Melissa had brought a copy of my Sketching People book for me to sign: the slightly elusive Far East edition, published by Page One. Page One has a bookshop in Beijing, which was where Melissa found it, so we all went to see if they had more copies. They didn't, though Julia found a mandarin edition of her Lovely Old Lion. Aimee tried to order Sketching People. This seemed to be very difficult for some reason, even though she spoke Mandarin. So she bought Lovely Old Lion instead.
After that, Julia and I ventured into a local park. I LOVE Chinese parks. There are always so many different things going on. One thing you are almost always going to see is men playing cards. Just next to them, a woman was feeding the fish. These were not the diddy, wimpy little English-style goldfish, but enormous coy in red, black, yellow and white. They were jumping over each other, fighting for the food. I got out my watercolours and did my best:
Julia took photos of the people who gathered behind me to watch as I sketched. One old lady edged nearer and nearer until she was almost sitting on my shoulder!
We had a bit of a wander and discovered a group of gardeners. It was hard to work out what on earth they were doing: 5 men crouched down on the grass together. When we got closer, we could see that they were weeding: pulling individual sprouts of bamboo from the grass. I started to sketch, but by then they were ready to move on. I caught the essence though.
We could hear someone singing somewhere, so followed the music until we came upon this lady. She was singing along to recorded Chinese music. We sat down next to a couple of other people to listen to a few songs, as I sketched. All of a sudden, Julia and I both recognised a tune. It was a peculiar, Chinese variation, but it was definitely Auld Lang Syne! To people's general bemusement, we started to sing along in English. Then we linked crossed hands with the other two people there, to show them how we to sing it at New Year.
After all that sketching, we decided we deserved a cup of tea. We were also in search of a sit-down loo. Which was why I didn't stop to sketch the deportment lesson we passed - about 20 ladies all dressed in their best, practising very erect walking, in a circle around a teacher who was occasionally shouting out corrections.
Just outside the park gates was a big restaurant. It was a bit of an in-between time so, apart from the staff and several tanks of large, rather miserable looking fish, waiting to be dinner, it was entirely empty. No matter - they had a comfy toilet. It took a bit of doing, but we managed to order tea and cake: an entirely random choice, since everything was new and different.
The tea came with glasses and looked like whiskey. The cakes were delicious: slightly chewy with soft, coconut centres. It took all my willpower to hold off gobbling the last of them, until I'd made a sketch.