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 air conditioning/heating does not have to be switched on.  Autumn is trying to creep in. The locals think it is well and truly here. I only think it has arrived at 7.30am and in the evenings when there is a definite chill in the air. On Monday I put on my fleecy socks and a jumper in the evening. In reality the temperature is a good Northern Irish summer (about 21°C). I have succumbed to jeans (and flip flops) and a vest top with a cardigan, but by mid afternoon the temperature has crept up again and suddenly the temperature is late 20s and I regret putting jeans on.

It has been striking that looking at social networking sites, our friends are talking about lighting fires and putting jumpers on – nothing is further from my mind!

What I hope is that before the weather really turns, our shipping will turn up. Technically it is supposed to come mid-November… but we have no date yet, no idea where it even is in its journey. Martin has used the tracking code on Seven Seas website only to find all their ships dotted around the world.

As of last Thursday, I am now a proud owner of a red 2 wheeled electric vehicle and a top speed of 55kmph (legally I think there is supposed to be a limit of 30kmph), and no I haven’t reached the heady speed of 55kmph actually I would reach the max speed quite a lot before it died. Not helped by the fact that Eleanor would tell me to go faster!

I have ventured to school and to my friend’s house at Golden Lough (pronounced Luff – but I am on a mission to educate the masses so that they say it correctly. 4 years on and I have failed. I haven’t yet made it to the other side of the lake save that that is where I bought the e-bike. The e-bike came from a shop close to Martin’s school – deep in old town. So I rode it out of Suzhou Old Town (a lot crazier as there isn’t really any dedicated e-bike lanes that you would find in SIP (where we live). I also need to take it back next week to get my number plates and and storage box for the back.

To get the bike I went with Eleanor’s teacher’s husband, Adrian. I rode on the back of his e-bike, which then ran out of battery after we took a wrong turning thus making our journey more circuitous than it needed to be, He even ventured down a busy bike lane the wrong way – I whimpered on the back, but kept my eyes open. We got to the shop/garage in the end, in one piece. There was more “barguing” done and while there was no movement on the price I did get a lot thrown in – lock, storage box, registration and mirrors (which eventually fell off). 

The downside to having the e-bike is that it needs charged, and our compound, The Living Bank doesn’t have any charging points. The e-bike is a beast and doesn’t fit in the lift as many of the smaller e-bikes do.  I have scoured the neighbourhood and found at the neighbourhood centre, Hudong, an e-bike repair centre and a charging point for 1RMB per 10 minutes.

As I type (back in 2014) I have 2 workmen in the apartment plastering and repairing the tiling around the skirting board. 1 man is watching and 1 man is doing. I am blogging while listening to Chris Evans on BBC Radio 2.

Eleanor and I get lots of looks of looks on the e-bike. I take her to swimming on a Tuesday and Thursday evening at school. We have matching helmets due to my head being small so that turns people’s heads and then there is also Eleanor singing Christmas songs. I make her hold onto me, but she is desperate to ride side saddle as she has seen many doing this – but I have told her no way!

On Sunday, Martin and I left Suzhou to go to the Shanghai Rolex Masters Tennis Tournament at the Qi Zhong Tennis Centre. The final of Roger Federer v Gilles Simon resulted in Federer winning 7-6, 7-6. The doubles final of the Bryan brothers against a French pairing of Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin saw the Bryan brothers win their first title in Shanghai 6-3,7-6. In the doubles match the roof was open, but by the singles match final the roof was closed due to the wind which was making the floodlights swing precariously over our heads.

Being 25 minutes away from Shanghai is deceptive. We had booked ourselves on the 9pm train back to Suzhou. But our journey to the tennis had taken 1hour 45 minutes from Shanghai Railway Station, and we reckoned that it would take even longer when 15,000 emptied from the stadium and started queuing for the shuttle bus back the metro. So when Federer (my favourite tennis player) was a set up, but 5-6 down in the second set at 7pmish, Martin and I had the conversation about how we would either have to leave before the end of the 3rd set, or I would stay and get a hotel. Thankfully Federer sealed his victory by holding serve and winning the tie break. We left before the trophy was handed over, got on the 3rd bus that left for the station, got our train at 9pm and home by 10pm. Phew. We haven’t been since, but it has been my one and only live tennis match and it was a great day at the finals. The singles are played after the doubles and it was a shame that the doubles hadn’t played to a sellout audience as it had been a good exhibition of tennis. What I had also failed to mention first time round, is that we had bought our tickets when we still in the UK, had them delivered to the school in Suzhou, and it was my birthday present.

Last night, Rebecca and I went to an Italian wine tasting evening, at a new restaurant BARTE in the Phoenix Mall by Xinghai Square. It no longer exists. We had six glasses of different wines, from three different regions. My favourite was a red – Giogantinu Nastarre. This morning I had a fuzzy head, as it wasn’t so much a tasting but a drinking session. The restaurant also serves as a boutique for Italian handbags, watches, jewellery and art, not particularly family friendly for bringing the Eleanor in the future.

I am not sure what the next adventure will be, but rest assured it will be blogged sooner or later.

Thanks for reading, the workmen have gone and Radio 2 is telling me it is 8am… actually it is 15.02. (and roll on to 2019 – it is 06.23 on a Wednesday before school)