Connolly. Bruce Connolly.
He’s not 007.
As far as I know.
Bruce Connolly has traveled pretty much everywhere.
He’s seen pretty much everything.
He has done things most mortals only dream of doing.
Unlike 007, Bruce left the UK and now calls Beijing home.
Other than that, maybe he is 007.
First off, I met Bruce last week at the Second Annual Craft Brewer’s Festival.
Bruce was interviewing lots of craft brewers and running after his young son. Even during that busy time, he was nice enough to hang out with me, have a few beers, and tell me a bit about his life, Beijing and ask about mine.
Bruce grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. And he still has that wonderful accent. If you’ve never heard it, Billy Connolly (no relation) is also from Glasgow and will give you a good idea of what it sounds like. If you don’t laugh at his accent you aren’t paying attention. In my opinion, the Glasgow accent is the happiest accent in the world. Sean Connery was from Edinburgh which is also in Scotland but a world away if you ask people from Glasgow.
Have a listen to his show and see what you think. I’ve already learned a lot from Bruce in Beijing and can’t wait for more interviews!
It gives you an idea of a real “Beijinger” and what he has seen and continues to see in this city and around the world.
He’s a wonderful guy and very much like many of the expatriates I’ve met since moving to Beijing.
Most of them are slightly weird, in a great way, and willing to take a chance.
Beijing has about 20 million people but it is not like Shanghai which is the real business center. There is a lot of business here, and yet, it seems there are a lot of small start ups, individuals doing their own thing, and smaller think tank kind of idealistic people here.
If someone wanted to the usual route to life, they’d stay in their home country.
Instead, people that are very imaginative and courageous seem to end up in Beijing.
I’m including myself in this as I’m 44 years old and I love living outside of the United States of America because I learn so much about other cultures and people and, importantly, about myself. I didn’t even know about the job I have now 5 months ago. I’ve never been to China, let alone Beijing, and haven’t been in the Orient since I lived in Sendai, Japan in 1996-1997 teaching English in the government sponsored JET Programme.
I fit in pretty well since I’m a bit outside the box.
Back to Bruce.
We decided to meet up at Schindler’s, a local restaurant and beer garden. The owner, by the way, was in the East German military when Germany was still separated by the Wall. He also was the last East German Embassy Attache and handed the keys to the new “German” Embassy team after the wall fell. After that, it seems, he went back home and then started up this bar and beer garden. He now has three different restaurants around Beijing, and according to Bruce, all are quite good.
Bruce told me he’s been coming here for 10 or more years and loves it. Just one of the many secrets that I’m glad he shared with me.
He even has his own beer stein which has “Bruce” stamped in to it.
Remember how James Bond never hid his identity from anyone?
Neither does Bruce.
Everyone knows him.
And likes him.
We talked about life, traveling, experiences gained on the road and the differences between a newcomer to Beijing and how I see compared to Bruce who has lived here, on and off, for over 21 years. Things are brand new to me and I’m not a part of the political or social scene yet…well, I guess I am part of the social scene already. I don’t know the city very well and have yet to ride a bus. I haven’t ventured outside of Beijing and still haven’t even seen the Bird’s Nest which became famous during the 2008 Olympics.
These are all old hat for Bruce. He’s lived it.
And yet, what I loved about Bruce was that he is still in awe of it all.
He still has such joy, passion and wonderment about the city of Beijing that it fills me with hope and excitement.
He is someone who has traveled all over the world and see places as varied as Graceland and Mesa Verde on the same trip.
Has seen people getting whacked with canes in South China train stations to keep them in line.
has been followed by a cop, right on his shoulder about 1 foot away for about 100 feet, in China so that no one would steal his wallet in a bad area.
Who has worked as a freelance correspondent for BBC Scotland for 20 years.
Who while cycling north of Glasgow, actually met the comedian Billy Connolly.
Who has married and is raising a wonderful young boy.
Who continues to enjoy life and be open to new ideas and new people.
In my 21 days in Beijing, I am lucky enough to have met him and a horde of interesting people.
Beijing has so much more than I can imagine.
I’m lucky I met this Not-So-Secret-Agent-Man.
His name you ask?
Connolly. Bruce Connolly.