HRH Queen Elizabeth II

Mummy and Daddy will love forever. That’s how big saw it when I was young. Then after the teenage years, I heard friends and how they lost fathers and mothers. I filled with fear, worry and wondered how I’d cope. As grandparents drifted away, that worry grew and grew and grew. Nobody lives forever. That’s the saddest part.

Grief at the loss of grandparents came again and again and again. It’s horrid. They never truly leave you. Nor do you want them to. Even today, I visited a spot to talk to Gran. She wasn’t there but she was there. I sat on a canal side moorings and looked at the skies. The same skies Gran and I would gaze out on from Earl’s Lodge. I talked. Some private things. Plenty of questions. I like to think that Gran listened. She always did. How will I feel when a parent goes? I don’t know. I dread it. The Queen passed today. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, a mother to brothers and sisters. A grandparent. A great grandparent. Family is important.

They may be royalty, the Monarchy and the aristocracy. They may be the elite. They live different ways and enjoy privilege. They are living reality television for their subjects. If they can sustain a loss of family, so can we. We’ll be alright. Hopefully, no time soon.

I’m no Royalist or Republican. I’m no patriot. I was born a European and now by passport I’m British. The ages of Empire passed. Commonwealth to me means sports every four years. The budget Olympics. The positive legacy of history and Empire. Things change. Now we have a King. Long live King Charles III. Let’s hope the legacy of a Royal family builds a longstanding legacy of benefit to the Kingdom. The Prince’s Trust, The Duke of Edinburgh scheme, Queen Elizabeth II at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002 – it all counts.

The Queen and her family helped turn a brutal and sometimes terrible Empire and its legacy into a modern British symbolic cultural mainstay that is enviable globally and sought after. On this historic day, September 8th, we witness the passing of the crown and now the King must succeed her. The injustices and challenges of climate change face his reign. Long live the King.

But first, God save the Queen. Goodbye Your Majesty and I’ll let you off for making me late for a train at Stockport railway station.

Queen Elizabeth II (21/4/1926-8/9/2022)

Laid up philosophy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE VERDICT.

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

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

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

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

Pulmonary Embolism 2.0

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

Scenes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small Axe fall Big Tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a Minute?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blue. K.B.O.

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


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

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

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

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

Everything’s Electric

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’ll be better days.

All subject to change.

P.R.C.* – The Diary

[*Pets Removal China]

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

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

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

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

USA does not require this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 useful images

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

Last updated: June 7th, 2022.

Best foot forward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoops.

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

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

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

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

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

Hillsborough: Y.N.W.A.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The prime minister is the polar opposite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll never walk alone.

Online reflection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January Nucleic Acid Tests: 1

February Nucleic Acid Tests: 3

March NATs: 9

April NATs: 15

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

64 tests (to date). More to follow.

Hard rain.

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

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

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

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

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

An interview with my Mum: I

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

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

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

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

Weepy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen time.

How do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Freedom!” – Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further reading:

Free Speech Debate.com

Morphogenesis vertigo.

Enclosed at the face;
A covering for all;
A covering in part;
Worn as a disguise;
“I am Batman!”
This one is to amuse.

Industrial melanism in evolution;
From one code of darkness to natural selection;
Pollution and solution across generations;
Soot deposits and sulphur dioxide making way;
But, in better times it did not stay.

The fibre, the gauze, the fitting;
Bringing laughter, applause and teeth-gritting;
The wearer or a surgeon, or that of the patient;
Bedraggled non-conformity latent;
Attitudes infect and vendettas follow;
Collaborate via masking tape bridging the hollow.

A shield used to frighten;
This veil;
The shaped false face;
Fancy dress?
The vizard. The visor.

Bound together, hidden from all;
Abducted and placed up against a wall;
The collector hidden, concealed and camouflaged from sight;
Lovell’s telescope uncloaking the night.

Turing screening the enshrouded Enigma;
Overlooked by figures with their stigma;
How did the cell know what to do?
Sent messages of Morphogenesis vertigo.

Ubuntu.

Dear all,

This is an open letter of my thoughts and feelings. I’m having a tough time. I feel weighted down at the shoulders and hips. Perhaps, I have cursed myself (and those around me). I feel I want to retreat from here and hide away. I’m certain of it. In fact, I started writing this piece of crap on March the 4th and over 8 days, I kept thinking about deleting it or revisiting it for completion. In the end simmering anger won.

I had a real negative day on March the 3rd. Pessimism was my bedfellow. Something I had done, was rightfully pointed out to me as being somewhat controversial and sensitive. By placing two A3 pieces of paper (dark blue over yellow), the intended Ukrainian colours appeared as a flag. They faced outside of the classroom, affixed to the windows. On their inside, facing into the room, were pieces of work about the U.N. Human Rights Act and censorship. Our current grade 9 and 10 language and literature unit is themed around freedom of speech and creativity. The school principal rightfully advised that China is neutral and at present we shouldn’t draw attention to this fact. Nor should we mention that western intelligence [oxymoron?] has apparently (and reportedly) shown that Russia was asked to postpone its invasion of the Ukraine until after the Winter Olympics. China denies this. The western media isn’t exactly reliable. Mixed messages in China don’t make the matter any clearer.

Yesterday evening, I was sat on a bench tossing a ball for Panda, reading Melissa Hogenboom‘s article titled What is the best age to learn to read? It seemed idyllic to understand that babies in the womb and young babies respond to reading before being able to comprehend anything tangible. The article even argues and supports reasons not to teach phonics so militantly. As Panda caught the ball once again, a little dog, XiǎoBāndiǎn (小斑点) played alongside him and soft rays of golden sunshine swept through leafy trees onto the part-scorched grasses below. I took a long deep breath. I truly felt fed up.

Democratic nations, freedoms of speech and a constant tug of war between this and a certain unitary one-party socialist republic have been the norm for quite some time. The COVID-19 pandemic has been exploited by many throughout these last grinding two and a bit years. The constant bitching and arguing about origins of the bloody virus reached fever pitch long ago. Now the bloody virus is white noise. This tinnitus is still there but now the first Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic form a backdrop to Russia’s invasion upon Ukrainian soil. Football, culture and global togetherness seem unworthy of our attention. The CONIFA World and European football cups mean little right now. Cornwall will not be playing against either of these two Ukrainian-breakaway lands anytime soon. There’s far too much separatism and breaking away around the world. The climate change battle goes almost unheard.

“Increasingly irreversible losses.” – Svitlana Krakovska, Ukrainian climate scientist, Climate Change News.

The other complexity of yesterday was that I removed the two posters from the window and placed them on the wall lower down. Now, do I explain this to my Ukrainian colleagues (or was it them that has the worry in the first place?) or do I just carry on as normal? Am I over-thinking? No offensive intention was ever intended. Do I also consult my British-Russian colleague? Either way, there is an awkwardness that could entirely be self-paranoia, but I feel guilty and cannot decide what to do, or not. However, I won’t hide words or actions. If China does align itself with the invasive force of Russia, I won’t sit back and carry on. The media here won’t show anti-war protests or online petitions. This is their country, their rules. I respect that. The horrors of war are slipping through though. It is hard to ignore the one Foshan football shop trying to sell their last batch of Adidas Russia football shirts printed with Putin and some disgusting abusive social media slips through. The internet is not a trusty place. It is fast swelling up as a place of propaganda and people playing pitiful games of power as village idiots.

Ubuntu [ùɓúntʼù] comes from the Nguni Bantu peoples and languages. It roughly translates as “I am because you are”. It is a word that implies community is central to self. Sharing connects. The word can be found across South Africa in Zulu and Zhosa – and in the same form in Rwanda’s Kirundi and Kinyarwanda languages. At least two dozen other forms of the word can be found across Bantu countries. In Kenya, omundu, is the equivalent word. Our finite world is desperate for such beauty and community. We need more celebration, such as rediscovering Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton‘s Endurance and sharing those magical images to future explorers and scientists.

Civic pride can empower?

In my mind positivity’s optimist is in its own war with the pessimist and realist. I had a moment yesterday where I imagined refugees scratching walls at an abandoned Kwik Save supermarket in Abergele, revealing a lone tin of No Frills baked beans. Day dreams and wondering mindsets have become commonplace this last week or so. Days and hours blur as one. I used to be organised and focused. Now, I struggle to listen to Just a Minute for only 60 seconds.

“This year will be harder than last year. On the other hand it will be easier than next year” – Enver Hoxha’s message to Albania, 1967.

We live in a world where former UK Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat-cum-Conservative party leader heads Facebook/Meta (can’t see the join?) and their global affairs. yes, he helped Gurkhas get the right to settle… but the coalition is a direct cause of Boris Johnson’s dark rise to the country’s premier position. Many attribute Nick Clegg to the slump of the Liberal Democrats party. It’s now hard to see this party as anything but a bit-part-player. They have allowed the elite of societies to distract and disrupt social groups. The left wing has been too busy infighting no notice the central-right leaping away. Celebrating millionaires and billionaires is all fair enough, but keep in mind the rich got richer during COVID-19 as the poorer classes were left to struggle and survive. Inequality as some doubled their accounts. How anyone can celebrate Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos is beyond me? Tesla and SpaceX grew over six-fold in their profits. The planet had to suffer the air damage but the banks raked in the funds. Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Larry Ellison, Sergey Brin. Warren Buffet, Steve Ballmer, the Waltons (Jim, Alice and Rob: Walmart’s owners), Phil Knight, Michael Bloomberg, and MacKenzie Scott make up a huge panel of those who average 61.7% growth between them. That’s just America. China had a similar pattern too – although leader Xi Jinping is working against that. COVID-19 has been good for the mega-rich individuals of China. It wouldn’t surprise me if their NAT tests use gold-plated swab tests. The giants stand on the dead, right? Although Russian oligarchs did well, they’re now getting smashed by sanctions following Russia’s real-life enactment of the board game Risk (buy a copy at local shop Amazon to keep Jeff Bezos fed). History really does repeat itself.

Apologies for any cohesion being lost by a piece of writing being edited a whole 8 days later. I haven’t quite had a mood to write for a long time. Rant over? TO BE CONFIRMED.

Peace and love x

Right to Return.

How do.

The following months are going to be difficult. The future is sat on a knife edge. The inevitable travel home for summer is not intended to be one way. The logistics, however, are impractical and almost unworkable.

A friend, Stephen, estimated costs for return to hit the best part of 5-6000GBP. God bless the economy seat options. I wonder if a seat in first class is much different. Others have mentioned 7-9000GBP. All those pounds could support a charity or something more worthwhile than a 30% occupied flight destined for China, far away from the intended city of stay. Even now China has no scheduled flights to or from the U.K. June is the loosely mentioned rumoured return. Even that was delayed from February. China isn’t ready for COVID-19 case increases? Well, it has flights to other countries with high caseloads. So, that doesn’t sound right. Political? Perhaps.

Regarding the next academic year, Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS) placed an offer to extend my stay there. I was touched and happy to receive it. Three years ago it would have been a great offer. The problem is that the world has changed. I had to place a counter offer. To commit to two more years here makes the uncertainty of return, high quarantine costs and extortionate flight prices untenable. If I’m supported and with understanding from my employer then all is good. Patience and planning will be key. If not; well, here lies uncertainty. The ball is in their court. I await their reply.

In the meanwhile provisional offers and begging messages are flooding in from LinkedIn, and an agent representative of a company offering Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) via ITT (Initial Teacher Training) in a school in Beijing. Doors are opening and hands are gesturing to come in. All this as the foundation for the Diploma Programme at TWIS is being laid and prepared for. A change of location isn’t something I desire.

I’m sat watching Gomorra, an Italian drama series deeply entrenched in the organised underworld of Naples. Currently, I’ve enjoyed a gritty trio of series and have the fourth installment under my scrutiny. As a fan of The Sopranos and its gripping characters from the get go, choosing to view Gomorra was a simple choice. Gerry, from Ireland, recommended this show for months on end. Many, especially in Napoli, argue the TV series (and spinoff movie The Immortal) glamorises violence and gangland culture but a viewer seeks entertainment. The script-writing is sharp and the direction flows. I thoroughly recommend the serial drama.

For now, I’m just planning a holiday to see family and friends. How I get back is anybody’s business. Whether I remain at TWIS now is debatable. I wish to stay but now that IB continuum has arrived, I know I’m easily replaced. Private education is all about the money. And money is cold and unforgiving. Just like COVID-19. It’s there, dividing and conquering. In these days, living without money is like trying to live without COVID-19. You’re in a bubble, isolating all. Outcast.

Outbound doesn’t look too complicated. Return costs are from 4077GBP upwards. Then, add quarantine costs for 21-28 days…

Ta’ra.

Kicking this habit?

Hello! 你好! Nǐ hǎo! S’mae!

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” – Garrison Keillor (author of The Lake Wobegon Virus)

I read a few chapters before bed. I carry a book in my pocket almost religiously. I aim to have books on my desks and near my bedside. The bookshelf I have is full to bursting despite attempts to forever re-home unwanted texts. If I can read on a walk, at lunch or between classes, I do. It has always been my way. Reading is a lifelong pleasure and habit. It helps me to feel relaxed and whenever I have felt tired, alone or under the weather, reading has been my medicine and friend.

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope.” – Kofi Annan (Late UN Secretary-General)

Having a to do list is seen as normal in many households. Why not create a list of texts and books to read? Mine keeps getting longer. It never reduces. That’s the joy of reading: there’s always something new to expand your horizons. I find my television and movie viewing list also remains quite lengthy. By being balanced and principled, I can reduce my screen time in favour of reading. I often use TV as a reward for completing a reading target.

“One of the greatest gifts adults can give – to their offspring and to their society – is to read to children.: – Carl Sagan (Scientist)

Pale Blue Dot: food for thought?

I recall the joy of Mum and occasionally my Dad reading to me when I was a child. Those bonds and memories never fade. As a child I listened to it as we shared a reading habit development together! Such quality time is essential for reading habits. I recall how my Mum used to log when I would start and end a book. There was a list of great books we read together, those I picked up at school and some I had read all alone. Reading can instill self-esteem.

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty.  It should be offered to them as a precious gift.” – Kate DiCamillo

The library was a weekly excursion. It was a few hours outside of the house to explore new worlds from the pages. And, on occasion, Mum would ensure I had a special trip to buy secondhand books or new books from stalls at Manchester Victoria railway station. There, I’d often find books that gripped my attention and make me want to read. Not everything read must be a masterpiece. Those books would make for a wonderful day or hour here and there. Having a day, every month set aside just for reading has become a way to slow the pace of life down and enjoy new works. Mum gave me lots of choices for reading. That’s important. What interests me may not interest you. You can recommend reading materials but giving a child a chance to pick will always work best. 

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” – Stephen King

reading with parentsset times
always carry a bookexplore bookshops
create reading listsreduce your screen time
log ituse the library
find compelling bookschoose a quiet & pleasurable place
Ten possible steps to positive reading habits.

“We read to know we are not alone.” – C.S. Lewis

Some of my favourite places to read: the old Levenshulme Library; the domed Great Hall of the Manchester Central library; hiking towards Everest Base Camp (at various points); a really cool tree in Songshan Lake park (Dongguan, China); my apartment office; on train journeys (especially The Cambrian Coast line in Wales); a rock at the Old Man of Coniston; near an abandoned cabin in Yunnan; and my bed.

Goodbye! 再见! Zàijiàn! Ta’ra!

Reading Draft.

Dear readers,

“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.” – Roald Dahl

The below is a huge draft that will be edited and chopped probably into less than 150 words, or maybe just a handful of sugar, or likely whichever earns me the most coffee cups. It all started when Miss Hannah in marketing asked me to create something for social media in relation to holiday reading. I immediately wanted to share Roald Dahl. Then, I thought about international mindedness, books with messages and genres that leave your heart tickling. Of course, there are many mainstream examples and some are quite well-known, but that’s the magic of a good book – it cannot stay shut! It fails to remain quietly shut in a dark corner of a room. Books cry out for attention. They’re living breathing monsters that grip you, hug you and leave sloppy kisses on your cheeks. So, that’s the introduction to the opener below.

“I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.” – C.S. Lewis

Do you remember the first time you opened a book and it truly grabbed your attention? Perhaps that text took you away to a whole new world. Maybe that story whisked you off on a never ending story. Certainly the protagonist had your attention. You were hooked! You find yourself nose-deep in the book, living and feeling the words! Breathing in a rollercoaster ride or feeling the love from the rows and rows of the word beneath. Importantly, age groupings are never always accurate. Students read and write at various levels of ability across age and year groups. It’s important to differentiate to an appropriate reading level. It is worth noting that opening new books may not prove too challenging, however, it can always awaken a part of a new imagination.

“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” – Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Artist’s impression. Just a concept at this stage.

Whether you’re an avid reader or a book guru, books such as The Animals of Farthing Wood (Colin Dann) can stick with you for life. Reading about characters such as Tintin and adventures such as The Lord of The Rings can shape our expectations of movies or provide us with hours of conversations amongst thinkers and friends. As we reflect in life, we’re often granted opportunities to communicate our recommendations. Here are a few books to get you going.

Emerging readers: Kindergarten & PYP levels 1-2 / grades 1-2 / UK nursery school or years 1-2 (5-7 years)

Books at this level should be packed full of sight words, colour and invention. A trio of examples shall follow. The Reverend W. Awdry wrote Thomas the Tank Engine and friends. His 26 stories were aimed at his child Christopher. It must have worked because later on, son followed father, adding a further collection to the series! Eric Carle was a colourful writer, creating a list of books as long as my arms and legs (which are very long indeed). The Very Hungry Caterpillar is an iconic place to start reading his works: “One sunny Sunday, the caterpillar was hatched out of a tiny egg. He was very hungry.” Janet and Allan Ahlberg are no strangers to children’s fiction. This married couple worked together for over two decades. Funny Bones, Mr Biff the Boxer, and Kicking a Ball.

“Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!” – Betty Smith

At these ages students are now working out how to segment words using phonics and recognising an increasing number of sight words. They’re differentiating homonyms whilst learning to love books. Read daily and often with your kids now and they should develop at their fastest! To that mind look up the following books: All Join In (Quentin Blake – one of the greatest and most distinctive illustrators of all time); Peace at Last (Jill Murphy); The Runaway Wok (Ying Chang Compestine); Mr Wolf’s Pancakes (Jan Fearnley); Owl Babies (Martin Waddell & Patrick Benson); Suddenly (Colin McNaughton); Grumpy Frog (Ed Vere); Oi Frog! (Kes Gray & Jim Field); The Squirrels Who Squabbled (Rachel Bright & Jim Field); Flotsam (David Wiesner); Guess How Much I Love You? (Sam McBratney); Slow Loris (Alexis Deacon); I Want My Potty! (Tony Ross); Dear Zoo (Rod Campbell); Meg and Mog (Helen Nichol and Jan Pienkowski) and so many more… (further inspiration can be sourced here).


PYP 3-5 / grade 3-5 / UK years 3-5 (7-9 years)

Flat Stanley, penned by Jeff Brown, tells the story of a boy squashed by a bulletin board. His newfound flatness allows him to slip under doors like a piece of mail. He can even fly like a kite! This story series has been around for more than fifty years. The authors six original stories have inspired a catalogue of stories by other authors. There is also the Flat Stanley Project which brings together an awful lot of people around the world. Jackie Chan approves of it.

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” – Lemony Snicket

Anything from the collections of Dr Seuss, A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh), Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking) and Roald Dahl should capture attention at this age. René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo‘s Asterix the Gaul series can open up new frames as to how a story can appear. I would recommend this following group too. The Nothing to See Here Hotel (Steven Butler); The Bee is not Afraid of Me (Fran Long & Isabel Galleymore); King Kong (Anthony Browne); Dilly the Dinosaur (Tony Bradman); The Diary of a Cat Killer (Anne Fine); Mrs Cockle’s Cat (Philippa Pearce); The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark (Jill Tomlinson); Where The Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak); Mr Majeika (Humphrey Carpenter); How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell); The Sheep-Pig (Dick King Smith’s book was made into the movie Babe); Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White); The Iron Man (Ted Hughes) Cliffhanger (Jaqueline Wilson); Peter in Peril (Helen Bate); Coming to England (Floella Benjamin) and other great books for PYP3, PYP4 and PYP5.

Not quite a good artist’s impression. Just another concept at this stage.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss


MYP 1/2 / grades 6-7 / UK years 5-6 (9-11 years)

“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest (people) of the past centuries.” – Descartes

After developing imagination and experiencing adventure, books tend to favour realistic fiction and serious topics for older students. At this age, books open doors into many new worlds and offer insights into many other cultures. Encyclopedia-style texts lure in the curious and student inquirers. Hard-hitting and dark stories sit between classics and familiar friends of the literature world. Look up: The Boy At the Back of The Class (Onjali Rauf); Illegal (Eoin Colfer – think Artemis Fowl); Abomination (Robert Swindells); The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien); What Katy Did (Susan Coolidge); The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis); The Borrowers (Mary Norton); Silverfin (Charlie Higson’s young James Bond series) and so on.

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place, you can install a lovely bookshelf on the wall.” – Roald Dahl

Yet another idea. It isn’t official.

MYP 3/4 / grades 8-9 / UK years 7-8 (11-13 years)

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” – Groucho Marx

Recently the language and literature class tackled Bridge to Terabithia by China-born Katherine Paterson. This novel became a Disney-adaptation. Few students favoured the movie over the book. Books have often been adapted for the silver screen, the television or the stage. A great checklist to read and then watch can include the following: Madame Doubtfire (Anne Fine); The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton); The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Mark Haddon); The Day of the Triffids (John Wyndham); The Hound of the Baskervilles (Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes); The Plague Dogs (Richard Adams); The Woman in Black (Susan Hill); Watership Down (Richard Adams); and The Giver (Lois Lowry).

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn


MYP 5/DP / grades 10+ / UK years 9+ (13+ years)

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin

At this age level, the vocabulary is expanding with new words dropping down like rain. Students are better armed to scaffold and learn these familiar unfamiliar phrases and terms. Using their decoding techniques they can swiftly move through lengthy text. The classic The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Maus by Art Spiegelman are fine examples of texts that would sit well on a student’s bookshelf. Students who watch movies such as Dune and Jurassic Park, should at this point, now be lifting the text that inspired these movies. The respected authors Frank Herbert and Michael Crichton have sizable and diverse reading catalogues suitable for those who claim to be knowledgeable. Writers and readers alike should explore diverse texts, such as: This Book is Cruelty Free (Linda Newbery); Atonement (Ian McEwan); Long Walk to Freedom (Nelson Mandela); Touching My Father’s Soul (Jamling Tenzing Norgay). I would also thoroughly recommend Paddy Clarke Ha, Ha, Ha by Roddy Doyle and William Golding’s Lord of The Flies because by now a rounded reader is a communicator of text. Just ask the students of language and literature at TWIS. Further reading suggestions can be found here and there.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” – C.S. Lewis

The last idea? Not at all. However, it is crude and simple.

Tired of heavy paper books? Do your children favour electronic devices? Try a popular e-reader like Kindle or Kobo. They may be devices that are limited, but that’s the beauty of it. Why worry about bad eyesight or distractions? There are stacks of available titles, some free and many can be read from .PDF documents. Many are portable. The anti-glare screens and lack of blue light make most devices unobtrusive to eyesight. Some even have onboard dictionary features.

Consult your librarian or find a suitable booklist, then check off or list how many books you have read! Be principled!

Many of us are traditional and favour paper because of the smells and textures, as well as the tangible aspect. We like to touch things. Make sure the next thing your son or daughter touches is one that reaches back and captures their heart. On top of that, books exercise brains, and to quote Roald Dahl, “If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.” There you have it. Read it. Read it all. Read everything! I read everything. I read every little thing. That’s not true. I wish I did. I’m still working on it.

Thank you kindly for your time and reading.

Mr John

Tiger Feet.

新年快乐 Xīnnián kuàilè / Happy New Year

It’s 2022 and Monday, January the 31st sees rockets zipping into the air, exploding into slivers of shimmering silvers and reds.

恭喜发财 gōng xǐ fā cái / happiness and prosperity

Children and adults play with firecrackers, and light spinning fireworks on the ground. Bang after boom echo and fill the smokey night air loud and long. The air wreaks of chemicals and smoke, remaining lit and shrouded by reactions, collision after crashing explosion. The onslaught, a man-made destruction of fresh air to celebrate a new year. A temporary volcanic blast of colourful joy.

虎年大吉 hǔ nián dà jí / Wishing you luck in the year of the Tiger!

The tiger (虎 hǔ) , faced with extinction, is third of twelve on the Chinese zodiac. Lucky colours in this wood tiger year include grey, white, blue, purple, orange, and black. We’re supposed to avoid gold, silver, brown and pink. The largest living cat species, Panthera tigris, is a critically endangered is an apex predator. This vertically striped beast has a hugely fragmented territory now, enjoying protection in parts of India and Russia. This macrofauna remains popular in culture, sports and at conservation parks globally.

Tigers have featured in folklore and mythology for countless years. The national animal of South Korea has little documented evidence that it is still present there, yet like many countries the symbolic value of the tiger remains powerful. Last official estimates show there to be less than fifty tigers wild in China. The anti-pest campaigns of the 1950s have decimated the genetic breeding populations. However, laws and regulations since 1993 have been strengthened. Sadly, traditional medicine still remains a threat. Bloody English game hunters wiped thousands out and to this day man-hunter tigers are often eliminated.

Zoos aren’t always as they seem. Many in Asia lack genetically valuable breeding specimens. Generations of inbreeding and circus or posing animals have weakened a vulnerable captive breeding population. Bluntly putting it, the tiger’s future is on its last legs. Fragmented habitat, poaching, habitat destruction, human-wildlife conflict, and medicinal beliefs put tigers firmly in the negative zone for the future. Globally there could be 5495 tigers in the wild. Or less. So, let’s hope the Year of the Tiger brings prosperity to the giant feline. Yann Martel’s Life of Pi softened tiger images, whilst Tigger in Winnie the Pooh hasn’t done so bad.

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?’ – Tyger, a poem by William Blake

This year of 2022 will be haunted by COVID-19 and climate change, global differences and financial crisis. The bright sparks in the darkness include the Hunchun Reserve (珲春国家级自然保护区) and the South African Laohu Valley Reserve for South China tigers (Panthera tigris tigris). Li Quan (全莉) has been deeply involved in trying to rewild South China with tigers.

虎运连年 hǔ yùn lián nián / Wishing you the luck of the Tiger year after year!

Make note: 29th July 2022 – Global Tiger Day

Roar on.

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!

Giving whisterpoop.

How do! 你好!

Whisterpoop. Verb. A small smack to the upside of the head.

How much giving did you give this last year? Did you your all? I gave as much as I could but I still feel that there’s more to give. Give or take. This year though, I feel it is harder and harder to hit my next gear, let alone my top gear! Extra energy and motivation are needed.

A student, Chael, asked me if I was leaving TWIS (Tungwah International School) in summer. Even if I was, I could not answer it clearly. It was a little shocking. As my language and literature students tucked into pizza, viewed Jurassic Park and finalised their presentations, I questioned Chael on where his question came from. He said that he read it on my blog. I told him, truthfully, that I will visit family and friends in summer – but returning to China, at the minute, is close to impossible due to the costs. Hopefully things will change to allow people to return to China from the U.K. Still, it is pleasing to know that students don’t want you to leave.

Dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin are neuropharmacological substances that we release. This trifecta dose produced happiness. The brace of Lauren’s pizzas and snacks accompanying class were short-lasting blasts of happiness after a hard week, with online curriculum in action video audiences (as parents) and other bits and bobs, adding to a tiresome environment, swamped by local COVID-19 outbreak worries and demands. Other ways to produce the trio of neuropharmacology releases include holding a door open, giving a gift to a friend or volunteering. Giving time to others or a cause is so often underrated.

I am receiving the radio show Wordaholics from the year 2012 via BBC Sounds. The distinctive and linguistic voice of writer Gyles Brandreth has been on TV and radio for years and I long hope he continues. We all need a veteran to learn from! As I study classroom management skills to try to get those pesky grade 7 and 6 students into better order, I find the sound of radio quite relaxing. That and some select poetry between the reading. Beats thinking about the next COVID-19 test!

March 2020: arrival in China at Guangzhou International Airport3 [nose (both nostrils & throat)]risk or reason
March 2020: Xihu, Dongguan, quarantine6 (on arrival, day 1, day 3, day 7, day 10, day 14)COVID-19 pandemic
March 2020: arrival to Changping, Dongguan1relocation to community
The times between April 2020-May 2021:4 (21st December; 5th & 8th April; 25th May;)collect passport in GZ; visit SZ
June 2021:4 (21st; 20th; 9th; 7th)regional outbreak/travel
July 2021:1 (13th @Zhangye station)travel: Shaanxi; Shanxi; Ningxia; Gansu; Yunnan.
August 2021:2 (5th; 3rd;)return to school
September 2021:1 (27th;)
October 2021:
November 2021:1 (11th;)admitted to hospital/unrelated to pandemic
December 2021:4 (7th; 12th; 18th; 25th)
January 2022:2 (17th; 4th)
February 2022:2 (28th>; 26th*; 25th>)
March 2022:4 (8th>; 9th>; 11th>; 12th*; 13th>; 14th>;)outbreaks in Dalang, Changping & Humen, Songshan areas of Dongguan
TOTAL TESTS35 tests
NAT Tests log – to date [* gardens/> at school]

Which is better? Giving, or receiving? In the case of having the NAT (Nucleic Acid Test), I can’t imagine shoving the swab into thousands of people a day to be any good. It certainly is no fun to receive. One test this week caused some light bleeding to my throat. I didn’t have a sore throat before, but afterwards for two days, I had a tender throat. Bloody COVID-19!

Thank you kindly! Ta’ra! 谢谢你。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!”

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.