writers & rum

Big in Beijing

A fable from expat pond life – by Carlos Ottery


Some thought Leroy a loser. Honestly, he was probably more of a drunkard than anything, but first and foremost Leroy considered himself a DJ. Sure, he wasn’t averse to moonlighting as a language teacher for extra cash. After all, what was the point of speaking English if you couldn’t spread the love a little, now and then?

In fact, Leroy was doing rather well for himself, pulling in about 7000 kuai a month from the Old Oriental Learning Centre alone. And his income could easily jump up to nine or even 13K if he factored in the DJing, not to mention the bits of journalism, and the copy editing he did for hotel brochures. Let’s put it this way, Leroy had no problem getting a round of beers in.

Broken Scotch

A poem for lovers (and haters) of single malts – by Anthony Tao


To clean up a bottle of good whisky

        you have to get your hands dirty.

                Never mind how

seven hundred milliliters of Aberlour

        crashed onto my quarry-tile floor,

where it cried in the grief of shore widows

        an elegy for sea salt, shire boughs,

                        and citrus notes.

Inspire with the nose of the finger

        saturated earth off the burn,

the spirit of the air in highland mist.

        Tactile perception is truest.



All’s fair in love and mahjong – by Amy Daml


It’s summer in Beijing. The city’s street corners are dotted with knee-high folding tables, each one magnetised to attract all men in the neighbourhood. The magnetic field grows in strength with every addition to the huddle until no male passerby can repel it. The inseparable gentlemen roll their sweaty shirts up over their bellies, puff their cigarettes and collectively exhale a heavy, smoky breath that saturates the air.

At the center of one such force field, a friendly mahjong game is interrupted when Peng’s petulant opponent smashes a Tsingdao bottle over his head.


Let's Drink!

A poem channeling the spirit of Li Bai – by Stephen Nashef


– A translation (loosely speaking) of Li Bai's 将进酒 (Jiāngjìn Jǐu) written with the intention of being read loudly, with slurred consonants, at a room full of people with bellies full of rum. [part of Writers & Rum night]

The Yellow River crashes down from the sky;

watch it heave toward the sea never to return,

and that beautiful face of yours,

which might yet engage a few

beautiful people into beautiful encounters;

watch it wither in front of your eyes

in the flawed glass of some decorated mirror.

Watch your brilliant hair disappear into scalp.

And watch the yellow river crash forever into the sea.

If you've got a heart, by God be happy!

and never let that moon look down upon

an empty glass in your hand.

Baijiu, Baby

Drinking in a yurt isn’t child’s play – by Nick Compton


Ed: This is one of the stories read out at Writers & Rum night on Wednesday. More to follow next week ...

Some people say that every type of alcohol, in proportional quantity, results in the same drunk. I’m not sure. Baijiu, or Mongolian baijiu at least, doesn’t give you the same heady buzz as a few beers, a glass of wine, or a snort of whisky. With baijiu, inebriation comes on like a freight train, hard and hollering. Your throat and belly are warmed and your mind becomes at once both lucid and completely fucked. As I polished off the first bottle, I knew I would soon be ripped.

The Han Chinese paid to dress as Mongolians and dance around our tables continued to clap and chant, but I could sense that dinner was winding down. Now warm and imminently drunk, I didn’t want it to stop.