Hi from China! It’s all about timing…

Working for Straw Works & The School of Natural Building (SNaB) both UK based organisations, while living elsewhere in the world has some problems, one of which is timing. Until my friend Mary showed me how to use the weather app on my phone (for those of you of a certain age if you have several locations on your weather app including your own,  press the menu and your chosen locations come up on the same screen with the time alongside – really useful) I used to speculate about the time differences, which meant I was never entirely sure when something was going to happen.

For example, I had a skype meeting organised with our European partners recently. They had kindly arranged to meet at 10am their time so that it wouldn’t be the middle of the night for me. 10am UK time is 5pm for me. The only problem was that their 10am was in France which is 4pm for me. Not realising this I had welcomed in the Chinese Mr Fixit with his drill at 3.45pm my time, I hope you’re keeping up with this!

The drill started just as the skype ring tone began. Needless to say my urbane European counterparts were scathing. So much so that they’ve arranged the next meeting at my time 10pm on a Friday evening!!

Timing can be a problem for family too – note the WeChat (Chinese version of What’s App but with video) call from my sister at midnight my time, she was surprised to see me in bed!

Seriously though, there is only a small window of opportunity to actually talk to people in the UK from here and I am awaiting with great trepidation the clocks changing in a couple of weeks.

Last week was ‘Golden Week’ here in China. A national holiday when millions of people are travelling. We joined in and went to Shanghai. A fascinating city with a fusion of cultures. Here’s some pics.

img_2814  Pudong

img_2888 Night time from the Bund

img_2879 The magnificent Shanghai Grand Theatre

Categories: China, Golden Week, insulation, natural house building, natural plasters, RSA, Shanghai, strawbale building, strawbale building courses, Time differences, training for strawbale building, Travel, travel writing, Uncategorized, Working abroad, Writing, writing groups & societies | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hi from China

I’m in Nanyang in Henan province in China. Allan & I are here for the next 10 months or so. We’re here because Al is teaching at the uni for this academic year.

‘Why are you there?’ I hear you ask? ‘Well, because he is and because we thought we’d like to experience another culture before it got too late and because we wanted to travel a bit.’

It’s a good question though and the answer above is a bit glib and lacks depth. Yesterday, I was moaning a bit to Clair in the Straw Works office (via skype obviously) saying I that I didn’t think I had the best personality to get the most out of this experience. Clair’s response was to suggest I wrote a blog while I was here. I think that was a ploy to stop me going on and on but I’ve decided to take her advice at face value and pick up my existing blog and give it a go.

The name of this blog is ‘Sixty on a Bike’ and it’s still relevant in that I’m still in my 60’s and the uni has given Al and I bikes to get around the campus, which is vast.

With this blog I’m hoping to give you a perspective on working for a UK company from China. Before leaving the UK I wasn’t sure what parts of my job with Straw Works & SNaB I’d be able to do from here. It turns out I can do almost everything. The only thing I can’t do is join Barb in delivering Preparing to Build with Bales one of the theoretical courses we run in the autumn & winter and I’m sad about that because it was fun to do together.

However, to kick off this first blog entry I’ll leave you with a pic of a 17 meter high Buddha – just to set the tone.

Cave carving in Louyang.


Categories: blog traffic, haiku, middle aged women getting fit, natural house building, natural plasters, pioneering building, strawbale building, strawbale building courses, Tiny houses, training for strawbale building, Travel, travel writing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The School of Natural Building

Straw Works Ltd (where I am a director) is proud to announce the launch of our School of Natural Building (SNaB)

School of Natural Building (SNaB)

The School has 3 main aims:

  • to increase the numbers of women in construction
  • to increase the pool of natural builders
  • to promote natural building techniques

If you’re interested in our School, click on the link for more info and email Jane for an application form:  strawworks.co.uk

Categories: Ecobuild, Grand Designs Live 2014, insulation, low cost housing, natural house building, natural plasters, pioneering building, RSA, Stay at homers, strawbale building, strawbale building courses, training for strawbale building | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

House, apartment & strawbale studio for sale

We’ve decided to sell our house, apartment and our strawbale studio in Bulgaria. This is the link to the info about the sale


It’s a lovely place and we’ve had a great 11 years there but now it’s time to do something different. If anyone would like more info, give me a call or email: eileensutherland2003@yahoo.co.uk

Categories: Bulgaria, Houses for sale abroad, houses for sale in Bulagria, houses for sale in Bulgaria, Living in Bulgaria, natural house building, natural plasters, pioneering building, RSA, strawbale building, strawbale building courses, strawbale houses for sale, studios, Tiny houses, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jan Portillo for RSA Trustee

I have voted for Jan Portillo to be one of the trustees at the RSA because I think she’ll do a really good job. If there are any Fellows out there who have not had the opportunity to vote, then please do so as time is getting short. Voting ends next Sunday.

Categories: blog traffic, Clare Balding, cool stuff in London, cycling, London, RSA | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things are getting sweet ‘n sticky in the North East!

My friend Joanna Rimmer and I met on a writing course run by the poet Gillian Allnutt in Newcastle in 2004 and now Jo is a playwright!

With the help of Peter Mortimer and his Cloud Nine Theatre Company she has produced her first play, ‘Sweet ‘n Sticky.’

Sweet ‘n Sticky will be performed 10 times in North Shields, Tynemouth and Whitley Bay where it will open the Dome Festival.

For more info see  www.cloudninetheatre.co.uk/  and plan yourselves a wonderful, summer evening outing at the theatre.



Categories: books, bookshops, Clare Balding, Cloud Nine Theatre Company, Donuts, Newcastle on Tyne, North Tyneside, plays, Playwrighting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Triathlon triumph!

I’m a triathlete! In the very broadest sense. What I mean is, I managed to complete the super sprint at http://www.theblenheimtriathlon.com/BTMaps.html

The super sprint is: 400 metres swimming in the lake followed by 13kms on the bike followed by 2.9kms running. Hope you’re impressed. However let me expand on that for you.

The Swim

I was the last swimmer in my ‘wave’ to complete the swim. It took me 20 minutes and I had the company of a guy in a kayak all the way as his job was to make sure the last one got back safely. He was a nice guy, he engaged me in quite a lot of conversation and applauded when I reached the shore.

The 1st transistion

Transition is the time taken between one activity and another to compose yourself and to change your outfit. My first transition took 13 minutes, it was only bettered by one woman who took 17 minutes!

The cycle

Was on an undulating course where the fitter competitors from ‘waves’ after mine caught up with me and shouted ‘to the right’ with unnerving regularity. What they meant was, get out of the way as I’m coming past at top speed. Sometimes it’s tricky to keep to the left especially when you’re wobbling from side to side trying to cycle uphill without falling off.

The 2nd transition

I was really slick at this one, only took 3 mins something seconds- not bad.

The run

Or rather the walk. I was so exhausted by this time that I decided I’d finish but I would walk it. However now and again I broke into a trot and towards the end when I realised that I could probably make it to the finish line in less than two hours I almost hurried.

The time

Was 1hr 56 mins and I was so pleased to have finished it and finished it under 2 hours.  Now that I’ve recovered I ‘m thinking I might do it again next year.

My daughter did the same race as me and came in at 1 hr 25mins and my husband did a race twice as long and came in at 2hrs 16. IMG_3045 IMG_3032

Categories: bike safety, Blenheim Palace Triathlon 2014, cycle rides, cycling, cycling in the rain, fitness, middle aged women getting fit, run, trek bikes, triathlon, triathlon outfits | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beautiful, small, strawbale building for sale…ex Grand Designs Live Exhibition


Small, versatile, strawbale building

This building is suitable as a garden building, an office, a guest room, a teenage crash pad, a studio. It can be used all year round as it’s made of straw and is therefore highly insulated and will keep you warm in winter and cool in summer.

The building is 4.2m long x 3.2m wide and 3.2m high. At present it is unfinished. It can be bought in this state (see pictures attached) for £17,500. This price includes extra clay for finishing off the internal plaster, French doors with all the door furniture, 4 x double sockets and beautiful Douglas fir for skirting boards. Delivery is extra to the price.

If you’d prefer the building to be finished, Straw Works could do that for you by doing the work mentioned above + foundations, a top coat of plaster outside and sedum for the roof. The finished price would be £24,500 + delivery.

This building was transported from the Grand Designs Live exhibition in London on a low loader to Suffolk where it is residing temporarily. This is the first time a strawbale building has travelled this way! See http://www.strawworks.co.uk/

If you are interested in knowing more about this building please contact Eileen at strawworks@gmail.com

Categories: Ecobuild, Garden buildings, Grand Designs Live 2014, granny annexes, guest rooms, insulation, natural house building, natural plasters, pioneering building, Stay at homers, strawbale building, strawbale building courses, studios, Tiny houses | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grand Designs Live

New post for May Day!

Straw Works is exhibiting at Grand Designs Live from 3-11 May. We’re building a strawbale house during the exhibition. It currently look slike this….



A bit blurry I know but I’m doing my best!

It’s going to be beautiful and it will be for sale at the end of the Show.  Come and see us if you have time. We’re running workshops every day. We’ve also go a new van.


Pretty cool eh?

Categories: cool stuff in London, Grand Designs Live 2014, insulation, London, low cost housing, natural house building, natural plasters, pioneering building, strawbale building, strawbale building courses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eco Build

Yes,  it’s that time of year again.

Straw Works will be at Eco Build from Tues 4th -Thurs 6th March inclusive. We’ll be building a temporary strawbale building and plastering it with clay. Come and see us on stand 1660 and give us a hand … or even just have a chat.

http://www.ecobuild.co.uk/Content/Nature-and-the-Built-Environment  This is the link to the Natural Building section of the exhibition – which is of course, the most ‘eco’ part of the exhibition and the most innovative Hope to see you there. Tell your mates.

Categories: cool stuff in London, Ecobuild, insulation, London, low cost housing, natural house building, natural plasters, pioneering building, strawbale building, strawbale building courses | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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