A Month in China 25th March 2015 The final installment from Blog.Com

And so this is the last blog that I have to type up from when I used blog.com If you are a regular reader then I am sorry I haven’t blogged anything original for a while… and if you are a new reader then I hope you will still read my new stuff – or indeed go back through my archives and read from 2015 onwards.  The last blog was written by husband, and this blog was written by my mum. Neither of them have blogged since!  We were greeted by Alison and Eleanor, a welcome sight after 10 hours … Continue reading A Month in China 25th March 2015 The final installment from Blog.Com

While the wife’s away…… The Adventure 17th February 2015

So off I go, being all independent, spending a night in Shanghai then a flight out to Guilin and yes it is awesome. The Karst formations are simply stunning. There was a cave which was the spit of Durdle Door, but it is called Elephant Trunk Hill as the image suggests! So I met for dinner with my friend on the first evening who broke the news that he would have to work for most of my stay. So he suggested I go up to Longsheng – he would pay for the entry attractions, the bus there and a hotel. … Continue reading While the wife’s away…… The Adventure 17th February 2015

Can’t breathe 30th January 2015

It is difficult to put into words what the air pollution is like and how it governs our lives. Maybe it shouldn’t govern our lives, and maybe I shouldn’t think, though I don’t for the most part, about what the long-term effects are of living in an environment where the air isn’t that clean to breathe. On Sunday 25th January the Air Quality Index (AQI) reading was well over 350 otherwise known as Hazardous. Today the reading was 162 which is branded as Unhealthy. However on Wednesday the reading was in the 80s – Moderate. By contrast Edinburgh is around … Continue reading Can’t breathe 30th January 2015

First piece of toast and a visit to the kitchens 25th January 2015

Not the most inspiring title to most people who own toasters (hope you are enjoying your toaster Naomi), but bizarrely we haven’t bought bread for 6 months. But given that our “oven” has a grill facility I decided to buy bread and toast it this morning. Compared to a toaster, grilling bread is a laborious process, manually turning it and rotating it with turning, it isn’t just flipping it, and keeping an ever watchful eye on it. The bread isn’t mothers pride or hovis but it will do. It is quite sweet bread. Since the last blog, Eleanor and I … Continue reading First piece of toast and a visit to the kitchens 25th January 2015

Happy New Year 14th January 2015

Can you still wish someone a Happy New Year two weeks into the year? But of course China is 4 weeks away from its new year. The year of the sheep is nearly upon us and the shops have despatched their Christmas decorations to storage and everything has now become very red. However, many places still have Christmas Trees up, making us still feel a little festive. Christmas was spent back in HK. Having arrived back in HK on Christmas Eve we met up with even more of Martin’s ex-students who took us for lunch, and then another student took … Continue reading Happy New Year 14th January 2015

6 years old 23 December 2014

Our five-year old is now six. Thanks to my first cousin once removed (I think), I am now reading A.A Milne’s “Now We Are Six” book of poetry. I think we are all enjoying it, especially when I haven’t voluntarily read poetry for a long time! The plan for Eleanor’s 6th birthday (once we knew we were going to China) was to go to Hong Kong Disneyland. We would have liked to go on Eleanor’s actual birthday,  but when one of Martin’s ex student’s friends offers Disney free for the day before, you grab it with both hands! As her … Continue reading 6 years old 23 December 2014

Chinese attractions and Re-entry 23 December 2014

On 15th December we departed mainland China for Hong Kong. In Hong Kong we found blue skies, warmth, normal toilets and QUEUING. I hadn’t expected mainland China to feel different, but it does. A) It is definitely more expensive than the mainland B) People queue. There is no pushing or shoving especially on the metro system. C) The toilet cubicles have western toilets and in Disneyland HK there was one squat toilet – for which there was a queue. D) There is no spitting. Above the bins in the metro stations there are signs “No Spitting. Spitting Spreads Germs. E) … Continue reading Chinese attractions and Re-entry 23 December 2014

The Slow Boat to China has Docked!!! 8th December 2014

I imagine the boat docked quite a while ago, but then there was a palaver over customs and the fact that we should have gone through the red channel at Pudong airport. Upon arrival, we apparently should have declared the belongings we did not have. But no one had shared that information with us. So after we made a trip to Pudong airport to fill in a customs form, our shipping arrived on 3rd December!!!!!! Great relief all round frankly. There is only so many times I can be asked “has your shipping arrived?” But it now feels like we are … Continue reading The Slow Boat to China has Docked!!! 8th December 2014

A road trip on an e-bike 11th November 2014

Thursday 6th November was about exploring. The College had a professional development day so Eleanor and I got on our e-bike and met with Adrian and his son MJ. Bikes fully charged we left the confines of SIP. Our trip took us over a flyover which had a dedicated bike lane with its twisty incline and decline on either side, there would have been great views had it not been overcast. Was it overcast for the sake of being overcast or was it pollution? One can never quite tell. Our adventure was to go to another lake, Yangcheng Hu, see … Continue reading A road trip on an e-bike 11th November 2014

A proper Tai Tai? 5th November 2014

Tai Tai and laopo are the words for wife in Chinese. Wo shi jiating zhufu is “I am a housewife”. But everyone refers to expat wives that don’t work as taitais, pronouned as tietie. I don’t particularly like it – if I have to have any title I am a “trailing spouse” without any identity myself. I am identified with Martin. Even now at school I have to be careful not to introduce myself as Martin’s wife – I am at the school in my own right. It is like when Eleanor was born and suddenly the midwife would say how is … Continue reading A proper Tai Tai? 5th November 2014

Food Glorious Food 29th October 2014

When I now go to the market I try to buy something new. And I try not to poison Martin and Eleanor with it but from looking at the fruit or vegetable, sometimes not knowing how to open it or cook with it is a battle. This week I bought a pomelo (a citrus fruit like a big grapefruit) and a kind of pear thing, that I haven’t eaten yet. Last week’s food was like a courgette with knobbly skin, but sadly it ruined the dish I had cooked and tasted nothing like a courgette. After a consultation with friends … Continue reading Food Glorious Food 29th October 2014

My own set of wheels and Game, Set and Match 16th October 2014

Some leaves are turning a golden red colour, some of them are falling and are being swept up by workers using witch like brooms and people are wearing coats, trousers and long sleeved tops. Until Tuesday I was still wearing shorts and t-shirts and attracting even more attention that what I usually attract. I had a man come up to me gesticulating at my bare arms and legs. I smiled and walked on. We have had the Mid-Autumn Festival here, then Golden week in October marked the bus prices dropping (the buses are cheaper on October/November and April/May as the … Continue reading My own set of wheels and Game, Set and Match 16th October 2014

Shanghaied -part 2 – 5th October 2014

According to vocabularly.com  “To shanghai someone is to kidnap or trick them into working for you. The traditional way to shanghai someone is to drug him and put him on a ship. When the person wakes up, he better get to work. … The shanghaied person would wake up and find himself at sea, often on a long trip like to Shanghai, China” After the birthday party we got the bullet train to Shanghai. Suzhou has three main stations, with two of them serving Shanghai (Suzhou SIP station -suzhou yuanqu and Suzhou main station) and Suzhou North which you go … Continue reading Shanghaied -part 2 – 5th October 2014

An introduction to haggling – Part 1 – 5th October 2014

I type these past blogs changing my grammar/spelling but apologies for anything that I haven’t changed! I have also embellished a little. But this blog I have renamed and divided into two.  We (should read just me, it would take another year for Martin) have come a little bit nearer becoming an e-bike owner. I went with a friend (Adrian – the husband of Eleanor’s teacher), to buy an e-bike helmet. Originally it was for me, but I also got one for Eleanor. I have always known I have a small head as my horse riding helmet was VAT free because it … Continue reading An introduction to haggling – Part 1 – 5th October 2014

A week of firsts 20th September 2014

I went to a recital featuring Alexander Suleiman, Dr Bin Huang and Dr Angela Cholakyan. Suleiman was the only musician of the 3 that I had heard of, but Bin Huang shared 1st prize at the age of 14 with Maxim Vengerov at the international violin competition in Lublin, Poland. Dr Cholakyan accompanied both musicians in their varied repertoire, but also played a number of Bach’s solo preludes. Suleiman showed that he is not only an accomplished cellist, but can sing whilst playing too. That was definitely the surprise of the night. What the concert highlighted for me is that … Continue reading A week of firsts 20th September 2014

Can I have a pet? 15th September 2014

WARNING DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE EATING/DON’T LIKE PET SHOPS As we walked past a pet shop yesterday (Sunday), the above words were uttered from Eleanor. What she had seen were two, albeit, lovely looking puppies. Thankfully she didn’t see beyond the cute puppies. I did, and I had seen more of that in the Flower and Pet Street in Suzhou (Pishi Jie) during Friday’s walking trip in downtown. The street is tucked away off the main walking/shopping street by the metro station, Lindun Lu. I had expected an onslaught of smells but at 9.45am as I walked through, … Continue reading Can I have a pet? 15th September 2014

All Mod Cons and Mid Autumn Festival 6th September 2014

There are some things that you take for granted when buying goods in large supermarkets. The conveyor belt and the ability to pick something from the shelf, pay for  it and take it home. The conveyor belt, probably a relatively modern invention, but I have yet to come across one in Suzhou. Here you take your shopping out of the basket or trolley (never take a trolley as no longer have a car to load up the boot!), put it where there should be a conveyor belt and push it manually towards the checkout assistant. A few items is fine, … Continue reading All Mod Cons and Mid Autumn Festival 6th September 2014

Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, 1 Month 3rd September 2014

When a child is born and people meet new parents, the question is often asked “how old?” The response varies from days, then weeks and then around 12 weeks the answer turns into x months and then years and then years and exact months if the child is asked. Well we aren’t counting the days anymore, weeks are varied and difficult to define when you aren’t working, but this week is different as we are entering our 1 month anniversary in China. Does it feel like an extended holiday? No. Martin is working really long hours but REALLY loving it, Eleanor is … Continue reading Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, 1 Month 3rd September 2014

Mandarin is logical 28 August 2014

Well at some point I had to tackle the issue of where I call home. When I collected Eleanor from school I initially said let’s go up to the flat/apartment. Now I say, “let’s go home”. We are now entering our fourth week and we have fallen into some kind of routine. Today my Mandarin teacher asked if I was English…. well now… talk about a can of worms. Those of you who know me well enough understand my protestations of being called English. Today I succumbed. When I explained that I am Northern Irish, there was an intake of … Continue reading Mandarin is logical 28 August 2014

Foreign ID holders only 24 August 2014

Hi readers…  This is just a reminder that these are repeat blogs… sadly the provider I used in our first year is no longer a website, so in order to keep an online record of the early days in China I am publishing the old ones again. In bold are the additions or things I have noticed second time around!  “Foreign ID Holders” was what the sign said as we entered Dushu Lake Church. A Church that would not be out of place in any western city or town. A red brick building with a spire that can be seen … Continue reading Foreign ID holders only 24 August 2014

How to befriend complete strangers 20 August 2014

The past two days have taken me completely out of my comfort zone – but to be honest since I handed in my notice I have been out of my comfort zone (Original blog said since middle of July), so my zone of comfort must be expanding. Where to start… well Eleanor got the school bus yesterday to and from school and has settled in well. She likes her teachers and so far so good. Yesterday on collecting her fom the bus drop off, she wanted to be independent and not have me collect her at all, preferring instead to … Continue reading How to befriend complete strangers 20 August 2014

First day as a housewife 18 August 2014

A rainy, overcast day dawned in Suzhou. Martin left for inset at 6.45am, and Eleanor and I set off for school at 7.35am. Eleanor got up, had her breakfast and donned her uniform. No need for her sunhat, but it was proudly put on. From our apartment we can see the entrance gate, I was periodically looking out for the school bus as I wanted to know for tomorrow where it would go from. At 7.20ish it arrived and by 7.30am it had gone. Eleanor and I were going to get a taxi to school. We had the obligatory photos … Continue reading First day as a housewife 18 August 2014

A geek/nerd in our flat that is not Martin 15 August 2014

Eleanor had a late night on Thursday evening not because we were out painting the town red, but because she decided that she didn’t want to go to orientation day and that it would be hard to make new friends. Orientation day was not what Martin nor I had expected. The letter said it was 08.30-12.00. Like good people we turned up at 08.20 as the taxi got us there super speedy and knew where he was going. We sat in the reception of DUCKS (Dulwich College Kindergarten Suzhou) – people came in, people went out. At 08.40 we realised … Continue reading A geek/nerd in our flat that is not Martin 15 August 2014

“Please can I have some more?” 13th August 2014

Words that are being uttered by Eleanor as she devours her 3rd fried egg, cooked eggspertly by me in our kitchen…on a 2 ring gas hob, with burners that will singe your eyebrows given half the chance.  Food is proving difficult for Eleanor. Sauces are a no go just now, together with anything that smells remotely different. Here, my parents will be saying “just like Alison”. Yesterday Eleanor wanted some crioissants from the supermarket- they were never going to be the same as the ones we had freshly baked on our campsites in France a month ago, but they were … Continue reading “Please can I have some more?” 13th August 2014

Croziers arrival and hunting down an apartment. 9th August 2014

Today, Saturday 9th August is the eve of our move into our own apartment. (Rapturous applause please) This is a long blog…so grab yourself a cup of tea, gin and tonic or glass of something and see you at the end.  We survived the flights on Lufthansa on Monday/Tuesday. Martin blagged his viola as handluggage on the Frankfurt/Shanghai route. Eleanor slept most of the way and had to be woken up for landing. It has always been my wish to either enter a plane and turn left r go upstairs. Well my wish wasn’t granted this time, and now Martin … Continue reading Croziers arrival and hunting down an apartment. 9th August 2014

Hello Mr Blue Sky 9th August 2014

Said me not yet. We haven’t yet succumbed to wearing face masks that my lovely colleagues at Battens gave me, but the pollution is noticeable by the lack of blue sky. Grey is the colour of the sky during the day, but the moon is visible at night. There is no definition in the sky, no shape of clouds – someone once described it as a Tupperware lid.  On Friday afternoon we did our first touristy thing of going round on a fairly large Ferris wheel situated by the lake. The lake is green/brown in colour, the sky grey. What … Continue reading Hello Mr Blue Sky 9th August 2014

Taking tea to China 3 August 2014

The first post of my blog was in May 2014, when everything was exciting and just a little surreal. We were months away from moving. This post now sees us 24 hours from our flight from London Heathrow to Shanghai via Frankfurt.  Shipping left Coles Close, Wincanton on Tuesday 29th July. Have we packed too much? Definitely too many cuddly toys! Do I really need those Le Creuset saucepans? Will Eleanor remember those teddies so loved?… See above comment. Will I remember those teddies (yes) The bikes were taken (and they survived 4 years – having been stolen from outside … Continue reading Taking tea to China 3 August 2014

Shown the Door 11th August 2014

London taxi drivers have “the knowledge”, others rely on sat at, and when all else fails Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) taxi drivers make eye contact with you and point to the door – effectively asking you to get out because he has no idea where you want to go. Thankfully we found one and were able to get to Martin’s school to get the school car to go to IKEA.  Our problem was that we wanted to go into downtown, only about 15 kms from the flat, but for Suzhou this is a large area and of course if your … Continue reading Shown the Door 11th August 2014

A slow boat to China 15 May 2014

I have probably gone a bit mad, but the blog site I started on, no longer exists. And while I have two sets of faithful followers (Nancy and Gordon and my Mum and Dad) who have printed every blog I have done, I can no longer access my old blogs from my first year. So Mum and Dad have kindly lent me theirs (although I actually stole it from them – and Eleanor did my confession for me) and my aim is to put on WordPress the very start of my blogs. So if you have been reading my log … Continue reading A slow boat to China 15 May 2014

For sale. New Job. See you next time.

The apartment that we have lived in for 3 and a bit years is up for sale. For 7 million RMB.  We knew we would have to move at the end of this academic year, and the question on people’s lips was where? And would we find anywhere that matches the commanding view of Baitang Park and the Hilton (was a Doubletree by Hilton, but it has gone up in the world to become a Hilton!) We didn’t even try to look. In February I applied for a new post at school. I wasn’t successful first time around, which to … Continue reading For sale. New Job. See you next time.


Warning! This blog was started in April but events have as usual taken over my life and the blog was put to one side… I am now finishing this blog sitting on the TGV from Nimes to Charles du Gaulles Airport… But that is another story entirely… The end of March/beginning of April is really the best time to visit us. Last year we had our friend Kat, the year before the Scotts, and the year before that, my parents. This year we are welcomed Claire and her daughter Connie. Claire and I have been friends for 9 years since … Continue reading Visitors

Famed Whitianga and digging your own spa. New Zealand Part 7

From Auckland we went to the Coromandel Peninsula for two nights before heading to Rotorua.  Had we not made this detour, we may have considered going further south than Rotorua, but this had been a recommendation from two people; one of our NZ colleagues, Lara, and Sian my Welsh friend in Suzhou – who so far had come good on all recommendations (Mitre Peak Cruises and the Jet speed boat, and previously Cape Tribulation in Australia). We had high hopes. “Wh” in Maori is pronounced “F”. Whitianga is on the coast. The road from Auckland started off straight, but once … Continue reading Famed Whitianga and digging your own spa. New Zealand Part 7

“It’s a Small World” New Zealand Part 2

Anyone who knows me really well, will know that this Disney tune is my pet hate. The sedate paced boat ride on the “seven seas” at Disneyland Paris which takes you through different countries with the song being sung by 289 nationally dressed-up dolls in 5 languages – French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and English, (info supplied by disneyquestions.com – I have not verified this, and actually can’t believe I googled that information) is the worst ride for me but it is still strangely fascinating. THANK GOODNESS they do not have that ride at Disney Shanghai. Anyway, I digress, Despite New Zealand … Continue reading “It’s a Small World” New Zealand Part 2

Weekend Adventures in China March and April 2017

Having not blogged since Christmas, and having updated the blog from our American holiday completed in February 2017, I have decided to combine a couple of adventures while making an agreement with myself to get back on the blog more often! I have had more than one comment asking about the blog, so I apologise to my readers! After Chinese New Year, Martin, Eleanor and I escorted 14 or so students to Beijing to ISCMS X (International Schools Choral Music Society) http://www.iscms.net/  Hosted by Dulwich College Beijing for the 10th Anniversary, our students either sang in the choir, played in the … Continue reading Weekend Adventures in China March and April 2017

The American Dream (just 7 months delayed)

Chinese New Year is a lunar holiday and so this year it was extremely early. We had three weeks for Christmas and then Eleanor was back at school for only 2 weeks in January before our two week Chinese New Year holiday. (Eleanor actually had 4 weeks off as our school broke up a week earlier than the College and then returned to school a week before the college.  Some families didn’t come back for the two weeks of school, other families stayed in Suzhou having been away at Christmas. We decided to travel half way round the world. Shortly … Continue reading The American Dream (just 7 months delayed)

Two Eyes to See

We all know, or should know, that laser pens are dangerous. But sometimes, adults can forget that children don’t know. In November Eleanor and I went to the “fake” market in Shanghai just in the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum metro station. “Uggs” and “Converse” obtained, we went to a technology shop to buy some Christmas presents. Here Eleanor found a laser pen and proceeded to shine it on the floor.  I more or less freaked out, and told her never to shine it near anyone, particularly in people’s faces specially not near their eyes as it could cause damage … Continue reading Two Eyes to See