV!

In Beijing there were lots of famous places to stamp my foot on.

20140311_091748

20140311_084828

You can’t go to China and not go to the Great Wall.

To me it was one of those places that I’ve known about my whole life; it’s a place of massive human achievement, but had it been overhyped in my mind – could it really be that good?

Yes, as it turns out! It was as amazing as people say.

Getting to stand on the Great Wall and stare around the valley (like a boss), as it criss-crossed the landscape, weaving up and down like a great stone snake slithering over hills through smog into the far north of China – spectacular!!

IMG_20140310_142422

IMG_20140310_141627

The Great Wall started its existence as a series of small walls that were unified into one Great wall by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (namesake of the Qin Dynasty). This is the Emperor who also built the Terracotta Army – a busy man right? Up to a million people died building the ‘Great Wall’ and are actually buried within the wall itself. So there’s an eerie feeling walking along the wall and thinking about that!

20140310_120451

20140310_115826

The part of the wall that I was on is called the Jiangshanling Great Wall; it’s a bit of a less touristy spot. It was great because there was hardly anyone else on the wall. It was basically empty, so it was even more incredible to be able to stand on one arching swell and look into the distance and see nothing but the wall and its watchtowers 🙂

As I walked I noticed that there was a lot of graffiti – people had carved their names into the wall. This started a conversation about how if the graffiti’s been there long enough it becomes historic (is a 400 year old piece of graffiti terrible… or historic?).

IMG_20140310_142703

When people used to visit Shakespeare’s home (a long time after his death), they used to write their names on the windows to say that they were there. Lots of famous writers (Dickens etc) signed the windows, and now they are a museum piece within the house.

20130802_110339

It’s an odd one and it happens everywhere; I’ve seen names carved into the stone at our own Newgrange (which is 5,000 years old, which makes this really bad).

newgrange-doehlg

It is sad, and you do shudder at seeing it; ‘I’d never do that! That’s terrible’… but then if enough time passes… does it become alright? Do you start to think; ‘someone in the 1800s was standing where I am now, in awe of this thing I am seeing that they once saw too… (of course they were busy carving their name into it, so we aren’t really experiencing it the same way, but still!)’

People like to write their names on things because it says; ‘I was here, I existed once and I was here’. And I get that, but…

Argh, it’s a tough one; but people shouldn’t be doing it anymore – that’s what the visitor’s guestbook is for!

While on the wall I ate the bag of Hula Hoops I’d gotten in Dublin airport (and failed to eat on the plane – I told you we’d be seeing those food items again!)… That was bizarre!

Then it was on to the Forbidden City (give or take a day, ha). That place is amazing.

20140311_083901

20140311_095427

20140311_094446 20140311_100422

20140311_102338 20140311_100446

20140311_100538

It was built according to the rules and laws of Taoism – the cultural religion of China. For example, Taoism is crazy about numbers. The number 9 (and 5) is very important and lucky in the religion. The doors of the city’s gates have gold circle embossing – there are nine rows with nine circles across.

The Forbidden City is also said to contain 9999 rooms; the Emperor is the only one on earth who can have 9999 rooms. This is one less than the Jade Emperor (the King of Heaven in Taoism); only he can have 10,000 rooms. The Jade Emperor sounds cool doesn’t he?

There’s a lot to see in the Forbidden City, I found myself just wandering on my own at one point, enjoying my own novelty as a white foreigner (I’m hardly ever exotic, so that was fun!).

20140311_103853 20140311_111255

It wasn’t long before my time in Beijing was at an end, but I did manage to check out the Bird’s Nest Stadium and the Cube before I was off on an overnight train (13 hours!) to Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors, but that’s another post 🙂

20140312_092300 20140312_091836

Previous post: Middle Kingdom Musings and next post: The Art of Terracotta

Something about Shakespeare

william-shakespeare_5029159247682

Latimer: William Shakespeare.

There was a time when that name struck fear into my very soul. Years ago, when I, like so many others, was semi-scarred by compulsory Shakespeare plays on English exams.

20130802_110137

These plays required someone, who had studied Shakespeare in college, to go through it word-by painful-word and translate it, because Shakespearean language is just that – a different language! And it scares a young teenager, scares them bad!

Romeo and Juliet wasn’t really a great start for me.

I remember a girl in my class at the time, she got really frustrated and fidgety and just piped up in a loud confident voice:

“MISS! What use is Shakespeare? Thees and Thous – no one talks like this! I can’t go into a shop and buy milk talking like this!”

The teacher looked like a bolt of lightning had just crispy-fried someone right in front of her. She was speechless. We all laughed– what the hell was the point of this?

In hindsight I know now that poetry and stories and plays, none of them is any use in ordering milk – but it’s not about getting the milk – it’s about food for the soul. All art is pointless, as a Wild man once said 😉

Thankfully, after Romeo and Juliet, I had a break – no more Shakespeare for one year. Not much of a break as Emily Bronte stepped up to take his place for a while – ‘It’s me, it’s Cathy, I’ve come home’ (dear God, go away you crazy harpy woman!).

Then, in the school ending mega-national exam – the big guns were wheeled out– Macbeth! Nooo! NOT SHAKESPEARE AGAIN (we knew what to expect now) HOW WILL WE WRITE AN ESSAY ON THAT! DON’T MAKE ME LEARN QUOTES! NOO!

macbeth-logo

Macbeth, initially I understood no better than Romeo and Juliet, then, again word-by-word it gets explained… and actually, I thought; hold on a minute, this play is epic! It is the ultimate story of a fallen hero, of how absolute power corrupts.

I even have this little quote that I semi consider ‘my life quote’ – Let me set the backstory… It’s Macbeth talking, he is thinking about what he’s done (killed the rightful King and plunged Scotland into anarchy by talking the crown for himself – the very land itself is festering, sickening under his unlawful rule) – Macbeth is thinking about turning back, trying to make up for what he’s done, i.e. do the right thing – ultimately this is what he decides –

“…I am in blood stepp’d in so far, that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er…”

Basically – ‘I won’t turn back, I can’t. I’ve waded out this far, that turning back now would be as difficult as continuing’. Now for him, this was a BAD choice…

…in my case, I consider this quote as my – “KEEP GOING LATIMER! Don’t give up! Going forward is as hard as going back – so keep going, keep going!”

keep_calm_and_keep_going_all_colors_post_cards-rbf54ec15e3ec45e5850a4ee8a64a2a92_vgbaq_8byvr_512

When we were in England, we went to Stratford-Upon-Avon to visit the Bard’s birthplace.

20130802_133421 20130802_134052

The town is beautiful anyway, but with the summer shining, it was glorious… England and Ireland actually look amazing in the sun (though we hardly ever see it, and universally I noticed, we all go completely mad in the sun – it’s like we fully expect to never see it again!).

We went to the Bard’s house, and got an introduction video display, narrated by Patrick Stewart about Shakespeare’s life and work.

20130802_102712 20130802_105505 20130802_111711

 

Shakespeare was famous even in his own time (a proper celeb). The display showed all these great actors who have acted in Shakespearean plays and how it’s almost a feather in the cap for an actor to have done one (or many). And you get really amazed by the actual amount of plays that Shakespeare wrote and you start finding yourself starting to be awed by him – just look at all these amazing quotes…

“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players”

“There’s no art to find the minds construction in the face”

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves”

“All’s well that ends well :)”

 

Shakespeare’s house is really beautiful too and so well preserved.

20130802_105727 20130802_105905 20130802_105916 20130802_105954

Writers from all over, down through the years, would used to visit and write their names on the windows, to show that they had been in the great man’s house. Now these signatures and, sort of property damage!, are artifacts themselves.

20130802_110339 20130802_110346

There was this overflowing sense of respect, from the past and the present.

We also learned that his plays only exist for us today, because his friends collected them altogether into this epic compendium. This book of plays is why we know about Shakespeare today (otherwise we may have never known and Stratford would have a lovely car park instead of a cool piece of priceless history).

20130802_105412 20130802_105545

While Ridley and I sat in Shakespeare’s garden, we wondered, was there some other fantastic playwright out there who wrote just as well, if not better, and had no wise friends with great foresight, and so was forgotten?

Do you ever wonder if there were hundreds of fantastic writers in the past, who never told that amazing story because they couldn’t write?

Or there were fantastic writers whose books were burned or lost, or never printed at all?

Think of all the forgotten stories 😦

Later that night we went to see a Shakespearean play; All’s well that ends well, in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (but of course!) in town.

20130801_182927 20130801_183132

In honour of our trip to Stratford, and our Shakespeare adventure, we both bought Moomins in the town (random I know), and named them after Shakespearean characters.

Ridley’s is Hamlet Moomin… Mine is Bertram Moomin.

20130821_211323

We are odd, we know… but – This above all; to thine own self be true :)” (even if that does involve buying a Moomin and calling it Bertram or Hamlet!)