A Fat Purple Fig

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Chasing Clouds

The anticipation of a day without rain set our imaginations ablaze. Lucy and I are similar, in that we believe it’s possible to see most of the United Kingdom (including Wales and Ireland) in a week, if only we can craft a sufficiently-efficient itinerary. After developing a dozen routes on Google Maps, and feeling as exhausted as if we had completed them, we awarded the sun to a single, worthy recipient…the Lake District.

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Dodge City

We arrived late in Longtown, and the entrance to our Airbnb was surrounded by a group of youngsters, on bikes and on foot, that made us laugh, with their hearty ‘fook off’s, and the fags that looked like they had been stolen from the packets of Mam and Da. The next morning, the footpath was dotted with broken eggs, leading us to conclude that there likely isn’t much to do in this town.

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Being Eliza Bennet

Of all the English heroines, my all-time favourite is Elizabeth Bennet, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. If you haven’t read it, a catch-up requires little effort. Think headstrong daughter of limited means who refuses to acquiesce to a marriage devoid of love, and a brooding gentleman of 10K a year, whose arrogance keeps others at a distance…and there you have it.

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She Loved This Place

Stratford-upon-Avon is such a delight, I am lamenting its category as a one-day restoration point. It is different to what I expected, although I’m not sure what I expected, so I make this statement with only my surprise in mind.

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Priorities in a Pandemic

So, after purchasing several flights, receiving a couple of refunds and accepting an endless stream of timetabled flight changes, here we are in Stratford-upon-Avon, at long last.

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Land of Ice and Snow


Heilongjiang Province, if you aren’t a bird-watcher or a fisherman, is known for its frozen tourism, with annual attractions that have titles like ‘Ice and Snow World’, ‘Ice Lantern Fair’ and ‘Polarland’ (technically all part of the Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, but you get the idea). This morning, we were treated to an attraction all of our own, when we awoke to find a Jiamusi turned white.

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Hanging, Jiamusi Style


I really enjoy Jiamusi taxis, the huge fleet of beeping, swerving, blue-and-white VW Jettas, hell bent on getting where they want to go in as short a time as possible, pedestrians be damned. The combination of no-tipping and no-chatting, often combined with a loud radio and a brusque, no-nonsense attitude really suits me. I think I would catch them everywhere if I lived here, to try and make up for the fact that they are so cheap, their prices don’t seem to be in proportion with anything else.

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The Universal Language of Food


Mr Huang is a name I have heard regularly throughout Kitty’s exchange, most often when she is feeling outraged and/or resistant, developing him into a sympathetic and enduring figure in my mind.

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Dasvidaniya (See You Tomorrow)


Since before we arrived, Katherine and her friend, Bonny, an exchange student from Costa Rica, wanted to visit Harbin. And, after doing a bit of reading, I decided I was pretty keen to visit Harbin too, although not for the Subway and Starbucks they were intending to beeline, but for its unique history and architecture.

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Today was about living like locals, which meant a quick breakfast of vegetables, black beans, eggs, unidentified pickles and I’m-going-to-call-it-bread, hailing down a racket of a cab and heading for the nearby shopping mall, Xinmate (sounds like Shin-mah-teur). We arrived a couple of minutes before opening to find a small crowd had gathered, awaiting entry.

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