The U.K.’s recession seems to have created an upturn in the spray paint industry. Such is the shortage of spray paint, I’ve seen “TORY SCUM” dabbed on external walls in gloss and emulsion. 13 years of Conservative rule has brought about economically devastating cuts and lack of support for the people. For many, it is too much.
“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge, you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the centre.” – Kurt Vonnegut, American surrealist writer
The opposition is to blame. The predecessors are at fault. The immigrants are culpable. If you listen to enough Tory party rhetoric or watch handily patronising videos, the blame game clearly points outwardly. Not a single Tory bastard has shame at their door. Scandal after insipid allegation after delusional smearing of muck appears in an endless cascade of contemptible dishonour.
The calendar months of autumn past have already seen nurses, railway folk, ambulance staff, and countless others on strike. For at least four days across February and March, teachers join the fold. Civil servants won’t serve. Transport won’t be in action. Letters will remain undelivered. This round of spring strikes is as important as ever.
Contending a lack of pay increases is one condition. Others include safeguarding jobs, improving work conditions, and the protection of rights. This even has implications on the European border in Northern Ireland since Britain left the European Union. Some battles are individually fought while many are backed by unions. Bosses hate unions. Unions influence change. Historically, unions have highlighted that, for many, pay hasn’t improved in almost two decades. Unions are fighting to change that. The E.U. even protected the right to strike under European law.
As Brexit negotiations follow through like defecation during a fart, Tory politicians should be used to talking. Negotiations are supposed to exist between the employer and the employees or via their unions. Some bosses acknowledge change is needed and do the necessary. Collective bargaining can break down. That’s where employees can withdraw their labour, in order to get their paymasters back to the bargaining table.
The U.K. laws allow a secret ballot that stands up to scrutiny and relates to the employer, from their staff… and cover half of the employment workforce. Not voting helps nobody’s cause. Certain notices must be adhered to. Otherwise, a strike may be invalidated. On top of that, since 2016, an act, Trade Union Act, requires 40% of all workers in important services to vote for strike action. More laws and regulations have been quickly huddled together in recent years to add mud to murky waters.
Rights, shareholder profits, attacks on trade unions, increased poverty, household debt, pay scale drops, and other terms have become the social norm. Food banks are springing up as fast as shops are closing. The rise of zero hour contracts, casual work, and detrimental working conditions underline a growing stumbling block. The government’s appointed pay reviews and its handling or blocking of deals have not helped. Draconian laws to prevent strikes are on the Bill.
If we, as people and servants to our bosses, don’t make ourselves accountable and answerable to more than their profits, then the slow down of pay to inflation and support between 2008 and 2022 will account to much more. The profiteers of a pandemic and the exiting of European common laws are already enjoying rich reward at the expense of a public far removed from proper reward. The North of England has been compared with Greece due to its lack of investment. All other European nations and many regions of the U.K. receive better government support.
For many, it is too much. For now, it is all we have. 2025 is the next General Election. Will things change?
The 11th day of the Gregorian calendar. 354 days of 2023 remain. In Tunisia, it is Children’s Day. In England, Southampton F.C. host Manchester City in the E.F.L. League Cup. In. Nepal, Prithvi Jayanti is being celebrated.
January is a time of sales, newness, and winter blues in the northern hemisphere. My younger sister Astrid was born on the 20th day of this month and remains to this day, my younger sibling. Also, she’d be a star if Astrid found more hobbies. A new year means resolutions and opportunities to start something fresh. Go on, Astrid, give it a try! Spring is coming soon…
Newness means looking at new ideas. Talking about baby names with my future Prime Minister friend, some oddities were suggested. Brahma Timothy Dalton Kiki Glauber Berti Acton was not considered, although it was recalled by my mate Brahma as a great baby name suggestion. No chance. Maltese rebel Vincenzo Borg, born on this date in 1777, stood a better chance. Also born on this day was SAS founder Paddy Mayne. The name Mayne has a good ring to it. It sounds like Maine. Maine Road? Very direct. A main road. Never cross the main road, as were told as a kid. Never cross the Maine Road, as Manchester United fans used to say.
Suggested names often link to history, time, and dates. In the month of the wolf moon, Wrestler Mick “The Dulwich Destroyer” McManus was born on this day. Combining the letters of man with the letter u isn’t appropriate. He was born on the same date a few years before Arthur Scargill. They are in good company with Bud Acton, my all-time favourite basketball player. I’m fibbing. I don’t really like basketball. The Manchester Giants are okay. Manchester City are better. İlkay Gündoğan plays for the boys in blue. İlkay means first moon.
Today is former Halifax Town striker Jamie Vardy’s birthday. To save money on a party, he and former Manchester City player Leroy Sané can organise a joint party reading Thomas Hardy books in the memory of the great wordsmith. A photo of great mountaineering humanitarian Sir Edmund Hilary could be placed on a wall behind a breathalyser to ensure party guests don’t drive home under the influence of alcohol. That great invention by Welsh inventor Tom Parry Jones has probably saved more lives by being a deterrent than not. So, that all can appreciate the Chinese calendar year…
The Chinese year is somewhere between 4719 or 4659, 壬寅年 (water tiger) to 4720 or 4660 癸卯年 (water rabbit). Give or take. China has recently reopened and gives me a chance to try and book a flight back soon whilst applying for the visa. Perhaps I can call via Croatia, which has now fully adopted the Euro coinage, and will abandon the kuna as a currency in 4 days. These days, I’d simply favour a stable job and some pounds or RMB to help the future move along smoothly.
Indigo is a cool sounding word and same. It has passed from the Greek word, ‘indikon’, meaning ‘from India’ to Latin into common usage English. It reflects the meaning of a purplish blue colour produced by a plant with a similar name, Indigofera tinctoria. In naming formats for kids, it is gender-neutral and apparently appeared as far back as the year 1436. Marco Polo (1254-8 January 1324) is believed to have first brought back the plant and dye instructions to Europe. These days, the plants are often known to improve soil and bring new life to earth. This plant obviously provides a natural compound that allows blue to be added to clothes, canvas, and a multitude of materials. Naturally, I’m a blue as a Manchester City fan. Blue is natural. Look at the skies* and the sea. [*unless in Manchester, on this sodden wet morning]. There’s something about the moon and blue that feels right.
12:46pm China time, in Huizhou. 04:46am, Greenwich Mean Time…
Key worker and essential cog one day, discarded the next week.
“Valued employee” and “fine example” until you’re not relevant.
“Outstanding” and “innovating” before being outdated and obsolete.
“Indispensable” or “central to the team” as a budget slash deems your release date now.
Punctual, loyal, and attentive to fine details, followed by succeeded and outdated.
Moving on up, rising to the top, but all of a sudden, tumbling and spiralling downwards.
There’s a margin. A wafer thin gap. A sliver of light between dark and lost. A piece of hope dangling on the thread of chaos and change. Which way it blows is not always your choice. Which way you respond, use your own voice. A pathway here or a tunnel there. Give in, or go on?
Happy New Year to all. Fresh from City’s one all draw with Everton, I’m sofa-bound enjoying Match of The Day and a cup of tea. That’s how I roll. My first Christmas, since 2013, at home was wonderful.
The first King Charles Third’s Christmas speech apparently stated we should enjoy every minute with those who you love because we can never return to that time following loss. This is something I can attest to following the loss of grandparents and friends. Recently, some family members and friends close to me have experienced tragic loss, too. This Christmas has been pleasant in that I’ve spent time with family. For me, that’s what Christmas is about.
Has Christmas become overly commercialised? Undoubtedly. Does it need to affect everything and everyone in this everything now society? Not at all. Should it add pressures and weights to families and individuals? No. Is it that simple? Sadly not. Emotions and feelings, greed and desires all come round and round as advertisers push the latest must have, soon to be binned gadgets, devices or accessories.
I spent Christmas morning with Dad and Shaun before walking to Levenshulme via Clayton Vale, Ashton Canal, Stockport Branch Canal, Fallowfield Loopline and Highfield Country Park. No snow along the way, sadly. No white Christmas. Lunch and the evening relaxing with Mum, Paul, and Paul Jr. was a good way to enjoy venison and various luxury items on the plate. Gifts were exchanged, and a lovely Craghoppers jacket with an oystercatcher-orange zip has been well-received. A family gift sees us all seeing the Chicago Blues Brothers in spring.
Today’s memorial before kick off at the Etihad Stadium marked the passing of many lives related to Manchester and football. It is a fitting moment on a day of celebration at the coming of a new year ahead. 2023 will no doubt see loss, New life, suffering, and celebrations. All the best in the year ahead. Peace and love.
The first Christmas I’ve had in Britain since 2013 is finally here. What a year to choose! As gas prices soar, sprouts finally have their day. As a shortage of cauliflower hit our local Lidl, we moved to brocoli (which is better all round) and trimmed it all off nicely. That’s Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve done. Having ate with Dad and Shaun, I’ll spend tomorrow at my Mam’s with Mum and Paul and Paul, and Beardie and Panda.
In fact, I think that I spent Christmas 2013 in Cornwall, so 2012 was the last Christmas I had in Manchester. Today, I met my good friend P.M. Brahma and went for lunch at the fantastic Northern Soul Grilled Cheese in Manchester, then a coffee in Afflecks and some dessert afterwards. Later, Panda, Blue, Shaun and I walked Clayton Vale. The Eve of Christmas has been quite relaxed. My thoughts have been elsewhere, but I am trying my best to enjoy it here.
On reflection, seeing the resting place of a deceased homeless person, hearing of a 19 year old lad hanging himself and the unfortunate death of a pedestrian at the hands of a Police car, could and should put many things in perspective. I’m not a huge fan of Christmas and its pressures on people. Please do stay safe. Please talk. Give help, where you can. Don’t be a knobhead. The world needs more light and love.
Dad has been good, treating us all at Christmas. Yesterday, on Christmas Eve’s Eve, I visited Aunty Chris and Uncle Ed. It’s always a pleasure to see family. A few brews and a wander ended up with getting back to walk Panda down Clayton Vale. Why not?! A good way to relax in the freezing winter mist. Panda was happy. That’s the main thing. I’m excited for Christmas at Mam’s house and switching off a bit. If my mind allows me to switch off. Much to say and do.
All the best for Christmas and New Year. Hope it’s a good one, no matter how hard it seems. Peace and love. 🐝
The Martin’s Bakery bacon with mushroom barmcake’s ingredient label was clear: 36% bacon. Just over a third. Tasty and clear. A dab of H.P. (Houses of Parliament) brown sauce helped enhance the crispy bacon contents.
As the Conservative government strips and cuts away at public services, the N.H.S. (National Health Service), transport, everything remaining in the public domain. We now enter an age where 34% content in order to have a tasty bacon butty is closer to 1%. May contain bacon. May have been influenced by bacon. Produced in an environment that may have been contaminated by bacon. The bacon is community and social. The last ebbs and flows of bacon are sliding away.
With Shaun and Christina in tow, and tickets courtesy of Mum and Paul, we headed over to the Sale Waterside on a chilly Tuesday night. The heated theatre setting with a cup of hot Vimto was cosy. Mark Thomas, political comedian and activist stepped on stage and ushered out the odd expletive and an abundance of knowledge. His agenda, as grim as the U.K.’s economy reached off the stage and headbutted the audience. A jolly song by an F.C. Utd. of Manchester fan livened up the mood and allowed the audience some warmth amongst the tales of politics and Mark Thomas’s witty motherly adventures. A touch of Hamlet accompanied Mark in the form of some stepladders.
Of course we could all blame David Cameron for fiddling with a pig, or Boris Johnson for glibly allowing the U.K. to unfold from Europe, or the one after for being replaced by Rishi Sunak, who now has the hot seat until someone dislodged his wallet of power and shield of riches. Twelve years since the Tories took No. 10 and the Prime Minister job, they’re still blaming 13 years of Labour, which ended in 2010. Covid-19 aside, Brexit and greed has really his hit the U.K. hard. Although, if you believe the Tories, it’s all about migration. You can’t do that! You’re bacon all the rules!
Firstly, the focus of the World’s premier international team tournament should be focused on the football, the FIFA World Cup.
The second key point is that Wales, AKA Cymru, are in town. Their first such visit to the World Cup finals since 1958. Their Swedish encounters ended in the quarterfinals to eventual Champions Brazil. Youngster Pelé scored the winning goal and Wales never returned to the big stage until 2022. I’m no fan of international football and feel conflicted. My first and only games watching international games have been Wales at Wrexham’s historic Racecourse and the Millennium Stadium. I’m claiming Welsh ancestry through my maternal grandfather.
As great Aberystwyth Town and Wales fans I’ve met a long life’s journey enjoy their deserved visit to Qatar, I can’t help but feel the magic of these finals hasn’t arrived and feels a world away. It could even bee argued that Wales is a far more suited host nation than Qatar. It has established football teams, leagues and a population higher than Qatar. Wales didn’t need to naturalise so many players to make a national team.
The list of issues include human rights abuse (modern slavery) accusations, need reporters being robbed on air, bribes and corruption, questionable suitability, accessibility and handling of the LGBT community didn’t help their bid and winning of the right to host. Nobody mentioned the Thai workers getting a pound an hour to make England shirts. Each shirt sells for £115 or so. Where’s the hypocrisy? That’s Nike’s way.
Put that aside and moving from summer to winter, banning beer for fans a few days before the tournament, dodgy underdeveloped fan accommodation, bad food, hack for hire schemes, forced labour including held passports and other problems. Avoiding a clash with the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Ramadan means pre-Christmas news features football controversies on a near hourly basis. 12 corrupt officials, 11 pounds a pint, 10 FIFA statements, 9 imprisoned hackers, 8 bags of cash, 7 passports missing, 6 lies-a-leaping, 5 air conditioners (nationwide), 4 building sites, 3 carbon footprints, 2 pundits flapping, 1 regime in denial, and 0 homsexuals.
When visiting a new country, exercising modesty and following local customs seems second nature to me. Honouring the Qatari way of life is fine. If someone steals, they accept the local punishment. Sharia laws are strong and it’s their gaff, their rules. Will the accused get a fair trial? That’s open to debate. Flagellation for adultery, anyone? Is it barbaric or a just punishment? Who am I to judge?
The sustainability of the World Cup is laughable. Brazil’s last tournament has derelict stadia, as does Russia, and South Africa. The original final venue in Uruguay, at Montevideo may get reused in 2030, and has tenants now in Montevideo City Torque F.C. How many stadiums crinkle and crumble? How many get moved? Plenty of air-conditioning has ensured Qatar will release plenty of emissions. But, at least Stadium 974, made of recycled shipping containers will move to Maldonado, Uruguay by 2030, if their World Cup bid is successful. On a non-judgemental side note the son of Nazi war criminal Albert Speer and his design firm were involved in all the stadium designs for World Cup 2022. The one that quoted his Uncle as being nice. Hitler was his uncle.
The Iranian team refused their national anthem versus England. Their fans held banners stating, ‘Woman. Life. Freedom.’ or simply a flag with ‘WOMEN‘ on it. Nobody noted that Qatar’s progressive regime has many female graduates and high-ranking female jobs. Qatar has non-discriminatory minimum wage systems, which removed the Kafala system in 2021. Change was inevitable. As was fan corruption to counter the protests. Denmark and sponsor Hummels will tone down their red, white and memorial (to dead workers) black shirts when they feature in the finals. Germany have been outspoken. Many European clubs unveiled banners in protest. Paris won’t be showing any football.
Qatar underwent a huge diplomatic relation crisis in 2017. Its neighbours effectively cut it off. It was a hard time but they have engaged regionally since. Sadly not, enough for Jewish visitors who were promised Koshar foods, prayer areas and safety. All were revoked and fans from Israel were told to be a tad silent. If I was Jewish, I wouldn’t want to step into grounds designed at a place that possibly profited from a WWII war criminal.
Make of it what you want, the World Cup has the love in motion, Arrivederci, it’s one on one. Something like that. Human rights, democracy and equality are going to rumble on as a debate until long after the trophy has been lifted. The Wales game versus USA wasn’t bad. I did feel dirty watching it though. More so because George Weah played for City and really annoyed me. His son scored for USA. Good on him. Haaland senior played for City around that time. His son returned to City recently. He’s not at the World Cup, sadly.
I called by to see your memorial stone and the last place we spoke. It wasn’t easy. I was shaking entering the Christmas Fayre at Dr Kershaw’s Hospice (Turf Lane, Royton, Oldham). That little respite and warm place of rest and care work wonders. They give a gateway beyond and a place to properly say farewell.
Since you passed, I didn’t call by. I wanted to every summer I returned but i couldn’t find the opportunity or heart to swing by. Grieving you and feeling those raw emotions from late 2013 and early 2014 hasn’t been easy. We all deal with loss differently. I have done my best to keep in touch with how the family have honoured you. The grey Oldham skies seemed a world away when looking out over the bright garden patio. A place to reflect.
Mum, Aunty Susan and Aunty Caroline have done and said many great things. They’ve done you proud. Seeing your stone on the wall represented a love for you that your grandkids no doubt feel too. The hospice have you in their book of remembrance. They looked after you. They really care up there. The Christmas Fayre today was one example of their hardwork to raise funds to ensure others can prepare and say goodbye with dignity.
I’ll swing by again soon for an overbottom filled with ham and tomato. Maybe Panda the dog can come along if he behaves. Hopefully I’ll be able to bring someone else along in 2023 and talk to you about family and the future.
Communism and capitalism don’t work. That’s my view. Neither have solid scientific bases and each are triggered by emotional responses. Capitalism breeds the need for more: bigger, stronger, faster and more, more, more. Communism over-regulates and remains too rigid: hard and fast. Like capitalism, it grows and expands too much. It chokes community and welds itself to the fate of humanity’s downfall.
Through primitive vocabulary and the shredding of those seen as intellectualor a threat, views get defecated on. Try to decipher which from communism and capitalism sensationalises news and exaggerates to the free press. Which is leant on by external influence? Which is paid for? Which sold its soul? The jargon overwhelms its reader. Opposition is near unheard, or at least found in differing tabloids or broadsheets (where permitted). Communication of Communism or sold on Capitalism?
The free press with their agenda, use primitive tones and boring jargon to control and shape opinions. They use dismissal of opposition views seeking to isolate unaccepted tones. Intellectuals are swept aside and logic disarmed. Insults banded about. Bourgeois attitudes? Well how did Britain get here. Brexit and xenophobic beliefs? Impassioned beliefs of a better world? Covid-19 or 1984? How can we fix the mess the country is? Radicalism is surely due a comeback.
Arriving back in Manchester took far too long. Catching up with family was long overdue. Seeing City live took a tad longer. The City v Tottenham Hotspur game was cancelled, as was nearly a whole week of events, as part of enforced national mourning of HRH Queen Elizabeth II. Choice to mourn was taken from the hands of most people. Those who may or may not have needed busy minds or distractions had to follow endless TV and cultural cancellations.
With Stephen from Shenzhen Blues we wandered down to Cardiff Bay to see the Patron Saint Liam Gallagher, the day before the newly arrived King Charles was due in Cardiff too. Charlatans were the support and the gig was very good, despite the elongated national mourning period. I wouldn’t wish any harm to the Royal Family but they don’t represent me and we have little in common. I am closer to The Royle Family.
A trip to Prescott, neat Knowsley Safari Park and St. Helens presented a chance to see two Shakespeare productions. With Mum, Paul and Astrid we viewed A Midsummer’s Night Dream, at the Shakespeare North. The modern take and retelling featured the voice of David Morrissey and the Not Too Tame team. The Guardian newspaper called it “gleefully anarchic”. It was a tasty and feisty piece of stage wonder. The following day we sat outside in the Ken Dodd amphitheatre, watching Romeo and Juliet by a trio of Handlebards. This threesome cycled with their props and gear for the outdoor production. They’re part of a larger collective who entertain far and wide. Not a bad commitment to ride over 1500 miles in summer 2020! Sustainable theatre at its finest. I’d seen them in Levenshulme before, on the Fallowfield Loop Line cycle path and knew how good their performances were. Even in a blustery Ken Dodd outdoor performance area, I giggled and nodded applause at a fantastic show.
October involved Manchester City’s 6-3 win over Manchester United. 4-0 up at halftime was made to feel less fun, by quadruple substitutions and less urgency. The game was over, to be fair. City marched through that month at home with relentless aggression, unlike November’s rolling over for a belly tickle and defeat to Brentford. The World Cup in Qatar since enforced a break from Premier League action. City needed it, as the league approaches its halfway point.
TV shows under perusal have included the disappointment of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Andor. Star Wars needs better ideas. The award winning Welcome to Wrexham gave an insight into a decent fanbase and Welsh football club dealing with celebrity ownership. Wrexham AFC have really picked up their hope. Good to see. Plus, owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney seem to really be engaged and enjoying their ambitious adventure. Delving into Welsh culture isn’t a bad start. The pick of the viewing has to be SAS: Rogue Heroes, even though it artistically bends truths and flips the usual format of historical drama making. Some clichéd scenes add cheese to the beefy content.
Lately the glasshouse whiteflies fly all around like shattered and scattered autumnal snowflakes. That’s during daylight. Not at 4.35am on a Monday morning. After just 4 hours of sleep, I departed for and then arrived at Manchester Airport, by bus and then train. I felt sleepy.
Walking through Terminal 3’s Customs they checked my toothpaste and deodorant in some kind of smear test. The need to stay fresh had to rule out that I’d joined Al Qaeda. Post-September 11th, 2001 has really made air travel irritating. My flight from Manchester to Katowice was smooth enough. Landing in Poland, I had to await the check-in desk to open. A walk outside revealed this Polish airport was closer to the Arctic Circle than the city of Katowice.
With two hours to go until take-off, I paid my bargain forty-eight quid boarding pass fee in Zlotys. Later Trip.com refunded this having not shared my data to the airline for the connecting flight. The wait was pleasant enough, at a modern and clean airport devoid of the failings of Manchester International Airport. The flight rumbled down a runway, complete with a toppled-over turboprop aircraft just in view. That positioning of a busted plane surely needs a review on TripAdvisor.
Landing in Dortmund, I walked through a crowd of Manchester City fans with shirts and things to sign. The odd Dortmund fan littered amongst them. I shuffled myself aside and watched as the reigning Premier League Champions dribbled through. Dressed in black sportswear, most of them looked like they were straight out of JD Sports. Waiting for that made me miss the bus to the city centre.
About an hour later I paid for my bus to town, and a fellow Blue who didn’t have cash to hand. European standards about card payments are so inconsistent and often inconvenient. Not that Great Britain is much better. I miss the convenience of the Wechat application in China and its ability to do anything, even issue toilet paper.
German efficiency is a phrase often banded about, with seriousness and wit. I found my apartment in the district of Funkenberg after a quick U-bahn-tram journey. A local dinner at a taverna of mushrooms and schnitzel quickly found its way to my belly before I went back for a good night of shut eye.
Having slept well, I checked out, darted to the Dortmund Haubtbahnhof at Königswall 15. I grabbed a coffee from a generic bakery chain and locked my bag away for 4 euros a day. I returned back to my locker after realising I’d locked my coffee in the locker, before crossing the road to the Deutsches Fußballmuseum. I like football. I like museums. I like Germany. The arrangement could have worked out well.
Sure enough the varied exhibits, mostly bilingual, were diverse, organised and engaging. A 3D holographic show, some nostalgia, loads of World Cup materials and a display on Women’s football feature throughout the museum but the 19 Euro charge in to see Paul the octopus encased and a sweaty Mario Götze World Cup winning boot seems excessive. England’s National Football Museum is suggested donation entry, but Germany has won four trophies to England’s one, so perhaps they’ve earned the right to price their security accordingly.
After the football museum, I had a ponder around the city of Dortmund, Germany’s eighth most populated city and noticed how many concrete and modern buildings there. In 1945, allied troops from the west flattened approximately 98% of homes, factories and other buildings of inner city Dortmund. Dortmund was Germany’s most bombed city in one night and one month. A month later the ground assault rolled through and Dortmund’s Nazi days were over.
Ballspielverein Borussia 09 e. V. Dortmund are one of Germany’s most successful and colourful football clubs. They also have handball, athletics, ice hockey and countless other sports because they’re a sports club with 145,000 active members and not just a footy club. Die Schwarzgelben play in black and yellow, resembling bees and have a fantastic fan base, even if they do sing You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Prior to the game friendly beer drinking, schnitzel and sausage tasting could be found outside the ground in picturesque settings, as well as every pub in town. The concourse in the ground was similar before, during and after City’s frustrated draw. The home team and fans celebrated their progression to the knockout stage. City took it in their stride.
The swift return to collect my bag at the railway station postmatch, followed a brusque walk to the central station. I grabbed it from the locker and went to get a sandwich for the late train at 23:30ish. The train went a whole stop, with everyone aboard experiencing a crush like stampede experience and sweating crazily. At Bochum it stopped and allowed an ambulance crew to attend to an emergency. Then another train arrived, also destined for Dusseldorf, as musical chairs started. Everyone wanted to be on the first train out.
The train arrived on Dusseldorf, close to 3am. I had a hotel booked for the next night, check in from noon. I was lucky and found a scenic spot by the Rhine until then. During my time in Dusseldorf I walked the banks of the Rhine, admired the architecture and increased my step count. Good food, great culture and a pleasant trip ended on a Thursday flight to Manchester.
By Friday, I had added one to thirty-nine and reached forty (XL in Roman numerals). A pleasant Vimto ice cream with Brahma after coffee in The Rascals Cafe (Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre) with my sister Christina took up the afternoon. In the evening I met my Mum, Paul and Kat from Shenzhen Blues for dinner and to see comedian Nick Helm at The Stoller Hall. After getting back, I walked Panda and the pleasant day ended with slumber time. A happy birthday.
The train neared Manchester. My anticipation and excitement grew. The journey for Panda and I had been long and near exhausting. My eyes tingled and I knew tears were struggling to stay inside their ducts. The view through the window blurred and I wiped away the waterfall.
Panda detected my mood and nestled up into my legs. That or he needed a pee. The train announcement for Manchester Victoria Station came and the train rattled across junctions before halting in a platform berth. The doors hissed and slid open. In my head, I imagined fanfares and horns, drums and fireworks, as streamers fell from the domed rooftop. In reality I could smell pigeon shit and shuffled onto the platform awkwardly. It’s good to be back.
Me Mam, to use local dialect, had suggested a brew nearby and would meet me at the station. Sadly my delayed and cancelled trains alternative arrived earlier than expected, thus making Mum late for my early arrival. Not to worry, Panda and I strolled passed Victoria’s Station Approach, and the salon opposite. That salon used to be a British Railway Social Club, I recall and I remembered eating a beef and onion over bottom sandwich there as a kid. Funny how memories fire off into your mind.
Even on the concourse of Manchester Victoria Station, I could vividly recollect book barrows selling books and Mum buying a selection of nature titles. Or eating broken biscuits, sat on a bench, waiting for Dad to finish work at a painting job on the station. Today, though was all about seeing Mum and giving a hug after far too bloody long. Panda and I wandered around Manchester Cathedral Gardens by the National Football Museum. Eventually, after a phone call, I spotted Mum.
Panda, being Panda, decided he’d get the first hug in. He’d claimed and adopted Mum before my first hug to Mum after nearly 3 years. It felt good. I always felt my family don’t hug enough so that was most welcome and missed. Panda introduced himself through additional links, jumps and excitement. Panda was home too.
Mum, and I sat in the green gardens, sat and talked. Panda made himself a nuisance in his charming doggy ways. We discussed everything and anything. A rush of years of no face to face talking all pouring out. Mum looked older, but thankfully healthy. The passage of time definitely was noticeable after 3 years apart. Not that I hadn’t aged. These years of Covid-19 have seemingly aged us all. Eventually we moved to Manchester’s Java Bar Espresso coffee shop, in Victoria Station (4 Cigar Alley).
Sat outside the coffee shop that opened in 1996, Mum and I had tea and cappuccino whilst nattering away. Panda listened and looked around at his new settings. We caught up and arranged to have dinner/tea at Mum’s after a few days. I didn’t feel jetlagged but I did feel overwhelmed by the cultural changes. I’d gone from dynamic zero Covid-19 controls in China to near normality in Manchester.
That evening, I would meet Rachel (Bridget Jones) from university and go see Arcade Fire with about 21,000 people in the AO Arena (or Nynex Arena in local dialect). I suddenly felt weird without a mask on. I also felt that I wouldn’t be wearing a face mask too often. I had confidence that Covid-19 and I could coexist without the virus killing me. Mum explained when and where masks are essential for her, and I completely agreed. Enclosed poorly ventilated areas would definitely see me wearing a face mask.
So, having caught up with Mum, we hugged goodbye and I jumped into a taxi. Next stop, Dad’s house and my temporary digs until employment. It was good to be back. The cool Mancunian air welcomes you.
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.
“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 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.
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.
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?
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’. LetitiaWright, 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Register your pet (locally)
4 months before flying to the EU/UK; 1 month before flying to USA
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.
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.
Yet to perform.
As each document becomes available.
Photocopydocuments (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 1st
Yet 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.
Yet 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.