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 – 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)  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

Hanging Around

Mid Autumn Festival according to the Chinese lunar calendar (and traditional solar calendar), is celebrated in the 8th month which is the second month of autumn. As the four seasons each have three (about-30-day) months on the traditional calendars, day 15 of month 8 is “the middle of autumn”. On the 15th of the lunar calendar, each month, the moon is at its roundest and brightest, symbolising togetherness and reunion in Chinese culture. Families get together eat dinner together, appreciate the moon and eat mooncakes. The harvest moon is traditionally believed to be the brightest of the year. As a … Continue reading Hanging Around

Farewell to Nomadic Life and onto the Desert (Part 9)

Having woken up and gone to toilet surrounded by an audience of yaks, it was sad to be leaving this very peaceful existence. I thought about family, thinking that anything could have happened and here I was in the middle of nowhere, with no means of communication. It was amazingly refreshing. We packed up and said farewell. I was offered a bowl of what looked to be milk.  Of course it was milk, just not milk as I know it to be… It wasn’t offered to the children as it was Airag, the traditional national beverage of Mongolia. Alcoholic and … Continue reading Farewell to Nomadic Life and onto the Desert (Part 9)

Mongolian Barbeque; Nomadic Lifestyle (Part 8)

Friday 5th August was our last full day in the camp.  Eleanor woke up, took a bit of water, and then promptly brought it back up again. All the kids at one point during our stay had upset stomachs. Sadly there was no fried dough for breakfast, only bread that whilst supposedly fresh was stale. I had a breakfast bar. Eleanor went back to sleep, I was able to wake her up for permission to go on the penultimate ride. All changed ready for a 2 hour ride, this time we went to the east. On the first night’s ride we … Continue reading Mongolian Barbeque; Nomadic Lifestyle (Part 8)

Long Drops and Ancient Capital of Mongolia (Land of the Eternal Blue Sky) Part 4

When you aren’t looking at your phone, or computer, days just pass. The only reason I knew what day we were on was when I sat down with my diary and the travel schedule to work out that the 1st of August was a Monday. It didn’t matter what day it was. At 8.15am we departed, onto the sandy road heading north until we hit the main road where we turned left and kept going.  In the UK we have a phrase about the Romans having been there when a road is particularly straight. Every so often Yondo would slow down and we … Continue reading Long Drops and Ancient Capital of Mongolia (Land of the Eternal Blue Sky) Part 4

Ulaan Baatar (Land of the Eternal Blue Sky Part 2)

Ulan Batar, Ulan Bator, take your pick with the spelling. Be warned though, this is not a spell bindingly beautiful city.  It is utilitarian, functional, and whilst we saw it at its best on the first day (blue skie and very little traffic), we then saw it on our penultimate day when we were stuck in traffic and on our last day, it rained and there was certainly nothing pretty about it.  Its roads are concreted, not tarmaced and full of pot holes and they are bumpy (though not as bumpy as what we would experience in the forthcoming days). … Continue reading Ulaan Baatar (Land of the Eternal Blue Sky Part 2)

Land of the Eternal Blue Sky – Part 1

“Mongolia? As in Inner Mongolia? On your own- with Eleanor?” “No, Mongolia as in the separate country between China and Russia. Yes on our own, Martin is teaching in a summer school organised by DHSZ.” “Wow, you are…brave… That’s amazing… Why?” Just some of the conversations I had with people when discussing our summer plans. The Why question was the easiest… a country with horses, riding across a wide open space… well why not? I also wanted to give Eleanor a different perspective on life. No iPads, phones, television, internet, shopping malls, hotels with swimming pools, just green space, blue … Continue reading Land of the Eternal Blue Sky – Part 1

Summer has come

On 7th June my first year at school ended, Eleanor’s time in DUCKS ended and we boarded a flight back to the UK. Term had not officially ended but I was on my way to the UCAS conference and Eleanor was going to spend a couple of weeks with my parents. Mum and Dad had come out with us after the wedding and spent a month with us before going back to Northern Ireland, recover from jetlag and then fly back to Heathrow to collect Eleanor and take her back.  The end of Year 2 for Eleanor has meant that … Continue reading Summer has come

The Gobbins

Composed back in May I have only just updated this… What are you doing for the May Day holiday was a popular question over the kettle at work…um “going back to Northern Ireland” says I. For the weekend? Yup…and a few days extra I visited Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin whilst Eleanor did a tour of Dublin with my parents.  The wedding was of my Mum’s cousin’s son, Jonathan to his lovely fiancé Claire. The wedding in Belfast was followed by a reception in the Dunadry. A hotel which has seen many of our family’s wedding receptions.  The … Continue reading The Gobbins

There are 9 million bicycles in Beijing

Whether Katie Melua was right when she sung the song I couldn’t possibly comment but bicycles have been replaced in the main with cars. Something which I noticed the last time I was in Beijing in May 2015.  The weekend just gone was QingMing. The 4th April was the actual day of Tomb Sweeping but it was preceded by a 2 day public holiday. We get a week off and so we were delighted that our friends, The Scotts, decided to spend their hard earned cash in coming to China to see us and of course the country in which … Continue reading There are 9 million bicycles in Beijing

To the Bat Cave – Borneo Part 3 

A quick swim at the hotel swimming pool, collection of a packed snack, water and poncho from the hotel and then back on the bus to be reversed over the hotel bridge to go to Mulu National Park.  Our guide was still Phillipie but this time we were joined by a Japanese Couple who clearly were not interested in staying with us to be walked through the park to the next set of caves. We also picked up midway to the caves the 4 Japanese tourists from the morning tour who had, in-between times gone on a canopy walk and … Continue reading To the Bat Cave – Borneo Part 3 

Rain, Rain Go Away- Borneo Part 2. 

Beware this is a long blog… Grab yourself a cup of tea.  Eleanor is in danger of growing up getting used to 5 star accommodation. We don’t particularly want her to just good accommodation doesn’t come at such a premium in this part of the world.  And so it was on this leg that I considered homestay or staying in a Long House. Just to give us some local flavour.  However, I chickened out and opted for the Mulu Marriott instead. It had a small swimming pool, air conditioning and comfortable beds. (Though that didn’t mean we got uninterrupted sleep…)  … Continue reading Rain, Rain Go Away- Borneo Part 2.