I am finally back in China. At last!
It has been more than three years since I have been able to return to the country where I have spent most of my adult life.
My husband and I left here at the end of 2019 to spend some time in Egypt with his family (and to do the amazing boat trip down the Nile from Luxor to Aswan with lovely friends. If you ever get the chance, it’s truly wonderful.) He managed to come back just before all the flights stopped while I headed to the UK to support our daughter through her university finals. That was when Covid suspended life as we knew it and inflicted nearly three years of separation on our family before we were able to meet up in Cairo last year. In the meantime, our daughter graduated, moved into her own place and settled into life as a working woman and I launched Shaffay.
I spent the first week back here clearing our flat of the excess stuff that my beloved, an incorrigible hoarder, accumulated while alone in it. (He had 71 shirts – no exaggeration, I counted – and that was just the tip of the iceberg…)
Some of the proprietors were quite young!
Over the last week or so, I have started on the process of creating some new Shaffay slippers. My first stop was an area of Guangzhou where there are several buildings full of traders selling materials for making footwear. Imagine an office building, but instead of individual offices, each floor is a maze of small, open-front stores around the size of the average British living room. Each one is crammed and overflowing with the trader’s wares. Each looks wildly chaotic, but when you ask for something, the they are invariably able to put their hands on it almost immediately.
Those buildings contain just about everything you need to make any type of footwear. I was looking for some lovely velvet in bright jewel colours for the next range of Shaffays. I found plenty but was also distracted by gorgeous leathers and all sorts of decorative bits and bobs that sent my brain spinning with ideas for new designs.
I then went on to another area of even more tightly packed stalls with equally friendly and helpful people. In that area, what really struck me was outside on the street. Motor scooters have taken over. The roads were buzzing with hundreds of them weaving in and out of each other, many carrying rolls of fabric which increased the width of the bike by about 150%. Crossing the road was nightmarish but if you hesitate you simply cause confusion. The secret is to plough through and hope for the best…
Next stop is to visit the clever people who actually make Shaffay slippers for us. I will finally get to meet the craftspeople in person and have a proper look around their workshop. Until now, I have only spoken to them via video and my husband is the one who has seen them face to face.
I will keep you posted. Watch this space!