X is for Excellence in Hands-Across-the-Seamanship, another tale from his misspent youth…
(Contribution from a guest blogger)

Words starting with ‘x’ are rare in English, but lots and lots of Chinese place-names start   with ‘x’ in the pinyin system of romanisation so if these are allowed finding an ‘x’ for a blog-post title is actually a doddle.

There’s Xianggang (Hong Kong), Xi’an (an ancient capital), and Xining (a province) just for starters.

But choosing one of the many Chinese Xs would be taking candy off a baby. X in this post is for Excellence Achieved in the Capital of Chinese Inner Mongolia, Hūhéhàotè.

Early morning at a Mosque, Hohhot
Early morning at a Mosque, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

I was there briefly in 1983. One evening, landed in a low boozery by a cascading series of ever-more hazy decisions, I attempted to show half-a-dozen large Mongol lads how Australians could drink beer.

The stuff arrived at the table in a large shared baby-bath. You had a pannikin each and you all dipped in, and kept dipping, while your drinking mates cheered you on. This was an entertaining and efficient way of taking beer on board, and by the time we’d reached the bottom of the bath I was feeling splendid, surging with affection for Mongolia and Mongolians, who were plainly a magnificent body of men and women, with a marvellous history and culture and sense of humour and recreational facilities and beer.

International honours stood, I thought, at Mongolia v. Australia one all.

This was premature. It emerged that the baby-bath was just one shout, which meant that at the end of the beer round we’d each drunk a bathful.

By that stage, even though we didn’t understand a word of each other’s language, the boozery had reached unprecedented levels of Mongolian-Australian amity. To celebrate, we started some serious drinking. This time it was maotai, varnish-remover liquor distilled from sorghum.

Henry Kissinger is supposed to have said that all the world’s problems could be solved if people would drink enough maotai. After half a dozen bottles most of our problems had indeed been washed away. A few new ones had emerged though. Someone had replaced my legs with rubber replicas and the little man inside my head responsible for the video was having continuity problems.

In the international competition, a Lay-down Sally Robbins was urgently required. Making a close but rather random inspection of the Hūhéhàotè urban landscape, particularly its drainage facilities, I traced a tired and emotional path back to the hostel where I was staying. There I found that some fool had increased the slope of the staircase to the angle of Mount Everest. I defeated this by hauling myself hand over hand up the banisters, celebrating the tactical success in a hearty bass baritone.

The next day I managed to get to the Mongolian grasslands, though with somewhat impaired efficiency. There I undertook to teach my hosts a thing or two about yurts. This also ended badly, Bogged to Buggery in a Bus with a Bunch of Bimbos, a B post, I suppose.

Mongolia Ger
Two yurts (gers) in the mongolian steppe. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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