Trilogy.

Good evening from China.

Mr Ben caught my ear a few moon ago. He mentioned that the movie Unbreakable, with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson was part of a trilogy. I did not know that. So, last week Mr Ben pointed me in the direction of the movies again. So, after an abandoned cycle ride after 45km, in torrential rain, I chomped on pizza, swigged good coffee and sank into the sofa.

Split and Mr Glass were most enjoyable. I found the intensity of Split closer to that of a truly well mastered horror movie. Mr Glass was closer to X-Men and Batman Begins without being over-glossed. Coupled with great menacing soundtracks, a well cast ensemble and gritty camera work, all were as digestible as my Lauren’s Pizza order.

As someone who appreciates graphic novels and their genre, I enjoyed the pull of both movies. I must confess to having not seen Unbreakable since 2000 when it came out, so now I’ll look back on that as a prequel. This trilogy was thankfully not just made for sales. Writer and director M. Night Shyamalan has come far since his 1999 hit The Sixth Sense. I see dead people? Signs remains one of my favourite flicks for its pointers back to classic thrillers and sci-fi. It did much for a revision of classic cinema in modern times. Manoj Nelliyattu (Night?) Shyamalan penned and directed The Happening which I enjoyed, despite the bleak feel. I’m now looking forward to the Indian-American director’s movie Old, due out in July of 2021.

Split stars one of my favourite actors in James Mcavoy. In this movie his tortured role doesn’t endear him quite the way he did whilst playing Rory O’Shea in Inside I’m Dancing. To many Mancunians, James Mcavoy will always be Liam from pub comedy Early Doors or Steve from Shameless. Scatter. Since those days though, Mcavoy has gone far and wide, scoring awards, landing big roles and doing proud for his native Scotland. Proof that Glaswegian talent can go anywhere, even if he does follow Celtic.

So following two good movies, I’m lay down listening to the music of Katherine Jenkins, Weezer, Foo Fighters, Ellie Goulding, Barry Gibb, Sia, and The Killers. A selection of 2021’s album releases isn’t a bad way to unwind. Weezer and Foo Fighters would definitely sound better live. The Killers have visit very familiar territory, whilst Barry Gibb, of famous band The Bee Gees, plays a few gentle collaboration hits. All very good for riding a bicycle casually. And The Bee Gees were formed in Manchester, so it’s good to visit one’s local music from time to time.

Enjoy your weekend.

Here’s a duo of photos from today’s bike ride:

Simple questions. Simple answers.

“Do you play football in the rain?”

“Of course!”

It’s raining.”

“We play on on an all weather pitch.”

“Don’t you get wet?”

“Yes, a little.”

“It must be very cold, right?”

“Not really, because we move and heat our muscles up.”

“What about your skin?”

“Skin is waterproof.”

/////

“What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow, I’m cycling.”

“It’s raining tomorrow. How can you cycle in the rain?”

“Rain jackets and care.”

“Rain is cold and dangerous. Won’t you catch a cold?”

“A cold is a virus. I may be more susceptible but it’s unlikely I’ll catch a cold due to rain.”

“What about your skin?”

“Skin is waterproof.”

////

“We can’t go outside tomorrow. What can?we do?”

“We can go outside.”

“But… but… it’s raining. How can we?”

“Macintosh jackets, umbrellas and Wellington boots are useful.”

“What about my skin?”

“It’s waterproof.”

Back In The Saddle

Good evening from China,

“You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.” – George Lorimer, author and journalist.

It could be afternoon, morning or night where you are, but I’m greeting with my own time-influenced greeting. Why not? I mean, “G’day” is for the Australians, “How do” is rather Lancastrian and “Nihao” is local but not that local. Let’s stay simple. I’m sat watching Irish actor Ciarán Hinds in movie titled The Man in the Hat. It’s a Sunday night movie. Very gentle. A British independent movie, downloaded in China. Musical composer Stephen Warbeck (Billy Elliot, Mrs. Brown & Shakespeare In Love) has moved from scores to directing. It’s a flowing road trip comedy full of charm and great cinematography. It features five bald men in a Citroën Dyane car. Rather Good Films Ltd. have a modest name and now they have a movie befitting their studio title. This is a great movie to escape the news and doom or gloom of these most testing months.

“Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you’ll be able to see further.” – Thomas Carlyle, Scottish historian.

This week has seen two visitors join the apartment. First, following Western Wednesday (on a Tuesday), I walked from Mr Ben’s digs outside, with Mr Oliver. Many kittens and cats were by the overflowing rubbish bins. On walking around the bins, in the gloomy post-Chinese New Year smoky air, I spied a white rabbit. Follow the white rabbit? I did. I picked it up. It was chewing plastic. It being around midnight, and following Once Upon A Time In The West, I was shattered. Oliver scooted off. I passed the garden security guard bearing a white bunny. I tried to explain, in my crap Chinese, where I’d found the long-eared lagomorph but didn’t get anywhere. So armed with the calm albino rabbit, I tootled back to my apartment, giving a mixture of dry food and a small bed to the new guest. After almost tripping up over him, I nicknamed him Speed Bump.

“The individual who says it is not possible should move out of the way of those doing it.” – Tricia Cunningham, author.

The previous night has seen me message almost everyone I knew within the gardens of residence that I reside, and the neighbouring phase one complex. Some clues were gained but nothing concrete. Nobody claimed the bunny. So, later that day, hearing that possibly two rabbits were regular lawn guests, I went back. There I found the second rabbit. On asking some kids on the lawn if they knew where the rabbits lived, i got nowhere. I did find a cage and the second rabbit chewing plastic with gusto. So, Second Coming joined Speed Bump. That was last week. It’s Monday now. Many small brownish black balls have been scattered throughout the apartment and promptly cleaned up. I’m starting to see why Elmer J. Fudd had such a problem with Bugs Bunny (originally a hare!). Whilst I don’t class myself as an adversary to my guests, I could do without them jumping on me whilst I’m reading on the sofa, especially whilst watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre late at night.

“When someone tells me ‘no,’ it doesn’t mean I can’t do it, it simply means I can’t do it with them.” —Karen E. Quinones Miller

The Friday of last week and the Saturday saw our academic team join the varied and diverse departments of Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS) return to work. With an International Baccalaureate® (IB) task we made a video showcasing Songshan Lake, created some ideas for the next Unit of Inquiry (American English is acceptable). All in all it was two days after a 13 day break that was quite enjoyable. We finished Saturday with a barbecue (completed by Breakfast Champion’s black pudding) and looked out across our school grounds, over the running track and football field. I looked at the farm at the farthest reaches of our school perimeter. Perhaps the compost machine rabbits will join our school farm soon. Maybe an owner will come forward. We’ll see.

“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” – Emile Zola, French novelist, journalist

Until next time, good evening/night/morning/afternoon/day… Have a nice day (if you must)

#VisitDongguan2021

Good morning/afternoon/evening/night/day,

Wherever you are, make sure it is a good one.

6th February 2021. Day 1 distance cycled: 94km. Tongsha Reservoir and Ecological Park (同沙生态公园) was the route chosen. Lodged beside the 107 National Highway, beginning at the Dongcheng District, the reservoir and ecological park stretches towards Foling Reservoir, linked by a stretch of road at the unknown named temple (under construction at grid reference 22.971147108234454, 113.82079775499022). The area is great for cycling, picnics, and walking. It has a mix of managed and wild forestry. There’s the odd farm selling fruits such as passion fruits, bananas and other such desideratum fruits. There’s often a good melody of bird calls and some wildlife can be found throughout, although patience is needed. The best way to enjoy the park, in my humble opinion, is on two wheels. There are some side cycle routes and the loop road throughout the area is safe enough to cycle on (with care). There’s a shop somewhere on the west flank and one towards the southern entrance (with cycle hire) which allows for snacks and refreshments. I often cycle to this parkland area just to buy my honey. I’ve yet to try flying kites or picking my own fruits. This park is the place for such joys.

On my return cycle, I swung by Songshan Lake and rolled through a new park (Central Park – ZhongXin GongYuan is next to 梦幻百花洲), discovering an abandoned theme park ruins and a good place to park my bottom whilst swigging a cup of hot cappuccino. Looking back at the day spent in a wetland and ecological park only built in 2006, I thought how quickly nature had taken hold of the area. For a teenage park, it has much more potential to blossom. The huge 40 square-kilometre region has small mountains, water bodies, flowery meadows and plenty of leafage. After that ride, I ate Hunan food with my friend Melody and then had dinner in Nancheng. It was a very pleasant day indeed.

7th February 2021. Day 2 distance cycled: 85km. Alongside my Spanish colleague Jaime, we set off for the most south-western point of Dongguan. We’re not allowed to leave Dongguan during the Chinese New Year festival. It’s part of the pandemic control. It makes sense. Why risk it? So, we headed to a place that overlooks Shenzhen’s most north-western tip. The new ecological park at JiaoYi Bay is so new that on arrival we found that most of the wild areas were under construction. The Marina Bay New District is being. Some land reclamation, some sea landscaping and plenty of soil was being moved. Still it was easy to work out what the end product would be. A Dongguan government propaganda piece has a alerted me to the area, and it wasn’t a bad wander. However the ride through Chang’an town and much of Dalingshan on the way there was an anticlimax. The ride back following the Dongbao river wasn’t bad even if sometimes the cycle path just vanished or had a construction site over it.

8th February 2021. Day 3 distance cycled: 70km. I went out for a coffee. I had no intention to do more than 20km. Songshan Lake has many inlets and side roads. Some areas are under intense building work, whilst others have immense environmental projects here and there. And then there’s Europe. Huawei’s European town is tacky and classy. It’s cheap and it’s extravagant. It’s simple and it’s complex. I’m unsure how I feel about this stack of contradictions. Although it does have a pretty cool railway system, I worry the scale is so large and so imposing that in a country struggling between Western and Eastern cultural identity that this piece of luxury is one step too far. Ox Horn Campus has 12 town styles inside it. And it seems to be growing, year on year, like a sinister James Bond nemesis set.

9th February 2021. Day 4 distance cycled: 0km. Today was our Murray’s F.C. x DGFC 30-man football tournament on Dongcheng rooftop. Between us all we had 5 teams, two fields (both 5 and 6 a-side) and a good evening of football, followed by beers and food at One For The Road and then Hollywood Baby Too. After many games throughout three hours, I was shattered and sore. The holiday needed me to have more energy…

Until next time.

7 years and a day…

新年快乐 / Happy Lunar New Year

It’s been seven years and a day since I arrived in China. There should be a lengthy piece of writing about that, but looking back is already documented. So, let’s look forward together to joy, happiness, City being top of the league and all that wonderful uncertainty that we get to kick in the dick. Don’t let the bastards wear you down. 2021 is the year of the (metal white?) Ox and we’re off and running.

To those lunatics who follow the lunar New Year, I wish you a happy new year. To those who follow the sun, you commit lunacy by not obeying the order of the moon. Each to their own. Blue moon will be played over the noise of the fireworks outside or maybe Saving Private Ryan is more appropriate.

To the future. So, what now?

Ta’ra / 再见

Ivy Freeman 20th March 1925 – 7th February 2014

In loving memory of Ivy Freeman, great grandmother, gran, mother, wife, sister, friend, neighbour and all the wonderful things, my Gran was to so many people.

Laid to rest at Hollinwood Crematorium on the afternoon of Friday the 21st February 2014, my Gran was much more to me than I think I ever told her.

The service by Canon John Sykes, featured professional music (Bette Midler’s Wing Beneath My Wings). I haven’t listened to it since that day without welling up in tears. The poem, Look for me in rainbows, by Conn Bernard and Vicky Brown featured.

Psalm 23 and John 14:1-6, 27 were read from the Bible. With the Lord’s Prayer by Il Divo preceding the commendation and farewell, before a dismissal by the Canon John Sykes. On leaving Andrea Bocelli, played over the speakers, Time to say goodbye. The procession moved on to The Millgate in Failsworth, Manchester.

The below is the writing of my Aunty Susan, I believe.

Ivy was born in Failsworth in 1925 – the second daughter of John and Mary Harrison. Her father died when she was 10. Her mother baked and took in washing. Despite these poor economic times, her mother ensured that her sister Mary and herself were always well dressed with gloves and hats.

She went to Mather Street school, where her second husband John was in the same year.  Ivy and John were courting when they were both 17 years old but opposition from John’s mother due to health concerns stopped them from seeing each other. 

War started and Ivy worked in the munitions factory and volunteered with the fire service, taking calls. It was joked that it was a wonder we won the war because Ivy probably sent the fire crews to the wrong address. She had no sense of direction.

Following the war, she met and married her first husband, Eden and had her first daughter Carolyn. Unfortunately, she was widowed early and left to bring up a young child on her own. Within six months, Ivy had also lost her mother.

In 1956, she married her first boyfriend John and went on to have two more daughters, Susan and Elaine. Ivy was widowed again a second time at the age of 60. At the age of 12, John had a kidney removed and the surgeon said he wouldn’t live to be a man but he had lived to 60, spending 29 years of marriage with Ivy.

She had various part time jobs whilst the children were young but was a machinist by trade. Whit week was a particularly busy time for Ivy, when she made Whit dresses and knitted cardigans for her daughters. She had a lovely voice and liked to sing as she did her housework – notably, Molly Malone.

As her daughters grew older, Ivy began work as a Home Help. She enjoyed helping and meeting people. Ivy was a very kind, caring woman and she often visited and helped her patients in her own time. Once, she didn’t return home from work until early in the morning, leaving her family frantic with worry. She had stayed at the bedside of one of her favourites Mr Ward, until he died. Ivy didn’t want to leave him alone.

In her later years, Ivy found a companion in Ernie and married him in hospital two months before he died. She had spent many happy times with Ernie.

Ivy loved life. She was a vivacious but quiet, thoughtful woman who always looked for the good in everyone. Right up to the day she died, she never lost her sense of humour and hope. Ivy believed that you should treat everyone equally and had a good knowledge of what was happening in the world around her. Although, not as political as her younger daughters, she would ask ‘Which apples am I not supposed to buy?’ during the boycott of South African goods.

She enjoyed reading, walking and spending time with her family. Even in her eighties, she would say ‘I didn’t wait for the bus but walked from Oldham to Failsworth and now I’m jiggered!’  In her sixties, she decided to give aerobics a go with her two younger daughters. It was Susan and Elaine who gave up going first! When walking started to get difficult and Ivy had breast and bone cancer, she resisted using a walking frame saying they were for old people. She was 87!

Ivy had 10 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren and enjoyed their company. She spent many happy times in Nottingham with her daughter Carolyn’s family only stopping her visits because of ill-health. She enjoyed listening to what her grandchildren were doing and gave support whenever she could. She had a close relationship with her sister, Mary, who helped her through difficult times. They were very close and always lived near each other. Mary’s recent death affected Ivy greatly and she lost her best friend.  

Ivy spent her later years at Earls Lodge, where she made many friends, especially Mavis. She had an active social life and there are many photos of her dressed up at various parties. Quite often she started her sentences with “Mavis said…” and at times her daughters would joke “perhaps we shouldn’t let her play with Mavis… she’s a bad influence”

After her death, one of her grandsons, John commented

“Humble, strong willed, independent, brave, modest, selfless. Rest well Gran, for you have been a hero and an inspiration to me. Those you have touched, will remember, and we’ll miss you. Keep on doing headstands. Gran, 1925-2014.”   A very fitting tribute.

Look for me in Rainbows

Time for me to go now, I won’t say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, way up in the sky.
In the morning sunrise when all the world is new,
Just look for me and love me, as you know I loved you.

Time for me to leave you, I won’t say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, high up in the sky.
In the evening sunset, when all the world is through,
Just look for me and love me, and I’ll be close to you.

It won’t be forever, the day will come and then
My loving arms will hold you, when we meet again.

Time for us to part now, we won’t say goodbye;
Look for me in rainbows, shining in the sky.
Every waking moment, and all your whole life through
Just look for me and love me, as you know I loved you.

Just wish me to be near you,
And I’ll be there with you.

Music and lyrics: Conn Bernard (1990). Vicki Brown

‘This poem was found on the memorial card for Ivy’s Maternal grandmother, Ann Clarke who died in 1907. (My great, great grandmother)‘ – Aunty Susan

How dearly we loved her

When on earth she dwelt.

How we do miss her

No tongue can tell.

God grant us her spirit –

That we may prepare

To meet her in Heaven

Where there’s no parting there.

To live in hearts we love is not to die.

Exhausted.

I’m too tired to write this. I started writing an hour ago. I can’t think how to continue the words. Did I forget something then or am I forgetting something now? I can’t shake my mind into gear. The ideas are there. I can feel them. I keep getting bits of this and that, or something and another. Nope. Gone again.

I’ll try memory techniques. I can’t remember how to do them. I’ll walk around in circles. Why am I doing this? What is it that I set out for? Left, right, left right? Look up here. No not there. Oh, there’s something I was looking for. When was that? What was I looking for it for?

I am shattered. My shoulders dropped down a life time ago. What did it to me? Why this week? Now and again it all seems to build up. Then the glass overflows. I need a rest. I need naps. I need to lay in bed. My muscles don’t just ache, they throb and they pulse. They burn. I eat right, I think but something is lacking. I rest well, usually, but what is it that I miss? I relax with books and movies and television shows and music and love and peace and quiet. I lack something.

I overslept. I barely moved today. My step count was liked by friends and colleagues but on those days I’d barely moved an inch. Are they mocking me? Even so, I don’t have the energy to ask them. I’m drained, pooped and my battery is empty. Duracell bunny? Not a chance. Time to close my eyes. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be full of energy. Here’s to hope. I’ve been too tired for optimism. Pessimistic thoughts didn’t join me either. The number you have dialled has not been recognised, please hang up and try again…

My eyes sag heavily. Dry lips. My mouth tastes like yesterday. There’s a smell I recognise as the fumes of frustration. I’ve blinked and the fidgeting of my hand is twitching away. I’m stammering words and mumbling hopes. Dreams pass by. I’m fighting a battle. Just can’t sleep or stay awake. Time to rest. Rest in peace. Not that way. Just quiet. Me, my mind and no movement. Rejuvenating restful rest. I close my eyes, without concern of waking. No plans tomorrow. Just rest. Only rest.

R Kid – Little Big Sister

Happy birthday to Astrid!

I know being in lockdown isn’t ideal and staying at my Mum’s for the best park of a year isn’t so independent, but at least our kid is safe and sound.

Astrid has the unfortunate month of birth that falls in the shadow of Christmas and just after the January sales dry up, usually. This year has been testing and it seems the future is also difficult. I know my sister is strong and she’ll do her best to keep herself busy and relaxed. Copious amounts of Beyonce and other vocalists will probably be heard. YouTube will be in good company with our kid playing tune after tune.

Our kid has always been wonderful to me, sharing her Hotel Chocolat chocolates, buying me snazzy and fragrant soaps from Lush or simply watching movies with me and our brother Paul. Astrid has always and will always be my friend and sister. I can’t wait to catch her when I’m in the U.K. next. We’ll have a good natter and a party later. Until then, all my love and best wishes for? this special day.

Peace and love to Our Kid, Big Bro x

Doubt.

Cutting into me, it twists like a knife. Confidence hasn’t been in my hand for too long. This companionship I hold drains me. An awful lonely feeling of dread and dreams that have disappeared.

Will I be disappointed? Will it all go wrong? What should I do now? WHAT SHOULD I DO? My soul screams at me. Echoes ping around my head like a thousand pinballs on a pinball board. Each ball finds a hole but no points join the scoreboard.

Silence hasn’t visited me in weeks. I’m trying. Oh, how I’m trying! Trying and crying. Solace? Where are you? I’m sensitive to you but you haven’t called for me in so long. Remember peace? I don’t recall it’s calm. My millpond is full of rippling waves. A cask of broken rocks plummets here and there. A plethora of circles expand ever outwards. This is my universe’s big bang.

A street that has no name is where my feet fall. I’m lost. I’m a shadow without a being. Am I a ghost without life? I want you to understand that I’m not looking for sympathy. You’ll forget me, as soon as you look at me. My skin is supposed to be thicker but every whisperer who whispers makes me want to shrivel away into nothingness. I’m not really here.

Religion and words won’t relate to me. Poems and stories won’t leap from the page. Songs won’t pull me together. I’m sure that I’ll see you again. Whatever you are. Whoever you were. We’re far apart. We’re not really here. Like the face of an invisible man. We’re not really here. We’re not. We are not. We’re not really here.

Oh doubt, you cut through me like fear. You tear me apart. You give me indecision. I’m in Dante’s inferno dancing without feet. My eyes are red-raw bleeding tears of sorrow and my lips are dry. Where did it all go wrong? Sometimes, no, all the time, I wonder why. Why does my soul wander? Why does it choose to wander hand-in-hand, side-by-side with you, doubt?