Ts & Cs

How do! 你好!

The fuse? Candle wax? Tree into tied activities? A trapeze act stuck inside?

Life has so many pieces of small print, tucked under the seams, crammed into the crevices, and dropped into long forgotten pockets. They can be found as hints, messages and moments in our history. Some are beautiful, dutiful or testing. Most can be learned from, such is the way of life. The small print keeps coming though.

Rainham Steel and their hot flanged joists or cold circle angles being advertised at British football grounds has never ever made sense to me. Yet their imagery on football photography for years on end has stood out and crept into my psychology. The sign doesn’t have a phone number or website. Nothing. It stands out. No terms and conditions. Just a bizarre advert targeting football fans (in attendance or otherwise watching via television) who needs industrial standard steel. Rainham Steel have no clear purpose other than to be present through tradition and maintain their historical connections to the beautiful game. Now, where do I place my girders?

2021 started with optimism, way up in Yubeng village. Through a mixture of local hospitality, Oliver, Piotr and I finished a few days wander with a countdown below snow-capped mountains. It really recharged my mental batteries. Again in summer my passage followed the flow of Yunnan, as if swept a long by a calm river. That’s where I grabbed my first and only tattoo on date. No contract was mentioned. It was surprisingly easy to scar myself for exchange of cash.

A few days after leaving Yunnan for New Year and life’s finality was highlighted as City legend Colin Bell passed away. I never saw him play football. I lived off his video footage and stories from friends and family. I filled my heart with his warmth from a very reluctant biography. Somewhere at the back of my mind the joys of trekking clashed with the feeling of the passing of time. This is life. A condition of living is death.

Three cycle crashes in a year and one trip to hospital as a result of the latter crash brought me down to Earth. My first outpatient visit to an emergency room to patch up cuts and check some impact marks to bones happened. My first inpatient visit and night stays at hospital later in the year terrified me but left me thinking I need to improve my fitness and recover stronger than ever. Even if age is a small print, this challenge shouldn’t get the better of me. I’ll kick a ball again and find mountains to trek in 2022.

I now approach 8 years of life in China and Dongguan. That’s a hefty chunk of my thirties. It’s almost a quarter of my life. I’ve spent two Chinese New Year holidays in Dongguan and it looks like 2022 will be the same. This whole COVID-19 thing just drags on and on. Even my third jab (the booster) has left me lagging behind. I’m on analogue when all around me is on digital. Creased by politics, changing attitudes and a global pandemic of fear, working and living in China is increasingly less attractive. A new two year contract hasn’t been signed yet. I love the job but I must think deeply. There are many implications of signing.

The year 2021 has been quite mentally testing. Unable to travel to the U.K. to see family and friends, blighted by world news of fear, panic and that bloody virus, I’ve sought solace in gardening my balcony and giving a new home to Panda the Border Collie. The little fur ball of joy joins me on the sands of Huizhou to welcome 2022 in. Alongside his doggy girlfriend Sasha and her human slaves Miss Keisel and husband Charif (with student Amir and his sister Emma). Talking with them I feel that homesickness is strangling talent. If we want to leave China to visit family and friends, it seems to be mostly a one way ticket. So few who have left have returned and 2021 had more than its fair share of leaving events.

On the subject of leaving, Sergio Aguero, scorer of that 93:20 goal, amongst his many records and City’s all-time greatest scorer, announced he would leave City. Then he left. He was warmly welcomed at new club Barcelona but the optimism evaporated as he was soon forced to hang his boots up due to a health problem. 2021 wasn’t a great year for Sergio but he did bow out with 2020/21’s Premier League title and a Champions League runners up medal. The perfect ending doesn’t always happen. That’s for fairytales.

Great writers like Jim Steinman and Eric Carle passed away, having influenced countless souls on their life journeys. Their words accompanied me at Scholastic’s Guided Reading conference, throughout three I.B. training periods and some Jolly Phonics. At the end of the day, reading has got me to where I am in Tungwah Wenzel International School (T.W.I.S.) and I intend to do my best with the knowledge I want to share. Perhaps, guidance is my destiny. Only 2022 can tell.

Summer witnessed the departure of many international colleagues to pastures new. Not before Mr Oliver and I trekked around Shanxi, Shaanxi, Ningxia and Gansu together. Not a bad way to say, “Bon voyage!” And then Autumn flew by. The October holiday gave me chance for hiking and wandering but nothing amazing happened. 2022 could be that year. If only the bloody virus would fizzle out. The movies Outbreak and Contagion each hand happy endings. Rene Russo and Kate Winslet didn’t do bad. 2021, however, is the poorer cousin of 2020.

Discrimination and prejudice have risen; borders have increased with social segregation and some countries closing to others; lifestyle changes such as Zoom and a plethora of online teaching, working and scamming; and misinformation became the norm. Afghanistan went backwards as if to illustrate a world trend of fans being hit by turds. Glasgow held COP26 and the world climate crisis was averted. I think. It’s been a funny old year. The most important thing though, is to forget the traditional ways and go for something sustainable and new. The old ways led us here. Let’s go new for 2022.

Happy new year and all the best!

May 2002 deliver hope and dreams.

Ta’ra! 再见!

圣诞快乐 A very merry Christmas

Dear all,

From the bottom of my heart, I would like to wish each and every one of you a very merry Christmas. Greetings of this special season that shall live on in and spirit and memories far beyond just one holy day. Christmas is not just a day for the religious, nor just little boys and girls. It’s become a multi faith and cultural key to bringing people together no matter their creed, race or religion. You don’t have to believe in Jesus or God to follow Christmas. It’s about togetherness.

Love thy neighbour. Surely every religious follower, no matter their faith or upbringing can agree on that. We’re on this planet Earth together. As one. So, wishes are sent to you to hope something magnificent and magical can happen in the season of Christmas, and beyond in the New Year. Happy New Year!

May all adults have the same wonderment and cheer that juveniles around the world embrace on this special day and morning. As gifts are unwrapped, joy is felt and some disappointments and worries or loneliness melt in a moving, mixing bowl of emotions, don’t feel hate and don’t look back in anger. Tomorrow, or some day we’ll find a brighter way. Stay positive. Try positive thinking.

‘Tis the season to watch The Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show

We receive so many messages during this heavily commercialised season but try to grip in our heart’s hands, the messages of joy, hope and love. May you and your family find laughter as a medicine for the challenges you’ve overcome and the trials ahead. It can be a season comparable to a snowstorm with murky unclear weather all around you, but the eastern horizon, when you find it, is a place where the sun will rise again. Each brand new, bright tomorrow shines our way.

Let our arms be as warm as the sun from up above. Bring peace home. Feel jolly. Let someone or something give you a sparkling and shimmering warming touch. The season of giving is about living and loving. Find your solace. Express your gratitude. You’re here and now. Who can you thank today? Who can you wish a merry way?

Christmas is a time for families and communities. They may be divided by that bloody virus or other factors. Don’t let it get you don’t. Don’t let the bastards get you down! Share every ounce of your energy with those who deserve it. I’m glad of the football community, the T.W.I.S. (Tungwah Wenzel International School) education community, my pocket of Dongguan and China people, the Shenzhen Blues and City fans over here and the groups I belong to and communities I engage with. Christmas would not be the same without you all. Together we are stronger!

Last Christmas, I spent time in Yunnan, alone, in my own relaxed way. This, virus outbreak permitting, shall not be too extravagant and hopefully be once again at Irene’s Bar in Houjie (where 2 from 8 of the last Christmas dinners have been spent), but next Christmas is the one I’m looking forward to most. Who knows what it can bring?! Hopefully, it’ll be on Mancunian soil.

With each passing Christmas, I recall memories of yesteryear and flood myself with warm moments of those who were part of my life. The absent but present grandparents, the friends watching from the tier above our grounds, the lost silent loud noises of the musicians and stars of our lives. Wherever they exist now, thank out for being amongst us. You’re missed.

I hope that 2021 inspired you to be extra good, thus allowing Santa Claus to find you. I pray you fell asleep dreaming of the chimes of bells as reindeer slipped through the sky overhead. Dream deeply of the love that arrives at this time of year remaining for the year ahead. Imagine that! It doesn’t matter how we say it, just say it with passion: Joyeux Noël, happy holidays and seasons greetings.

Dad, I don’t tell you how much I love you. Thank you for always caring and listening. Thanks for taking me to Nana and Grandad’s to see the delightful decorations on the tree and enjoy trips to Aunty Christine’s for Boxing Day. Mum, you are always there for me, no matter what. I love you unconditionally. Went I think of Santa, I always think of you, sneaking in after midnight (when I was a kid, not now) and delivering jolly gifts and fruit. I miss the pillow case fruit hampers more than the chocolate selection boxes. You always put your heart into it. Aunty Christine, stay strong and beat that bloody virus so we may have Christmas lunch in July, with Uncle Ed, Uncle George and whoever else is available.

To my brothers Asa, Shaun and Paul; for my sisters Astrid and Christina, did I miss anyone? You are all missed. I may not be the closest sibling but I care and I really enjoy hearing from you. In a better world, I wish you could visit here and I there. The pressures and cares of life are with us all throughout the year, and if I can listen or help, you know my number (although the phone bill may be expensive and I believe we’re genetically tight-fisted). You’re also my friends. I miss you all.

For cousins, aunts and uncles, you’re resigned to a few short lines of love. I’d be here all day otherwise and I really need to wee. I could save a draft and come back later. That’s not going to happen. May the light of the festive season shine on you all. My Aunt Carolyn has been messaged me often throughout my time in China and I wish her and Uncle Phil a pleasant holiday. Aunty Irene and cousin Sophie enjoying Spanish skies have served as an inspiration for living overseas. Uncle George, enjoy the festive flutters – and up the Blues! Aunty Susan has been battling X, Y and Z yet remains resilient. That’ll be the teacher in her.

Dan, Vanessa, Damo and Alex, have a very Merry Christmas. Last year’s gifts and this are in a box with the ones from the year before. Santa couldn’t pick them up due to stringent quarantine conditions in the People’s Republic of China. However, in the style of Royal Mail, they’re not forgotten or misplaced, they’re just delayed. Dan is my closest friend and teacher. I’ve learned much from my brightly haired chubby – faced friend. As an Irish proverb says, “May you never forget what is worth remembering or remember what is best forgotten.” That’s my gift to you Dan.

This was my Christmas prayer to all. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Peace and love, John & Panda “WOOF!”

Star Wars: Episode II.5

Ideas for Lucas Film and Disney to explore as a comedy sketch show.

#1 Spoof title reels. Scrolling text locks. Error 404 pops up. Various screen credits from other shows intersperse.

#2 Classic Obi Wan K opens his robe, and pulls out his light saber. He activates it but after a while drops it. He picks it up again making noises to indicate it is too not. Finally he drops it and Darth Vadar comes and chops his head off.

#3 Chewbacca makes his usual sounds whilst looking in a mirror. After 30 seconds he coughs up a fur ball. He speaks looking at the camera, in a strong Aberdonian accent, “At bloody last, that has been getting on my nerves for years.”

#4 The scene is the far moon of Endor. The camera pans in on a house and inside Burn Baby Burn by The Trampps is playing and two ewoks are dancing with glowsticks.

#5 Droids roll down a corridor chasing Jedi knights. Suddenly they stop and act rather crazy. The camera pans to two kids playing with drone remote controls.

And that’s as far as I got before I got bored.

Goodbye

Borderline.

How do! Nihao!

The stare goes through me. I’m being herded. I must counter this. I’m the alpha here. I’m the leader. We’re engaged in a battle that involves chewsticks, training and discipline. Panda the border collie can stare all he wants now, but this high energy ball of fur won’t be allowed the upper hand. And, to make my point clear, I have dropped him at the vets. He’s going to be neutered. No baby Pandas. No mini-stares. As an unwanted pet, rehomed after a month or so in a cage, his journey from a litter of puppied in Germany to Dongguan ends genetically wherever I choose to take him in our family journey. Stares or no stares.

The last week of school was interrupted twice by the standard COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR). I had it last Tuesday and Friday at school, as well as Saturday in my apartment garden complex. It is what it is. One case a week last Tuesday in neighbouring Dàlǎng (大朗) town has risen to 25 today. As my school is in Sōngshānhú technological area and my house is in Dàlǐngshān town, we all fall under the 6 towns of Sōngshānhú district: Liáobù, Shípái, Cháshān and Shílóng.

Throughout the last few days, I’ve wandered into Dalingshan town because Songshan Lake and every surrounding park is closed. I was told (by government notice) that Dalingshan library was closed yet I sat there today reading in their branch of Pacific Coffee. I don’t usually favour chains but they have a strict no smoking policy. I read some more Jack Reacher short stories, watched Dave German’s Genius show on YouTube and did a little school preparation. On the way back, I passed an open mall area. Parks are closed. Indoor gathering spaces are closing. I shouldn’t complain. I never really did lockdown.

This pandemic has spread fast and gets me muttering, “Bloody virus” quite often. Yet, since 14 days of quarantine in April 2020, I’ve personally experienced no lockdown. I’ve been very blooming lucky. Of course, the inconvenience of being unable to travel to my hometown in Blighty does more than counterbalance that fact. Now lockdown sits in the town next door – and threatens life in my Blighty. Britain is blighted by this bloody modern plague. COVID-19 released its Christmas hit as Omicron. 2020 definitely helped my knowledge of the Greek alphabet even if the variants list is a cast of horrors.

Twas the nightmare before Christmas and all around the house, excitement sank away. After watching the climax (or anticlimax) of La casa de papel or Money Heist, I found myself feeling like I did at the end of 007’s latest (but not last) outing, No Time To Die. So, what now? It’s almost like 2021 is a loose bundle of scripts with no apparent direction, as if all order had become tangled in the mop head of Boris Johnson.

Walking around, as a solo foreigner, in a town located in South China is easy. It’s safe. Millions of people in a huge catchment area and just a few dozen virus cases. Low violent crime. Scams, for sure. Air pollution, but improved conditions. Man Utd fans, but they’re everywhere. Poor Ole. The one thing that’s got me muttering words like a 1990’s Essex gangster is simply hurtful: people who dart out of my way, or pull their masks up suddenly or cup their hands over their mouth or say in Chinese that I may have the virus. 2020 and 2021 has seen too many divisions. I remain in China as a token of hope. I believe things shall be better. They may need to break more before they get better. It is what it is. Whilst I breathe, I’ll remain positive. Even when I’m negative. Still, it’s hard to be totally positive when Panda is staring at me. Dogs!

Xiexie ni he zai jian! Thank you kindly and goodbye!

Welcome to Acronym Park…

Hey hey, welcome again!

Can all knowledge be expressed in words and symbols? Well, that’s a question that is highly contestable. Welcome to Acronym ParkInternational Baccalaureate Organization hereon referred to as I.B. Then, there’s A.T.L. (Approaches to Learning)… and a few more. As I started to write this I started with the title Theory of Knowledge (T.O.K.): An I.B. Experience before joining the course. Here we look at knowledge – whether through words or symbols… or other.

Workaholic Rainbow Yuan attended a workshop firing questions at us, giving her respect and building our trust to create an environment of sharing. She was there to support our teaching team (now as students) with any concerns, and to share experiences. She set us a target and the below workshop goal:

This workshop will prepare educators to teach the Theory of Knowledge (ToK) in a manner that supports the IB philosophy. The IB philosophy is encapsulated in the IB mission statement and aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, caring and internationally-minded young people wherein ToK plays a central role.” – from a presentation by Rainbow Yuan

What is T.o.K.? It covers 12 concepts: evidence, certainty, truth, interpretation, power, justification, explanation, objectivity, perspective, culture, values and responsibility. Within the I.B. course of Language & Literature…

Theory of Knowledge – could and should be titled epistemology. It’s a major offshoot of philosophy. The list of famous stars to touch on the study (-ology) in epistḗmē include Aristotle, Ayn Rand, Susan Haack, King James I (after Scotland handed him to England in some sort of union) and R. Sentwali Bakari (Epistemology from an Afrocentric Perspective: Enhancing Black Students’ Consciousness through Afrocentric Way of Knowing). They’ve all contributed to the field and certainly the field has contributed to them (and their legends).

IB education pushes the A.T.L. skills creating resilient lifelong learners with an international outlook that extends learning into living. It blends education into post-education critical thinking. The continuum flows from primary education to middle and diploma programme years into later life. The purpose of TOK (Theory of Knowledge) is to give university preparation and rounded questioning skills. The application of “knowledge as a map” mimics and prepares students long in advance for university final year self-study. It builds a buoyant foundation.

The first learning engagement involved creating a single sentence summary (nota bene, n.b., sibilance set specifically to this scheme) of the I.B. ATL skills: A.T.L. skills crucially develop and recognise skillsets for lifelong learning and empower students to be self-sufficient, whilst remaining community innovative (for tomorrow).

What else do we need for international-mindedness? Challenges, obstacles, examples, exemplars and many other words could be added to the list below:

  • Sustainability; Change
  • Global values; Culture; Multilingualism; Beliefs; Identity;
  • Respect; Local; Privilege; Service
  • Perspective; Worldview; Experiences; Intercultural
  • Engagement; Action; Power; Technology

Identity is important to international-mindedness in that local and regional dialects or languages, or cultures should never be seen as inferior. Equality is key to allow students a level playing field to open dialogue. Without this powers shift and create imbalances. Those imbalances lack sustainability and change is a known constant. Change is inevitable. Respect for positive advancement or reactive reversal and proactive innovation whether in science, politics or English literature. None of this is possible without recognising unique identities of people and culture.

Four connections to the core themes could include: scope; perspectives; methods & tools; & ethics. They tend to be controversial and have multiple views or angles. Fact checkers and those who favour propaganda may have polar angles of their selected lens.

The I.B. T.O.K. course [see an example of a course outline] has an internal assessment by exhibition to show how T.O.K. manifests in the world around us. The course is comprised of knowledge and the knower; optional themes (32 hours combined); and areas of knowledge (50 hours). The course has tutoring time that equates to a century of hours. It then has an externally-audited essay to complete the 100 hour course.

Drawing upon specific examples in our learning experience we actively involved role-play with a strange family dynamic. Our three parents, Mrs Jamie, Mrs Nem and myself as a grandparent or guardian placed questions to a duo of teachers, Ms Hamida and and Mr Jason. Their job was to sell the course of T.O.K. to prospective parents with an explanation using objectivity, perspective, responsibility, culture and values.

A further role play allowed us to choose a question, expand on it, make it better and counter it. From that we presented it, shared it and questioned other teams. The subjects covered history (Cold War origins), Mathematics (big data), science (vaccine ethics), and the arts (Haute couture).

Essay question examples include: Can there be knowledge that is independent of culture? / Does it matter that your personal circumstances influence how seriously your knowledge is taken? The crux of these questions imply that the answers are debatable and contestable. The explanations must be questionable. They can be broad brought down to a shorter interpretation.

Coca-Cola Clear featured in one learning engagement convinced me that now I not only misunderstand knowledge but also have problems understanding what coke is as a drink. Perspective changes of brands, deepfake in ethics and scope, and methods and tools of technology throughout through fake and legitimate advertising create a bucketful of questioning and theory of knowledge.

In conclusion, I feel more aware of how the nature of knowledge can be construed. These can be personal whether remaining the same, adjusted or cast aside. On reflection, T.o.K. is an opportunity to create a project-style learning to prepare students for the university environment and demands. It gives independent learning a scope to flex its hypothetical muscle through query. There are even Walt Whitman poems used as examples to evoke T.O.K.

Who owns knowledge?

The owner of knowledge remains the informed and the adaptive consumer of knowledge who chooses to share this knowledge for a greater good. Or not.
Source.

What makes a good explanation?

Alignment of relevant themes allows conceptual questions to be given satisfactory answer pairings. The question may be loaded with variables like the word ‘good’ or ‘explanation’ or even ‘makes’ – each can be interpreted quite openly. The original message or information should be conveyed and interpreted with clarity. However, bias must be removed to allow an explanation to be heard. Many questions can be loaded with biased emotional and political themes, e.g. “to what extent does the Palestinian wall affect Palestine and Israel in international relations, social and economic ways?” It isn’t a straightforward question to ask, “What makes a good explanation?” The image selected below could equally be shared or discounted as an explanation of the question above. There’s normalisation, legal disagreement, acceptance of fertile land being grabbed by a dominative nation, ghettoisation, and numerous other matters on the negative flank of the wall. On the flip side, walls stop people and things being a threat and also can hold back perceived dangers. They could create labour opportunities and force dialogue about why a wall is there in the first place.

West Bank graffiti mocks Donald Trumps love of walls, Israel Times

How to create a T.o.K. question – the perfect recipe:

Add a spoonful of “to what extent does” or “how far can we”. Stir in a sprig of theory.

Blend with words such as expert, belief, certainty, justification, culture or faith. Alternatively you can add generalisation, authority or bias.

A pinch of evidence, truth, experience can also be dropped in when you whisk in a helping of indigenous knowledge for added flavour.

Cook on gas mark BLOODY HOT°C and ensure reliability is stirred in gently.

Fry imagination in a deep and boil romanticism in a milk pan until sense bubbles lightly.

To reveal the baked realism, we must ask ourselves, “How far can we reason with empathy?” Following that stewing, perception shall become fragrant and surrealism will be present when dipping a spoon into a broth of abstraction.

When beating an egg to allow empathy, question how do you separate apathy without a spatula? The answer of course is to use reason like a knife.

Go to the oven shelves and slide faith and illusion from the originality of memory to create a jelly for the icebox within your refrigerator. Use emotive language to confirm that ethics is piping hot throughout.

When stir-frying natural sciences with human sciences it is important to allow history to swell and trickle into oral memory.

With religious knowledge slice and crack communication as sensations for later, adding to inference into a salad spinner. Use a grater to weed out confirmation bias and allow adequate translation from culture to vested interests.

The concept of cooking is dependent on the use of one’s intuition to use emotion, theory and objectivity to deliver a product of stereotype straight from the passatutto food mill to a casserole pot. It is counter intuitive to chop by pepper pot when global thinking dictates a potato masher can apply adequate subjectivity.

Of course, of the above cooking instructions are subject to fallibility of interpretation, which can be found in the cookbook located by the paradigms of authority. From oral memory, exclaim pleasure at the explanation of rationalism. The steam of verification will rise with introspection. How trustworthy is the classification in intuition when it is laid out on a platter for the visitors of the buffet systems.

Following this, a few questions can be raised, , perhaps in mathematics (or not) such as:
How much do…? Does the…? Who determines…? Is it…? What contributes…?
How important to…? If you feel…? What relation…? Can we…? What is…? How does…? What role…? Should…? Are values…? How certain…? How reliable…? Does the…?

TRUST MY VALIDITY. I may remember more by talking gibberish! I have methods. I have values.


Further stuff to cram in your bonce for explaining the game:

Thank you kindly for your time.

Stuck in a Sigh

It seems never ending. I’m trapped. I’m surrounded by a bubble. Happiness and joy have no way in. I’ve been stuck in this sigh for far too long.

I used to be active and mobile, and all the things I wanted to do, I did. Not now. I look on and see them pass by. I’m stuck in this sigh. A seemingly continual throng.

At times I see the sunrise and the sunsets. I feel it like before but it’s as if I’m outside, looking in. The great rays cast no heat my way. The sigh sits on my tongue.

I smell flowers and sense nothing. I watch butterflies dance and flutter and I sense them crash into the ground with no sound. The sigh begins but fails to fade like an endless song.

I pick up pens and they slide from my hands. The words they could and should write gather no sight. They never exist. This sigh is drowning my wish to cry out louder than King Kong.

How long can this sigh go on? I long for those sigh to fade to black. I wish this hollow pocket in the sigh would leave my tongue. I dance and smile outside but inside the sigh strangles me. It feels all so wrong.

Sigh. Silent sigh.

Life.

Life is for living; it’s for seeing; it’s for feeling; it’s for playing;

it’s for kicking a football in a field; it’s for stumbling on stones and slipping and breaking some bones;

it’s for smiling; it’s for crying; it’s for…

…missing home; it’s for feeling that tear. That tear building in your eye; and that moment you look at something so stunning, you’re overwhelmed with feelings.

You try to find the words, but the words aren’t there. They’re out there. They’re in here. In your head. But. You just can’t pick them up and place them in the right position.

Life. Life is beautiful. It’s pretty, it’s witty, it’s exciting, it’s frightening…

It’s staring into the abyss and not knowing where you’re going.

When you want to go somewhere, you go somewhere. Having a plan is all fair enough. Having no plan: just as good.

Just live the way you want to live.

There’s only one way of life.

And that’s your own.

Poem and tattoo inspired and influenced by The Levellers and their song One Way
The original recording made at Abuji Cuo in Yunnan (29/7/2021)
Details of Abuji Cuo (29/7/2021)

Last Tuesday.

Hindsight is a gift.

It’s less than fifty stairs. I’ve moved up just one floor. My head is pounding. Is a gorilla crushing my temple? I feel my legs heavy and weighted down. Am I walking through deep clay?

There are stars dancing around my eyes. Something is shaking the ground beneath my feet. The view I see is bending and reshaping. It’s coming and going from shapes I know to blurred distortions in colours I know but I can’t place.

I feel I’m going to tumble and fall. I stumble. My knees are folding and refuse to work with me. My feet are rooted to the ground but they feel like they’re sliding away. There’s ice under me and the clouds over head are dancing, except it’s a ceiling. I try to focus but my pulse is in both ears and drumming so loud. I can’t concentrate.

This shortness of breath is terrifying. It is horrid to suddenly feel so debilitated. I’m gasping the fiery air and it is raking my pipes on its way down. It tears shreds of my windpipe and leaves my mouth tasting bitter and vile. The little moisture in my mouth has an acidic taste. I have and choke on a lack of air.

For a moment, I feel my heart speed up. It’s struggling. I try to slow myself down and understand these moments. I panic. I imagine my coffin and I try to say out loud, “Your number’s up.” I feel my eyes heavily close and I nod my head forwards. That brief moment of consciousness loss wakes me sharply. Not now. I breath in with all my might. Not today. I force air inward. After what seems like a lifetime, I stand.

Use the gift of hindsight.

The Parton and Moresby Memorial

Today’s writing is from a guest. My best friend Danny Rudyard had been asked to write a speech for one of many forthcoming memorial services for Remembrance Day. So, here it goes, the passionate words and writing of my best mate (written in the picturesque Copeland Borough village of Parton):

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am Danny Ridyard, I am a Soldier and adopted Partonian. Here’s a little history on me, so you know where I’m coming from. I served 12 years in the British Army starting as a tank driver, aged 17. I progressed through the ranks to command my own Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank. I gained numerous instructor level qualifications and completed 4 combat tours across 2 war zones. I fought in Operation Telic and Op telic 7 in Iraq And Operation Heric 16 and 17 In Afghanistan.

And I have a question for you: What is a War Memorial?

In our case it is an Ornamental gothic Cross, Made of Rubislaw grey granite. So, is it just stone and mortar stacked in a corner of a field that will remain forever England?

Absolutely not. I would argue that like many things in life, a memorial is much more than the sum of its parts. First and foremost, it is a symbol. A symbol of the tremendous sacrifice made by the community that was and honoured by the community that is Parton and Moresby.

It is a focal point for us all to honour those that came before us, those that answered our nations call to stand up to oppression and tyranny. The miners, the green grocers and the educators that became soldiers. Became the defenders of what so many of us now take for granted.

These 51 names you see before you belong to 51 husbands, fathers and sons of Parton and Moresby and like the monument that bears their names they are more than the sum of their parts they are their deeds; they are their courage, and they are rightly remembered by their nation on monuments across the length and breath of the country.

But more personably they are remembered by their successors in the community in which they lived and loved. This monument is not just a monument – it is our monument and it is every ounce the symbol it was built to be 100 years ago.

When you join the British Army you swear an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty The Queen, her heirs and successors. And in principle agree to live by a set of values these are known as ‘The Values and Standards Of The British Army’. They are remembered by the mnemonic ‘CDRILS’. They are:

Courage

Discipline

Respect for Others

Integrity

Loyalty

Selfless Commitment

These soldiers raised from our community that are remembered on our memorial will have sworn identical oaths, albeit to The King, they would have lived and ultimately died by these values and standards. I believe that we, as a community, can lay claim to these values, we have for 100 years, shown the Courage and the Discipline to maintain our monument, demonstrated the Respect for Others and shown the Integrity of our community by attending annual vigils and I know we will strive to continue the Loyalty to our forebears and through the sacrifice of our time and treasure we can show our Selfless Commitment.

By ensuring our monument is maintained and rejuvenated so that the sacrifices of our communities’ past can continue to be honoured by our present community and though our actions, the generations that follow us can be inspired to live up to the same, hard won, values and standards.

Our monument Reads: ‘This stone was erected by the inhabitants of PARTON & MORESBY’ Lets take a moment to digest that. It wasn’t a ‘mandated’ subscription organised by government that raised our memorial up. It was the ‘us’ of Parton and Moresby. It was the literal occupiers of, in some cases, the houses we now call home, they were the men and women that lived in Parton and Moresby, men and women like you and me that no doubt had a personal connection to the men that bore the names listed on our monument and keenly felt their absence. And they showed the strength of their character by handing down this legacy of memorial not for themselves but for those that gave their today for our tomorrow.

For our monument also reads:

They went to their duty; Young, strong & brave; They gave their lives for others; Themselves they could not save. FOR FREEDOM’S CAUSE.

That last bit is wrote in capitols and is surely an indication of how strongly our community holds the virtue of freedom. Thank you.

Lest we forget.

Happy Pokey Holes

你好~ S’mae! Hello! How Do!

Sunday, 7th November 2021

Here we go again. Another evening in a hospital bed. The sixth such sleepover. Unlike the former I’m unattached to monitoring equipment. Just a feed of oxygen. That should make sleeping easier providing the girls don’t accompany me again. Those sucking evil females visited me at night. I struggled to get to sleep. I awoke with itchy ankles, a track mark line worthy if Trainspotting and sores on my knuckles. The only plus was City beat U****d at Old Trafford in the previous evening. Watching that in a hospital bed wasn’t all bad. Bloody mosquitoes.

This evening I became a golf course. The 18th needle went in and out almost as fast as the grade 5 student making a video. Kim (Baozi) snuck in fresh from having her fractured and dislocated hand injuries operated on. At first she spoke with my nurse about this injection and then craftily video recorded the jab. She sent the video to her phone. That’ll teach me for leaving my phone unlocked. To be honest, it was funny and she’s in good spirits following her surgery, and I’m sure her mother will be pleased and proud of her resilience. The nurse performing my injection certainly enjoyed the chit chat of Kim. It’s good to see professionals beam with radiant smiles. That way I don’t have to worry about the needle.

Today has been filled with Guilt. A BBC production filmed around Edinburgh. The short four episode series whizzing by in atmospheric slowness between my 3200 steps to recovery. The short corridor walks and nattering with visitors really lifted my spirits. That and savouring City’s emphatic win at The Theatre of Dreams™ yesterday. John Stones had five times winner of the Ballon d’Or Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Avery in his back pocket.

Miss Spring delivered hearty hope – filled pumpkin soup. Mr D brought his wit with him, gifting a milk tea ice cream and some balloons. I did consider the implicit of the inflation of such things on a cardiovascular ward. Probably not a good idea. Dr Xie and Dr Like will not be happy. Nor the great nursing team. Miss Laura tried to deliver corn. That was rejected and now our friendship faces a review. Mr Jason helped me get mosquito spray. Sunday was 30°C and with the windows open the bloodsuckers found me.

Also Benny from grade 7 delivered fruit and kind support. As did Kim from grade 5, but she’s resident to the hospital whilst undergoing a hand operation. Although after the operation she was typically bubbly and positive. She certainly made Nurse Xiao Yue smile and laugh. Kim wasn’t the best visitor to have as your stomach gets jabbed. I tried to shoo her away but it wasn’t successful. I was an immobile Patch Adams providing entertainment, I guess. A bit like Man Utd’s midfield on Saturday.

Monday, 8th November 2021

What a difference a day makes. There’s a song there. Today it is just 16°C. It feels fresh and crisp. I like it. This morning my blood was removed by arterial stick from my left wrist (radial/ulnar region). It was swift and left an incredibly uncomfortable ache afterwards for ten minutes. Not the best 6am wake up call. After breakfast my pin cushion experience carried on with Nurse Xiao Yue kindly injecting anticoagulant into my tummy. I won’t complain. Kindness by cruelty. No pain, no gain. Dr Xie had visited prior and said Thursday is the target for my release. She told me to go and walk, including some stairs. My oxygen levels are fast approaching pre-condition fitness. The harder we fall, the more cliches we use, and then climb again.

After a night if unsettled dreams, anxiety and discomfort, today’s news has been most welcomed. You can’t keep a Mancunian down.

Hope Street.

再见~ Hwyl Fawr! Goodbye! Ta’ra!

Live, breathe, hope (Draft #1)

Muck in your eyes, surging cries, looking at then falling skies.

Pain straining your train of thought, hate free world sought, avoiding a day of distraught.

Stress says take a rest, your chest days you’re not your best, can’t even get dressed.

Stumbled upstairs, fairs not so fair for your cares, time to go get some stares.

Off we went, full consent, not worried about the rent, feeling less than elegant.

While I live, I breathe, I hope. Those hospital superheroes got me off a bad slope. Those hospital heroes helped me cope. While I live, I breathe, I hope. Up once again looking down life’s telescope. While I live, I breathe, I hope. Those hospital heroes helped me cope.

Knees a quivering, head all shivering, doctors and nurses delivering.

The news was confusing, my listening cruising and choosing, what it’s using, musing and infusing.

Shook by the broken heart, given a start, by way of observation chart.

Rating the flurry of worry, compared to a filling of slurry, bitter taste exiting in no hurry.

Human resources steadying, off for further readying, yet in a place unsteadying.

While I live, I breathe, I hope. No need to duck, dive and mope. While I live, I breathe, I hope. I cling on to the shipping towrope. While I live, I breathe, I hope. Walking together on every tightrope.

After the manic half hours, the room drained of flowers, friends turned away after hours.

Left with my thoughts, my personal dreadnoughts, gunshots casting lots and lots.

The demon at the foot of the bed, fear felt instead, I could have been brown bread.

Jabbed and prodded until sleep, a peak that weeped in heaped seep, knee-deep in thoughts that go deep.

Slipped in and out of shut eye, thoughts indivisible by, unable to oversimplify.

While I live, I breathe, I hope. Reach out for the good bathroom soap. While I live, I breathe, I hope. Thankful for the stethoscope. While I live, I breathe, I hope. Knowing today is just a kaleidoscope.

Subcutaneous Optimism.

How do! Nihao! 你好~

Yesterday evening I received my 11th pokey hole. Subcutaneous injection to the stomach number 6 went smoothly. The spectacled nurse grabbed some belly flab, didn’t hesitate and squirted the Heparin into the belly muscle and fat. This new nurse to me did not mess around. From arrival at the bee’s foot to departure was comparable to that of an F1 car having its wheels changed in a race.

Following breakfast, Doctor (Hu?) and Dean (Wang?) did their rounds. I feel much better today. Optimism has been manufactured well. The Dean and the Doctor said my lung is subtotal (not at full capacity) and the right leg trauma was recent (but I’ve not experienced anything bad). I did mention the calf tear two years ago. He said it’s possible but unlikely, unless there are recent micro tears.

The Dean also suggested I was drunk and fell over but truth be told I’ve only drank at the craft beer festival (and that was small glasses but not too numerous. Maybe 7 glasses). The medical professionals must have seen similar to suggest such a thing, but aside from a few drinks at Katherine and Stephen’s in early October, and the Here! Dongguan craft beer festival, I’ve avoided booze. Just not been my thing lately. I prefer a casual chilled out beer from time to time, like watching the Revolution band at Irene’s Bar before the October holidays.

The Dean mentioned two weeks here and to be patient. Those three to five days became seven and now it could be a fortnight. It is what it is. Just like the 12th pokey which was another belly injection. Yet another nurse arrived. I could see air in the top of the fluid. Must be safe though. It wasn’t the calmest or the most comfortable injection. It is what it is.

All of this on Guy Fawkes Night. It’s enough to make you put a mask on and go crazy. The masks featured in V for Vendetta (graphic novel and movie) are based on Guido Fawkes. He fought for the Spanish too. His group’s plan to reinstall a Catholic monarch didn’t work. The protagonists of the Gunpowder Plot were provisional terrorists of their time. Your man Guy was snitched on by anonymous note and captured. Tortured. Convicted. Sentenced. He didn’t get hung (as duch), he did get drawn and quartered (postmortem) because he conveniently fell off the scaffolding. The agony of losing bits like genitals didn’t happen as that slip or jump gave Guy a merciful end. Nevertheless his body parts were scattered to four corners of the kingdom, both as “prey for the fowls of the air” (Fraser, Antonia (2005) [1996], The Gunpowder Plot, Phoenix, ISBN) and to warn off other treasonous swines.

These days British celebration of failure involves toffee apples, parkin cake, bonfires, effigy burning (like in Lewes), and processions. The Observance of 5th November Act 1605 means to celebrate this failed treason was law but by the 25th March 1859 it was repealed. A fairer world. However, Bonfire Night carried on. I recall many damp autumn nights filled with sickening smoke from too many fireworks and bonfires killing the dreams of the unborn Greta Thurnburg. In later years I tired of the bonfire and funfair commercialism and sought to see the artistic firework displays. Still, they’re special days. It’s just a shame they’re mostly so commercial. It is what it is.

Guy Fawkes 13 April 1570 – 31 January 1606. He was what he was.

Ta’ra! Zai jian! 再见~

The End of Time.

Hello! How do! 你好~

The notion of time need to go. That’s how author Paulo Coelho answered Laura Sheahan for a Beliefnet.com interview. Everything is eternal and there is no time. He said that “time is another of these things that help us go through life”. Professor Stephen Hawking would have been proud. This was the closest I’d got to understanding anything written by the great professor, and it wasn’t through deep science.

Instead the vessel of discovering enlightenment came through a multifaceted faith-crossover text, The Alchemist. Since Qiezi (茄子) gifted me this novel, I’ve had to read it twice. Time on a hospital bed granted me a third visit to the pages. Actually, visiting this book again was like embracing an old friend. A welcome return to the familiar. And like all good friends, there’s always something new to encounter together.

Whoever is the Fatima of my Personal Legend and wherever the pyramids are that I seek, perhaps today in this hospital I’m encountering my own crystal glass shop. The cliche-heavy book is relatable in many senses and my biggest take home is change. We must always adapt and accept that very few things remain constant. If one day you can’t breathe easily, then the next you may improve (or not).

The simplicity of the book, through protagonist Santiago, tells a sweet take about keeping faith and discovering your destiny, despite the challenges set before you. Now Santiago’s visions set him on a journey that teaches more and gives plenty whilst indulging you and I as a reader in the do more, see more, be more mantra of life. If it was a Coldplay song it’d be about opening up your eyes.

The short read delves deep into fate and manifestations with a strong sense that the universe is pushing your path in front of you. Rich in symbolism, folklore and spirituality, Paulo Coelho has made me want to explore every other text he’s written since the Brazilian started publishing in 1974 (in his late twenties). His Portuguese books have spread globally and been aided by translation. Popularity has been earned. Now, which students can I put the Chinese and English editions into their hands? I’ve been gifted these words. It’s time to share this world.

Goodbye. Ta’ra! 再见~

Vimto Underdose.

How do! Hello! 你好~

I’m up to 4 subcutaneous injections and 6 other blood extraction or CT Scan related pricks. That’s ten holes more than my nod started with on Tuesday morning. It’s been a funny old brace of days. The red notice behind me is still red. I’m still on oxygen. I’m checking my urine and stools for blood. The fantastic attentive nursing team are keeping me on my toes whilst keeping me firmly off them. The bed complete with side bars feels like an oversized cot. I haven’t breast fed but the toilet methods are dangerously close to nappies (diapers). Something to catch the manure for salad farming is always necessary.

It seems that today’s ultrasound from feet to neck, missing nowhere, is key. It missed nowhere. Nowhere. Everywhere accountable. Shyness wasn’t an option. Anyway, this full body check aged 39 and week isn’t a bad idea. We all need a check these days. Men’s health. Women’s health. All need it. So much to watch out for. Best to catch everything sooner or we’ll be customers of the Grim Reaper.

The love and care shown by colleagues has been overwhelming. Betty in Human Resources has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Her peer Maggie has called by once too. They’re a lovely team within our TWIS (Tungwah Wenzel International School 东华文泽国际学校). When the first doctor suspected myocardial infections and heart troubles, Betty supported me and calmed me when I worried that’d be the end of my job here. It could still turn that way. Maktub (it is written).

My first day in was not only scary, it was terrifying. I’ve never really been in hospitals. I still cry every time I go to Crumpsall hospital in Manchester. I was born there. My Nana and Granddad passed away there. I hold fear for these unknown wards and uniformed peacemakers. It’s a mixture of illogical and emotional over – thought. They’re so often the keepers of our destiny.

Jamie and Jaime delivered some essentials like positivity and snacks on my first day. The comedy duo born in different lands were well welcomed by a nervous and worrisome patient in bed number 9. We nattered about owt and nowt for a wee while before they left putting wood in t’ hole.

Miss Ann, our esteemed principal and leader, swung by with Miss Nicole and Miss Junny from her office. It was like a Royal visit. I couldn’t get up and bow. A deeply touching visit. They brought a huge basket of fruits and enough water to fill a swimming pool. Very caring indeed. I’ve heard many, including Miss Ann, are covering my classes. I’m thankful. Also, Betty called by again.

Yesterday, the doctor in perfect English explained everything about pulmonary embolism. She said they’d investigate my veins. All of them. Neck to feet. There’d be particular attention given to my right calf and thigh. Today’s ultrasound definitely lived up to her words. I’ve never needed to pee so much! Ultrasounds mean nil by mouth and no toilets in the preceding four hours. Since then I’ve been told I should be out in a week’s time and under a three month medicine recovery programme. Accepted.

I miss my Dad’s salads. Dad is my no means a chef. Michelin stars were not meant for him. He’s an artist trapped in a body that was formerly a painter and decorator. And he should be a gardener. Dad does gardening well. He’s a clever man but his calling seems unanswered these days. Age is not an excuse. I love my Dad and I miss eating his salads. They’re rich in cucumber, fresh tomatoes (locally grown ones, always), seasonal greens and mushrooms. Never a bad salad at Dad’s house. Our kid, Ace, with his Mrs Stephanie do good salads but Dad’s is best. Simple and hearty. Sorry to Mum’s Paul who also makes a fantastic salad. Too much thought goes into these artisanal salads. They taste delicious. No doubt. They’re in my top five salads. Sorry, but Dad wins. I say all this because the Lauren’s Pizza salad I had for a late breakfast/lunch wasn’t bad.

My homeroom in Grade 8 have been busy planting my mint outside my classroom. They’ve also prepared a card. I do like Lisa’s little steamed bun-pooh shaped character on the bottom right. I hope this unfortunate hospitalisation gives students the motivation to create and do things because time is precious. They’re young and have the chances to do anything with a bit of hard work. They shouldn’t be anywhere near a hospital. Even though I’m here, I’m wishing their studies well. All of them. I can’t wait to hear poetry and Shakespearean arguments from the Language and Literature classes. That’ll be when I’m out. Soon.

Ta’ra! Goodbye! 再见~

COVID-21.

Good Tuesday to you.

It is a little past 2pm on Tuesday. I had an ECG some time before noon. It was a little abnormal. Oxygen levels at 95 up to 99 with a piped blast of nasal oxygen support. Blood pressure seemed a little higher than low but I couldn’t tell… (possibly over 110 but it’s all in Chinese and seems Greek to me). Questions and answers with two doctors.
Blood taken.

“Do you smoke?” Answered in the negative. “Are you an alcoholic?” I thought back to my last beer. Probably, with Stephen in Shenzhen… about a month ago. I didn’t even drink on my birthday. Too sleepy. Did nothing last Thursday. Worked hard. Slept early. Friday at the movies? Just a coke. Saturday sleepy and terrible all day. No energy. Lazed and couldn’t go party. Devoid of strength. A swollen left nostril and a throbbing headache.


Paid 1000RMB deposit. Can claim on the insurance; but that was quite an unworried and hasslefree process to understand, because Betty from Human Resources assisted me brilliantly. Then a sit down and “you can got for lunch, but first…” more monitoring and more blood. 8 vials. “This may hurt” Ouch. Actually, OUCH. Jesus wept! Vampire on the wrist. Push deeper. Can’t find your car keys in there? Shove. Wiggle. Totally normal. And out you go. An empty syringe.

Take 2. Tag team. Reinforcements. She’s brought a friend. I respect you nurse but that’s unfair. Two versus one. Clean area. Feel for pulse. Hover over wrist with a dull metal sharp needle as wide as a car tyre, give or take a yard. Hover some more. Hesitate. You’re taking a deep breath. Need a blindfold? Dig in! Do it! Do it! Take your time. Change position. Plunged. Still uncomfortable. Horrid. OUCH. Syringe empty. And then dark red oil. We’ve struck gold! Nice of you to join us. One gallon later she whips away the needle. My impact crater is duct taped to my arm with a cotton but the size of candy floss.

The beautiful and graceful vampires withdraw. I know they’re doing good. They’re sent by angels. I hate hospitals. I don’t have too many experiences with them thankfully. Off go the nurses and I remain wired on my right arm to a 13.1cm by 23.5cm bladder that from time to time inflates and feeds data to a grey box placed by my arse. My left hand meanwhile has a clip monitoring oxygen or trying to copy my fingerprints to enter my apartment door. The jury is out. Three suction cup sticky pads cling to my chest hair and upload episodes of Squid Games into my vulnerability. Something like that.

I’ve been 39 years old for less than a week and I feel crap. I’m starting to plan for the worst case scenario. “I’m sorry sure but you have a condition that doesn’t allow you to work here.” I question, “what is it?” They reply seriously, “You’re British.” Time for my own personal Chi-Xit? It’s a fear. Incalculable and illogical. I have no heart myocardial infection or disease history, but that’s what they want to check out. I hope my time to check out is long off in the future. There are still valleys and mountains to wander.

So what could my demise be? COVID-21? COVID-19 is probably due a reboot like all good, average and bad movies. Vimto underdose? Deficient of viewing Manchester City? A sadness because of the latest 007 movie No Time To Die? Excessive consumption of Coco Pops? I ate two bowls last night but that’s nothing unusual for a male about a year shy of forty.

For now, I lay and await instructions. Attached to wires and the grey arse-hugging box. Bed 9 by bed 8 in a double room far higher in cost than a five star hotel. The window view by the bathroom is the TWIS athletic field and farm. The situation is that I’m sandwiched between my apartment and school in an unfamiliar role as a patient. My goal is to know, what exactly is wrong with me? My audience are my students and colleagues. I don’t like letting them down. I’ll be assessed by standard hospital practice here: which seems profitable. Now I perform my recovery. The reason I’m here. I was terrified for a few moments. Mortified. Is this it? The final act?

Goodbye for now. Hopefully I’ll post again.

Notes [From a Small Island]

Good morning/afternoon/evening/night / How do!

“I finished the last half of Lord of the Flies in a single afternoon, my eyes wide, my heart pounding, not thinking, just inhaling….My rule of thumb as a writer and reader–largely formed by Lord of the Flies–is feel it first, think about it later.” – Stephen King, author (It, The Mist)

  • William Golding’s Lord of The Flies is a text visited by GCSE students both at home in the UK and their iGCSE counterparts around the globe. The striking cover of the Deluxe Edition released in 2016 by Penguin Classics really stands out. In fact, looking at the numerous editions of this novel, and there are a good span of releases, all the covers tell their own story and draw you as a reader to the opening of the covers. Not that you should treat a book by its cover. I guess the students of grades 6-8 selected this cover because of the visual. It pictures a character looking like a watermelon had exploded during his evening snack time. The introduction by Stephen King and foreword by Lois Lowry were too modestly placed to catch the eye.

I must confess that during my secondary school days of Reddish Vale High School, that our English classes did not visit the works of William Golding. However, I was vaguely aware from friends at other schools of the works. In fact, I made a point of reading it within the confines of the old Levenshulme Library. Because, it was a time when The Lost Boys movie was talk of the town, I’d often muddle the two tales but oddly I had never watched the vampire teenage horror movie.

Luna displayed detailed writing and explained her views accordingly. The introduction was relayed in a clear presentation. This allowed future teaching to be differentiated to her specific needs. Understanding the significance of phrases and descriptions, Luna has explained her answers clearly. Students were given the chance to collaborate and exchange views. During this opportunity Luna listened both carefully and gave her views in response using text-appropriate examples. Luna’s interpretation of the island from the Lord of The Flies was detailed, annotated accordingly and she could orally relay the symbolic locations within. When creating timelines of the story’s events Luna used a clear format, added comments and kept the work clear. Luna worked tirelessly to complete the revision activities in a way befitting the final unit exam. Luna displayed a sound understanding of the questions presented to her. She gave her efforts to the challenge and now needs to check the marks available and how to details the answers accordingly. If six marks are made available then three sentences with appropriate details and conjunctions is likely the minimum expected.

May used strong vocabulary and detailed writing with reference to the text Lord of The Flies. Her understanding was clear and set out in an organised fashion. May was able to orally discuss her following of the work with her classroom peers. May discussed many questions and possible answers in a small group before expanding her confident findings to the entire class. She went further in asking questions of her answers that led her to a deeper reflection of the novel, Lord of The Flies. From May’s interpretation of the island from the Lord of The Flies it was clear that she takes pride in her artwork. The neat and carefully set-out work allowed little room for misunderstanding. May’s use of timelines was varied and detailed, often using quotes and key points. May completed the revision tasks to a high standard ahead of the unit examination. For May to give suitable chances to gaining fuller marks, she must look at the point weighting and try to suitably apply points to each mark available. Overall her written answers are well structured and feature good levels of reference to the key text and her experience.

Nathan covered the key points of the early chapters and was unafraid to voice his opinion. He often placed questions about the predicament the characters within the story faced. He formed a good hypothesis about where he believed the plot would lead. Nathan could at times show his distaste towards the novel but he would also justify this well. The vocabulary-heavy text of a book written in a different land and time gave him opportunity to cast his answers, heavily coated in his thoughts. Nathan created a clear outline with finite detail throughout his map of William Golding’s imagined island. He explained the symbolism throughout and discussed his reasoning with peers. Nathan used timelines to good effect and displayed the relevant information accordingly. Nathan displayed an impassioned view within his review of the unit. Nathan must pay attention to the marks available and decide how to weight his answers accordingly. Extra paper had been made available. Not double checking the meaning and rereading a question cost Nathan 6 marks, which was highly unlike his previous work. He completed a clear and well organised exam paper with reasoning, opinion and clarity throughout.

Gabriel selected appropriate vocabulary and details for his initial analysis of Lord of The Flies. He confidently organised and produced text to support his views. Talking to write has helped him to set out his work well. Gabriel’s focus on the text fluctuated from a passionate advocate of the writing to that of someone who dislikes the descriptive content. His answers attributed the base points and did not shy from opinion. Firstly Gabriel made a draft of the island taken from William Golding’s novel Lord of The Flies. From this he neatened up and slotted his work together into a pleasing final output, full or relevant detail. Gabriel favoured an expanded format of timeline, rich in detail with appropriate quotations from the novel’s dialogue. Gabriel’s revision work was clearly drawn together and his use of comic illustrations was welcomed by the teacher. Gabriel must give all his attention to the marks available. This will allow him to decide how to weight his answers appropriately. Extra paper had been made available but was not requested.

Henry used a calm and steady tone to relay his outline of the early chapters within William Golding’s Lord of The Flies. He set his work out clearly and asked appropriate questions to his peers. Henry reflected the answers to match the questions using simplistic formats and clarity. He would benefit in the future from adding a little more passion and widening his vocabulary usage. Henry explained the symbolism of the island and went further by logging the symbolism within his notebook. He created a key to his work and could orally explain his positioning of the island’s features, referring to the novel throughout. Henry created numerous timelines at several stages of the novel and worked well to explain this to his peers. He led by example, sharing an exemplar of what was expected. Henry’s linear and concise writing in preparation for the final unit assessment was both careful and considerate to the need. To allow Henry to give attention to the marks available he must decide how to weight his answers appropriately. Extra paper had been made available but was not requested. Large gaps will cost marks.

Benny used his inquiring nature, his confidence and his collaboration skills in ways to support his early understanding of the novel Lord of The Flies. He has utilised his enthusiasm and curiosity to good effect, often displayed within his writing style. Benny’s timing at writing answers needs a little more urgency, however his spoken preparation work has been second-to-none. He articulates his thoughts with clarity and even questions them appropriately to refine his final work. Now, he needs to take more care in presenting those words on paper. Benny created an island with aid from researching the internet for other interpretations of the island’s shapes and features. He extracted and explained his choices, and noted several common representations led to a pattern. A little neatness goes a long way and Benny’s strive to turn cluttered work to tidy output was noted as a sign of his progression throughout this unit. Benny’s writing preparation for the final unit assessment was a little light in volume but his work to date has been adequate to show his overall understanding. Benny should give all his attention to the marks available. This will allow him to decide how to weight his answers accordingly. Extra paper had been made available but was not requested. Unlike other formative assessments Benny did not detail as in depth as before. He can do so much more. Next time he will deliver with more gusto.

Chael is laid back in character but hit his understanding. With a little more effort and careful checking he could develop clearer written interpretations of The Lord of The Flies. He is often highly enthusiastic and energetic, but requires a little more focus. Chael could deliver more. He must take more care in writing and checking his output. At times he can orally present a fantastic set of findings, but the material delivery of such words is mostly absent. More differentiated writing practice will allow him to develop. Chael researched island shapes, land features and attached them to his understanding of William Golding’s island. He noted the features mentioned in passing, as well as the central landmarks of the story. After some encouragement Chael set out a clear and detailed timeline of events. To the teacher it seems that Chael can fire out words like a machine gun, however, it is also apparent that he needs encouragement in checking, checking again and reviewing. This will reduce Chael’s potential final reflection content. Chael must pay attention to the marks available and decide how to weight his answers accordingly. Extra paper had been made available but was not used. The strength of his answers is smooth and clear, but he would benefit from using quotes or reference points.

Kingston has a very relaxed attitude to classwork and must understand that production of work is completely different to oral relaying of a text such as The Lord of The Flies. Whilst he said this was his second visiting to the text, he must understand that reading for pleasure and reading for deeper analysis and understanding are far removed from one another. Kingston sometimes is shy and unassuming. His opportunity to talk and prepare is frequent amongst the classes, yet silence stunts his chance. He must engage fully and find those word in his soul that are crying to get out. He is more than capable. Pick up a pen! Kingston needed pushing to complete this task. Finally at his own pace he completed a basic outline. He could explain the features and common landmarks of the island but did not write these down in his notebook. With encouragement he is capable of a good output. Kingston needed pushing to create and explain his chosen chapter of events. He produced the work after the deadline and needed support from classmates and the teacher to finalise his work. Kingston did some revision work but he is certainly capable of much more. Between not completing homework, some choice comments within his answers and a distinct feeling of idleness, Kingston has given less than all his efforts to this summative test. The teacher shall be setting targets and goals with Kingston to allow him to reach his full potential. 

The Lord of The Flies has since penetrated culture in innumerable ways. It’s even been reflected back at us through real-life situations such as Tongan boys trapped on a remote island. Historian Rutger Bregman documented this remarkable story in his book Humankind. These six boys

“Lord of the Flies is one of my favorite books. I still read it every couple of years.” – Suzanne Collins, author (The Hunger Games)

Thank you kindly for your time.

Goodbye! Ta’ra!

Poetry: Quicky.

Good whatever time it is there,

Why do we think that the unit or the selection of topics will be interesting?

Poetry helps us understand and appreciate much more than the usual normal mundane and daily lifestyle or things around us. It can be deep, meaningful, silly or relaxing. It’s an art form of self-expression by words. It can be presented in many formats and it doesn’t always follow conformity. A good poem can make you feel sad, angry, delighted or make huge belly-laughs in just a few sentences. They can bring civic pride. They can symbolise unity and they can mark resistance. From my early discovery of poetry through comedian Spike Milligan and Now That Days Are Colder (Bowmar Nature Series), a certain Eric Carle and his hungry insects, poetry has reached out to me and worked its way into the very fabric of my skin. I enjoy a bad rhyme or Limerick but take deep meaning from tragic poetry like Paul Celan’s Todesfuge (translated from German as Black Milk). I do of course come from the city of Manchester, famous for Dr John Cooper Clarke, JB Barrington, Dame Carol Ann Duffy, Lemn Sissay and Argh Kid. We also have Jackie Kay on loan from Scotland and deployed in Salford. This is the place.

What do students already know, and what can they do?

I guess students have experienced poetry via movies, traditional primary school texts (Chinese or English), and other exposures through popular culture, perhaps even advertising.

Are there any possible opportunities for meaningful service learning?

Linking in with poets via online interviews or guest appearances in our classroom may be possible. As a class the potential to collate a poetry book from favourite poems, created examples and so on will be possible.

How can we use students’ multilingualism as a resource for learning?

The possibility of translation, interpretation and analysis opens a few doors.

Take care and ta’ra!

Who am I to tell you what to believe?

Who am I to tell you what to believe? When I can’t picture the ideas you conceive. Every day you bend, kneel and pray, but here I am with thoughts hidden in grey.

What do your Gods speak to you? How can you have faith in if it’s true? Do animals and plants have belief? Perhaps they’re all to lucky to avoid grief.

What is wrong? What is right? When does darkness stop and become light? How do the lost become the found? Must it take circumstances so profound?

Who are they to tell you not to believe? They can’t feel the life we’ll all leave. Resurrection, dedication and minds so set. Always believing, no sweat for regret.

The hum of the crowds all drowned out. Knowing how and where, never in doubt. Eyes to the sky, devout until the last. Shadows of worry forever outcast.

Their words, choruses and hymns echo. Through halls, walls, valley calls they grow. How did the lambs find their leader? Must they nod or bow before their reader?

Who are you to tell me what to believe? My mind is free like the air I breathe. I pass with peace but no direction. Each duty comes with no selection.

What I choose I can’t quite grasp. The paths I lead cannot all clasp. The roads I drive cannot all go on. Each lane merges and bends to one.

Destiny and fate call my name. I don’t know the end of this game. How did I get to be so alone? The decisions alone were mine to prone, groan and bemoan.

[scrawled in Kumbum Monastery, Xining, Qinghai on 19th July 2021]

Ride forever.

I once knew a man on bicycle who could ride forever.

He’d ride into sun, storms and every kind of weather.

A puncture one day hit and tested him.

He found himself lacking the spring and vim.

Ride on. Ride hard to a fashion. Ride forever. Ride with relentless passion.

By the roadside, he tolled and slipped into woah.

Up he got, took a moment and dreamed of the roads he rode.

His wheels could feel the steel of his hand.

As he screamed and crammed the bike back onto the land.

Ride on. Ride hard to a fashion. Ride forever. Ride with relentless passion.

But he got himself taped up and back all together.

Out he headed off back into the ferocious weather.

His seat squeaked its old crumpled leather.

It whistled along the thick purple heather.

Ride on. Ride hard to a fashion. Ride forever. Ride with relentless passion.

The ride outside is a long old road.

But when all is truly told:

The wheels of the soul spin over and over again.

All along the plain the eyes focusing on the main campaign.

Ride on. Ride hard to a fashion. Ride forever. Ride with relentless passion.

Riding out far, hands over bar, music in his ears:

Waving away notions of his fears and tears.

Gears into set, helmet into position and off he flew into transition.

The clothes hemmed his angular position as he set forth his mission.

Ride on. Ride hard to a fashion. Ride forever. Ride with relentless passion.

Lately.

Good evening 晚上好 / 你好 Hello!

Lately it has been a manic period of hustle and bustle at Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS). Also, in my free time, I’ve been heavily hard at work procrastinating and doing the things I enjoy doing, whenever I feel they’re necessary. Whoever said a lack of responsibility was easy, lied. Cappuccino has been close to hand. Almost as luxury as the pair of Ravemen CR900 cycling lights. An upgrade from the N900 models. Remote controls and battery level monitors were too tempting.

The Diploma Programme team have been working solidly under great leadership. The application and candidate status has become approved. Not bad for a school without any current high school students! Now we’re gunning, pedal to the metal, for the completion of MYP’s International Bachelorette status.

The uncertainty of when travel to the U.K. hangs over my head like a Titanic-sized Goliath of scrapped metal. At times it feels like it may drop and make my noggin more squishy than nature intended. At other times, the optimism factory is producing positive vibes and sending them out in Olympic-sized swimming pool proportions. With every passing news article, input by experts, advice of Olympians going to Beijing 2022 and chilling in quarantine for twenty-one days prior to the Winter Olympics. Nothing is certain.

For two of our Language and Literature class groups, students selected Lord of The Flies and It’s Kind of a Funny Story. Exams have been prepared for the former and the latter shall be assessed by essay. In the meantime, the second units are in full preparation. As are units three to five. The school year map is freshly under way. And that’s before looking at Science classes with grades 6 to 8. Hopefully the weather will drop below thirty degrees Celsius to allow some extra evening preparation motivation.

I recently caught up with Shenzhen Blues, Katherine and Stephen in Shenzhen. A fantastic Turkish meal at Mevlana (#154 Zhenxing Road, Huaqiangbei, Futian) with a witty Pakistani waitress made for a fun afternoon. Shenzhen is a city with great food and a fantastic place to recover after hiking. And matter about City’s impressive draw at Anfield.

The relentless and ferocious Guangdong heat has tested my mind and body, and ruined my balcony garden. The grape vines perished in the inexorable sunlight and the numerous passion fruit plants became single digits. The uncompromising sunshine has dried my daisies and ruthlessly culled my apparently less than shaded herb garden. The harsh weather has seldom given way to rain, typhoons or monsoons this summer. It’s dogged single-minded unyielding approach to the environment has been cooking and drying for too long. Today hit 34 degrees Celsius and that was a cool part of this last week!

Goodbye 再见

Hot steps.

晚上好 Good evening. 你好。Hello!

The trek today was bloody tough. Tougher than it ought to have been. I’d had a big breakfast, two trekking bars, two bread rolls stuffed with optimism and sustaining properties. Three litres of liquid and two well-packed ice-lollies. Yet, something was missing. A double dose of electrolytes in tablet form on two occasions was also deployed. Yet, it was a tough slog at the final furlong. The 30 degree heat and the lack of opportunity to hide from the sun were unkind on my delicate physique.

The trek started somewhere between relentlessly hot and smouldering heat more befitting the devil’s home. A jolly group of wandering enthusiasts gathered having been dropped from a convoy of cars at the foot of a hilltop road. Here a few stretches and introductions were made. The local security guard took a few details for the Dapeng trekking pathway requirements. Here on, we wouldn’t see a shop or house for hours.

The last leg of the meandering pathways into Xi Chong (西冲) village was under the cover of darkness. After using my eyesight for as long as physically possible, I switched to 900 lumens of torchlight. The results were splendid. I spied various toads, geckos and even a praying mantis. Also, it helped in avoiding the bloody big orb spider webs.

Armed with a Snickers chocolate and nut bar, at least two extra litres of water (thanks to kind and caring people) the latter stage of up a bit, down a bit and up some more before down was possible. Cramp in both legs and dehydration had been a real stumbling block since our stop at a waterfall and stream. The sit down took my lagging stride but it didn’t ruin the views.

Throughout the walk, people were people. Stripped away of the hustle and bustle of life, and the majority of people I have met in China are warmhearted and friendly. Rehmy the ‘Chinese Lara Croft’, Sophia and two very kind students shared fruits and words. That’s exactly the reason I joined the Global Hikers walking group in Shenzhen today.

The route takes in mostly coastal pathways, scrambling over rocks hot enough to fry eggs on and scrubs of coastal forestry. Expecting bugs, I was armed with citronella. Expecting sun, I was armed with factor fifty sunblock. Expecting scree and slippery bits, I wore my trekking trainers. They fitted the job perfectly. The up, down and around the bays overlooking the distant Hong Kong under bright sunshine certainly feels like a walk. It’s delightful at stages and testing at others. I have no regrets.

谢谢你。Thank you kindly. 再见 Goodbye.

Bitter taste.

Some things were not made to be enjoyed;

The bitter tastes they leave on the palette;

The framed emptiness they draw not toyed:

The forceful thump of Thor’s mighty mallet.

Ever cringing nails on the dusty blackboard;

Piping rumbling ghostly marching skeleton bands;

Darkest nightmares suffered and explored;

Murky creatures move through dense moist wetlands.

When hope and love do not arrive on your booking;

be sure to recall that time of overlooking;

a subordinate word at the theatre of the absurd;

for entitlement to a smooth passage is unheard.

CITY: Similarities.

Good evening/晚上好

Walk into any Starbucks or anything McDonald’s and you pretty much know what you’re going to get. What if that model could be applied to cities? I live in Guangdong’s Chéngshì Qún (城市群) which is a city cluster or Megalopolis. From Guangzhou to Foshan to Dongguan to Shenzhen with Qingyuan and Huizhou nearby, there’s little escapism from a region also containing Hong Kong and Macau. Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing add to the largest and most populated region of Earth. That’s a lot of Starbucks.

Last December I was lucky enough time visit Yunnan. I stopped by Shangrila city which was renamed from lesser exotic name like Zhongdian. The first place I travelled in 2020 was Suzhou. I’ve since traversed my way through eastern Shenzhen, walking 15km one day and 19km the next. In previous years I’ve visited Shanghai, Nanjing, Qingdao, Zhangjiajie, Beijing, Beihai, Guilin, Manzhouli, and other places taking me through many different provinces. Many Starbucks along the way.

The land is diverse here. The population is everywhere. The cities are like copy and paste versions of themselves. In summer, I visited Yingchuan, Xian, Chengdu, Xinning, Dali and the more places I passed through cities, the more I loathed cityscapes. Perhaps it’s the sudden and fast development of cities in China. They’re almost all modern. A population doesn’t grow from 540 million (1949) to 969 million (1979) to 1,374,620,000 people in 2020 without cities. Aside from a jump in the death rates (for sparrows too! Four Pests Campaign除四害; Chú Sì Hài) during the Great Leap Forward (大跃进 Dà yuè jìn, 1958-1962), China’s death rates have been steady. It’s birthrates slowed after the one child policy in the 1980s (to 2015). Of the population around 26% lived in cities during 1990. Following 2018, 59.2% of all people lived in cities and the or conurbations. McDonald’s grew and grew.

Of the roughly 102 cities of China, you can expect to see the same derelict and abandoned malls; matching apartment blocks rising like tombstones (less so now Evergrande ran a 355 billion USD debt); dense alleyways; laundry and cycles everywhere; lemon tea shops; fast food stalls; older wet and dry markets; strangled urban villages swallowed by expanding cities; modern architecture of the occupied sense – some rusting, some flappy and tatty, some shiny and unopened; or some older colony remnants. Don’t expect to see a temple devoted to Fǎlún Gōng (法轮大法) though. More likely a Burger King.

Expect a walking street or several. These high streets are often loud and feature the same range of sports or department stores. Jewelry etc. Same, same. The traditional gates, colours and lanterns give great character but battle against golden Ms and green and white goddess logos. Actually forms of cities in the West and East differs very little. It’s the older bits and the modern diversity that stands out. Not the segregation of tool shops, household ware and restaurants. But, cities need a bigger heart beat than Pizza Hut and Nike stores.

Whether the city is historic, a National Central City (国家中心城市), a Provincial Capital (省会城市) or one of the other several types, most cities lack appeal. They have bits and places worth seeing, but overall they’re towers, districts, factories and newness. Grid-lined of not. To the residents, and the communities within, they have hearts and character. But to the touring foreigner, most cities appear the same. They make good exits to proper local cultures, mountains and away from the norm.

“Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.” – Article 36 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (中华人民共和国宪法 Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó Xiànfǎ, 1982)

The positive atheism here contradicts the multitude of religious hubs found in the U.K. They each bring their lack of character. Here in Dongguan, a Pizza Hut may fill that void. I recall Albania having a growing religious influence and so much colour and character around the culture it forms. Here in Guangdong, KTV is possibly that central axis. Being irreligious has its benefits. Being religious has its benefits. There are constitutional and Confucian beliefs and values. It’s a mixed bag. I don’t claim to understand or know what makes a good balance. I just know there are too many Starbucks here in China.

Maybe after a few decades, each city will develop more character and less commercial faces. Who knows?! There are signs now but everything seems almost the same. The same difference. And Beijing knows that identity is key. The more time I spend in and around cities, the more I question their sustainability for our minds, as well as the environment and culture. Are cities a problem?

To be continued…

再寄/So long

Grasping doubt.

Maybe I should, maybe I shouldn’t.

I wish I could but I feel I couldn’t.

I look deeply into my dreams.

They all don’t seem what they seems.

Parts of the perfection have no direction.

Each and every ambition is littered with defection.

So, I sit back, relax and just float along.

Knowing the words and tunes but making not one song.

My actions, my words don’t let me show it.

There’s music in my soul I know it.

Doubt bites at me, it knifed into my soul.

Black dog edging, tearing away at my lifelong goal.

So, what’s stopping has stopped the beginning.

My head is no longer a fit place for winning.

Stop.

Carry on?

Fly Like a Bird of Prey.

Do you recall Kim? Before her Evangelia. Wasn’t there a Jayne too? Nikki wasn’t too quickly. Shirley not? Wendy house? Didn’t you once meet unrequited love? You said you wouldn’t carry on or try again. But, you did! And, who now? Who do you fancy? Is it that Nancy? Or Daisy who drives you crazy? Or Spring, Summer or Autumn? The seasons of choice? Dance with your dreams.

Do you remember that Karst mountain? It rise from the ground like a camel’s hump. You said to yourself it was the most beautiful mountain you’d ever seen. And then you set eyes on Everest. Then Ama Dablam. Then Annapurna one, two and three. Fishtail Mountain. Snowden again and again. Always Winter Hill, but forever dreams of new peaks unseen.

You said you wouldn’t read after Jon Ronson. Wasn’t Jurassic Park the book to end all books? Then Airframe, the Animals of Farthing Wood should. The Jack Reacher series could. Ian Fleming gave you the spy that ended all spies. Pages of love, lies and cries. Yet, you close your eyes and there’s no disguise. Your bookmark never hides.

Back in the day wasn’t Ghostbusters always your favourite? Gremlins and Goonies, two you’d never forget. Watching Jaws, again, without regret! 007 live and let. Leslie Neilson going on and on, I bet. Movies like Gemini Man and iRobot to watch once – no fret. The minds eye full of Skynet.

Things are said one day. Things come and go away. With each passing birthday I say, never betray your display of child’s play. Each day we find a way to convey the driveway of life. Hooray! The outlay does not outweigh what we repay on our stairway to our breakaway. Fly like a bird of prey.

Written in January 2020, in Nepal, on a notepad. Before COVID-19 became annoying.

Refresh.

Craning my neck: stooped harshly.

Deep inside the bowl: placed hands partially.

Turning the pressure to flow: seeking coolness.

In my Chinese house: undrinkable cruelness.

The water here: causing neshness.

Flowing slow water in Manchester: enhanced freshness.

Upstairs at the bathroom: Broom Avenue childhood.

Drinking fast to slow: glug, glug, should, would and could.

Cooler than air, fresher than fair: my share.

After teeth, before sleep: my answered prayer.

I miss that tap: we were raised together.

The tap of life: water from Lake District weather.

Night rider.

The leap of faith: a frog darting between wheels.

The ray of light: shining beams and how it feels.

The foot on pedals: energetic pulsing engines pumping like pistons.

The gripped handlebars: spinning cogs unheard for all who listens.

The rush through dark: air rippling over and under.

The night time cycle ride: a wonder of a wander.

Darkness enveloping: hot air strangling the pathways.

The slick of the wheels: gliding along, down and up every raise.

Trees looking on: witnesses of the rider in the night.

Snakes hiding away: not their chosen spectacles of sight.

Cool air nowhere to be seen: the slick ride of the bicycle abound.

Night rider: over ground, uncrowned and without a sound.

We’re All Teachers

Each and every one of us are teachers. Whether we have bad grammar, a bad grandma or are just plain bad, we can and we do teach. WE all pass something on!

What are we teaching? We’re passing on our habits, manners and cultures through stammers and scammers. We’re inspiration personified and electrified. We’re terrified by teenagers and hormone-ragers. We’re stood-up cowering yet courageous.

We’re teachers, preachers, passionate thrill seekers, and seekers of new, old and bold ways for all our long or short days. We look to heavens, travel to Devon, eat mustard from Dijon. Off we go. Gone. Gone. Gone.

We’re walkers and talkers, hip hop loving, beat box popping, Beastie Boy dancing and prancing, warts and all stabbing, pistol packing, trigger happy, backwards slanting, lazy crazy kinds. Some of us, like parachutes.

We come in all shapes and sizes. Tall, broad, as thin as a sword, looping-swooping PE teachers with all the muscular features, and smiles. Loads and loads of smiles. Shining beaming radiant teeth under a variety of hair styles, or none. Fashion isn’t for everyone, but teachers, we have our own flair for fair and compare. We really give a damn.

To the Mr Meherans, the Tony Macks, Frau Hodges, Miss Hopkins and Mr Jones of our world, we salute you! Of course, I could list more, but that’s a register, and right now is time to read, plan and prepare. Another day, another dream in the wide world of the imagination dream.

Happy TeachersDay