Break-ups and Break-downs

As you may have gathered from my books, for a large chunk of my life, it felt as if I was permanently recovering from a nasty break-up. Let’s face it, break-ups are never fun. They can be debilitating, soul-destroying, and can rob you of your confidence and self-esteem. You’re forced into intense periods of uncomfortable introspection, you question everything, and often have to confront things you never wanted to confront. We’ve all been there, and it ain’t a fun place to be.

In many ways the process you go through after a relationship ends is comparable with the seven stages of grief. The last really bad one I had was in 2011, when I found out my live-in girlfriend of two years, a Chinese teacher, was having it away behind my back with a short order chef from Romania.

I’ve had quite a few lesser break-ups since then. One friend recently asked me why I keep hooking up with shitty women. I said that was unfair. couldn’t be sure if they were always shitty, or if being with me was making them that way. The jury’s still out on that one.

Saying goodbye is never easy, but I’ve learned to cope, and now I’m going to share what I’ve learned with you. It all boils down to the old maxim, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

If it goes tits-up, which, statistics show us, all relationships eventually do one way or another, try not to lose your shit. Retain control, and some modicum of dignity. The aim should be to not do anything you might regret later, so refrain from losing your temper and punching walls (the walls always win), name-calling, and plastering those nudes you have of them all over the internet.

A good coping strategy I’ve found in the immediate aftermath is to focus on their bad points, because God knows none of us are perfect. So don’t think about how gorgeous they were, or how they made you laugh or brought meaning to your life. Instead, think about the morning breath, that annoying habit they had of picking their toenails, their incomprehensible appreciation of Made in Chelsea. In extreme cases, get that fugly picture you have on your phone of them yawning or having a shit and make it your screensaver. Yeah, bitch.

It might also help if you delete them from your social media. Cancel them. That way, you remove any lingering temptation to go begging for forgiveness even though you might not have done anything worth being forgiven for. Constantly remind yourself that they would hate to see you going about your business without them apparently not giving a fuck. It devalues them and the whole relationship. Even if you’re falling apart inside, keep that shit to yourself and put on a brave face. Nobody wants to see you wallowing in self-pity except them, so don’t give them the satisfaction.

By the way, the absolute best break-up song ever is Bowling For Soup’s Life After Lisa.

If the aforementioned methods don’t work and this person really was perfection personified, you can still find the bright side by reminding yourself how lucky you were to be with them, even if they ended up dropping you like a hot coal when they realized how bang average you were. At least you’re one of the few who got to see them naked. Unless, of course, you really did put those nudes you have of them on the internet in which case everyone has seen them naked and it’s your fault.

It might be difficult, but try not to play the blame game. We’d all like to imagine it’s the other person’s fault, but the truth is nobody is perfect. In all likelihood, you were probably at least partly responsible. Or maybe you just weren’t compatible, in which case it’s nobody’s fault. Not even yours. Think of a relationship as a journey, and all journeys come to an end. You both arrive at your destination ready for a new and exciting adventure. Getting there is half the fun, as they say.

Everything happens for a reason. We are all on this twisty, turny path and none of us is ever quite sure what’s going to happen next. If you love someone, try to treat every moment you have together as if it’s your last. That doesn’t mean going out paragliding every day and shit. Stay in and watch a movie if you want. Just enjoy doing it.

So, speaking as a guy who’s had more broken relationships than he’s had hangovers, my advice is to cherish the moments and make some memories while you can. In the end memories are all any of us will be left with, so they might as well be good ones.

This is China 3: The Wilderness Years (Extract)

Chinese women seem to wear sadness like a badge of honour. To them if love doesn’t hurt, it’s not real. I have no doubt that not only do the vast majority of them expect it to be a painful experience, hence all the drama and manufactured arguments, but they actually welcome it. It ties in with the classical Chinese folk tales they grow up reading, where love is usually forbidden, and invariably led to tragic repercussions.

A perfect example of this can be found in Liang Zhu, commonly known as the Butterfly Lovers. Set in the Jin Dynasty (265-420 AD), the story tells of a girl from a rich family called Zhu Yingtai who goes away to study. During that era girls were not allowed an education, so she disguised herself as a boy. Zhu meets a boy called Liang Shanbo, and the two declare themselves ‘sworn brothers.’ Of course, Zhu falls in love with Liang and is then called back to her family, who have arranged a marriage for her. Months later Liang goes to visit and it is then, in what must have been a classic ‘dude looks like a lady’ moment, he discovers his ‘sworn brother’ is actually a woman. But alas, unable to prevent the wedding, he ends up dying of a broken heart. The wedding procession passes Liang’s grave, which opens up and swallows Zhu. The star-crossed lovers are then transformed into butterflies, and live happily ever after. Or at least, as happily as butterflies who used to be people can live.

There is another, more famous story which illustrates the point even better. Dream of the Red Chamber, written by Cao Xueqin in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), is one of China’s ‘four great novels.’ It’s basically a Chinese Romeo and Juliet. You know how it goes, girl meets boy, they fall in love, the union is forbidden, boy marries someone else, girl drowns herself in a pond, boy turns his back on the world and becomes a monk. Same old, same old. Underlining the fact that almost everything in china has multiple meanings, on the surface it’s your average tragic love story, but on a deeper level it describes the fate of the Qing Dynasty as a whole. The work is so complex there is an academic field of study devoted entirely to it called ‘Redology.’ It wouldn’t be too difficult to devote an entire academic field to Chinese girl’s attitude to love and sex.

This is China Part 3: The Wilderness Years is out now on paperback and ebook via Red Dawn Publications

This is China: Misadventures in the Middle Kingdom Part 2 – Hunan Province (Extract)

After fleeing recession-hit Britain in September 2007, I spent a year living and working as an English teacher in Beijing before meeting a girl and moving to Tianjin, northern China, which is very much like a Chinese Middlesbrough. If you’ve never heard of Middlesbrough, then you get my point. Needless to say, the girl promptly dumped me for another guy leaving me in a strange city in a foreign country with no friends and a job I hated. I taught in a primary school, and though they were sweet and adorable on the outside, on the inside those kids were the embodiment of evil. They almost broke me. I spiralled into a life of booze, solitude and borderline depression, punctuated only by the occasional bout of meaningless sex. I didn’t think I would survive another Tianjin winter, and overall the place didn’t leave a good impression on me, so I decided to run down my contract at my school and move somewhere else in China. Hopefully, somewhere warmer.

I didn’t want to teach kids anymore, so I found a job as a writing instructor at HMMC (Hunan Mass Media College) in Changsha, Hunan Province, which was about as close to journalism as I could get at the time. I didn’t know anything about Changsha. But by this time I’d learned not to jump into anything blind, so I did some research. Located on the Xiang River, Changsha is described as a ‘culturally important’ city, though not internationally recognized in the same way Beijing and Shanghai are, and has over 3,000 years of history. It was occupied by the Japanese for a short time during the Japanese-Sino war of 1937-45, and is the place where Mao Zedong (Chairman Mao, the revolutionary founding father of the PRC) went to school and converted to communism. These days, it is better known as both a commercial center and an entertainment hub, and is home of Hunan TV, one of the biggest channels in the country which pumps out endless variety and talent shows which the Chinese lap up.

Juliet, a girl I’d met whilst travelling in Shanghai two years earlier, came to meet me the day I arrived and brought a suitcase with her meaning, I assumed, she planned on staying for a while. That was fine by me. I hadn’t seen her for ages, and we had a lot of catching up to do. The very first night, things started getting hot and steamy. While we were kissing and fumbling on the sofa, she asked if I had a condom. I didn’t. But I remembered my contact from the college telling me there was a twenty four -hour supermarket nearby. I didn’t remember exactly where, but how hard could it be to find?

I grabbed a handful of money, ran out the door, down three flights of stairs, out of the apartment block and down the road. It took a while, but I eventually found the supermarket and stocked up on condoms and soft drinks. As I left, I was hit with a realization. I didn’t actually know where I lived. I was completely lost. I’d been so excited about the prospect of finally bedding Juliet that I’d left the apartment without my phone. I didn’t even know the name of my street. I’d only got off the plane about six hours earlier.

So I stumbled around for most of the night clutching a pack of unopened condoms and whimpering softly to myself. I tried to retrace my steps, but found that almost every building looked the same, especially in the dark. I eventually found my apartment again a few hours later but by then, Juliet was sound asleep and the moment had passed. I figured having waited over two years already, another day or two wouldn’t matter too much.

This is China: Misadventures in the Middle Kingdom Part 2 – Hunan Province is available now on paperback and ebook

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OMG it’s Chinese Valentine’s Day!

Most things in China are the same, but different. Therefore, they have the equivalent of Valentines Day, but it doesn’t come around on February 14th like its Western counterpart. Known as the Qixi Festival, it occurs instead on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, which makes it especially tricky to remember as the date keeps changing. This year it falls on August 25th, while in 2019 it fell on August 7th.

This shouldn’t be confused with either ‘Single’s Day’ on November 11th (11/11, geddit?) May 20th (an ‘unofficial’ Valentine’s Day known as 520 because the numbers sound like ‘I love you’ in Mandarin) which are both comparatively new festivals. The Chinese are crazy about festivals. An increasing number are celebrating February 14th, too. Personally, I feel most of these romantic festivals are spearheaded by Chinese girls, who do like to be spoiled.

Qixi, originally known as Qiqiao Festival, originated from the Han Dynasty. There are many variations, but the general tale tale is a love story between Zhinü a weaver girl,  and Niulang, the cowherd. Their love was forbidden, so they were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River (symbolizing the Milky Way). Once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies would form a bridge allowing the lovers to reunite the for one day. A more thorough telling can be found here

If you want to find out more about the nuances of Chinese culture, check out the author’s books.

Meeting Anna – A Chinese Love Story

One afternoon I was having lunch with a student in the school canteen, when I spotted a girl in a pretty yellow dress. I watched her for a while from a distance. She was fascinating. She was quite tall, slim, and moved with the kind of graceful finesse you only ever see in dancers. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

“What are you looking at?” asked the student I was with.

“That girl,” I replied, wistfully. “She’s beautiful.”

“Which one?” he said, craning his neck. “I don’t see her.”

“She’s right there, in a yellow dress.”

“That one?” he asked, standing up and unashamedly pointing a finger.

“Yes.”

“Not beautiful,” he said, sitting back down. “What’s wrong with you?”

The conventional Chinese idea of beauty is very different to the western idea. To be considered attractive to Chinese guys, girls have to fulfil certain criteria. They should have big eyes, a small nose, high cheekbones, narrow jaw, and fair skin, and there is quite a lot of pressure on girls to tick as many of those boxes as they can. During my time in China, I was faced with more than one girl crying on my shoulder because she thought her eyes were too small.

That said, at least the student knew what he was looking for in a girl. When he asked me to describe my idea of beauty, I had no answer. Instead I just nodded at the girl in the yellow dress and said, “She’s fit.”

“If you like her,” he said, “Go ask her phone number. With face like that, she’s definitely single.”

That was a damning verdict if I ever heard one. It had a lot to do with the language barrier. He was trying gamely to communicate in something other than his native language. But the Chinese in general can be quite abrupt and pragmatic when they want to be. There’s very little room for niceties. The challenge also put me in a bad position as I’d spent the past hour giving the kid a motivational speech about being brave and going after what he wanted in life. I’d left myself no other option but to pull myself together and strut over.

I caught the girl just as she was leaving. Stepping into my confident shoes I introduced myself and asked for her phone number. The girl looked shocked and bewildered. For one awful moment, I thought she was going to run for the door.

“Mine?” she said, looking around.

“Yes. Yours.”

“But I never talk to foreigner before.”

“Cool. I can be your first.”

Her English name was Anna, and she was from Inner Mongolia, studying at a university in Tianjin, a city just north of Beijing. She was in town visiting her friend, and my student had been right, she was single.

We exchanged a few messages over the next couple of days and she came back to Beijing the following weekend, this time to see me. We went for a curry at a restaurant on one of the top levels of the U Centre, a shiny new shopping mall in Wudaokou. It was the first time she’d ever tried Indian food. In fact, it was probably the first time she’d tried anything else other than Chinese food. Anna was blessed with a childlike innocence it was hard not to like, and her enthusiasm knew no bounds. When she looked at me, her eyes would widen and everything I said or did was, “Very interesting!”

At the end of the evening I walked her to her friend’s place where she was staying, thanked her for her time and turned to walk away. Then I heard her call my name and turned around.

“I miss you,” she said.

“You can’t miss me,” I replied, a little confused. “I haven’t even gone yet.”

“I want to see your apartment.”

I tried to do the right thing and dissuade her. Honest. I had plans to meet Phil and Dave, the other foreign teachers, at a nearby bar for a drink that night. But she was adamant. They say it’s the quiet ones you need to watch, and in this case ‘they’ were right. The moment we were through the door, she was tugging at my jeans.

I have a theory about this. I think Chinese society is so restrictive that a lot of people feel they have to rebel against it, though not in an overt way because that would draw attention to them, so they contain themselves until opportunities like this arise. Then, with all the pent-up tension and frustration, all hell breaks loose and they over-compensate. Within minutes, Anna had my cock in her mouth and was slurping at it greedily.

And that was when Phil and Dave decided to call.

I did what anyone else would probably have done, and let the phone ring. Fuck it.

“Aren’t you going to answer that?” asked Anna, through a mouth full of cock.

“It can wait.”

“Answer it.”

I answered it. Then proceeded to have a very awkward conversation with Phil and Dave about why I couldn’t meet them.

“Tell them what I doing to you,” Anna said, looking up at me.

“Are you sure?”

“Tell them.”

“I can’t come out because a girl I met in the canteen is giving me a blow job.”

“Fuck off!”

“Seriously.”

It soon became apparent that Anna wasn’t so innocent, after all. She loved sex, and had a penchant for doing it in public places. The more risqué the better. In the coming weeks we did it in at least two public parks and next to the lake at the Summer Palace, which I’m pretty sure is a crime punishable by death. She just undid my flies, hitched up her dress, and sat on me while I was relaxing on a bench.

One day, she asked me what the worst word in the English language was. I thought about it for a while, then decided ‘cunt’ was about as bad as it gets and told her what it meant. A few weeks later, she sent possibly the most disturbing text message I’ve ever received in my life.

MY HONEY, TODAY I AM NOT FEEL SO GOOD. MY CUNT IS BLEEDING.

Wow.

Extracted from the #1 Amazon Bestseller Yellow Fever: Love & Sex in China, out now on ebook and paperback.

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Interview with Alex Coverdale – Part 4

Last time, we discussed our two favourite topics – sex and women. Now, in the final instalment, we talk about the ‘best’ and ‘worst,’ future projects, and some random shit.

Of all your adventures, what’s the most incredible thing you’ve ever done?

That would be a long list. I couldn’t possibly choose just one thing. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of celebrities in my line of work. I’m almost disappointed at the fact that the vast majority of them are just normal people, except they all have more money than me. As for activities, looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert, which I talk about in Yellow Fever – Love & Sex in China, is right up there, so is taking a helicopter to the top of a mountain to watch people ski off it in Zermatt, Switzerland. Just visiting America is an eye-opening experience. It’s just like being in a TV show. As for specific places to visit, I would recommend Granada in Spain, Pingyao in China, Milan, Italy, and London has a special buzz about it that’s unlike anywhere else in the world.

Where is the best place you’ve ever visited?

I think Beijing just pips London. I lived there for a year during Olympic year in 2008, and there was such an air of excitement. During that time, I learned a lot about China, the media, and the world in general. I loved hanging out in the Hutongs, and being able to visit world-famous places like The Great Wall and Forbidden City whenever I felt like. The only downside is all the people. It’s overcrowded and polluted.

And the worst?

I lived in the St Mary’s district of Southampton for a while when I was a student. That was an experience. It used to be the red light district. The house was falling to bits, and there was a crazy German girl living upstairs. She used to catch mice and keep them in glass jars in her room. Very weird.

So far, you’ve only really written about Asia. Any plans to address some other continents?

Maybe. I’ve been considering writing a book about my younger days when I travelled around Europe more. I spent a lot of time in Spain. The problem is, that was so long ago I can’t really remember much. It doesn’t help that I was wasted most of the time. It would have to be more of a memoir, because any information I could give will be outdated by now.

What do you do when you are NOT writing or travelling?

I write horror fiction under another name. As I explained before, I have different names for different kinds of writing as they generally don’t cross over very well. Other than that, I am a big sports fan. I love football  and MMA. I did karate to a reasonably high level when I was younger. Now I prefer to just read about it, haha.

If you could teleport to another place, right now, where would you go?

It would be a toss-up between Selena Gomez’s bed, or Rio de Janeiro. Probably Rio, I wouldn’t want to freak Selena out too much. She’s far too delicate.

My latest release, Dating Chinese Women – Tips, Tricks & Techniques, is available now on ebook and paperback.

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Interview with Alex Coverdale – Part 3

Last time, we talked about travel destinations and offered some advice for solo travelers. Now, we turn our attention to sex and women.

What kind of women do you go for?

I get asked that question a lot. I love oriental women. If I was explaining this to a woman, I’d be more sensitive about it and say something about how much I love their character and caring attitude. But the truth is, my attraction is way more physical. I just love dark hair, skin and eyes. I haven’t dated a Caucasian woman in years.

Let’s talk about sex!

Okay.

How old were you when you lost your virginity?

Fifteen. In a cold, wet alley on Christmas Eve. She was Eighteen. It was shit. I was drunk, and had no idea what I was doing anyway so she had to go on top. I remember going home with all the skin on my ass shredded. I saw her again a couple of weeks later and asked if I could walk her home. She said, “No, I’d better not. My fiancé is here and we’re getting married in two weeks!”

How many women have you slept with?

I don’t know. I stopped counting in my mid-twenties. Back then it was a dozen or so. Things moved up several gears when I moved to China. Suddenly, I didn’t even have to try any more. I just had to be there, and girls would flock to me. I’m not special, they do it with most white guys. After I learned a bit about them, and adjusted to the various social differences, I couldn’t fail. You can read about all this in Dating Chinese Women – Tips, Tricks & Techniques. By the time I left China I suppose my grand total would be fifty or so. If you include ones I’ve paid for it would be double. Plus another dozen since I left.

So you still meet Chinese girls? How?

Sure. I dated three last year alone. I have my methods, none of which would be possible without my smartphone. The last one I slept with I met on Facebook about two years ago. We had a mutual friend and she just popped up in my feed. A few months ago she visited England on a student exchange program, so I went to the city she was staying in, took her to dinner, and then back to my hotel. It was one of the best nights of my life.

What kind of lover are you?

Very generous. Here’s my Number One tip; make sure the lady comes first. Use your tongue, you fingers, whatever it takes. Then, you can pretty much do what you want with her, and she won’t even care if you manage two pumps and a squirt. I am quit vanilla, though. I’ve been around and had a lot of experiences, but nothing too weird.

What’s the weirdest you got?

A couple of years ago I met a Chinese student in London. One thing led to another, and we ended up in bed back at her place. It was all going well until she started saying things like, “Fuck me harder, daddy,” and asking me to hurt her. I’m not into sadism. Each to their own, but I think sex should be a pleasurable experience, not a painful one. I didn’t mind the daddy talk. That was hot. But that got old when, after we’d finished bumping uglies, she turned to me and asked me to tell her a story.

Do you worry about your sexual health?

Not at all. I almost always use condoms, and I get regular health checks. By the way, when you travel, especially to Asia, always take condoms with you. There are a lot of fake products available, even in big stores, and one thing you can’t afford to take chances on is condoms. In some countries, notably Thailand, you might find the sizes are naturally smaller which means they are less comfortable and more prone to breaking.

My latest book, Dating Chinese Women – Tips, Tricks & Techniques, is available now on ebook and paperback.

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