Dàjiā hǎo! 大家好
I’m sitting on my armchair with the computer on my lap. I have my earphones and microphone on and Rosetta Stone is teaching me Chinese. Yvonne is doing the same with English at the desk. We’re full on learning each other’s languages. But Yvonne is winning! She’s doing so well and in 8 months has worked through 4 of the 5 levels (and has run through them twice as well) while I’m still on level one first time around. Since September she’s been doing 2 days a week at the institute located in the MacDonalds university in East Finchley (but it’s OK: no sign of burgers). For me it’s pretty urgent; we fly to China for 4 weeks a few days after Christmas. I’ll have to rely on Yvonne translating for me as I can still only speak a few basic things. I have no chance with anything more than 10 words. Yvonne is having to put up with me describing basic directions every time we catch the tube, or whatever has been the subject of my Chinese evening class.
It will be a family time, catching up with her daughter, parents and brother. Early in January there’s a big family celebration for her parents’ 80th birthdays. Shu Fang (her daughter) spent 2 weeks with us in August. She seemed to love London. We did get out a couple times, going to Cambridge and Stonehenge and took in a couple of plays (The Mysteries at the Globe, and Billy Elliott). Standing in the Globe together with the old English was a bit much for Yvonne but Shu Fang enjoyed it.
I’m not sure whether we’ll be doing any travelling while in China. It’s winter and several places I’d like to visit will be too cold, but we could get down to Guangzhou where Shu Fang works. They have a ‘eurostar’ style train from Changsha which covers the 450 miles in less than 3 hours. It should be a bit warmer down there (close to Hong Kong). But a highlight will be the Chinese New Year which is early this year so we’ll be able to enjoy the celebrations – a first for me.
We’re all settled down (or ‘up’) in Woodside Park, 4 stops further out than Highgate on the Northern Line. It’s even greener and leafier too. On one walk, just half a mile from here, we were in fields. We went through the biggest collection of sloe bushes I’ve ever seen. Apparently it was be best year for them. I’ve tried my hand at sloe gin for the first time and have 2 litres waiting to be sampled around Christmas time. I also had a box of blackberries in the freezer which we picked in Highgate just before the move in August so they’re helping to produce some blackberry brandy. This has been a labour of hope for me since I was banned from drinking for 6 months after a bout of glandular fever in May. My first Guinness a couple of weeks ago was pure nectar!
I was also banned from serious exercise for 3 months but with various other things happening, I haven’t been able to skate. My knee is still dodgy so I’ll have to wait until the end of January before I think of getting backon the ice.
Sunday journeys have become more of a challenge since there’s a 15 minute walk to get the bus and the guitar seems to have gained weight (like it’s owner).
Just lately Yvonne and I have been enjoying ‘Strictly…’ on Saturday nights. She can follow much of the commentary and of course the dance doesn’t need translation. It would be fun to try it for ourselves some time!
Having 3 wedding anniversaries (legal one 28 June, public one 3 July, London one 20 November) we’ve done some celebrating! We got to the show celebrating Michael Jackson
Thriller Live last month and we’re going to Phantom on Yvonne’s birthday. I’ve been a bit
slow about applying for tickets to the Olympics but have managed to get tickets for women’s football at Wembley Stadium and Paralympics athletics finals in the Olympic stadium. 2012 is going to be a big year and it’s probable that we’ll have another move around July.
One little project ahead of me is Christmas Pudding Ice Cream. I got the idea from Pat and Tony Archer (yes I’m an addict). The Christmas pudding and mixed dried fruits are ‘being prepared’. The blackberry concoction has come in handy.
God bless you all,
Will & Yvonne
The Beast of Shepherds Hill
(A visitor to our garden as we were moving. Apparently it’s a ‘Savannah’ cat – a new breed from a mixture of an African wild)
A Walk in Epping Forest