Saturday, 30 June 2007

China stone diary

What an amazing day, which could so easily been a disaster! The train for Moscow was due to leave from Beijing at 11.30pm tonight, so I had the whole day to spend in the city. Leah, who works for Stonepave put me in touch with a friend of hers in Beijing, who very kindly gave up her day to show me around the city. She also said she would help me at the railway station. To my great surprise to two drivers who brought me from Xiamen also came to help me onto the train. I had no idea how much I would need their help. We arrived at Beijing railway station in the pouring rain and I was in for a shock. The station was packed, the noise was imense and there was not a single sign I could read. Mr Xue, all 5ft4" of him, but as strong as an ox, pushed the stone on its trolley into the station, up escalators, along corridors, down stairways through crowds of people and eventually manhandled it onto the train. The trolley was worse for the experience, but without him to move the stone and Sarah to find out where to go, I think I would have ended up in Beijing forever. When the train finally rolled out of the station I was an emotional wreck. Foolishly I thought things would now be plain sailing for six days and six nights to Moscow, but I could not have been more wrong.

Friday, 29 June 2007

China stone diary

Another service station, our last morning. We should arrive in Beijing by early afternoon. Before I say goodbye to my drivers I wanted a photograph.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

China stone diary


Another very hot and steamy day and today we begin the drive from Xiamen to Beijing. The journey by road will take two days and two nights. There are two drivers, neither of whom speak any English. They will take turns driving so that we can make the trip non-stop. Our first night on the road was very dramatic as we drove through a huge electric storm with the whole skyline or steep sided mountains being thrown into light with each flash. With no English my two drivers could not be nicer, helping me navigate my way through the self service meals at our stops, and making sure I am comfortable on the road.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

China stone diary

The kerbstone was taken to another factory today where the text is going to be put onto the surface. In Chinese it will say 'a weight of stone carried from China for you' It will aslo have the code for the stone type - G654 and the date cut into the surface. Candy arranged all this again and by the end of the day the kerbstone had been wrapped and packed ready for the journey home.

Monday, 25 June 2007

China stone diary

This morning we met Rayliegh who has been arranging the cutting at the factory to make my kerbstone. Once again the factory was at least a two hour drive in the same direction. What is amazing however, was the huge scale of quarrying going on in the area. Everywhere you look there is stone in different stages of preparation. Every truck seems to be moving stone, every available piece of ground, covered with blocks of the stuff.

The factory we stopped at was like very many we had seen along the road, but once inside I was surprised by how organised it appeared to be. Under an expansive roofed building with open sides, areas were separated off for different processes. At one end of the building, massive blocks of stone were gradually being hoisted onto the saw beds – including eventually the granite block we brought down the mountainside to cut my kerbstone from. Looking towards the other end of the building I could see many of the finished products. This was not the kind of sweat shop image I imagined, but something far more efficient with almost everyone I saw wearing safety gear.

Talking to Kevin on the way back to the hotel he told me that being a British company and a prime market for Chinese stone, they could insist on very high safety standards throughout the process and on all staff being of legal working age. Another reason why he and his staff visit the quarries and factories on such a regular basis.

Destination- Bristol – n51-27-466

Saturday, 23 June 2007

China stone diary

Karaoke! Never again.

Friday, 22 June 2007

China stone diary

Quarry – n24-40-111
At 8am we were met by Candy from the Dawa Stone Company. She has made the arrangements locally to document my kerbstone being cut from the quarry face. We began by driving for perhaps two hours heading inland. That makes it sound as if we travelled a great distance, but with the roads in places being little more then riverbeds and mountain paths, were probably no more than 50 miles from Xiamen. Eventually we began driving up a steep mountain road through a tropical landscape of banana plants and green lakes. My first big surprise was that the quarry was not the hole in the ground I expected, but a natural granite outcrop on the top of a mountain. We had to walk the last part in heat it would be hard to describe. Simply stepping out of the car was enough without a half hour hike. Unbelievably Candy had managed to get permission for me to film the quarrying of the kerbstone. I don’t remember being so exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel, but what a worthwhile day.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

China stone diary

After a very short hop from Hong Kong, perhaps 40mins, we are in Xiamen. It is dark and very late, but you cannot escape the immense humidity and the sounds and smells of an almost tropical landscape. First thing tomorrow morning we go to the quarry?

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

China stone diary

I met Kevin Hives [Stonepave] at Heathrow airport who is accompanying me to China. We are flying via Hong Kong to Xiamen and with the time difference should arrive late at night on the 21st. Kevin has made arrangements to go to the quarry where my stone is being cut, but that is the most difficult part to plan. The quarries are all owned and run by the Chinese government, so it is very much out of his hands. I am not quite sure what to expect, but as we wait for the plane to take off I am filled with anticipation.