Made in China

Application season for my Year 13 students to go to university is nearly completed, I have students applying to America, UK, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Ireland, Japan and one who is not a Chinese national is applying to China. So since the summer I have been busy. I read the students personal statements for the UK and also essays for the United States colleges and universities. Many of the colleges want a 650 word essay together with supplemental essays. eg why this particular university (don’t mention the rankings – which is hard for our students to get their heads around!). For some students I could be reading 10 drafts of the same essay!!!  Also a few of my students have applied to multiple countries so I not only have to write a 4000 character reference for the UK system which entails gathering information from the student’s subject teachers and combining it but also for the U.S. I need to write a letter of recommendation, which is very different in style and substance and as the teachers write a separate letter – I can’t adapt theirs to my needs! So with writing everyday and looking at a computer screen at school, I am afraid I have neglected my blog. I have ideas form in my head as to what I want to write so I still think about it.

“Made In China” is a perfect title as it seems that most items that we take for granted, whether in our wardrobe, desk or elsewhere, have been made in this country. I know I have written about it in the past, but this time while it frustrates me when I am in the UK that I am buying things that are made in China that I can’t get in China, I thought that the Made In China label needs to be celebrated…

In the summer, I decided it was time to have some new workwear and Martin thought the same. So both of us headed to Dragon and Phoenix tailors near Lindun Lu metro station to be measured.

As a solicitor, my wardrobe was pretty much black and white. Very little colour. Often the hardest decision about what to wear in the morning was skirt, dress or trousers. And when I appeared in Court I would wear heels. I am not short, but neither am I really tall, so heels was my way of feeling confident. When we left for China, some charity shops, did well from the lawyer shedding her suits. It was probably the hardest thing to give up, as it was part of my identity for 10 years.

Not working for a year, was even harder on my wardrobe. With one salary coming in, I resorted to jeans and a t-shirt, spring and autumn, jumper and jeans in the winter. The first year of working was hard, I didn’t want to wear a suit, that seemed too formal and wearing heels was strange after a year of trainers and flip flops. My second year of working I got some clothes in Street, Somerset. Dresses, trousers and shoes. But still no suits.

Ideal for the summer weather, however, in the months returning from NZ I have lost a little bit of weight and now find that the trousers are ever slightly too baggy! It just means I will have to go back! It is weird though people’s perceptions of you once a suit is donned. Martin said the moment I put the suit on when checking the fit, that I appeared more confident, and yet when my colleagues see me in it, they think I am dressed for court. So maybe I still need to evaluate my wardrobe!

Martin, meanwhile had shirts made in his customary purple and pinks and also he had a couple of suits made. Even down to choosing the buttons to go on his suits, no detail is left unchecked.


Eleanor determined not to be outdone, also had a dress made and because there was no rush on timings we got it done at a reduced rate.IMG_3410

The 40°C summer left and my parents arrived in September. That gave us the opportunity to get on the train to Danyang and go and get glasses made. Danyang, “glasses capital of China” between Nanjing and Suzhou is the largest distributor of glasses in South East Asia.

Two shopping malls are filled with retailers who will make the glasses according to your prescription. Either bring the prescription along with you (my parents did this) or have your eyes tested there and then – but it won’t be a full examination like you would get at home. The waiting time can be a couple of hours, but for my parents glasses it took a couple of days due to various coatings and prescription needs. The glasses were delivered to school and they were wearing them within the week. And for a fraction of the cost that they would be in the UK! Language was a tiny bit of a barrier, but a Taiwanese man was sought out in the mall and he helped.

Eleanor went away to Thailand in November on a football tournament (!), so Martin and I took the opportunity to travel to another Chinese city famed (by those in the know) for its pottery.  Jingdezhen. A flight is possible, but because Shanghai is a two hour car trip and our friends who had gone, had had their flight cancelled on them, we decided to go by train… sleeper train. We left Friday night (Suzhou to Nanjing) on the fast train and then picked up the sleeper at Nanjing. We could have got on at Suzhou but sadly the tickets from Suzhou had sold out. We arrived at 06.49 having done 9 hours 44 minutes, and while refreshed we were without breakfast. We walked the streets finding nothing open – even McDonalds was closed! Eventually finding breakfast we walked on some more and found the pottery area.

Jingdezhen in Jiangxi Province is known as the “Porcelain Capital” as it has been producing quality pottery for 1700 years. Given Martin comes from The Potteries (Stoke-On-Trent), it was probably a bit like a busman’s holiday, but he came along with me in good grace!  I have no doubt that the bit we saw was only a small portion of the city. The Pottery Workshop, holds a market for artisan potters every Saturday, and it was there that we headed. The market is surrounded by independent shops and we made our first purchase quite quickly… it was also our most expensive purchase at 350RMB (approx 40GBP and 53USD). However, a vase at 5000RMB (568GBP and 771USD) could have been purchased, but Martin refused me. That was not to be the most expensive we saw that day! We saw one with a 6 figure RMB price tag.

We saw some sellers that day that were from the United States. They were ceramics students that were coming to the end of a 3 month study abroad programme, what an experience.

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The craftsmanship was superb. Many working in sheds (for what of a better word) with no frontage. Just facing out into the street.





So we bought a few things and had them couriered back the school. Pay on delivery. The packages arrived covered in polystyrene in wooden crates, with one delivery guy taking the crate apart at the school entrance to make sure that I was satisfied that our purchase had arrived in one piece.

This is a place that takes its heritage seriously, street lights are works of art in themselves, walls have porcelain murals and I have never seen so many tea sets ever! But we refrained and didn’t buy any of them!

We went there for one day! Because that night at 18.43 we took a 10 hour 48 minute sleeper train back to Nanjing. At 05.31 we stumbled off the train and at 06.31 we took a 1 hour 25 minute fast train to Suzhou.  Eleanor arrived back the next evening having had a fabulous time in Thailand learning life lessons about competitive football. The team came fourth having lost on penalties.

The one thing I do want to get made is a pair of boots so maybe 2018 is the year for those.

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