Find me (in the creak of an old stairwell)

Stairwell 昆山花园路 02

Readers have noted how quiet the blog has been. I confess to its woeful neglect but would point them towards the blog’s Facebook page which continues to brim with photographs and factoids of Old Shanghai and lilongs.

I recently spent a few hours going through folder after folder, scanning through my archives of photography work and scattered research tucked away in the dark corners of my laptop, waiting to be put together like a jigsaw puzzle. Some are of neighborhoods that have long been demolished, others in the dismal transition of preparing to be cleared out.

Yet there are some neighborhoods that have persevered, escaping the fickle attention of the district and municipal government. This quiet corner of Kunshan Garden Road (昆山花园路) is one example. Here, a cluster of old European-style villas sit in a row, enveloped by tall trees that provide shade for residents and passersby.

It is not hard to slip through the entrances. Quiet details are woven into every corner of the building, from the gentle sweep of the stair banisters to the elegant mouldings in the ceilings. I’ve explored these villas many times, a quiet respite from noise and traffic off North Sichuan Lu (四川北路). The old wooden steps would moan quietly under my feet as I made my way to the airy light at the top floor, padding past decades-old cobwebs that cling to damp corners. One time, an old lady emerged from her room, which was essentially her entire home since residents were allocated limited space in each villa. Tucking a small bag under her arm, she moved gingerly down two flights, her white hair bobbing in and out of view, down the spiral column of the stairwell.

This is how I feel with this post after months-long hiatus. A bit creaky, moving in and out of sight, trying to get to a destination amidst the cobwebs. You have to be patient, I may slip in and out sometimes, but you’ll see me. I’m back.

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