I am what is called a ‘trailing spouse’! Originally from South Africa, I spent my 30s/40s/50s in London, and am now spending my 60s in Beijing where I have been living for the past four years

Married, two adult kids, one son-in-law, doting grandmother , keen cook, ex-Magistrate, voracious reader, cruciverbalist, love gardening, cooking, socializing, a dog-owner (my Border Terrier is spending quality time in Scotland whilst I am in China), love travelling with my husband, I pour a mean Gin & Tonic. That’s me in a nutshell.

Learning to speak Mandarin whilst I am in Beijing (and improving daily)  I am really getting to know this fascinating city.

36 Responses to About

  1. Celeste Cave says:

    Quite by coincidence a friend found your blog and passed it on. We are South Africans living in London and prior to my husband’s recent retirement we enjoyed several postings abroad with Shell including the Far East. We are embarking on a trip to China in early October and are much enjoying your useful and amusing writings. Your title ‘Herschelian’ is what caught my eye and I wonder if you were at Herschel in Cape Town? I am an old St. Cyprian’s girl and though I must ask. Please keep writing – it’s such good stuff.

  2. Zhang Wei says:

    I am back from the business trip. Good to read your blog again. I will find out what topics I can participate to talk about. As I said before, I really like your blog.

  3. Shibin says:

    Eventually… we are back, had lovely time in Paris, so can sit down write to you more, as I was rushing to Eurostar. 🙂
    I am so glad that you like my blog, I take it as great encouragement, and thanks for the link.
    I have been here for over ten years now, am originally from Northeast of China, Shenyang. I did my MA and PhD in Manchester, then moved to Oxford, since my husband’s job was relocated. He is spanish, so the food and culture at home is ‘mixed’, in additional, we are in England. But all very interesting. I only just started blogging in English recently, never had much confidence in writing so much in English, don’t want to remember the days i was writing up my PhD thesis. I do art, both theory (chinese culture and art, especially women artists’ work) and practice, main oil painting. Now, since the job situation hasn’t been great, I am at home, writing and painting.
    It sounds so exciting — i mean your ‘life’ in beijing, oh, I wish to go back, miss that atmosphere. Let me know if there is anything I can help you with. 🙂
    I also want to say that I am so touched by the posting on your father. I can only imagine how proud you are as a daughter to him and he is as a father. He achieved so much in his life, and he was a very handsome man!
    I want to send you my email, dont know if you can see it here, but probably via facebook message then.
    Take care, enjoy!

  4. Lorna says:

    Oh! I am so jealous! I lived in China (Dalian) for 9 months in 2005 and am now back in SA. (Moved from Jhb to CT via China!) I LOVED living in Dalian, and I miss it terribly.
    Now that I’ve found your blog, I’m going to carry on reading and making myself “homesick” for my other home.

  5. Dan Griffin says:

    Hi Jo!
    Dan Griffin here. After being very poor at actually getting round to having a proper look at your blog, I’m pleased to say that I’ve finally had a chance to do so. Now that the summer holidays are here and we can’t afford to go anywhere (the digger is rumbled outside in the garden, creating the foundations for our extension as I type), I’m actually enjoying being forced to spend a lot of time sitting about reading books and surfing the ‘net (does anyone say that anymore?! I do!). And I’ve just spend a good hour reading your fantastic website. I’m hooked! The cleaver, the unbelievable fishes-in-bags, the hilarious signs – it’s all fascinating and may I say very well written!I’m not sure this is the best way of emailing you, but when you see this, please could you get back to me with details of your quizz, too, as I have managed to lose them!

    Had Alex for lunch on Sunday – it was great to catch up. We’re off up to his in the next few weeks, hopefully. Great news re Emily too! Exciting few months ahead!

    Katja and Lev are well and send their love, as do I.

  6. Dan Griffin says:

    Hi again Jo,

    Just cursing myself for not mentioning your father in the previous message. I was very sorry to hear of his passing. I just noticed the message from Shibin and I’m now going to read your post on him. I met your father several times over the years and every memory is filled with what a kind, fun, intelligent and warm man he was.

    Please send my love to your mother when you are next in Scotland.


  7. Ling Maris says:

    I happened onto your blog when trolling Google images. I loved it. I teach mahjong in NYC. and I am putting together a how-to book and lucked into your image of Chinese people playing mahjong. Since I would like to include as many interesting images as I can, I would like to request permission to use it (and any other images you may have). I would be happy for any reply or suggestions.

    Thank you.

    Ling Maris

  8. I like your blog , go ahead.
    happy,happy, and good luck.
    –alice from corner coffee

    • herschelian says:

      Hi Alice – welcome to my blog – I love your cafe, the location is amazing, the perfect place for kite-watching and having a relaxed hour with a glass of wine! You’ll see me again soon…

  9. Trina says:

    You could certainly see your expertise in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

  10. I must say, youve got 1 of the finest blogs Ive noticed in a lengthy time. What I wouldnt give to have the ability to build a weblog thats as intriguing as this. I guess Ill just have to maintain reading yours and hope that one day I can write on a subject with as considerably understanding as youve got on this one!

  11. Cécile says:

    Hello there! I found your blog via a comment you made on this blog –> http://malate.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/snack-street/ and I felt like I had to thank you for your comment which I hope will inspire lots of people! I lived in China, in BJ precisely, for a year not so long ago, and felt like home. I think lots of people have a fake idea of what China is, they believe in old myths and stereotypes, and it is not like that at all. Like you, it is the first time I have ever heard someone being mugged by a street vendor, it’s quite odd I think. And as for what you said about weird exotic food, I believe people criticize a lot but don’t actually try it… So for having tried worms and scorpions, I can say proudly that… worms were quite disgusting but scorpions were delicious! 😉 Anyway, all in all I wish to thank you for writing this blog. It’s nice to read true things about China! I hope you enjoy every moment of your journey, China holds such wonderful places!

  12. Great post, I just bookmarked it on Digg.

  13. news says:

    I tried looking at your blog with my iphone and the format doesnt seem to be right. Might want to check it out on WAP as well as it seems most cellphone layouts are not really working with your website.

  14. Laura says:

    I stumbled across your blog while looking for something else. I began reading it and loved it. The post I came across was regarding Chinese Names. It was interesting, witty, and revealed a nice slice of Chinese culture.
    I very much like your blog. I feel like your blog is a classic TV program that I must go back and read all your previous blogs so that I feel caught up on where the program is at the moment.
    You write extremely well and I would certainly read any book you wrote about your life in China.

    Thank you for sharing a part of your life with others.

  15. Came across your blog in a ping back, and wanted to thank you for your kind words on my ‘charming writing’ 🙂 Living in Asia as a Westerner is definitely a daily adventure for all the senses. Enjoy the ride!

  16. camparigirl says:

    I just realized I don’t know your first name! Anyway, Sue and I are looking for a few women bloggers around the world for a guest blog on our site. If you are interested you can e-mail us at campariandsofa@gmail.com and we’ll let you know what the project is about. Thank you. Claudia

  17. Dilip says:

    Its great to know you and of your exciting venture of living in Beijing. Chinese culture and their ancient wisdom is indeed profound and one can learn a lot from their quotes.

    And now that I aware your Dad was a “Royal Bombay Sapper” I’d love to request you for a post on him in his honor.

    With many good wishes from India. Jai Hind 🙂

  18. Just a had chance to read a few of your blog posts and really enjoyed them. You’re a great writer and pick interesting topics. Can’t wait to learn more about living in China from you, since you’ve been at it longer than me. Btw, I spent some time in London myself. Love that city!

  19. Hi there fellow-mall walker,
    Love your About.
    Funny thing about mall-walking, after continually passing the larger-than-life photos of men, women and children advertisements I feel like I’ve acquired a batch of giant friends who don’t say much but are great listeners. 😉
    hope all is well in your part of the world as we here in Hudson Valley, New York are due to get socked with more snow…

  20. myblacksmile says:

    You have awaken my long forgotten fascination of the Chinese Culture and Arts. I’m enjoying your posts and at the same time, I’m learning! Have a great day 😉

  21. st sahm says:

    You are interesting and I look forward to your writing!

  22. When I was a “trailing spouse,” we were simply called “expat wives.” My husband, our three daughters and I lived for more than fifteen years in the Philippines and then three years in Vanuatu. Unlike you, I never did become a “keen cook,” although I did learn enough about Chinese cooking from my husband to keep us well fed and throw a reasonably good dinner party.

    I didn’t get serious about writing until near the end of our stay in Manila. I finally started my first novel the year after my husband died. His stories about his childhood in China during the Japanese invasion were my inspiration.

    I, too, am a “doting grandmother.”

    • herschelian says:

      Ni hao Nicki – glad you found your way to my blog. You clearly understand what being a ‘trailing spouse/expat wife’is like! I am enjoying checking out your blog. Zai jian!

  23. I also am a dog owner. I have a lovely brindle lab/retriever guide dog called Trigger. I understand that an increasing number of Chinese people are keeping dogs as pets, is that right? Kevin

    • herschelian says:

      Ni hao Kevin – You are absolutely correct, increasing numbers of Chinese are keeping dogs as pets. There are also increasing numbers of guide dogs for blind and disabled people. Having said that it is not exactly a dog’s life in China. Beijing, like many other big cities here, has quite strict regulations about the keeping of dogs as pets. Mao Zedong was not a dog lover and for years they were banned, then the regulations were lifted to allow pets but they were restricted by size. No dog that stands over 13.7 inches tall is permitted in the city, but over the years this ban has been ignored by the powers-that-be and by pet owners. Suddenly last year the authorities decided to crack down putting the owners of Collies, Dalmatians, Boxers, Labs, Golden Retrievers,Standard Poodles, Wolf Hounds in to a state of fear that their beloved pets would be rounded up and destroyed (and as for Great Danes….) The building I live in (24 storeys high) has a no pets rule, but I know loads of dogs who live here. Many of them are small dogs but there are some large ones too. Their owners now have to take them out to exercise in the wee small hours when the cops are all sleeping!
      The western media often mentions the Chinese as eating dog – but that is not strictly true. The two countries which eat dog regularly are South Korea and Vietnam and the areas of China which border those countries do the same. Dog would not be on the menu in most Chinese restaurants – here in BJ the only place you would see that is in a South Korean restaurant.
      Thanks for reading my blog – hope you will visit me regularly!

      • Jo – (this is also my husbands name = Joseph) I only read your ABOUT just now on my computer and of course it did answer some of my questions. /We too live in a building with strict NO PETs Rules, which at first nearly broke our hearts. I always had dogs, from miniture poodle to Labrador Retriever to the most gorgeous longhaired mini Dachshunds (all now up somewhere in Doggie-Heaven), but then we travelled a lot and so it was good that we had no pets – my beautiful tropical roofgarden “died” instead – nobody there to water. Now I have to go and read some more of your old articles 🙂 🙂 Carina

  24. Lee Rodwell says:

    Hello – is everything OK? It’s been a while since you blogged and I miss you!

  25. Jean says:

    Enjoying your blog so far. I like how the posts focus on different, quirky at times, topics.

    I’ve never been to Asia nor China yet. I’m not sure I would enjoy it with the pollution. My partner also has high sensitivities to bad air. He senses it even in Toronto where we did live for several decades.

  26. Bea dM says:

    This sounds interesting! I dropped in by chance and I think you’ve hooked me. I love Jasmine tea (though it seems to give me an acid stomach lately(?) and jiaozi are so good ! I always thought I’d learn Mandarin some day, but that’s very much on hold so I’ll be curious to follow how you’re coming along 🙂

  27. equinoxio21 says:

    Hmmmm. So you’re a South African? Still have cousins in Cape Town. 😉

  28. M. L. Kappa says:

    Hi! I’ve only ever been to Hong Kong, but I’m interested in all things Chinese (the art, the food…) and hope to visit one day… I’m pleased to have stumbled upon your blog. Pleased to meet you, Marina

  29. Nadia says:

    Great blog! Also an ex South African, lived in France, UK, Denmark, Los Angeles and now call the Dordogne home.

  30. Shutterblink says:

    Hi! I just found your blog and it is fascinating. I teach English to kids in China for VipKid. You may have seen their advertising. I have been teaching for them for 15 months and have fallen in love with these precious children. I’m a retired teacher and have am finding the culture fascinating. So far, I can say Happy New Year, Hello, and thank you in Mandarin. I want to visit China this year but I’m concerned about the air. I have asthma. It isn’t terrible but it isn’t mild either. The heat triggers it. Would October be a good time? Thanks, Becky

    • herschelian says:

      Hi Becky, Thanks for reading my blog. October is the perfect time for visiting China; Avoid the first 10 days as that is one of China’s two long holiday periods and transport is chockabloc, hotels are booked out and millions are on the move. From mid- month would be ideal. A few years ago the air quality in Beijing and the other big cities was dire, however the government has worked really hard at this problem and now things are much much better, you’d find the air worse in India!
      Do come and visit China, it is an amazing, fascinating country with so much to see – the picture painted of it by Western media is far from accurate, and the people are very friendly and welcoming.
      Zai jian (再见) …goodbye!

  31. Liling says:

    Stumble upon you page by chance while looking for infor on bats. Your writes are interesting & easy to read.

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