The roots of Piper

As you’ve probably understood by now, I’m back in Beijing. Whenever I fly, I want something to read. I have many books of my own, but I’m a bookworm: I read, and re-read my books, and so for a long-haul flight I tend to want something new, and always buy something from the airport bookstore. On this occasion, I picked up a copy of Ross Kemp’s Pirates – partly from a Jianghu-inspired interest in Pirate Utopias, and partly from something mentioned in William Gibson’s Spook Country… It was interesting, but blah, didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know from reading the news, you know?

Still, it got me curious about what else this actor had done after he turned to journalism (given the adverts inside the cover of the book), especially since he seemed to have done a lot of programmes about gang culture around the world. After checking the relevant Wikipedia page, I searched YouTube… ANd found the programme that Kemp filmed about the Cape Town prison where Piper’s roots can be found….

It’s far from perfect – there’s a lot of metropolitan English attitudes that annoy me. For example, in the first episode, Kemp treats (it seems to me) some of the prisoners as stupid because they can’t understand him and he can’t understand their Afrikaans accent. This continues throughout the programme; the prisoners are always subtitled. Well… dunno – I can understand them with no problem, and it’s over 20 years since I was in South Africa but there we are…

There’s also a moment (in the second clip) where he describes a hardened criminal as “looking like a 12-year-old child”. WTF? You watch it, and tell me if that guy looks 12 years old!!! I just can’t understand why he says that….

Anyway, here is the program. Lots of good background on where Piper comes from.


  1. Well, that was a kind of a short trip, wasn’t it? Did you get the heat over in good old europe?

    I start my trip back on 8th and hope to cool off a bit (2,3 weeks), before taking up training again in the end of Aug. and starting new semester Sept. 13th.

    Now hot in Beijing? Any ideas on weather patterns nowadays?


    1. It was short, but there were reasons for that – watch this space!

      As for the weather, it was cool and largely cloudy, with some nice days, and some torrential rain. The clean air was wonderful, after Beijing’s toxic soup!

      I got out to practice zhan zhuang under the apple trees one morning, but the soil was a bit too damp; by the next morning, there was a solitary, tall, thistle growing where I’d been standing. I stopped after that 🙂


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