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 taxi driver is from the our area, SIP, then he may not be guaranteed a fare back to his part of the city.  Our life has been made much easier in the past year or so, because of the advent of UBER which was subsequently take me over by Didi. This APP has revolutionised how we get around. I still use buses and the metro, but Didi has made travelling by car really affordable and easy. No longer do you have to hope a taxi will pass by, stop and that you will communicate your destination and get there. Now you just have to place a pin on the map as to where you are, enter in English where you want to go, and hey presto – a car will come and pick you up. Lif has got easier – particularly when it is raining and taxis are like hens teeth. 

Sorry back to IKEA… Famous for its flat pack furniture and meatballs we were looking forward to seeing a familiar brand in China. The closest IKEA is in Wuxi about 45 minutes by car. But that has been another thing that has changed – we now have IKEA in Suzhou, and much of our furniture for our boarding flat is coming from there as Martin and I created a wish list. 

The furniture is the same, the soft furnishings the same and the cafe food the same , what is not the same is that we saw people sleeping in the beds and lounging on the sofas with clearly little intent of buying. The last time we spent quite a lot of money in IKEA was when we were setting up home in Milborne Port as Newley weds. 10 years on, we are still using the same brand. Well done IKEA. 

Mattress toppers were the order of the day. Our beds are hard. Together with cushions for Eleanor’s room, laundry baskets, bins, coat hangers and other random stuff that you don’t think you need until you see it. 

Tomorrow is school uniform day for Eleanor and then in the evening we will go to Suzhou Ferris Wheel amusement park for my birthday. Coincidentally since I started work at Dulwich I have worked on all my birthdays. In the afternoon Eleanor and I wil go swimming in our outdoor pool as it is only open between June and September  so we need to make the most of it. 

Today was sunny! Hotter than in recent days and there was a glimpse of blue sky with some clouds visible. When the smog descends it is below cloud level so even seeing clouds is a rarity.

Martin went to school on his own this morning, and came back via the supermarket to have a security tag removed from our sheet. We slept with just a duvet last night. He also came back with a carton of milk with a picture of a cow on it… Yes that meant that I have had my first cup of tea!!! How British. 

Observations of our first week…

Driving is an extreme sport. When lights are red you can still turn right – not like America where they do stop if there is oncoming traffic. Not only are the drivers turning into major junctions they are also avoiding e-bikes (electric scooters)  and pedestrians that just wander. Out into the ebike lanes. The scooterers don’t wear helmets either so watch this space as to whether we get one!

Driving at night in the UK or France etc, we put our lights on – whether on bikes or cars – here- not so much. We haven’t seen any accidents and the cars appear to be more or less intact. There are also more western cars than what I thought there would be. BMWs, Audis, Minis, Fords and a lot of Volkswagens as well as Mazdas, Kia and Nissans. 

Taxis – seatbelt so are a novelty especially in the taxis where the seats are covered. Taxis that are green/blue are 1.8 yuan per kilometre, yellow taxis tend not to have their seats covered and are 2 yuan per km and apparently there are black taxis, even more luxurious and expensive. We haven’t seen any of those -maybe we live in the wrong side of town! We have of course now been in black taxis but not as often as regular taxis and Didi.