And Nanchang Lu itself – on one of Shanghai’s most beautiful quiet streets the plane trees, bare for so many months, have just started budding this week, their leaves an extraordinary bright pale green. In no time at all the street will be one long, green archway perfect for cycling along. Can’t wait.
There are bullfrogs too, also sold alive and killed, skinned and trimmed to order.
And every wet market has a dry goods stall, filled to bursting with dried beans, rice, dried mushrooms, dried berries, cooking oil, spices, sauces and condiments.
|This sophisticated machine keeps the water churning constantly so it doesn’t freeze over. Water temperature – minus five degrees celsius.|
Well, if there are rows of flayed ducks lining the streets, then it must be Chinese New Year. The whole city has been transformed into an enormous outdoor charcuterie – every footpath is lined with makeshift wooden frames covered with the oddly attractive looking bodies of drying ducks, head and feet intact, tiny ribcages on display. The ducks are tagged around the neck or one webbed foot with the name of the purchaser so that when they’re ready (five or six days, in cold dry weather) they can be collected.
Look up as you walk and instead of ducks you’ll see doorstop-sized hunks of pork, soaked in brine and drying in the cold winter air, pierced with bent wire coathangers and hung alongside the week’s washing.
There is a terrific do-it-yourself aspect to all of this – just the same way my mother still makes her own Christmas puddings every year, many families in Shanghai follow in an age-old tradition and make their own dried goods for Chinese New Year.
The fish I can understand, because the word for fish (鱼 yú) sounds just the same as the word for prosperity or surplus (余 yú). So you should eat some fish, not all of it mind, and you’ll be sure to have a surplus of wealth in the new year. The favoured fish around town is an alarming looking giant eel, split neatly down the middle, flattened like a skateboard and strung up on a clothes rail in the street to dry, like an enormous sharply toothed silver sail.
|The last photo taken with my Canon, Xietu Lu 2.30pm|
|First photo taken with my Nikon D700, Huating Lu 5pm.|
Walk down any street in Shanghai and you will soon notice the scrap recyclers – they’re the guys collecting used water bottles, dismantling old mattresses to remove the metal springs, and flattening and stacking used cardboard boxes.
Roving scrap merchants go from house to house tinkling a small ‘bell’ made from a tin saucepan or teapot lid, the sound of which lets people know to bring out any scrap they might want to sell. The merchants then collate and stack their recyclables onto the back of a tricycle cart and pass it up the line to a bigger recycling unit, hopefully making a small profit along the way.
What can be recycled is limited only by your imagination and your patience. I’ve watched old nails being painstakingly removed from lengths of wood, and the plastic coating being stripped from short lengths of wire to get to the copper beneath.
He was interested to hear about how recycling works in Australia, that we have a separate bin for recyclables that is collected once a week.
‘How much do they pay you for it?’ Mr Zhang asked me.
‘Why, nothing! I have to pay them to take it away!’ I explained.
Mr Zhang was flabbergasted. To him, it seemed an extremely backward way of doing things and you know, I had to agree. Perhaps if we were paid for our recycling we would be better at it. But perhaps recycling only becomes economically viable in a place where labour is cheap, and everything has a price.