115 - Christmas comes early this year

It is not uncommon for my breakfast in China to be taken in McDonald’s. Advantages are that the food is reliable, the service is consistent (and consistently better than other places serving breakfast). The 24 hour sites are not usually as good for service as those offering shorter hours; we find the Beijing staff downright surly compared to the same company providing the same service in Qingdao or Zhaoqing, though the Qingdao one has been easily the best regular experience – happy staff. Any McD managers please note.

However, that is not the point of this set of observations. One of the less obvious (indeed largely unconscious, until I began to notice) features of McD’s is the music – it is acceptable, probably modern (I wouldn’t know) and in China one suspects that the same disc is played in all outlets across the country – we have come across the same disc in widely separated cities, though just occasionally a week apart (“That’s last week’s music”).

McD’s are not the only people playing music, or even musak, in China. I doubt that many places are paying the dues owed to the musicians’ union(s); I have written about this before. However. what I have noticed this week and last is that Beijing is playing Christmas music. In June.  Not actual carols, but the stuff that has stolen catch-lines from carols; I hear the odd phrase that belongs in church and/or the carol service; I recognise the pattern of music that says Christmas, be it jingling bells or the choice of words.

It is not only McDonald’s, but I noticed there first since I’m in there quite often, especially since our local has added a McCafé, which is oodles cheaper than Costa and Starbucks. No, they’re not the only ones.

It is as if there is a six-month cycle, or perhaps a marketing need to push jingly music at this time of year, It is certainly weird hearing Christmas in mid-June. Is this how Aussies and Kiwis feel, having Christmas in high summer?

I should actually identify some of the music more exactly.... If it changes so I’ve missed it then I’ll have to wait until next year !!

DJS 20130615
Saturday, 15 June 2013


I think I wrote elsewhere about the water bowser, but I’ll iterate from a  2017 perspective. To 'lay the dust’, as we used to say when I was building roads, one sprays water on the dust. This is done with a lorry set up as a small tanker called a bowser, where, obviously the tank holds water. Probably just water. In Xi’an and in Nanjing, the water bowser was a common site. Becasue these are something of a traffic hazard, the norm in China is that they shall make noise for the same reasons as the beep of reversing, so as to be noticed, to be in some sense ’safer'. They have been set up to play a tune. Continuously. So this is not at all like the estate-visiting of the ice-cream van in Britain. In one of these cities the tune was Happy Birthday and in the other one it was Jingle Bells.  All year, every day. Imagine being the driver.   Yeah. Go figure.                                 I found a picture of a very clean one.       And the tunes were not played quietly, for Chinese cities are surprisingly noisy places. As I walked home from school in Nanjing I could usually, if I listened, hear a bowser in the distance. In Xi’an  could hear one whenever I was inside the central city and outside the central tourist area of the Bell Tower and Drum Tower.

© David Scoins 2017