I went to see the orchestra, which was a very cultured and civilized thing to do. Spinks’ sister Genna was playing double bass in the band (not sure if I can legitimately call an orchestra a band without sounding offensive) so she got me free tickets. I’d come straight from work so stood out a little amongst all the tuxedos and frocks, in my very smart get-up of jeans and a novelty Steve McQueen T-shirt. Genna got me great seats though, and I got to nonchalantly shuffle past all the suited ex-pats right to the front of the hall, a couple of cans of chinese beer clinking together in my man-bag. (Yes, I now have a man-bag. Jack Bauer has one though, so it’s OK). The concert was a John Lennon tribute and I loved it. Seeing a huge band like that perform A Day in the Life gave me a horrible case of the goosebumps and of course, Imagine was a knock-out. The less said about the woman singing Come Together though, the better. It’s a blokes song!
However, the most remarkable thing about the whole concert was the venue. It wasn’t particularly grand by European standards I guess, but definitely quite opulent for China. The remarkable thing was that a few years ago the government had decided they needed to relocate the concert hall due to road expansion – by 66 metres. At great expense, they took the whole place down brick by brick and re-built it 66 metres to the left. It proved far more costly than demolishing the place and building a new one from scratch. Only in China would a conscious decision like this be made. However, crazy schemes similar to this, if only for their craziness, are evident all over Shanghai.
Yesterday, to the south of the city, I visited Thames Town, an intended satellite settlement for the rich elite of Shanghai that never took off. What now exists is a deserted ghost town built very specifically to mimic an old english village. The streets are called Soho and Coventry, red phone boxes stand on every corner and even the security guards are dressed in twee red outfits. But who are they guarding? Mock tudor mansions stand on mock cobbled lanes, while in the middle stands an exact replica of a church somewhere in south England. Walking up to it I tapped the walls to find they were hollow, just as the Harry Potter statue was on the ‘Old Quay.’ The whole place must of literally cost billions to make, but it was all hollow, like a cross between The Truman Show and 28 Days Later. When it got dark I started to get seriously freaked out, especially after passing ye olde Irish pubs that were still open for non-existent business, the owners standing blankly behind their bars like mannequins. Waiting for no-one but the government agent to come and do the decent thing and shut them down. It was 6pm but I felt like I was Will Smith in a crap remake of I Am Legend. There seemed to be a lot of cats about. After much running I hailed a taxi and got the hell out of there. Again, only in China would a whole community be made (especially a ‘Disney does England’ community) without checking first to see if anyone would actually be interested in living in it. Scarily though, only in China would they have enough money to do this kind of stuff and not suffer for it financially. It was a great experience though – they should do tours there on Hallowe’en.