“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 tasted this morning. That flicker of the tongue over the substance and the words “I don’t like it”. The battle line was drawn. In the end (an hour later) she ate some of it. Tonight will be chicken, broccoli and noodles in our new wok. We know we need to take it slowly but when having issues with food it always comes back to “why are we in China? I want to go back to England.” The cry pulls as your heartstrings because she is confused and lonely at the moment with no friends, made yet. BUT she starts school on Monday, orientation is on Friday and when she is chomping on watermelons, rice, grapes poor any plain fruit and veg then all is right with the world. 

OOOH… As I have typed this, Eleanor has eaten a cake which our estate agent, Ginger left for us yesterday (together with a bottle of wine for my birthday). The cake is really heavy and is polenta based or similar. I am not keen on it – but Eleanor is – so result!
Our local neighbourhood centre is a 5 minute walk. There I can get suits dry cleaned (actually dry cleaning I later found could be done in our compound) shop in a supermarket (it does wine) and go to the local market stalls undercover of one roof. That local market also houses live chickens which are freshly slaughtered for consumption, and those not slaughtered also produce eggs which you can buy. (Later on that year they closed down the live chicken part – but I think it has since reopened) –the eggs definitely aren’t free range! The fish market houses fresh crab and fish, thankfully I know how to gut a fish so be prepared for that blog. (I haven’t actually bought fish from this market!) There are also meat counters and whilst I like to think I would be OK, I am not tackling that on my own. One of Martin’s ex pupils is coming next weekend from Shanghai so she will take me there and help me spend Martin’s money … Now our money since I have none. 

Last night.  We found a really nice hotel that does a buffet restaurant, Shilla Hotel. It is in Times Square by the Ferris Wheel. It had lots of different foods, prawns and crabs in ice pails, dumplings in steamers, duck, beef, fish all cooked in varying spices. And red and/or green chillies! They also did barrels of prosecco or red/white wine on tap, together with fresh juices for Eleanor. A decent meal which I have not had to cook! Result. We just need to collect Fapiao (receipts) and school will pay us back as part of our allowance. 

Suzhou has at least two amusements parks. The closest one to us is the Ferris Wheel park. It is small. But situated by the lake it is nice for a wander round. However, your ticket entry is NOT automatic entry for many of the rides as you sometimes need to pay extra to go on the ride. The rides that are included in the ticket price only allows you once on each of them. The double decker carousel was a winner with Eleanor who is free and has no ticket. But she can only go with someone who is over 1m20 and fee paying. So last night Martin, then `I went on with her. 

When I visited Japan 14 years ago, my abiding memory was that when we reached Nagano via the bullet train we got off at the station and suddenly we were surrounded by Japanese people all wanting their picture with a white girl. Once we realised what was going on, it was fine. But then again I was 19 and we were on a guiding trip and had been briefed about culture shock and vaguely knew how to deal with it. Eleanor, however is 5. And while she may look as if in the main she is coping with Chinese life (food aside), she was not prepared for the woman who thrust her little girl on the back of Eleanor’s hobby horse and photographed them. Eleanor was bemused by them and took it quite well. The ride started, and the little girl was hurriedly put back on her horse. The ride then finished and quick as a flash the same woman then put her son on the same horse as Eleanoer. Eleanor was having none of it and wouldn’t co-operate for the photo. I was clambering off my horse at the time, and once I was off, I swiftly took Eleanor off her horse and left, leaving the woman probably open mouthed – I didn’t turn around to look. 

Taxi drama update – yesterday having hailed a taxi by ourselves (just Eleanor and I) to and get Eleanor’s uniform, we travelled the length of one road (equites some way) before the driver admitted that he didn’t know where he was. Unlike the day before he didn’t show us the door – but he phoned someone, and within minutes after a U turn we were at school. 

Taxi on the way back, was going to prove difficult to get from school as it seems as if it is in the middle of nowhere. The school Martin is in bustling downtown. However, school phoned a taxi, and by the time we were at the front gate, the driver was there. We got in, showed our address on a piece of paper and off we went. However, half way through the journey the driver realised that he hadn’t switched the meter on – I gave a 20 yuan note, he accepted it, and out we got.