It’s the middle of our last night and I can’t sleep. I might not post this come morning when there’s light, but for now, a few complaints to the Central Party Congress now meeting in Beijing.

* Some Chinese toilets are dreadful. The women’s are usually squat toilets, which means a piece of porcelain in the floor that looks like a mini-urinal.


To say nothing of the street snacks.

* Some bathrooms have a toilet or two called the “handicapped” toilet and the tourist crush on these is fierce. I was holding the door closed for one elderly British woman to preserve her modesty when the other handicapped stall became available and I am sorry to say I abandoned her.

* You must bring your own toilet paper, and once it’s used, toilet or squat, it goes in a basket in the corner of the stall. A mixture of blood, urine and feces sits there all day and makes an unbelievable stench. But visitors get to come and go – there is a woman in the toilet employed to stay there all day, picking up stray bits of paper with a footlong pair of bamboo tweezers and wiping the sinks when she can no longer bend over. In India this kind of job used to be the lot of the untouchables.

* There is MSG in a lot of the food. You’ll know when you lie in bed at night feeling like you just drank five cups of coffee. C’mon, people, MSG is so 1970s.

This is kind of minor, but still – the spitting. Both men and women do it, but mostly men, and you know one’s coming in a crowd when you hear the hawwwwkk before the ptui.  I think we have panda videos with that hawwwwkk in them and then the lens moves away from the ptui. Also the pandas.

You can’t pour water from a tap in a country with some 2 billion people.

And always, always, the air. Breathe in, breathe out, aspirate, respirate, and – no payoff. Sooty trees, dusty throats. Always on the edge of taking oxygen in but never quite getting the satisfaction of a deep sweet breath . I have a cold now.  I can’t sleep because it’s hard to breathe; that’s normal with a cold, but now my lungs hoover in the fog and the filthy air and wonder what the new Chinese leadership plans to do about it.