Pretty lights and colours

On Saturday night lytteltonwitch and I went to the Chinese Lantern Festival in Victoria Square. I’d never been to the festival before (other than unexpectedly coming across the unlit lanterns during the day once), so I had no idea how popular it was.

I arrived at Victoria Square just after 5pm, and already there were crowds of people wandering around the stalls (which were selling everything imaginable, from food to clothes to toys to traditional Chinese New Year gifts) and looking at the unlit lanterns. While I was waiting for lytteltonwitch to arrive I released a book (The Luberon Garden by Alex Dingwall-Main) on the wall of the raised garden bed opposite where I was sitting, and it was picked up almost immediately.

When lytteltonwitch arrived we wandered around the lantern displays. Some of them were the same ones I’d seen two years ago, but there were lots of new ones as well (the goldfish in the river had been joined by some ducks and a container ship, for example), and then tried to get some food. The queues at all the food stalls were huge, but I did manage to accost the two women wandering around selling corn on the cob, though I had to chase them for a while before they noticed I was waving money at them! It was impossible to see what any of the food stalls were selling because of the crowds around them, so eventually we decided to just pick a queue at random and buy whatever food we found at the other end of it, and that seemed to work quite well 🙂

We of course released a few books while we were wandering around. Lytteltonwitch had been all organised and brought suitably themed books, but I’d run out of time and ended up just grabbing some random books from my To Be Released box: The Seer of Kintail by Elizabeth Sutherland, Forbidden Garden by Diane Guest, The Moon Spinners by Mary Stewart, The Killer Mine by Hammond Innes, Hwak in a Blue Sky by Charlotte Lamb, and Mr Starlight by Laurie Graham

When the cultural displays started on the stage we found what we thought was a good spot to watch them from. As usual at these sorts of things, the acts were of a widely varying standard, everything from international acts touring from China to cultural groups from local schools. It all made for an entertaining and colourful evening, though, even if most of the entertainment value some of the acts provided was in the way of unintended humour at how bad they were!

One highlight of the evening was Red Poppies, an all-female percussion group from China who not only sounded amazing but were great to watch too, as their drumming was more like a dance, with loads of flourishes and energy. A photo can’t really do them justice (particularly as it was taken from so far back, with people getting in my way!), but here it is anyway:

Another highlight was an acrobat/gymnast who was doing all sorts of incredibly painful looking things with her body, including wrapping her legs round her neck, lying on her shoulders and then bending her legs over so she was sitting on her own head (!!!), and lifting her leg up behind her so it lay flat along her back. And while she was doing all this she was also twirling small carpets with her feet to keep them in the air.

In today’s cynical, been there done that, seen it all world, you don’t often hear a crowd of people oohing and ahhing over something, but some of the contortions this woman got into really did elicit a huge synchronised gasp from the entire crowd. Then later in the evening she repeated her contortions, but this time while balancing lit candelabras on her head and feet!

As the evening progressed our good spot turned out to be not so good, because as the crowd got bigger people in front of us kept standing up so they could see better, which of course made other people also stand up and shift around so they could see past the standing people, until eventually us poor short people at the back couldn’t see the stage at all 🙁

It didn’t take us long to find a better spot though, on the other side of the river. We were a lot further from the stage, and had to put up with competing music from another stage in the food stall area (though they did turn the volume down on that after a while – I think someone must have said something), but at least we had a nice unobstructed view, and it was very pleasant sitting on the river bank watching the punts go past (and taking bets on how long before a child fell in the river!)

Once it got dark they had the official lantern-lighting ceremony, mostly consisting of long and tedious speeches by various dignitaries, then set off a HUGE string of firecrackers (which you can see in the previous photo – that big pole thing next to the stage has them hanging from it) and the lanterns were lit.

The lanterns all looked wonderful lit up (even the really tacky ones!), and the overall effect in the square was quite magical. It made me wish (yet again) for a decent tripod for my camera so I could take proper time-exposure pictures of it. I did have my mini-tripod with me, but because it was so crowded I couldn’t find a convenient wall or tree to set it up on, so just had to use it on the ground, which meant I couldn’t really see what I was taking photos of. Most of the photos I took turned out predictably badly, but there were a few I was reasonably happy with:

By 10 pm the entertainment was down to the last few terrible singers, and we were getting cold and stiff from sitting on the ground for so long, so we decided it was time to leave. Lytteltonwitch offered me a lift home as a safer alternative than waiting at the bus exchange (which is always a bit scary on a Saturday night). Of course, this meant walking back to her place to get the car, which considering some of the areas you have to walk through didn’t actually strike me as that much safer than the bus exchange! It does amaze me that she walks home on her own late at night all the time – I wasn’t feeling all that worried because there were two of us, but I wouldn’t have felt the same if I was alone!

Moorhouse Ave was entertaining – as we walked along it we noticed strange groups of people lining the road, obviously waiting for something. One group even had a couch set up on top of their car! There were a lot of souped-up cars around, so we suspect the boy racers had a drag race planned or something. I’m surprised there were no police around, because it’s not like they were being subtle about it or anything! The people seemed friendly enough, anyway, although having to cross Moorhouse Ave was a bit nerve-wracking – I kept wondering what would happen if the race started while we were half-way across! (Especially as some of the cars lined up at the lights were revving their engines as we were crossing!)

You’ll be glad to know though that we made it safely across the road and back to lytteltonwitch’s house, and she took a suitable detour to avoid Moorhouse Ave on the way to my place.

An interesting night!

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