This is how it started. We had dived into an upmarket restaurant because the temperature was dropping fast and it was raining; we just couldn’t bear the thought of another meal with our backs to an open door, huddled around a plastic cup of hot water. We soon got chatting to the geezers at the next table and as one of them was from Guangdong we immediately switched to Cantonese, becoming a kind of majority for a change. (Three against three.) They asked us to eat with them and soon the baijiu (Chinese rice wine) started flowing. P fought against it with all his might – it really is the vilest-tasting, most headache-inducing drink in the world – but was helpless in the face of the mighty force of Chinese Aggressive Hospitality.
One thing is asking people for a sip of wine or two, but Chinese Aggressive Hospitality decrees that there must be one ‘bottoms up!’ every 25 seconds. With the expected result.
That morning I had been on a walk and come across some leisurely swimmers on the freezing river bank. Well, not exactly freezing. They said it was 3 degrees but that was a big fat lie.
It was at least 5.
When I told P about this, a kind of madness overtook him, and he decided to play ‘Hound Dog’ (yes, electric guitar and amplifier; we’ve been busking our way through the province but more about that later) naked on that river bank and jump in afterwards. With the added bonus of a terrible baijiu hangover there was no way he could not do it, really.
He really took one for the team – well, two as I also filmed it. So you see, if he can do that, you too can learn Cantonese in 2013! AND: learning Cantonese, unlike swimming in that black and torpid river in close to zero temperatures, is completely fun, pleasurable and painless. Happy 2013, make it a Canto year!