Another year older

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Flag of China  , Shandong,
Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Greeting from Beijing, from a very excited Tracy who is flying to the UK on Thursday night, and a very excited Andy who's looking forward to partying for 2 & a half weeks…. Oops… no sorry, a very sad Andy who’s going to miss Tracy very much…

I was 41 years old when I last wrote, I am now 42. I had a lovely birthday, and was made eggs benedict Beijing style for breakfast by Andy (Beijing style just means no hollandaise sauce, substituted by cheese & mayonnaise, trust me it’s lush!) and some Cava to wash it all down with. A nice start to the day. The China post upset me again, having only 1 card from the UK to open on the day, funnily enough 4 arrived yesterday, a little late!! A lazy day really, Costa coffee before a walk around Ditan Park, then a manicure & pedicure for me in the afternoon, a nice bit of pampering. In the evening we went to a very nice French Brasserie called Flo, we’d won a 100 voucher a while ago so thought it was a great time to use it. We started with cocktails on the outdoor terrace, 2 very strong long island iced teas….. whoops….. before moving inside for dinner. The staff seemed to know it was my birthday and were attentative. We had an amazing 3 course dinner, Andy had and oyster as an extra (not for me thanks, yuk) as well as l’escargot for a starter. Delicious food and desert, with a lovely bottle of red wine. Suddenly all the staff had congregated in the corner, and then appeared with a cake with a sparkler singing happy birthday! Very nice!

After dinner we headed back to where we live to our local brewery for a 'cleansing beer’ and that was me finished!

Saturday was a quiet wander to the hutongs and have dumplings from our favourite, Mr Shi’s for lunch, before the big party……

Several friends here, 8 of us all together share July birthdays – one on the same day as me, same age, slightly ginger, but he was born in California so we aren’t twins separated from birth! A while ago we all spoke about having a big party to celebrate, so after some searching, we hired a great bar – a roof terrace on the 7th floor called Bali Bar, and decided to have a Hawaiian themed party. We had over 230 people turn up which was quite amazing, and we had a bright coloured Hawaiian lei for every guest. Everyone had lots of fun, some of the guys wore some great Hawaiian shirts, others grass skirts etc. so it was really colourful. The bar has a water feature, pretending to be a little river & pool really, amazingly no-one ended up in it! BBQ food, cocktails, and 2 guest DJ’s who are friends of ours made it a great evening. I hit the long islands again for the 2nd night, I should have learnt my lesson!!!

What else, Andy has had his crown fitted so can eat properly, it hurt and ached for a couple of days, but it’s ok now.

I was offered the chance to do some judging for an English speaking competition for school children, so I did a couple of days. Something like the ‘English National China Super League finals’, where children from the age of 6 up to 16 from Beijing and Nanjing, had gone through various heats to get to this stage. They were in various groups of 2-5 people, and there were 5 judges, 3 foreigners (2 Brits & a Canadian) and 2 Chinese women, we had to score them on vocabulary, intonation, artistic expression, team work etc. There were 16 groups who did 2 rounds per day, things like talent shows, comedy sketches, improv – where they’d listen to a reading or a piece of music and then have 8 minutes to produce a 4 minute show, and then perform it to us. It was incredible, such talent, and some of it at the start, it’s well-rehearsed, well polished, lines learnt over & over, but when it came to the improv stuff that’s when the real work began.

Most of the Chinese children spoke very good English, mostly having an American accent (which most people seem to here), but there was one little girl, about 8 years old, as cute as can be who had the sweetest British accent, adorable! All of us judges had to remind ourselves to be objective and forget the cute factor! We found out later she’d lived in the UK for 4 years. My favourite was a 6 year old girl, a ‘mini-me’ with a bob, but in black, and one time dressed as a Panda. I wanted to pick her up & take her home with me!

All of it was filmed for CCTV (China Central Television) and it’s going to be shown at the end of August, so I’m going to be famous, how cool is that!! Honestly, we felt like we were on the X Factor, walking in, getting applauded by the audience (Mums & Dads!), and the kids, every break time someone wanted to talk to you, or all be waiting to have a photo with you, it was so funny! The parents gave you big smiles at every opportunity hoping that you’ll score their children well! The best thing was, getting paid 350 for the pleasure. Hard work, tiring, but great fun. Made good friends with the judges too, a good team, and have been invited for dinner at the end of the month to say thank you, as well as to go back next year for the 2014 competition.

Andy had arranged a 1 year anniversary bowling night at the weekend which was fun, a few new people again which was great. Oh, that reminds me, I nearly forgot to mention it…. cough…. splutter…… I scored my highest ever score at bowling of 122. In doing so, I beat Andy!!!!! Hmmmm, that went down well!!! Awesome!

Other than that, a wander around the lakes at Houhai in the sunshine, Vietnamese noodles before watching the Grand Prix, and a fabulous win by Lewis Hamilton, not a bad finish by Jenson either, things are improving thankfully.

So, in a few days time I will be back! Feels a little surreal now to be honest, after 15 months away. Hoping to see as many of you as possible, although things are looking a little hectic already! If all else fails, I plan to be at Gunwharf on Sunday 18th for the afternoon, perhaps in All Bar One, so anyone I’ve missed, pop by & say hello!

Separate blogs next then, Perrys reporting from either side of the globe!!!

Bye for now….

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Mary Speirs on

...What an amazing time you're having.....!! I love reading it all.....
(Oh....I was in Spain last week where I was....drinking Cava at breakfast everyday.....with fresh strawberries.....Cava beats the Italian bubbles.....! Hope no italians are reading..... ha ha...) xxx

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