We’re All Teachers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy TeachersDay

Hope for Home.

The shooting stars made me feel at home.

Your head rested on my body.

My heart beating faster than ever before.

Like a pounding drum.

Your warmth and my heat.

That was long ago.

It wasn’t so long ago really.

It feels like a lifetime ago.

I miss you.

Tonight…

Tonight, I’ll sit and stare at stars.

Even if the clouds come.

I’ll hope and dream.

I’m lonely without you.

I’ll dream and hope that one day it’ll return.

I’ll wish on every shooting star.

I’ll wish for you.

That’s my hope now.

My dream.

Turn off the moon and turn on the stars.

The stars that shoot.

The ones that I shall wish upon.

For you.

For the dream.

For hope.

Spit. Spat. Spitting.

你好 / Nihao! / Hello!

Firstly, I’m a resident in China enjoying a privileged position as a teacher at an international school. I’m a guest in an ancient country rich in history and culture. However,that does not mean I can’t be disgusted by something or other. One such thing often makes me feel sick inside my guts: spitting. [Note: not the light rain]

Spit happens, would make an accurate car bumper sticker in China. Bizarrely for at least seven years (since I arrived) there have been signs forbidding public gobbing. Not that those who do it, see the graphic warning signs. The comic book style head, usually male (or a woman with a very short hair cut), has a tilted head with three or more large drops of watery phlegm projectile in its flight, trying to defy gravity.

With the outbreak of the now devastating, everlasting boredom and annoyance that is COVID-19, especially it possibly (and allegedly) having an origin in China, you’d expect the mask wearing public to obey and end public displays of mouth splatter protection. No. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Aim. Fire! In fact many pull their masks down to fire their sludgy substances.

My first disaster came in Houjie, Dongguan in 2014. I was new to China. I walked past a multistorey building and SPLATT! Some dirty scrotebag had launched their throat contents from high, hitting my arm square on. At the time I didn’t have a tissue on me. A huge faux pas. So, I whipped off my shirt, revealing my palest of pale demeanour and rubbed the shirt sleeve on a wall, then some dirt in a small outdoor plant pot. After that on some tree bark, then on a wall. Then I out the shirt back on, cancelled a dinner with a friend and stormed back feeling like a tut wasn’t enough. Tut.

The women here, and not all, as well as many men have a good throat clearance. It crosses all provinces and all manner of careers. I’ve seen bank managers in Guangdong purge equally as much as a taxi driver in Gansu launch their own weapon of local destruction. In Manzhouli, Inner Mongolia I witnessed a local hotel owner turn an evening gob into ice. It being -30C, I was simultaneously amazed, disgusted and bloody cold. Microorganisms on ice.

Don’t get me wrong, spitting sometimes us necessary like when you swallow a spider to catch the fly that you’d previously swallowed. Or the following animal kingdom members that you swallow to catch the eight-legged freak. Or, when playing sports, that are highly aerobic and need a little clearance. We’ve all seen football players do it. Nobody is perfect. Or, do it in private. Away from others. Hide it. Don’t be so open and show everyone.

On one recent train journey, I witnessed a woman of middle age, whip her mask down, hawk a lookie after about a minute of snarling gasping rasping raking throat sounds. Everyone around her carried on as normal. I was sick in my throat. I had to keep my own sick down. She did this more than once. The railway carriage actually wreaked of her throat’s fragrance.

At Chapel Street Primary School I witnessed a few kids spit on other’s faces. It’s disgusting. I silently vowed if ever anyone did that to me, they would taste a knuckle sandwich. And at primary and secondary school, my fists were raised for such incidents. I’m not proud. Sticks and stones as we know, hurt. Name calling really hurts. Spitting is extremely rude. Contempt and anger should not lead to spitting. That’s something a wild animal may do in fear or aggression. Are you a llama, alpaca or cobra?

Spit is healthy. It’s a lubricant. It fights bacteria. It stops bad breath, sometimes. The bubbling fresh gross spit, that resembles the cuckoo spit, seen often across British grasslands in spring is vile. And across the globe laws are being changed to stop spitting as a weapon. Spitting has been deliberately used against key workers and caused death by contagion. Part of our two pints or so of gob a day should never ever find its way to anyone else’s vicinity.

Good or bad habits are often learned from peers, parents and television. This bad habit of shooting saliva from your mouth may have followed watching Jurassic Park and the Dilophosaurus. Spit being water, salt and antibodies is quite neutral, until the bacteria and viral materials that it’s designed to remove join in the liquid mess. The mass needs removing, for some but not others.

Inhaling hard to force ounces of nasal mucus is something that I find hard to stomach. Some argue smokers need to remove their excessive phlegm. Others say having a dry throat necessitates expectorated contents to soothe an absence. For me, it’s the sound, the lack of sanitary consideration for the dispelled vapour at the time of ejection. Then there’s the where factor. Where are they spitting? Will a child play on that part of the pavement?

The way I see it, is that if you spit in public, you’re spitting on the grounds that your people and family walk. In turn you’re spitting on friends and your civilisation. You have no respect for your flag or heritage. Is my view extreme? Only as extreme as spitting so rudely!

Rant over.

再见 / zai jian / Good bye!

Stage VIII: Chengdu & Don’t

你好! Nihao! Hello!

The first train from Chaka Lake station left on time. I’d spent an hour or so prior talking to a young your guide called Ethan. His tour group were busy exploring Chaka Lake. He kindly shown me the mine workers’ village and a nondescript shed that doubled up as a shop. Inside it was crammed with fresh vegetables, beers, spirits, dry foods and all the things life needs to survive. The dark shop had a big bottle of water and a bottle of lemon tea. That’s exactly what I wanted for the four hour train ride ahead.

As I went to pay, Ethan, born in Qinghai and a graduate of philosophy, beat me to it. He insisted. It’s hard to fight warmth and kindness from people at times. We sat on his your coach, complete with snoring driver, and talked about Buddhism, Confucius (孔夫子 Kǒngfūzǐ), Muslims (Hui), and harmonious people. He mentioned how one grandfather had fled persecution during the Cultural Revolution, on the advice of fellow villagers and how another had ridden his horse away from the late-World War II battlefield with Japan.

I changed at Xining for the second train. A sleeper carriage all the way to Chengdu (成都). I awoke, still with three hours to kill, flipped open Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries and half-read, half-day-dreamed. Alighting the train at Chengdu Railway Station, I emerged into a world of grey. Concrete and aged. My first impressions lacked enthusiastic joy. I headed down to the subway for a tube train to the Chengdu South Railway Station.

I departed the station’s subway via exit C, emerging into a barren building site. I turned right, trying to find a way to the other side of the surface railway. After about a kilometre of walking, I arrived at the Skytel hotel. I checked in without trouble, then headed out for an exploration of the city’s relics.

My initial impression of the city softened. Littered with monasteries, relics and life, the city of Chengdu became a green established city with limited construction (unlike many other cities) but sadly one that has far too many flyovers and cars. I visited a monument to Zhūgě Liàng (诸葛亮), the one time legendary military leader and prime minister of Shu Han (蜀汉) during the Three Kingdoms period. From there I tasted black ice cream from a black cone. No apparent explanation could be given. The Wuhouci (武侯祠) temple was okay but the modern Jinlin Ancient Street (锦里古街) around it was heavily commercial, in a way resembling so many other cities that have tourism at their hearts. The new version of an old style street is very much a photogenic tourist trap.

The biggest draw for tourists lies to the city’s northeast. The city of Chengdu is famous for the Chengdu Panda Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Centre. It’s a kind of zoo limited to red pandas (the original panda) and a handful of aquatic birds… and Giant Pandas. The 58RMB ticket seemed a little harsh at first. Every enclosure had a sign saying that Giant Pandas can’t go outside in warm weather. For me it was no problem. For many other fare paying customers, they were angry on the border of irate.

On entering several internal enclosures, I managed to see a few scruffy Giant Pandas. Their housing having turned their white to grey and black to dirty. Usually Giant Pandas sit with their arse to the windows. Maybe to drowned out the think it on the glass by adults and kids alike. Tired looking security staff didn’t seem interested in keeping the noise down. Some opted for megaphone to make sure you didn’t stay still too long and enjoy the majestic mountain beasts.

Cameras and selfie sticks are all fair and good, but waving them around carelessly striking a Mancunian in the face will only result in an ouch and a tut. Said person then asked me to “小心” (xiǎoxin) which means be careful. It was entirely my fault to be stood still and swiped by a careless metal pole with an iPhone begging to be stamped on. But, instead I tutted. Tut!

I observed Sichuan Opera (四川歌剧院) on the way to meet a good friend Momo and also caught up with an organiser of the Dongguan World Cup for beers, a natter and midnight snacks. His former student friends were all policemen and lawyers. It was an interesting insight into Sichuanese language and culture. They were all so very friendly. Just like the Taoist people at Qingyanggong Temple (青羊宫) and Du Fu’s cottage (think Chinese Shakespeare). Most of the food I ate was not too spicy (微辣; wēilà) but often it was too oily and spicy. The midnight snack hotpot from a Chongqing boss (老板 lǎobǎn) was delicious, even though I’d ate earlier!

Sichuan pepper (花椒; huājiāo) isn’t too hot compared to Thai and Indian foods. It’s just a little more drying with a kind of mouth numbing effect. Although for one meal, passing a Scotts Fish & Chip shop I had to try it. For 110RMB, the large cod and chips with a drink didn’t disappoint at all! A huge Tibetan area by the Wuhouci temple also had my belly full far too much. Meeting Momo in Comfort Cafe (British-style) meant my two days in Chengdu featured a balanced diet of hot and bland. A good Ploughman’s is hard to find. Sorry, Comfort Cafe, I didn’t find it. The piccalilli wasn’t bad though.

Meeting a student who was travelling alone, I ended up exploring the Panda Museum at the Chengdu Panda Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Centre with Jason. He explained how he was studying to be a soldier. I didn’t ask questions. Anyway, we tagged along together and ended up going to the immersive Jurassic World exhibition. The 168RMB allowed a wander through some animatronics and simulations. It wasn’t bad and took me back to the first Jurassic Park movie and book. A highly enjoyable contrast to other cultural parts of the days in Chengdu. Chengdu is truly a modern old city with a futuristic outlook.

Next stop: Dali (after a bloody noisy train journey… or three). It’d be nice if the obese woman and her young child that is full on slobbery would stop screaming down their phones. The phone calls are not really helped by the in-out, in-out nature of tunnels and mountains. Almost everyone around them is going on mad. I’ll just tut. Tut!

再见!Zai Jian! Goodbye!

Stage VII: Chaka

你好!Nihao! Hello!

I arrived at Chaka Station (茶卡站, Chákǎ Zhàn) 151km from the gargantuan Qinghai Lake, and 300km from Xining. The smooth railway journey was sandwiched between sweeping views and seemingly endless tunnels. The train ground to a halt on the single track. A chugging diesel engine had swapped with an electrical unit at some stage of the journey. I guess that hour where I had a nap.

The station was immediately at the gate of the scenic area. Chákǎ 茶卡盐湖 Salt Lake (Yánhú) has a salted bed. That’s the reason for such a high level of reflection. There are salt mines around these parts. It’s known as a photographer’s wet dream. For 60RMB (less in off season) and a further 50RMB to board a quaint sightseeing train, there’s much to be seen across the 105 square kilometres of lake. I walked the 3km to my hotel, checked in and then walked back.

Chákǎ is a Tibetan word meaning salt lake. It’s located around 3059m (10,036′) above sea level. That’s probably the reason the Gaoyuanhong Inn has disposable oxygen canisters for sale. That and some salt products. Salt seems to be a thing here, having been mined for three millennia. I read the salt below the water can be 5 to 15 metres in depth. And, every time it rains more salt is brought down the valleys. The once sea area keeps providing. Some claim it is infinite.

There are sightseeing platforms and decking everywhere: a tall 30m tower; a platform with the words ‘I love Caka’; two hearts in love as a platform; and the mirror of sky squares. It’s a real draw for tourism, apparently attracting over a million visitors a year. Sculptures are present and some honour the Wuxian tribes who once harvested the plains and salts of Chaka. Closer to the present there’s an abandoned salt factory and salt-mining transportation hub. There are yachts, helicopters and all manner of ways to see the lake’s splendour.

A smaller lake, Sky Number One Lake, is a little east of Chaka Lake. However, I’m not rushing to it. My experience of saltwater is that it stings broken blisters, makes you really dry and forms a crusty layer over your skin. I’ll take it easy and enjoy the sunrise then have a wander.

Zai jian! Goodbye! 再见

Stage V: Wall’s End (Jiayuguan)

Nihao! 你好! Hello!

The pass at Jiāyùguān (嘉峪关) is the Ming Dynasty‘s western end of the Great Wall of China. From 1368-1644, the Ming Dynasty rid China of Mongols and had 16 Emperors. During which time, 168 years of facial lifts have led the Great Wall to it’s current state of appearance. That and some careful restoration work in the 1980s too. The pass lies on the Hexi Corridor (河西走廊 Héxī Zǒuláng) at the narrowest point, which is a plain between the Tibetan & Mongolian Plateaus.

For the afternoon, I visited the Overhanging Wall (悬壁长城), the First Pier of the Great Wall (长城第一墩; changcheng diyi dun) and Jiayuguan’s original fort area. The taxi driver I had selected had agreed 180RMB for the routes and waiting times. The 120RMB tong piao (ticket) allowed access to all three sites. Although at the pier site an electric car is on offer for 20RMB for those wishing to avoid the baking sunshine. The dry hot sunshine is only comfortable for so long!

The Ming Dynasty’s Great Wall’s western end was a slog down a valley to a closed bridge to look up as the river sloshed by heavily. The River Lai fed by the Qilian mountains gave life to many regions but here few plants braved the unforgiving desert earth. After a while I headed to the museum in the 56 metre high cliff face and the final beacon of the Great Wall. The signposts were published in English, Chinese and Japanese. The English mostly resembled gibberish. Although I ascertained that this part of the Great Wall was built around 1539CE across 18 years. With that I went to the Overhanging Wall, next to a huge desert with military operations under way. Best to avoid that. I looked down from the picturesque wall at a ski slope and wondered how such a hot place could ever get snow!

The final stop was the fortified city of Jiayuguan. The Silk Road’s trading and tax station of old. Rammed earth, yellow and sand-like dried mud mixed with rice pastes, stones and straw have been shaped to scar the landscape around this region. The wall, of course, was a defensive garrison and outpost of a nation growing in strength and stature. It could even be said that some sections would blend into the surrounding desert. For unlucky invaders, trenches would lay hidden on approach to the wall, often filled with hazardous death-and-pain-inducing problems. Gansu’s northwestern city of Jiayuguan is named after the pass. The loess and windswept substrate reflected the sunlight up and at you.

After exiting the ancient walls of Jiayuguan, I found the Great Wall Museum was long closed. It shuts at the odd time of 16:30. It being 19:30, I tottered back to my hotel and ate some local barbecue foods on the way. My aching feet appreciated the early night’s sleep.

Following a good sleep at the Railway Station Ibis Hotel and an okay breakfast, I was lucky enough to hire the same taxi driver for 150RMB. I had initially enquired about the July 1st Glacier and mountain park (七一冰川) but was advised the whole area is closed for safety and conservation reasons. So, a new plan was made. First we stopped at the underground tombs of 魏晋墓葬 (Weijin Muzang). Here you could only visit one of nine unearthed tombs. It being far below the surface. The museum is a little underwhelming as most of the tombs had long been plundered. The few artefacts and coffins on display are nevertheless impressive. On, by cart, to the tomb site, and you alight in a wide open space.

I’m in a wide open space. There’s a wooden shelter. Beside that a concrete block the size of a small garden shed. A mound of earth covered in pebbles and grit protrudes. A small metallic vent sits atop. It looks out of place. The aggressive sunshine beats down. I feel out of place. An electric police cart parks in the shed’s shade. It is out of place. The shed’s metal door opens on aching hinges. A policeman gestures for me to enter. He’s the site security man and ticket officer. He clips my ticket and points to a staircase. I slip down underground. A welcome respite from the heated day overground.

The 36C heat of outside fades in just a few steps. Subterranean coolness wraps around me. After a few dozen steps, I’m at a largely concrete anteroom. Here I see a wall and facade of great detail. A small arch allows access to the tombs beyond. I crouch and enter admiring the majestic brickwork entrance.

Inside the tomb’s tight entrance, the dazzling array of colours leap from the four wall. The brick dome overhead looms over my tall frame. I strangely feel no claustrophobia but do feel calm. The air is still and silent. It’s eerily unmoving. The details of the drawings and the colours envelop my eyes. It’s morbid fascination has grasped me. I visit the three tombs in a line ducking through short archways to enter each ancient gallery. No photography is allowed. The light flickers ever so slightly. I reach for my phone to use the torch function. It radiates a deep pocket within the tomb. The drawings stretch into a smaller tube lined with bricks and stones. It’s a magical piece of history. The region has ruins everywhere to see.

Next the taxi driver kindly visited Yěmáwān Cūn (野麻湾村). This village with a sand and rammed earth fortress nestles between corn and other farmland. Watermelons were being grown across the road. I shuffled around the wire protection fence admiring the sparrows and swifts that had made nests in the crumbling ruins. The front of the fortress faces the main road and the rear is less dramatic but well worth a wander. The flooded farm fields next to this barren piece of earth are suitably contrasting. The modern art of survival alongside the old dried and decayed survival walls. All in sight of the snow capped Qilian Mountains many kilometres away!

The Qilian Mountains (祁连山; Qílián Shān) peaks at Kangze’gyai around 5808m (19055′), not the name of the whole mountain range. Interestingly, the uncle of the notorious flying ace Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen (The Red Baron) had once named the almost 800km long mountain range. Uncle Baron Ferdinand went with the local name of Richthofen Range. He also created the name Seidenstraße which these days we know as the ‘Silk Road’.

My silk road following was almost over. The D2758 train at 11:09 from Jiayuguan South will whistled through Zhangye West  on Sunday passing through a place called Mingle before arriving at Qinghai’s provincial capital city Xining for 14:36. The seat I should have been on in carriage 11, had a sleeping individual across three seats on a packed carriage. His snoring was causing perturbation to other passengers. I should him. Nothing. Again. Nothing. I said excuse me in Chinese. Nowt. So, I moved to an empty seat and hoped for the best.

The Qilian Mountains straddled my right hand view. Their snow caps contrasted greatly with the foreground view if rolling desert hills and the northern reclaimed agriculture on a plain once covered in arid nothingness. That’s all for now. Time to enjoy this train journey.

再见Zai Jian/Goodbye

Stage III: Walls & Fences

Dear curious folk and readers,

I am writing from near the seat of the West Xia Kingdom (1038-1227). The city of Yinchuan is about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) away from the tombs and mausoleum. The bone dry eastern face of the Helan mountain range towers over the mausoleum site. The site spans around 50 square kilometers (19.3 square miles) and approximately 9 imperial tombs, with a huge 253 lesser tombs. They’re still making discoveries to this day.

The tombs are incredible to witness. The museum at the entrance has six very modern galleries full of relics discovered across the site. The lighting, style and interactive nature of the artefacts is we’ll organised. There are plenty of opportunities to visit the a 3D cinema, gifts shops and grab plenty of water for the outdoor experience that follows. From the museum you can walk to a bus transfer. Here we opted to walk to the mausoleums and experience the desert ambiance.

The mausoleum site is spread out, striking and feature-rich. Steles, towers, sacrifice palaces, earth walls, and natural damage by winter floodwater alongside cracks in the earth covered the whole region. Using three-wheeled scooters after plenty of walking, we managed to see huge distances of the area. Sunblock was applied almost hourly, as grasshoppers flew by with clicking sounds and cute Gerbil-like rodents scampered around. With two litres of water, the day was comfortable, but more is advisable in 38 degrees heat! The sun is not your friend.

The day was a great investment in exploring the state’s deep history and culture. A taxi from Yinchuan cost 60RMB and a return Didi taxi car cost 85RMB with entrance fee being about a 100RMB. Just over two hours on the scooters cost 130RMB (but we certainly went off the beaten track).

The following day, Mr Oliver and I set out for the Great Wall. I’d suggested the Ming Great Wall stretch by a place called Sanguankou (三关口明长城). The three passes are about 2.5km apart. We didn’t go there. Mr Oliver found a section using Baidu maps and an overhead satellite photo near to the G307 highway (Ningxia to Inner Mongolia). So, after a Didi taxi car journey we hopped out in searing heat in the mountainous Alxa desert. Having left Yinchuan’s continental arid climate we were now at the mercy of the sun.

We scrambled up a mound of earth to see a watchtower, wandered down the road and looked at the adjacent wall sections. Here we respected every fence and sign. Then we went under the highway and followed a section of wall through fields and over hills. Horses, hares and hawks were frequent witnesses to our hiking. The enigmatic landscape surrounding the wall had so much to offer the eyes.

Fences came and went, so we walked close and far at times. We started trekking at about 10:30am and ended around 19:00hrs. Some sections had the backdrop of a Jeep safari driving range, whilst others had civilian roads with a handful of tourists driving by and saying hello. At some stage though we had to get back to Yinchuan. The map shown a road to the nearby Wuwa Highway and G110 highway. We avoided the military warning signs on a path seemingly headed into the mountains, passing some civilian contractors and wandered (now without any water left) along a bleak ever-expanding straight line slab of concrete. The road was intensely energy-consuming.

Towards the last 3km, just past the tanks, a car with two men gave us a lift to the highway. That journey was curtailed and after three hours of explaining our day’s walking route, photograph inspection and travel document verification we were driven to the village of Minning. The People’s Liberation Army were extremely hospitable. They seemed to understand that we’d strayed into their tank range unintentionally. They appreciated our desire to see the Ming Dynasty Great Wall.

The gate guardsmen gave us hot noodles, a cake and some fruit. And frequent, much needed water. The chief who came with at least three officers and the Public Security Bureau policemen kept apologising for taking our time. It was all rather surreal. We were able to cancel our onward train journey, and hotel for the next night. We also apologised politely and shown our sorrow at wandering into a restricted military zone.

The Public Security Bureau policemen waited with us whilst we tried to get a taxi or Didi car. As it was midnight, nothing was coming, so we spoke with a nearby hotel receptionist. He ordered a car for us. We got in, whilst being watched by the three policemen. They approached then checked the driver knew where we were going. Finally, they checked his credentials and found he was an illegal taxi driver. So, we stepped from the car, “for your safety” and the Police dealt with him. Annoyed by that inconvenience, we started to hike and try to get back. The Police gave up and headed back. Eventually we flagged down a van.

Nestled between chicken feet in buckets, flies on the roof and 400RMB lighter for it, we made it back to the hotel we’d checked out of that day. We retrieved our left luggage and checked-in. All is well that ends well. Our next journey is the 1842 train to Gansu’s Lanzhou city to meet a connection to Zhangye. What waits for us there?

Until next time, goodbye…

Stage II: Shanxi’s Great Wall

晚上好 Good evening (or whatever time it is),

The Great Wall (长城) is massive. It’s length exceeds the distance around the U.K.’s total coastline (I believe). Fact check that at your heart’s content. Heading from Xi’an involved a night train on a soft sleeper bed. The room had old yellowing lights, grim grey walls and no power sockets. It was cost-effective to travel and bunk, than to bunk at a hotel then travel. The selected option had no shower and barely a place to brush your teeth in comfort. The on board restaurant car involved a selection of noodles, room temperature water or baijiu (rice wine).

Having finished Lee Child and Andrew Child’s The Sentinel, sleep was an easy choice. My former colleague Mr Oliver occupied the attention of an enthusiasm kid trying to charge his phone at a busted power point outside our bunker of a room. The lack of ventilation wasn’t so bad because our closest window slid down from time to time. Waking up at 01:30hrs due to a slammer of a man thumping down his suitcase, thrashing his shoes off and generally bumping everything with loudness wasn’t so bad. Until his eruptive snoring. Still, I fell asleep well.

From Taiyuan station we wandered to a bus station, Jiannan Bus Station, bagged tickets and sat down to eat in a Chinese equivalent of a greasy-spoon cafe nearby. The Shanxi pickles were good alongside egg pancakes and eggs. After an uneventful journey with a dab of xenophobia, we arrived at the mining region of Yangquan (coincidentally where I’m writing this now). Immediately a Didi taxi was booked to Niangziguan and the village of ShuiShangRenJia. The water village has multiple bubbling springs feeding babbling brooks and streams. Some pass through and under buildings. Our homestay had such a variety of flowing water over the roof and in the restaurant area.

The above was written yesterday evening and since then there has been an overnight train journey on hard seats. Think little old ladies spitting into metal pans, snoring and general discomfort. On the positive side, some fellow passengers made space for my rucksack and moved from my first seat. Mr Oliver and I drank a few McDonald’s-based beers, pretending to be customers at the American Embassy branch of Taiyuan. It passed some of the three-hour transfer time.

We have wandered through Guguan Pass and Ningzi Pass in recent days. Seeing the old stonework and some newer sections has allowed us to explore a few off the beaten track avenues. Some knee-deep in thorns and prickly bushes, with wasps the size of fighter jets buzzing by our heads. Some horsefly species surely must take their name from that of them being the size of a horse. Scorpions and centipedes have whipped by and so far been avoided. Although mites and spider bites have likely been experienced.

The jagged snaking Great Wall sections at Guguan are far more dramatic than that of Ningzi Pass. The protrusion at the latter have been remade in recent years but sit atop a splendid village and river landscape. At our lodge of choosing, the owners have decorated the walls with photos and artworks of the locality. The waterfall these days is hidden around a river-side theme park and tacky attractions. However, the Great Wall lines an ancient village.

Guguan is an oddity. The wall towers over a fantastic entrance gate. The ground is lined with centuries of horse and cart worn stones. Around the entrance, a highway slides through (under a section of bridge connecting The Great Wall). The scars of industry, mining and the Revolution periods of China’s new era shroud and strangle the Great Wall before releasing it’s higher levels to a combination of wild scrubland and farmlands.

The short stay in Shanxi was a pleasant one with local people gifting us refreshing cucumbers, crunchy crisp pancakes and an abundance of pleasantries. The food was excellent and varied. The people were generally warm and welcoming. The whole visit was delightful, despite the heat! However, I won’t miss the relentless thorn bushes (or the snarling dogs)!

Good night (or whatever time it is)!

Stage I: Xi’an

Departing Shenzhen International Airport for Xi’an city in Shaanxi province proved a problem. The 1050am flight was cancelled. That was a pretty hefty stumbling block. But, in checking the trains, Mr Oliver and I booked a long haul train from Guangzhou South to Xi’an via Zhengzhou East (wherever that is). We hopped in a Didi car and jumped on a high speed train from Dongguan’s Humen Railway Station.

Almost 11 hours later we arrived at Xi’an and used another Didi taxi car to take us to the Lemon Hotel. The wrong one. Turned out there are more than one, with similar names. We almost ended up at yet another incorrect Lemon Hotel. Bitter luck followed us to the right hotel though. Our reserved rooms with given away because we were late. So, we had a family room and checked out the next day rather annoyed.

We left our bags at left luggage, and gravitated towards to Xian city walls. The walls are around 14km around, although I didn’t do the maths. After just under three hours the circuit was completed. There was annoyingly a lot of sunburn. Oops. Major oops. The wall is a seriously good place to feel the city and get close to the historic grounds. However, most is quite commercial and bare. Nevertheless, the city walls and castle features are vast and photogenic.

Breakfast and dinner has been delightful. Xi’an really lives up to its reputation when it comes to variety and delicious foods! It seems everyone wants you to try something new or local. The belly may grow these days…

With the wall completed, and attempt to see the museum was abandoned due to sold out tickets. Some further walking was had followed by a park with an entertaining roller skating rink. Tomorrow, terracotta and upright old fashioned Action Men figures await.

Thank you kindly, Grade 4!

We started the year as ten eager sets of eyes and ended with a net gain of four extra pairs of eyes. The class has many strengths and a few challenges to overcome, such as not copying poor choices of behaviour from each another.

学年伊始,我们四年级只有10名学生,我从这10个学生的眼里看到了最热切的目光,到了年末,这样的目光又多了四对,14名独一无二的你们组成了最个性的四年级。我们四年级有诸多优点,但也有不足,面临的挑战也不少,比如不要模仿别人的错误行为。

It only takes a moment to be courteous – and that makes smiles.

花片刻的时间就能做到真正的礼貌,而这样会让别人会心一笑。

I read somewhere that it takes seven fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown. Grade four’s students each have the ability to turn days of frustration and worry to days of sunshine and happiness. Bring me sunshine, in your smiles! Just like, when I say the word birthday, and the whole class starts singing ‘happy birthday’ to me in October, May, or June… a running shared joke that carries warmth.

不知道在哪里我曾经读到过这样一句话,微笑比皱眉要少用7块肌肉。四年级的学生都有这样一种超能力,都能把沮丧和忧虑的日子变成阳光和快乐的日子。用你们的笑容给我带来阳光吧! 就像那一次,大概在10月份,当我说到“生日”这个词的时候,整个班开始给我唱“生日快乐歌”,接下来的5月,6月,基本上每个月我都收到生日的祝福…… 在我看来,这是一个温暖的玩笑。

Over the past year, I have seen countless moments of your growth, scenes like photos frozen in my mind.

这一年来,我看到了你们无数的成长瞬间,一幕幕像照片一样定格在我的脑海里

Finding little post-it notes on my desk and tiny little handmade gifts from scraps of paper. These are things we never ask for, yet are rewarded by caring, disciplined and balanced learners.

比如我常常看到在我的桌上放着小小的便利贴和一些纸片做的手工礼物,我从来没有向你们索要这些礼物,但我知道这是有爱心、守纪律、懂平衡的四年级以这种方式感谢老师。

Seeing students tackle texts far above their grade level; dissect and cut open popular quotations; make and share ice cream, cheesecake, flapjacks, and lemon teas.

我看到你们钻研远高于你们年级水平的课文,剖析理解一些著名的语录,制作并分享冰淇淋、芝士蛋糕、烙饼和柠檬茶等。

Seeing bright smiles with swipes of a ping pong bat; hugging each other after a stray Frisbee bumps a head; shooting the ball so hard that your big toe hurts; the glorious teamwork in the cooking room – working through problems together; ignoring me all day because I told you to ignore things you disagreed with, and you took my advice a little too far.

我看到挥着乒乓球拍的你们展现的灿烂笑容;飞盘撞到头后,彼此拥抱的身影;踢球太用力后捂着脚的痛苦表请;以及厨房里齐心协力解决问题的团队精神。我告诉你们学会无视一些你们无法同意的事情,结果你们就整天无视我,我觉得你们对我的建议可能有什么误解。

trusting yourselves and respecting the expression of others; using genuine apologies and acknowledging to yourself that you’ve made a mistake – you’re only human, after all! asking new questions; connecting with authors, museums, and parks in ways others can only dream of; treating each other with warmth and sincerity; sharing your vitamin waters, and my vitamin tablets.

我也看到你们能够相信自己并尊重他人;能做到真诚地道歉,勇敢地承认错误——毕竟,人无完人;我看到你们善于从各种新奇的角度提问问题;会用别人意想不到的方式与作家、博物馆和公园建立联系;我看到你们真诚相待,愿意分享你的维他命水和我的维生素片;

helping to tidy up the classroom after someone else; building a tin can cable car to help your teacher; explaining the many difficult Chinese stories and words in ways that I can relate to; and multitudes of wonderful moments that cannot all be documented or photographed. No matter what you think, it has been an honor to work with and for you all.

我还看到你们帮助他人整理教室;用自己建造的锡罐缆车帮助老师;用我能理解的方式解释许多难懂的中文故事和词语等等等等,还有更多无法被定格的精彩瞬间。不管你们是怎么想的,但是我想说能和你们在一起,为你们服务,是我的荣幸。

You can bring more sunshine to the world. Stay positive. Smile in the face of difficult and testing feelings. Put on the bravest face. Be more Superman than Super Monkey! Now, knuckle down, work harder, play hard and dance like nobody is watching. You are all butterflies in a hand. Free to fly away, but safe to stay and learn from the hand that holds you.

你们可以给这个世界带来更多的阳光。保持积极的态度。微笑面对困难和考验。摆出最勇敢的表情。比超级猴子更像超人!从现在开始,认真努力地学习,尽情恣意地玩耍,旁若无人地跳舞。你们就像手中的蝴蝶,可以自由飞翔,也可以安心停留于托住你们的手掌。

Grade five is one final step and one big leap in primary school. Give it all. Every bead of sweat, every gram of energy, every waking moment, every electrical charge of new reading. Pick up books. Pick up more books. Turn bookshelves into book mountains. Drink the words like water.

五年级是小学的最后一小步,也是迈入中学的一大步。请把你们的每一滴汗水,每一点能量,每一刻清醒,每一丝热情,都献给你们的五年级。拿起一本书,拾起更多的书,将一个个书架垒成一座座书山,像喝水一般汲取每一个词语带来的营养。

Swim in the stories. Let the tales and information of each page become part of you. Never ever stop reading! Question? Answer it. Find a new question. Spread love for reading. Let’s read together in the new school year. I look forwards to seeing you well-rested, eager, and ready to show your teachers, new and old, why I believe that you are all set for big things! To the future scientists, explorers, chefs, and every possible job going, I say: Do your best and that’s all we ask. C’mon you sausages!

在故事的海洋里畅游,让每一页的故事都能融入你的生命,变成你的一部分。永远永远不要停止阅读!有了问题就去找答案,然后再发现新的问题。传播对阅读的热爱吧!让我们在新的学年一起阅读。期待看到你们以整装待发,跃跃欲试的姿态迎接你们现在的, 新的老师,我相信你们都会设立自己的远大目标。现在,我想对未来的科学家、探险家、厨师以及所有可能的职业,说一句,尽你所能!这就是我对你们全部的要求。加油!

Thank you to all the teachers involved with this class, especially Miss Jenny for her support with our blooming grade 4 class of flowers.

最后,非常感谢所有四年级的任课老师,尤其是Jenny老师对四年级的帮助和支持!

The above speech was presented at Dongguan T.W.I.S. during the ‘Moving Up’ ceremony. Translation by Jenny Wang.

“There’s only one way of life; And that’s your own” – The Levellers, One Way

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrn-UD5UngdU-aS0AdifWSg

https://www.facebook.com/TWIS.Dongguan

Download it.

Download this to get that and this and that but this, that and the other will follow.

Subscribe to this for something deep and meaningful to end your feelings that are hollow.

Watch out for the latest now thing in order to be free of sorrow.

Keep your eye out yesterday, today before you miss out on tomorrow.

Are you in? Got it covered? Follow! Follow! You know?

This here my friend is the greatest ever start to something that is free to go.

W W W dot instant problem fixes dot com is the show.

Watch the latest video burst, download it first and you can join the flow.

(found on a notepad from 2015; uploaded a bit later)

Modesty and humility (went into a bar)

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

somebody

[suhm-bod-ee, -buhd-ee, -buh-dee]
pronoun
1. Some person.
noun, plural somebodies.
2. A person of some note or importance. A person of greater importance than others: he seems to be somebody in this town.
[ Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition]

What makes a somebody? I’ve heard this term banded around so freely in China. It bugs me, because not everyone has had the fortune to rise-up the social classes or has been afforded a chance, a real shot at life. Some are born into poverty, some grit their teeth in a no frills lifestyle and almost everyone tries their hardest to improve themselves. No single person wants to awake each day in shit. Yes, many paths are different, some opt for crime, fraud and treachery, others seek out lawful means. In my humble opinion, saying “he is a somebody” or “she is a somebody” discounts the fact that people are always somebody. I also find that most of the time being a somebody means having money. Yeah, I get business and success, hats off to them for working hard and pushing on. My gripe is along the way, is the questions.

  • Were they paying their staff fairly?
  • Were they putting profit before quality?
  • Did they compete fairly?
  • Were laws and regulations followed fairly?
  • How clear was their conscience?
  • Who did the real work?

The list could go on and on, and I’m not lecturing. Did they recycle more than a box of plastic bottles in their career? Does this make me ethical? I don’t know. I just don’t rate this capitalism lark. The rich get richer and the poorer fall further behind. Life quality may improve but equality is a dream, that has eluded many for many generations and will continue to without a focus on community and bringing balance. Wouldn’t we be much stronger if we supported our poorer communities globally and brought more education to the table? Or should we stay focused on me, myself and I? I get little satisfaction from tunnel-vision about rewarding myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love to improve but seeing others rewarded for teamwork and togetherness is far more nourishing to my soul. So, when I meet people and they are immediately introduced as a “somebody”, I generally think, “I literally couldn’t give a fuck, knobhead.” To others they may inspire, support and do something for the greater good, but wearing a shiny gold watch and belt, parading their flashy investments is not enough for me. Their crocodile skin shoes may be as fake as their smile. For me human kindness is more genuine.

You can either make money fast, or steady in a highly competitive world but at some stage values, principles and moralities must come into focus. Having attended the opening of a Multinational Conglomerate Corporation Group Worldwide’s new mega-city-one-shopping-mall-effort once, one guy played Top Trumps with me. I didn’t enter the game. Still he persisted with, “I ate champagne and drank snails on the Seine.” I’d soon learn how Big Ben looks from The Shard and the London Eye’s V.I.P. suites. If only he knew that Big Ben was the bell, and not the tower. I interjected that the Thames now has octopus and is much cleaner than many years ago. He looked unimpressed. I asked where he visited in the U.K. Just the city of London. Just the centre. He spent five weeks there. Not one museum or walk around the heart if the city. All business. No play. This Panini sticker album of boasts kept going on and on. Eventually Business Man Of The Year from the Province of Most Wonderfulness, asked me, “so what was your best view of a city?” I said, whilst I am from Manchester – the Northern Powerhouse of England, I don’t think cities are the be all and end all of life. I explained how farmers in the U.K are admired and not looked on as peasants like in some countries. I said many aspire to hold idyllic homes built by Transnational Cosmopolitan holdings in quieter places with less traffic and smog. His jaw seemed to drop. He pushed for my greatest city view. I said aside from working in an office overlooking the great Manchester Town Hall, and views of football stadiums, old architecture and the like, cities for me were not amazing. So, then he said his greatest moment was to sit in an office at Trump Towers and see New York. Whilst I admit, New York is a great city, for me the view lacks nature, green and blue. His great moment reeked of cliché. That pong, not only had New York’s wonderful skyline, attached to many romance movies and stories, history etc, but also Donald “Fake-word inventor” Trump added extra buoyancy to it. He pushed me again for my greatest view. Eventually I caved in, and told him, “I had a shit that froze in the Himalayas. The view from the small wooden toilet window was breathtaking. I shed a tear of joy. It was pure beauty.” He didn’t ask for my WeChat I.D.

If the next James Bond novelist needs an inspiration for a baddie, there are loads here in China. Not bad people out-right. Just they fir the platitude and formula required to face up to 007. Between many of them, none have checked a fire extinguisher. Some have probably moved said item to fit a company logo made of copious amounts of precious stone. They’re the sort that open their business with a fashion show of pre-teen girls (and one stand alone boy for good measure). The inappropriate catwalk of minors. Many men, usually in their thirties and upwards, the ones who made illegal massage parlour culture popular, whip out their camera phones and snap away. There is no hint that they are paedophilic in nature. This is not always true. They are just plain improper in their actions. Their snapps line their social media moments, probably unprotected from those they have rarely met. As the skimpy-clad clothing of teenagers departs, on steps a man. He’s usually in his 40’s. He wouldn’t stand out in a street ordinarily. But today, today, he is wearing all white. He has dance moves that everyone’s uncle and father could pull off after a hip replacement. His voice isn’t too bad. It isn’t too good either. The song evolves from Cantopop to a segment of rap which he pulls of in the antonymical meaning of flawlessly. He departs to applause. Singular. His partner is obliged.

Next up comes two children. The cutest ones from the class. They hum and mime a song by TF Boys. Like the TF Boys, they are one voice drop from disappearing forever. Their catchy pop songs will reign eternal as they inject the royalties into their veins. After a talent competition hate-filled juvenile eyes look on at their winning rivals. Throughout the audience product placement is as barefaced – totally unashamed. The latest overly-gassy alcopop sits next to a the most colourful of children’s sweet confectionaries. By the end of the night, the event highlights will have included a smoke machine clashing with a bubble machine. You had to be there. In closing there is a group photoshop and individual photos with a selction of glass phallus-shaped trophies.

Occasionally, through the excessive lighting comes a bright spark of talent and a real clap appears from the audience. Sadly, like Dan Brown novels, you must read many pages to enjoy a chapter or paragraph. Can you get the two hours of time back no? Did you enjoy it? Yes, maybe, but perhaps not in the ways that others did. And that is life. Enjoy every moment, write aggressively and angrily when required or nod, smile and carry on. Do what you love. Love what you do. Hate nothing, but observe and report in your own ways. You never know. You could be talking to Mr Business Man Of The Year from the Province of Most Wonderfulness tomorrow. It doesn’t mean it will all be bad. Share your favourite view from a bathroom.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

A noodle unravelling in a pan of boiling water

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,


Continued…


Last Thursday I started writing this. I was at the time acutely aware you could be reading this on any of the other six days, or most likely, not at all. Print is dead, I hear. It feels like this last week has been tough. No money from two sources that should have paid up by now – and stupid requests to get what is owed. It feels like being taken for granted – and right before summer, where the money is precisionly planned to leave my account for good reasons.

Then, there is the visa nightmare. My CRB (now called Disclosure and Barring Service) application should take 14 days, it shows 23 online and there hasn’t been a reply by Disclosure Scotland, where I applied. I called them. It said on their number to check online. Online it says to call their customer services for problems. I tried that again. It said check online. Catch 22.

So, I fly to the U.K. with a signed contract, but no visa after 13th July 2017. The Foreign Expert Certificate expires on the 30th of August 2017. It will have to be sorted in Manchester or London. Exactly, what I did not want. I’m due back by the 23rd of August 2017. School starts on the 28th of August 2017. The race to return is under way…


Today, no students are at school, a typhoon (Merbok) threatened to impact the city. In fact, the day is grey with mostly calm skies. A few strong gusts last night did little, other than air the city. Better safe than sorry.

School wouldn’t let me make make a farewell speech. Instead, I plan to post this before I fly…


Dao Ming Foreign Language School has been part of my life since February 2014. I landed in a new culture, village and city not knowing how important Dao Ming would be in my life. It has been much, much more than a job. Dao Ming introduced me gently to Chinese cultures, ways of life harsh and poor, to strong and privileged. It opened my eyes to a fast-developing country and gifted me the chance of new friends. From the off, Principla Mr Wang, Bright and Miss Jiang guided me through the gates and allowed me the freedoms to teach oral English and culture. They embraced me from day one and pushed me to be better, despite my lack of singing, dancing and musical talent. To each, I say:

谢谢你给我很多建议.(Xièxie nǐ gěi wǒ hěnduō jiànyì.) Thank you for giving me so many suggestions.

There were days when the transition from a temperate climate to a sub-tropical range drained me. Adjustment took a rather long time. The team of P.E. teachers pushed me on, as did my first batch of foreign teaching colleagues in Esben, James, Liam and Bri. To each teacher that first semester:

当我消沉的时候,你鼓励了我。对此我十分感激。 (Dāng wǒ xiāochén de shíhòu, nǐ gǔlìle wǒ. Duì cǐ wǒ shífēn gǎnjī.) I really appreciate that you helped lift my spirits when I was feeling low.

My colleagues have worked tirelessly along the years and many have sadly moved on to other schools. Some to be closer to home, some to face new challenges and some due to artistic differences. The nature of education does that, but one thing that each and every teacher I have encountered throughout my time has had, is passion and a smile on a Monday morning. Not every Monday, but not far off it. To see each teacher so tired yet to passionate about making a difference, is in my eyes inspiring.

太感谢了(iài gǎn xiè le) So thankful.

In grades 5 this last year, I have worked with Alice, Orchid, Amy and Jack Armstrong. They have bubbled with enthusiasm and encouraged me despite our cultural differences, and our workload being far apart. They are the backbone of English at a most important stage of development. I have seen each teacher improve with every passing month.

万分感谢(wàn fēn gǎn xiè) Ten thousands percent (of) thankfulness.

In previous years, I have taught in Grade 6. Only Nancy now remains, from her once passionate and dedicated team. To her, I say thanks for the gift of remaining so positive and confident. It rubs off on others. She can inspire and lead.

谢谢你的礼物! (Xièxie nǐ de lǐwù!) Thank you for your gift!

In actuality, as it is, right now, I do not feel like writing anything and my ebb is out of flow, yet I know deep down in my heart, I need to express my gratitude for my time at Dao Ming Foreign Language School. It was an opportunity given to me by Worlda International Education. Jessie and Casey right at the start pushed me hard and fast from landing in Guangzhou’s airport to stepping off a sweaty coach in Houjie Square. Things moved quickly, almost like a blur and before long I was in my first class, alone – and in full control. You either sink or swim. I don’t believe I sank. I still believe I am learning to swim. Experience has led me, and instinctive calm supported me, but none of this would have been possible without Worlda presenting the opportunity and relations with Dao Ming Foreign Language School. Kimmie, and Mico have been very hands on, yet hands off in recent times, being there when needed and assisting me with the technicalities of working under foreign laws, rules and regulations.

Then there were colleagues such as Yolanda, Michael, Joy, Keith Tao, Chloe, Christine, Dan, Teresa, Ishit, David, Jessie Wang, Joanna, and Wendy who all assisted me in some shape or form. None will be forgotten. All played their part in this journey of sorts.

非常感谢你的帮助 (Fēicháng gǎnxiè nǐ de bāngzhù) Thank you very much for your help.

The students have always been a joy. Without them there would be no school. There would be no community built closely around the school. There could be no jokes about test and exams on a regular basis with vast descriptions of homework mountains. There surely would not be smiles in sunshine and delight at cooling rains as the harsh summer drains energies. There would be no requests for Acton’s Independent Sweet Store to re-open. To each student:

辛苦你了!(Máfán nǐ le!)   Thank you for your hard work!

真不知道该怎么谢你(zhēn bù zhī dào gāi zěn me xiè nǐ) I really don’t know how to thank you.

没有你我该怎么办 (méi yǒu nǐ wǒ gāi zěn me bàn) What would I do without you?!

To everyone, who has been lost, found, confused or clear in working alongside me, I want to say thank you. Please forgive me if I have confused you or even made your stay here blighted by any negative comments about humanity. This is me. I hope I cheered you on. If I didn’t, I certainly tried! To James, Liam, Esben, Bri, Mikkel, Liane, Andreas, Catherine, Emily, Micaela, Kira, Joe, Tess, Arvid, Jack, Beth, Analisa, Josie, Omar, and Alexis.

欠你一个人情 (qiàn nǐ yí gè rén qíng) I owe you one.

To all, I say:

非常感谢你 (fēi cháng gǎn xiè nǐ) thank you very much.

Have I finished in China?

没有没有,还差得远.(Méiyǒu méiyǒu, hái chà dé yuan.) No no, not at all. There is long way to go.

步步高昇 (bù bù gāoshēng): Onwards and upwards.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

“All change.” – Part One

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

So, on June the 16th 2017, I will leave Dao Ming Foreign Language School after 3.5 years teaching there. I am not allowed to make a farewell speech for fear of upsetting the students. I suspect it is more so that parents don’t get an incorrect message. It is a private school, afterall! I had requested the opportunity to say goodbye at the final flag-raising ceremony to which I was told, the ceremony is taken “very serious.” I guess departing and wanting to say thank you and good luck is not serious. I do feel a little more than disappointment. I am gutted. And, to confound that, I was told not to tell teachers and students. However, some students in Middle School already now. There is a fear in the school of overly-emotional students and mobbing for hugs. I suspect mostly, the fear of parents removing their students. So plans to abseil into the playground and announce in bright lights of my departure are on hold.

What next? I will free transfer to St. Lorraine Anglo-Chinese School. It isn’t religious. It just liked the name, so I gathered. They are Hong Kong-owned. They often have fencing, croquet and archery – what’s not to like?! They want a science-based English teacher. They work with schools from Wales (U.K.), Florida (U.S.), and the Gold Coast (Australia). Anyway, visa-permitting (I am awaiting – and chasing the CRB in the U.K.), that is where I should start on August the 28th.

Yesterday, I played 7-a-side football in 35°C heat, with humidity that gave it a real feel of 47-52°C. Our team, Houjie Murray’s FC lost three games on the bounce, losing the latter with no subs. We forefeited the fourth game due to pnly having 5 players. We started with 11. The Treehouse Invitational Cup was excellent but the weather was the winner.

To be continued…

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Best laid plans.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Arriving at school today early, to find that the school trip had been cancelled could have worried me. It did not. So often is the case with respects to being ill-informed or a lack of information, that I just do as Oasis say and “Roll with it.” Yesterday’s school trip for grades 1-4 went successfully. Today’s weather is forecast to be, as the meterologists may or may not put it, “Proper grim.” A tad moist, like a Greggs Steak melt. Glum faces of students seemed conceded to the fact of no school trip, and possibly one to be held back by bad weather for some time.

In stark contract at Monday morning’s meet and greet around 7am, bubbly bright things bouned through the school gates. The odd student sporting sporting pink visors, and other wearing their best summer hats. Smiles replaced the usual Monday morning tired and weary expressions. Hellos were shouted in full voice and with venom. Excitement bubbled up as the convoy of coaches pulled into the school grounds. Each would cart a class to Foshan and a mysterious day out.

Whilst yesterday’s students and teachers enjoyed a fun day trip, today we are on a regular timetable. Sadly, mock exams have been slapped into place over my two morning classes in grade 5. My season-based class will have to wait. It can debut tomorrow. Today, all I have is the football VIP class in period 7 at 4pm. Should the expected storm arrive by noon, that could be washed off too. We shall see. Like I tell my students in football, “Stay on your toes!”

With respect to Plan E, having scuttled Plans A through to D, I have interviews lined up for jobs in ChangPing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. The jobs vary from teaching in Dongguan to working between Blighty and China in various trades. That is on top of Plan A, not completely scuttled, just trimmed to work in alongside all else. Such is life. Best laid plans…

This weekend the UCI Track Cycling World Championships are in Hong Kong. I should be there. I have wanted to write more of late, but find life to be quite a distracting affair. Too many shony lights make my feline paw reach to swat the glimmering reflections. Before I get distracted again, here are my recent additions to HubHao:

In Brief – Track Cycling World Championships

Happy Birthday Ched!

No doubt over the last two years, you will have seen many wonderful, meaningful and happy snaps. A large proportion are down to one man. HubHao wishes Ched a happy…

Teaching with Tofu – Tips For The Classroom #5

Teaching can be rewarding, right? Teaching can be amazing, do you concur? Teaching is never easy, agree? Teaching is plain-sailing, sometimes? Writer John Acton adds a…

In Brief – Tomb Sweeping Day

Life is wonderful and remembering those no longer with us is part of life. Today is tomorrow’s yesterday. Today is the right time to remember the luck and fortune that…

Bar Review – The Ship (Houjie)

HubHao recently enjoyed a ship-shape outing to The Ship in Houjie. Fish and chips, beef wraps, and a full English Breakfast was had by all. Writer John Acton scribbles…

In Brief – Cabin Restrictions

As reported across many media outlets today (22nd March 2017) there are some important security notices – and we don’t want you to be caught out! “Electronic devices…

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

On the Saturday morning (prior to the 30th of March, when I started to write this), I sat down to breakfast with Maria, her mother and mother’s partner (shūshu or uncle, 叔叔). The kitchen was squat, old and wide open to the elements. As I tucked into my chángfěn (intestine noodles/rice noodle roll/ 肠粉), a small flash of brown streaked through the door and behind a cabinet. Seated mother of Maria spotted it too, she screamed, stood up and slammed the door closed. I personally would have kept the door open. In moments, her handbag was gripped alongside an umbrella, she chased the rat around the room, past me as I continued eating. Eventually it was cornered and a swift foot by shūshu ended its life. I spewed in my mouth as its brains squeezed outwards. Surprisingly, I lost my appetite. I did not finish the accompanying tray of noodles.

Whilst the weekend’s breakfast was a grim attitude towards life, it hasd to be said rats carry diseases and they make food dirty. I get why they are looked upon as little more than a hindrance. As recent as 2009, China sporadically reacted to rabies outbreaks with dog culls. Stray populations in cities were also for the grinder.

China has embraced local and international Non-Government Organisations in ways to humanly manage and apply methods to problematic dogs. By 2014, 320 staff were educated in 46 different cities. That has led to neutering and vaccination programmes, with even some cities imposing laws on abandoning or absing our four-legged friends. Charities to house stray dogs have appeared – and some are even government funded. The adoption programmed generally feature education. Coupled with media attention to dog meat festivals, animal rights have been a focus of media debates and issues. Conversation is growing. This is a fantastically non-political debate and one that may cause divide. Should we eat an animal that goes woof? Action has followed. Mindsets are opening up to debate about animal rights more and more. As each Yulin Dog Meat Festival has approached since 2014, I have seen more and more media exposure. Welfare groups, and groups of volunteers have brought this to the attention of the authorities. Some have rescued canines and felines. When people push the law to enforce the rules, this is a sure sign of positive action.

Since I moved to Houjie in 2014, I have seen the number of dog owners go from roughly, very, very few – where I would see a dog maybe once a week – to encountering dogs at breakfast, lunch and dinner, without having to go to a restaurant! They are everywhere, small terriers up to St Bernards and Border Collies. Even Yorkshire Terriers have found their way far east of East Riding. Even papers have been written in university and International Animal Law Conferences. Times have changed for dog owners here and there. Poodles, huskies, Labradors, are perfectly aligned to those who once had simpler Pomeranians, Papillons, or mixed mutts.

Dog genetics indicate that ownership started in Asia. There is far higher diversity in the gene pool. Pugs, for example, made homes in the time of Confucius, alongside the Chinese imperial household. Nobody else was allowed that little ugly doggy. Recently shepherding and security jobs have been assigned to hounds.

In Beijing, there is a strict rule, 一犬一户 (Yī quǎn yī hù – One Dog, One Household) on pooches. To Stephen King lovers’ delight, the capital city even houses a pet cemetery at Baifu. Each plot will leave your pocket around 20,000RMB lighter. But what does that matter if you invest in doggy fashion. Every pooch needs gloves, hat and a scarf in temperatures as low as 10°C right?

Over the years, I have had many pets. My dog Pup was accompanied by several Yorkshire Terriers, Nomaz, Suzie and West Highland Terrier by the name of Snowy. Pup being pure-breed mongrel, was part Labrador, Rottweiler and Kangaroo. Having looked after Charlie, a neighbour’s German Shepherd for many a year,

In the feline world, I was raised with Basil (like Jess, from Postman Pat, a black and white cat). Then there was Sparky and Tigger. Others have joined for shorter periods of time, due to Sparky not being neutered and the kittens being rehomed.

In the world of hamsters, Bright Eyes (a Syrian hamster – why does no one complain about this batch of furry pet shop refugees coming over to the U.K. taking the roles of mice!?), Stripe and Gizmo (Russian hamsters – have rodents had a Cold War?) )amongst other rescue hamsters and a whole clan of show mice.

Then, there was S.A.R.A.H. (Swift Arachnid Revenge Assassin Hybrid), a Chilean Rose tarantula.

Oh, and the Stick family, Indian Stick Insects. A skinny bunch. Pets are a wonderful way to embrace our complex world.

[The above is where I finished off on the 30th of March. I will not touch it again]

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

March on.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

The frequency may have been reduced to one post every blue moon, but that doesn’t mean I don’t write anymore – of for that matter want to write nothing more. I have just been busy. Like a pretty busy bee, but taller, even if I do bumble just as much.

My right knee had some minor reconstruction to reduce a strained tendon and a knotted ligament. It is recovering. As such I haven’t played football for a while and will continue to avoid contact sport and cycling for at least three weeks. I am permitted to do none-impact sport. Cycling fits into that category, but on the roads around here, I will not be taking that chance. Instead all my stretches and physical activity is confined to indoors, like making cheesecakes and cooking tuna with pasta. That kind of thing.

School has been ticking over and classes have passed by as always. Some are great, others so, so. I always try to add a new zest each week. In one class, it works, then I try it through the other classes of the same grade. I’d say 1 in 7 classes enjoy it and it works very well. Class 503 (by far the noisiest and most disruptive class I have ever encountered) tear all plans to shreds. I don’t have teaching assistants in class, and seldom require them. The gremlins of class 503 need it. I ask. I bed. I plead. I demand. I explain the futility of trying to teach that class. I get mostly empty promises by Teacher Jack Armstrong that he will attend and observe. In fact, of the six classes, Jack attended two of them, and the students were amazing. A real life-affirming wow factor was felt. The competition levels shot up high to the sky and a positive perfunctory response to all tasks was had. Then, the week after the ruins of a conquered castle reappeared. I find some grade 8 classes to be a challenge, but this class in grade 5, are nemesis-like. They are all very smart but collectively they want the ship to sink. I shouldn’t get too worked up, because after all they are kids. Mostly aged 9 to 11!

Where have I been of late? Let me think. Shenzhen, twice, in two days. Mostly Dongcheng and Hengli. Not really, anywhere that can be considered exciting. I haven’t watched any music, seen any shows, or attended anything dramatic. But, life has been beautifully wonderful, on the whole. I think. Food has been had many times in Dalang and great sushi moments in Hengli. My City hat has been found safe and well, and wil be collected this weekend from Sam at Winner’s Bar (sadly, soon to close) in Hengli. The hat has a lot of sentiment. It is the third time I have lost it and t has returned. Granny Ivy gave me the hat a birthday gift once. There is also a City ski hat soon after with the same retro style crest. Although I can’t wear that hat in this heat!

HubHao writing has been continuing. But, even that is less so than usual. I guess the month in Nepal during January slowed up the writing. But, here are some pieces yet to be mentioned on this blog.

A Taste of Nepal

The written piece to accompany the Photographic Taste of Nepal.

 

Bar Review – Ziggy’s DG

In Bar Review – Ziggy’s DG, John Acton enters a world of great beer good food, billiards, darts, and KTV.   One sentence reviews would say, “Any bar…

 

Didi or Didi not?

Didi Chuxing, having recently acquired Uber’s Chinese venture, has announced an English smartphone application in on its way. The monopolist taxi arranging service…

 

A Photographic Taste of Nepal

Writer John Acton’s piece from February is accompanied by his photographs. He allowed HubHao a taste if the experience. Here are his favourite shots… The first…

 

Revolution @ One For The Road

Revolution is such a powerful word. Moving away from the political connotations of the word, I can mean a swift movement in cycling. Revolution, the band, in Dongguan…

Is March the bluest of blue months? It has been mostly grey of sky, devoid of spring flowers and greenery with the odd patch of dullness. I am fairly certain that every relationship I have broken up from, was in March. I also know March to be the time I felt the lowest back in the U.K. The seasonal affective disorder thingy would always be mentioned in the news and the Spring Equinox (it happened yesterday) barely mentioned. In the Premier League, it can prove to be make or break time, and as City sit 12 points adrift of Chelsea with ten games remaining, you’d be forgiven for not believing in a late title charge. If City deliever 30 points from 30, even then it is asking much for Chelsea to lose 4 games or draw much more! Still there is the Champions League League Cup F.A. Cup semi-final to go for! C’mon City! March on!

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Trust me, I am a professional?

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Trust. A small word with big implications. Do you trust every decision you have made? Do you trust those that you have allowed close to your heart? Do you trust you have learnt from your mistakes? Do you trust in your own ability and those that you work with? How much trust given is too much? Have you received so much trust from someone special? By its own definition, trust is placing a firm belief in someone or something. Believing that truth, strength, reliability, or ability is to be found within someone (or something). Having confidence assists with assurance, belief and gives conviction to certainty. Reliance in a faith. All mistrusts, doubts and distrusts should evaporate. Rely on, depend upon, bank on and be sure of someone or something. Earning trust and respect works both ways. I hope to prove myself in as many ways as possible.

The problem with trust, is that is heavily influenced by the past. By mistakes of your own causing, or that of others. Where security should stand, the pathways are locked hand in hand with experiences of negativity. They prise away at what should be a smooth journey of sailing, offering strong Atlantic winds in shallow waters lined with crooked-edged rocks waiting to swallow you whole. No matter what you feel, you either must give your all, or hold back. If you hold back, does that make the plant of insecurity grow? Or, does it allow you to make an informed decision? Only time can tell. Give your all, or give as much as you can. Trust works both ways. Trust can be both a lesson and a response.

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Toils and rewards

I’d seemingly been walking for ages, when I grasped my watch. Three hours had passed. I stopped for tea at Goyam, height of 3220m. I had ascended 645m. It had been arduous. A real slog of slow steps, one foot in front of the other. One at a time. Ever. So. Slowly. At a tea shop, a toddler sat beneath a sign advertising Yak cheese for sale. The toddler, joined by a thin grey cat, played and smiled. I tucked into garlic soup and yak cheese potatoes, quickly cooked by the owner. Across the path a series of flattened houses and following my meal, I would see several houses up the path, equally as destroyed. A soulful reminder that nature rules these mountains and the people here are guests clinging onto the edge. Immediately after leaving Goyam the trail seemed to steepen more than I thought possible. Was I climbing or trekking?! The beautiful primordial Rhododendron forests became sparser. The odd lightning struck tree flanked an otherwise trench-like path. Was the path formed in a riverbed or did the summer monsoons strip the earth away? It felt like I was in Tolkien’s Rivendell. A beautiful stray mongrel, part wolf-like, part-Labrador like followed me for several hundred metres. Every now and then I skirmished to the side of a path to allow cattle, mostly yak-cow hybrids to bundle by. Their heavy weight shook the loose pathways as I perched precariously on a ledge just inches above.

Since leaving Sete, I had been regular passed and overtaken by a young pair of children heaving 20kg of potatoes. The 12 year old girl and her 14 year old brother had stopped to talk with me several times. They rested their sacks of potatoes and commented on my weight load and walking pace. These local Sherpa children were polite and invited me to their parent’s lodge for the night. I politely declined and stated my end point of Junbesi. Eventually their strength and experience allowed them to zoom ahead of me as I rested and took in the panoramic scenery. Several Kathmandu to Lukla flights passed lower in the valley beneath me, rising to fly over Lamjura La pass and mountain. This was my aimed route, over that curving ridge way off in the distance. The plants and trees became bare of leaves and greenery. Even the mosses and lichens dulled in colour. I started to tread on ice and snow. It lasted seemingly for several kilometres. I reached a Stupa and several closed lodges. Looking up at higher ground, I placed my rucksack down and looked at the towering boulders and scattered Mani stones, scrolling prayer after prayer. I turned around to be greeted by something grim. A blizzard.

The clouds, thick as ash, grey as the darkest of skies, and swelling with tumbling snow and a menacing amount of local wind. I turned forwards, aware that inside ten to twenty minutes that storm was going to hit me. I took in my surroundings. An open creaky wooden toilet was not adequate. I had to keep going forward in the hope of finding a lodge. I stumbled between two large and saw an open door set inside a wooden single storey building. The sign, Lamjura View, bellowed out, hope and sanctuary. A Sherpa man gestured me to enter. We talked and drank black tea. He said I was lucky to avoid the raging blizzard outside. In the corner the teenage boy and girl I met on my trek sat talking. They were the man’s children. The mother had died in the devastating earthquake. The family, strong and very together, ran this lodge and farmed potatoes lower in the valley. To some they live an idyllic life in a mountain paradise, but to those with open eyes, a harsh lifestyle with nature battling all odds was clearly in play. After maybe thirty minutes the storm dissipated and disappeared completely. I stepped out of the hobbit-hole like door, thanking my hosts and wishing them all the best.

Immediately after leaving the lodge, the crest of the mountain pass folded away. On the steep descent, after only a few short metres the snow line ended. Green primordial trees towered high and strong. Thick orange-brown trunks crammed the slopes and a path wound tightly beneath them. Each tree blanketed in moss, a coat of rustic pubic hair belying that of the ancients.

Large steps downwards, occasionally showing a dusting of snow that had breached the thick tree canopy overhead. The sky disappeared above, hidden by foliage. Still air and an eerie lack of sound pinpricked my ears up, alert, listening for any discernible sounds. Few came. Not even birdsong. The climb to 3736m, along a ridge that hit 3300m and finally 3530m had been relentlessly tough, on icy slippery paths with a sheer drop far below. The descent started as a welcome break. It ended almost on tears. The downwards path seemed to go on forever. Down, down and down like listening to Radiohead and mulling over personal depression on a grey autumn day, faced with a long cold winter ahead. A massive downer. Down. Seemingly eternally cast downwards.

A shriek of an eagle came from my left. I looked up at a cloud covered peak and cliff-face. I suddenly felt extremely small, like an ant looking up at a tree. To my fore, a broken patch of land emerged from trees. Ruins of a once glorious looking alpine-style lodging scattered across the ground. The damp looking wooden timbers, long rotten and rock walls draped hitherto and with no order.

My legs dragged as I walked the final kilometres downhill, slipping slowly into the valley surrounding Junbesi. Few lights twinkled between trees and from the village below. I sought a lodge. Between dark trees, I found a row of lodges. I opted for Apple Lodge, despite my dislike for Apple products. To my surprise, I linked up once again with Will and John. We compared thoughts on the day’s trek. They had arrived earlier than me, having departed from Sete much earlier too. My twelve hours up and up, gave me good reason to go to bed earlier. That and the cold. I found my room pleasantly warm. I pulled my sleeping bag shut and drifted away into a peaceful sleep.

I opened the curtain. The view looked out onto an apple orchard. In the distance, I spied a new roadway from Salleri, south in the valley, stretched up the long deep crevice of valley into Junbesi. This was a sign of modern times and a connection to the outside world, likely welcome that would advance the region’s prosperity. Maybe even bringing silence to busier villages between Jiri and here. Many jeeps from Kathmandu travel to Salleri now to allow Everest Base Camp – and other popular wanders in the region – treks to save money compared with flights to Lukla. Yesterday’s 15km of apparent endless up and down walking.

The day would involve 17km ending at Nunthala village, 2194m. I departed without breakfast and arrived two hours later at Phurteng. The lodge proclaimed to all, “Everest View” as a name. It was accurate. The Himalayas beckoned up the valley. Sure enough, there it was, to the left, a pyramid-topped peak with clouds whipping from the summit. Pure beauty. This was the fifth day of trekking and I had already seen the world’s tallest mountain, above sea level, with my naked eyes. I ate my Sherpa stew and Tibetan bread, satisfied at this special moment. Scaling Taksindu Pass and passing Taksindu monastery complete with helicopters buzzing back and forward to assist with construction work, I descended to Nunthala, along slippery muddy and mule-dung strewn pathways. A trio of Lammergeiers (Bearded Vultures) glided overhead. This is a beautiful bird with around one metre of long narrow pointed wings and a stocky tail. Their underbodies light in colour and black underwings a light coloured heads. Having seen Himalayan Serow, deer-like mammals that day by a waterfall, and also Siberian Weasels, it had been a most pleasant nature day.

I arrived in Nunthala, checked into a pleasantly warm lodge, ordered a Yak cheese pizza which was 90% cheese and 10% base. No tomato or vegetables. It was brilliant and crispy around the edges. The sound of mules passing by with bells tinkling one by one reminded me of days spent by Welsh harbours enjoying the sound of boats gently rocking on calm waves, with the sound of cables rattling on metal masts. Most relaxing. I chatted briefly with a Canadian couple, only the fourth and fifth foreigners I had encountered in eight days of trekking.

Will and John stayed nearby in a different lodge. Our leapfrog casual way of bumping into each other was becoming part of the trail. We marvelled at how fast the French man, Vincois moved. He always set out later than us, smoked a chimney’s measure of cigarettes and managed to beat us to every end-point. Not that it was a race. Trekking is all about managing your own pace and not rushing. You take in your surroundings, manage the weight you carry and your body. Your feet need tender loving care, as does your meal management and nutritional requirements. Energy and comfort is the key to performance, aside from hydration and mental belief.

Leaving Nunthala, 2194m, with contrasting views of the Himalayas, cold and icy beyond fertile hills and mountains, the morning mule trains carrying freight to and fro, passed by, bells ringing gently and softly. The odd yak train interrupted the passage of mules to give a continual hazardous flow of passing footpath traffic. The paths generally being no more than a metre wide, meant for a tight squeeze often and regular brushes with cargo ranging from gas canisters to cement to wood and occasionally polystyrene blocks as high as the animals themselves. Passing through Chhirdi (1500m – the river crossing of the mighty Dudh Koshi Nadi glacial river), Jubhing (1680m), Kharkikola (1985m) to reach Bupsa Danda (2340m) resembled a Tour de France stage with a mountain finish. This was the least tough of all the trekking days today, a gentle meander with a climbing at the end. From Jubhing to Kharikola, a patchwork of gardens and some well-maintained ornamental pathways gave a tropical feel. Banana plants, flowers and other tropical fruit mixed with higher altitude plants. One tree even had an umbrella on top. The mystery as to why remains unanswered but it did make me laugh and raise my spirits as school kids skipped by on the way to their mountainside education places. Gumba Danda at the foot of the climb to Bupsa Danda was very busy and queues to pass a packed suspension bridge held me up for twenty minutes as mule trains passed over and over again. On stalking the steep trail to Bupsa Danda, it immediately became apparent that this village had far more hostels and lodges than previous villages. The spur of a Lukla to Tumlintar trail and a higher concentration of hydro-prayer wheels and monasteries are the probable draw.

At Bupsa Danda, I stayed at Sherpa Guide lodge, overlooking a valley with the Dudh Koshi Nadi glacial river passing way below. The walls of the lodge were covered in summits that the Sherpa leader and owner had reached. 14 of the top 20 Himalayan peaks were there! Two children including a toddler who ran through a wall (MDF panel, it may have been) played around the room. I spoke with a Sherpa guide, Lakpa Nuru Sherpa, on a week’s holiday from his home village of Namche Bazaar.

The Dudh Koshi Nadi glacial river is fed by glacial run-off from the gargantuan Cholatse and Ngozumba glaciers. It thundered deep in the vale below. The morning walk involved something more serene, Orange-Bellied Himalayan squirrels, chipmunks and many unique birds accompanied me on my stroll skirting Kari La at 3080m high. In Paiya, I stopped at Dreamland for a late breakfast and met Will with his father John. We discussed the trail and John, being a former Nepal tour guide from over 15 years ago told me of how the trail used to be bustling with porters, guides and much more freight feeding the lodges from Jiri to Everest Base Camp and Namche Bazaar.

Having a late breakfast at Dreamland, with their penned motto of, “Come as a guest, leave as a friend,” I mulled over my thoughts. Nepal is like a distant, yet loving brother, one who has gone through the best and worst of times, together and apart. Seeing Siberian weasels along the route connected me with nature, seeing fish painted on buildings reminded me of the high levels of illiteracy. Many political parties favour symbols to gain votes, because words simply cannot be understood. Amongst the scuttling Highland shrews, the pathways were clean, save for the odd lonesome horse going to the bathroom. At stages I had been followed by faithful-looking dogs, perhaps looking for scraps of food or simply as a guide through perilously precarious passes.

Stood by the river Dudh Koshi Nadi, rapids crashed against rocks and solid mounds of pebbles. The glacial blue water, deep and powerfully displacing all water flowing beneath it. Ice lined the rims of calmer shallower pools, set back from the main violence of malevolent torrential channels. The sounds resembled that of Viking god Thor crashing an iron hammer in the sky. Passing through the villages of Muse, Chheplung (2660m), Nurning (2492m), Phakding (2610m), and Monja (2835m) before reaching Jorsalle (2740m), the river kept me company. Ever present, ever powerful. I walked against the flow of the river, safely dry and up bank from the crushing waters. Missing posters of a trekker, who fell into the river in November, issued a stark reminder of the dangers of those waters. The water flowing was equally relaxing. I felt like Clark Kent when he walked and formed his fortress of solitude. Awakened.

Winter is coming.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

I am sat here smugly sat here, with my cup of squeezy no-added sugar Vimto. I have less than two days before I feel myself soaring into the sky…

My flight to Nepal’s Kathmandu (via Mumbai, India) departs Hong Kong S.A.R. International Airport on Saturday the 31st of December 2016, at noon. I arrive local time in Nepal at 23:00hrs. Hopefully, I’ll have my baggage collected and be mobile before the year 2017 A.D. arrives. The 2966 km journey (as the crow flies) will take longer as a budget flight dictates the change in India. Jet Airways, I have heard, aren’t that bad, so here goes a journey into the unknown and unexperienced with an airline I know little about. An adventure awaits.

Just like Father Christmas has done in recent times, I have made a list of things to take, checked it twice, thrice and more times. Am I ready? I don’t know. Did I plan? Yes. Just to prove a point, here is my checklist

Water bottle/1L water pack

Nalgene/

 
Passport photos

Insurance

Additional risk insurance

Notify bank

Flights

 
Trekking poles  
Camera and accessories

Camera bag

 
Pens  
Toilet paper  
SteriPen  
Synthetic or nylon top

Pants. No cotton.

 
Bandanna  
Trail food  
MP3 player  
Sleeping bag  
Sleeping bag liners  
Cotton pillow case  
Wind breaker  
Wind pants  
Long socks  
Day sack
Batteries/bulbs/torch/head lamp
Swiss army knife
Sunglasses/goggles
Lip sun block
Sun lotion
Medical/first aid kit
Sewing kit
Wool socks
Sun hat
Woollen hats
Long Johns

Baselayers

Gloves
Gaiters
T-shirts
Down jacket
Waterproof jacket
Trekking boots
Trainers
Hiking pants
Hiking shirts (full sleeves)
Ruck sack
Towel

After three days in Kathmandu, I will begin my ascent. I will somehow get to a place called Jiri by car, jeep or bus. From there, I will hike from Jiri (1951m) to Deorali (2705m); Deorali to Sete (2575m); Sete to Junbesi (2675m); Junbesi to Numtala 2360m; Numtala to Khari Khola 2100m; Khari Khola to Surkhe 2293m; and Surkhe to Lukla 2810m. Nowadays many people abandon the old ways and fly from Kathmandu to Lukla. Not me, I’m walking as the explorers of old did. I’ve allowed 8 days for this journey. Some say it can be done in 6, but I guess they’re more Superman than I. There are a few alternative routes that bypass Lukla and head on to Namche Bazar (3.440 m) but perhaps the altitude gain is too great. My plan involves Phakding (2.610 m), Mojo’s Sagarmatha National Park Entrance around Larja bridge (2.830 m), and Namche Bazar (3.440 m), hopefully arriving on a Friday to witness the great Saturday morning market. Khumjung (3.780 m) looking over at Ama Dablam (6.856 m), Tengboche (3.860 m) for the great monestaries, Pangboche (3.930 m), Pheriche (4.270 m), Dingboche (4.410 m), Dughla (Thokla) – 4.620 m, Thokla Pass (4.830 m) and my final place for sleeping in Gorak Shep camp (5.140 m). Here I will trek to Kala Patthar (5.545 m) and Everest Base Camp (5.364 m) to gaze upon Everest (8.848 m). After a few hours of that, I head back to Kathmandu as fast as I can. Hopefully I’ll get a day in the city before flying back to Hong Kong S.A.R. with my onward road of China by the 29th of January 2017.

Months, weeks, days and hours of planning is about to begin… I’m both excited and nervous. I’ll miss those I love, dearly, as I do. But, dreams… dreams must be put into action, one by one.

 

 

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

我永远不会放弃 (wǒ yǒngyuǎn bú huì fàngqì [I will never give up!]

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Between the articulations of idioms a Chinese class beneath the Grade 4/5 office, I could hear the distant sound of Wham. “Last year I gave you my heart…” and this was odd. The neighbouring kindergarten (nursery school) seemed to be ploughing through Christmas songs faster than a sleigh whizzing around the world, carrying a fat bloke delivering presents and gifts.

Christmas, this year, was and remains far more visible than the previous two years. The local malls (shopping centres), cafes, bars, even small shops have all gone all out. Even my apartment complex has invested in a huge tree and many decorations. Seeing and hearing Christmas, as an embraced addition, an imported tradition doesn’t even seem purely commercial. There is joy with it. As part of the Christmas movement, I attended two Christmas parties at Speaker Training Centre (Hengli) and another Christmas themed afternoon in Dongguan City 17th Sunshine Primary School. At Dongguan (东莞) Shi (市Market or City) Nánchéng (南城south town) Qu YángGuāng (阳光sunshine) diqi (第七17th) Xiǎo Xué (小学primary school), I was reunited with Bright once again. A friend since the first day I arrived at Dao Ming. We picked up like we had last met yesterday.

Christmas weekend was spent in Hengli, walking, talking, eating and cycling. Sky, Mark, Maria and their team had welcomed me many times before. The Speaker Family training centre is a hearty place, focused on making students young and old confident to conquer English and master the art of public speeches. They are a passionate bunch, surrounded by family in Maria’s case and full of zest for learning. It is infectious. I like their business model very much. So, I attended many classes and Christmas game activities, sang Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes with several four year-olds and went to many great meals. On Christmas Day, Maria, Mark, Maria’s father, Maria’s step-father, Obama (Maria’s brother and a very talented cook), Jonhson (the spelling is right, I think… as it is on his ID card; an American) and I went to a very standard-looking Chinese restaurant and ate. We had tofu, chicken (the whole thing, heads, eyes, the lot), and many other delicious foods. Alongside, some Chinese medicinal drink, good for the kidneys. In Chinese medicine, your sexual mojo, stems from your kidneys. Our recycling machines are reportedly the body’s yin and yang. The seed of energy. Good diets make for good balance. Good balance makes for good kidneys. In turn, a good sexual function and reproduction. We drank a drink, medicinal alcohol, a kind of wine with elements of nuts, ginseng, pollen, spores, leeks, ling zhi (Reishi mushrooms, 灵芝) [possibly dried shrimps and oysters]. The sceptic in me was beaten back the next day. I awoke having had a great night’s sleep. I hadn’t been told that the drink was good for anything, other than my kidneys, the night before, but I can safely say there is a strong aphrodisiac quality in it, one that blasts your dreams into the foreground of the mind. Traditional Chinese Medicine may be a controversial area, often slammed for historic links to poaching and continued killing of animals. Some have been derived from the human body. However, the current 13,000 medicinals (it used to be 100,000!) are mostly plant and farmed animal sourced. Some are controversial, some have side-effects. I guess, like all commercially obtained pharmoceuticals (again some are derived from endangered animals and animal extracts), we must look at them on a case by case merit. Anyway, back to Christmas. It was a most wonderful weekend. Maria gave me some chocolates. Her family also gifted me a meal and Speaker Family treated me to a further meal. Chinese culture is heavily evolved around celebrations and meals. As Jonhson put it, “The more you eat and drink, the more you celebrate!”

Apples (苹果 Píngguǒ) are given because the word sounds like Ping’an (平安). Ping’an Ye 平安夜 is silent night. Someone cashed in on it and now it is a tradition. I have had many apples from teachers and students. I’ve eaten one apple a day for a week now. I now have 15 apples left. I don’t have an oven to make a crumble! I will have to rehome these apples.

 

To be this far from home, is tough, I won’t lie. To be so far from family at a time, traditionally and wholeheartedly for family, is tougher. This week has been the most homesick I have been, since arriving in China. This February will mark three years away from the U.K. (only, less the 13 weeks I have spent in China, across two summers).

“You have no authority. None.” The harsh grasp of M’s words in recent James Bond flick, Spectre. That’s how I feel right now with one of my colleagues. Analisa is an American. I think I don’t bond well with Americans. Perhaps, I try to hard in teamwork or perhaps I come across as authoritive. I’m no expert but I do have experience. I try to nurture and push. I don’t lead as such, I just influence and try to ensure the team are equal and steering the ship in the right direction. Otherwise, we will be powerless and grounded. Maybe it is just me? Maybe, I am a poor teammate? I doubt my value as a leader if I cannot guide, lead or be worked with. I think deep down in my heart, I am a farmer, looking for a simple life, but one who has been forced from his comfort zone into an unfamiliar land. An adventurer in a world where all adventures seem to be have been had. The deep ocean and space remain. And I’m too early in technological advancements to take those voyages!

The phrase “two cultures separated by a common language” is banded around quite freely now. American English seems to have usurped [British] English, and using phrases and idioms of everyday usage back home tend to fall by the wayside. Lost in translation? Or unheard? For the umpteeth time, I’ve been asked to compare the two languages. It was like watching paint dry. I feel like some people ask just to take the mickey. But, they’re not. Many of my Chinese colleagues and friends are very direct in how they speak. They simply avoid discretion and courtesy as it isn’t something learnt so freely. Our cultures are different. Turns of phrase are too much for most. Even trying to simplify my phrases is a problem at times. What gets me, is when a Nigerian accent or deep-south American accent is understood far clearer than my own voice. That said I get why those, who listen, around those speakers, with those accents, follow clearly. Your ears titrate. It takes time to understand people’s speaking styles and accents. Also, maybe I am guilty of being followed so well, that I slip back into a normal speaking style. However, I won’t be condescending and assume non-native speakers’ levels of English are not good enough to understand me. Non-native speakers, learners of a new language learn to communicate and better themselves. I won’t add water to a lake. I won’t remove the bones of the turkey, pulp it up and create a jelly. For me, if the learners spot the differences and ask questions, they are learning that proper [British] English is as peculiar as it comes. He most diverse language on Earth with more and more words and phrases being coined over time. It helps others to help me help you. I’ll adapt my tones, phrases and words to the scenario I face. Communication is key, clear or unclear, questions can always be asked.

So, my journey into learning Chinese is creaking. I am struggling, grasping at every loose rock on an upward climb to a peak far away. I’ll get there. It just takes time. I am trying to study the grammar, speak as native speakers do, and think in Chinese. I have been recording my spoken Chinese and playing it back to myself. Comparisons of the inflections reveal, I am near tone deaf. I can’t differeniate the four tones at times. Partly because of the varied accents around me and partly because I’m learning Mandarin, slap bang in Cantonese language territory. I do have the advantage of natural speakers galore around me. I just need to prod them to make them speak Chinese with me and not English. I don’t care if I make mistakes or lose face. I will learn from these instances. I want to use formal and informal phrases, so making mistakes or cultural faux pas from times to time will assist me. There are co many cultural rules and habits, and these can differ from town to town, region to region and so on. My Chinese notepad is bulging. Soon, I may need to have to expand it!

Anyway…

我永远不会放弃

(wǒ yǒngyuǎn bú huì fàngqì

[I will never give up!].

 

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself.


你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Last week, I heard a saying for the second time in as many weeks. I didn’t remember how to say it the first time around. I still don’t. However, I will try to learn it off by heart. I’ve printed a copy and downloaded an audi track to support the learning of such a phrase. Oddly, I think I heard it on a self-help guide someone was playing nearby me, on a subway train. I guess we all get inspiration from odd places at times.

Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself. Shī fu lǐng jìn mén, xiū xíng zài gè rén. 师傅领进门,修行在个人 Similar to You can lead the horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink.

 

Right now, I feel inspired to create and write. It hasn’t always been that way this week. I have had purple patches. I think Elvis sang about having a Blue Christmas, and it had nowt to do with football allegiance. My melancholy mood has been brought on self-inflictedly, by not being home for Christmas. Last year and the year before, I felt so desolate and dejected. I was wretched company two years ago, and as downcast as a Mancunian grey sky last year also. Inside an optimist there is always a pessimist. There must be! To look forwards and upwards whenever the proverbial fan is smeared with excrement, there must be an ability to recognise the bad in all good. Disappointment doesn’t need to expected at every possible moment but it should be anticipated otherwise how do you dig yourself out of a shallow grave? Am I unhappy? No. But, I can feel unhappy. Sometimes I just keep my eyes looking at the sun, and knowing that whenever I fall, a warm ray of light can sweep me back onto my feet. The great thing about understanding your own mind, is control. I can control how happy I am, and how to escape crestfallen moments. Back off sadness. Shut up head. Have a Happy Christmas! Well, I will try, and at the end of the day this week has proven most positive.

Yesterday, Angle (pronounced Angel) and her team in Grade 5, class 7 gave me a wonderful Christmas card signed by many students. The thought and constant greetings of Merry Christmas from her class during the oral English exams made for great and hearty entertainment. All my classes in grades 5, 7 and 8 have been given little slips of paper, with “Dear Father Christmas…” and plenty of space to write their letters to Father Christmas (me, in this scenario). There will be a prize for the best written letters, the sweetest letters and maybe a few smaller prizes too. I’m going to ask the English teachers to do this too. “How can anyone be dispirited, trying to bring joy to others?” I ask. Well, the answer is never easy. Our minds are beautiful playgrounds of creation and memories. They can fill us with joy and longing. We’ll get there one day. Wherever there happens to be.

 

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Catching up…

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

Around 176,000 words have been spent to date. They have now migrated in monthly chapters from Wix.com to WordPress. There has been a considerable gap between postings. So, here we go… let’s try and fill in some gaps.

The last weekend of December, I went to Zhuhai for the Magic Island Music Festival. The review can be found on HubHao with some images supplied by the organiser.

 

The week, that followed this, I felt like curling up and watching Father Ted. “You’ll have some tea… are you sure you don’t want any? Aw go on, you’ll have some. Go on go on go on go on go on go on go on go on GO ON!” I’d shaken off a sore throat and headache which seemingly lasted forever. It started on a Tuesday and exited by Friday, thanks to Asda-branded dual action blackcurrant flavoured 2.4mg throat lozenges containing Hexylresorcinol. “There’s always time for a nice cup of tea. Sure, didn’t the Lord himself pause for a nice cup of tea before giving himself up for the world.” Yet, all I have wanted to do that week, was curl up with a packet of biscuits, crumbs spilling all over the bedsheets and a milky cup of P.G. Tips or Tetley’s tea. Something imported, proper English style tea, proper milk and one sugar. Instead, I ate chicken. “Are you sure, Father? There’s cocaine in it!” Well maybe not just a little bit of chicken but just under a kilogram of the feathered victim of a knife. “Oh, no, not cocaine. God, what am I on about. No, what d’you call them? Raisins.”

 

Amongst that displeasure, Murray’s Maine Rd FC were renamed Murray’s Cityzens F.C. and we have mostly new players. We lost against the reigning Champions, Cavera F.C., who are chasing their third Dongguan International Football league title, now named, Mission Hills League. The players Cavera (his team is named after himself), Mateus, Fausto, Vini and others tore us a new one, as some would say, we lost 10-0 having trailed 3-0 at the break. An absolute lesson in football. Before the game, we held a minute’s silence to observe the tragedy that occurred involving the Chapecoense team, staff, supporters and flight crew. Such a sad day for global sport. Everyone loves an underdog story, a team that grew and battled to get to a dream cup final. They have posthumously been given the Copa Sudamericana by South American football confederation Conmebol but have captured the hearts of many. Hats off to their Colombian opponents Atletico Nacional for their “spirit of peace, understanding and fair play.” Brazil will play Colombia in a friendly match at the end of January to help victims of the air crash. From the ashes of despair and loss, I hope that a phoenix of togetherness comes from this awful event. On talking with a teacher about this event, she chirped, “Why does no one remember the victims of MH370 so well?” I offered her a reponse, “I guess people need to push the authorities, their communities and the media to show how much the loss matters to make a difference in the way the tragedy is remembered.” Well… silly answer considering the totality of media power both here in China and Malaysia.

 

By that week’s Friday, I attended class 701, and every student looked despondent before I had even begun. After two minutes, two forlorn tearful students entered the class. Their sorrowful state conveying perhaps they hadn’t done homework and had received a scolding dressing-down. As I went amongst the students later-on in the class, I noticed more tearful faces. One boy was whining like a mourner at a scene of tragedy. Proper tears. I asked him what was up. He told me, “the Chinese teacher is leaving school soon.” I went team by team around the room, only to be greeted by similar melancholy. One girl had written a letter in Chinese with the odd English phrase bordering it, and she asked me to help, “What can you do to keep our teacher here?” I said I would talk with my teaching colleagues in the office and say how sad the students are right now. I did. It turns out the teacher, sporting a picture of a pug dog on the front with the phrase “Pug Life” is leaving very soon. I’m unsure why. Nobody has divulged any more detail and it is not my place. Whilst I feel accepted in the school and by my colleagues, I’m not quite part of the highly-intwined family structures of school life. Parents see less of their kids than these hard-working and well respected teachers. I’m mostly an observing guest, tolerated and respected but never ever equal. They know my place. I know my place. The lines are not misty or obscure. I do my job, without directions form others. My task is to get students talking, even in a teary-eyed environment, by the doldrums.

The weekend arrived, I fled to Shenzhen and attended the Shenzhen Blues Christmas party. Numerous kids visited Santa Claus (me in a blue suit, with fake additional hair) and most adults enjoyed the evening buffet. I won a prize in the raffle with numbert 142, kind of. Except I had purchased ten tickets, numbers 136 to 146. It should have been 136 to 145. I didn’t have a number 142. 142 was drawn from the hat. Katherine and Stephen, the brilliant leaders of Shenzhen Blues apologised profusely. It didn’t matter. I enjoyed the night, prizeless as it was. Soon after they posted me a City jacket as a Christmas present, addressed to Acton 142. So sweet of them. Too kind!

Murray’s Cityzens F.C.’s second game was a derby against Murray’s PandaBrew F.C. We lost 2-1, thanks to a late winner for the opposition. A quick free kick was taken as I lifted Barry up, having clattered his ankles, unintentionally. I struggled to get back and the other team scored. Maybe the goal had been coming but it was a bitter pill to swallow. A week later and we beat Chang’an F.A. 4-1. A good way to bounce back. Next week we have a tough game against Day & Night Bar F.C.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Dr Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Dr Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

17th November 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

 

 

On this day, way back in 1999, I said farewell to Pup. At that time, he was by far my best friend in life. I remember him so fondly and even at lunchtime when I realised today’s date, a tear formed in my eye. Back when he had to be peacefully put to sleep, my chest heaved, my body stiffened and my heart wilted. As sad as it was, I had to say goodbye. My Dad was too sad to talk at the time, he asked his partner Bernadette to call me. In a swallowed response, I said, “Okay.” I hung up and ran to my room. I lay on a road mat play area, my Dad once got me, and the loose Lego bricks dug into me. I did not feel a thing. I was numb. My closet companion had passed from life. The year 1999 was not a pleasant one. I’d hugged Pup many times since losing my Nana to that terrible disease of cancer. It had been a painful few months. And then Pup was gone too. The ever faithful and reliable Pup was no more.

 

The next time I saw Dad, I could see Pup’s collar, sporting the address and name of Grandad’s address. It dangled emptily from a fruit bowl. The greeny-blue fruit bowl Nana had, with a cat somehow constructed into the glass flute of the stand. A horrible yet homely design of a fruit bowl. It reflected Nana’s love for pets and animals.

 

The selfish side of me had fought and fretted, wishing the RSPCA would find a way to keep Pup with us. I knew it would not be so. Pup had been equal part Rottweiler, Labrador and Kangaroo amongst other parts of the dog breed world. He was never neutered and even in present day Newton-of-the-Heath (a posh part of Manchester) you can see the most recent generations of his offspring. For years, Tracy and Jimmy, had a dog called Nobby (he was neutered) live next door to Grandad and Nana’s house, later Dad’s house. It was comical to see Pup, a big dog, alongside Suzie, Nomaz and other small dogs. Pup’s mild manner was pleasing, he had a nasty lick and could leave you coated in dog-saliva. He would bound over to you, a face full of zest and vim, almost smiling and then send you flying. Any dog that could clear a six feet high fence deserves an Olympic medal, yet he was just a modest member of the Acton-clan. He’d accept all and be loved by more. Having pulled me out of Clayton Vale’s red river once and sat with me on the brook overlooking Broadhurst Park, and Broadhurst Park Allotments, we were close, as close as a boy and a dog could be. He seemed to know if I was sad and find a way to cuddle close. He’d sit on my knee at any given opportunity, which for a larger dog, could stifle my blood flow.

 

Pup, was more than men’s best friend. He was a boy’s best friend and he inspired me. Who or what inspires or inspired you?

 

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

November 2016’s posts

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”

2nd November 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

The door god stared outwardly at me. Ménshén (门神) is a deity of doors, gates and passages. I entered the tea house (茶館 cháguăn) in HengLi, a district of Dongguan. A teacher from a training centre called Speaker English invited me to observe a few classes, have lunch and go for tea. We had planned to visit the town’s museum but it closed unexpectedly early, so immediately went for a sushi dinner. I caught up with Sam at Winner’s Bar, having chatted to him a week earlier after the HubHao HengLi Cup.

 

Anyway, the teas supped were a very strong but sweet Qimen red tea, initially, Qí Mén Hóng Chá (祁门红茶). Second up, in the cup, was Dongting Green Snail Spring [Dòng Tíng Bì Luó Chūn 洞庭碧螺春]. Finally, the last tea was a Yúnnán Pǔ’ěr Chá (云南普洱). Following all that I needed a wee. Conversation at the teahouse revolved around experiences in China, teaching ideas, and the possibly mythical legend of Xú Fú (徐福). Entrusted by Qín Shǐ Huáng (秦始皇) to see the secret of immortaility, Xú Fú (徐福) was packed off with three thousand virgin boys and girls, not a crate of Heinz Baked Beans in sight, and sought a mountainous elixir of life. Sea monsters stopped Xú Fú (徐福)’s voyage. It is purported that Xú Fú (徐福) never returned. He took a wrong turning and ending up in Japan. He is rumoured to have become the first emperor of Japan, Jofuku (徐福) and that could be how Chinese and Japanese languages have evolved from each other. Anyway, pretty much interesting yet heavy stuff. A later meal of sushi rounded off a great day out.

 

A week flew by. Classes were as normal as could be from Monday to Wednesday. On Thursday, after many hours of construction, we opened the Haunted House experience. Josie, Analisa and Jack worked very hard to create this indoor adventure. To judge how scary, it all was, the light had to be eliminated. Covering over 100 square metres in black bin bags and huge curtains to blacken a brighten music room, alongside three marquees decorated in spiders (affixed on winches), a scary principal’s room and a room of masks. With the lights now out, grades 5 and 6 passed through. Several boys and girls would cry by the end of the day. By grade 3 and 4 the next day, more would shed tears. On my birthday. At school.

 

My birthday was a quiet affair. Simple. Food, a few drinks and minimal celebration. The way I like it. On the Saturday, the celebration continued as I joined Javier and a dozen or so others for wakeboarding and a stag do/pub crawl. We arrived eager and early for wakeboarding, taking the short ferry to a private island antiparadise. After a lengthy wait, by the ill-prepared staff of the catchily named Songshan Lake OPIZ Water-skiing club, we were split into two boats. Boat one’s captain with Javier, Daniel, Gambi, Lucho, Bram and Aaron departed earlier than the second boat. Our boat had novices Calum, John Burns, Alvaro, Abraham and an aggravatingly impatient captain of the speedboat. To prove how much of a bodge job the whole wakeboarding experience was, there was little to none instruction on how to upright yourself and how to remain steady. That said the language barrier and cultural differences probably played into it. Or maybe the boards were too stumpy. The wrong water? After watching everyone try, I readied myself. Or rather, I tried to squeeze into the lifevest. It didn’t fit. I gestured to the speedboat captain. He laughed then frowned. He tried to force an already overstretched clip into another tightly fitting clip. No joy. With this he said we’d get another jacket from the other boat. I had to patient for much longer than I had anticipated. A whole two weeks of excitement about trying wakeboarding had to wait. With that, Alvaro dipped in for a second set of attempts. Low and behold, the boat conked out. Ten minutes of failed engine revs and starting pursued. We were going nowhere fast. The rustbucket of a boat with the continually flashing engine advice of “maintenance” beneath a red letter was dead to the world. Ideal for Hallowe’en weekend in some ways. After he used his 3% battery to call his colleagues back on terrafirma, a jetski pulled alongside. The man from it dived on board. He immediately started the engine. Our speedboat captain had lost so much faith. Instead of going to the other boat, we returned to the shithole of an island we had set sail from. No wakeboarding was to be had. A tad frustrating. Almost like the day my Dad took me to Knowsley Safari Park, and we sat in the carpark eating sandwiches. Unlike that day, I didn’t enjoy this experience. It was grade A, class one bobbins with the premier side option of optimum shite. Like the many dead fish floating over the lake and the dead cat on the island HQ roof, not a pretty sight.

 

Bram and Abraham had to return to inner-city Dongguan, whilst Oggy tagged in and met us at Gecko Restaurant and Pub in Chang’an. Here we had fantastic pizza, some Boddingtons and then walked to Ziggy’s Bar, via a square dance. Having gotten Javier into a rather feminine attire and made him sign autographs to strangers at Gecko Bar, it was rude not to encourage an incursion on the square dance of central Chang’an town. From then on we visited One Stop bar for a 1RMB Tiger Beer, before alighting by taxi to The Treehouse in Wanjiang and then to the heavily crowded Hallowe’en bash at Murray’s Irish Bar in Dongcheng. Being home before 4am assisted in a lazy Sunday.

 

On Sunday, I spent time looking at the varied 17th (X 2) Birthday well-wishes. I have partially ridden a crest of happiness since my birthday. Unexpected messages, a few great thoughts (like a notepad from one student) and some vimto concentrate from Kate in the U.K. have helped me feel positive. That and City’s fantastic win over Barcelona. Sadly, my mind is distracted by news that my mother is in hospital. Mum needs to have an operation to remove something causing her pain.

The notepad received on my birthday, from a student in class 704, has a small quote, in Chinese, it translates as, “You need to succeed in life.” It isn’t up there with such distinctions as Christopher Reeves, “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” However, it does inspire. Inspiration, like trying to push students in class, is key to success.

 

Some more great Christopher Reeve quotes:

“A Hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure inspite of overwhelming obstacles.”

“If I can laugh, I can live.”

“I’m not living the life I thought I would lead, but it does have meaning, purpose. There is love… there is joy… there is laughter.”

“Even though I don’t personally believe in the Lord, I try to behave as though He was watching.”

“A hero is an ordinary person doing things in an extra ordinary way.”

“Either you choose to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out into the ocean.”

“there is a relationship between the mind and the body that can both create a physical condition and enable us to recover from it”

“We all have many more abilities and internal resources than we know. My advice is that you don’t need to break your neck to find out about them.”

“I have to stop this cascade of memories, or at least take them out of their drawer only for a moment, have a brief look, and put them back. I know how to do it now: I have to take the key to acting and apply it to my life. There is no other way to survive except to be in the moment. Just as my accident and its aftermath caused me to redefine what a hero, I’ve had to take a hard look at what it means to live as fully as possible in the present. How do you survive in the moment when it’s bleak and painful and the past seems so seductive?”

“A hero is someone who, in spite of weakness, doubt or not always knowing the answers, goes ahead and overcomes anyway.”

“He was like an untied balloon that had been inflated and immediately released.”

 

And about Christopher Reeve, movie director Richard Donner put it perfectly: “He (Reeve) was put on this Earth for… a lot of reasons. He wasn’t just here to be an actor. He was Superman.” But to me, my biggest hero, will always be my mum. I wish her a speedy and swift recovery.

 

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Relax, take it easy.

7th November 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

A good news message arrived last Thursday morning on my WeChat account. Mum’s operation has been completed and was released from captivity that same day (okay, the N.H.S. are not remotely bad) to recover in the comfort of home.

 

I always find cycling at night, in Dongguan, a little dazzling and overwhelming to the senses. There are square dances, bad trance music blasting from shops, horns blazing, lights flashing here, there and everywhere. So many people moving around and lots of selfishness and lack of self awareness. Maybe it stems from poor education, and maybe it is just laziness, but to have bright headlights in a built up, often streetlit area, is just plain old stupid. A feature on B.B.C.’s website caught my eye. It turns out full-beam drivers are being punished, by dazzling. Well, if punishments are being chosen for the crimes, good luck to Rhino horn poachers…

 

In China, just a few kilometres away, last week, over sveral days, the famous Red Arrows debuted at Zhuhai’s China International Air Show 2016. It is safe to fly here, but not safe to drive as a toddler did through traffic .

 

On Friday, I attended Javier and Carmen’s wedding party at the Treehouse in Batou, Wanjiang. I can safely say, I enjoyed the Vimto far too much. Okay, it was Sangria, but had a kind of fruity-herbal taste to it. For argument’s sake, it was Spanish Vimto, made in China. The food made by the gloriously delicious Al Chile restaurant went down well. Great fun was had by all as we celebrated the coming together of Spanish Harry Potter and his Chinese wife Carmen. A spoof wedding ceremony by Father Aaron has probably lined him up by a lightning strike by God. Whichever God that is. They’re all fictitious in my view. I’m not preaching. Just my view. I departed for midnight, because, A, I am sensible and B, I was pooped, stone cold shattered. The school day previous had been fun but was for the best of it, relentless in pace.

 

On Saturday, I debuted at Snookball, finishing 4th, having defeated Eddy (Ireland) and Andre (Ukraine) but lost to all the South Americans, Erick (Brazil), Daniel (Argentina) and Abraham (Mexico). I enjoyed it so much that on the 17th of December, I expect to enter the Guancheng round of Snookball. It isn’t easy at all, but it is great fun. I said I wouldn’t drink that day but ended up supping three cold Panda Brew ales and a cider from Somerset, alongside a beef and ale pie… and four stilton sausages. Then I had a three-hour evening nap before watching City hammer Middlesbrough 1-1.

 

On Sunday, I went to HengLi, had lunch, then a massage that involved my arms, legs, feet, shouders and head. It was most relaxing. Then, I returned to Houjie and went to bed extra early.

 

My checklist of things I must do in China before I leave here, is getting shorter. I haven’t written it anywhere, but it is sat in my mind, so I’ll begin the checklist now…

  1. Prove I am a man. Bù dào chángchéng fēi hӑohàn (不到长城非好汉) or “if you fail to reach the Great Wall you are not a man” as spoken by Chairman Mao. I have been twice. COMPLETED.
  2. Visit Qingdao, a city my Grandfather visited in World War 2.
  3. Fly a kite.
  4. Have a drinking session of alcoholic beverages with local Chinese people and see who wins. COMPLETED. No winners.
  5. Have a fight when paying a restaurant bill. COMPLETED.
  6. Try your best to understand customs and Chinese culture (中国文化Zhōngguó wénhuà). IN PROGRESS. Massively curious.
  7. Visit the heart of Beijing, Tiananmen Square, Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Gate of Heavenly Peace and the Forbidden City. COMPLETED.
  8. Visit a Hutong in Beijing. COMPLETED.
  9. Watch firecrackers and fireworks in China. COMPLETED.
  10. Visit a teahouse. COMPLETED.
  11. Watch an èrhú (二胡) concert. COMPLETED.
  12. Try Square Dancing. COMPLETED.
  13. Attend Dragon Boat Racing. COMPLETED. Several times.
  14. Visit Hong Kong. COMPLETED. Several times.
  15. Try to learn Mandarin Chinese. IN PROGRESS. Still trying.
  16. Eat foods from every province. COMPLETED. Never stop trying new food.
  17. Visit Harbin for the snow and ice festivals. COMPLETED.
  18. Watch a lion dance (舞狮) festival. COMPLETED.
  19. Travel and see Guilin, the Li River and Yangshuo for the Karst mountain landscapes. COMPLETED.
  20. See Giant Pandas. COMPLETED.
  21. Visit Zhangjiajie. COMPLETED.
  22. Swim the South China Sea. COMPLETED.
  23. Experience extreme winter cold in Inner Mongolia. COMPLETED.
  24. Visit dry and wet markets, various other markets too. COMPLETED.
  25. Hum and enjoy the national anthem. Surely, one of the best national anthem themes in the world. COMPLETED.

 

起来!不愿做奴隶的人们!Qǐlái! Búyuàn zuò núlì de rénmen! Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves!
把我们的血肉,筑成我们新的长城!Bǎ wǒmen de xuèròu zhùchéng wǒmen xīnde chángchéng! With our flesh and blood, let us build a new Great Wall!
中华民族到了最危险的时候,Zhōnghuá Mínzú dào le zùi wēixiǎnde shíhòu, As China faces its greatest peril
每个人被迫着发出最后的吼声。Měige rén bèipòzhe fāchū zùihòude hǒushēng. From each one the urgent call to action comes forth.
起来!起来!起来!Qǐlái! Qǐlái! Qǐlái! Arise! Arise! Arise!
我们万众一心,Wǒmen wànzhòngyīxīn, Millions of but one heart
冒着敌人的炮火,前进!Màozhe dírén de pàohuǒ, Qiánjìn! Braving the enemies’ fire! March on!
前进!
冒着敌人的炮火,前进!Màozhe dírén de pàohuǒ, Qiánjìn! Braving the enemies’ fire! March on!

前进!前进!进!Qiánjìn! Qiánjìn! Jìn! March on! March, march on!

 

  1. Visit Kunming and Yunnan.
  1. See the Terracotta Warriors.
  1. Visit Hangzhou, “Paradise on Earth”
  1. Check out Jiuzhaigou.
  1. Visit Chengdu.
  1. Visit Shanghai, a city my Grandfather visited in World War 2.
  1. Try Chinese art and caligraphy.
  1. Try Kung Fu and Wushu.

I’ll add more in time.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Lest we forget. The lost lives & futures.

11th November 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

11th November is a sombre day in the U.K. At 11 o’clock, bells, canons and clocks mark silence for two minutes. Salutes, moments of remembrance and celebration of ‘The Glorious Dead’ who live on forever in our memories carry a message nationally and beyond to show we will not forget their sacrifice. Our freedom, our choices and our options now have stemmed from their actions, or their inability to have the same options, freedoms or choices we are afforded. For me, I must prepare a very different kind of reflection and silence. I will hold a two-minute’s silence on the roof of school. There will be far more background noise. I will look to the skies and pray (not to gods) to the future, that my generation and generations that follow never need to answer a call, or take a form of action, without choice. I will think about how, in this present day, our human race needs to resolve conflict and end tyranny, for the greater good. I will think of those who came back, sometimes a shadow of their former selves, affected greatly by the stark reality of the ultimate and decisive act of life; death. Without the actions of the few, the many, the turned and unturned, the brave, the bold and the unselfish, we would live in a different world. Times change, attitudes to history evolves. Great losses and their longterm dominoes effect cannot be forgotten. The Great War, the Spanish Flu, World War II, Israel’s fragmented creation, the Russian bloc – a lack of relations between the Western powers and the Kremlin, September 11th 2001, Afghanistan, Daesh, Syria’s civil war, a list of endless genocides and conflict. It must end sometime, surely? The world orders have shifted, but we cannot forget what many gave to give us our today. Our tomorrow is based on their yesterdays. Their final days. It is important to live on and remember, not at the expense of the moment, but to honour those who fell. I can’t imagine how I would feel if my brothers, sisters, best friends and cousins had to go to war. It’d be hard. I would want to be with them and hope to keep them safe. As great as my imagination is, I have been lucky not to be offered the chance to change my mind’s eye into reality. A stark, dangerous and bleak one. Let’s go forwards. Let’s not forget. Lest we forget.

 

11th of November in China is far different to this date experienced back home. In recent years, it has been marked up as 11.11. A clever advertising campaign targeting singletons and those with little common sense to swat promotions away like the annoying fly that it is. Online shopping goes through the roof [About 12 hours into the event on Alibaba, sales had reached 82.4bn yuan ($12.1bn; £10bn)]. Double 11, or Singles’ Day is everywhere, every shop, every phone and spread over social media. The four ones of 11.11 symbolise bare branches. This day was intended to console. An allowance to buy and treat oneself to something luxorious. Shops and websites dived on that pretty swiftly. I won’t be investing. I have my poppy and poppy pin, purchased in advance at Manchester’s Pop-In shop, in summer. The Poppy Appeal, and Remembrance Day, for me, is more important than say Christmas or Easter. Whilst they are great times for family and friends, the absence of partying and solemn reminders of Armistice Day give sober reflection to what we are capable of, and what we should avoid. It isn’t a day of gloom and dullness, but a day of contemplation, a manifestation of memory and tribute. A chance to understand and learn. A chance to remember. Lest we forget.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

The big interview – Felipe Scolari!

14th November 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

“One must learn by doing the thing, for though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try.” Aristotle inscribed that, somewhere, and not even in English. Somehow in time it was translated. Time is good. Time changes things. If everything was the same, or simple, it’d be dull. Right?

Felipe Scolari sat upright on a wooden seat, his arms almost draped over the curved armrests. To look at Felipe, revealed little signs of his age. You could say he has been on football management but outwardly shows no strains of the game. Stress may have visited him like a bunch of angry away fans. Not one iota of nervous tension appeared now. I sat opposite him, having been introduced by a member of the kindly P.T.G. Dongguan Veia group. On an assignment from HubHao, I was presented with a wonderful chance to interview.

I led in with the first question, “You started your youth football in 1966, have travelled with many clubs and nations, why did China appeal to you?”

The questions flowed freely, “How do you find Chinese culture?”

“What was it like to find such a large expat community of Brazilians? Did it help you to settle here?”

“How important is having Gaucho culture on your doorstep?”

“Are you afforded more space to be free or anonymous here than in your home country?”

“How does the atmosphere feel to you at Chinese football grounds?”

Then, there was ten questions focused around football, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, and very casual questions before I ended with, “Why didn’t you want to move to Manchester in 2008?” Scolari had been reported to have been appraoached by Manchester City.

However, the above was a dream. It never happened. Eddy called me at 2 o’clock to say we have an interview with Big Phil. I departed by subway, grabbed a taxi, met our photographer and arrived swiftly at the Tangla Hotel. An hour wait for another film crew there to talk with some amazing and famous Gaucho singers who performed there the night before. On waiting outside we were eventually told, that due to contractual reasons, with his football club (Guǎngzhōu Héngdà Táobǎo/广州恒大淘宝), and possibly the Chinese Super League, Mr Scolari was not allowed to give interviews. He was stood on the otherside of the glass, probably and rightfully unsure as to who I was. He did not want to get into trouble. I said, we could conduct this without using football questions. On this, our liaison man Junior went to discuss. He returned. That idea was also scuttled. With that Ched and I trudged out of the hotel. Nobody had considered the emotional damage of rejection. I can’t believe that the legal aspect of conducting said interview was not checked before I left a warm cup of coffee to go cold at my apartment.  In my mind, it was the best interview I had ever prepared for and I’m sure it would have made Mr Scolari laugh and smile. As Oasis sang, “you’ve gotta roll with it…”

 

So, I went for sausage rolls. Quiche, sausages and cider with blackberries too. Alan’s World in Dongcheng was holding a third anniversary. Anniversaries of businesses in China seem most important. Food, cake and free cider was most welcome. I completed my article from the night before, on PTG’s dinner and dance, and relaxed. Eddy arrived and we nattered a little. I said I would bill HubHao for my abandoned cold coffee.

 

Anyway, this morning I have emailed Guǎngzhōu Héngdà Táobǎo/广州恒大淘宝 in the hope that they will grant an interview. As Sir Winston Churchill said, “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.”
再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

September & October 2016’s posts

Time to chase the showers away

18th September 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

I was just about to tell a teacher to close the door, however, she looked extremely displeased and angry. I held back. Maybe, next time! I’ve just been asked to go running with grades 7-9 in middle school. The full conversation went something like this:

“Hey John, do you want to join middle school for morning exercise?”

“Is it still hot outside?”

“Yes. Will you join us?”

“Will there be air-conditioning?”

“No. Will you join us?”

“How hot is it?”

“Around 30 degrees. Will you join us?”

“Is it very humid?”

“Yes. Will you join us?”

“Did you see how much I sweated last Wednesday?”

“Yes. Will you join us?”

“Will we stop for water in the 15 minutes of running?”

“No. Will you join us?”

“No, I played football last night and need to recover from that.”

“You will be okay. It will help you lose weight. Will you join us?”

“I feel too hot right now.”

“You can cool down afterwards. Will you join us?”

“I was going to have a meeting with Josie and Analisa.”

“That can wait. Will you join us?”

“I…” Just as I was about to dig up an excuse, in walks my hero, the principal and distracts the conversation. 194cm of me slides down my seat and hides away. I cannot have another class where I feel I am not just swimming in my sweaty clothes, but I am properly drowning and parched as a fish in the desert.

 

The above was written last Wednesday before lunchtime and the typical school early term photo shoot in intense inhumane 31°C heat with a higher humidity factor than the sea.  Last Tuesday, I played football.  I can safely say I was sore, the next day.  The 16km each way of cycling didn’t help things.  I also have invested in a brand spanking new Meizu m3 Note cocky [they ain’t just smart, are they] phone. Compared to my once suitably smart Meizu m1 cocky phone, it has a 6000 Series Aluminum alloy [hopefully bounce resistant].  The Meizu website marketing says “lighter and more elegant” as well as it will “feel incredible to the touch.”  It isn’t bad.  With the Helio P10 octa-core processor, it can do something and do it on the energy efficiency ratio quite well.  Whatever that means.  Now, I was sold on the 4100mAh battery.  Phones are seldom just over half of that capacity.  If it lasts the advertised two days, I will be happy.  It has an added security feature, the mTouch 2.1 fingerprint sensor.  Now, if only I can remember which digit I set it up on.  The 13 megapixel PDAF auto-focus, and the sharpness of my previous phone camera also sold it.  The 5.5-inch display is larger and more annoying.  Phones are starting to get bigger, again.  What really grinds my gears is the mixed use of imperial and metric measurements to sell a product.  C’mon, be consistent!  The shop keeper’s selling point was continually, “only 163g.”  Yes, because 18 stones of idiot can’t lift up 200g of phone!  See, mixed metric-imperialistic measurements are annoying.  The -10 to 40°C working environment temperature [-40 to 70°C non-working environment temperature] specs with a 95% relative humidity may get a testing.

 

Last week was the 15th day of the 8th lunar calendar month, there’s a mooncake recipe:

Blue Moon Mooncakes ingredients: 250g Icing Sugar; 125g Rice flour (fried); 50g Crisco; a few drops banana essence; 110g cool water (boiled); a few drops of blue colouring; 1kg Red bean paste or lotus paste; Salted egg yolk (optional)

Method: 1) Sift the rice flour and the icing sugar into a mixing bowl. Mix them well. 2) Mix the water, colouring and banana essence thoroughly. 3) Make a well in the centre of the flour. Pour in the liquid mixture and crisco. 4) Stir quickly with a wooden spoon. Keep the dough aside for 20 to 30 minutes. 5) Cut the dough into small round pieces. 6) Prepare the filling into small balls. 7) Put a portion of the filling into the centre of the dough and seal it up. 8) Roll it with some fried rice flour and place the dough into the mold, press it. 9) Let the dough out of the mold carefully. You have a mooncake.

祝你和你的家人中秋快乐Zhù nǐ hé nǐ de jiārén zhōngqiū kuàilè. Wish you and your family a happy Mid-Autumn Festival.

 

Last Thursday, I joined Eddy, Ruben and Alex with their family to make moon cakes and lanterns. This followed some very tough and deeply sad news. The day was not a good one and the two remaining holiday days were equally low. It started with the news that Tim from our football team, a local musician and generally all-round nice guy had passed away. Having lost one of my best friends Pete, in recent weeks, and with his funeral only being last Friday, my mind has been shrouded by pain and blueness. Emotionally I have been feeling void, on and off, more and more. Almost empty. Devoid of vim. Plagued by doubts and woe. Today, I don’t feel so bad. Captain Morgan got me through Friday evening, with Marcus and some other friends at Irene’s Bar. I needed to let go. How many tears can one set of eyes produce? Just because I am so tall, doesn’t mean a giant cannot feel. I feel. Often all to much. Hurt is hurt and it doesn’t go easily.

 

So, after the mid-autumn festival event, Eddy and I hooked up at Murray’s Bar in Dongcheng with most of our team. It seemed everyone wanted to be there, to share the grief and shock and be there for one another. To lose somebody so bubbly and spirited at our age is not right. People should die in their seventies or eighties – at least! Not the low end of the thirties. It hits home, how precious life is. How, every moment spent here, in this dimension, amongst these weaving religions and beliefs, that life is your own and you must live it how you seek fit. What waits beyond, is what you wish or believe in. Then, there is the question, an odd one, surreal in fact. Who will miss me when I am gone? What legacy, if any, would I leave? What undreamt dreams did I not delve into? Who do I need to say or do something for? Mostly selfish thoughts, but the mind does not stop, it wanders, it ploughs on, it searches for solace. It drifts in and out of darkness, caressing raw nerves, bringing to the fore both placid and potent worries. It strangles. It chokes. It makes you want to look to the sky and cry like the god Thor, commanding thunder until the Earth is ravaged by power. And then a gentle hand hits your shoulder, welcomes you home. Come back to life. Do you embrace the hand? You have no choice. You must honour the dead. You must bring light to the bleak hours of dreary night. Others need you. You need others.

 

And sadly, it has to be mentioned, but the tragic passing of Bahman Golbarnezhad in the Paralympics adds a cloud of upset to an otherwise splendid tournament. My condolences to his family and friends.

 

Meanwhile in Wukan, have a look at this news that was blocked in China. Still corruption related, have a gander at Harambe McHarambeface. And in tune with this article, I can safely say I have yet to see any live Paralympic coverage, sadly. Right, I am off to have a drink and get lucky. This week, involving today, is going to be a six-day school week. I am mostly tempted by the Guangzhou derby.  R&F play Evergrande in the Chinese F.A. Cup semi-final second leg. It could be a good game. Derby games this month seem to all be of entertainment value – the Manchester derby carried some bite for sure.

 

It hasn’t rained in days, yet I feel it is time to chase the showers away.

 

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

The first smile after loss

8th October 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

Last night, I struggled to sleep, the Blue Mountain Coffee from a local coffee shop (Tea Story) at lunchtime was far too potent. It was probably 4 o’clock in the morning when I rolled over and shut my eyes properly. Needless to say, I awoke startled and sleepy this morn. Not ideal. With some good green tea, grapefruit black tea and Chinese chestnuts (Zhōngguó bǎnlì 中国板栗) from a colleague, I am determined to end the day energised and awake. An early night is called for. And I suspect the lunchtime nap was needed.

 

Unlike last year (A brief word from the Department for Common Sense), I have been welcomed back to school with two morning classes following the seven days off. After this day, another six will follow. A 17 class week is now a 23 class week with the extra lessons of Wednesday making up today (on a Saturday) and Thursday tomorrow (on a Sunday). This does mean classes 506, 501, 504, 804 and 704 will be a class ahead for the foreseeable future but that isn’t all bad. If a class doesn’t work so well, I can tweak it or abandon the lesson plan altogether, without too much damage or loss. The added Grade 5 V.I.P. lesson does mean “A pirate went to sea” has changed to “a student went to school” as a song and will include more games or general creativity pushing. I want my students to be confident enough to try creating their own lyrics and actions. Creativity is innovation.

 

So, on the Friday morning, before school had a week long holiday, a door in my office had a broken lock, no one could get out of the door to the left. It is a fair walk using the right hand door. So the handyman arrived, via the opened door. He looks at the lock and handle on that door. I point and tell him to go to the other door, telling him “this is the one.” He looks at the door and says, “no, I was told this one.” He has opened, shut, locked and unlocked it a dozen times. Then, after ten minutes, he walked away. In the meanwhile, I couldn’t use the left door, and a half dozen teachers walked the long way around. The problem was resolved a full hour later, when the school’s handyman returned, didn’t look me in the eye once or in my direction. I think he had lost face. Personally, I would have laughed about it, no weakness in that, in my mind.

 

This last week, I’ve spent a few hours watching the highlights of the Rio 2016 Paralympics.  A record haul for Team G.B. and a tournament so well received by spectators, following a subdued opening ceremony with numbers that barely unfolded.  Kadeena Cox did great in cycling and athletics, and her medal was received with a beautiful life-affirming smile.  Dame Sarah Storey flew the flag of Manchester’s Velodrome in impeccable fashion. Athletes such as Morteza Mehrzad, Daniel Dias, the Canadian sprinter who wants to be a stand up comedian… so many great stories and athletes. The Channel 4 (U.K. television broadcaster) show, The Last Leg, is hearty, warm and full of life’s zest. Hosted by Aussie Adam Hills, flanked by Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker, it has assisted with a week of self-indulged rest and physiotherapy on my troubled groin strain. I started yoga last week. In some circles, my sexuality might be questioned. Not that I have answered it publicly. My business is my business. No, I need to prolong fitness until the day my nails still grow but my heart beats not.

 

During Grade 5’s VIP second to last class before the break, several girls and one boy walked away when I had my back to them. It took some time to get them back. The 21 students were divided into teams of 7. The first team shown their song, then the second but the third team ran away!!! When I asked saw them, I asked them back. They did not join in. I don’t know the girl’s name, she wears pink glasses, I think. She is proving most difficult to control. She is the Stripe to the many students who behave as Gizmo.  I printed 25 song sheets before class, and within minutes, before I had chance to explain what we were doing several students had ripped up the sheets of paper.

 

Three attempts were had at finding The Treehouse, in Batou village of Wanjiang. I walked past twice, lost. Third time lucky? The Friday evening before the holiday, I tried again. Oh yes! Behind the old wooden window frames and panel doors, surrounding a concrete tree dotted by real live plants, a stage area rose with a bar off to the immediate right. I met the owner, having bugged David for directions, and immediately relaxed with a wonderful BBQ buffet (around 150RMB) but well worth it for the salmon, steak, pork, sausages, proper mashed potato and gravy to die for. With live music and plenty to do here, or see, or relax, I really like Treehouse. I’ll be back to Batou. Now I know the way! It is by one of the small lakes, the one inland a bit and down many alleyways, or ginnels as we say in the North (England, not Game of Thrones), by a stoney car park. Top place. Top people. The added bonus of live music in Hip-Hop duo, The Mighty Orphans, helped. However, they were very much late and the local police policed and ceased the loud beats before the witching hour of midnight. They’d only been on thirty or so minutes. It was as bad as finding out that replacing the artificial colouring in blue M&Ms requires twice the amount of the current global supply available.

 

I had a lazy day or two in the last week. It was spent indulging in some movies. One movie that stood out, considering my initial apprehension about this love story, was Remember Me (IMDB contains spoilers!). Anything with stars of Twilight like Robert Pattinson, usually makes me steer well clear. A delightful story with an ending that makes you think far more than most movies. How did I miss that?! The second movie of the moment for me was A Hologram for The King starring the great Tom Hanks. A greta movie and a welcome distraction to our currently trumped up little world.

 

To quote the character Tyler in the movie Remember Me, “Gandhi said that whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it because nobody else will.”

 

Oh, and I have been helping HubHao magazine to renovate their website. All dead links have been removed. New menus have been added and the general look has been tweaked to improve accessibility. There have been a few problems along the way but, we’re getting there. Wherever there is. Here’s my article page (56 pieces, plus other pieces affixed to other authors, whereby we have worked together on two parts – see the Case Against Flying in China), where I dropped the name John, in a more international feel.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

 

Author’s Posts

Arts Review – Stewart Kohinga & Bethany Peele

Restaurant Review – Lauren’s Pizza & Bakery

Pizza, that one sanctuary of cheese and delights some like to call heaven. Italy’s gift to the world has mutated into so many forms, some even believe it to be an…

Arts Review – Magic Island

Few things go better together than the summer and a music festival. Unfortunately, in our region, however, there are surprisingly few festivals. So when HubHao heard…

An Alternative Dragon Boat Race

During Dragon Boat Festival you can see races all around Dongguan, but none quite like the one that takes places in Qiaotou Village in Houjie. John Acton explored a…

Arts Review – The Big Band Theory

Better late than never is a phrase coined for such times. After three soothing sets by local starlet Angie, The Big Band Theory arrived at Murray’s Irish Bar, around…

On The Terraces Part I – Blue Dreams

There are those that like to watch football, there are fair weathered fans, there hardcore supporters, and then there is John Acton. There are few who have supported…

On The Terraces Part II – Red Screams

There are those that like to watch football, there are fair weathered fans, there hardcore supporters, and then there is John Acton. There are few who have supported…

Dongguan International Football League – Round 8

Every team has faced every other team at least once. Now, in the eighth week of the Dongguan International Football League the battles for titles and pride really came…

Dongguan International Football League – Round 5

With hot anticipation comes pressure.  With pressure, comes passion and the roar of raging pride in battle.  All three mouth-watering ties in round 5 of the Dongguan…

Arts Review – Mark Lotz And A Fula’s Call

After a long delay, the band, well, three quarters of the band, got under way.  They started in the smoky room with a sheepish apology.

Dongguan International Football League – Round 4

Hash Harriers – A drinking club with a running problem

The Dongguan Hash Harriers is the most fun sports group in Dongguan that you’ve probably not heard of. Mixing adventures in orienteering with beers with friends, the…

Shopper’s Guide to Shoe Market

Big Foot Strikes Again With size 50 foot, finding shoes has never been easy for John Acton. That was until he found the Kangmei Shoe City Mall in Houjie. In the…

Arts Review – Mr Walrus

In the latest Arts Review, John Acton went to the Brown Sugar Jar on Christmas Day to hear Mr. Walrus play a mix of Oasis and The Beatles. A medley of British rock…

Tips For The Classroom

In Tips For The Classroom Part 3, John Acton looks at education and teaching in China specifically. Five new teaching tips Often we can learn from trial and error,…

The Case For And Against Having An Ayi

To clean or not to clean? In the case for and against having an Ayi we look at cleaning your home in Dongguan and if having an Ayi is the right thing to do. The…

Badasses Of Chinese History – Yue Fei

Yue Fei – Utmost, Loyalty, Serve and Nation When talking about loyalty in Chinese history, Yue Fei’s name will surely come up. In the latest Badasses Of Chinese…

Shopper’s Guide To Bike Street

Find the bike for you in the old streets of Guancheng Our city is full of cyclists. Be they locals riding beaters trying to find a way to beat the rush hour jams to…

Restaurant Review – Revolving Restaurant

The best view in Dongguan The Houjie International Hotel is one of the most famous landmarks in Houjie. Whether you’re a guest of the hotel or a casual visitor, the…

Cycling From Chengdu To Moscow

One cyclist’s journey on the Silk Road Last summer, Alexis Pineau, a teacher based in Dongguan, went on an amazing journey. All by himself he cycled from Chengdu to…

 

Bar Review – 28 Over Par

Shoppers’ Guide To Wanjiang Sportswear Street

Customized team kits and bargain sportswear Back home, high street sports shops resemble fashion houses and fashion houses sometimes cross the great divide into sports….

Badasses Of Chinese History – Hua Mulan

The myth behind the Disney movie China has one of the longest and most interesting histories in the world. From rebels who thought they were Jesus to beauties that…

Winners Bar – Bar Review

A winning blend of English authenticity The doors were opened wide by two ladies dressed in what appeared to be outfits like those worn by the Royal Guards outside of…

Going For The Bullseye

The growing popularity of Darts in Dongguan Steel tip darts has always held a special place in many of the bars in Dongguan. The introduction of soft tip darts has seen…

How To Survive Going To A Cinema

The cinema is a place of magic, emotions and white-knuckle rollercoaster rides. Often many battles are on-screen and increasingly as East meets West clashes engulf the big screen movie theatres. Here…

Tips For The Classroom

Often we can learn from trial and error, observing others, or good old fashioned teaching. There’s no right way or wrong way, we all develop our own style to learn,…

Atlantic Attraction at Brown Sugar Jar – Arts Review

The atmospheric intro quickly faded into a homely vibrant song. The kind a popular TV show could easily mould into a soundtrack. Before long lead singer Kevin, complete…

Badasses of Chinese History: Zhuge Liang

China has one of the longest and most interesting histories in the world. From rebels who thought they were Jesus to beauties that would put Helen of Troy to shame. Each…

Restaurant Review – Munchalots

I love food. Food experts probably scrutinize food far too deeply. I personally pick satisfaction above all else. In an effort to show you my writing and taste has some…

 

Tips for the Classroom

Often we can learn from trial and error, observing others, or good old fashioned teaching. There’s no right way or wrong way, we all develop our own style to learn,…

Xiegang, Huangjiang, Fenggang, Chang’an, Machong, Shijie, Zhongtang, Gaobu, Qingxi, Hongmei

8th October 2016

Xiegang Town

谢岗镇

Xiègǎng Zhèn Xiegang

http://heredg.com/2014/04/town-guide-xiegang/

 

http://www.hubhao.com/silver-bottle-mountain-places-of-dongguan/

Huangjiang Town

黄江镇

Huángjiāng Zhèn Huangjiang

 

Chang’an Town

长安镇

Cháng’ān Zhèn Chang’an

http://heredg.com/2014/11/changan/

Fenggang Town

凤岗镇

Fènggǎng Zhèn Fenggang

Machong Town

麻涌镇

Máchǒng Zhèn Machong

http://heredg.com/2014/12/machong/

Shijie Town

石碣镇

Shíjié Zhèn Shijie

Gaobu Town

高埗镇

Gāobù Zhèn Gaobu

中堂镇

Zhōngtáng Zhèn

 

Qingxi Town

清溪镇

Qīngxī Zhèn Qingxi

 

Hongmei Town

洪梅镇

 

Qishi Town

企石镇

Qǐshí Zhèn Qishi

http://heredg.com/2014/09/qishi/

L5B: Guangcheng Culture Square – Yuehui Park

Main stops: Guangcheng Culture Square, Keyuan Garden, South China Mall, Dongguan Central Bus Station, Jichuan Middle School, Daojiao Gynasisum, Daojiao Middle School, Yuehui Garden

 

Devoid of common sense?

11th October 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

Severe Tropical Storm Aere (Julian), located South and East of Hong Kong, slowly moving North and East, is due to affect local weather, judging by the five day forecast of rain. This’ll break the monotony of an otherwise dry period of time since I returned to China in (very) late August. Compared to last year, the region has had far fewer storms and typhoons, so far this year. This isn’t a bad thing. This year the typhoons didn’t develop until after July 3rd, a joint record since the western Pacific Ocean started naming typhoons (in 1944, when Task Force 38 bore the brunt of one such typhoon, Cobra).  Reading how the 中国气象局 (Zhōngguó Qìxiàng Jú) China Meteorological Administration (CMA), joined the World Meteorological Organization (WMO – 世界气象组织) is equally stormy in it’s history. On a disaster front two earthquakes have been logged in Guangdong’s area since records began. The first in 1918 and the second in 1969. I mention this because over the years I have noticed many Earthquake Shelters around the city, yet nobody has ever heard of such a thing afflicting the city. That said, there are many signs for Air Raid Shelters and warning systems. Last properly used in 1945, thankfully. Nobody likes disaster but at least it seems here, they are prepared for the unexpected.

 

On Saturday evening, I had a short ride on my bike. As I was cycling past the Houjie Cultural Park, I noticed many kites tangled on the neighbouring powerlines. The 110,000kV cables had at least 5 kites. I glanced to my right and spotted a dizen smaller kits drifting up and up. It dawned on me that with the wind blowing South East then most kites without the requisite height needed to pass the pylons were in striking distance. The park does not have one sign to warn of this danger. I’ve always wanted to fly a huge kite here, I will one day, but not on a park with exposed powerlines in close proximity. Some of these kites are so large they require a cable to launch them – and others have lights in the reel and cable that soars upwards for use at night. Coupled with so many glass coated razor sharp kite wires, I will stand clear of those ones! Kite flying (放风筝) is popular here. Let’s hope it doesn’t maim anyone like competitive kite-fighting events in India and Pakistan! 墨子Mòzǐ and 鲁班Lǔ Bān (the patron saint of Chinese builders and contractors) certainly created a legacy from the simplest construct using silk fabric (sail material); fine, high-tensile-strength silk (flying line); and resilient bamboo (a durable, lightweight framework). The dream of humans flying could have began here.

 

Following my observations of the kite craziness, last night I cycled to football training. The number of motorbikes riding towards me, against the flow of traffic, without lights and often with people riding them whilst talking on the phone didn’t just annoy me. I feltg my blood boil. In a particularly dark section of road, I was too distracted looking for potholes and almost ploughed into me head on. They had no helmet on too. Just like the dozen or so teachers who came to school by powerful and speedy e-Bikes. I hate e-Bikes, and having heard of a man who was castrated by an exploding lithium battery mounted under his bike seat, you’ll never get me on one. I’d tried them before that tale, and they do nothing for me. No heart, no power from your own engine. They are cold electronic machines.

 

Today, I am having a gander at the news, Trump and Clinton certainly seem to be enjoying their botter debates but most concerning for me is Russia’s stance on Syria. Deploying and spouting threats about using their nuclear arsenal is not good for the west, the east or the middle east. It is like in some schools, the teachers who wrap their metal rulers in plastic tape and padding to use it as punishment. Provactive and an act of threat, caused to create terror and fear. In reality, if they want to cause fear, theyshould just replicate China’s national trainline website in English. The delightfully obvious address of http://www.12306.cn/ cannot be explained by anyone. Nothing says train travel like 12306. Unexplainable. After clicking the website you’re greeted by an overwhelming array of clickable links. Illustrations can guide you, but simple is not present in any degree. Thankfully, WeChat portals like Guide in China have produced helpful tutorials. In my mind, you shouldn’t have to learn how to travel. It should be easier than opening a bottle of milk. A country needs its people to travel and commute to boost the economy, surely.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

 

P.S. I should have mentioned I asked superb DJ Aussie Ben to teach me how to play the drums. We’ve yet to work out a first session, because I am too busy.

#201: The 201st post

12th October 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

201 funfact?  Year 201 (CCI) was a common year starting on Thursday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Fabianus and Arrius (or, less frequently, year 954 Ab urbe condita – from the founding of the City – Rome). The denomination 201 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

 

Closer to adopted home, in the year 201, 曹操 (Cao Cao) defeated袁绍 (Yuán Shào) and we’re not talking football. Also, 谯周(Qiáo Zhōu) was born.

 

Last night I went to see the Blue Man Group, at Guangzhou’s Opera House. On the way back, I had a private driver. My driver gunned the accelator following a deafening bang. A lengthy articulated lorry swerved our way. The wheel trims casting huge bright sparks amongst the smoke and debris of a tyre no longer in existence. My driver did not glance left or right knowingly, he aimed the Chevrolet directly along the outside lane and squeezed beyond the cab of the truck as in crossed all three lanes. Inches of space at the final moment. The suction of air from the lorry seemingly pulling us over. I yelped, “Oh bugger.” A typical British response or a noise to hide the fact I was close to defecating in my trousers?

 

Today’s temperature is 24°C. Every teacher and student seem to have an extra layer of clothes on. Today’s high should be 25°C. Tomorrow’s forecast high is 29°C and by the weekend it is expected to be 32°C. Little Amy, a teacher in grade 5, has asked me to close the door, “It is so cold.”

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

The trials and tribulations of life: Justin Bieber

18th October 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

It pains me, deep down. It slashes at every nerve. A dulling of the senses. There is wool over my eyes. I can no longer see clearly. A mist shrouds my presence, here on Earth. Or have I moved on? Do I no longer exist? Am I gripped by pain and suffering of an incomprehensible nature? I have commited a previously unfathomable and inconceivable act. Most perplexing in nature. What little astuteness and acumen I had, wiped away. Gone. My aptitude will fail every test going forward. Game over. I just completed a Microsoft Powerpoint 365 presentation. Other overhead projection display software formats are available. This suits my needs. On this particular recently completed presentation, my cleverness sank. Nullified. The presentation for Grade 5 is focused on the following keywords:

moose, Canada, grizzly bear, wolf, wolves, bears, skiing

In explaining where Canada is, I’ve opted for the maple leaf flag, Mounties, a word map highlighting said country, and sadly had to mention Justin Bieber and Celine Dion. Send me to outer space for my sins.

 

Space, the final frontier? Well, China launched some blokes up there. I hope they contribute to international knowledge of space travel. With their military might and scientific innovation, this recent launch of Shénzhōu 11 (神舟十一号; Shénzhōu means divine land) could be groundbreaking. In just 13 years, China has now sent 14 of its people into orbit [in just 6 missions] and inside only 17 years of space travel, the plan to open a space station full time. 181 satellites and the odd bit of space junk have also been sent up. As Chinese astronauts sit up there, I wonder, how will they eat noodles and rice at the beautifully named Tiāngōng èrhào (天宫二号; Heavenly Palace 2). And will they know about the elephant rescue in Yúnnán (云南)?

Closer to home, I enjoyed the Blue Man Group last week, as is evident on my arts review for HubHao.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

20th October 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

To paraphrase Bane in his battle against The Dark Knight, “Oh, you think rain is your ally. But you merely adopted the rain; I was born in it, moulded by it. I didn’t see the sun until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but BLINDING!” The squally weather hung over us like the looming shadows of the Catholic Church denying wrongdoings of a paedophilic nature. Whether lodged on a weather map, hiding transgressions behind vacant eyes or stinging heads through pelting rain, the weather yesterday and the day before was properly up to no good. Typhoon Sarika rained off football training on Tuesday and fitness training last night. It was epicly torrential.

 

The beauty of life continues, mostly indoors, sheltered, warm and dry. On Tuesday evening in Mandarin class we were supposed to learn the song Mòlìhuā (Jasmine Flower), however it was spent going over some basic revision. That said the phrase, “Let me think” was given to us, and I plan to use it: Ràng wǒ xiǎng xiǎng (让我想想).

hǎo yī duǒ mĕi lì de mò li huā (What a beautiful jasmine flower) 好一朵美丽的茉莉花
hǎo yī duǒ mĕi lì de mò li huā (What a beautiful jasmine flower) 好一朵美丽的茉莉花
fēn fāng měi lì mǎn zhī yā (Sweet-smelling, beautiful, stems full of buds) 芬芳美丽满枝桠
yòu xiāng yòu bái rén rén kuā (Fragrant and white, everyone praises) 又香又白人人夸
ràng wǒ lái jiāng nǐ zhāi xià (Let me pluck you down) 让我来将你摘下
sòng gěi bié rén jiā (Give to someone else) 送给别人家
mò li huā ya mò li huā (Jasmine flower, oh jasmine flower) 茉莉花呀茉莉花

 

What’s on TV tonight? Oh, politics and corruption, is it House of Cards? No, it is a documentary about China’s corruption crackdown. If British politics did such a show, it’d be called BBC News 24, and show at every available minute of the day. Still, it beats deadly clashes over taxation on caterpillars, or dating in Ikea after collecting your pension. I’ll be heading to Murray’s FC’s football training, weather permitting.

 

As squeakie bums and messages galore about Typhoon Haima (熱帶風暴海馬) flood my phone and the possibility of a day at school being cancelled tomorrow, there is a beautiful near clear sky outside. Calm. Windless. It is 29°C, not too humid and all seems well.
P.S. the title is taken from William Shakespeare’s MacBeth.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Peter Ridyard [2nd August 1983 – 13th August 2016]

Peter Ridyard [2nd August 1983 – 13th August 2016]

16th September 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

Good old Pete, good old wee man. A short arse, an annoyance as a kid alongside his clan of brothers. “Millions of Ridyards all ynder one roof…” I’d sing mocking the Toys ‘R’ Us theme tune. It was never aimed in bitterness. Not once. This was a sign of typical Mancunian knobhead-like affection towards our very own band of brothers, of sorts. We were close growing up and every after school evening involved avoiding homework or trying to break away from being grounded. Not just Pete, or Dan, but me too. We got in trouble often but we never aimed to hurt anyone. We never did. Well maybe the odd golf cart driver chasing us tha managed to crash into a tree. Hell, Pete took one in the back from a low-flying golf ball. That did teach us not to nip over a golfcourse on a short cut.

 

Pete leaves behind too many souls. He was a Dad, Partner and stepfather amongst his tribe of brothers and sisters. Being a popular uncle and brother-in-law was natural to him. He just knew how to be entertaining without trying so much. Every catch up with Pete, even as we both grew up and did adult things like move to another place, get real jobs and develop mature lifestyles, catching up was awesome. Every year we’d share stories like we were together yesterday. There’d be no hiding things or holding back. Between the best of friends everything was mentioned. The unwritten rule of spilling the beans or exposing raw emotions was a certainty. Pete was a fun guy, he could make an uneasy situation comfortable. It may have involved a fart joke or some social commentary about my height. Between me and Pete, we always had “Little and large” banter. Always. Again, it was never meant in hurt, just respect because for a small bugger, he knew how to have a big heart. Even after a few growing up fights between each other, we remained friends. Jumping and hopping along “the pipes” or “the monkey bridge”, bounding over “the brickie”, drill-marching at air cadets (“Form a squadron of three wanks.” I’ve never heard Pete laugh so much at James Cliff’s ill-advised instructions), wandering the streets of Reddish, Levenshulme, Burnage, the Heatons, Gorton, etc. Seemingly endless days.

 

Pete and Dan convinced me to start trick or treating. I wasn’t and still can’t confess to have ever enjoyed Halloween, however, when it comes to harmless fun [don’t knock a strangers house, was a lesson mum taught me early on], Dan and Pete managed to override my instinct a few times. I mean, what harm can trick or treating be as schools go back in the first week of September? Or taking a Guy Fawlke doll out mid-October? It tied in well with our carol singing commencing early November. As Pete said, it wasn’t begging, it was more something to do for entertainment. We were entertained and it kept us from playing knock a door run and other daring dares. I’m not sure how Robert Hanna was caught by a guy wearing only his underpants, in knock a door run… or how a scarecrow the size of a giant ended up sat on top of Kwik Save’s roof… but I am sure, sat star-gazing on Cringle Fields, one late night (after 9pm, back in the day), Pete and I chatted about the future. It remains the deepest conversation I had ever shared with him. He was an intelligent but often lazily placed character, who over the years, I noticed his maturity etching through and a toughness of character biting away his inner demons.

 

There are so many tales of our adventures, Dan, Pete and I walked back from Hough End (the other side of the world/far end of Manchester) via Heaton something or other, and I ended up falling down a manhole cover and breaking my leg. As I cried my eyes out, Pete laughed, “John was this tall, and now he ain’t tall.” He copied my disappearing action whilst Dan and I locked in on the laughter too. I genuinely forgot the pain. That night’s bath, I stretched my leg inwards and I felt the crack surge with venom. Mum took me to the hospital at Manchester M.R.I. where a fracture was spotted. Had Pete not got me laughing, we’d have wasted an ambulance journey and some tear-filled tissues, earlier that day.

 

One Christmas Day, I received a Falcon, silver, mountain bike, from mum. Dan had his new bike. Pete had his chicken chaser. On a ride down Lancashire Hill into the town centre of Stockport, it transpired that the bike was loosely assembled. I flew head over tit into the ground. Pete helped me up. We laughed. The next day we all cycled to Lyme Park and back. Not bad for kids under 15 with no sense of direction other than where we went stomping.

 

In summer 2011, Pete, Dan and I went camping near to Morecambe and Hess Bank. As no campfires were permitted on the camping grounds, we hiked up the coast, set a camp under a tree and gathered driftwood. Messers Jaeger and Beer joined us. So, did Brian the cow. Pete named the cow. A lesson in cow anatomy was followed by a surreal debate about cow gender equality. After our Blitzkrieg-style bonfire, we sleaked back to the campsite. Dan slept in his car. Pete farted him out of the tent. I struggled to use any air in the tent. The door was zipped wide open all night. Gnats versus Pete’s farts. Gnats was favoured. The next morning as we leisurely woke, a audden explosion from a nearby tent’s gas cooker rattled out. Pete ran to check the man as we all grabbed fire extinguishers. Thankfully nothing too serious. Fearless and caring, Pete checked, double checked and then we slipped away having done all that was possible, beyond the “Slow Children Crossing” sign that seemed so inappropriate, and made Pete laugh.  The following summer involved a wild camping trip with Adam, Steven, Peter, Dan and I. A spot of rafting, numerous campfires, tales over a shopping trolley full of drinks and nattering made for two very good nights indeed.

 

你是我最好的朋友之一。本周五,当你的身体安息时,我和你的家人都会与你的精神同在。我们一起长大,你,我和Dan。你们两个是亲兄弟,我不是。然后我们却像亲兄弟一样。我会永远怀念您我的朋友。

You were one of my best friends. This Friday, when your body is laid to rest, I am with your spirit and your family. We grew up together.  Me, you and Dan. You two were brothers. I was not. Yet we are brothers. I’ll miss you forever my friend.

给彼特,好好安息我的朋友.

To Peter, rest well my friend.

 

On Friday September 16th Peter will be received into Blackley Crematorium Centre Chapel for service and committal at 2.00pm. Family flowers only please, donations preferred to the Oliver Ridyard trust fund. All further
enquiries and donations contact Michael Kennedy personally at Greater Manchester Funeral Service Moston on 0161 681 1864.

 

We owe it to those who we have lost, to share memories and carry their spirits on.  Onwards and upwards together.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

July & August 2016’s posts

Bloggered off, blog on

19th July 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

Some time has been spent avoiding writing and generally procrastinating.  The blog’s break is over.  I land on the 30th of July (having departed by Etihad Airways on the 29th from Hong Kong).  That day, I’m thinking Colwyn Bay FC v Manchester City FC All Stars MCFC, then on the 31st Manchester City Women are at home… Mum and the tribe are taking us off to sunny Llanddeusant, Ynys Mon (Angelsey) for a few days.  I’ll sort out trips to catch up with the tribe, Morecambe, Nat and her dogs (not including Stephen), Kate and Peter, the Lakes to see brother Daniel and his parish… so many people to see – and places to go before I fly on the penultimate day of August (30th).

 

This week is fairly relaxed with some voluntary work, followed by a trip to Beijing at the weekend to watch the Manchester derby on Monday night, then back to Shenzhen for City v Borussia Dortmund – and then a quick run back, grab things and fly back to Europe… or the U.K… or whatever home is to be called going forward…

 

I was and am European. I was and am British. I was and will aways be Mancunian. I am human. In these days of uncertainty, wear a smile on your face and do what you can do best. Things are out of our control most of the time. Fight for your family and friends. Welcome all. Stick two fingers up at those who seek to profit at yoru loss.

 

What really annoys me, when I ask someone, why they voted out, which I respect their choice, their arguments are usually, “bloody foreigners take our jobs.”  ANd some of these people I knew from school are too busy dealing pot and crack or stealing their livings to actually work in jobs that keep the country moving.  Do they really thing the EU vote was all about shutting our borders?  Twonks.  Utter numpties.  Let them work out the future with respect to roaming charges for mobile phones, disease control, border control (how to tackle the fairly peaceful frontline of Europe located in Ireland), disembarkment of Scotland, Wales (£4bn since 2000 of EU finding) surely will depart, NI’s future, the NHS, Euro-tunnel, passport agreements, HK’s full handover, visa free travel to non-EU states for EU citizens, freedom of rights, conformity of electrical appliances, safety regulations, GM foods, etc

 

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye

Farewell to Our Pete

14th August 2016

To the unfinished dens and dams, to the days spent wandering aimlessly, the chicken chaser bike rides, the two for one deals at the cinema, our special bonfires and many more wonderful memories and moments. I want to say thank you, properly thank you, from my heart. You were a little bastard at times but you were always there for me as a friend. Whereas geography and life has kept us apart, I’ve always felt strength knowing you and Dan were there for me as a friend. The best of friends, even in fights and stupidity. You stood by me and helped me in primary school, like no other. Little and large. A boy bigger than me in spirit and fearless throughout. Whilst I cry now, it is a selfish need to want to share banter with you and want to laugh, because you were always the funniest friend I had. Nobody wants to say goodbye, ever. Nobody should. We grew up, eh, lad? No more pipes to spring around on, and we’ll not camp no more in the wild. You were a little shit, and I am glad our paths collided, I’m glad we got into trouble and I’m glad we learnt along the way. I’ll miss you, and I’ll try to do something in your memory with your family and friends. Thanks Pete! We’ll make dens again one day, I promise you that!

 

I’ll be a man in the shadows

13th September 2016

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

 

The sirens are screaming, and the fires are howling, way down in the valley tonight… well not quite that. However, somebody has left both doors open in my office. I’ll be a man in the shadows with a gun in his eye, and a blade shining oh so bright. There’s a bloody sign on the door in big Chinese characters and smaller English letters, saying “Please keep the door closed at all times.” I have relocated from Grade 9’s top floor office (5th floor in Chinese terms; 4th floor in English terms; the ground floor is the first floor here) to the second floor (locally). This benefits my ankles and knees greatly, especially on a day after playing football. The teachers in my new office went out of their way to write the blooming sign. My new office is located between Grade 7’s class one and Grade 7’s class 2. The students and teachers often use this second floor passageway office between classes. It can resemble an episode of Scooby Doo where the crimefighters are chasing a disguised criminal. Okay, so why am I so bloody hot [and I don’t mean gorgeous]? Well, the doors (plural) are left open again. The teachers in my office are the worst offenders. The students close the door everytime! The teachers here are so lazy to close doors.

 

So, I landed on the 31st of August, beginning school the following day. I did not have classes on the 1st of 2nd of September as they had yet to finalise the school timetable. When the finally finalised the school timetable, there were numerous clashes of classes between my primary school and middle school timetables. So, I fixed them. On the first Sunday back, I trained with Murray’s F.C. and haven’t been seen since. I thought I did well, considering the summer break but haven’t had time to hook up since. The first week involved seven grade five classes (I’ve been relegated down a grade as grade 6 no longer have a foreign teacher), four grade seven classes (half of the number of classes as per previous semesters) and four grade eight classes. V.I.P. classes (two of them) will begin this week (the second week).

 

There are just three foreign teachers including myself now. Analisa joins from the next door kindergarten and is joined by new intern Josie (from Stockton-on-Tees). The pair split grades 1-4 classes and the corresponding V.I.P. classes between them. We are joined by Jack Armstrong, once of Oxford Kingdom International School, as our foreign teacher team leader. My 17 classes a week with limited responsibility is odd but it allows me more preparation time. Mustn’t grumble. Especially seeing as some classes have gone from 34 to 55 students and most now top out at 45 students! The school is the same size, yet student numbers are far higher!

 

Mid-Autumn Festival is this week. A short break from Thursday until Saturday is on the cards, meaning a six day working week from Sunday.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye