susys running away to sea

"The rigors (sic) of an expeditionary lifestyle"

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lily in her hallowe'en witch dress

Monday, October 20, 2008

What do two beautiful people do to celebrate a birthday? Why, go to M on the Bund, Shanghai, of course!

Champagne on the open air terrace 8 storeys up, anyone?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Jack and some of his presents

Bella at jacks birthday party

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What inventive bored little Chinese boys get up to ...

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Yesterday (Wednesday)

Rachel and I went to the Fabric Market - three storeys of shop fronts full to the brim with rolls of all sorts of materials, and display dummies outside each one dressed in clothes to suggest ideas of what they can make for you. I've ordered a white cotton top, picking it up on Friday. The embarrassing bit was being measured by a tiny slender woman.

Oh, and I also bought a king-sized silk quilt for about 20-25 quid - which is half the price offered in the tourist silkworm 'factory' with silk wares department store built conveniently next door. No doubt somewhere along the line I shall find the first inch of my quilt is silk padding (the bit nearest the zip) and then amazingly it transmogrifies into polyester silk ... from the polyester silkworm, of course.

'Boo-yao, boo-yao, boo-yao'

shrieks my little granddaughter, wagging her finger from side to side at me sternly.

'Yao, yao, yao!' I yell back.

Hee hee - speaking Chinese - her's is much better than mine, of course!

She's telling me she doesn't want me, so I'm shouting back that actually she does .. a rough translation ...

You come HALFWAY round the world

nip into a supermarket - and what do you find?


*Kong xing kai xin a!!!

And in loads of varieties - Regular, Lite, Black Pepper, Hot n Spicy, Cheese, Garlic, 25% less sodium, with real bacon (as opposed to unreal, like the rest of the 'meat'), and my favourite - the Golden Honey Grail of Spams - the Spamalot Collectors' Edition!!

And only 3 to 4 squids a tin.


(And for the sailing readers - Chicken Fray Bentos at a fiver ...)

No - I resisted temptation.

*You're having a laugh!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ferry . . cross the huangpu . .

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday 14 October

Well, we've been up the Pearl Tower, used sharp elbows and cross (err, very rude) words to stop people just barging past in the queue for the lift down, been to the History Museum (excellent, but how Shanghai has changed over the last hundred years - or more likely the last 10 years), been to Txiantandi (sp?) which is a reconstructed area of shanty courtyard houses, but now loads of outdoor tourist restaurants - looked round a reconstructed house - which in the original would have been a horrible squalid slum, but is now furnished with 'antiques' and looks rather sumptuous - then ate at one of the ultra-modern restaurants (though Ray saw a rat running along the top of a window of the restaurant opposite ... ) Our food was fabulous. Is it better to know about the rat going into the kitchen, and eat there nonetheless, or to be ignorant of any wildlife where we were and eat happily? We had champagne (is this a habit?) and a cocktail and a glass of chardonnay, and I got lightly pissed.

Then we went through the pedestrian tunnel, via toy electric train, from the Puxi to the Pudong side of the Huangpu. Obviously a little train for kids, but the Japanese group and one of the English women loved all the flashing lights and running over the inflatable people on the line ...!!!

Then the usual death-by-taxi drive back to the apartment, where the driver is a maniac, goes the longest way round and ignores repeated cries of 'mandian!!!' (slowly!!!) from the back seat.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Caipirinhas - or Caipiranhas by the time I'd had a few ...

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Food, glorious food! (And drink ...)

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Living the (Shang) Hai life

Sunday was champagne brunch day - well, isn't it always? It's my new latest habit ..

Rachel, Bells and I went to the 5 star Westin Hotel, Puxi, where, for extraordinary amounts of money and names put down at birth (mine), we strolled to the manner born amongst the rich and beautiful mainly western people of Shanghai. All the fantastic buffet food we could guzzle, all the champagne (Rachel) and Caipirinhas (me) and fruit juice (Bells) could swig - you name it, we probably tried it, including popping little choccy balls of squidgy creamy stuff every time we happened to be passing the display. Which was pretty often.

Food from around the world - and not just any old cheapy bulk produced food ho dear me no - caviar and lobsters, mountains of sashimi, exquisite Chinese little barbequed birds - all presented artistically and tastefully for the feeding frenzy. I've got pix.

Then, pissed and fat, we were entertained by classical music from a small orchestra, serenaded by a couple of Chinese opera (not Chinese Opera) singers, were tango'd by a steamy young Chinese couple, gasped at three Chinese girl acrobats whirling plates and each other, and tried yet again to see how the mask changer did his faster than the eye can see Chinese mask changing. Absolutely astonishing, all of it - I'd had enough Caipirinhas for a tear to fall down my face at the beauty of the singers ... I have no pix, sadly - I'd used all Rachel's camera memory on the food...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Susy's Chinese boyfriend

Long ago and far away in Beijing, you might remember my close encounter with a Chinese man eager to improve his English and wanting my help with his pronunciation. Flourishing a giant dictionary which he produced like a rabbit from a capacious bag, I was rather persistently nagged to read pages of bizarre words, all beginning with the unlikely letter 'X'. Our brief encounter was kindly photographed by one of my new best friends, and I'm astonished it's in focus, given the knicker-wetting screeches of laughter seeming to come from a nearby pillar.

Notice my admirable composure - obviously we hadn't quite arrived at the word at which I broke down and couldn't stop tears pouring down my face. 'Xenophobia' ....

Forgot to say bye bye Exeters!

I did for real, so that was good. We'd had a last supper at the New Asia Hotel in Shanghai, and then suddenly everyone was leaping up, kisses all round, thanking Kent for all his help and hard work, a few of us off to the bar for a drink, but the rest turned from Exeters (a small joke from a previous guide's pronunciation of the company we'd used, Exodus) to Exiters. I was going to be the only one left after 7.30 the following morning - when I rolled out of bed for breakfast, wandering down the corridor I passed locked doors to empty rooms. I felt a bit like a ghost at a long-ago party ...

I had Rachel's address written in Chinese, so I took it to the receptionist when I handed in the room key. Now for the always somewhat disconcerting and worrying situation - Chinese people appear to be unable to read their own language ... I explained where I wanted to go, and she, with a little help from her friends, added some more writing in brackets. I then went outside where several taxi men were waiting and this provoked another long and loud discussion (no-one decides anything without consultation with at least one or two other people, as no-one wants to take responsibility for anything).

I was escorted to one cab, got in, and tried to shut the door. Metallic clunk. Door still open. Tried again. Same. Taxi driver got out and tried. Same result. By this time, I've decided to sit in the middle of the back seat as far away from either door as possible. The driver wields a screwdriver energetically - this fare won't get away if he can help it...

But I'm ordered out of this taxi and into another one - now, do I trust these doors, which appear to work but might not, rather than those which have definitely refused to shut? I have no choice. The driver roars away, swings in a U-eey across the oncoming traffic, races down to the lights and brakes sharply. The rest of the drive involves the usual swerving across lanes, rapid acceleration, manic braking, overtaking on the wrong side of the street (I watch death play a game of chicken with me on several occasions), and generally behaving the way everyone does, vehicled or on foot, on Chinese roads - with an unfulfilled death wish. So I too will be immortal. Fingers crossed.

(Little diversion into real China: along with the mountains of stuff carried on the backs, fronts and under the feet of scooterists and cyclists, lots of people will also crowd aboard. Favourite sight - a daddy on a scooter, little son behind, facing backwards and reading his picture book balanced on the top box ...)

Here now at Rachel and Rodrigo's modern appartment (so new, the builders have been jackhammering above their heads for the last six months ..... ) in this hugely westernised area of Pudong. There's a world of difference between visiting somewhere and living there. And even so, as a tourist I got a glossed view of China.

(Another little diversion into real China: you might remember I mentioned I wasn't going to take a photo of the meat market in Yangshuo and posted a shop full of birthday cakes instead. The meat market was off the main street down an uninviting covered alley, sodden underfoot - with what? - and then you understand why everything is kept alive till the last minute due to the heat and lack of refrigeration. Nevertheless, it was still a bit disconcerting to see the still-life skinned spit roasted dog snarling in mid-leap across the cage containing his cute furry tail wagging brothers... or the ducks roped together in pairs and slung upside down across a pole. Ducks, I see, are unable to quack when inverted, though they can still manage a strangled squawk when hefted by the neck to their future consumer.)

Rodrigo is working here setting up systems for the Chinese farmers to export their blueberries beyond Asia. He's seen real China, and has had to eat some rare delicacies. Live octopus speared and plunged into boiling oil, for example. He's now learned he can say no. But one story he told me last night was something I'd only thought still happened in Mongolia - this is an ok story btw. And that's a rural habit of lighting a fire beneath your bed-come-table (obviously a fireproof one), so you don't freeze to the stone during the cold nights. Chinese beds, even modern ones in modern hotels, are still like sleeping on flat rocks - never flop down on one exhausted after a long day's sightseeing - you can injure yourself badly... no wonder back massage is so popular!

Hanging in Shanghai

Today, Saturday 11 October

I've now had a chance to unwind a bit from the frantic, wonderful, gallop across China. I thought I'd be energised and revitalised and fitter after three weeks travelling - instead I woke up this morning feeling rather like death. I dragged myself to get ready to go out with Isabella and Rodrigo for a walk, while Rachel had a Mandarin lesson. In the lift I had to admit to exhaustion, went back to bed, and dozed for a couple of hours...

When I next got up, I felt a lot better, so leaving Isabella with Hong her ayi, who Bells adores, Rachel, Rodrigo and I took a taxi from the Pudong (brand new, westernised) side of Shanghai's river Huanpo, to the Puxi (Poo-shee - old, Chinese) side. We visited Taikang Lu, a maze of little alleyways in the old French Concession. The tiny old houses are now a maze of very expensive, chic shops and cafes and after three weeks of Chinese food and chopsticks, I had pizza and fingers....

This afternoon we took Bella out to the park, where the local school (Dulwich College I kid you not) was running a sports day/pre hallowe'en afternoon. Later I had a kiwi and banana icecream and found a great abstract dragonfly picture for my tattoo.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tongli punt

Peaceful sunny and wonderful
I can blog from my phone - I bought a duff used (well, I would, but I didn't know it, did I?) memory card for my camera, and it wont work any more... Hoory for the phone I say! I'll put a couple of Tongli (beautiful beautiful place) on there, but sadly not too many as I ran out of credit .. and daren't do that again!

The food has overall been great - when Kent the Chinese guide chose for us - tasty, varied, lots of it and I was starting to bulge (more). Oh, except for the Mongolian equivalent of fondu - greasy boiled lamb fat, anyone? When left to our own devices, choosing from brightly coloured pictures - grooooooo!! Inedible ... made spam look appealing ...
(As I'm now at my daughter's and it's rather rude to be blogging/emailing/writing to you delightful people, this message will be copied on to the blog to save time).

My charming Chilean son-in-law is setting up the barbeque on the balcony of their apartment - his new toy, so I'll say bye bye for now. x

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Kent our excellent guide

Suzhou and Tongli and back to Shanghai

Yesterday we went from Shanghai to Suzhou, which was a bit of a mix - yes, a pleasant busy lively town and we went to see a couple of the famous gardens there, but what I was expecting (wrongly as it turned out), was to be shown more of the canals. And the hotel was one of those ghastly huge modern conference centre hotels. Evening was much better - some of us went out for a walk over a couple of bridges, saw the buildings lit up with fairy lights, had a rather dubious meal, and then watched people dancing!! Ballroom dancing, line dancing - lots of them! All by the light of some dimmish street lights alongside the Grand Canal - I'd have loved to join in, but the line dance sequence was rather complicated and I was wearing flipflops.

Today, we went to Tongli, and wow what a rich town that is!! Probably the richest by quite a long way - on the outskirts they're building loads of very expensive houses and apparently they're being snapped up immediately. Tongli Old Town is of course mainly for tourists, but it's unbelievably cute, and we turn everywhere picturesque into tourist attractions too ... this time it was all tiny twisting canals - we grizzled for a boat trip, and piled into three large punt/gondola boats, sculled just like a gondola. I've taken pictures on the phone, but I'm out of credit, so I can't post them. Just too beautiful for words there! However, a cup of jasmine tea was 4 pounds sterling equivalent! Just for sitting at a canalside cafe ... We had lunch in a restaurant off the main square, much cheaper, but with the local speciality roast pork hock, which fell of the bone. I bought a scallop shell with pearls ... A fool and her yuan have been very soon parted, this trip..!!

Now back in Shanghai, and staying at the hotel here again overnight, as everyone else is going home early tomorrow morning and I'd like to say goodbye. We're having a goodbye meal here tonight. Tomorrow on to Rachel's - where I spent the day a couple of days ago. She and Rodrigo and Isabella live on the other side of the Huanpo in Pudong in a very modern appartment. I have to say Shanghai has been rather a disappointment - dirty and shabby and virtually everywhere a building site. They've got Expo 2010 coming up, so I presume they're doing for Shanghai what the Olympics did for Beijing. As the whole of Pudong was fields four years ago and is now miles and miles of brand new buildings, I expect they'll get it done in time - they all seem to work 24 hours a day. It makes you realise how political correctness, health and safety, greed and general laziness have slightly strangled the UK ...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Nine lion garden

Lion forest garden

Ancient water gardens suzhou

Monday, October 06, 2008

The bund by night


Yuyuan by night

Pretty stylish tops

yuyuan garden shanghai

Ok its a crap day but shanghai is dull dirty and tatty. This is the best so far.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

If this is what I look like after only 2 hours underground . . .


And this was just one

Water caves near yangshuo

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Rehydrating with this luminous confection

After son et lumiere and a cast of thousands against the stunning karst mountains . . Night night peeps x

If you cant read the awful photo

Its the reverse of the knicker packet and says 'uncomplimentary' . . .

Check out the knickers

In the hotel bathroom. . Sexy or what!

West road yangshuo

No pix of the barbied dog in the indoor meat market sorry

Chinese birthday cakes

Sum up and today, Sat 4 October

Yes I do know it does seem that I'm nipping all over the place, which is so - basically from the river cruise down the Chang Jiang (Yangtzee), there was a smaller side excursion in a smaller boat to see the smaller gorges. Then an overnight train to Guilin, then immediately by coach to here Yangshuo, which has been simply fabulous - we've had a river trip chug chug (yesterday, Friday) to an ancient village, seen cormorants fishing by night (for tourists, but still spectacular, and something I never thought ever to see), eating outside (always amazing food, and what the Chinese eat when they eat out - Kent our guide has done us proud like that), and today another river trip on a (plastic) bamboo raft, stopping off at an old junky but working boat on the way.

I climbed the nearly 1000 steps to Moon Hill (see picture on blog) and nearly died in the attempt, but was escorted by a sweet woman, who fanned me all the way up, and laughed a lot, and talked about her children in her few words of of English. I told her I'd been to see the chang mao (pandas) and she understood .. and she and fellow guides laughed at the exhausted foreigner, who staggered on the the top of the mountain ... and so did I! Red, panting, mouth hanging open .. She might have had the grace to look even slightly wearied .. and she was carrying a coolbox of drinks! They might be slight, but they're jolly fit.

I love the countryside here - actually, this is the best part of the trip for me. I don't really like cities, though i can admire the fantastic emperors' buildings.

I'm sitting here wearing a garland of fresh flowers in my hair - what a hippy! (PS This email might be hijacked for the blog, but I have only an hour on the internet). Tomorrow I think I shall go for a bike ride with a guide. I've had my hair cut by a boy who looked like a porcelain doll, with the tiniest features I've ever seen - and a great cut!

Then on Monday we're flying to Shanghai, Tuesday free day in Shanghai, when I shall probably meet up with Rachel, Wednesday to Suzhou, Thursday to Tongli, and Friday this tour finishes and the others fly home... (smug git grin from the linger-longerer...)

No opportunity lost to exploit the tourist, of course, and even though there's a fair bit of hustling, if you do stop, the hustling stops, and they're very polite - this has been the case everywhere we've been, so it's not that bad at all. Funny bit - we stopped the minibus in the middle of nowhere to see ducks in a pond (I said to Kent if they were in England, we'd be turning them upside down to see the 'made in china' label - he laughed), and lo and behold this woman appeared, flourishing tiny carved ducks, aprons, embroidered bags and fans. Caryl said she must have been hiding on the roof rack .. Oh and yes of course, she made quite a few sales - including the fan I have sitting next to me on this desk.

We had lunch in the bike guide's house - she wears the trousers in that household - she sang to us while we ate, pressed rice wine on use (errm, not very nice actually), saying her husband made it and there wasn't much left (excellent marketing huh?). He did all the cooking, was rather self-effacing, and showed us to the loos (plural) in their enormous house in this village. I rather think they own the Sunshine Chinese Cookery School next door (big sign in English) as they're a very enterprising pair.

You know what - it's really enjoyable to be visiting a country which isn't destitute - far from it. Questionable history, questionable government, but friendly people - helped, but not exclusively, by tourist money. We might be shown an idealised, sometimes (but not always ..) sanitised, soft view of China, but hey - I'm loving being here.

Tonight if the rain keeps off (though it's warm and it was fun on the river to dabble my feet and get generally soaked through) it's son et lumiere.

Off now for a shower and my legs want a little lie-down. If I remember China for anything, it'll be the quantities of steps everywhere ...

Nearly died but i got to the top

Moon hill guangxi province

Hippy Susy

Friday, October 03, 2008

Buffalo wallowing aaah Thats better

Liugong 500 wear old village


Phoenix bamboo and Karst

Karst mountains from the river

Rural china with water buffalo

Slumming it in yangshuo

Saturday - Sechuan province - land of the chilli

It seems the entire city of Chengdu is at the railway station. It's the beginning of the national holiday week, and all China is on the move.

Signs are often in English as well as Chinese, and lose nothing in translation... we are exhorted not to stride, not to lie down .. as if ..

We go to the Sechuan Opera and stay in Emei Shan.

The Opera isn't a patch on the Beijing Opera, despite the best efforts of the clown, balancing a lighted candle on his head, and the sword-and-steel-ball-swallower (yuck). However, the puppet dancing and the mask changing was ASTOUNDING!!!! Kent doesn't know how they do it - right in front of us! Apparently only a few people can do it properly and it takes years of practise. And unusually, there was a woman doing it, too.

Eating out has been brilliant - Kent takes us to lots of different restaurants to try out the different food, from the better sort down to local places. Each meal costs less than a fiver - way less ..

What does one do on a Chinese train in the middle of the night?

One practises one's Catalan dance en ronde outside the footprint toilet, led by Monserrat, singing and directing, until one of the train staff hustles us along ...

On the menu

Goose intestines
Duck Blood
Duck Webs
Chicken Feet
Small Yellow Croakers
Pork Cartilege
Steamed or Sauteed Towel

Some of the party visited the local hypermarket, but didn't ask how much the live toads were per kilo.

By train to Chengdu.

Thursday 25 September - it must be the Terracotta Warriors

By overnight train to Xian (pron. Shee-an) - couchettes and early morning coffee/tea delivered to our door. Soft sleepers for us - we were the girls' dorm - Tina and I and the nursing staff, Carol and Sandy/Mandy/Wendy.

On the way to the Terracotta Warriors - what do you expect to see from the coach window? Enormous tower blocks? Lots of concrete construction? The Sphynx and a Pyramid?

First we were taken to a medicinal herb market - under cover, but open air. I wasn't quite sure why we were here - picturesque, certainly, all the hessian sacks full of heaven knew what, including some very dead maroon beetles, all open to the air - but what would one buy? What was anything for? I did buy some 'saffron', though Kent did say it wasn't the real stuff. The local guide guided me away from a bag of pink pearls, scooped up with a scallop shell - 'Plastic', he said, dismissively, though they did look very pretty...

Then relentlessly on to the Terracotta Factory (never a shopportunity missed here). If I'd had a spare five thousand quid plus postage, I could have bought a life-size bronze-ish copy of one of the terracotta horses, complete with sweet neighing expression. Hard choice - the horse - or the facelift ... or another holiday or four ...

For those interested - the local guide called the toilets 'happy rooms'. Very accurate.

Once having not bought endless repros of the warriors, in varying sizes, we were at last bussed to the real place. And it's unbelievable.

They've housed the pits, the first one, the biggest, in something the size of an aircraft hangar - it's immense! (I need a Roget's for big vocabulary). The first thing that hits you is the dust - the smell, the visibility - it's as if the rows of soldiers, their horses, and the dividing walls are shedding. They were found smashed to bits, apparently done by the succeeding emperor's men at his orders to destroy all signs of his predecessor. So it's an astounding jigsaw puzzle to piece them together again. Only about a third have been done so far, so that's work for lots of people for years to come.

You'll have all seen photos of the warriors, but still in the pits are the rubbled remains, yet to be sorted out. There's only one warrior who has been found intact - a kneeling archer, his hands still holding his invisible bow, arrow pointing to the ground, ready to fire. The details are minute - down to the pattern on the soles of his boots.

The other two pits are smaller, Pit 2 containing four horses and their drivers.

Then there's a dimly-lit museum with two repro half-size chariots - one with a lotus leaf umbrella, the other an enclosed carriage, with a tortoise or turtle shell roof.

Again, a chance, if you haven't bothered before, to buy copies ..

Later ..

The Wild Goose Pagoda, and a jolly good laugh at the thought of a Fluck of Geese - but I think you had to be there ...

Oh and lots of kids in sailor suit school uniforms.

Still Wednesday - losing myself.

On to the Lamasery - there's a huge (of course) amount of Buddhism going on in China.

I got lost in and among the several buildings, couldn't spot any of my group, and went to the wrong exit. Kent was getting a bit worried. Little did he know I would spring a worse surprise on him a week later...

Fu Manchu

In the Pearl Market, I was accosted by a very persistent little old man, who was extremely keen to improve his English pronunciation. At least, I presume that's what he was after, as he was clutching a huge (of course) Chinese/English dictionary to his bosom.

He held out a tiny (wow!) tape recorder, opened his dictionary, and asked me in Manglish to pronounce pages of the words for him. Beginning with the letter X ...

Ignoring my two new friends laughing themselves silly and hiding behind a pillar, I politely started saying the words, with my beau repeating the Chinese as I spoke. But oh dear, I couldn't keep a straight face - and had to tell him it was because I didn't understand the words, not the absurdity of the situation ... and when I got to Xenophobia ....

Lunch was at a Chinese Pizza Restaurant! Where they also did rather bad Peking Duck.

Weds 24 September

As a parting gift to the Dong Fang Hotel, I fused the electricity in my bedroom with the hairdryer.

One second, I'm shouting to Tina how marvellous this hair dryer is, then phhutt! And it isn't ...

Today, the Temple of Heaven, wearing flipflops in the rain, and of course millions of slippery marble steps. This was extremely scary, so I took them off, which made the proper Chinese tourists look very disapproving.

Later in the Pearl Market - a multi storey building built for the sole purpose of parting tourists from their money - I bought a bright pashmina, but the continuous hassle 'Lady, come and see this!' 'Lady you want a bag, a watch, shoes, jewellery ..!' was too much. Mind you, if you DID stop, they didn't keep on, well, not much anyway.

Les bicyclettes de Beijing

aren't nearly as common now but electric bikes and scooters with several people including small infants aboard, are. Girls ride sidesaddle, clutching their boyfriends' waists, huge (of course) bags of vegetables obscure the footpedals, so feet dangle on the road, and only a rare helmet is seen, teutonic in style, orange in colour.

News from the toilet front (not for the squeamish)

Guess who forgot to take her invaluable, rare and precious loo paper with her today?

Apart from the drip dry option, I had to blot with my knickers, now lurking in a quiet noisome corner of my bag. ...

Sorry about this.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

(Out of date order - this is still from Beijing)

Meanwhile back in the Forbidden City ...

It's simply huge, and in its day life was absurdly formalised and to our way of thinking, stifling in the extreme. Eunuchs ruled the place, really. Well, you gotta have some compensation...

Today, it's full of us common people, including unbelievably adorable two-by-two colourful children, who of course stared at the big nose with the bruised face (it's much better now).

'Hallo!' they carolled, waving and laughing at the weird foreigner.

'Nee How!' I grinned back - in Suseperanto ..

Later, I saw a line of two-by-two OAPs, all in red baseball caps. Cradle to grave behaviour!

Hotmail and China

I don't think my posts are getting through - so everyone who's written to me - I'm sorry but I can't reply - at least, I don't think I can. I've been trying and also trying to find alternative routes. I'll keep at it. Sorry about this.

So - much love to everyone!!

Karst mountain and pagoda