Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Oxbridge interviews

People preparing for university interviews may find this article (by a Cambridge interviewer) of interest.

Svetlana - Stalin's Daughter

Svetlana Peters, Josef Stalin's daughter, has died in the US aged 85. Her life was fascinating (and very complicated!). She was the only daughter of Stalin and Nadezhda Alliluyeva, who committed suicide in 1932. She was married 3 times in the USSR - her first marriage was at the age of 18 against her father's wishes to a Jewish student who was later sent to a labour camp.  In 1967 the CIA helped her to escape from the Soviet Union - she then denounced communism and called her father a "moral and spiritual monster". She married again but continued to move around - she even went back to the USSR for a short while to be reunited with her children before returning to the USA and writing her memoirs, "Twenty Letters to a Friend".  It will be interesting to see how Russia reacts to her death given their somewhat ambiguous attitude towards her father.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Latest from the Republican Race

Here is an excellent blog post from Mark Mardell analysing the current state of the Republican candidates after their latest TV debate.  The debate focused on national security - Rick Perry and Herman Cain appeared to be like "schoolboys who had desperately mugged up on their homework" whereas Michele Bachman came across better than on previous occasions whilst Jon Huntsman was "masterful...for all the good it will do him". It is also worth reading to find out what "Mitt" Romney's real first name is!

There is some further good commentary on the state of the Republican race here (from our colleagues in Sutton) which refers to this article, and here, assessing some of the candidates not running in 2012 and their reasons why.

PS: Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Total Politics - December issue

This month's Total Politics magazine is now available in the History & Politics Reference roon and includes an interview with the Shadow Chencellor, Ed Balls, along with an in-depth article about the Chancellor, George Osborne, both of which are well worth reading. Other interesting articles include a debate on the value of international aid and a look at the top 100 political jouranlists in the UK (only two women in the top 20 so some scope for improvement by budding journlaists at Nonsuch!). Also, if you are looking for some ideas for your Christmas stocking, a list of the top political books from the last 12 months with something for everyone - 'Ed', 'Thatcher in her own words' and even 'Nick Clegg - the biography' - Happy reading!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

David Cannadine on History Teaching

One of Michael Gove's advisers, the historian David Cannadine, has published a paper this week - "The Right Kind of History" - on how History should be taught in British Schools. In it, he suggests that the problem with current teaching is not the type of subjects taught, but the length of time they are given, and that History should be made compulsory up to the age of 16 to fit this all in. He points out that Britain and Albania are the only countries in Europe which do not make it compulsory beyond the age of 14. He explains his point of view further in this article from the Guardian and in this interview from the Today Programme.

Michael Gove has invited several historians, including Richard Evans, Simon Schama and Niall Ferguson to consider reforms to the curriculum. It remains to be seen what steps will actually be put in place. What do you think should be done?

UPDATE: Check out this fantastic audio slideshow where various ex-history students talk about how they were taught from the 1930s through to the 1960s - there are lots of photos of history classes and textbooks (complete with scribbles). You also get to learn a useful way to remember the medieval kings of England, and find out what a Baldric is! It's well worth 4 minutes of your time.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Bankers and Codebreakers

There are plenty of good history programmes to watch at the moment. On Tuesday Ian Hislop presents "When Bankers Were Good". He investigates some of the wealthiest Victorian bankers who were also very impressive philanthropists, donating much of the income to good causes and campaigning on social issues such as housing and care for deprived children. George Peabody, for example, provided a huge donation to build affordable housing for London's poor, and today over 50,000 people still live in homes supported by the Peabody Trust. Samuel Gurney used his banking wealth to support the work of his sister, Elizabeth Fry, who campaigned for prison reform. As you can guess from the provocative title, Hislop suggests that today's bankers could learn a great deal from these eminent Victorians if they wish to improve their image.

Also on this week (tonight in fact) on Channel 4 is a documentary about Alan Turing - "Britain's greatest codebreaker". Turing (shown above) was an exceptionally gifted mathematician who was instrumental in helping to break the Enigma code during World War 2 through his development of computer programmes which could run through thousands of possible code combinations every minute. He should have been recognised as a national hero but instead was arrested for "gross indecency" in 1952 - his crime was to be gay at a time when homosexual acts were illegal. Two years later he committed suicide because he had been driven to despair by his treatment - a terrible waste of a great talent.

Also recommended on iPlayer - "Double Agent: The Eddie Chapman Story" - a fantastic tale of a former safe-breaker who was recruited to spy on the Germans, while convincing the Germans he was spying for them at the same time - he was so good that they even awarded him with the Iron Cross, and all the time he was passing secrets back to the British.

If you spot any more good history programmes, please let us know!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Google and Bletchley Park

Here is a fascinating story about how a British-born employee of Google took an interest in preserving Bletchley Park, the centre of the British code-breaking operations during World War 2 which was able to crack the German Enigma code and provide the allies with a huge amount of information about their opponents.  Because the activities at Bletchley came under the Official Secrets Act, very few people knew about what took place here until quite recently, and there was a danger that the whole site could have been demolished to make way for a supermarket.

Partly thanks to Google's help, Bletchley's future is now much brighter and it is well worth visiting this historic site (close to Milton Keynes) which had a significant effect both on the end of the war and the beginning of the computing industry.

Famous History Graduates: Ashley John-Baptiste

It has been revealed that recent X-Factor contestant Ashley John-Baptiste recently completed a History degree. You can read more about his impressive story here. Born in South London, he was taken into care at the age of 4 and found it difficult to settle into school. Eventually, however, after being given a "final chance" by his head teacher when on the verge of exclusion from secondary, he focused on his work and, with the support of his MP, got a place at Cambridge (Fitzwilliam College) to study History where he got a 2:1. Are there any others in the music industry with similar qualifications?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Hidden Meanings in the Stars and Stripes

Here is a fascinating article from the BBC about the US' national flag. Although the Stars and Stripes was adopted as this in 1777, there was no fixed design until 1912. This led to a variety of different interpretations, such as the shaping of the stars into particular patterns, including on one occasion a hidden Confederate banner! A more recent artistic interpretation - "The White Flag" is also considered - where the colours of the flag were drained away. This was created in 1955 during the peak of McCarthyism so you can draw your own conclusions on the artist's message...

You can see more of this in the BBC's Art of America programme (on BBC4 and here on iPlayer) and in this exhibition at the Smithsonian Musuem in Washington DC.

PS: The flag above was used in 1814 during the war between the United States and Great Britain (Confusingly known as the War of 1812!). It was raised to celebrate an American victory over the British at Baltimore and was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem - the Star Spangled Banner.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Rosie Campbell

Thank you very much to Dr Rosie Campbell, Senior Lecturer in Politics at Birkbeck, University of London, for coming in to talk to Nonsuch Politics students today.  Her fascinating talk about voting behaviour and gender gave us all a real insight into the electoral system in particular and the political system in general.
If you want to know more about her work, here is her Birkbeck site and here a link to her article in the Guardian re women and voting in the 2010 election.

Monday, 7 November 2011

New Hampshire Primary

New Hampshire has now named the date for its presidential primary - 10 January 2012. After some confusion and bargaining between states, the early primary calendar looks like this.

Iowa caucus: 3 January

New Hampshire primary: 10 January

South Carolina primary: 28 January

Florida primary: 31 January

Keep an eye on sites such as this to see how the Republican candidates get on in their race to secure the nomination.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

New Banknote

A new £50 banknote has been issued today by the Bank of England.  On it are the portraits of Matthew Boulton and James Watt. Boulton (1728-1809) was an industrialist and entrenpreneur, and Watt (1736-1819) was an engineer and scientist, who, amongst other things, introduced the term "horsepower" and had the metric unit of power (the "watt") named after him. With Boulton's backing, Watt developed the industrial steam engine, using his machinery for the spinning of cotton and even the minting of coins.  You can see one of their original engines in operation here (it's now in a museum in Sydney).

This BBC article explores some of the other historical figures on British banknotes, including:
£5 - Elizabeth Fry, social reformer, who had a great influence over the design and management of prisons during the 19th Century
£10 - Charles Darwin, scientist who wrote the "Origin of Species" and proposed the theory of evolution
£20 - Adam Smith, economist who wrote "The Wealth of Nations" and proposed the theory of the division of labour.

There's also a link to this great list from the Bank of England of future candidates for banknotes, including Geoffrey Chaucer, Olaudah Equiano and...Sir Jimmy Saville. You can nominate your own candidates, and we think there is rather a small number of women on the list, so get writing in!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Where was the Battle of Hastings?

Just after the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings (14 October) one historian, Nick Austin, has put the cat among the pigeons by suggesting that the Battle of Hastings was not fought next to Battle Abbey where there is a visitor's centre and tours about the battle, but 2 miles away in Crowhurst.  He bases this on the topography of both sites and how the battle is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry.  Read the argument on both sides of the debate here.  In the end though, does it really matter?

Black History Month 2

The History and Politics Society will be meeting this lunchtime, with the second part of their Black History Month presentation. The powerpoint they are using is shown above. If the content doesn't appear for some reason, please click here. If there are still problems even then, please let us know.

Monday, 17 October 2011

First Snow in Moscow

Here is a fascinating article about the first snow in Moscow, which fell this week, and how the city is preparing to deal with it using 30,000 employees and 15,000 snowploughs. The issue helps to provide fascinating insights into the politics of the city and its rivalry with national government, which already appears to have begun the transition from outgoing President Medvedev (whose lasting legacy may well be the abolition of daylight saving time as it brought "unhappiness to the cows") to presumably President Putin again, once the small matter of an election has been addressed.

PS Photo of snowplough is courtesy of the China People's Daily - more photos here!

Battle of Hastings Location?

A new article has suggested that the Battle of Hastings did not take place where it has been traditionally sited at Battle Abbey but in the village of Crowhurst two miles away.  The author has looked at evidence from the Bayeux Tapestry and other primary sources and believes the terrain around Crowhurst is more appropriate for the events that are described. English Heritage, which owns the battle site is not convinced, saying that it is unlikely that Battle Abbey would have been placed where it was (in a rather inaccessible location) if there hadn't been a significant event to site it there.

This is not the only battle that has had issues with its location - Bosworth had similar problems recently. Whatever the case it is unlikely that the visitor centre will move any time soon and this will allow people to imagine what it must have been like to fight in such a great confrontation - wherever it was!

For further info here are articles from the BBC and the Daily Mail, with more extensive details of the battle here.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Black History Month at HP Society

The History and Politics Society is marking Black History Month this October with a series of events on the subject. Above is the presentation from last Tuesday's talk, focusing on the less positive aspects of the way black people have been treated, particularly in America, while next Tuesday the focus will be much more uplifiting! The borough of Sutton is has also laid on a series of events. You can read more about them at their website here and in this flyer.

Paul Burstow

Paul Burstow, MP for Sutton and Cheam, will be speaking today in the library at 1.15. Please come along and ask him questions about his career as an MP and as Minister of State for Health.  You can find out more from his website, and from TheyWorkForYou's statistics page.

PS: The picture above comes from a Guardian interview with him concerning in particular the Government's mental health strategy - you can read more about it here.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Design Changes

The blog has had a slight design change this afternoon.  Do you like it?  More radical changes are coming shortly, which will prompt a review of the features used on the right hand side. Which ones are most useful, and which ones do you think can be removed? Please let us know.

PS: This fascinating image shows how the logos of many well known brands have changed over time - sometimes dramatically (check out Nokia and Apple's earliest designs!) and sometimes imperceptibly (Ford, BMW, etc). You can read more about it here.

Steve Jobs

Following on from today's assembly, here are some further articles about Steve Jobs that you may find of interest.

Finally, here is the video of Jobs' speech from Stanford University that was quoted at the end (YouTube link)

Monday, 10 October 2011

Kites For Women's Rights

There was an excellent presentation in Amnesty Society last week about the state of women's rights in Afghanistan, ten years after the most recent conflict there began.  You can catch up with it by viewing this powerpoint, and if you would like to join in and write a message on a kite in support of the women of Afghanistan, please contact a member of the society for more information or visit Amnesty International's home page.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Logo Competition

At HP society we have all kinds of fun discussing, debating, watching videos and quizzing about anything and everything History and/or Politics related… And because we are such a great society we thought it would be a good idea to get ourselves a logo.

Design a creative – but relatively simple - logo for our society. It must include the words ‘Nonsuch’ and ‘HP society’ or ‘History and Politics Society’ and it should be no bigger than a quarter of an A4 page (or at least suitable for scaling the size down on a computer), apart from that it’s up to you.

The winning logo will hopefully be used on all our posters and for more HP events in the future! The winner will also get a prize! So please get involved and come to HP society every week on a Tuesday Lunchtime, we would love to see more of you involved.

Bring all entries to the logo competition to a HP lunch session within the next two weeks, Thanks.
The HP team

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Tudors on YouTube

This excellent collection of videos can now be found on YouTube (apologies that they can't be viewed at school). It includes a mixture of extracts from films and TV dramas on Tudor subjects, and documentaries on particular events and individuals, such as David Starkey's comments on Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth's relationship with the Duke of Anjou. Also recommended is this brief discussion of Lady Jane Grey by John Guy, looking in particular at how she has been portrayed in paintings. The infamous "Bloody Mary" video is now also on YouTube, and can be seen above - watch out for David Loades' impressively louche performance.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Battle of Hastings - Courtesy of the Sun

The Sun has got into History, with a sequence of mocked up front pages on its special website, "Hold Ye Front Page" about various significant historical events. These include:

As you can see they cover quite a variety of topics! (Even the Crucifixion gets a headline...) The Battle of Hastings is also included ("Storming Normans") and there are several lively videos, including this computer animation of how the battle might have looked.


Please let us know if you find any other interesting subjects!

Mary I's Coronation

On 1 October 1553 Mary I was crowned Queen of England - the first ever female coronation. This fascinating blog article includes 10 facts about the ceremony, including:

  • She held two sceptres during the ceremony - one symbolising the King, and another bearing a dove which had been held by her mother, Catherine of Aragon, at Henry VIII's coronation.
  • She was crowned with three crowns - Edward the Confessor's, Henry VIII's Imperial Crown, and a crown "purposlie made" for her. Ner brother Edward VI was the only monarch previous to her to have this honour.
  • 7112 dishes were served at the coronation banquet, and Mary herself was given 312 of them. However, and food left over was distributed to London's poor.
Further information about her coronation can be found in this earlier blog post.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

In Defence of Politics

Nonsuch HP caught this programme on Radio 4 the other night and found it fascinating. Professor Matthew Flinders set out to challenge the public perception of politicians as corrupt and selfish, by arguing that the vast majority of them are extremely hardworking, and are under great pressure to make decisions (and often compromises) on our behalf over very challenging issues.

"Politics succeeds because it generally ensures stability and order:" he writes in an accompanying article, "it avoids anarchy or arbitrary rule...Politicians urgently need to rediscover the moral nerve and capacity to speak with the authority and weight of their predecessors. At the heart of this rediscovery must be the acceptance that the "the first business of government is to govern", as Churchill put it, "which may at times call for the deliberate endurance of unpopularity". "

Politicians such as John Bercow and Tony Blair made contributions in support of his thesis, but not everyone agreed. The Telegraph's Peter Oborne, for example, believes that politicians inevitably become isolated from the world around them and naturally put their own interests first. Strong views indeed - and there will doubtless be more of them over the next two programmes. What is your opinion of all this?

10 Myths about Afghanistan

This Guardian article questions many of our preconceived views about Afghanistan, such as whether any foreign army has succeeded in the country, and whether the Soviets were "defeated" by the Mujahideen.  It is well worth reading, particularly when considering Afghanistan's role in the Cold War and the USSR's recent history, as well as its significance today.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Women in Saudia Arabia get the vote

Well...almost.  King Abdullah announced today that women would be allowed to vote and run in municipal elections in four years' time as well as be appointed to the influential Shura Council that advises the King.  It is a little too early to celebrate though as the vote has been promised previously and taken away again with little justification, no appointments have yet been made to the Council and the King can ignore it anyway.  It also is a relatively small victory when compared with what else women can't do in the country ie drive, sign legal documents and importantly participate in public life without a male relative's agreement.
Read the story on the BBC and the Guardian.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Elizabeth on Film

The Guardian runs a regular column reviewing historical films and considering their accuracy - covering everything from Spartacus to The Social Network. Recently the author has reviewed several films with Elizabethan themes, including Shakespeare in Love (Entertainment: A-, Accuracy C+), Young Bess from 1953 (E: C+, A: B) and 1999's Elizabeth. The latter comes in for a particular roasting because although it is undeniably entertaining (A-), it plays extremely fast and loose with historical accuracy (E) - indeed it gets a lower rating than the recent Cuban-Missile-Crisis-based X-Men: First Class (D+!)

Problems include: portraying Lord Burghley as a 75 year old at the start of her reign when he was in fact in his 30s, over-emphasizing her romantic interest in Robert Dudley, and including him in an amalgamation of various Catholic plots against her, which was highly unlikely as he was a staunch Protestant. The film-makers would argue that their job is to emphasize the dramatic nature of Elizabeth's insecure and lonely position, but clearly a large historical health-warning is needed at the beginning of the film for those who might consider it a reliable source for research... PS: Here is a detailed list of many of the factual errors from the film plus other useful information in an FAQ. PPS: The film's sequel: "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" isn't very accurate either, as Alison Weir explains here...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

One to watch - Hilary Mantel

The BBC's Culture Show has devoted a whole programme to the historical novellist Hilary Mantel.  Catch it on BBC iplayer.  She has written some fantastic historical novels including the recent and much acclaimed Wolf Hall and A Place of Greater Safety about the main protagonists of the French Revolution.  Give them a go.

Friday, 16 September 2011

A new female prime minister

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, leader of the centre-left coalition in Denmark, won a narrow victory over the right wing government in power to become the first female prime minister in Denmark last night.  Her victory brings the Danish left back to power after ten years in opposition, and is likely to mean Denmark will be more positive on moves towards closer economic co-ordination within the European Union.  She said after her victory: “Today is the day things change in Denmark. This evening we’ve shown that the Social Democrats are a big and driving force in Denmark. We’ve written history today.”
See the BBC, Guardian and Telegraph's reporting of the story.
She also has a close contact with Britain as she is the previous Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock's daughter-in-law being married to Neil and Glenys Kinnock's son Stephen.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Jimmy Carter

Here is a fascinating interview with Jimmy Carter, President of the USA from 1977 to 1980 and now leading a very active retirement whilst living in a modest bungalow in his hometown of Plains, Georgia. Most interesting is his defence of his presidency, often considered to be a failure because it only lasted one term and ended in the shambles of the failed Iranian hostage rescue. During those four years, he says,

"We kept our country at peace. We never went to war. We never dropped a bomb. We never fired a bullet. But still we achieved our international goals. We brought peace to other people, including Egypt and Israel. We normalised relations with China, which had been non-existent for 30-something years. We brought peace between US and most of the countries in Latin America because of the Panama Canal Treaty. We formed a working relationship with the Soviet Union."

This policy came in for considerable criticism at the time, but in from today's perspective, looks to be an increasingly impressive claim.

PS: You can read more about the work of the Carter Center here

Boris Johnson on the Croydon riots

I was delighted to be invited to a Conservative party event last Tuesday evening. The special guest of the night was the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who gave a speech about the riots that occurred last month.

Although he spoke about the riots as a whole, he predominantly focused on repairing Croydon and restoring faith into the citizens that reside there. His aim now is to recreate Croydon to be even better than it was before, by including new tram links and generating business incentives to stimulate the town’s economy.

At the moment, there seems to be a lot of disillusionment with the police. During the first days of the riots, the police took a laid-back approach and looters were free to ransack stores. This seems to be a huge concern for Johnson, therefore he emphasised that the police force is robust and resilient to bounce back from the criticisms.

He then opened the panel to the residents, including the owner of Reeve’s Corner (the biggest building that was set alight in Croydon). The store owner was reassured that he would have support as he reconstructed his business building.

I happily met Johnson afterwards. It was a great speech and a good night. He definitely left the event having a lot of support from the Conservative members of Croydon.

Many thanks to VD for this report.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

9/11 Ten Years On

The tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks will be this Sunday. As you can imagine, there is a vast amount of coverage of this in the media, with many programmes and web articles devoted to it. Here are special sections from the Guardian, the BBC and CNN.  Please let us know of any particularly interesting articles or programmes that you find and we will link to them here.

Republican Debate

There was a lively debate between the Republican candidates at the Ronald Reagan Library in California last night. Eight candidates took part (Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum), but the debate was dominated by clashes between Mitt Romney, who had been considered to be the front runner for many months, and Rick Perry, the governor of Texas.  Perry only joined the race last month but has already made a considerable impact, particularly amongst the Tea Party movement.  Perry aggressively criticised many of Romney's policies as governor of Massachusets, but may have damaged his position with more moderate Republicans with his dismissive comments of social security as a "Ponzi scheme" (basically a dodgy financial arrangement) and a "monstrous lie".  It will be interesting to see what effect the debate has on their poll ratings, and watch out for the "Tea Party Debate" on Monday.

PS: Click the video above to watch them in action (after a brief ad), and here are reports and reaction from CNN and Fox News.

PPS: There is also some useful comment here from the New York Times

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Nonsuch Palace model

An Oxford professor has produced a model of the famous local palace based on his own research which should give us a much better idea of what it may have looked like.  Built by Henry VIII and loved by Elizabeth I, the palace was eventually dismantled by one of Charles II's mistresses, Barbara Villiers.  The model is on display from today in Nonsuch Mansion House and will be open to the general public from 17 September.  The BBC site has a tantalising picture of it (above) and Friends of Nonsuch Museum has the opening times of the museum.  Go and visit it as it is just across the park from the school.

All talk no action

A Washington Post article recently made this claim: "So far this year, members of Congress have said the words “create jobs” 1,236 times. Almost once for every hour that Congress was in session, according to C-Span data. President Obama has said those same words at least 116 times. Almost every other day.” It is even more fascinating that zero jobs were created in August, resulting in the national unemployment rate being 9.1%. Both the Democrats and Republicans are accountable for this - they were not able to agree on issues, which resulted in nothing being changed. Now this would be understandable if the rate of unemployment was at a satisfactory level, but Americans are facing the recession head on. When people are moving into long stay motels because they cannot afford housing, it soon becomes a cause for concern. The cracks in the formation of Washington are appearing as the Democrat-controlled Senate is dismissing proposals from the Republican controlled House of Representatives. There may be positive outcomes from having a split house, but this issue in particular is proving to be a huge problem both for the Obama administration and the credibility of the American economy as a whole. Keep an eye on this issue as the autumn progresses.
Many thanks to Politics' VD for this article

Friday, 26 August 2011

China Trip

At the beginning of the holiday, Nonsuch HP was lucky enough to be part of the 2011 trip to China. It was a fantastic adventure, covering a huge range of experiences from the historic Forbidden City in Beijing to the bustle and glamour of Shanghai's skyscrapers. Here's a brief outline of some of the things that we did:

Monday: Fly in from Heathrow via Dubai, check in to Hotel, street life in Beijing while en route to dinner and supermarket!

Tuesday: Great Wall of China (Badaling section), Jade workshop, Summer Palace, Olympic Stadium, Roast Duck Dinner

Wednesday: Queue for Chairman Mao's mausoleum, Tiananmnen Square, Forbidden City, Pearls Display (and supermarket!), Temple of Heaven, serious shopping in the market, railway station for Xian


Thursday: Overnight train to Xian, check in to 5 star hotel, cycling on city walls, lunch and art gallery, Big Goose Pagoda (Buddhist temple), Grand Mosque, Dumpling Dinner and Tang Dynasty show (traditional singing and dancing, etc)

Friday: Terracotta Warriors and museum, lunch, visit workshop to see reproduction of warriors in clay, Xian station for trip to Suzhou

Saturday: Overnight train, breakfast in Suzhou park (joining elderly residents with their Tai Chi!), Humble Administrator's garden, flower and animal market, lunch, check in to hotel, visit silk factory, canalside walk through traditional Pingjiang district and visit to Pingjiang lodge, dinner in teahouse and night time show in the Master of the Nets garden.

Sunday: Bus from Suzhou to Qiandeng canal district, visit temple and ride on canal boat. Arrive in Shanghai and lunch in Date Tree vegetarian restaurant. Visit Shanghai Urban Planning exhibition hall (including huge model of the city). Check in to Holiday Inn, dinner then river cruise to see Shanghai at night.

Monday: Bus tour of Pudong skyscrapers, walking tour along Bund. Dim Sum lunch, tea ceremony and shopping in Yuyuan Bazaar. Walk through French quarter then return to hotel. Farewell dinner then visit to Shanghai gallery of Modern Art and rooftop bar on Number 3, the Bund with spectacular views.

Tuesday: Early rise, drive to the airport and home to Heathrow with brief Starbucks stop in Dubai.

As you can see we were kept pretty busy! Many thanks to Ms Hartley for organising the trip and to Greg Stoneham and his team for guiding us so expertly. If trip members think something has been left out, please let us know.