Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wan Ton Soup

Hello all

Very fortunately, a library not ten miles from our accommodation is providing free internet use to people on low income. All I had to do was look pitiful and say I was of no fixed abode (technically true as the barn has no postcode and is not a designated dwelling due it being 'uninhabitable' according to the local council). Having no access to transport means I have to walk a couple of hours each way (my legs are getting stronger each day), but it means I can continue to bring my story to the attention of the public. Why? Because I believe that someone out there might recognise my distress as genuine, recognise the latent talent that lives and breathes below my jaded skin, and perhaps even act as patron for the re-establishment of the Cumbernauld Instiute of Parasitology. Failing that, maybe they'll just let me tutor their kids in A level biology. It would be a start.

On this trip to the library I am allowed only 10 minutes as there is a group of benefit claimants awaiting a lesson on using job websites to find gainful employment. I have chosen not to claim benefits on the grounds that I vowed early in life never to become dependent on the State. Dolores thinks my principled stand is about as useful and fiscally sound as an Icelandic banker's draft. I remind her that she too cannot bring herself to make contact with the DSS, and so we live as nature intended - self sustaining, slightly malnourished and generally uncomfortable.

The minutiae of our new life are of no interest to others, unless they are to serve as a simple record of this frugal period in our lives. I will therefore attempt to draw on events, thoughts and processes that at least stand a small chance of raising some tiny dribble of interest in the mind(s) of my reader(s). To begin, I must go back some months and finally tell the end of Ravel's tale in China. For those of you at all interested in how this started, please read all posts from 2008 -2009 (there aren't many).

Ravel was detained at the station without speaking to anyone for the rest of the night. In the morning, an interpreter was brought to the station to read the charges against him in English. Ravel listened to a long list of completely false allegations around the themes of avoiding tax, extortion, breaking copyright, false imprisonment and, perhaps most dangerously 'incitement to subvert the political power of the state and overthrow the socialist system by spreading rumors, slander or other means'. Ravel had no idea what any of the charges meant, and tried to insist that they had arrested the wrong man. He asked to see one of his lawyer friends, but no-one at the police station knew any of the names, and he was therefore required to wait in his cell for an undetermined period of time. Ravel asked if he could make a phone call, and partly to his surprise that was allowed. Guess who he phoned? That's right, me...

'Hello?' I said on answering my pay-as-you-go mobile (we have had no landline since we moved here, and I cannot afford a contract).

'Boss, I am happy you are there. I am in big trouble', came the faint voice of Ravel.

'Where are you ?', was my immediate response. Establishing geographic location, in my experience, conveys a mountain of information rarely captured so economically by other means.

'Jail!', came his plaintive cry. I could tell he might be a little distressed even over the poor connection. However, I still did not know in which jail he was located - something I needed to understand before acting further.

'Where is the jail?'

'I don't know boss. They bring me here in darkness. I sit in my cell and they tell me nothing!'

'OK, stay calm, Ravel. Let's start at the beginning. In which country are you currently located?'

'China Boss. Can you help me get out of here?'

At this point, I was forced to sigh. My knowledge of Chinese jails and the justice system was (and still is) somewhat lacking. I could no more help Ravel get out of jail than help my own mother-in-law find the heart to payback the victim of her latest misdemenour (she apparently stole and ate a box of black-magic chocolates bequeathed to a former friend whose husband had died on valentines day - having initially denied the charge she then admitted under questioning that she had stolen the chocolates out of jealousy because such a beautiful gesture had never come her way). Instead I suggested he contacted one of his lawyer friends. Ravel told me he didn't have their number, and asked could I make the relevant enquiries. Being somewhat short on resources myself, I could only shrug my shoulders. 'I'm afraid you are on your own at the moment, my friend', I said, before wishing him well and hanging up (my battery was about to expire and was rationed to one re-charge a week).

Dear reader(s), I understand you may think this harsh of me, but under the circumstances I truly could do no more. I knew from our brief conversation that Ravel was at least safe(ish) from harm. I also knew that his lawyer friends were extremely resourceful and would be on the case imminently. And I was right of course. The next day, I received another phone call, this time from a rather happier sounding Ravel. He was now out of jail and sitting by a hotel pool. It turned out he had been arrested after an anoymous tip-off by someone in his enemy's organisation, suggesting that Ravel had been sending subversive messages about the Chines state through a blog under the pseudonym of Joseph McCrumble. Yes, that's right. My own name had been implicated in this farce. Well, the authorities checked the blog and found nothing subversive at all. A preposterous idea in the first place, if you ask me. I asked Ravel if he was still intent on persuing his aim of avenging the loss of his replica world cup trophy business. Fortunately for all of us, he decided he had been beaten by a force greater than his own will to succeed. 'I'm coming home boss', he told me, 'I give up.'

Ravel returned a few days later, somewhat thinner than when I had last seen him, head bowed and bleary eyed. He had managed to recover the copy of the replica trophy that had descended from the roof of the warehouse during the poker-game stunt, but otherwise was devoid of baggage. He was sullen for many days later, refusing to eat the Chinese takeaways we were living on at the time (this may seem crass, but we had struck a deal with a local chinese restaurant whereby I would walk around the village with a sandwich board three evenings a week in return for half-price meals. Sadly the restaurant has now become a victim of the recession and is closed.). But time heals all wounds, and within a few weeks he was back to his old self, playing an essential role in the maintenance of the barn. His lawyer friends promised to fight on, but we have heard nothing in weeks and can only assume that the enterprise has now had a line drawn underneath it. Sometimes, life jsut doesn't give you what you want, and you have to move on, I told Ravel one evening about a month ago. Since then, the subject has not been raised.

There ends the story of Ravel's adventures in China. Nothing else exciting has happened, so this blog will now revert to commenting on the occasional event of interest as I try to beat the credit crunch and keep my family's soul together. Here's hoping we aren't all doomed!



Gorilla Bananas said...

Well, Dr Joe, Ravel's release and return is certainly good news. He could have disappeared into their labour camps and ended up being harvested for his internal (and possibly external) organs. I hope you will impress on him how fortunate he has been. I hope this comment will not get you into trouble with the Chinese government. Please delete it if you are worried that it might.

prof plum said...

Wonderful News Ravel is home.
just maybe the closure of the local Take Away could be used to your advantage.
With Ravels expertise in Chinese food you could start your own up.
JMC Just Marvellous Chinese.

Dr Joseph McCrumble said...

GB - thanks for dropping by and giving your message to Ravel. We are hoping also that this blog is not being monitored by unseen forces - though hopefully they will see it for what it really is - a slightly melancholic and resigned view of the world.

Plum - He's been back a while, I just couldn't afford the petrol to run the generator to fire up the computer. Now I'm using the library I should be in better contact. Ravel refuses to eat any chinese food, so no hope of starting a business, sadly.