May 9th: Japanese Voices

It appears going jogging first thing on Sunday morning – tired, hungover and with a cold – wasn’t such a good idea (who’d have thought?).  As a result, Bronwen has had no voice for the last few days, which made both Sunday’s visit to the Japanese restaurant and Monday’s first Mandarin lesson somewhat of a challenge.  Thoughtlessly, this meant Bronwen couldn’t really respond to our teacher, leaving me to do all the hard work.  My vocabulary now includes “Very Good”, “Your younger brother is busy” and “I am tired” (“hěn hǎo”, “Nǐ dìdì shì máng” and “Wǒ lèi” in Pinyin since you ask).

Entrance to Shintori

Shintori, the Japanese restaurant, was excellent.  The Shanghainese have a love of hiding restaurants and bars down alleyways and lanes with no signage on the street, ostensibly allowing only those “in the know” to find them.  Alternatively one could read about them in guide books.  The Shintori is somewhat hidden away down an alleyway of bamboo shoots, with little other than a big wooden structure (no indication it’s a door) to greet you when you reach the end of the alleyway.  This being a Japanese establishment, the big piece of wood automatically slides away if you get close enough.  Once inside, the grub was great, despite my normal reticence over Sushi.  We had met up with Rachel again (from pub quiz) and a friend of hers – a very enjoyable evening, with fantastic food and conversation, although Bronwen was bloody rude and hardly said a word.

May 6th: Chinese Cooking and Shreddies (unrelated).

Two things I would like to be capable of when I return to the UK: holding a (brief) conversation in Mandarin and cooking more adventurous Chinese meals than “Add soy sauce, pak choi and a bit of chicken to a wok.  Stir and serve”.  To resolve the former, we’ve booked a trial Mandarin lesson for Monday night.  If all goes well, we’ll sign up for 100 hours’ worth of lessons.
Professional-looking Xiao Long Bao.  And mine.

And for the latter, our inaugural Chinese Cookery lesson could probably be classed as a success.  Joined by Richard, John, Tim and Sarah, we made and cooked spring rolls and xiao long bao (otherwise known as “Shanghai Soup Dumplings”).   Not too difficult to guess which dumplings were mine and which were the chef’s?

Pub quiz news: despite coming 4th on Monday night, our team (well, the team we joined) have won the season.  The prize confirmed as a 2-hour open bar session for 20 people.   That’s some prize…

An exciting Friday night was spent in a nearby Japanese supermarket – chosen for its large stock of imported products, including London Porter & London Pride.  And – the discovery of the week thanks to Bronwen – Shreddies.  A bargain at the equivalent of £6…  We’ve also discovered a butcher round the corner from us selling imported meat, including bacon.  Proper bacon.  Not the American stuff, nor the “elaborate bacon” we bought from Tesco which turned out be cooked ham.  And they also sell whole chickens – but whole in the British sense (no head or feet), so not really whole at all.

The necessity of domesticity (nearly works) reared its head again on Saturday with our second trip to Ikea.  A seething mass of shoppers, furniture testers and whole families seemingly born without spatial awareness against a few bewildered Westerners.   Never a battle I was going to win.  Two hours of that and I was ready for the Saturday night out.  Back in the Big Bamboo, Saturday night was proving a particularly enjoyable one until about 12.15am on Sunday morning.  Then a certain football match started.

It’s been ridiculously hot this weekend – 31 degrees as I type.  Given my standard UK tolerance level is around 21 degrees before I start melting, this is going to be a challenging summer.  Shorts are becoming essential everyday-wear (perhaps not in the office) which means my legs will see the sun (smog permitting) for more than 2 days this year.

Sunday has so far been somewhat relaxing for me, but Bronwen mysteriously got out of bed at 7.15 am (despite getting into it at around 2.30am), put on some running gear and disappeared for a couple of hours.  Apparently some kind of jogging activity occurred with Elouise.  Shortly followed by a return to bed for a very hot and exhausted Mrs Sims.  I emptied the Shreddies into a Tupperware container (insect proof), so feel I have also done my bit to keep fit.

And to celebrate our month of living in China we’re off to a Japanese restaurant this evening.  Of course.

"Push, Pinch, Pull"