The gong was not a gong, dear Reader.
It was a ping.
A bossy little ping, interrupting my reverie, and announcing the arrival of an incoming transmission to the Vice-Chancellor’s private jet.*
A trim figure in a flight attendant’s uniform sashays towards me and hands me a plastic tray with a scroll of ticker tape on it.
‘Thank you, Darren’, I say, unfurling the scroll carefully.
Dear Reader. It reads as follows:
Memorandum: to all Employees of the UWL in Taizhou with special reference to Incoming Pro-Vice-Chancellors
- The Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Basil is not to be referred to as ‘the Son of Heaven’.
- The Great Yangtze River is not the most direct route from the airport to UWL Taizhou Campus. Employees are to get the no. 39 bus from the airport (32-hour trip, no stops). Expenses to be completed in triplicate.
- UWL Ethics policy expressly forbids any mode of transport to be powered by swans.
- The use of the terms ‘inscrutable’ or ‘deadly Asiatic poision’ is expressly forbidden by all incoming UWL staff; colleagues in Taizhou have agreed to refrain from using the term ‘foreign white devils’ in official university documentation.
- Our colleagues in Taizhou have also agreed to rename the People’s Boutique for Oversized and Deformed Foreigners ‘Western Klothing Inc.’ Please order your robes and mortarboards from them.
- Please be cognizant at all times of the need for cultural sensitivity in all interactions between the Centre and the colonies periphery Taizhou.
- This communication will self-destruct in three seconds.
‘Darren’, I say, as I watch the ticker tape go up in flames. ‘Got any more of the hard stuff?’
‘Oh yes, Dr A’, says Darren. ‘White tip or lap sang?’
* on which I appear to have been for weeks: jet lag is so disorientating.