Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Fish Tales and Film

Chinese mid-Autumn Festival – zhōng qiū jié - started with the fat full moon on 16th September in Pisces, and fire crackers on each corner, exploding. Then China eased into moon cake festoons and family rituals for the next three days.


Some stay at home, but many Chinese people like to travel, and many come to Shandong province in eastern China, where I have the great luck to live - at the far edge of town, by Jinshatan Golden Beach – to get the last of summertime and the still warm sea.

Jinshatan, 1935, courtesy of Mr Mountain-Shan

On the16th as the party opened, the waves were breaking madly, having eaten part of the fishing village up the road in one huge bite; gone. I went to film that night, and all that was left of the three small homes were baby pumpkins clinging to the sand and earth, their roots like tiny veined fingers burrowing down into the flimsy soil, as if they knew that, yes, their time was up too. Everything washed away, washed clean. Tomorrow the pumpkins will have gone too.




But the sea was warm on the 17th, and inviting. We all ran on the still hot sands, scaling Golden Beach, looking for our favourite spot, arms heavy with food hampers and frilled umbrellas.



I had to do it, I couldn’t help it. I bought a huge rubber ring like the Chinese - the size of a child - and joined the riders bobbing like bouys in the water.

Bobbing along watching lovers curl around each other, cheek to cheek, fingers locked, bodies bound forever to eternity. I spy, not far off, new-mother-in-law watching from the shoreline, tapping gently the present and possible future against the ample heart which beats within her tiny frame.

There are the selfie gangs of youth, arrogant and tasseled, tattooed and modern, hip slim, sexual and casual.  Fisher-folk, and loners, solitary idlers, secret drinkers, happy businessmen letting their hair down, and women wearing clinging silk beach wear – eat your heart out Victoria Beckham - more like models ascending a catwalk, then sinking to our sea, discarding flimsy rhinestone sandals and delicately holding white lily flowers to the wind, to have their photos taken. Lily is the festive flower. The local toilet cleaners, armed with sprays and nets, stand admiring all of us, like kings and queens in front of their '4 star tourist toilets.' We grab, like greedy children, this last flush of summer, squeezing out the very last drop and lolling long till night falls.

Eating, drinking, making merry.

Some of us are quite drunk by nightfall, staggering slowly back to home or hotel. Sun-licked and sand bitten. And under our fish-tailed Piscean moon which plays hide and seek with the clouds, lovers kiss in dark corners and fishermen wait the night long: no work tonight my friends, out there the sea is far too rough !

I am still on holiday. I have forgotten that I am really back at school. I forget time, here on the beach. I forget about films and teaching film English, and documentary, and eager students, as I bob outwards, towards the heads, heart pounding, a bit scared; waiting for the biggie to come – that wave – which will drag me back to the shore, once more.

Once more…