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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 46: 9 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysFrom the compartment next door comes the rasping prelude to a good spit. The Chinese are great expectorators and very often a hideous deep-throated rumble will belong to a petite lady.

I visit the train's D.J. She is a petite lady but would, I'm sure, never be heard to rasp. One of the qualifications of her job is 'impeccable Mandarin' and besides record requests and on-train information and pre-announcing every station, there's precious little time for a rasp even if she wanted to.

Her compartment is papered in dark-blue brushed suede. There is a tiny bed and a stack of cassette players, amplifiers and a mike. She has thirty cassettes, two of which are Western. One is classical, another contains an amalgam of such memorable tracks as 'Let's Go' by Magazine '60 and 'Scandal Eyes' by Fesh. Requests to play a track from my Springsteen and Billy Joel tapes have been vetoed by her superior, the Director of On-train Broadcasting, so I suggest a Mozart flute piece instead. She eyes my tape doubtfully. They don't know who Mozart is, so it's privately played first, approved and, much later, relayed to the rest of the train.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 46
  • Date: 9 November
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Guangzhou
  • Book page no: 157

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