Crickety crack,crickety crack. The window is black and shiny, reflecting cups and kettle and nuts and dried fruit and our beds and our recumbent bodies, resting in this cocoon that is shooting over the earth, relentlessly, rocking and jagging towards Beijing. We are 24 hours in this train, from Hung Hom station in Hong Kong to Beijing. We’ve been looking forward to it for days. Hong Kong has set a heavy pace for us, all of our own choosing, albeit. But our legs today are allowed to rest, at last. From morning to night our legs have undergone a regime fit for training an army. We walk thousands of miles in underground tunnels, in streets; dodging people in and out, fast and slow; up hills so steep, its scary to go down; stairs and stairs and stairs, endless walk ups in old fashioned Chinese buildings without lifts (and to think we have just signed for a month on one of these, 4 stories high, with a roof terrace, but at the end of the day…with the shopping…). And everyday we are happy in our studio working at Yew Chung, shuffling around in that other worldly state, but standing on our legs, nonetheless. Perhaps we are fitter, because now I walk up a hill without puffing, and every morning I feel an energy in my legs that feels unconquerable, until now, when just lying on the bed in our little ‘luxury’ 2 man space in the never nevers of China somewhere, I feel my legs quiver pathetically as they re awaken from their melt down into the mattress and non existence.
We have been in Hong Kong for a month now. Hard to believe because it has gone so fast. We are once again at the Yew Chung International School in Kowloon Tong as artists in residence, both on a lovely project to beautify the school. Mike’s project is to create a 5 metre x 2.5 metre water painting for the entrance to the school’s theatre and art gallery. Mine is to create concepts for a portrait of the founder of the Yew Chung schools. This trip up to Beijing is to visit one of the Yew Chung schools to give some talks to the students about ‘art’, and also to visit the Shanghai art foundries to get some casting quotes on the Madam Tsang portrait.
Morning has come and fields and endless building projects flash by. Decrepit buildings near the railways only not beautiful because of the rubbish and rubble and obvious poverty with windows stuck with newspaper. Cities with lots of anodized chrome and granite. Little men in uniform standing on the platform at attention as the train whips by. Trees, silver birches, elegant and nude without their leafy dress, dots of leaves like a headdress at the crown. Lovely wispy willows with long floating tails drooping over waterways. Industry, lots of it, lots of ugly blue roofs, U.N. blue, Michael calls it, lots of hangar style buildings. Rattle rattle, chigga chigga, rocking gently through the grey. We are in a first class cabin for two. It has its own bathroom. It has the typical hard Chinese beds. We are glad we bought fruit and nuts and a few tea bags. The food is not appetizing, and all is not perfectly clean. The stewards are a happy bunch, enjoying life enormously, lounging in the dining car when the customers have mostly gone. Sleep in the night was a random affair with all the unaccustomed jigging and jolting and flashing light and we are still gently drowsy, delighting in our own space without guilt, glad for this low key resting after such Hong Kong busy-ness.