CCTV Music Review (Kind of)

CCTV (Chinese state TV) didn’t commission me. I’m just reviewing musical experiences in China. By that, I don’t mean Mr Oliver making his students wild at an end of year school show. Melodic music seems completely endemic here. Rhythm and blues do not. The exploration of music in China has been limited. Pop concerts are plentiful. Traditional music is out there. KTV is everywhere, seemingly only beaten in numbers by the dreaded mosquitoes.

Throughout travels, I’ve overheard piped speakers repeating at shrieking levels “wǒ ài Mǎnzhōulǐ” in deepest darkest coldest Inner Mongolia (内蒙古) to two people, in a field of ice. Actually, almost every province I’ve visited has had Mandarin language to its music. Rarely have I overheard local dialects, other than Cantonese in Guangdong. I’m convinced when my Granddad George Acton visited Qīngdǎo (青岛) and ShànghǎI (上海) in the 1940s, he visited at a time when local dialects were rife and strong. Whilst Mandarin has brought uniformity and literacy, it did also deliver annoying song xiǎo píngguǒ (小苹果).

Released in May 2014, the catchy Xiao Pingguo song refuses to go away. I think of it as China’s answer to the Crazy Frog. Wang Taili (王太利) and Xiao Yang (肖央) are the successful Chopstick Brothers (筷子兄弟). They’re not on my Christmas card list. Ever. They were even parodied by the Chinese Ministry of Defence, for recruitment purposes, in July 2014. I remember it being irritating then but if that’s how they plan to tackle the Taiwan problem, so be it. Siege by surreal music. Like Christmas songs in July, Xiao Pingguo never exits your head or seemingly airplay.

In education, I’ve witnessed a wealth of traditional instruments from China. Students plucking the Guzheng’s (古箏)’s 16–26 strings, or pear-shaped Pipa (琵琶), or similar Liuqin (柳琴) have formed mini-orchestras and solo acts throughout many school shows. A whole wealth of other stringed instruments hasn’t been seen in Xinjiang or Tibet, because I’ve yet to visit either region. I have heard and seen the two-stringed fiddle (Erhu 二胡) in action. I’ve had a go in Yunnan too. Maybe one day I’ll try it again. It can have an upbeat melodic ring to it, or deep blues. Mandopop and Cantopop covers haven’t been far behind.

Hugely popular song: WoMen Bu Yi Yang 我們不一樣 – by 大壯 Da Zhuang

There are countless string and pipe instruments throughout the land of China, with names too unknown to write and sounds heard rarely to explain. Clay, bells, silk too, and other instruments are fantastic to see in villages and countryside areas. The húlúsī (葫芦丝) is a gourd wind instrument that looks like a bulbous pipe swallowed a recorder. It can be played in a haunting manner, as witnessed in the foothills of Yunnan. Unlike Eason Chan, G.E.M., Jackie Chan, Jay Chou, the TF Boys, BTS, and other Chinese pop stars, I will miss traditional instruments like the húlúsī.

Dagu (大鼓) means large drum and would have been found in countless drum towers across imperial China. These days they can be found at school shows alongside the Zhangu (战鼓) or war drum. Likewise museums may encase them, just up the aisle from flutes made of bones. Yǎyuè (雅樂) translates to something like elegant music. The aristocracy and Confucius believed music could only follow one path for self-cultivation and governmental ruling. “March of the Volunteers”(义勇军进行曲 Yiyǒngjūn Jìnxíngqǔ) probably fits the yǎyuè mindset.

Originally known as The March of the Anti-Manchukuo Counter-Japan Volunteers, the national anthem of China can be found weekly at school flag raising ceremonies, all national holidays, supermarkets, and even playing from children’s toys. The national anthem was penned by Tián Hàn (田汉), a novelist and playwright). It was set to music by Yunnan’s Niè Ěr (聂耳) AkA George Njal, as was his wish. Sadly Nie Er drowned at a young age and never expanded on a blossoming and flourishing musical career. Many moons later I passed through his native Kunming and listened to the sound of heavy traffic. This after days of bird song, didgeridoo, and drums in Dali.

Hong Kong, the Magic Island Festivals at Zhuhai, Guangzhou, Dongguan (mostly Irene’s Bar) and Shenzhen remain the places I’ve seen the most live music during my years in China. A few live bands and DJs in Shanghai and Dali probably complete a short list for a large land. It hasn’t been that I haven’t been looking for it of asking for live music. Even before bloody CoViD-19 struck, it was hard enough to see live music and a million times harder to get tickets. Strip away the VIP, VVVIP, of Golden Platinum VIP options and music tickets are hard to find. Expect nothing for anything labelled VIP. The gimmicks are status only.

In Dongguan, whilst writing for Hubhao magazine, I was lucky enough to enjoy Netherlands band Atlantic Attraction. Their website is now about knees so I guess they broke up or faded out. I went looking for answers. None. Perhaps when I fly home to the UK via the Netherlands, Kevin de Haas will swap vocals and guitar for baggage handling, and Arend Lacked may have moved to Airbnb, or Joris van der Pole may have shed bass in favour of bus driving. The drums are out so perhaps Sibren Huijsmans will sell me a coffee. A good band. Missed.

Epic festivals at Hong Kong such as Clockenflap, seeing Paul Draper at Guangzhou’s Mao Livehouse, swinging by So What Livehouse and the various Brown Sugar Jar venues have been good experiences. Watching Mr Irish Bastard at an intimate night in Shenzhen or spending Christmas Day with an acoustic guitar concert will remain fond memories. And of course, Dongguan foreign band, Revolution, now dissolved… and out if their ashes, come Reload. That’s Sunday’s entertainment sorted. Big Band Theory at Murray’s were electric, as has been almost every music night at Irene’s Bar in Houjie town.

The journey through music in Asia and from China won’t end on leaving this country. I’m already booked into seeing The Hu, a Mongolian rock band later this year, complete with instruments, the morin khuur and the tsuur. How China can water down Mongolian dialect in favour of Mandarin in Inner Mongolia (P.R of China) is beyond me? Languages need preservation, and music has long imbibed that theme. I can’t wait to experience my next installments of Mongolian music after Taiga band in Bar Ink, Dongguan.

And of course, I can always say my former St. Lorraine students featured on a music video of the Sun Yat Sens. Wechat微信… Wechat微信…

And my Levellers lyrics were tattooed in Yunnan.

“We’re walking in the air!”

Raymond Briggs (18/1/1934 – 9/8/2022) was a multi-award winning author and cartoonist. The Snowman and Father Christmas have long been his well-known creations. When the Wind Blows and Fungus the Bogeyman are two lesser celebrated pieces of brilliance. The artwork by Briggs has often appeared grainy and drained of brightness, yet his style has been both eye-catching and bold.

“Books are not missiles, you don’t aim them at anybody.” – Raymond Briggs

Raymond Briggs created an arsenal of characters, both loveable and relatable. His touch of magic in their stories shines as an inspiration to readers and writers alike. Powerful messages and gentle love whistled from the pages. The 1982 adaptation of The Snowman has been an iconic piece of animation that has blessed many children over the years. The introduction by David Bowie and the soundtrack are equally iconic.

“The UK is struck by a devastating nuclear attack. Cities and communication systems are destroyed, roads melted, the earth and air poisoned and ravaged. All seen through the eyes of Mr and Mrs Bloggs living alone in the countryside, who are a bit peeved the milkman hasn’t came yet.” – When The Wind Blows, Raymond Briggs

Passing away at 88 years of age, the widower Raymond Briggs CBE leaves behind no children. He does however leave behind dreams and magic that few authors have matched. Those dreamy pencil colours that delivered sadness and hope will hopefully be visited and revisited by generation after generation at storytime.

““I don’t think about what children want. You get an idea and you just do it.” – Raymond Briggs, BBC interview 2017.

Raymond Briggs (18/1/1934 – 9/8/2022)

Aberystwyth Town

Attack after attack;

Balls whipped in deep;

Every game an opportunity;

Running down the byline;

“You’re not fit to referee!”;

Seasiders giving it their all;

Tref am byth!

With black and green, shirts we all dream;

You can do it for our Town;

The past is in books and the future in boots;

Here in Aberystwyth, the teams are all ready.

The women, the men, the boys and girls are ready;

Over to the tea hit for Bovril and Wagon Wheels;

Win, lose or draw, loyal greens forever roar;

Now, where do we begin?

Football at Park Avenue is back;

Our floodlights drape the field in rays;

Our stands sing chants beyond the valleys and hills;

Together we stand and cheer on the teams of Town;

Ball after ball shooting at the goals;

Athletic warriors wear our dream badge;

Loyalty, love and destiny’s results follow;

Let’s feel the mighty movement of Aber;

“C’mon Aber!”, shout the voices from the terrace in the sky.

Look at the linesman and laugh with the fans;

Up, up, and up the table we desire;

Be here now and be there forever Town.

Laid up philosophy

“We think too small, like the frog at the bottom of the well. He thinks the sky is only as big as the top of the well. If he surfaced, he would have an entirely different view.” – Mao Zedong (毛泽东), the first Chairman of P.R. of China, based on the idiom 井底之蛙 jǐng dǐ zhī wā – Narrow-minded and ignorant

Dr Li (李医生, orthopedics department) gave me an x-ray today and my foot is unwrapped. Stinks like some long forgotten French cheese that’s been left outside on a hot day, however, not as bad as Durian fruit. Now, two weeks on crutches and lots of self-physio to rebuild the wasted muscle and time. A huge visual difference in my ankle, calf and right foot (which has shrunk in length and breadth). Small steps to recovery.

And Dr Peng (respiratory department) tomorrow is release day from the hospital after the pulmonary embolism. Rehabilitation time.

“Nothing in life… even a few broken bones, is without its reward.” – John le Carre, author

Below is a list of things I have genuinely thought about, whilst lay on the hospital bed. The key points have been translated to Chinese, because, why not? I’m in China. Maybe one day someone will want them as a tattoo.

Free your heart from hate; 心中无恨. Pretty obvious. Be nice. Hate Man U****d. That’s all.

Free your mind from worry; 脑中无忧. Insurance ran out? Uncovered? Want private healthcare in a land where your language exchanges are limited? Want peace and quiet to speed up recovery? Then pay for not. Don’t worry. Money can always be earned again. It’s a tool. Buy something with no regrets. If you can’t afford a luxury yacht, buy a luxury toothbrush.

Live simply; 生活简单. Salad and fruit are delicious. Don’t let anyone tell you not to eat bell peppers raw. When energy demands lower, eat less and ponder whether Buddhist dietary needs are actually good for you. Or, eat chocolate.

Give more; 多些付出. When we pay taxes to states and social insurance, we’re contributing to society. Infamous tax dodgers Starbucks, Amazon, eBay, Apple etc. probably feel empty and cold. They didn’t play their part in society. Nobody can feel the benefit, without paying their way. Keeping the economy afloat is one thing, but always give when you can, especially when you have less to give. It feels good.

Expect less; 少些期待. Ambition is a pathway to disappointment. Or, expectations should be lowered to avoid feelings of inadequacy. Not everything is under your control and circumstances are likely to remind you that life is a challenge and fairness or equality a fictional aim. Idealism is not achievable under every circumstance. Be less worried.

Everyone is an individual, but we’re connected. 每个人都是独立的个体,但我们联系在一起. The philosophy of an international planet full of respectful connections with differences being put aside won’t be easy. Flags, borders, disputes and dick-waggling must stop. Isn’t climate change enough of a motivator, or will we all stay so individual? Record temperatures and extreme weather. We’ll all be connected, especially when it’s too late.

“So throw those curtains wide. One day like this a year’ll see be right.” – One Day Like This, a song by Elbow

After listening to the stunning Glastonbury set recordings of Elbow, I funked away to the impressive Billie Eilish, and sang along to Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Grounds for Divorce is such a powerful tune by Elbow. One Day Like This is their dreamy song, and one I associate with watching Manchester City at F.A. Cup games in Wembley. The band ftom Ramsbottom, Bury keep getting stronger as they age. Perfect. Like a vintage wine. Or cheese, but not from my feet!

THE VERDICT.

The late and great Sean Lock kept me company for a few hours. Through BBC Radio/Sounds and their episodes of 15 Storeys High and 15 Minutes of Misery, I nestled up cosily to distraction as the antibiotics helped battle the infection beneath my right lung. The pain receded faster than my hairline with only a few minor twinges by Sunday morning.

The prognosis is that my personal risk of pulmonary embolism is high, whether through clotting as a result of physical damage or that of inactivity. So, anticoagulant medication seems to be a life sentence. Nobody likes needles, and as of Monday the 18th of July, I’ve experienced 26 since last Wednesday. It’s hard to hate something sent to help you, so I’ve grown to be one with the needle. Just an occasional whimper. The anticoagulant to the stomach and antibiotics to the wrist have been welcomed. The alternative is infection and death.

Once bitten, twice shy is a phrase indicating choice in the matter. That ancient Aesop fable saying could have been relevant. It wasn’t. I had no choice. Pain hunted me down. Simple. There was no avoiding a second experience of pulmonary embolism. Now, the focus is on recovery and avoiding a third strike and you’re out scenario. I’m not ready to be composted. Dr Peng and respiratory department medical staff at Tungwah Songshan Lake Hospital have reassured me.

Anticoagulant medication will be part of my daily diet for a while. I will get a second and probably third opinion, sooner or later, but for now it seems this is the safest option, otherwise my life expectancy is more of a roulette. And take out insurance until I’m back in the U.K.

The Daily Shooting.

Ban the gun! Guns out, suns out, less harm done! Less guns, more fun! Save our son!

Selector on, side by side, slamfire slips suddenly and suicidal.

Abandoned seats by the parade, spilled over bottle leaking Cherryade.

Rate of fire, red dot sight, ricochet off the rifle bedding, and rolling blocks of rounds per minute.

It’s our right! Shoot out the blight! Aim the sight! No need to write.

Obturate an open bolt as it delivers a sudden jolt.

The screams and shouts, as brutal horror discounts.

Length of pull lever action, muzzle to muffle to massacre mode.

Banners flip in the wind, farewell funerals and victims of the sinned.

Iron sights jammed by jackets shot out by jeweled bolts of kicked leading.

Guns must go! To guns we say no! Why guns, why so? Guns we don’t know.

Half-cock, hammer bite and hang fire as this horrid hiss delivers a headstamp to his headspace.

Walking without worry no longer, the will to cry much, much stronger.

Feed ramp, field strip and fire forming. Forget the flash suppression and school lesson.

Right to peace at work! Safe from the berserk! Another stupid cruel jerk!

Disassembly, discharge and dummy in a dust cover. Ear protection just be worn. Eye relief? None.

Every time history repeats! Same old reply, same old beats.

Chambered choked clips clash into a class. Close quarter combat. Take that!

Blame the games and video controllers. The right to arms since civil war told us.

God Bless Browning, Colt and Magnum. Bullpen, bullshit and bullying breech pressuring.

Walking the walk, like little toy soldiers. If it’s good enough for them, why will no one stop us?

Ballistic coefficient, user deficient. Blowback on bluing with no go back. No way back.

N.R.A. or N.W.A. this isn’t working properly, won’t it go away? Capitol Hill silent. Streets blooded and violent.

Cross hairs, ammo, backbored barrels of delights. Adjustable sights, automatic trigger fingers, cordite lingers.

How long must this go on? How long must history repeat? Repeat, repeat, repeat…

“Bang! Bang! You are dead! 50 bullets in your head…”

Pulmonary Embolism 2.0

There is no timeline to healing. It’s okay to think you were over something but then for it to hit you again. Healing is messy and a relapse is a fierce reminder of mortality. If you don’t want to know score, look away now: Pulmonary Embolism 2-0 John.

Scenes.

Unlike the first time out, the second coming didn’t put me on my arse, staring at the outstretched hand of the Grim Reaper. The new incarnation started out as severe pain on Tuesday night, with Dr Google suggesting kidney or gallbladder stone attacks. Consulting an actual Doctor on Wednesday, I was given some antibiotics for an infection exterior to my right lung but above my other organs. That day I needed CT scans and ultrasound in several places. By the end of the evening, the doctor said I needed to see a specialist during the next day.

After a terrible night’s sleep and increasing right of the chest pain, I found myself back in hospital. After consultation I was checked in. Another CT scan, specialising to search for clots appropriated to the body and lung. Immediately, I was lowered from machine and told to move slowly. The doctor said, in English, “There’s a complication. A problem.” The scheduled heart check was immediately cancelled. I was slowly rushed and pushed on wheels back to the respiratory ward room bed. The bed changed from room 29 (bed A) to bed 6. Critical.

A rainbow of blood samples, urine being taken, stools inspected and all other manner of tests have been performed. MENSA are expected later for my IQ test. I’ve read that the warm sensation of Isovue (main agent, Iodine) in the CT scan is the equivalent to 400 chest X-rays. The weird sensation experienced involves a warm sensation that appears to flow around the body. Similar to urination of oneself around oneself, as oneself believed had happened for all too long a moment. Computed Tomography found the pulmonary embolism.

The pulmonary embolism is likely new. Recurrence is rare, so the doctor said. The cause, a thrombosis in the body, a clots or plug of blood is the true recurrence. Periods of relative inactivity are likely to contribute to the formation of a clots, or periods of stress and overworking your body. So, the final week of school life at Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS) ticks that latter box. Following that, I left the apartment for dinner once… lunch once… and the Taiga concert at Bar Ink, and a fantastic Eid party. Being on crutches in a slippery superheated subtropical place is not ideal.

The rhythms of Mongolian-Xinjiang group Taiga and funky beats, wrapped in the didgeridoo of Luka made for a relaxing tribal evening of music. So, that was Saturday night. Sunday, I met Kevin and his daughter Natalie for lunch at the Hyatt Songshan hotel’s Chinese restaurant. Monday seemed normal until bed time, and then pain arrived. A burning stabbing sensation, below the ribs, radiating to the back and right shoulder. Monday night was painful but bearable. Tuesday night was agony.

So, here I am, lay on a bed, inactive and on intravenous, injections and oral medication. Hey body, thanks for letting me know in advance. How to recover is the topic at hand. So, what now?

Hey adventure, where are you?

I’ve been waiting, patiently and impatiently. Where are you? Perhaps, you missed me here. Hey adventure, where are you?

I know I’ve been distracted, confused and upset. Where are you? Just maybe, you’re too busy to call by. Hey adventure, where are you?

These days have been testing for me, unsure and hanging on the help of others. Certainly, you know where to look. Hey adventure, where are you?

I looked back at last year and the year before, and one before that. How come you didn’t visit me yet? Hey adventure, where are you?

Is it something I did, said or thought? Am I not the same person as before? Hey adventure, where are you?

When you call by, bring some tissues and a shoulder to lean on. I’m sure you’ll return. Hey adventure, where are you?

I’m feeling so low, blue and deep in shadow. You won’t see me outside. Hey adventure, where are you?

I need to feel the sharpness of lemons, taste the sweet cool air and smell of green life. Instead, you’ll see me between these walls. Hey adventure, where are you?

It could be worse I guess, cast off and unwanted? No letter of recommendation or wave off. Hey adventure, where are you?

Hey adventure, where are you? I need you. I need. I need you. Need you. You. Come get me. Hey adventure, where are you?

Hey adventure, where are you?

Small Axe fall Big Tree

BBC and Amazon Co-produced Small Axe, a series by hard-hitting director Steve McQueen, fresh from a hiatus from his ensemble movie Widows. Having tackled slavery in 12 Years a Slave and sexual addiction in Shame, McQueen doesn’t shy away from tough topics and periods of time. He’d already taken on the Provisional IRA (Irish Republican Army) in Hunger and his debut directorial role.

Looking at the series of miniature movies, it feels shameful that racial divide and people from the West Indian immigrant community suffered. It’s even worse to know and hear that the struggle of racial inequality and discrimination goes on in Britain. I refuse to call it Great Britain for that reason.

“If colonialism is good for anything, it brought us together on this table” – dialogue from the episode ‘Mangrove’.

Shaun Parkes commands the screen with theatrical appearance alongside Malachi Kirby in episode one, ‘Mangrove’. Letitia Wright, who plays Shuri in Black Panther and other Marvel movies, stars as Altheia Jones-LeCointe, a leader of the British Black Panthers in an intense episode. Sam Spruell who seems typecast as someone crooked and wrong features. Trinidadian Frank Crichlow is portrayed as a strong and warm-hearted character deeply committed to activism. A great story of hope and discipline to change a tainted culture unfolds.

“If you are the big tree, we are the small axe” – Small Axe, Bob Marley

After the Mangrove Nine featured in one episode, the next feature film focuses on romance. ‘Lover’s Rock’ stars Michael Ward and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn in a moment of time slotted into primetime viewing and delivered with warmth and a carefully constructed dialogue. Then we reach ‘Red, White & Blue’ featuring John Boyega, of Star Wars fame as Leroy Logan. It’s a tough one to watch with grim moments but also plenty of fine acting.

Sheyi Cole ‘Alex Wheatle‘ walks the line of the title’s novelist in creation. Finding your niche in life is a challenge, and this empathic story charts a brief period of time. It’s a biopic that builds towards the 1981 Brixton riots. That’s Thatcher’s era. A disgrace that didn’t resolve fully after the Scarman report. Steve McQueen focuses on young Alex Wheatle MBE and his development to become known as the Brixton Bard and go on to have books translated to Japanese, Urdu and Welsh, amongst other languages. Actor Robbie Gee also stars, a while after his role in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch. This short film is an important story for modern times. Identity is complex.

“Unlearn what you’ve learned.” – the character Dread in the episode ‘Alex Wheatle

Bringing ‘Education’ to the fold, director Steve McQueen tells a story how London councils moved a largely disproportionate amount of black children from regular schools into more behaviour-specialised schools. It was set in the 1970s. It could easily be 2020 too. Institutions are for all. This story does not show this was the way.

Sir Steve McQueen delivers social realism in his catalogue of movies and at aged 52, it’s entirely possible there’s much more to come. He’s spliced injustice up and served it in cinematic and small screen form. Small Axe is a worthy collective of his award-winning means. In an era where the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and a host of champions of racial equality need a voice of understanding, Steve McQueen delivers a parcel to unwrap for all.

The last broadcast II

Dear T.W.I.S. community,

I arrived with optimism and I leave the same. I hope along the way to have added a little more than I have taken. I believe that I have left this T.W.I.S. (Tungwah Wenzel International School) community, all the more mentally and academically stronger. I feel like I am a much better person than when I arrived.

I recall meeting Mr Arturo Ruelas and Miss Ann Gaillard as the school community opened up for a scholarship opportunity for potential news students. I recall doing some due diligence before accepting the role, and an online interview during COVID-19 quarantine and feeling quite excited. I believe it was Jorge, from the then Murray’s F.C. that recommended me to the school. Joining a school with an experienced Head of School (France, Thailand, Oman, China, the Philippines and Japan) seemed like a no-brainer.

I must confess that the International Baccalaureate (I.B.) seemed very much like a pyramid scheme at first. The holistic approach seemed more sales package than education curriculum. My attitude to this has flexed and bent since those preconceptions. As Miss Ann explained on the first day of meeting, the programme and curriculum would be delivered with structure. This was a positive start.

I wish to convey my thanks to the community and staff at TWIS. I would also like to thank you for entrusting the education of your children to our school, during my stay. I noticed that we had a highly professional international teaching staff facilitating the best possible learning experiences for your children. Long may that continue.

I was happy and proud to be part of a team that persevered to provide an environment where children feel safe and secure to take risks in their own learning, as well as raise their game. They could challenge themselves to innovate and try new things. We, our diverse team, lived to help our students to be jolly and strong-willed members of the TWIS herd and community.

Throughout the two years, I experienced much and grew in my learning. I tasted a year of leading grade 4’s primary school, ably supported by Miss Jenny and a wealth of experienced specialist teachers like Mr Richard, Mr Lee and Miss Robin. Miss Cindy welcomed me with open arms to taste the Chinese classes and collaboration with Mr Oliver and Mr Esteban made for pleasant times.

Not only did I teach but I learnt a high-quality, challenging international curriculum through leaders and peers. We held Curriculum in Action days (days for parents to attend), assemblies (Celebration of Learning Assemblies), and parent information sessions (to help all grow in their knowledge and understanding of the varied curriculum). And a few hours swimming in Managebac. That online lesson planning and management system will not be missed. Not one iota.

On the final day, a few personal goodbyes were made and loose strings were tied. There was no pomp and ceremony. No future talk and bridges were not burned, I hope.

Words about the last week are limited. Here’s a few images of the stay. All published via DGTWIS.com or approved as appropriate, without identities being recognisable. That’s all folks. So long and thanks for all the fish. Next. Time to move on. But first, most importantly:

May the future be bright and wonderful for the students and staff at TWIS. All the best!

In June 2020, I left St. Lorraine Anglo Chinese School for two years contracted to T.W.I.S. Just like I left Dao Ming Foreign Language School in June 2017. As of Thursday afternoon, that’s me. Done. The China education experience draws to an apparent conclusion. But, who knows? Perhaps, the door is still left open and bridges remain unbroken. I’ll be back? Definitely maybe. Never say never.

“SO HERE WE ARE; AT THE LAST BROADCAST; HERE WE ARE; OUR LAST BROADCAST” – THE LAST BROADCAST – DOVES

So, what now?

Yours in teaching; yours is passion for learning; peace and love; yours truly and faithfully,

Mr John

Just a Minute?

BBC’s under-rated and these days hidden gem of comedy radio is the show Just a Minute. The original host Nicholas Parsons had plenty of minutes in his lifetime. He ran the longevity of the show from 1962 to 2019, well into his 90s. The witty Lincolnshire-born presenter came from a town called Grantham, known for its infamous daughter Baroness Margaret Thatcher and Sir Isaac Newton. One famous for apples falling off a tree, and the former, a Darth Vader-impressionist for stealing milk from developing children.

“Mortals rejoice that there has existed such and so great an ornament of the human race!” – Translation from G. L. Smyth, The Monuments and Genii of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and of Westminster Abbey

Nicholas Parsons reportedly only missed around four episodes of the radio show, Just a Minute, between 2018 and 2020. Parsons was clearly caught slacking at the young age of 94. His good friend Gyles Brandreth, a regular show panelist stepped in for those occasions. Even into his 95th year, Parsons was active at a charity event, with the Grand Order of Water Rats.

The aim of the gameshow Just a Minute, is to speak unbrokenly on a subject for sixty seconds. Regular panelist (for 33 years) and comedian Paul Merton has mastered this skill. Evidence can be found on the BBC website, although you can’t say BBC because that’s repetition. No repetition. I repeat, no repetition. The rules of Just a Minute involve:

rulestips
When the leader or chair person says start talking, or ends their introduction the competitor must speak immediately. Try not to speak too swiftly. You may trip over your own words.
Don’t hesitate. Don’t speak slowly because… No hesitation. Nor should you acknowledge others speaking and that you’re going to go down another avenue.A wide vocabulary is useful.
Deviation: changing the topic is ill-advised. That’s a rule broken. No deviation. Keep it on topic.Don’t ask questions to the chair person or fellow panelists. That’s deviation.
To say, “um”, “er”, “ee”, “oo”, “ah”, “walla walla”, “bing bang” or “ahhhh” is to break the rules. See hesitation. The listening competitors can challenge any broken rules.
Repeat only the words on the subject card, although it being a radio show. No repetition of other words. Even acronyms such as BBC, CCTV etc count as repetition. Short words don’t count as repetition. e.g. I, our, we, the…
Let the opposition listen and challenge you. The chair person’s say is final but the panel may debate challenges in a friendly way. Rules are rules.

The game show can be adapted to be a fun end of year game. It would certainly encourage fluency and accuracy in thought to speech. The show created by the late Ian Messiter was caught day-dreaming and faced the cane, but could avoid doing so by speaking for two minutes on the class subject (he should have been listening to). So, in a sense, repeating the game in the classroom, at the end of the school year, is returning it to its origins. Without a cane. Thanks Mr Messiter! Interestingly, the creator’s son, Malcom, even presented the show on a televised version in 2012. Now, actress and comedian Sue Perkins hosts the regular radio panel show. In my humble this is essential listening to improve your skills of English and spoken ability. There’s no harm in trying. Sharpening the tongue is a skill of its own.

Blue. K.B.O.

23 days since the need to first go to hospital. That first wrap and support. Those X-rays and CT scans. The pain and self-annoyance. The fracture. The immobilization. The inconvenience. The anger. The rage at one’s self. The self-pity and self-loathing. The humiliating feeling. The worry. The stress. The tears that built up but haven’t yet released.


6 days since the doctor said another 28 days needed; maybe 21 to walk on the foot again. Hope is around the corner by to get there crutches are needed, and some hopping. Avoid the wet floor. No slipping. No placing your right foot down.

Keep it elevated. Keep up your spirits. Pain for a week. Codeine for a week. Bone setting traditional Chinese medicine. Maybe it works, maybe not. Support wrapped again. And again. One trip out. One barbecue. 23 days. 13 journeys to and from work. Avoid the wet floor again. Still no placing your right foot down.

For God’s sake! It isn’t bloody COVID-19! Grow up! Dig in. Dig in deeper. No pain, no gain. Call it a challenge. Growth experience. Aches without ibuprofenbfor a week. Bones grinding and aching. Mosquito bites under the bandage, maybe not so fun. Support from friends. Glorious friends. One trip out. One barbecue. 23 days. 13 journeys to and from work. Keep avoiding the wet floor. One chicken meal nearby. Coffee delivered. Friends. Support. Still no placing your right foot down.

22 more days? 15 more days? Keep going forward. Keep going. Forward. Keep buggering on. K.B.O. Without putting the foot down.

Everything’s Electric

There used to be a time when I’d book things to look forwards to, places to go and events to see with family and friends. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen live music in an arena, music Hall or outdoor concert. If it wasn’t for tribute bands and variety acts around Dongguan, I’d have heard nil by ears.

Going home brings new opportunities. Many challenges and worries. But, as I dodge COVID-19 with the substandard Sinovac vaccination, I’ll grab some other up-to-date and tried and tested formula within a week of the ferry berthing in Kingston-upon-Hull.

Dock in Hull. First steps on English soil in a fraction beneath three years away from the U.K. Get to Manchester. Take Mum to Arcade Fire. Wander off to Gulliver’s a few days later to hear the sounds of Lael Neale (5/9). Get down to Cardiff, home of F.I.F.A. 2022 World Cup Qatar-bound Wales. Give our Liam Gallagher and The Charlatans a listen (15/9). Wait until November for Idlewild (20/11) followed by Florence and The Machine (22/11). Slot in the football at the Etihad, home of Manchester City, and seek out some comedy. And, ideally some track cycling.

“I think he’s coming home again.” – C’mon You Know lyrics, Liam Gallagher

A little further ahead it seem possible to witness the comedy talent of Henning Wehn in Stockport Plaza (18/2/23) and
Stewart Lee at the Lowry, Salford (31/2/23) with Mum and Paul.

Independence and life will hit like a brick in the face. The next steps will be clearer. I still don’t actually know where I’ll be sleeping for the foreseeable future in Blighty. My fear of becoming homeless is closer than ever. That green and pleasant land of Brexit and Conservative destruction is crumbling like the White Cliffs of Dover. It’s going to be hard to get by, but a positive mental attitude is on its way. With Panda. At least I’ll be a little entertained. Providing I can get by with extortionate gas, electric, water and council taxes feeding the fat cats.

Of course, after two weeks on crutches (with two to four more expected, provided I heal), looking forward is more important than ever. This loose cast and elevated legs daily are trying and testing my patience. I’m teaching myself resilience. Still, it could be worse. Much worse. I’ve known two friends to lose their mother in the last two years and that’s a horrible experience to witness others suffer.

A slippery apartment, wet floor tiles outdoors, puddles, whizzing electric bikes, phone zombies who don’t look up whilst walking, dog owners who can’t shuffle their poodle left a little and vomit puddles in the elevator make going to work difficult. That and showering on one leg. One leg outside as I dance, shuffle and avoid slips, trips and falls. Things broken don’t just include my right foot. 120kg of mass moving at gravity – assisted speed onto chairs, bed frames and stools generates a fair crack of sound. The crutches don’t grip moisture. Dongguan is all about the humidity these days. And heavy rain.

My second visit to the Songshan Lake Tungwah Hospital (东华松山湖医院) radiology department via the emergency department and with the help of Dr Li (李医生, orthopedic department) went okay. No huge progression after a week. Carry on with this, that and the other. Time is a healer. Thanks to Maria and her boyfriend, and Peter for accompanying me the initial time and at the sequel. The very professional hospital have been most helpful this academic year at T.W.I.S.

C’mon You Know is Liam Gallagher’s umpteenth foray into music. The former Oasis member and brother of Noel has mixed some soulful pop with bite and some catchy lyrics. It’s decent enough if you’re into indie and rock, with the usual shade of 90s and The Beatles thrown in for good taste. It definitely sounds like it should be at home on festival stages and in front of stadium crowds.

Still, I enjoyed chicken with the quad of Alice, Keisel and Laura yesterday. Panda has been walked by all three and 7 others this last two weeks. We’re having a few bumpy times but he’s still a happy doggy. Thanks go Benny, Jaime, Mr D, Nem and Aleks, Alice, Keisel, Charif, Daisy, and Maria for walking Panda. He really appreciates it too. Especially, the 5.30am walks… and the runs! Thank you kindly.

They’ll be better days.

All subject to change.

P.R.C.* – The Diary

[*Pets Removal China]

Leaving China with a pet dog or cat? On one hand are the rules & regulations, on the other are my experiences (so far). In China it is highly likely every staff member you encounter will follow the rules to the letter. Bureaucracy is the right of officialdom.

At first, I was really confused. Almost everyone I asked mentioned this mystical Shenpu, so I hit Dr. Google up for information and found their website: a veterinary hospital in Shanghai. But… I’m 1508lm away in Dongguan, Guangdong province. So, then I found Joanne (Wechat: Joanne_Taylor) who added me to a Wechat group called UK Pet Travel Support. Through Joanne, I have shared and received information from a wider community. I’ve offered to collect cats and dogs for others (which was my original intention)… now completely focused on getting Panda back to his Anglo-Scottish origins. Following joining this group, confusion faded and has now fully been replaced by hope.

DurationRequirementActual datesTask
Immediately.Register your pet (locally)
4 months before flying to the EU/UK;
1 month before flying to USA
Microchip. 8/3/22Inserted by vet, Dongcheng, Dongguan (at a cost of 50RMB).

Not recorded anywhere. Three stickers given. One affixed to pet passport.
Scanned and checked. ISO chip purchased from ICVS, Beijing for 275RMB. Wechat: ICVSAsia
Same date as the microchip.Rabies jab(s)December 2021: Rabisin®;
8/3/22 NOBIVAC®; 8/4/22: Rabisin®.
Vaccinations given by local vets, Dalingshan, Dongguan.
Only for Europe.

USA does not require this.

Await results then add 3 months/90 days before date of flight.
Blood extraction & serum, for the Rabies titer antigen test.
Send to the laboratory.
4/4/22-8/4/22;

12/5/22 – 23/5/22
Attempt one failed.
4/4/22: Serum extracted, Dalang, Dongguan.
8/4/22:
Report received by post/Wechat message as passed. Cost: 800RMB.

Serum extracted @ vets, Dalingshan, Dongguan: 12/5/22. Sent same day.
Received at the lab/ 800RMB fee paid: 14/5/22.
Tested: 21/5/22.
23/5/22: Report received by post/Wechat message as passed.
E-mail: RabiesTest@163.com       
Wechat contact at Guangzhou: YuAn-mEi-Mel
The sooner the better.Crate. Get it on Taobao etc. Check your pet’s sizing for mobility. Get your cat & dog used to this enclosure. Remove the wheels at the airport. Petsfit, Petsmate etc are decent. e.g. copy this to Taobao:
【淘宝】https://m.tb.cn/h.frXmlmQ?tk=fg4i2Q3O7B0「禾其挂碗猫粮盆挂式狗饮水器固定宠物水杯狗盆架猫碗吃饭喝水碗」
点击链接直接打开
Ordered May. Arrived June 2022. Delayed by COVID-19 delivery problems.Ordered via Taobao.

Ordered a water bottle & a snack bowl that clips on the cage door.

Grabbed a packet of cable ties.
Book as soon as you get the titer rabies antigen test results.Flight. To quote comedian Jeff Green, “Book it. Pack it. F*** off.” eventually.
Places aren’t easy to find. Get onto KLM, Air France, Finn Air, Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airlines, Lufthansa, etc. Flexibility and patience may be required.

Pets cannot be flown directly into the UK, other than via highly expensive (30000RMB+) cargo plane routes. Using Turkish Airlines costs about 1053EUR for an 18kg dog with a large crate. Hold and cabin (cats/tiny dogs) prices differ.
Booked it in May 2022.Ten phone calls, a few e-mails, a changed flight date, some worry and frustration spread over one week.
1 week before the flight @Shenpu (Shanghai) or your local Customs Export authority or quarantine bureau (e.g. 东莞海关. +86 769 2241 0751, asking for the “animal export department”).

Pick up 2 days before departure @ the Customs Office (Bund if Shanghai).
Export certificates. Apply. Pick up.August TBCYet to perform.
As each document becomes available.Photocopy documents (twice). One for the crate. One for you.As each document becomes available.Started. It’s fun. Yay.
The date of your flight.Departure. Due to COVID-19 restrictions it may be necessary to ignore the arrive 3 hours before departure and choose 5 hours or another amount. Keep an eye on these and check with the airport.August 31st/September 1stYet to perform.
The date of your landing somewhere other than the P.R.C.Sign of relief on landing in destination (or transit country before hopping on a ferry). Keep all documents handy.September 1stYet to perform.
Everything was correct-ish as of 7/6/2022. Don’t believe the truth.

9 useful images

These are not my creations but a useful collection of reference. For reference only. Not for legal facts. Things change! Everything was correct-ish as of 7/6/2022

Last updated: June 7th, 2022.

Spheksophobia

How many old dreams of the past are dormant? How many dreams of the future are yet to be realised?

The flocculant rain falls, and the howling wind calls, as he bangs his head firm on walls.

How many days drifted in and out? How many hours in light? How many in night?

The foundations of the house shake, they ripple, bend and quake, all the while his feet flip, slip and bake.

How many lights shine out bright? How many rays cast no shadow? How often does light fade to black?

The will of a man is tested, his head ill-rested, broken undigested, wasted hope scattered and shattered.

How come comets flash and zoom by? How do meteors find their way? How often do they evade all sight?

The feel of his feet grow rough and sore, unable to walk no more, lost on a map with no detail, cast off to sea without a voyage.

How does a guide find a route? How do you define what’s in a suit? How often is a path well-trodden?

The life of Riley, the hidden Eden, the leadership skills of Christ all the parts of Paradise’s Elysium far, far out of reach.

Eh?

We’re all writers putting pen to paper, typing night and day;
Singing love songs come what may.
Banging out letters of dismay;
Giving our opinions on hearsay.
All in front of us, our display;
Making sure we have our say.

Place down your head, just go and lay;
Eyes to the left, eyes to the right they bend and neigh;
Come month end’s wait for our pay.
Should I go or should I stay?

Passing our eyes over the latest play;
Heartfelt causes won’t go away.
In hard times, we kneel and pray;
Write that letter to the girl called Fay.
Oh sweet Fay, the next day your name is May;
Life moved on and we found our way.

Children rejoice, they jump and say, “Yay!”
No more waiting, no such delay.
Watching movies until we hit the hay;
It doesn’t really matter if anyone’s gay.
Dipping our toes in the deep of the bay;
All around the sound of that lovely jay.


On cloudy days grabbing each ray;
Talk about football on the Saturday.
Watching movies until we hit the hay;
It doesn’t really matter if anyone’s gay.
Dipping our toes in the deep of the bay;
All around the sound of that lovely jay.

Guangdong International Mosquito Protection Society

Our goals

Recognising that the problems facing our planet are increasingly more complex and urgent, Guangdong International Mosquito Protection Society focuses its work on one less-than-ambitious goal. Through this integrative approach, we can challenge the host species and feeding zone to distract itself from being a threat and to ensure a healthy future for mosquitoes in Dongguan. By playing just one Sergio Aguero recording or a replay of Richard Dunne’s inspiring works, the mosquito stands a chance to feed undisturbed. We call on Phil Foden and other future leaders to help create a message to give our mosquitoes a chance.

About us

As the world’s least known conservation organisation, Guangdong International Mosquito Protection Society certainly works in one country to tackle the least pressing issues at the intersection of nature, people, and climate. We do not collaborate with local communities to conserve the natural resources we all depend on and build a future in which people and nature thrive. Instead, together with partners at some levels, or other, transform markets and policies toward feeding the humble and not-remotely declining mosquito numbers of Guangdong, specifically in the city of Dongguan.

Our conservation zone

The chosen site is about 193cm above sea level, with a mass greater than anticipated but maintained by a steady lack of greenery. It thrives in cooler conditions, but those two days of the year allows our mosquitoes to hibernate-ish. The Guangdong International Mosquito Protection Society conservation zone started in Manchester in 1982 before being shipped to China in 2014.

Things we want to see banned

Fast hands by humans.

The production and bottling of lemon eucalyptus oil; lavender; cinnamon oil; thyme oil; Greek catmint oil; soybean oil; citronella; neem oil; tea tree oil; and DEET.

Mosquito coils.

Those anti-mosquito tennis bats with wires and a cage.

A banning on using power for the E55 Rechargeable Mosquito Repeller.

Further threats to our cause

Have you seen us on T.V.?

Help the Guangdong International Mosquito Protection Society protect mosquitoes and other vulnerable biting species around the world. Symbolically, adopt a mosquito today and take it to your home.

Mailing list

Get the latest conservation updates, be inspired to take action, and learn about ways to get involved by not signing up to our mailing list. We don’t have one. Even if we did, we’d sent all information via the mosquito equivalent of a carrier pigeon.

G.I.M.P.S. Inc. is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organisation (tax ID number 16-9320) under Section 28(U)(R) of the External Refund Code. Donations are unlikely and tax-deductible as allowed by law.

© 2022 G.I.M.P.S.® and ©1982 Mosquito Symbol are owned by G.I.M.P.S. All rights reserved.

Best foot forward.

After a week of nightmares ruining my sleep, perhaps something was in my psyche warning me…

Last week, I started to wear grey K-Swiss trainers (or sneakers, if you’re that way inclined). These swish grey (or gray?) with white trims and soles felt a little tight. Size 13.5 UK (or 49 globally) sometimes can be that way, but, when you’re in South China’s Dongguan and limited to opportunity, something about choices being unavailable to those who beg.

Saturday and Sunday involved a walk around West Lake (惠州西湖) in Huizhou, in my new footwear. Having a few aches and pains in new shoes has always been normal to me. Size 14 UK has always been damn hard to get any comfortable footwear. Seeing as I flit between brands, owing to inconsistent sizing, sizes 50 and 49 usually fit the bill. A bit if wear and tear here and there usually molds them to my feet.

An agent of Timberland in Guangzhou helped me to get walking boots and shoes. Sadly, I’ve been wearing the latter to death. Their sheen has faded. I was just about to get them refurbished. I still will. I only need one shoe this week. That’s due to a run, with a football, without anyone challenging me, and not a soul nearby resulting in a sudden sharp pain. I jumped up and landed on the other leg, rolling sideways and yelping like a shot dog.

Sunday night, I needed to shower, and hobbled about from a car to my apartment, then ensured Panda, the dog, had a quick walk. I used a sweeping brush as crutches. I stupidly went to bed, thinking that staying still from 9.30pm would alleviate the pain. What a fool! A proper grade-A eejit! A plethora of pain and discomfort helped me to sleep at God Knows O’clock. I recall seeing the time at 4am and thinking sleep would be amazing. No. It was a terrible night’s sleep in a week of bad sleeps.

So, having awoke late on Monday, I felt ashamed to let my principal, Miss Ann, know I wouldn’t be coming in. By text. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I’d tried to get to hospital the evening before but wasn’t willing to go without crutches or a wheelchair. Neither could be sourced. After frantically making arrangements to get to hospital, I rolled over and slunk into a deep dark place. Eyes open. Mind empty.

The temporary depression lifted and in the afternoon, I was offered help by Charif and Miss Keisel to walk Panda for a few days. That was a great relief. Then I pottered around and panicked. Worried some. I needed to know why I couldn’t place my foot down. Even touching the edge of my foot to the ground caused shooting pains. Agony in less than a full footstep.

With the assistance of Charif, I was dropped at the Tungwah Hospital. I had to hop, and abandon my broken sweeping brush crutches on the way to the elevator. I went down to the humid and dark vestibule of floor -1 and awaited Charif to pull up by the glass door. The journey to hospital was less than 5 minutes, by car. I can see the hospital emergency door from my bedroom window. It seemed too far. Thankfully I arrived. Charif went because my friend Maria and her boyfriend offered to come and translate.

Prior to their arrival, a kind security man placed me in a wheelchair. A porter smacked my foot against the reception desk having not noticed my outstretched foot. Further pain. Quite unwelcome. Before my translation arrived, I was dropped at an emergency room consultation room to see a doctor. And five nurses. A good chance for them to practice their English and for myself to use my crap Chinese.

On registering, again, at the hospital, I eventually seen a doctor. I stressed the pain and shown the swelling in my foot. They kept checking my ankle. I insisted it was entirely in my foot. A CT-scan and X-ray was arranged. Off I went. Eventually. Some instructions had been lost. Maria and her boyfriend arrived with a guy called Peter. The graduate of Nottingham University works with Maria and her boyfriend occasionally. He’s a genuinely nice chap. Eventually we worked out that we hadn’t been sent to the right place to wait. So, up next the hospital wheelchair sped towards to the X-ray and CT scan, department of radiology.

Whoops.

An hour later, following my first meal that day (I’d ate nothing since lunchtime on Sunday), the wheelchair and its posse went up to floor 8, met Dr Li (李医生) who was a colossal man. His hands the size of shovels and his huge frame made him appear like a Chinese Jack Reacher. The writer Lee Child may want to open his audience with this guy. Despite his towering physique and broad shoulders, the good doctor was gentle and kind. He consulted the scans and sent me for further scans to the toes. The CT scans and X-rays had focused on my ankle. Off we trotted, and rolled.

By 10pm, we had the necessary scans and Dr Li then suggested two options of recovery. That followed a rather comedic look at how my injury had happened. The verdict translated as something like a 5th metatarsal stress fracture with a Jones/Tubes Avulsion twisting injury. The X-ray clearly showing a fractured. I guessed it to be a complete fracture. No evidence of displacement. Possible line indicates some connection remaining. Partial fracture possible. Certainly not compound or showing openness. Minor displacement but not out of line. No sign of a simple stress crack. The doctor suggested surgery or plaster and immobilisation. The latter option requires rest for 4-6 weeks. The former, depends on my body’s recovery after 3 weeks and involves bits of metal implants.

I opted for the plaster cast and Doctor Li agreed. He said that my age is just about young enough to recover that way. With lots of rest. I should use crutches and rest well for the first week. After one week I must return for a check-up. After two, three, four, five and six weeks, I must do the same. Tick tock. Time and healing.

So, why am I writing all this? To understand myself. To help my mind. This has a serious effect on my physical and mental health. My work life at TWIS (Tungwah Wenzel International School) is in its final chapter. That final chapter shall entirely be on crutches. I’m gutted, frustrated and upset at this finale. I can’t even wear trousers. They won’t go over the cast. I wanted to do my absolute best to leave doors open and gain a favourable recommendation letter. All that feels in danger. Evaporated like my hope.

There are far worse places to be in life. Even throughout this, I pass my best wishes to me Mam who is bravely going through breast cancer treatment and ensuring no recurrence from the removed tissue. I hope me Mam pulls through and retains that strength she’s always had. I barely have a patch of her self belief and courage, so she always gives me hope. And myself sister Astrid, at the Priory, hopefully recovering fast and gaining balance of mind. I miss them so much, at the best of times, but now, I wish I was embracing my whole tribe. These challenges, help us to find our feet and put our best foot forward. No matter how hard it may seem.

Hillsborough: Y.N.W.A.

Recent news, football games and the behaviour of a minority of fans have made me reflect how Liverpool fans are often painted in a bad light, for something shameful that happened amongst their illustrious history.

Maxine Peake is a dazzling actress. She first came to my attention through Mancunian drama Shameless playing the striking Veronica. Some years later her acting has brought me to tears. The gritty subject is the Hillsborough football disaster. Much like that of the Bradford City fire and disaster (11th May 1985), both events cost lives. Both were preventable. Both were injustices and both shameful blights on British and human history.

“the injustice of the denigration of the deceased” – David Cameron, Prime Minister, parliamentary address, 12/9/12

Hillsborough was much more than that though. Liverpool F.C.’s fans were shamefully and disgracefully vilified by national media outlets, the local and national government, the Police and other official bodies. This came but a few years after the atrocities at the Heysel stadium disaster, again blamed on Liverpool fans. That disaster in May 1985 led to many arrests and a London Fire Brigade report being ignored as evidence. The crush barriers and reinforced walls were unsuitable for crowds. The behaviour of some fans, just like Saint-Etienne and Manchester Utd. in 1977 could have happened at any club, anywhere. UEFA and a poor venue choice, the clubs and their inability to direct fans traveling to away ties, and the venue’s poor policing contributed to a disgraceful disaster. Heysel should have been the end point for football stadium deaths. It seemed that more time was spent on banning clubs than investigations and litigation.

“A complete and utter disgrace” – Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester

So, England, the F.A. Cup and another semi-final at Hillsborough in Sheffield. Wednesday’s ground had been chosen for a third F.A. Cup semi-final in as many years. The 15th of April 1989 went down in history for all the wrong reasons. Something that victims of the Grenfall Tower fire may relate to in present day England. 96 fans did not return that day. Around 766 injured fans were reported. Many living souls became haunted and tortured in their own minds. Many years later, in July 2021, a 97th fan passed away from brain damage and related complications. They were only going to a football game!

ITV’s production Anne follows one campaigner, the late Anne Williams. It charts the effect of that day, the aftermath of the stadium disaster, the fate of her lost son Kevin Williams and the subsequent fight for justice. Threaded into the story are the Steffan Popper inquest (1989/91); The Taylor Report (1990); Hillsborough Independent Panel (2012); but falls shy of the Sir John Golding inquest (2014/16) because sadly Anne Williams died of cancer in April 2013, just days after bravely attending a memorial ceremony at Liverpool F.C.’ Anfield.

The four part miniseries focuses on the intense aftermath and shown in January 2022. It was and should be seen by a wider football audience. Just as Bradford City and Lincoln City met in 1989 to raise money for the Hillsborough Disaster fund, and most fans observe minutes of silence and memorials around the country, there are much more important matters to hand. As Factory Records and other musical ties up in northern England came together, London’s parliament conspired and led to a cover-up of the events at Hillsborough. Later the mask was ripped away. Terms such as unlawful killing, manslaughter by gross negligence and failure of duty of care, an unfit stadium, perversion of the course of justice and misconduct in public office, were simply put an understatement for the torture of victims and their families.

Demonisation of football fans at a high time of hooliganism, fenced fronts, railings and pens are no excuse for inaction and lies started at the time of a human catastrophe. Chief Superintendent in his duty of leadership, failed to lead. He failed to rescue. His force, words and actions began the big lie. These injustices have been well documented and shared.

“Open the gates.” – Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, 2.52pm, 15/4/1989.

Liverpool F.C.’s fans have suffered more than most. The epic and continued failure of the British legal system to bring justice and convict those accountable is beyond laughable. 33 years have passed. Hounded by South Yorkshire Police, The Sun newspaper, and dragged through the courtrooms and other places of supposed justice, there is till now outcome. Stadium constructors Eastwards, Sheffield Wednesday F.C. and the local Sheffield council have suffered lightly. They may have lost their names but they didn’t lose family or suffer at the hands of those supposedly there to protect them. Trauma on top of wounds, placed over lacerations with contusions and lesions of abrasion. It has been a completely inhumane process. Anne, gives just a fraction of that taste and it’s a bitter one. One that could have happened to any club or fans, at any older ground in England.

“Her relentless pursuit of justice for her son personified the unyielding bond of a mother’s love for her child.” – Steve Rotheram, MP

Apologies for the long post. Not sure if this article was a piss take or serious:

Opinion: This is why Liverpool fans boo the national anthem and this is what would stop it (The Independent)

The contrast between Boris Johnson and Jurgen Klopp could not be starker. The Liverpool manager would make a great statesman. He is honest, takes responsibility, cares about people in worse situations than himself and does his best to contribute to a wider society.

The prime minister is the polar opposite.

When Klopp talks politics, it makes sense. When Johnson pontificates about football, it’s more of the same bluster that has characterised his entire career. On Monday, according to certain sections of the media, Johnson “slapped down” Klopp because the 54-year-old suggested it might be worth at least exploring the reasons why Liverpool fans booed the national anthem and the Queen’s grandson before the FA Cup final on Saturday. A spokesman said the prime minister disagreed with Klopp and called the behaviour of the supporters a “great shame”. It takes some fairly deranged spin to see this as a slap-down. Klopp probably hasn’t even noticed that he’s supposed to have been put in his place.

Like Klopp and Johnson, those who booed the anthem and those who were angered by the jeering are unlikely to find common ground. Will there ever be a time when Liverpool supporters embrace the patriotic experience?

The prime minister’s spokesman talked about shame, an emotion Johnson knows little about. He hasn’t any. Or empathy. The Spectator’s attack on Merseyside when under the 57-year-old’s editorship in 2004 is well known. The editorial column said that the people of Liverpool “see themselves whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status; yet at the same time they wallow in it”. The article went on to repeat lies about Hillsborough.

What is less well known is Johnson’s supposed mea culpa in the next edition of The Spectator. Headlined “What I should say sorry for”, the piece was written from “a cold, damp three-star hotel in Liverpool” after the old Etonian was ordered to travel north to apologise by Michael Howard, who was then the leader of the Conservative Party (and a Liverpool fan, much to the embarrassment of many Kopites).

“Operation Scouse-grovel”, as the author describes it, is as obscene as the previous editorial. Johnson doubled down. He wrote: “Whatever its mistakes of facts and taste, for which I am sorry, last week’s leading article made a good point: about bogus sentiment, self-pity, risk, and our refusal to see that we may sometimes be the authors of our misfortunes.”

Almost every week Liverpool supporters hear the echo of the words of the man who holds the highest political office in the UK. “You killed your own fans.” “Always the victims.” “The Sun was right, you’re murderers.”

Is there a more “bogus sentiment” than becoming emotional about a national anthem? The royal family are the cornerstone of the class system. The idolisation of a dynastic institution that is completely distanced from ordinary people is bewildering for a large proportion of Liverpool supporters, especially those who have a close-up view of the growing poverty in the UK. The Fans Supporting Foodbanks initiative was founded outside Goodison Park and Anfield – it often gets overlooked that Evertonians are on the receiving end of anti-Scouse invective, too. Supporters of club after club come to Merseyside and rejoice in songs that mock poverty. Some Chelsea fans were chanting about hunger on Saturday. The Liverpool end booed institutional, inherited privilege. Guess which one the nation was outraged by? That was two days before the governor of the Bank of England warned of “apocalyptic” rises in food prices.

Hunger is at the centre of the historic perception of the people of Liverpool. The port, once known as “Torytown” and “the second city of the empire”, first fell out of step with the rest of England after the Potato Famine in the 1840s. Millions of starving Irish landed on the banks of the Mersey. Many stayed. The “othering” of Liverpool stretches back to the mid-19th century.

What does this have to do with football? A lot. The word “Scouse” is an insult that was reappropriated by those it was used against. In the poorest areas of Liverpool a century ago, the malnourished residents – who were the children of immigrants and who mainly identified as Irish – relied on soup kitchens and cheap street vendors for food. What they were served was Scouse, a watery stew. Scouser was a pejorative term used to mock the poorest. When “Feed the Scousers”, echoes around stadiums it is expressing a deep folk memory that is imbued with anti-migrant and anti-Irish sentiment. Those chanting it may not be conscious of the history, but the driving forces for their behaviour can be traced back down many decades. Nowhere else is poverty sneered at in this way by outsiders. No one sings “Feed the Geordies” or “Feed the Mancs” even though other places have much more deprived areas. No wonder citizens of Liverpool are triggered by the chants.

In these circumstances, it is hard to make a case for Scousers to do anything more than boo the national anthem. And then we get to Hillsborough. Britain should still be in a state of uproar about the 1989 disaster that led to the deaths of 97 people. Senior policemen and high-level politicians lied about what happened, covered up the mistakes of officials and threw the blame at innocent supporters. The national press, by and large, amplified the establishment narrative or failed to provide adequate scrutiny of the authorities. A substantial percentage of the British public still will not accept the findings of the longest, most exhaustive inquests in the country’s history. To cap it all, the policemen responsible for the mass death and the cover-up were acquitted of any wrongdoing – even after some of those individuals admitted their culpability in legal settings. Now the biggest miscarriage of justice in the nation’s history is being reduced to football banter. What a country. Play that anthem again so we can all join in.

The FA got off lightly, too. The ruling body held a semi-final at a ground that did not have a safety certificate. Tottenham Hotspur fans had a near miss eight years earlier on the same Leppings Lane terraces where the carnage occurred in 1989. For those whining that Abide With Me was disrupted, the FA did nothing to abide with the bereaved and survivors of an avoidable catastrophe at one of their showpiece games.

The events of the FA Cup semifinals weekend, this season, illustrated just how toxic the attitudes towards Hillsborough have become. Family members of the dead were abused heavily on social media by trolls who used Saturday’s events as an excuse to harass those who have fought, in vain, for justice. And we don’t want to hear any complaints about Scousers not showing respect. The booing is a cry for justice, for equality, a howl against hunger and poverty. It is depressing that so many in Britain cannot hear that. Klopp heard it. Johnson never will.

You’ll never walk alone.

Streetcat.

I feel like a roof won’t cover me.

I can’t busk under a tree.

Jobs will pass by me.

Nothing here, nothing to see.

The big issue is deep inside of me.

Confidence is my absent key.

I can’t earn this, unreachable fee.

Teaching, reaching and beseeching thee.

Fetch no path my way to feel glee.

Absence and opportunities aren’t free.

The other side: as a rotten wasted bee.

Online reflection.

A recent e-mail at Tungwah Wenzel International School, invited teachers to reflect about their online teaching experience. Students were also invited to complete a similar survey. Reflection about enforced online teaching is important. The pros and cons of how effective classes were, when following government instructions, need discussion.

Being confined to a garden compound indoors and working remotely is like asking a fish to walk on land. Some species can do this, but they are rare, highly evolved creatures…

Online learning requires additional training to tailor classes in order to properly provide highly informative means and structures to students. Lost routines and structures make at seat teaching feel highly immobile and unfamiliar.

The duration of online classes were prone to technical issues and excessive screen-time for both teacher and student. One size does not fit all. Several students had access to some platforms but not others. Speed of internet varied.

Online learning requires students to focus and have self-discipline. As we know some students can work independently, and some have never learned this skill under supervision by adults or teachers. Fidgety students may have an extra abundance of materials to provide distraction. I found myself handling things in and around my desk. It’s damn hard to focus on a black mirror, without an episode of Ozark playing.

The comfort of home can be a huge distraction. Some MYP students haven’t gained the maturity to stop showing off, change their settings or abuse the systems. The convenience of location can be distracting. It can be too comforting and the draw for a student to reach for their pillow or slope away on the sofa can be all too tempting. And, that’s before fart noises. Or rude words. Lego too.

Thin walls between a neighbour’s house and my own allowed excessive drilling sounds. Thankfully, few sounds came from outside but the air conditioner sounded like an aircraft engine, in a relatively quiet room. Factoring in Panda the dog, occasionally invasive and ever seeking of attention proved tough. However, walking Panda at lunch time was a pleasant break.

Worry about other external factors, lockdowns, life, extra time on screens planning, possible and actual enclosure of self etc. also proved to fill my mind. Remaining entirely dedicated to teaching online, was not easy.

Few students requested one to one support, and those who e-mailed queries refused to answer the calls I returned. Also, my eyes needed a substantial eye break. So, trying to maintain contact was tough. Student engagement and involvement was sub-standard. Even, the most positive classroom students looked bored, dejected and worn out.

Miss Ann advised me to keep my books handy long before this online teaching spell. I’d carried them home daily and ensured my wireless-fidelity connection was ready. I’d looked at sites such as Padlet and other known online teaching platforms, used by online teachers. Few stood out, but I tried to vary tasks to incorporate tools used by successful online teachers.

Being able to walk the dog at lunch and having more choice of salads proved benefits of online teaching. Let’s hope this is the last online experience. Nothing can be a substitute for in situ schooling or reality as a learning experience.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 Nucleic Acid Tests to date (update).

By December 26th 2021, I’d experienced 35 NAT Covid-19 tests. For the remainder of that month,

January Nucleic Acid Tests: 1

February Nucleic Acid Tests: 3

March NATs: 9

April NATs: 15

It’s getting tedious… May Day, or Labour Day in China. 1 test already.

64 tests (to date). More to follow.

B.D.

I’m going to explode. There’s a simmering rage. It’s rising up and ever closer to spilling up and out.

The mountain of hills and volume of small plenty is what this is all about.

I sense walls and fences stand only to be broken. Each panel a temptation to clout.

Leaning forward, I imagine a shattered wall, crumbling and littered with flaking grout.

From the wall windows litter with broken glass, alongside a sagging spout.

I look to the sky and beg, “Why? Why? Why?”. Each word grows from whisper to shout.

I stumble. I fall. No one hears my call. I snigger. I grip the trigger. Should I squeeze?

Yes, yes, God please. Do it. Do it. End it. End it all. Time to say goodbye. Time to go.

But, I take a deep breath. I focus my tired eyes. The black dogs snap at my feet. I throw them a bone.

You are not alone. You are not in company. You are not your own. You are not the company.

Twitches replace stitches. I fiddle less. I flick the pages. Reading makes me feel better.

The books are my escape. The escape is what I need. The last legs. The leg. The finale.

The fear never departs. The delay must stay. Keep it all at arm’s length. Control it.

Never ever give in. The black dogs can’t win. Snap all they want. Never give in.

Hard rain.

Trapped, twisted and descending; landing seemed so far; never ending. Flushed from on high; plummeting from cold beginnings to the warm decks below.

When it rains, it pours. The heavy hard rain begins as a gentle drop here. And a small drop there. Booming on the surface. Shattering outwards. Explosive force on almost microscopic scale. The end of the flow.

Drifting by influence; winds pull and push; tugging at the deluge and its wild rush; and unending battle of elemental force; tectonics in the sky; ending the moment of dry. Neither fast nor slow.

What started out condensed; freezing and crushed together; slid out and fell; spiraling like a dog fight; drifting and shifting; catching every light; warmer now. Hot snow?

The mind’s eye. Cry. Cry. Cry. Bellow out the yell. Roar in pain. Not now. another again. Victor slain. End of the game. Ended flow.

Review: The Big Book…

The Big Book of Literacy Tasks by Nancy Akhaven is targeted for grades K-8. As per the cover, it aims to give teachers 75 activities that are balanced and suitable for students to complete. This reference book is engagingly colourful, well illustrated and concise. It provides instructional plans that can be tailored or differentiated to the need of a teacher.

The book helps teachers to hand off the tasks to the student. It moves very much from, “I” to “You”. The book is well-structured to allow students to be challenged, and reduce teachers from dilly-dallying, which in an era of electronic media and distraction, helps a teacher try to engage a student deeper.

The author Nancy Akhavan, an assistant professor of Educational Leadership draws on her experience and dedication to professional development research to illuminate daily planning. The tasks can be divided into useful everyday skills, weekly practices and a few slightly more complex challenges. They are each applicable to reading circles, workshops or other literacy tasks. The book is loaded with tips, things to look out for and insights to allow English acquisition learners to progress into fully-fledged literacy learners. The author delivers far more than a lengthy book title.

This book offers Guru-like support, with practical advice and encouraging ideas that are easy to drop into the classroom. In a world often flooded by educational text resource, the bright cover with a climbing wall, Akhaven’s guide acted like a beacon for inspiration this week – and shall continue to be picked at until all is imparted and transferred appropriately.

The Big Book of Literacy Tasks by Nancy Akhaven has been published by California’s Corwin Literacy, a sample can be found online here.

An interview with my Mum: I

As part of our language and literature class at Tungwah Wenzel International School, students have been assigned a piece of holiday homework. Students are investigating and exploring the question: What makes a life worth writing about? 

The task is to interview someone who is accessible. The students have prepared for their interview in advance, and did so by brainstorming possible question ideas. Their mind map was created on software called Padlet, owing to the fact that 15 days of online teaching has made gathering face-to-face near impossible. The students must select a good subject (person) to interview. In this case, I suggested my Mum. As such, I volunteered to do the task myself. Great questions have potential to make good biographies, so many open-ended questions will be needed. On top of the answers, we’ll need to probe further to squeeze out the information. This first-hand information will help us all to understand the purpose of biography and bring a real-world taste to the subject content. Students have also explored biographies to generate their own questions.

This isn’t the interview. These are the possible questions. I won’t be asking about how many children my Mum has, how many siblings, or any other question to which I already know the answer. That’d be a waste of time. I can write about that in my own introduction.

So, that’s a selection of questions. What now? Oh, to conduct the interview… it’s 1:19pm in China now, so that’s 06:19am in Manchester. Wake up call?

Weepy.

For handkerchief opportunities, many of us have visited Forrest Gump and Jenny. The main character’s love life, marriage and his mother. The ending. In 1994, Winston Groom’s novel became movie legend filmed by director Robert Lee Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks. Hanks, himself, also starred in Turner and Hooch, which again had me blubbering like a baby. When Tom Hanks cries, we all cry. I hope to see the Indian remake of Forrest Gump soon: Laal Singh Chaddha. Although, Turner and Hooch has kind of seen many remakes…

“The young doe, Marena, said, “In this very hour many of us are going to die. Perhaps I shall be one of them.” – Felix Salten, Bambi

World War II was brutal. As was World War I. All wars, for that matter, are grim. Tinged with sadness and heartbreak. Souls are destroyed. Isao Takahata released Grave of the Fireflies [火垂るの墓], set to the backdrop of a totaled urban Japanese port of Kobe. This was no ordinary cartoon. Like Watership Down, here is a movie truly worthy of the title tearjerker. It is horrific and doesn’t pull any punches. The characters are young and dynamic. Let the movie draw your heart in. The movie is wide open to multiple and conflicting interpretations, much matching the confusing array of themes.

The Angel of Nanjing focuses on the famous Yangtze river and a bridge (the Nánjīng Chángjiāng Dàqiáo 南京长江大桥) in the city of Nánjīng. The protagonist Chen Si (陈思) has discouraged hundreds of people from topping themselves. The fall downwards is about 24 metres (79′) into lethally fast-flowing waters. The Chinese newspaper People’s Daily once reported that this bridge has more suicides than the famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The movie is a thump to the heart.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial that little extra terrestrial blob of joy left Elliot behind. The movie was almost entirely shot from a kid’s perspective. It had a touching poster with an alien digit connecting to a boy’s finger. Little whiny Drew Barrymore reminded me of my screaming sister Astrid. Divorced mum? Themes we could relate to too. Released shortly after I was conceived in 1982, it would be a few years before I watched and understood this story. Yet, every time since the music of John Williams and the direction of Steven Allan Spielberg has got me over and over again. Henry Thomas, the main character, was someone all viewers should have made a connection with, and probably will never ever shake that iconic movie away.

“You are who you choose to be.” – Ted Hughes, The Iron Man

The Iron Man, as a book, by Ted Hughes was lovely and warming. As a movie, it was renamed to The Iron Giant, its big presence shook the internal emotions left, right and centre. How graphic animation can leave a viewer enraged, baffled and devastated is beyond me! The director Brad Bird and his production team conjure up magic in this animation classic.

Thomas J. Sennett: “I’m gonna drive us to Liverpool.”
Shelly DeVoto: “Liverpool?”
Vada Sultenfuss: “Big Ringo fan.” – My Girl, the movie

Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) and Thomas J. (played by the middle-name monster Macaulay Macaulay Culkin Culkin – yes he apparently changed his name this way) light up My Girl with an earthly romance of youngsters. One of my favourite comedian-musican-actors Dan Aykroyd is a big name in the movie, as was Jamie Lee Curtis but neither are allowed time to upstage the duo of young starlets. They pull at your heartstrings from the get-go.

“I don’t need easy, I just need possible.” – Soul Surfer dialogue

Brief Encounter and Soul Surfer are two very different movies. The former is classic cinema noir. The latter deserves to be remembered and revered for a long time. If Jaws struck fear into you getting back into the water, then imagine being Bethany Hamilton who lost an arm to a shark attack. The movie Soul Surfer dips into her strength and determination to ride the waves again. She was 13 years of age when the shark caused her to lose an arm. Her quest to conquer the waves again sees her meet victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. This heart-warming tale explains why she wouldn’t change her outcome of life, if given the choice. It is a slab of inspiring cinema based on Hamilton’s book, Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. Released in 1945, a decade after a play by Noël Coward, Brief Encounter, has become one of Britain’s greatest movies of all time. I first heard of it whilst changing trains at Carnforth railway station in Lancashire. The music, the story and the pace really resonate beautifully when placed with the intense black and white cinematography. Like many great stage play adaptations, this movie is full of clipped words and energy. The comparison to Soul Surfer is far apart, but both leave you clinging for Kleenex. As someone who has had my own brief encounters, and lost a little piece of heart each time, there’s a real sadness and pity to this yarn.

“The future was uncertain, absolutely, and there were many hurdles, twists, and turns to come, but as long as I kept moving forward, one foot in front of the other, the voices of fear and shame, the messages from those who wanted me to believe that I wasn’t good enough, would be stilled.” – Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith, when not busy slapping comedian Chris Rock, can be found in countless movies. One such heartfelt piece is his recent Oscar-winning role in King Richard. But, before he played the father of the famous Williams sisters, try The Pursuit of Happyness. Son of Will and Jada Koren Pinkett Smith, Jaden stars alongside his father striving to keep tears and depression at bay. The film is a modern tale that is all too familiar to many people seeking work in the many job markets defunct of opportunity. Will he overcome adversity? Perhaps the memoir (of the same name) by Chris Gardner and Quincy Troupe might be a starting point.

Screen time.

How do.

Twenty classes a week of forty minutes each time. That’s 1600 minutes of screen time. A further week of online teaching to follow. That’ll be another 13 and a third in hours. That’s 40 hours looking into a camera before adding marking time, writing comments, preparation time and other activities needed to perform online classes. There are 360 available hours across 15 working days. Upto 120 of them should accommodate sleep (based on 8 hours sleep). At least 2 hours a day should be spent on reading, writing by hand and keeping the brain sharp.

The above discounts relaxing watching a TV series to switch off a little. That further screen time is an optional necessity. Hobbies and pass times make us who we are. A further 15-30 hours slips like a victim of Ozark onto the screen time tally. The addictive nature of the American drama-thriller Ozark drives further screen time. Marty Byrde’s predicament and the twists in the tale place that screen time closer to the full 30 hours. You need to know how series one concludes. Six and two thirds of an hour fills that first week of our daily post-online teaching.

Putting aside the Mexican drug cartels for walking Panda the dog takes up at least two hours a day. His little black and white legs need the pavement pounding. That’s a minimum of 30 hours gone. Happily gone, in fresh Dongguan air and winds with rain. Songshan Lake town’s reopening greeted our walking routes well. The township has treelined paths and gardens with roots. a the North-eastern end of Dalingshan does not quite match it. This town has its own long-lasting industrial revolution.

120 hours of sleep. 40 hours online. 30 hours dog walking. 30 hours of TV. 30 hours of reading, writing and puzzles. 360 hours over 15 working days. Too much screen time. My eyes have suffered. Coupled with the need for air conditioning at times, the dehumidifier for external 98% air humidity sweeping through the doors and now I’m feeling an opticians maybe a good shout. Apparently, after enquiry, I was told I must book one via my phone. Screen time.

Tonight is Earth Hour between 8.30pm and 9.30pm. It shouldn’t be difficult to switch all devices off. The desire to disconnect has been rampant this last two weeks. I suspect the next week shall be no different. The tomb-sweeping festival follows the week after this. Qīngmíng Jié (清明节) means ‘pure bright festival’ and this brightness or clearness celebrates ancestors. Around March and April, spring arrives bringing warm air, clearer skies and a more jovial atmosphere. It gets warmer, although in South China’s Guangdong it could be argued that the climate here hasn’t really been cool for some time, despite occasional cool snaps.

Qingming festival has a Cold Food Day, the day before the festival. No fire or heat should be used. Think of it as an old-fashioned Earth Hour dating back to around 1046-221BC. The Zhou Dynasty’s festival has origins in celebrating emperors and the wealthy. Even today some celebrations are extremely extraordinarily extravagant. Most people simply upkeep and repair tombs. They use their big brushes go sweep away the many fallen leaves of spring in Guangdong. Food, wine and incense are placed accordingly. Joss paper is set alight and a few thousand plastic plants are distributed regionally. Families often go on spring outings too. Although in Dongguan, following a smattering of COVID-19 cases, gatherings and tomb visits are banned this year. Bloody coronaviruses. I’m sure Dongguan did the same last year and the year before. Bloody COVID-19.

Screen time has also given me chance to communicate with home. It’s good to see Mum up and about on her road to recovery, accompanied by Paul and their adventures of pottery and gardens. Tomorrow is Mothering Sunday (or Mother’s Day) in the U.K. Every day should be Mother’s Day. Happy Mum’s Day. I would send flowers but that means more screen time ordering them online.

That’s that for now. Tally ho. Toodle pip.

“Freedom!” – Really?

“Freedom!!!!”, shouted William Wallace as they drew the axe over his head. But what exactly is freedom, and how do we express it? Are freedom of speech and freedom of speech two different matters? What should we class as hate speech? How fine a line is the difference between abusive expression and creativity? How should be express ourselves to each other? Did Lenin come down the chimney at Christmas, for Marxists?

The 21st century is a time of flux for humankind. Was this any different for previous generations? Perhaps not. Civilisations have come and gone. Manners have been taught and unlearned. Nations have grown together and drifted apart. Wars have torn the fabric of perceived time and conscience into pieces, only for peaces and treaties to reaffirm calmness. Humankind’s communities and their individual personal breadth of histories have delivered humanity to a lens unique in time. Those discoveries, explorations, migrations and have led to a wider acceptance of expression. Gone are the chains of slavery, mostly.

The relationship to others through interconnectedness of individuals and civilisations offers both a global and local perspective of humanity’s varied interpretation of freedom of expression. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as ‘the power or right to express one’s opinions without censorship, restraint, or legal penalty.’

Freedom differs from place to place. As does expression. The homes and journeys an artist in Beijing, Tehran or Moscow may differ to that of an artist in Berlin, Paris or Manchester. Many so-called free countries such as U.S.A. will argue freedom is quashed in China, Iran, or Russia. Censorship to protect ideals, culture and people or nations is not a new thing. The word treason finds its origins in Latin. The Latin equivalent is traditio, from tradere (a verb meaning ‘to hand over’ or ‘betray’). Every empire or organised culture, since the dawn of mankind living in groups, has perhaps experienced the handing over of something to a rival tribe or clan. This was not a word invented for the two 20th century World Wars.

Democracy allows freedom of expression to grow and develop. Society can flourish based on access of information and hold those in power to account. From Emmeline Pankhurst and her suffragette movements to the formation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19) laws, rules and legal systems have evolved to support voices. The systems and cultures surrounding criticism and opinion needs to be an environment supportive to a voice. There must be the right to assemble, gather and share. Libraries and print go hand in hand with allowing debate and discussion. Some western and civil countries, like Australia and the U.K., threaten the rights of protest and questioning. To remove the ability to stand together against something a person truly believes in, is not seen as democratic, yet democratic countries are doing just that. Football manager Sir Alex Ferguson frequently banned journalists who asked questions relating to footballer Ryan Giggs concerning a court injunction and his reported affairs. That was his right, in a democratic society. But, was that withheld information something that people should have had the right to talk and express opinions upon?

In 1982, the Chinese government passed a constitution that guarantees freedom of speech. They also have clauses to cover ‘subversion of state power’ and ‘protection of state secrets’ with imprisonment a tangible possibility for such threats to their state. Many find difficulties with China’s image of their interpretation. But, are democratic nations perfect in their treatment of freedom of expression. The UK has a long-standing tradition of censoring theatre, movies, and the press. Reporters Without Borders, an international independent non-governmental organisation that safeguards freedom of speech, added the UK in the top 24 of global nations. The British Broadcasting Corporation prides itself on being impartial, yet many criticise the corporation for a growing list of bias.

“The free expression of opinion—even of opposition opinion, I do not know if you are prepared yet for that much freedom here.” – H.G. Wells, having met Joseph Stalin in 1934.

Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) is a term that has caused division in France and the wider world. Charlie Hebdo‘s magazine headquarters were attacked by extremists. The mass shooting on January 7th in 2015, by al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch perpetrators killed 12 and injured 11. They objected to the prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah being drawn in cartoon style alongside a phrase translating to ‘all is forgiven’. The ripples of time gave rise to much attention including South Park influencing the ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day‘, and countless pieces of journalism that could raise questions about the safety of journalists.

Liberalism allows movies such as The Whistleblower be filmed, based upon true stories like that of Kathy Bolkovac to be told. The rights of the individual, their liberty and consent allow equality before law. The Nobel Peace Prize is nominated and awarded for such things. The continued debate of Confucianism philosophy keeps Kǒng Fūzǐ (孔子) relevantly rock and roll. Liberal thought continues to influence freedom of expression and finds its niche welcoming for continued proliferation.

“If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” – Obi-Wan Kenobe – Star Wars: A New Hope

Censorship in media can take many forms. It could be substantial or partial. Whether it’s blocking Premier League football from copyright infringement or Tunisia hacking an individual’s Facebook account. Pervasive overseeing of the world wide web may require the use of a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Social media can often be a hotbed of freedom of expression and sharing of materials. The internet is full of information. Disinformation, misinformation (fake news) and malinformation can be used to cause harm or detriment to others. Much like putting your faith into a higher power, the believers, armed with false information may not intend to cause harm, but may muddy the waters and cause it nevertheless. Leaks, harassment and hate speech could follow.

“If you open a window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in.” – Dèng Xiǎo Píng (邓小平), reported by Torfox.

World War One and its poorly organised sequel World War Two saw a huge rise in hate speech between nations. Races of people were referred to as cockroaches. Something that history repeated in Rwanda, the Yugoslavian wars and probably happened long before The Great War was born. Discrimination has been around a long time, and sadly in the 21st century it does not appear to be disappearing anytime soon. Race (or colour) division: Kick it out. National origin is dividing. Age. Gender. Disability and ability. Religion. Sexual orientation. Animosity and disparagement has been targeting individuals and groups for as long as humanity has disagreed. Freedom of speech arms and disarms both sides of the divide. That’s where responsibility could glue together these problems.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” – Voltaire A.K.A. François-Marie Arouet [not just Spider-Man]

Nazi flags belong in museums as an example of what was, what went wrong and an alarm bell for the future. Students should be reflective – and caring enough to want to change the future, to avoid the negative history from repeating itself. Whether students at Tungwah International School (TWIS) or Chapel Street Primary School, or any other educational institution, the environment of learning is important. The right to seek information should be nurtured and encouraged in positive ways. Inquirers work towards being knowledgeable. Ideas can be received and expressed freely in the classroom. Thinkers should become communicators. They should remain principled and open-minded when doing so. Expression can allow balanced students to become risk-taking, by showing different shapes and forms. Likewise those who study should feel privacy keeps them from harm. Their freedom to learn must be a safe haven.

Wall Art, was once titled Peckham Rock. Artist: Banksy.

The street artist Banksy has been awarded great artistic freedom. Negatives of expression his work includes dissent towards his work. Peckham Rock was placed into the British Museum. Like all matters concerning freedom of expression and speech, the world is full of examples and sources to both support and offer facts about the subject. In explaining the subject briefly, a simple conclusion can be drawn. The debate of freedom of expression is open to interpretation and can be supported or argued against through varied means and ways. Research and examples can only stretch do far.

The notion of freedom of speech should be a fundamental global goal, both in democratic or autocratic societies, in order for change. The world is constantly changing and over a great period of time, evolution to adapt to ever-mobile conditions is a necessity. The mind must also progress. The Great Pyramid of Giza forms part of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Ancient World‘, factoring in a small region of the Earth. It completely ignores the far east, the northern areas of Europe, huge sections of Africa and countless other world places. There are examples globally of other wonder-worthy titles, yet these other ancient advances and constructs make a varied and broad set of cultural lists. Politics and idealistic perspectives shape views. Views need to be expressed. Expression is a tool of progress.

“Because it’s there.” – George Mallory, survivor of the Somme, former teacher and mountaineer

The ability to say no, or to filter our Twitter retweet opportunities is something embedded within our personal philosophy. We can each ask questions, perform reasoning and impart information and knowledge whilst taking into account values, the mind and the existence of others. Whether you aspire to be Malala standing up to the Taliban for education equality or Emily Davison jumping before a horse to raise a voice for women’s voices or Pepe Julian Onziema fighting for sexual minorities, freedom of expression will act as a tool for freedom of speech.

For further reading:

Free Speech Debate.com