May 2014’s posts

Honk Kong & How to avoid huge ships

4 May 2014

The title is in homage to this link.

Wednesday, as always, means Irene’s Pub Quiz.  With impeccable discipline driven on by Becky (the foreign teacher equivalent of Alex Ferguson) we romped to victory.  There was no real choice, Becky would have killed us should we have been first loser or below.  It is the taking part that counts?  Not with Becky.  3 wins in 5 attempts isn’t too bad though.  As Thursday was a national holiday we could drink our winnings, the vodka tasted vile so we allowed James and Liam to do as they please with the liquid sentence of duress.

For the national holiday, Nikki and I hopped on a CTS coach from the Sheraton Hotel (Houjie) to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.  For the national holiday (Labour Day, May 1st) we were allowed Friday and Saturday off work, meaning Sunday we would have to return to the grindstone (and a latent sluggish six day week).  So, with our bags packed with dreams, toothbrushes and mosquito-repellent the coach tore down the highways of China towards Shenzen and the border crossing.  The journey took around three hours, of which half was spent at the border crossings.  Note the plural.  The first section, China stamp you out, check your visa and then you hop on another CTS coach for less than two minutes.  Here you take note of the next bus stop you need to seek.  You fill in an arrival card for Hong Kong, show your passport, get a little print-out advising when you must leave Hong Kong, oddly mine said by no later than October 28th 2014 (my birthday!).  After this, you leg it to te next bus stop and the world changes.  Not massively, but enough to notice.

Hong Kong, being an ex-British colony, drive on the left.  There is order.  Traffic lights work.  Traffic stops at them.  There is a significant amount of street cleanliness, better than Blighty too!  Rare double decker buses patrol the streets for lost souls at every turn.  The roads follow clear and easy formats, bilingual signage adorns everything.  Europe and the Western world meets the East.  Guangzhou was big, Dongguan and Shenzen a multidirectional sprawl of urbanisation, and Hong Kong, well, massive.  Proper massive, like the old Maine Road floodlights.

The colossal roads and bridges open onto Kowloon island, looking out at Hong Kong island with ceaseless towering towers looming and soaring skyscrapers climbing the mountain sides like stalagmites creeping from a great lake to the heavens.  The lush peaks lined with dense foliage splintered repeatedly by lumps of leviathan Lego.  Sometimes, just sometimes, you look at a human creation and gaze in absolute wonder.  Hong Kong is one of those amazing wonders, a panorama of artificial textile over a topography twisted by time.

After departing the coach at Wan Chai, we exchanged our Chinese RMB (Monopoly money) for Hong Kong Dollars (special edition Monopoly money).  The Harbourview hotel was easy to locate and check-in was uncomplicated.  The room had a spectacular view of the strait between Hong Kong island and Kowloon island.  Soon after our feet began to pound the pavements, level and smooth, established and clean around the local vicinity.  Nikki and I decided upon a Turkey burger and a Canton Pulled Pork burger respectively, both filling our bellies with great ease.  Exhaustion and the overwhelming nature of H.K. (as the locals refer to it) led to the need to get some much needed shut eye.

Friday arrived, and waking up with a dramatic vista of the city once named after a fragrant harbour.  Numerous Black Eared Kites glide effortlessly on thermals overhead, amongst the skyscrapers and over the sea channels.  Egrets wander the seashore as ships sail serenely by.  Nikki and I head to a Swiss bakery, wander to the Hong Kong Park to see the aviary and explore the Tai Chi gardens.  Here beauty and relaxation surround you, grip you by the arm and drag you away from the city.  The very large aviary with a pathway raised above the trees envelopes your senses whilst many birds make their varied sounds, beneath water flows and fish swim.  Outside the enclosure Yellow Crested Cockatoos (introduced species) perch, flight and battle for their patch of sky.  In 1941, the then Hong Kong Governor Sir Mark Aitchison Young freed the Government House’s bird collection just before yielding Hong Kong to Japanese invaders.  They have bred a fair bit since.  After the serenity of the park, the bafflement of a two hour queue for the eight minute journey up to The Peak made for a polar experience.  The old engine house and equipment being from Bradford, Manchester (think Eastlands, Etihad Campus way) came as a pleasant surprise.  The ride up, with too much anticipation time, was worthy of the wait.  Up flew the train, at angles akin to that of the Harrier jumpjet.

The view at the top of the Pearl of the Orient is the impressive.  As far as the eye can see, islands, mountains, littered with buildings, tower after tower for businesses and accommodation, a patchwork of humanity.  Each building with many different diverse shapes, curved, straight, triangles, coated in seemingly impossible amounts of plastics, wood, metals and concrete or rock.

The Peak circular walk (around 2 miles) was pleasant enough, plenty of views of the city below, the islands afar and the many straits beleaguered with ships and ferries.  Birds flew by, insects roamed in numbers and mosquitoes attacked with rancour.  We stopped to talk to a local Chinese man who shown us his amazing images of juvenile mantises.  He helped us snap some!  Soon after we stumbled on some beautiful leaf and stick insects, I say stumbled, I mean spotted.  The wander ended with some wonderful frozen yogurt at about £10 for two cornets (H.K. is not cheap in any sense).  That evening, we met up with Chris, one of Nikki’s bootcamp mates from back in Essex.  Chris is in I.T. and has been sent to work in H.K. for a few weeks.  There are worse offices, globally.

After the Star Ferry crossed the strait, with magnificent views all around, we made a pilgrimage to the Avenue of Stars (Hong Kong movie and TV stars), took a snap of Bruce Lee’s statue and drank Asahi (Japanese lager) at a local bar.  At this stage it was agreed we would seek steak, on the suggestion of Chris.  On the way back we watched the breathtaking light show that is the Symphony of Lights (H.K. must have a big electric bill), set against awful music.  So, steak we sought and La Taverna (since 1969 located in H.K., ran by some Italians) was average – at best.  And overpriced.  Then we wandered around the hustling, bustling markets before stopping at a Spanish themed bar until 3am, where a taxi ride through the tunnel was required (the ferries stopping at 0130hrs).

Chris failed to mention that it was his birthday that day!  So, shēngrì kuàilè Chris!

Saturday, Nikki and I arose from our slumber late on.  We decided to meet Chris for breakfast (around lunchtime) before going our separate ways (Chris was off to Macau to jump off the world’s biggest bungee jump and we had to get a coach back mid-afternoon.  We hopped on an old H.K. tram, explored some more of the city areas before catching the coach back over the border to the hooters of Houjie.

Today is Sunday and we were both working.  I am shattered!

曼城 Màn chéng (Manchester City) / Yīng Chāo (Premier League) / Guàn jūn (Champion)

13/5/2014 lunchtime.

  1. 曼城 Màn chéng (Manchester City) / Yīng Chāo (Premier League) / Guàn jūn (Champion)
  2. A six day working week is normal for many Chinese teachers.  I can substantiate to you that working one additional day was far from natural.  Firstly, Thursday is my busy day, and with that I have 6 periods, so Sunday’s classes mimicked that of the Thursday.  Class 704, in effect, having one more class than the remainder of grade 7.  On top of this brutal Sunday school, I had to host one extra class for the Chinese middle school teachers of English.  The subject being a comparison of U.K. and Chinese culture.  Needless to say, a log could not have developed a better style of sleeping than I did that night.  Nikki looked equally shattered.
  3. Up dashed Monday morning, the customary 40 minute flag- hoisting ritual.  Three grade 8 lessons later and an early night.  The subsequent day and the haze of a three-day weekend (not quite on a weekend) lifted.  VIP class for grade 5 fell at the hurdle due to a writing competition.  It seems warnings of cancelled classes never arrive before the class starts.
  4. Wednesday morning waltzed in, cancelling an English lesson for the P.E. teachers who had to oversee an interschool basketball game.  Hereon, the day progressed progressively with some progressing progress.  We came second in the pub quiz at Irene’s Bar.
  5. During what seemed like an elongated week, nothing is better than to have two Thursday class schedules.  VIP class for grade 5 again was cancelled, this time an art competition, held outdoors pulled the plug.  Then it rained, just to ensure it could not be completed.  In the evening grade 7 and 8’s VIP class was a flashy affair.  The monsoon outside developing into a tropical storm.  Most of my class hiding their faces as soon as minute long rumble shook the roof.
  6. Friday stuttered along like a McVities advert for a cold loving aquatic-feeding bird.  The evening comprised of food at the market, mainly shāo kǎo (barbecue).  That evening Nikki and I retired to the apartment, shattered but awake enough to watch the remake of Oldboy.  Pretty light watching before bedtime.  I prefer the original.
  7. Saturday, Esben and I went to the bike shop to swap my pedals around and generally confuse the staff within Giant’s local branch.  The lady behind the counter wanted a photograph with me, being a giant in Giant.  Esben photo-bombed it (for the elderly out there, Photobombing is the act of purposely putting oneself into the view of a photograph when not invited to).  We then popped to our favourite DVD store, exchanged numbers with some of the staff, spoke limited English to some schoolgirls who kept following us around.  Their giggling and screeching altering a staff member to tell us, “they want to try English with you.”  This is not an unusual request or occurrence, it is pretty much the norm.  Anyway, the TV series Dexter is now on the to do list/pile of things for a rainy evening/day.
  8. The evening started at the shìchǎng (market), proceeded to Anchor Bar and then Blue Orleans bar.  Blue Orleans is ran by Luther, a loveable Chicago ex-pat who teaches English too.  He is closing his bar today.  The lack of business, the lack of customers, the lack of regulars giving him rise to sell up, start a language school near Shanghai with his wife.  Good on him, I wish him all the best with his healthier venture.  Somehow, I did manage to get around 40 mosquito bites on my arms and face that evening, not good.
  9. Sunday, a write off of a day if ever there was one, we ate, watched bad movies (Four Lions & Con Air) and avoided the monsoon enveloping our lives.  The whole of our foreign teacher circle came over and shared their smelly feet, damp jacket aromas and fridge contents.  I count Liam as eating 87.4% of all crisps we have ever purchased in China.  Esben and I braved the rain, headed to the market, made a bulk purchase of chǎo miàn (fried noodles) and Jiǎozi (dumplings) alongside some Bǐng (flat pancakes) and jī (chicken).  Jīròu means muscle and after walking back in that heavy rain, my muscles strained and one whole pot of chǎo miàn and Jiǎozi entered my belly.  I was bloomin’ ‘ungry.  After everybody had departed Ian Cheesman and The Goat popped on the internet radio, GDTV’s coverage of City v WHU was firmly switched to on – and the game was enjoyed.  Champions of England, once again.  The Premier League is a marathon not a sprint.  We didn’t limp over the line, we deserved to tear the finishing line.  I spotted my mate Nick, Nat, Dean and Frank on the telebox coverage.  Ed, who flies from Mallorca every game was clearly visible too.  To see everyone at the fulltime whistle fill the green pitch in blue, just shows what football means to Our City.  Forget the finances, the sponsorship, the lack of English players – Manchester simply welcomes all, and discards nationality, we’re people after all.  The future is bright for City and the massive Etihad Campus will bring us forward.
  10. Monday, or Champion Hangover day, as it should be known, felt tiring.  Two lessons with a projector seemed steady, I asked the teacher in class 801 why the students are so reserved at speaking out in front of their peers, “they’re too concerned by their face; you’re doing a good job.  Don’t worry.”  I don’t worry, I just strive for better, and class 801 speak so well in groups or when I go around checking them individually.  The final class being with a broken projector meant use of the old fashioned chalk and duster on the chalkboard.  It didn’t go smooth, but a roughly filed sharp spike is better than an atom bomb.
  11. Today is Tuesday, it is very humid.  All foreigners here are sweating moisture in amounts comparable to the contents of a bucket.  I was going to observe Esben but he has no lessons.  The teachers have taken away his lessons for Open Lessons (parents may observe).  This is odd because Liam, James and Birgitte all have Open Lessons.  Instead I have my three classes and have observed a class taught by James.  I may observe one or two of the other classes later.  Tonight is Mandarin class and Blue Orleans closes, for good.  I don’t think I’ll go to Blue Orleans.

The Walking Puddle of Houjie

13/5/2014 1545hrs.

Until today I did not believe air could be so humid.  Yes, you see humid tropical rainforests on television, people so sweaty their proverbial bits of dropped off, but now I believe the U.K. has the finest air in the world.  The sweat is pouring off my body like the collective Horseshoe Falls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.  [Nikki’s Mum and Dad should know their name]  Outside classes on the open-plan corridors students are sliding, taking risks up and down every slippery staircase to sanctuary.  The walls are damp.  Paper softens with every sap of soggy air that passes over.  The thermometre reads as 30°C, it feels warmer.

My back is clammy, my brow soaked.  My legs restricted by the dampened trousers encasing them.  Soggy pockets hold my increasingly sodden passport entombed in a waterproof wallet.  My arms are sticky and rest on the desk, sticking occasionally and gasping for fresh air.  Every breath taken brings with it heavy air, not choking but heaving and testing the boundaries of my breathing.  My core temperature has risen, ice or a pool of crisp fresh water would be my Elysium.  I desire coolness, the air conditioner and ceiling fan battle heat, losing.  Nausea is my blanket, my stomach coated with water, unable to take more.  My concentration in Esben’s class I observe drops, I see this from the students’ view.  Tired.  Too hot.  Why bother?

Rain comes in short swathes, a storm is wanted, a quick blast of cooler air, break the humidity, this clamminess is a tortuous unwanted moisture.  The forecast is the same for many a day.  Why isn’t there a demand for English teaching in Antarctica?

Singing In The Rain II (*with script*)

3 days ago

Barely a day passes without the questions, “do you have children?” or “will you have children?”  The Chinese are a vastly curious folk and no level of personal question is kept secret.  “How much do you earn?” is easy to defend, because contractually, and to the letter of the local laws, we are not allowed to discuss.  This is because a Chinese teacher will work harder than us, longer than us and earn less than us.  Some teachers work all week, some have one day off, some have the odd weekend off.  Invariably, they habitually work relentlessly.

On Wednesday, I asked the question, “How many days of continuous high humidity do you usually get?”  The response from a younger, much more petite Chinese teacher was, “Until a big storm.  This could be three or four days.  What will you do after China?”  For every question I ask, a finer further probing query arises.  The cultural difference of displaying uncertainty as to that next step clearly fascinates the Chinese teachers, but they accept nonetheless.

The Chinese rarely move occupation or change employers in comparison with us British.  They may move school or college, have a company taken over or be laid off and enter a similar company as a result – or their business may scrape by, but people rarely change jobs.  Even when a baby comes along, the little blighter is popped out, homeschooled for as little as possible and packaged off to kindergarten to learn in great detail.  Forget reception and nursery, kids start school in their first year of life.

Whilst most adolescents in China are surprised by my number of siblings, to mention cousins, uncles, aunts and their jaws hit the deck.  The recent revolution from a one child policy is apparent.  After school you see many younger children (up to 8 years old) alongside their babyish siblings.  Bumps on local women indicate winter was cold, maybe as low as 10°C.  This bodes well for kindergartens but maybe not so well for a population spike.

“When a man and a woman exercise together, they have a baby.  How?”  This is the second occasion and similar phraseology utilised to ask that all important question.  The standard response has always and will always be, ask your class teacher.  Each class has a dedicated teacher, there for most subjects or pottering around when I half-inch their desks.

Last night, “Team Floppy Birthday” in honour of Liam’s 19th birthday won the pub quiz, we had been 2nd or 3rd until the last round, but we crept across the concluding line comparable to commendable Champions.  Prior to that I almost cycled over a dozen chickens in the mean backstreets of Houjie.

Today, like yesterday, has been incredibly hot, a furnace of a day.  Around 14:45hrs a light shower passed over, a few distant rumbles of thunder and all the students holding their hands out to the light rain, welcoming the coolness of every drop.  It did look rather bizarre.

My students refer to me as Teacher John or Teacher, never sir or miss.  Today, a dozen or so of my students had the opportunity to watch the foreign teacher’s enforced audition (yes, we had no choice) for the Children’s Day Show on 30th May 2014.  To date, we have had 6 rehearsals (without props and effects), but alongside good old Gene Kelly (perhaps the greatest name for a football stand ever).  I give to you the “Singing In The Rain II (or That Play What We Tried To Write)” script.

Singing In The Rain II

(That Play What We Tried To Write)

Act 1:

The scene is a building site.

LIAM:  “I’m working 9 to 5…” [starts humming]

ESBEN:  “I’m so happy, oh so happy…” [hums and dances, with a power stapler in his hand]

BREE:  “I’m happy because I don’t have to watch The Lion King.” [whilst using a trowel to apply make-up on ESBEN]

LIAM:  “To me.” [Liam throws James something)

JAMES:  “To you.”

LIAM:  “To me.” [Liam throws James something)

JAMES:  “To you.”

[Enter] JOHN:  “Good morning workers.”  [John walks towards James] “What is your name?”

LIAM:  “Don’t tell him your name James!”



JOHN:  “James, have you fed the parrot?”

JAMES walks over to a parrot in a cage, the parrot is stuffed.

JAMES:  “Yes, but he hasn’t eaten.”

JOHN:  “Let me have a quick look at him.”  [the parrot is examined, hit across the side of something] “This parrot is dead!”

JAMES:  “He’s not dead.  He’s just having a sleep.”

JOHN:  “He very much is dead!”

JAMES:  “”You stunned him, just as he was wakin’ up! Norwegian Blues stun easily.”

As this happens… the argument fades away… LIAM lifts up a plank of wood, walks by JAMES, turns and hits JAMES on the head.  He then turns another way hitting ESBEN’s head before passing BREE who ducks to avoid being hit.  LIAM then ponders, realises he forgot something heads back hitting ESBEN’s and JAMES’s head again.  BREE dives out of the away with a big reluctant smile, “Phew!”

JOHN walks on reaches into his pocket, pulls out a paper bag, opens it, pulls out an imaginary ball, shows the audience, throws it in the air, catches it.  BREE looks at this in envy, tries to copy it, throws a ball in the air nothing lands.  JOHN snatches the bag back and catches the imaginary ball.

JAMES:  “What do you think of the show so far?”

LIAM:  “Rubbish!”

BREE:  “Today is sunny, I hope it doesn’t rain…”










Act 2:

[Music starts to play:  Singing in the Rain, by …]

Duration Actions Lyrics Flashcard
0:00 Singer emerges from door, holding hand out checking for rain.  FALL GUY watches.  Singer opens umbrella. Doo-dloo-doo-doo-doo




0:17 FALL GUY:  look of confusion; eyes follow the singing/dancing person & the runner by covering their head.  I’m singing in the rain

Just singing in the rain

What a glorious feelin’

I’m happy again

0:34 Singer with umbrella spins around a fixed object, lamppost? I’m laughing at clouds

So dark up above

The sun’s in my heart

And I’m ready for love




Singer throws umbrella and does not catch it.


*water from a drainpipe onto FALL GUY.

Let the stormy clouds chase

Everyone from the place

Come on with the rain

I’ve a smile on my face








Singer folds up umbrella, skips side to side.

FALL GUY moves to right about 1 metre.

*water from another drainpipe onto FALL GUY, who takes off hat, scratches head.

I walk down the lane

With a happy refrain

Just singin’,

Singin’ in the rain




Singer dances forwards and backwards.  FALL GUY walks side to side following singer’s movements.


*Bucket of water thrown onto FALL GUY.

Dancin’ in the rain

Dee-ah dee-ah dee-ah

Dee-ah dee-ah dee-ah

*I’m happy again!

I’m singin’ and dancin’ in the rain!

I’m dancin’ and singin’ in the rain…




Singer pushes a canopy hung up above.  The canopy empties water onto the FALL GUY. I’m singin’ and dancin’ in the rain!

I’m dancin’ and singin’ in the rain…


FALL GUY, “I’m wet through!” protests to the singer.

FALL GUY snatches the umbrella, singer shrugs shoulders, walks away. FALL GUY tells the audience, “I’m wet through!”

FALL GUY soaks himself… in / by ???

I’m singin’ and dancin’ in the rain!

I’m dancin’ and singin’ in the rain…

Why is each new task

A trifle to do?

Because I am living

A life full of you.

The BBC TV recreation featured Ernie exactly copying Gene Kelly’s dance routine, on a set which exactly copied the set used in the movie, and Eric performed the role of the policeman. The difference from the original was that in the Morecambe and Wise version, there is no water, except for some downpours onto Eric’s head (through a drain, or dumped out of a window, etc.).   John Robert Acton-Brown’s recreation was written hastily, mostly copied and edited in homage to the original – not for profit, but to introduce others to Morecambe and Wise.

“Our hands may be active, but our consciences are at rest.”

7 seconds ago

Today’s title comes from The Churchill Centre.  Not even remotely Chinese in origin, but it does make good bedtime reading.

Thursday evening passed by without eventualities worthy of note.  The lack of local internet access at school and home proving costly to the process of doing lesson plans and materials for the following week.

Friday could have easily passed as an audition into a boiling underworld, a cauldron of a netherworld, the road to perdition, or an inferno within the abyss.  Houjie had a power-cut of biblical proportions, which someone did not affect our apartment blocks, but everywhere else was not spared.  In hindsight I am exaggerating but in reality it was brutal agony.  Firstly, all foreign teachers were asked to turn up at 07:30hrs for photographs with Grade 6 students.  This eventually started by 08:15hrs, as is the way locally.  After a few random snaps, it was apparent the power would not return to the town (and school) anytime soon.  Goodbye powerpoint.  Secondly, water coolers and ceiling fans depend wholeheartedly on a constant supply of electricity.  Some local shops had generators, but not many.  Dehumidifiers dotted around the school’s larger buildings resembled colossal paperweights.  By the time 10:20hrs arrived, I had observed a lesson by Birgitte by means of chalk and chalkboard.  My class started ten minutes later.  704 are a very good class but you could see the heat draining their eyes, their many pleads of teach outside (in the raw sunshine) falling on my deaf ears.  We soldiered onwards; it was enjoyable and seemed to allow them to speak a great deal.  My back had drained and my stomach full of water warmed by the thermal nature of the air.  Class 703 arrived and the teacher from this form elected to cancel my class and just practice reading.  Her protest of “They won’t listen, they are too warm” being enough for my agreement.  “Go and rest, cool down” she told me, the moving mere of Manchester.  So, I went to observe a class by Liam and further repeat the dehydrate/rehydrate cycle. Lunchtime staggered in, a storm blasted through, I was utterly drenched, but relieved of too much heat.  The air heavier with humidity but far more welcoming than the intensity of the morning high temperature.  I ran back to empty the freezer in our apartment of a pot of luxury strawberry ice cream.  Nikki lay there is the air conditioned room basking.  Her neighbouring kindergarten where Briony works had been sending students home, having roasted the wee ones right through.

The afternoon rain faded within the hour, classes resumed, powerless, class 702 embraced my impromptu activities well but their polar opposite class 701 had burned out long ago.  Interest was not present, respect was distant and concentration so titrated it could easily have passed as a homeopathic lesson.  The afternoons on Friday start early and end at the usual 16:40hrs.  The storm began again after I impulsively observed Liam’s final class of the day.  His grade one students have buckets of enthusiasm, and whilst sweating like athletes after a full day’s training, the little blighters were still bouncing off the walls.  Straight after class, the heavens opened up, the downpour flooding the lower pathways of the school enough to merit tiptoed walkways between buildings.  I met Liam and Birgitte at their office.  Soon after James arrived.  We wandered up the building to the penultimate floor of five levels.  We looked across the vista at the low cloud, heavy deluge, lightning strikes and listened to the cracks, claps and din of thunder.  The inundation of rain dizzying the senses by the sheer magnitude of the cloudburst.  Every now and then a strike of lightning would crest a building nearby and the rumble would seem dangerously close.  Having seen a hasty lightning probe zap from above our roof over the courtyard below onto a neighbouring school building we scattered to the sanctuary of the office again.  Birgitte advised the teachers had moved desks because the lights above sparked around the time the building was struck.  Monsoon season is never boring.

In the evening, Liam, James, Birgitte, Esben and I ate at a steak house (which did not sell steak).  Nikki was out with her kindergarten staff for a meal at the posh Hyatt Garden Hotel and then KTV that evening.  I chose chicken in tomato sauce, on a bed of rice.  Out came chicken, in a white sauce on a bed of spaghetti.  Nobody seemed to get what they ordered.  We politely ate up, paid and vanished.  The food was so insipid and so trivial that it merited a pizza practically straight after.  The pizza shop (one we have not tried before), being of very good quality and orange juice was only 1¥.  The workers there even chucked an additional drink in gratis for everyone!

Soon after we retired to Irene’s Bar to drink the Champions of the Pub Quiz vodka bottle and other various drinks.  Much later Nikki joined us, alongside Briony, Becky and teachers from Briony’s school (with such exotic names as Yukky).  The intentions of an early night scampered, Nikki and I went home around midnight; Esben retired much earlier; and the rest of the clan went to Pink Lady for further licentiousness.

And then one Saturday morning, a bus took Birgitte, Briony, Becky, Nikki and I to Guangzhou.  The weekend involved a trip to the dark ages (I mean zoo), a meal in the evening at Perry’s Bar and overnight accommodation at Lazy Gaga’s.  Some of the zoo was okay, some was awful.  Saturday night, Sunday morning (Esben’s birthday) was spent playing Poohhead card game with Chairman Mao Zedong style playing cards.  Sunday, the monsoon swept through Guangzhou limiting tourist opportunities outdoors to visiting shopping streets, playing hide and seek in the city, and exploring many shopping malls/centres/precincts.  Esben, back with his beard, received a “I love beards” waterbottle from our group.

I started work today at 07:00hrs, not bad for someone who hates the morning almost as much as sweetcorn.  After reverberation, replication, recurrence, reappearance, repetition, and reiteration of the phrase “Good Morning,” I was released to relax at 07:40hrs.  The 07:55hrs flag raising ceremony appeared to be rained off.  Take two arrive twenty minutes later, as did the rain.  The initial marching with flag was okay, then the first attempt at raising the flag failed, the flag floundering as it was not fastened up correctly.  The national anthem being cut short on the parade ground, and soon after the ceremony became defunct.  Next door, Nikki’s nursery played over the loudspeaker a tune to make all westerners laugh, “Ole, Ole, Ole, we are the Champs… we are the Champs…”  Well it is a World Cup year I suppose.

MCFC, HKFC Citibank International Soccer Sevens Champions.

7 seconds ago

Anyone of the group of ten from Brandon Barker, Charlie Albinson, Pablo Maffeo, Kean Bryan, Thierry Ambrose, Ashley Smith-Brown, James Horsfield, Angelino, Nathaniel Oseni and Denzeil Boadu will give Manuel Pelligrini something to look at and hopefully a selection headache.  In 32-35C heat, with the sun overhead, City looked as professional as ever.  The famous sky blue kits and the two away variants being worn with pride for each battle.

Throughout the tournament the Hong Kong Manchester City Supporters belted out chants and did the odd Poznan.  They clapped the opposition and cheered equally for very goal.  Typical City fans.

On Sunday, City U-18’s fought out a hard victory over Hong Kong U-23’s.  Their opposition had won 2 and drawn one (against Newcastle Utd 0-0) of their group games.  The 3-1 win in the quarter finals, seeing a Thierry Ambrose double and a Kean Bryan wondershot.

City earned a semi-final meeting with Sunderland (who came 2nd in their group behind Kitchee) and the Black Cats seemed stronger in the air and much bigger in build.  City patiently got the ball onto the deck, worked it around before Pablo Maffeo drew City level.  His half pitch sprint and dive onto Jason Wilcox acted as a prime example of the team’s belief in their gaffer.  The entire squad soon piled on.  Sudden death extra time arrived, meaning four against four football.  City shed their keeper, looked to gain and retain possession.  Angelino popped on his gloves, passed the ball patiently with the other three blues before rifling a shot hard into the onion bag.  City followed Kitchee’s tactics in an earlier game of fielding an outfielder player and working the ball around towards the net.  Angelino’s superb strike being one of confidence and a worthy winner.

The group stages on Saturday gave light to City’s spirit in the squad.  City never looked like losing to Singapore Cricket Club (a 4-0 romp), Rangers (a well battled 1-1 draw) or a very well organised (and undefeated in 2013) BC Rangers (drew 2-2).  The final results in the group meant City topped the league closely followed by Rangers.  BC Rangers also finished the group on 5 points but goal difference sent them to the minor competition.

The final was a match up between Group C winners City and Group B winners Kitchee.  Hong Kong’s dominant club and won the 2013/14 First Division.  City’s age difference, the build difference and overall underdog appearance against a side more acclimatised to the weather conditions on the back of their successful season did not stifle the young Citizens.  City battled valiantly and earned the win.  Sadly, I could not stay for the final as I had to catch the last bus to Houjie (China) at 1900hrs.  Well done to the lads, the highlights on TV looked great!  Here is a team who can battle form behind, fight to the end and refuse to be beaten.  Champions.

Indiana John & The Rickshaw Ride of Houjie

9 seconds ago

Monday, May the 19th’s classes last week seemed improved upon previous Monday classes.  Class 801 actually talked a lot when required, 802 delivered their required demonstration and 803, as always allowed for banter and hard work.  Not a bad day.  Tuesday rolled up and a solitary lesson with class 703 flew by without a great deal of fuss or commotion.  Sometimes classes feel smooth.  The students engaged, the work flowed.

Just when you want to go riding or running, Wednesday threw a torrent of rain at us.  The probability of rain increases as time draws closer to 16:00hrs.  The evening we celebrated Bryony’s 23rd birthday with a slap-up meal at the market followed by the pub quiz (we came 2nd) at Irene’s Bar.  The competitive teams often shout cheat, despite all phones being firmly away and it being obvious their teams are using their phones!  Some of the ex-pats here are a tad bitter towards other foreigners, this strikes me as very odd.  They are nice as pie face to face, but in their clicks, they can be right (excuse the Mancunian) “knobheads”.

Thursday, dragged by, rain and heat does that.  Oh and the six classes.  At lunch Liam, James, Esben and I went for pizza in town.  Esben and I returned via rickshaw, and survived.  My VIP class with the grade 5 students resembled and outtake from Gremlins.  A video of the rickshaw ride is here.

Friday, a lunchtime audition for our show on Children’s Day passed well, probably the best we have performed as a group.  Although I had to explain to Esben to duck from the plank or place his hands over his head and let the plank strike against his hands to create a loud slap.  His forehead having a little abrasion for his troubles.  Liam and James behaved too, this is rare in any rehearsals.  I’ll put it down to the heat and exhaustion.  Birgitte is professional.  I am not very confident in my performing skills (or lack of).  I need to perfect the Eric Morecambe paper-bag trick.   I was more annoyed it cut my class for 702 into half a class.

Nikki and I spent Friday evening on a bus to Hong Kong, queuing for very little time at the cross-border passport points.  The coach from the Sheraton Hotel in Houjie changed to a luxury people carrier for 5, due to lack of customers.  I for one was not complaining, top quality air conditioning and comfy leather seats beat a coach journey.  We checked into the Ovolo Hotel in Aberdeen (easy to get to from Wan Chai/Hong Kong central) and enjoyed the free minibar (two Tsing Tao beers, several soft drinks and a snack pack).

On Saturday morning, Nikki and I swept through the breakfast buffet like a plague of locusts.  After which we headed to Hong Kong Football Club for the football.  In the afternoon we explored Mongkok after taking the Star Ferry across from Central.  Soon after we wandered every market in the area (well it seemed that way), soaked up the views and bright lights.  Three polo shirts (for school), experience bargaining for a laptop fan (with built in light), a City towel, a traditional fan, an embroidered picture and a few random other bits later we finally had food (Mexican in Wan Chai) before heading off to dreamland.

On Sunday, Nikki went off exploring whilst I topped up my sunburn in Hong Kong Football Club.  We headed back very late on and went bed soon after.  Shattered.  Sunburnt.

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