Sunday, 30 August 2015

Expansion. Curve Ball.

Hello Tutties and Frutties. 

           Nice to see you here at the QB blog. The poorly maintained, apparently unloved nether region of the QB social media. It has solid foundations though (very dense material), and the unnecessarily wordy construction was all glued together using drivel and bilge, so it can withstand a good deal of neglect. 

       Mostly everything has been running smoothly at the teahouse. 

       We lost some excellent staff members, though also gained some. Definitely sad, but we are so very happy to see people move on.

          We bake every single thing in house now (apart from bread, which still comes from the formidable Sugar Down Bakery, and occasionally Gr*ggs when we run out :-), and the kitchen is a well oiled machine (extra virgin), albeit really really sweaty. We are still looking to expand the kitchen, so if you have kitchen experience, like to sweat and are after a job, please do get in touch. 

      The kind, thoughtful customers we have visiting us really do make the place what it is. We can put on nice music, polish the bannisters, ensure that we are chatty and welcoming, make everything delicious, and all of that sorta stuff but if you lot aren’t there to respond positively, it is all in vain. As always, thank you everyone. 

            As usual, we closed for two weeks this month (August). We souped up our cake display area, caked up our soup display area, created a new specials board, repainted everything (time consuming), shpongled what ever needed it, did some behind the scenes tinkering, invested in rugs and laminated 400 bits of card for the menus. Pat got a blister. 

     We also did something huge. 

   The story goes like this-

    We three have been cogitating for quite some time on what direction to take the teahouse. We would like to make more room to fit you all in, so you don’t have to queue. We would like to open some sort of eatery/deli/excellent takeout place. We would also like to open a music venue. So we have been working on all of these projects. Here is a proposal we put together for a venue, just so you know what sort of trees we have been barking up. 

        All of these projects, for one reason or another (often frustrating and disheartening reasons), are either not going to happen, or are not going to happen for at least a year. So we began brainstorming. 

      One year ago, to the day pretty much, one of us went to Montenegro. A favourite place of ours. Whilst there, time was spent with estate agents. Many a property was viewed, including an abandoned olive mill. The price of this ruin was high. Unachievable. But it was nice to see it. 

            A year later, the price had reduced considerably, and the euro was weak. 

                 We had some money, not enough, but some. 

    Enter CHRIS from stage left. 

 Chris Le Messurier, currently in Melbourne, but from Perth, Australia, is an old comrade of ours. He worked with us in Budapest, and has been a good friend ever since. 

         We four began chatting about turning what was a dream into some sort of reality - purchasing the olive mill, and turning it into accommodation of some sort. 

     We booked some plane tickets to Montenegro (One of us didn’t cos he is having a baby soon).

   We fell in love (with the building, and the project).
                 Between the four of us, we had some money, not enough, but some. 

           So we loaned a lot of money.  

   And on the 7th of August, after a roller coaster of a ride (we nipped to Flamingo Land), we became the owners of plots 1828, 1829, 1832 in Podgrad, Stari Bar, Montenegro. 

    The Grove is born (Geordie 90’s teen TV link not coincidental).

Not fully formed yet, but a squirming, wriggly infant, unsure of where its limbs are and what they do. Definitely with uncontrollable leaks in various places.

  We now have a 20 month period in which to renovate the place. Opening Spring/Summer 2017. 

  So that is what happened this summer. 

      It is all extremely exciting. The place will operate along side the teahouse. We will be very wary that the quality does not slip here in Newcastle. And perhaps, hopefully, you will be able to visit us over there some time in the future, for it is a place well worth visiting. 

      Big love to you all.

QB x

Friday, 15 May 2015

Magic Wiffle Waffle

          I used to go to London to get my hip serviced cos it was ill. When i was 6, or something. It was an annual trip, or something. I smelt a perfume the other day that boinked me right back to being small in a massive city, not entirely aware of what was going on. I always felt very safe. I think, though, that the city was smaller in my head then than it is now. I guess as a yungun you don’t picture the world as a map, as one contiguous place. You just get from one location to another and it takes a certain amount of time. Distance isn’t really a thing. That perfume mixed with the warm electric musk of the tube (THE tube. The London one. Not A tube for safely storing posters or funnelling liquids, or something) fills me with indescribable bliss. It makes me feel safe and excited, tiny and cared for. It makes me feel special and loved. So special, it seems, that merely in attempting to recall it i believe myself quite capable of describing an allegedly indescribable feeling.
My dad and I, no doubt after a trip to Madame Tussaud’s or the Planetarium, or both if i was lucky (that is said with no sarcasm - i boinking loved going to both of them and i hammered the keys pretty hard when i wrote ‘boinking loved’ there), found ourselves in a video shop. Real life VHSs. NOOO it was on the way to Hamleys. Another absolute treat - where i had the opportunity to trial play Sonic 2 on the Megadrive, destroy flippable remote control cars and where i got my magic pack of cards (they weren’t actually magic, they were a trick. Real magic costs more than £4.99). I still treasure them to this day. I also very much recall the smell of the plastic/rubbery magic balloon blower stuff (again, not actual magic) that you used to whack on the end of a straw thing and make sticky balloons, until it all got into a horrible mess, dried out and it got sneakily thrown out. It was also in Hamleys - and there is no mistake in this memory because i was mortified - that i did a fart in a populated elevator. I did that because my uncle did a one a few weeks before and it seemed to be received with great positivity. I thought it was ok. It is one of the few times in my life where my pops chastised me. ‘Control your bottom please’, were the words i remember being directed into my ear with sternness straight after we got out of the lift in front of the demonstrator for the rainbow magic (same shit) drawing board. Wise words, indeed. Stick by those words until you involuntarily lose control of it. Anyhow, it was a lesson learnt. Now i only let rip with great consideration (if i am certain i will not receive the blame; If i am on my own or if there is a small child around). 
I was in TJ Hughes the other day. It wasn’t actually the other day, it was before christmas. And there was one of those cringeworthy promo vids on about the Twisty Worms. Heres a link to where you can buy a pack of 300- thoroughly recommended. 300 times the fluffy magic (ffs) fun. This was another great memory as a kid from Hamleys. So i got my nephew one, from TJ Hughes, before christmas. For christmas. If you work as a toy demonstrator in a toy shop, please don’t think your job pointless/soul destroying. You bring so much pure, unforgettable joy to the kids you try n flog your wares to. It is such an important job. You have had more of an impact on me in my thirty years than Buzz Aldrin and Elvis Presley and Gandhi and Princess Diana and Pat Sharpe combined. And i boinking loved Fun House.

      Anyway, this video store. We got 5 videos for a fiver. Which, i am sure you agree, is a bargain. Even in yesterday’s money. Amongst those videos was Teen Wolf, with Michael J Fox. I had seen a snippet of that movie on the TV, and begged my dad to get it, amongst 4 other probably not-so-great movies. About 45 minutes in, the video glitched and restarted from the very beginning, only to run out of tape where the glitch occurred before. I have never seen past 45 minutes of Teen Wolf. Though those first 45 minutes i have watched many times. 

       I think i might watch the rest of Teen Wolf tonight because it is on Netfl*x. I wonder what happens. I expect he gets a bit power trippy, boinks the blondey, makes a fool out of himself, but ends up with Floof or Tiff or whatever her name is, and then makes amends and wins the basketball match that brings much joy to the highschoolers and the somewhat laid back coach. I’ll tell you what i remember very vividly about that movie - every character is so very likeable. That house party scene with the wAckY friend leading the party games tho!!!!! Even the extras are likeable. Not like the movies today. I know it was shot in a goofy manner, and the whole thing is a bit slap sticky. But the acting is GOOD. And surreal and excellent like a good story should be. And don’t get me started on the most excellent sound track. Ok, do. Man, nothing screams ‘wolf transformation’ like weird disjointed synth slap bass. And the fat brash brass synth is used in the most bonkers of places. It’s like the director had a mathematical john cagey aleatoric approach to soundtracking it - pick one synth demo track at random, match it with a scene at random and that’s it done. I love it. I absolutely love it. And i am a big fan of ending a scene with ‘Look, i gotta go’ *person walks off*. I wish that was acceptable in real life.

 I didnt mind this glitch on the VHS. It was part of watching it. Knowing fine well the ending wouldn’t happen. It was just accepted. Leave the rest to our imaginations! The sky’s the limit! That was our Teen Wolf video. No big deal.

        WHY this trip down memory lane now? Well, this perfume smell, along with Teen Wolf being on Netfl*x along with seeing a real life Twisty Worm (i thought them to be extinct) along with feeling sad about dead animals and our new government made me hanker after a time of feeling safe and excited about the world (and the magic it contains). I thought adults were great. I trusted them. All of them.

   I had a happy happy upbringing. The fact that my mum and dad never left my bedside during the hip disease time is a small illustration of that. I was in Poundworld on Tuesday. Poundworld is similar to Poundland (pronounced like ‘foundland’ from Newfoundland). Presumably, despite the way it appears in our realm of consciousness, Poundland is one of, or the only, landform in Poundworld. There may be poundoceans. Full of poundfish. Which you would cook in your poundpan, pop on the poundplate, and feed to your poundwife with a poundtiramisu for poundpuds. Perhaps in Poundland, there is a PoundNewcastle, with rival cheap poundshops. Called Poundpoundland and Poundpoundworld. Etc. 

  In Poundworld i was buying some Penguins. The biscuit. Obvs. But i always like to go and check out the other bargains, for example a spatula. So i went to look at the cookware. Opposite the cookware are the toys. These toys are deliberately placed at toddler height by EvilCorp. So the toddlers ask their mums to buy them. So a toddler did ask his mum to buy them. It wasn’t really his fault though. But he was asking for her to buy them for his sister, because he thought she would like them and he already had got some crisps. They were pink toys. Girly toys, if you will. I will, but will quickly apologise to my girlfriend for doing so. 

   This was a delightful notion, i thought. His (not thin) mum replied with-

  *massive over the top sigh* ‘What the boink are you doing? Shut up. Put it down and shut up.’

Apart from she didnt say boink she said fuck. Then, whilst clinging on to her 10 packs of pork scratchings, waddled away from him with purpose, as if abandoning him was a good method of disciplining. I made note of the snack preference and quantity, because i’m a nosey little busybody. 

    Immediately i wanted to take that boy next door to TJ Hughes and demonstrate a Twisty Worm to him (thats sounds euphemismy. Stop it) To try and make the world feel magic and safe, because if he doesn’t think that now, he never will.

      Now my hip is hunky dorey and I dont get to be taken to Madame Tussaud’s anymore. But on the plus i imagine i wont get told off for prrping in an elevator. I will give it a shot tomorrow. To see if anything has changed. My family has new kids in it. Kids that are getting to that same magical age, when the seeds for future nostalgia are sowed. What’s great is that there are people in their lives that bring them joy and i hope create those memories that, as insignificant and obscure as they seem at the time, will boink them in the face later in life when they smell a perfume or see a toy. 

          Maybe not knowing the ending of Teen Wolf is a good thing. Perhaps if i watch it then what remains of my childhood faith in humanity will disappear, and i will turn in to a despondent, inert shell. My dreams and wishes and possibilities for the future will shrivel as they cheer Michael J on the basketball court, Floof (or whatever her name is) giving him a snog, as the blondey jealously looks on. As predictable as humans eventual destruction of the planet and each other. 

           Or maybe i’ll just shrug, fart and blame it on the dog, or something. 

         I don’t have a dog. 

Everything at the Teahouse is great. We feel on top of everything at last. Our staff are wonderful, and our customers even wonderfuler. 

As ever, thank you for your continued support.

QB x

This post was brought to you today by the words magic* and boink.

*not actual magic.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Cartoon Army

Yes indeedy everyone. 

  There ain't no snack like a Pink Panther™ wafer. On the packet it says 'THE PINK PANTHER™ MGM Studios Inc All Rights Reserved'. Now i don't know business too good, but it seems that Rivington Biscuits Ltd from Wigan have some sort of arrangement with MGM Studios/Pink Panther™. Which strikes me as strange. Because the Pink Panthér™ is kind of off the radar at the moment, entertainmentally. In fact i would say the only time the biscuit's target demographic have seen the PÎñk Pàñthér™ is on the packet of these biscuits. So it is hard to see the benefit of having old Pinky™ on the front. Maybe MGM studios pay Rivington biscuits for the privilege of having a sorta dormant character on the packet. Maybe its a super symbiotic relationship, where no money exchanges hands. MGM and Rivington mutually benefitting from Pinklechops™  being on some wafers. As far as i am aware, the only other such really long term relationship is again with Pinkford™. On fibreglass insulation. He is the 'spokestoon' (i did not make that word up) for Owens Corning insulation. They dye it pink. Just for visual contrast from other brands. A genius move. Bonkers, but genius. 


What a terrible picture. Looks like he is gleefully erupting from some poor chap's arsehole. 

    If they had any acumen at all, Walter White and Jesse would have got the Smurfs as their spokestoons. Papa, completely fuck-eyed in a run down Smurfvillage, selling Smurfettes blue sex to make ends meet. DONT WORRY IT WILL BE HAPPY AND CHEERY COS THEY HAVE SQUEAKY VOICES. 
     HANG ON - Jesse PINKman could use our old friend McPinkletron™ as his own personal spokestoon. 'Sorry officer i can't comment on this, you'll have to wait for my spokestoon to be in touch'. Problem there is that, just like other panthers, Lord Pinkikins™ doesn't talk. THE PERFECT SPOKESTOON for such an operation. 

    Because we here at QB are all astute businesschaps and tea is the colour it is, we will be getting Charlie Brown as our spokestoon. Nothing quite screams a great british beverage like an american comic strip. Perfect. He will annoy everyone into buying tea with his mundane, self deprecating, pessimistic quotes. Oh, this is actually something that may work in England! I was joking before, but now i am serious. 


    Here at QBHQ, things are plodding along nicely. We are still learning. By gum every day we need to adapt and change to cope with whatever gets thrown at us (rarely physical objects, but every now and again…) We are getting faster, without losing any quality. Which is so very important to get you seated/served quicker. Shaving seconds off orders throughout the day certainly adds up to a tighter, more controlled service. We wouldn't have believed it, had we not witnessed it ourselves. 

      You will have noticed that we now open from 10am until midnight. There are good reasons for this. And they will be revealed soon. Let's hope before 2015 hits us clean on the face with a cold, soggy flannel. And we have changed the seating options a bit. It has slickened the operation - offering more tables for larger groups, as well as seating options for lone diners and those after a quick fix.  

   ALSO WE HAVE SIGNS. Just front ones for the moment as we are trying to manoeuvre through the tricky obstacle course of listed building consent for the side signs. Everything is hand painted using victorian techniques. And i hope you can see the quality from the street. All done by the ever patient Ashley Willerton. Please do check his gorgeous typography oot. 


          One of us went to New York (the one in America) this morning. Breath baited, we await his foody/drinky/culturaly findings. 

      'Breath baits for no man'. That would make a nice poster. Or a shit one. Can't decide. 

      As always, thank you for your continued support. 

             QB xxxx

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

China day 5 n 6.

Hi Tea Fans,
    You will be displeased to know that there is only about 0.25% tea based material in this upcoming splurge. One day we will talk about tea. One day. This is just a bit of China travel. 

We pick up the story in GulangYu, just off the coast of Xiamen. This will mostly be pictorial. 

             It was evening on Day 4. I grabbed a 'milk tea', made with condensed milk, wrote a letter then went to bed. 

Waking early, i got a ferry across to Xiamen. And spent the day eating, pretty much. I booked a train, for sure. And did some walking, absolutely. But it was mostly eating. This is what i did see - 


THIS DRINK WAS DELICIOUS. After much communicative jolly, i think i learned that it was made from - milk tea with peanuts, azuki beans, barley and a layer of molasses jelly in the bottom. I had biffed my thumb a few days earlier, hence the red bit. 

Sticky rice parcels.

Just some orfentik kultcha.


DUCK! Hohoho.

Sea Beasts.

Sea Beasts 2.




 I got back to GulangYu at about 4, and then walked a lot. This is what i did see - 

A building.



Wedding pix.

This is the same lady.


Carts + action.

A trio of boats.



Linear boats, dramatic clouds.

Tiny person.

Aviary at back, coconuts at fore.

Holiday makers, making their holidays. 

Just next to this beach, from a street vendor man, i ate a deep fried mussel potato pancake. It was the top eat of the trip so far. Oh my.

Then i went back to the hostel and met the new roommates. We didn't talk much because i was tired. And then they snored and i hated them. But then we woke up and talked for hours over the day 6 breakfast, and they were lovely. All my instincts were telling me to destroy them for their night noises. But they combatted my unjust hatred with niceness. God damn them. From Xinjiang province, they were on a honeymoon of sorts. Snoring their way around China.

Then i went to catch the train to Shanghai. The 11.43.  There was a tea convention on the following day, see?

This is a photo of me with another beverage. I dont usually do this strange thing, but these 2 beverages were incredible and i wanted to remember them. This was my first experience with a matcha milkshake. It was so very very delicious.

This was the sexy train. I had been looking forward to this train ride for quite some time. Months and months. This is a D class high speed bullet train. Words cannot express my extreme delight in riding it.


The view generally looked like this -

It was a 1200km journey. It went by so very quickly. 
And then we were in Shanghai, and it looked like this. Zoomy train heaven. Swoon.

See you soon for day 7 where there is a tea convention and some delicious infusions and then sogginess in the glow of a Shanghai eve. xxx

Monday, 31 March 2014

Short and Sour.

         Here we are with our ever-undependable, scatty, floaty, disorganised prattle. With some very loose connections to tea, and tea house activities, we aim to bring you the least pressing, softest hitting affairs from our spot on Eldon Place in the greatest city North of Sunderland and South of Edinburgh. This is not rolling news. It is mostly standing still. Or if it does roll, it goes up hill with great struggle, and soon tumbles back down slope, further from the truth than before. Due to gravity and other science. No, it moves in eccentric bursts. As if fired from an unpredictable cannon. Boom. News. But not when or where we wanted it, and it actually fired the cannon, not the news. A great mishap. There is nothing breaking here. It is all wrapped in a shit tonne of bubble wrap. Thats right, metric. We are modern. We are on it. We have our fingers on the pulse and it is a Mung Bean. 




   We are here to talk to you about Regulars, and Irregulars. We are new to the service industry, so can only assume all those who are not regulars must, logically, be irregulars. We can only assume because we don't talk to any professionals. Which i guess gives our place the chaotic, winging-it feel we have all grown to know and love. Similar to Uncle Jake who went on ebay, bought some sticks and crockery and took up plate spinning and can occasionally do 20 at once, but mostly just smashes loads of plates. But he is still making a name for himself in the neighbourhood. What with him being the only one giving it a shot. 'Oh JAKE, the plate spinner, yeah, i know who he is. SMASHING bloke.' (He is SO sick of people saying that. And with each plate that falls, he laughs maniacally, imagining a way in which he could break their skulls as easily…)

    So, Regulars.

     A huge amount of custom throughout the day comes from these fine people. People we get to know as friends. People we see more than our close family. So whether you are Double Macchiatto and Tap Water Fellow, Mocha Man, Leopard Buds Lady (Formally known as Assam Girl), Cappuccino and Danish Pastry Chap, Mr I Am Trying Each One Systematically, Police Constable 11PM Latte, Double Espresso With Sweeteners, Americano Architect Lecturer, 8am Breakfast Blend with Toast, Wednesday Dad, Takeout Black Coffee (With A Cheese Scone If She Has Been Good) Lady, Strawberry Cream Skater Dude, Besuited Skinny Latte Businessman, Scone and Ham Man, or Sean, we thank you for your support. We thank you for being here, it makes us feel good, and sane. And i hope you enjoy coming as much as we like having you. As one bro said-
       'Remember when dad built the pond, and he was overjoyed when frogs moved in? That, i think, is a similar buzz to what i get seeing regulars come through the door.' 

      I am pretty sure the amphibian comparison goes only as far as the happiness gleaned from us hopefully making a comfortable environment (the pond), that people enjoy being in. Though someone did leave spawn underneath the stairs… Oh no, that was a pawn. Messy chessers. 

   I massive shout out to Ian. He has been coming since the beginning, and a nicer gentleman you ne'er will meet.

   WELCOME! It is very nice having you, and we hope that you have a nice time. Please enter with an open mind, and remember we are not Tea Rooms. We will not give you a snappy lidded metal tea pot on which to burn yourself, with a festering tea bag in. We will treat you like a human first and foremost, not a customer, and please treat us the same. What? Oh, yes, we know you were never going to treat us like a customer, but i mean please treat us like humans, first and foremost. Though humans that will happily bring you what your heart desires, if at all possible. Oh, no, i am sorry, we don't have any metal tea pots. 
  We wanted to put that on our doormat, but it didn't fit.

        We love seeing the reaction of new customers. It is exciting, and still gives happy bursts. Whether you are day tripping in Newcastle, or if you have just built up the courage to come in, you are as valued as anyone else, and we hope that we convey those feelings in our service.

      For Regulars, and Irregulars alike, we hope to keep the standards high, keep things changing so you do not get bored of coming, and above all, keep everything so completely friendly without it being contrived.


QB x

Friday, 31 January 2014


Hello Blogatronz,

     How is it all going? Gravy? Swimmingly? We hope so. 

                  Here is a little insight into the QB logo. It may be of some interest to those who like wanky drivel about something that should not be that drivel worthy. 

   So here it is. The offishul logo.

There are a few things to explain, i reckon. First of all Quilliam is a Manx name. Our parents are Manx. It derives from MacWilliam. Olde Scots for 'son of William'. Manx means you are from the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man is in the middle of the Irish Sea. It's very nice. Sometimes. There are castles, and stunning coast, ice cream, lovely beaches, quaint villages/towns, too few surnames, cats with no tails, BASKING SHARKS and other incredible marine life, expensive petrol, online casino HQs, cheap tax (hence the online casino HQs), beautiful walks and countryside in general, kippers, boats, knobs, yessirs and this, the manx flag.

     It is a triskelion, 'The Three Legs of Mann'.  

So we began.

Here you can see we have dragged the three legs, kicking and screaming, into the beginnings of a logo of some sort. Actually make that kicking and kicking. And kicking. 

Here there's some additional awful stuff happening. 
The bottom bit is meant to be a tea plant (Camellia Sinensis) top two leaves and a bud. 
The perfect pick for fine tea.
It is also meant to look like a q and a b. But it's so horrible. 

Again, truly terrible stuff.

And now we decided to try and incorporate a rubiks cube. Purely because we like rubiks cubes. 
Thankfully we threw that idea out.

This was a pivotal moment. This is when the logo turned circular. 
Many cafe chains do it. For some reason the circle is the cafe logo shape. St*rb*cks, n*ro, c*sta, c*ntral bean, etc etc. 

Anyhoo, from then on, we tried to make a cube into a circle -

Not Just Tea! Also awful logos with naff slogans!

There are those bloody leaves again. 

This one is curvaceous, and i like it. More in keeping with the Celtic triskelions (triskelia????). 

More bollocks. 

Until at last we arrived at this.

It is a lot harder to draw than it looks. There is compromise throughout. The spaces in between the shin bones (below the knee) are smaller that the shin bone itself, so making it into a circle is hard. So hard that it is impossible. So what you see is a very uncleverly manipulated circle that isnt infact a circle. And the text took ages. And deciding what went in the middle middle as standard took ages. The middle middle circle is open to meddle with though. We pop all sorts of stuff in there. 

Now lets get deep and meaningful. Why were we so hell bent on ramming three legs into a cube into a circle? 

First of all if you say QB it sounds kinda cubey. But that may have been a happy coincidence. 

There is the Quilliam/Manx connection with the legs, as discussed. 

There are three brothers who are doing this. The legs, i suppose, might, kind of, a little bit represent us. The Manx motto, to which the three legs relate or vicaversa, is 'whithersoever you throw it, it will stand'. A motto of strength and unity. Perfect for a sibling run business. Perhaps. Perhaps it could mean that if one of us is unable to cope, the other 2 will always be there to support them. Perhaps. 

And a cube has six sides, for sure. There are 6 members of the immediate Quilliam family. Us three, a sister, a mum and a dad. We wouldn't be here without the other 3, supporting and inspiring us. So, although not directly involved in the teahouse, they are there, and the teahouse would not be without them. So, there are 3 sides to the cube visible, but 6 in total. 

We also tried to make the thing look a little nice and floral. Perhaps like a Camellia Sinensis flower?????!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!OMG!!!!!!!???!?!?!?

Well that was disgustingly up its own arse. But it's nice to share. Isn't it?

Isn't it?



PS, this was all done in Darjeeling, whilst sampling some of the teas we now ship in for your enjoyment. 

Friday, 24 January 2014

18th October (Not really). And Day 4 of CHINA.


Hello everyone.

       A Quilliam Brother here. Updating you eager readers, begrudged readers, or those stumbling here because they are so mind numbingly bored they are clicking on any link they see (Here's one. Here's another one.).

        This week we each had a day off. These are our first day offs since our return after summer, some weeks ago. I am on my one right now. Sitting next to Mallard. In fact, here's what i can see. 

       I love this place so much. So very much. The reasons are plentiful, but what overwhelms me and gets me a bit tearful is the fact that whoever made these marvellous elegant machines obviously gave a shit. And because of the shit that they gave, they will have been proud. It takes a lot of time, money and man power to build like this. The same goes for whoever was responsible for this museum. It is well thought out, generous, spacious, friendly and beautiful. And quality without being clinical. Safe without being nannyey. Informative without being patronising. A tough job for museums. You have room to tackle the subject in your own time and space, without anyone or anything telling you how you should tackle it. 

    Today is under a duvet. And it feels lovely. It makes a feeling of security, that it's ok to be in your own heed. It brings a muffled calm to everything. People probably aren't moving slower, talking quieter, but it certainly feels like they are.  

     The Teahouse has massive windows. This is great for watching the peoples, unless you are in the basement. The windows also let the weather in. And it is fascinating to see the change in atmosphere as the weather changes. We never imagined that what was going on outside would effect inside so much. It can be as simple a change as the sun going behind a cloud; chatty noise and movement will increase as perhaps people feel less restrained without the repressive glare of the sun. As the rains are a coming in, there comes a feeling of camping. That is, open but polite, excitable exchanges, as if not wanting to disturb your neighbours, but with a feeling of comradeship, brought not only by the community feeling of a campsite, but as if waiting out a storm together. Duvet days like today obliterate any sort of atmosphere. In a good way. Everyone is in their own space, and the place feels empty. Despite being full. Service is easy on duvet days, though we serve no less. Everyone knows what they are doing on duvet days. 

     I dreamt last night. It wasn't hard hitting stuff. There was snow, and with it a concern for our bees. But it was the first dream i've had in a while. It certainly made me feel more human. The three of us, though rested when we returned and reopened, have again worked ourselves into unhealthiness. The problem lies with the teahouse growing faster than we can keep up with. We simply cannot make enough scones. Which is fantastic news. Thank you all once again for your support. We have made some changes. We now open at 8 am Mon-Fri and 9am Saturday. Still staying open until 1am. We now do a slightly more substantial breakfast (still keeping our more more substantial Saturday Brunch menu) and start lunch at 11am not midday. We cannot reiterate enough how appreciative we are to our staff, who tackle anything that we (or you) throw at them. Though we have lost a few key members in the past weeks (what with it no longer being summer), those who have stayed on have more than compensated for our losses. And for that we adore them.

        It's important for us to periodically rekindle our love for quality and craft. For that is what we do love. Without being reminded of such places as this museum and what it contains, you forget, as that's what humans do. It is worth being tired if what you are guaranteeing is something you can feel proud of. Admittedly, sometimes this quality is off, if we are overwhelmed, and with that comes embarrassment. But we strive, by gum we strive, to deliver good things. And any problems we learn from and try to improve upon. Until what we will have built will be as beautiful, wonderfully crafted and functional as the Mallard and her relatives. And then we will be as proud as Sir Nigel Gresley was. That's not yet. But it will be soon. 

           Here's Some China Blog!

 Day 4.

      To get you up to speed. Chaozhou is the city. 4.30am is the time. 

   After a brief self preen, i ventured out, strolling the 30 minutes to the bus station to catch a 6am o clock bus. It was fully booked, gosh darn it, so had to get the following bus at 8.30. The waiting room was cockroach ridden and full of phlegmy people. Also a man playing a treble heavy Kenny G-esque track on repeat on his phone. Which is enough to drive anyone to extreme discomfort. Out on the street next to the bus station entrance and steps was a cart vending noodles with boiled chicken balls.

As usual, this wasn't known until it appeared. There is usually only one thing on offer, so therefore no point in fretting over what you are about to eat. The decision has been made for you. As far as i could tell it was with caramelised garlic, some sort of greens, sesame oil, sugar and msg, of course. And lots of coriander. It agreed with me tremendously. The fella of the lady making the food was sitting with his chums. They invited me over and shared their flask of tea. It was the most astringent thing i have ever experienced. But strangely it didn't matter. It worked as a wake up, better than any coffee ever has done. It was delicious, and a flavour unique to me that can be recalled in a heart beat. Which serves as a way of recalling the entire memory of that time and place. Vision really is the weakest sense for aiding the recall of memories. I guess because your eyes are put through so much, but your other senses mostly have an easy time of it. So for a visually unstimulating situation, it stands to reason that the other more invigorated senses would jump into action. 

      The bus ride to Xiamen was on a bus with a steamy window. This was annoying. I simply cannot tell you what the scenery was like. So imagine something nice instead. 

       I didn't linger in Xiamen, instead heading straight to the ferry port in order to board a boat to Gulang Yu. Gulang Yu or Gulangyu is an island just a few hundred metres off Xiamen. It is bustley with Chinese tourists. It is a fabulous place.

       After trying 3 sleeping places, a dormitory bed was located. Cheap, clean and lovely and in the most ideal setting, i booked 2 nights and went for a humongous wander. Aside from Matheran in Maharashtra India, this is the only vehicle free place i have visited (excluding centres of ye olde european cities). This alone would be enough to make it lovely, but it really is a marvellous place. Here are my notes, as written as the day went on. 


   A few of them are self explanatory. 

The wedding photos seem to be out of control in popularity. I asked a young couple what it was all about. They said it was just tradition, a romantic time together to get photographs done, and have a nice day before the actual day. They all were very young.

Young marrieds to be.

 There was a LOT of fish on offer. Fish i had never seen before. They all just sat outside restaurants in bowls/tanks and you chose your fish to be eatened.

Note the feline.

 I was worried that if i sat down in a restaurant i would accidentally sign up to eat a massive one of those in the middle bottom.

So mostly i ate from street vendors.

Above are the squids on sticks.

  Stampbooks refer to why i was so blown away by the place, in general, as a tourist destination. The place is full of wonderfully designed shops. Each unique in their stock and identity. On top of that, each cafe/teahouse/takeaway shack oozes personality without being in your face 'quirky'. Tastefully, tastefully done. One thing these shops sell in common is the stampbook. Beautiful, quality booklets of 60-100 pages. Each page has a photo of a shop/caff, a brief description of it and its history and perhaps a little phrase of some sort. Then there is space to receive a stamp. Each establishment has a place to stamp your book. Not only does this mean nearly every single tourist buys one of these books, but it gives them a purpose whilst exploring the island. Making them visit every nook and cranny, collecting stamps, visiting shops and buying stuff as they go (be it souvenirs, food or whatever) and after it they have a real souvenir. Something that will remind them of the day. Something they will cherish. It is a brilliant bit of organisation amongst independent retailers, or tourist agencies.

One of the little outlets.

  A cup of coffee is over £5 on the island. I have no idea why. It's 50p just across in Xiamen.

This is a £5 coffee house with fake St*rb*cks mugs.

     Whilst i was sitting having a Tsingtao. Opposite, one of the fish sellers turned his back for a minute. The scarily intelligent octopus that was in a plastic bucket poked his head up, saw his opportunity and tried to leg it. It slithered wriggly down the lane. No one noticed, and i definitely wasn't going to tell the fish vendor. I was rooting for the cephalopod! Alas, as it was about to turn the corner to probable freedom, he was noticed. And was retrieved. Floppily dropped back into its bucket. 

Above is the scene of the Great Octopus Escape 2012

  Finally. Banyan trees. What amazing beasts they are. They emanate a feeling of wisdom and longevity. They know fine well that they will outlive you. They respect you for sure, for they know what humans are capable of. But they don't mind taking their time. Slowly taking over the world. One tendril at a time. More on Banyan trees later in the trip (totally worth the wait if you like Banyan trees).

Gulangyu is fab. Its a bonkers mix of 19th century colonial buildings from many european nations. In China. Fine fine villas and churches. All higgledy built, up and downy, on top and below, somehow making a coherent 'place'. European architecture now with a modern Chinese twist. The smells and sights, with the always singing sounds of the music school. Sandy beaches, hilly walks, a gargantuan aviary and so many nice foods. Oodles of personality rammed into a square mile. It was mint.

Here's some more pics of just wandering around. More Gulangyu happenings happen on the next day so there will be more pics when the next blog appears. So, see you next time for more THRILLING THINGS. xxx

This is a bald man with some stuff behind him.

Some ladies.

A Square with some stuff happening.

A couple.




Night Time

Mystery Fruit


MSG. And noodles. 

Goodbye x