I was undoubtedly quite a sight for the Chinese as I skillfully navigated and manoeuvred the busy streets of Tianjin riding my well-kept black 飞鸽 bicycle, my long hair 在风上漂一漂.
As I was always alone, many Chinese considered me fair game. Many Chinese women and men, always in couples or groups, cursed me in the usual fashion – 他妈臭老外，鬼老，等等. To their astonishment, in the most wickedly fluent of street Chinese, I cursed them back ever more vehemently. With the women, it seldom went any further than that; the men had to huff and puff a bit before they got the message. I can sling verbal abuse with the best of them; I prefer to sling fists. During the day, my day was rarely made by a good fist fight in the street. At night, with the 流氓, in bicycle gangs, it always ended in a fight. Again, they had no way of knowing that I was a seasoned street fighter, semi-professional boxer, military special forces. Every time, following a brief scuffle, I bicycled away of a pile of mangled metal and broken bodies. 我真是不好惹的。
Of course, you may wonder, why was I out at all during the night. 是不是想给自己找麻烦？对了。睡不了着，就出门儿逛逛。
I not only survived China. Through China, my wildness was tempered with a wiseness. It was the acid test, the test many China scholars never take, never pass. Of the nearly fifty years I have devoted to China, over a third of those years were spent on the ground in China.
I am not bragging. Life does not give itself to one who tires to keep all of its advantages at once. I chose China. I have been denied much else.
My choice was not in vain, though. Who would even have ventured the thought that there was a long and tortuous road leading straight from North Wales to Northern China?