Marlborough People Today: fifteen years on Susan Ho is back - with her husband & children - in the town where she was brought up
Ellen Prockter, who wrote the original Marlborough People book to mark the millennium, talks to Susan Ho (Sau Yee) who was one of the youngest people featured in the book. How has her relationship with Marlborough changed since 2000? She was photographed for the book by David Uttley holding a portion of fish and chips from her parents’ shop in The Parade…
Wow, looking at that photo [see below] of me from fifteen years ago – that’s a real blast from the past. I looked so young – well I suppose I was young. I was eighteen and in my first term at university when I did the interview for the millennium book Marlborough People.
Such a lot has changed since then. I worked hard at The Surrey Institute of Art and Design and was rewarded with a first class honours degree in Packaging Design. My first job was in Malaysia teaching design in a prestigious private school in Kelana Jaya. I had an amazing time in that year – the culture is so vibrant with the mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian.
At university I developed an interest for teaching. I became a supplementary instructor helping other students and giving advice. One of my tasks as an instructor was to get involved with the student assessments, which I really enjoyed. From then on I knew teaching would be something I would venture into after I had established myself in the design industry.
When I returned to the UK I landed my dream job at Aslotel in Surrey, designing packaging for toiletry products used in the hotel industry. I loved the work but only stayed for one year – I am very much a family orientated person, I’ve been brought up to really value this tradition from my mother.
Therefore I was homesick for my family and Marlborough. I was beginning to get worried about being so far away from my Mum, because potentially Surrey could be my new home – being the only daughter, I knew I had to live nearer to my Mum to look after her.
I came home to Marlborough in mid-2004 and in January 2005, with some encouragement from our neighbour, ex-St. John’s teacher Sue Round, I started a one-year Graduate Teacher Programme based at St. John’s. I specialised in Design Technology (home economics and woodwork in the old days!) I taught in the Swindon area for a while before returning to St. John’s where I now teach full time and love it.
While I was in Malaysia I corresponded on Friends Reunited with an old friend from school, Simon (Geen Si) Ho. When I was younger I said that: ‘it would make sense for me to marry someone Chinese…..communication would be easier with someone coming from the same cultural background’. I didn’t have Simon in mind when I said that, but in 2006 we were married and we celebrated our Chinese wedding banquet in London.
Simon is an Associate Structural Engineer. His parents, Tse Keung and Kwok Chun bought the Chinese takeaway in The Parade from my parents. Simon and I sometimes speculate what life would be like if we had followed our parents into the takeaway and fish & chip businesses, but we are both happy with the paths we have taken.
Simon works very long hours and he has built many iconic buildings and structures all around the world, which often requires him to work overseas. I am very proud of him, obviously I would love to have him at home more, but I know his work is very stressful and demanding.
In 1999 I said that I respected religions but didn’t believe in a god or an afterlife. That all changed when I accidentally joined a bible study session thinking it was a social gathering. In 2007 I was baptised and I am now very involved in the growing evangelical community. I am a committee member, as well as the co-ordinator of both the youth group and the worship group. I also have links with Christchurch in Marlborough.
Our son Ethan (Wing On) was born in 2008 and daughter Eva (Wing Yin) in 2011. During this period we were living in Swindon and began to think about moving back to Marlborough where the commuting and child care would be easier. So in 2012 we decided to move back to Marlborough, living with Simon’s parents.
This might seem an odd arrangement to some, but it works for us. I am quite a traditional person and feel blessed with my in-laws. They love looking after their grandchildren – with help from my Mum.
We all eat together in the evenings (apart from Simon, who is hardly ever home from work on time) and then I see to all the children’s bedtime routines. My mother-in-law is an excellent cook and I would never attempt to cook Chinese food for her, but at weekends, I will sometimes cook Mexican and Italian meals. I also bake a lot – not very Chinese!
I am proud to be British and embrace the best of both my cultures and I still love good fish and chips.
The next fifteen years? I feel blessed already. I hope to be able to treat each day as valuable and to help my Mum and my in-laws enjoy the rest of their lives. I am also really looking forward to watching my children grow up in Marlborough like I did.