Edinburgh Trip 


Enjoyed a wonderful 8 days driving up to Edinburgh 25 Nov – 2 Dec. The biggest disappointment was forgetting to take photos of everyone we visited!

Caught some wonderful places along the way: Durham Cathedral, Tan Hill Inn, Ambleside, Hadrian’s Wall, Lockerbie Memorial, Edinburgh Castle, Holy Island, Angel of the North, Fountains Abbey.

Mike and Cheryl Nimz  

Colin and Rosie Patterson

(Sarah Aicher and Paul Freeman, RIP) 


Simon Barrow and Carla Roth 

Richard and Janet Scott 

Simon and Kathy Kew

Dick and Alison Fitt

Andrew Francis, Janice and Caroline Heath


Grief for a dearly beloved

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It’s been a long time since I’ve had a pet. Not since childhood. And then the reality was that Mum took all the responsibility for our dachshunds. I just occasionally pitched in to help with ‘walkies’ in the park.

But soon after we arrived in Changsha, Yvonne and I got two lovely half-brothers to stay with us. British Shorthairs. Shu Fang gave us the first, Jack, and a couple of weeks later we purchased a second playmate for him in the shape of Billy.

For the first month or two we were worried about ‘our first-born’. Jack was small and skinny, his coat was short and thin, and his skin seemed to have some sort of eruption all over. He was not well and just wanted to eat and sleep. No playing with anything. When Billy arrived, though he was the same age, or just a few days younger he was already significantly bigger and was delighted to play with anything new he came across. And for the most part, he played – and bullied – Jack a little bit. Nothing serious, but it was fairly regular!

But as time went on, they both grew; Jack recovered and overtook ‘young’ Billy in terms of weight and size. He kept growing whereas Billy’s growth slowed. This didn’t seem to much of a concern to us. We knew Billy’s mother was quite small and he was still of a similar weight to his siblings.

But around a month or so ago his growth stopped, and so did his play. While he ate, he would then return to his bed and sleep – much like Jack had done in the early times. But he kept eating. We thought it was just a temporary state.

But after a couple of weeks he began to loose weight and become weaker and weaker. His appetite began to shrink.

We finally took him to the vet to get checked out only to discover that the poor little thing had liver problem and his prospects for recovery were slim. If we had come earlier then his chances might have been better.

Despite medication to fight infections and help strengthen his liver he continued to decline. Pills and food needed to be force-fed. Even liquids he turned away. For several days he did take a special milk formula but only finger by finger rather than be lapping.

My little Billy Boy was fading away. I spend hours beside him to let him know he was loved and making sure he was warm and comfortable – as best I knew.

Thinking that the end was near, we made another visit to the vet who could only offer to feed him intravenously, but it might already be too late. After a couple of hours it became clear that his diagnosis was correct and recommended that we bring dear Billy’s suffering to an end.

So Yvonne and I said our last goodbyes to this dear little boy and cried our eyes out. Even the breeder came along to say her goodbyes too. I held the little chap in my arms. Already too weak to move much at all. On the nod, the vet gave him is last injection and Billy was no more. No blinking, no movement, just slipped away.

I read some of Revelation 21 about the New Heaven and New Earth, where death would be no more, where there would be no more crying or pain.

Yvonne had a beautiful new collar to give him, so we dressed him in his new necklace. Wrapped in Yvonne’s old jumper we laid him in his own last box.

How he loved boxes. Both of them did. Their favourite toys. With Yvonne buying many thinks on the internet these days a new delivery meant something new to explore.

He loved coming onto our bed in the morning to wake me up and ask for breakfast. He’d enjoy having a snooze lying on my chest. He never wanted to lie beside us. Even during the daytime his favourite spot was on my lap. (Jack is not a lapcat)! Often he would curl up and get comfortable and then take a long look right into my eyes.

So sweet.

And such a beautiful little chap. Gorgeous thick soft coat. And still the same gorgeous look on his face despite being so weak. We visited the breeder the other day and his mum had different markings but the same shaped face. So cute.

A friend posted a little poem on Facebook from The Good Vet Guide which was sweet and aimed at a child experiencing grief for his cat. But it meant a lot to me, an aging 65 year-old.


To my dearest friend.
I stood by your bed last night; I came to have a peep.
I could see that you were crying you found it hard to sleep.

I spoke to you softly as you brushed away a tear,
“It’s me, I haven’t left you, I’m well, I’m fine, I’m here.”
I was close to you at breakfast, I watched you pour the tea,
You were thinking of the many times, your hands reached down to me.

I was with you at the shops today; your arms were getting sore.
I longed to take your parcels, I wish I could do more.
I was with you at my grave today; you tend it with such care.
I want to re-assure you, that I’m not lying there.

I walked with you towards the house, as you fumbled for your key.
I gently put my paw on you; I smiled and said, “it’s me.”
You looked so very tired, and sank into a chair.
I tried so hard to let you know, that I was standing there.

It’s possible for me, to be so near you everyday.
To say to you with certainty, “I never went away.”
You sat there very quietly, then smiled, I think you knew…
in the stillness of that evening, I was very close to you.

The day is over… I smile and watch you yawning
and say “good-night, God bless, I’ll see you in the morning.”
And when the time is right for you to cross the brief divide,
I’ll rush across to greet you and we’ll stand, side by side.

I have so many things to show you, there is so much for you to see.
Be patient, live your journey out…then come home to me.

(Author unknown)


So, fare thee well my dearest Billy.

Your mum and I loved you so much.

You will always have a special place in our hearts.

You gave us such joy and showed how wonderful your creator is.

Billy Beckham, Mr Billy, Billy Boy, Mr Softee.

2014-04-05 to 2014-12-07
A photo tribute

2014-08-11 11.15.07

100 days or so

IMG_5539cI’m aching all over! Yesterday afternoon we had our third cha cha class. I remember a few basic steps from Nancy Harding’s dance class from when I was 15 but this is different. We haven’t learned any steps yet but we’re working on how to move your body. And as with skating nothing seems to come naturally! It seems as though your body is supposed to lead your feet! So lots of exercises to learn particular movements which can then be incorporated into the whole, eventually. And though none of the exercises are extreme, by the end of the class your body knows about it and demands some rest once you’ve got back home. I’m sure it’ll be good for me, and it’s certainly more fun than just doing time in the gymn. Our teacher doesn’t know any English but she can demonstrate most things and Yvonne fills in with the occasional bit of translation when it’s necessary.

This is fun and has taken over from the square dancing we did for a couple of weeks, which got interrupted by a summer cold for a week and somehow we never got back to it. This time we’re paying for private tuition, just the two of us. We’ll see how we go after our first 12 classes are up. I hope my former teacher Peter is pleased that dance is still on my horizon!

Last Sunday was a shock to the system. I had thought that helping others to learn English might be something I could engage in, giving students a ‘real live foreigner’ to deal with. So I joined a Sunday infant school’s English class as an ‘appertiser’. But only for a brief 30 minutes. Well, the kids were very sweet but being a prime mover in the class was much tougher than I’d expected. It took me the rest of the day to recover. BIG STRESS! I should have realised that this would be the case since I don’t like being ‘out front and leading things’. Leading worship in London was a case in point. Well I managed to survive that since I had a very definite shape to follow, even though I still found it stressful. I used to love helping with the kids at the skating club but that wasn’t really leading anything. Just being alongside them as they were taught by a proper teacher.

Anyway, it looks like I won’t be teaching English again soon, not without a lot more input etc etc. 

2014-09-20 18-05-00 HDRToday (I’ve skipped a week), Yvonne is out with former University friends as their medical school is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary. I geared up to go and eat dumplings at the local cafe but for some reason they were closed so I came back and settled with frozen pizza at home. (Shame on me I know). We did try a Pizza Hut a couple of weeks ago and I was decidedly underwhelmed. They’re quite popular here. I enjoyed them when I first came across them 30 years ago but I’ve since gone off them. And the Chinese franchise does nothing for them I’m afraid! I’m looking forward to our new house next year when we’ll have a proper oven for our own home made ones.

Unfortunately the timing on our new place has slipped back. We had been advised that the main builder would be finished by early October, but visiting a week ago it was obvious that they still had plenty to do. It looks like December might be a more realistic time frame for receiving the keys. After that there’ll be 3 months of work to convert the concrete shell into a home. Since we plan to visit the UK from the end of April for 3 months it might be that we’ll not be moved in until August next year. (They like to ‘air’ a new place for 3 months before moving in, even though paint and materials are supposed to be Class 1 and non-toxic). But it will be exciting.

As I’m writing I’m listening to The Archers podcast and waiting for yesterday’s Saturday Live with Richard Coles to finish downloading. Creature comforts!

2014-10-13 20.45.06Mid-week we went to some international footie which proved to be very exciting. I think Yvonne went along just to keep her husband happy but she had a great time too. It appears that the last time she went to the stadium (just a mile up the road) was nearly 30 years ago shortly after it was build, and then for a non-sporting exhibition.

Team China, as they like to call themselves, dominated in the first half, going 2-0 up in in the first 18 minutes, but after half time, Paraguay came back like a transformed team who were only thwarted in their efforts by some superb work from the Chinese goalie.

I think we’d both love to get to see some more but I think it’s quite unusual for the national team to be playing at our local. It’s a big enough stadium (55,000) but it was only about half full at 27,000 that night. It didn’t feel too empty as all the top tiers were kept free making it feel crowded lower down. I was interested to see what it felt like as a spectator. There’s a running track outside of the pitch (much like the Olympic stadium in London was before being converted) but we didn’t feel remote from the pitch. We got a great view despite the distance.

In September we had the mid Autumn festival and Yvonne’s family took us all to Shao Shan, Mao’s birthplace, a couple of hours drive to the south west. 2014-09-08 10.52.01c

2014-10-01 15-29-01That was followed a couple of weeks later with the national holiday to celebrate 65 years of the PRC. We all went to the local wetlands centre, just nearby on the other side of the river. I’m slowly finding out that they’ve got quite a few attractions here for days out with the kids and for visitors. These include a sealife park and Window of the World  which has smaller re-constructions of famous buildings from around the world.

Our good friend Diana (Tang Huan Jun) was married a couple of weeks ago. (She was Yvonne’s translator at our London wedding, and the one who sorted out all of Yvonne’s paperwork to get visas to come to the UK). It was very special to be there on her day and a delight since she had an important part to play in Yvonne and my relationship. God bless you Tang!IMG_5608

Since this was only the second Chinese wedding I have been to it was interesting comparing with ours 4 years ago. Lots of similarities including a master of ceremonies (with a good singing voice) who sounded more like he was building the crowd up for the latest boxing match!!! Plenty of volume!

Lots of love to you all,

Will & Yvonne


The first 50 days (well, 53 right now and 54 by the time I post this)


I had hoped I’d be writing this missive grateful for the arrival of our boxes. The delivery van did turn up this afternoon but the occupants refused to carry the boxes up one floor. With 14 of them, each weighing just under 30kg, as a retired ‘old man’ I didn’t feel strong enough to do that myself (especially as I’m suffering from a summer cold). Back in Wood Green it was all I could do to move each box from the front room to the kitchen. So the boxes have gone back to the depot and await some young strong blood to do the heave-ho bit!


We’re grateful that the boxes are almost here, since it’s just 2 months since they were collected. Our experience of air-mail letters is only just quicker than that and our boxes came by sea. I don’t really quite understand why ordinary mail is so slow. I ordered a printer from the USA just 3 days ago and today it arrived in Guangzhou (the old ‘Canton’) not far from Hong Kong. We’ll see how long it takes to get to Changsha, about 450 miles north.


I ordered it on Amazon.com (the US version) but I’ve not tried buying online on a Chinese site. Yvonne got some help from her daughter in setting up an online account with the Chinese equivalent to Amazon, known as TaoBao, and now each day we seem to get a ‘present’ for the kittens! And these online Chinese orders get delivered in 24-48 hours.


(In case you’re wondering, I bought the printer from the US since it was significantly cheaper than within China, even having to pay hefty shipping fees, and because the US models come with English instructions in their digital read-outs). I wish I’d bought one in the UK before we left! It seems not many people own a printer here, so perhaps there’s a supply and demand thing going on!

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The highlight of pretty much every day is (are?) the kittens we have. Yvonne’s daughter bought us the first British Shorthair and a week later we bought a second step brother to the first. We’ve named them after footballers and other cats that Yvonne has loved: Messi Jack (Lionel Messi and Jack, the 3 legged cat from No 16) and Billy Beckham (after our neighbours’ cats in Lyndhurst). They’re so cute and seem to be attached to their new parents!


We’ve started daily participation in Chinese square dancing (sort of like group ‘Gangnam Style’ dancing). There’s a current favourite 小苹果 – xiao ping guo, or Little Apple – is very popular at the moment, has a catchy tune and fun movements. Yvonne tells me that square dancing (more to do with dancing in the street rather than a square shape) used to be the recreation of older people but the modern dances are attracting younger folk too. There’s a nice open air square just a block from here (you see, all those American contacts have effected my language) so it’s very convenient. As a man, I get to go for free and Yvonne only has to pay £2 a year! Just an hour every evening at 7.30 p.m., weather permitting. The evenings are really cool, just less hot, so one quickly works up a ‘glow’! Daytime temperatures have been up to 38C but in general it’s been a bit cooler than usual at around 31C day time and 27-28C at night.


Yvonne’s bought some DVD’s to show us how the dances are put together and she’s been practicing. I’ve been slowed down the last week with a minor medical problem so I’ll probably get practicing again in a couple of days. Last night we were watching the instructions for the Little Apple routine, and Messi Jack insisted in trying to jump up at the video instructor. Very funny!

180 Pano from Living room balcony IMG_5806

We’ve visited our new ‘house’ – read ‘apartment’ – a few times now and have had several meetings with an architect/decorating firm and heating engineers. New builds here come as basic concrete blocks which you have to finish off. So we’re getting engineers to fit underfloor heating, and a building/decorating/architect’s firm to design the fixtures and fittings and turn it into a liveable establishment. This weekend we’ve just signed contracts and hopefully they’ll start work mid October as soon as the main construction firm move out. I’ve run our ideas passed Helen Roe who has been helpful in checking whether she thinks it’s a reasonable design and that things aren’t obviously missing. Yesterday we spend several hours going over tiles and floor finishes, cupboard materials and kitchen units. I feel enormously privileged to be able to not only own our new house on the 10th floor, but to be able to make all the detailed choices involved. Of course, if it doesn’t work, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves! But we both think that it will be a super place to live.


It’s in a different part of town to Yvonne’s old house. We’re currently about 4 km south of the centre of the city, and our new place will be about 2 km east of the centre. There are things that we shall miss when we eventually move – probably not until February/March next year. There are lots of facilities nearby her old house, market, massage establishment (big here), banks and other supplies and plenty of tiny cheap cafes who do wonderful dumplings and noodles. There are plenty of people living in the area of our new place so they must have facilities themselves but they’re not as obvious to us right now.

Ensuite Bedroom facing SE IMG_5345

We’re very grateful that my residence permit came through early in August with only one small hitch. Yvonne’s response was that I should also apply for a driving permit once 3 months has passed. I’m not keen! It’s bad enough trying to cross the road on foot let alone drive where there seems to be little in the way of lane discipline etc that I’m used to back in the UK. The one good thing is that people seem to drive at a modest speed. No racing from one traffic light to another. I’d have to sit a written exam first and she tells me it can be done in English. Of course I’d have to spend a lot of time studying their highway code equivalent and learn the meaning of the roadsigns which are not all familiar. But I would imagine that I’d need to be competent in Chinese in order to read written road signs. We have paid for an underground parking space in our new house but I’m not really keen on using it! I’d far rather use taxis which are very cheap, or hire a car for more substantial trips.


The first tube line here is up and running – the East-West route, but the second North-South route won’t be finished for another year at least. It will be useful for Yvonne’s house since the station would be very close. But she tells me that locals are not keen on using it as it’s more expensive than the busses. 25p a ride compared to 20p! A little different from London prices, but then again, salaries here are about 1/10th of a UK wage.


I’m studying Chinese on my RosettaStone program on the computer and loving it. It feels like it dovetails quite well with the classes I was doing in London. But I’m looking forward to getting our boxes and the Chinese text books to explain quite a few questions which have cropped up. I imagine I’ll try and find some classes next month once the school/college year starts up again. I am making headway, but you’d not notice it from the amount I’m able to speak or comprehend from conversations. Yvonne still has to translate anything I try to say into a more comprehensible Chinese. They say that 2 years of full time study is required to become reasonably fluent!

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Yvonne’s family and friends have been most hospitable. We were taken out to eat almost every evening of our first week and some her friends took us on an all expenses paid trip to the hills/mountains 3 or 4 hours drive south of here. It was good to start learning a little more of Chinese history. Jing Gang Mountain was the location where Mao’s troops ‘recovered’ after a defeat in Changsha in 1927.

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We’ve visited one lively congregation where English was the main language and most of the participants were local students. I would have enjoyed going there more regularly but Yvonne wasn’t very comfortable and the gathering lasted a long time; well over 3 hours.


Blessings to everyone,

Will & Yvonne


Early days in China

It seems as though time is flying by. It’s now 3 weeks since we arrived in Changsha. There have been lots of reunions of family and friends and lots of Huan Ying – welcomes from all and sundry.

Our family has increased in size by the addition of Messi Jack – a British a Shorthair kitten that Yvonne’s daughter has given us. As with any 3 month old kitten he’s definitely become the centre of attention and has introduced a little bit of

20140724-191100-69060324.jpgstructure to our lives. He’s a gorgeous little chap who goes by various names from ‘baby Jack’ to his full name Messi Jack after the Argentine footballer Lionel Messi and a 3 legged cat that lived next door to us 3 years ago.

I’m getting used to the climate which is a little warm at 38C yesterday. We’ve had plenty of rain alongside the heat -heavy downpours lasting 2 or 3 days. Just a little different from London.

This last weekend we we delighted that Yvonne’s daughter Shu Fang came to stay – quite a long way from Guangzhou where she lives (450 miles).

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Of course I’m heavily reliant on Yvonne as my Chinese is extremely limited despite all the evening classes over the last couple of years. But at least I can read some basics thanks to the Meridian Chinese Classes I went to over the last year or so. Now that I don’t have any structured classes I’m able to get back to RosettaStone on the laptop which is brilliant. Yvonne used the English one for 2 years and she speaks English very well now. I’m hopeful but it’s a long haul, but it’s probably good for the grey matter!

It looks like our new home won’t be ready to move into until next year, but we have visited and we get a great view from the 9th floor!


More news in due course.