“Freedom!” – Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further reading:

Free Speech Debate.com

Morphogenesis vertigo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boundaries.

The wall doesn’t keep you inside
nor does it stop you escaping.
The range of the boundary’s grasp sit inside
refusing to ruffle or fold ever slightly like two ever strong shoulders of foundation.
The fences you make prevent you living and pay sacrifice to the freedom out of your longing reach. Barriers change in time and
ruins rise to fall, with temples and churches spilling outwardly, full of prayers for one such deity or another, seeping your skin’s
inward desire to be led and let go,
while forever knowing you carry the
weight of slumping shoulders
bound by boundaries of the mind.

Scale.

It isn’t the panic
that draws you ever closer
within its tumbling realm of vision or that tremble in your loin,
dancing upon the shaking shoulders of sacrifice.
It is the bite that remains forever itching failing to heal and settle,
a ruin which ever leaks over your skin
intoxicating the inward desire
while forever guilty mite weakens
slumping from shoulders
into the abyss.

Ubuntu.

Dear all,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Civic pride can empower?

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

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

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

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

Peace and love x

Right to Return.

How do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ta’ra.

Plan C.

How do!

Today’s plan C ended up at 崖山古 (Yáshāngǔjì, cliff mountain historical place). It wasn’t meant to be this way. Moiz, Aaron, Matt and I, alongside two dogs had a roundabout wander.

Abandoned theme lodge; roadblock (translation); no dogs signs at major parks…

The Yashan mountain monuments are located north of the Li Village of Xiegang, a town in Dongguan City. The approach is made up of abandoned theme village with hollow lodges and skeletal outdoor structures, which suits the tombstone-lined face of the short hillock. A round trek loop of around 6km is possible, assuming you brave the ridges and scree slopes surrounding a small pagoda at the top. It’s ideal for walking a dog. Panda and Matt’s dog certainly enjoyed it.

Tan Xian Temple (Ming Dynasty, 1882) was rebuilt in 2001. It’s brick and concrete isn’t so appealing for tourism, despite the green mountain location. The site has been protected by the Dongguan government, however, due to the cultural value of a poem inscription and something about a waterfall. We didn’t find a waterfall. The eastern flank of the hillock unfolds to a large dry quarry. Not exactly the lush wetness of a waterfall.

Plan A had been BaiYunZhang (白云嶂) over at the edge of Huizhou (惠州) and Dongguan. On arrival by Didi car we found the road by the Pangu Temple (新圩约场白云嶂盘古庙) we found a barrier and two guards. Also, a half dozen dogs. The sign translation shown as something akin to “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” There was no pleading with the guards. Something about a virus case had closed the temple and all hiking routes.

Plan B was equally disappointing. Yingpingshan in Dongguan is the tallest mountain and part of a huge nature reserve. No dogs allowed. Not even if you pick up their turds. No well-behaved dogs. Go away dogs. So, after a stroll around a lower reservoir, Aaron and Matt located a small hillock for us to explore. Plan C, in the recently arrived 20°C temperature, wasn’t the worst way to end a second Tiger year trek. Better than house arrest, for example.

Various scenes of the day.

That’s all folks! Ta’ra!

Kicking this habit?

Hello! 你好! Nǐ hǎo! S’mae!

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

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

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

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

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

Pale Blue Dot: food for thought?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye! 再见! Zàijiàn! Ta’ra!

Reading Draft.

Dear readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Yet another idea. It isn’t official.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you kindly for your time and reading.

Mr John

Tiger Feet.

新年快乐 Xīnnián kuàilè / Happy New Year

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

恭喜发财 gōng xǐ fā cái / happiness and prosperity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make note: 29th July 2022 – Global Tiger Day

Roar on.

Meat Loaf.

I wanna go on the red, (I wanna) I wanna go on the green

Incomparable. Without a parallel. The monster is loose. Rest in peace. The late Michael Lee Aday (born Marvin Lee Aday; September 27, 1947 – January 20, 2022) best known as Meat Loaf has exited stage left and right equally. He’s left behind a mark that stretches far beyond a stack of albums and songs.

Peel out. Another profile not needed as piece of writing. Tributes will be everywhere. Sad news indeed. My condolences to Meat Loaf’s family and friends. The words and passion of Meat Loaf have got me through hard times. I’ll play a few songs and toast the big man. I hope he never ever, ever, ever, ever stops rocking…

And I think somebody somewhere must be tolling a bell

The Fall Within You

It doesn’t take much to trip and slip when the angry dogs are snapping at your feet. They’ve invited wolves this time and they’re agitated in ways you knew as frequently possible m yet could never escape. They howl and snarl drawing nearer without ever getting close enough to sink their sorrowful rabid fangs into flesh. Their dirgeful salivating pus-filled gums drip oozing brown liquids across the foot of the bed. You feel heavy-hearted panic for a moment. Chapfallen fear.

A white hot cold like steel pressing against your mind’s eye, sliding all senses beyond control, the rage simmers and bubbles threatening to erupt to the heavens above, bringing hell to the day’s gloomy sky. Yet it won’t and can’t. You’re in a mediocre state. The best that can happen is average. The worst is equal to the best. Flailing and flat lining just above terrible but far below lugubrious pleasure. A monotonous gray scale of simply not good enough. The dour silent rage.

You know you can’t escape the wretched day that hasn’t come, but woebegone, you know it is soon to arrive. The fed up walls will fold in and the ground will crumble. You’ll slip, fall, down and tumble. The saturnine strives you had and the live you lived will be gone. The forlorn ashes of the fires burning around you will blow in sepulchral raging winds from north, east, south and west before slamming doleful thunderous bolts of lightning into the parched remains of your skeleton. That morose skeleton itself, fused and beyond mobility. Useless mirthless blue.

Hope knocks at your dejected door but the disconsolate door’s hinges have long dispirited rusted and welded to the wall. The wall has been long-covered by grim vines, rotten downhearted hanging nooses, despondent witch trial posters and fragments of a long forgotten camera obscura lens. The crestfallen wall’s dusted windows each produced Pepper’s ghosts no longer. Their cast down faded glass panes are grimed and moulded beyond shape and figure. Faded features hang weary and low, tangled in slim twine macramé. Downcast melancholy.

Ts & Cs

How do! 你好!

The fuse? Candle wax? Tree into tied activities? A trapeze act stuck inside?

Life has so many pieces of small print, tucked under the seams, crammed into the crevices, and dropped into long forgotten pockets. They can be found as hints, messages and moments in our history. Some are beautiful, dutiful or testing. Most can be learned from, such is the way of life. The small print keeps coming though.

Rainham Steel and their hot flanged joists or cold circle angles being advertised at British football grounds has never ever made sense to me. Yet their imagery on football photography for years on end has stood out and crept into my psychology. The sign doesn’t have a phone number or website. Nothing. It stands out. No terms and conditions. Just a bizarre advert targeting football fans (in attendance or otherwise watching via television) who needs industrial standard steel. Rainham Steel have no clear purpose other than to be present through tradition and maintain their historical connections to the beautiful game. Now, where do I place my girders?

2021 started with optimism, way up in Yubeng village. Through a mixture of local hospitality, Oliver, Piotr and I finished a few days wander with a countdown below snow-capped mountains. It really recharged my mental batteries. Again in summer my passage followed the flow of Yunnan, as if swept a long by a calm river. That’s where I grabbed my first and only tattoo on date. No contract was mentioned. It was surprisingly easy to scar myself for exchange of cash.

A few days after leaving Yunnan for New Year and life’s finality was highlighted as City legend Colin Bell passed away. I never saw him play football. I lived off his video footage and stories from friends and family. I filled my heart with his warmth from a very reluctant biography. Somewhere at the back of my mind the joys of trekking clashed with the feeling of the passing of time. This is life. A condition of living is death.

Three cycle crashes in a year and one trip to hospital as a result of the latter crash brought me down to Earth. My first outpatient visit to an emergency room to patch up cuts and check some impact marks to bones happened. My first inpatient visit and night stays at hospital later in the year terrified me but left me thinking I need to improve my fitness and recover stronger than ever. Even if age is a small print, this challenge shouldn’t get the better of me. I’ll kick a ball again and find mountains to trek in 2022.

I now approach 8 years of life in China and Dongguan. That’s a hefty chunk of my thirties. It’s almost a quarter of my life. I’ve spent two Chinese New Year holidays in Dongguan and it looks like 2022 will be the same. This whole COVID-19 thing just drags on and on. Even my third jab (the booster) has left me lagging behind. I’m on analogue when all around me is on digital. Creased by politics, changing attitudes and a global pandemic of fear, working and living in China is increasingly less attractive. A new two year contract hasn’t been signed yet. I love the job but I must think deeply. There are many implications of signing.

The year 2021 has been quite mentally testing. Unable to travel to the U.K. to see family and friends, blighted by world news of fear, panic and that bloody virus, I’ve sought solace in gardening my balcony and giving a new home to Panda the Border Collie. The little fur ball of joy joins me on the sands of Huizhou to welcome 2022 in. Alongside his doggy girlfriend Sasha and her human slaves Miss Keisel and husband Charif (with student Amir and his sister Emma). Talking with them I feel that homesickness is strangling talent. If we want to leave China to visit family and friends, it seems to be mostly a one way ticket. So few who have left have returned and 2021 had more than its fair share of leaving events.

On the subject of leaving, Sergio Aguero, scorer of that 93:20 goal, amongst his many records and City’s all-time greatest scorer, announced he would leave City. Then he left. He was warmly welcomed at new club Barcelona but the optimism evaporated as he was soon forced to hang his boots up due to a health problem. 2021 wasn’t a great year for Sergio but he did bow out with 2020/21’s Premier League title and a Champions League runners up medal. The perfect ending doesn’t always happen. That’s for fairytales.

Great writers like Jim Steinman and Eric Carle passed away, having influenced countless souls on their life journeys. Their words accompanied me at Scholastic’s Guided Reading conference, throughout three I.B. training periods and some Jolly Phonics. At the end of the day, reading has got me to where I am in Tungwah Wenzel International School (T.W.I.S.) and I intend to do my best with the knowledge I want to share. Perhaps, guidance is my destiny. Only 2022 can tell.

Summer witnessed the departure of many international colleagues to pastures new. Not before Mr Oliver and I trekked around Shanxi, Shaanxi, Ningxia and Gansu together. Not a bad way to say, “Bon voyage!” And then Autumn flew by. The October holiday gave me chance for hiking and wandering but nothing amazing happened. 2022 could be that year. If only the bloody virus would fizzle out. The movies Outbreak and Contagion each hand happy endings. Rene Russo and Kate Winslet didn’t do bad. 2021, however, is the poorer cousin of 2020.

Discrimination and prejudice have risen; borders have increased with social segregation and some countries closing to others; lifestyle changes such as Zoom and a plethora of online teaching, working and scamming; and misinformation became the norm. Afghanistan went backwards as if to illustrate a world trend of fans being hit by turds. Glasgow held COP26 and the world climate crisis was averted. I think. It’s been a funny old year. The most important thing though, is to forget the traditional ways and go for something sustainable and new. The old ways led us here. Let’s go new for 2022.

Happy new year and all the best!

May 2002 deliver hope and dreams.

Ta’ra! 再见!

Giving whisterpoop.

How do! 你好!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you kindly! Ta’ra! 谢谢你。再见。

圣诞快乐 A very merry Christmas

Dear all,

From the bottom of my heart, I would like to wish each and every one of you a very merry Christmas. Greetings of this special season that shall live on in and spirit and memories far beyond just one holy day. Christmas is not just a day for the religious, nor just little boys and girls. It’s become a multi faith and cultural key to bringing people together no matter their creed, race or religion. You don’t have to believe in Jesus or God to follow Christmas. It’s about togetherness.

Love thy neighbour. Surely every religious follower, no matter their faith or upbringing can agree on that. We’re on this planet Earth together. As one. So, wishes are sent to you to hope something magnificent and magical can happen in the season of Christmas, and beyond in the New Year. Happy New Year!

May all adults have the same wonderment and cheer that juveniles around the world embrace on this special day and morning. As gifts are unwrapped, joy is felt and some disappointments and worries or loneliness melt in a moving, mixing bowl of emotions, don’t feel hate and don’t look back in anger. Tomorrow, or some day we’ll find a brighter way. Stay positive. Try positive thinking.

‘Tis the season to watch The Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show

We receive so many messages during this heavily commercialised season but try to grip in our heart’s hands, the messages of joy, hope and love. May you and your family find laughter as a medicine for the challenges you’ve overcome and the trials ahead. It can be a season comparable to a snowstorm with murky unclear weather all around you, but the eastern horizon, when you find it, is a place where the sun will rise again. Each brand new, bright tomorrow shines our way.

Let our arms be as warm as the sun from up above. Bring peace home. Feel jolly. Let someone or something give you a sparkling and shimmering warming touch. The season of giving is about living and loving. Find your solace. Express your gratitude. You’re here and now. Who can you thank today? Who can you wish a merry way?

Christmas is a time for families and communities. They may be divided by that bloody virus or other factors. Don’t let it get you don’t. Don’t let the bastards get you down! Share every ounce of your energy with those who deserve it. I’m glad of the football community, the T.W.I.S. (Tungwah Wenzel International School) education community, my pocket of Dongguan and China people, the Shenzhen Blues and City fans over here and the groups I belong to and communities I engage with. Christmas would not be the same without you all. Together we are stronger!

Last Christmas, I spent time in Yunnan, alone, in my own relaxed way. This, virus outbreak permitting, shall not be too extravagant and hopefully be once again at Irene’s Bar in Houjie (where 2 from 8 of the last Christmas dinners have been spent), but next Christmas is the one I’m looking forward to most. Who knows what it can bring?! Hopefully, it’ll be on Mancunian soil.

With each passing Christmas, I recall memories of yesteryear and flood myself with warm moments of those who were part of my life. The absent but present grandparents, the friends watching from the tier above our grounds, the lost silent loud noises of the musicians and stars of our lives. Wherever they exist now, thank out for being amongst us. You’re missed.

I hope that 2021 inspired you to be extra good, thus allowing Santa Claus to find you. I pray you fell asleep dreaming of the chimes of bells as reindeer slipped through the sky overhead. Dream deeply of the love that arrives at this time of year remaining for the year ahead. Imagine that! It doesn’t matter how we say it, just say it with passion: Joyeux Noël, happy holidays and seasons greetings.

Dad, I don’t tell you how much I love you. Thank you for always caring and listening. Thanks for taking me to Nana and Grandad’s to see the delightful decorations on the tree and enjoy trips to Aunty Christine’s for Boxing Day. Mum, you are always there for me, no matter what. I love you unconditionally. Went I think of Santa, I always think of you, sneaking in after midnight (when I was a kid, not now) and delivering jolly gifts and fruit. I miss the pillow case fruit hampers more than the chocolate selection boxes. You always put your heart into it. Aunty Christine, stay strong and beat that bloody virus so we may have Christmas lunch in July, with Uncle Ed, Uncle George and whoever else is available.

To my brothers Asa, Shaun and Paul; for my sisters Astrid and Christina, did I miss anyone? You are all missed. I may not be the closest sibling but I care and I really enjoy hearing from you. In a better world, I wish you could visit here and I there. The pressures and cares of life are with us all throughout the year, and if I can listen or help, you know my number (although the phone bill may be expensive and I believe we’re genetically tight-fisted). You’re also my friends. I miss you all.

For cousins, aunts and uncles, you’re resigned to a few short lines of love. I’d be here all day otherwise and I really need to wee. I could save a draft and come back later. That’s not going to happen. May the light of the festive season shine on you all. My Aunt Carolyn has been messaged me often throughout my time in China and I wish her and Uncle Phil a pleasant holiday. Aunty Irene and cousin Sophie enjoying Spanish skies have served as an inspiration for living overseas. Uncle George, enjoy the festive flutters – and up the Blues! Aunty Susan has been battling X, Y and Z yet remains resilient. That’ll be the teacher in her.

Dan, Vanessa, Damo and Alex, have a very Merry Christmas. Last year’s gifts and this are in a box with the ones from the year before. Santa couldn’t pick them up due to stringent quarantine conditions in the People’s Republic of China. However, in the style of Royal Mail, they’re not forgotten or misplaced, they’re just delayed. Dan is my closest friend and teacher. I’ve learned much from my brightly haired chubby – faced friend. As an Irish proverb says, “May you never forget what is worth remembering or remember what is best forgotten.” That’s my gift to you Dan.

This was my Christmas prayer to all. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Peace and love, John & Panda “WOOF!”

Star Wars: Episode II.5

Ideas for Lucas Film and Disney to explore as a comedy sketch show.

#1 Spoof title reels. Scrolling text locks. Error 404 pops up. Various screen credits from other shows intersperse.

#2 Classic Obi Wan K opens his robe, and pulls out his light saber. He activates it but after a while drops it. He picks it up again making noises to indicate it is too not. Finally he drops it and Darth Vadar comes and chops his head off.

#3 Chewbacca makes his usual sounds whilst looking in a mirror. After 30 seconds he coughs up a fur ball. He speaks looking at the camera, in a strong Aberdonian accent, “At bloody last, that has been getting on my nerves for years.”

#4 The scene is the far moon of Endor. The camera pans in on a house and inside Burn Baby Burn by The Trampps is playing and two ewoks are dancing with glowsticks.

#5 Droids roll down a corridor chasing Jedi knights. Suddenly they stop and act rather crazy. The camera pans to two kids playing with drone remote controls.

And that’s as far as I got before I got bored.

Goodbye

Borderline.

How do! Nihao!

The stare goes through me. I’m being herded. I must counter this. I’m the alpha here. I’m the leader. We’re engaged in a battle that involves chewsticks, training and discipline. Panda the border collie can stare all he wants now, but this high energy ball of fur won’t be allowed the upper hand. And, to make my point clear, I have dropped him at the vets. He’s going to be neutered. No baby Pandas. No mini-stares. As an unwanted pet, rehomed after a month or so in a cage, his journey from a litter of puppied in Germany to Dongguan ends genetically wherever I choose to take him in our family journey. Stares or no stares.

The last week of school was interrupted twice by the standard COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR). I had it last Tuesday and Friday at school, as well as Saturday in my apartment garden complex. It is what it is. One case a week last Tuesday in neighbouring Dàlǎng (大朗) town has risen to 25 today. As my school is in Sōngshānhú technological area and my house is in Dàlǐngshān town, we all fall under the 6 towns of Sōngshānhú district: Liáobù, Shípái, Cháshān and Shílóng.

Throughout the last few days, I’ve wandered into Dalingshan town because Songshan Lake and every surrounding park is closed. I was told (by government notice) that Dalingshan library was closed yet I sat there today reading in their branch of Pacific Coffee. I don’t usually favour chains but they have a strict no smoking policy. I read some more Jack Reacher short stories, watched Dave German’s Genius show on YouTube and did a little school preparation. On the way back, I passed an open mall area. Parks are closed. Indoor gathering spaces are closing. I shouldn’t complain. I never really did lockdown.

This pandemic has spread fast and gets me muttering, “Bloody virus” quite often. Yet, since 14 days of quarantine in April 2020, I’ve personally experienced no lockdown. I’ve been very blooming lucky. Of course, the inconvenience of being unable to travel to my hometown in Blighty does more than counterbalance that fact. Now lockdown sits in the town next door – and threatens life in my Blighty. Britain is blighted by this bloody modern plague. COVID-19 released its Christmas hit as Omicron. 2020 definitely helped my knowledge of the Greek alphabet even if the variants list is a cast of horrors.

Twas the nightmare before Christmas and all around the house, excitement sank away. After watching the climax (or anticlimax) of La casa de papel or Money Heist, I found myself feeling like I did at the end of 007’s latest (but not last) outing, No Time To Die. So, what now? It’s almost like 2021 is a loose bundle of scripts with no apparent direction, as if all order had become tangled in the mop head of Boris Johnson.

Walking around, as a solo foreigner, in a town located in South China is easy. It’s safe. Millions of people in a huge catchment area and just a few dozen virus cases. Low violent crime. Scams, for sure. Air pollution, but improved conditions. Man Utd fans, but they’re everywhere. Poor Ole. The one thing that’s got me muttering words like a 1990’s Essex gangster is simply hurtful: people who dart out of my way, or pull their masks up suddenly or cup their hands over their mouth or say in Chinese that I may have the virus. 2020 and 2021 has seen too many divisions. I remain in China as a token of hope. I believe things shall be better. They may need to break more before they get better. It is what it is. Whilst I breathe, I’ll remain positive. Even when I’m negative. Still, it’s hard to be totally positive when Panda is staring at me. Dogs!

Xiexie ni he zai jian! Thank you kindly and goodbye!

Welcome to Acronym Park…

Hey hey, welcome again!

Can all knowledge be expressed in words and symbols? Well, that’s a question that is highly contestable. Welcome to Acronym ParkInternational Baccalaureate Organization hereon referred to as I.B. Then, there’s A.T.L. (Approaches to Learning)… and a few more. As I started to write this I started with the title Theory of Knowledge (T.O.K.): An I.B. Experience before joining the course. Here we look at knowledge – whether through words or symbols… or other.

Workaholic Rainbow Yuan attended a workshop firing questions at us, giving her respect and building our trust to create an environment of sharing. She was there to support our teaching team (now as students) with any concerns, and to share experiences. She set us a target and the below workshop goal:

This workshop will prepare educators to teach the Theory of Knowledge (ToK) in a manner that supports the IB philosophy. The IB philosophy is encapsulated in the IB mission statement and aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, caring and internationally-minded young people wherein ToK plays a central role.” – from a presentation by Rainbow Yuan

What is T.o.K.? It covers 12 concepts: evidence, certainty, truth, interpretation, power, justification, explanation, objectivity, perspective, culture, values and responsibility. Within the I.B. course of Language & Literature…

Theory of Knowledge – could and should be titled epistemology. It’s a major offshoot of philosophy. The list of famous stars to touch on the study (-ology) in epistḗmē include Aristotle, Ayn Rand, Susan Haack, King James I (after Scotland handed him to England in some sort of union) and R. Sentwali Bakari (Epistemology from an Afrocentric Perspective: Enhancing Black Students’ Consciousness through Afrocentric Way of Knowing). They’ve all contributed to the field and certainly the field has contributed to them (and their legends).

IB education pushes the A.T.L. skills creating resilient lifelong learners with an international outlook that extends learning into living. It blends education into post-education critical thinking. The continuum flows from primary education to middle and diploma programme years into later life. The purpose of TOK (Theory of Knowledge) is to give university preparation and rounded questioning skills. The application of “knowledge as a map” mimics and prepares students long in advance for university final year self-study. It builds a buoyant foundation.

The first learning engagement involved creating a single sentence summary (nota bene, n.b., sibilance set specifically to this scheme) of the I.B. ATL skills: A.T.L. skills crucially develop and recognise skillsets for lifelong learning and empower students to be self-sufficient, whilst remaining community innovative (for tomorrow).

What else do we need for international-mindedness? Challenges, obstacles, examples, exemplars and many other words could be added to the list below:

  • Sustainability; Change
  • Global values; Culture; Multilingualism; Beliefs; Identity;
  • Respect; Local; Privilege; Service
  • Perspective; Worldview; Experiences; Intercultural
  • Engagement; Action; Power; Technology

Identity is important to international-mindedness in that local and regional dialects or languages, or cultures should never be seen as inferior. Equality is key to allow students a level playing field to open dialogue. Without this powers shift and create imbalances. Those imbalances lack sustainability and change is a known constant. Change is inevitable. Respect for positive advancement or reactive reversal and proactive innovation whether in science, politics or English literature. None of this is possible without recognising unique identities of people and culture.

Four connections to the core themes could include: scope; perspectives; methods & tools; & ethics. They tend to be controversial and have multiple views or angles. Fact checkers and those who favour propaganda may have polar angles of their selected lens.

The I.B. T.O.K. course [see an example of a course outline] has an internal assessment by exhibition to show how T.O.K. manifests in the world around us. The course is comprised of knowledge and the knower; optional themes (32 hours combined); and areas of knowledge (50 hours). The course has tutoring time that equates to a century of hours. It then has an externally-audited essay to complete the 100 hour course.

Drawing upon specific examples in our learning experience we actively involved role-play with a strange family dynamic. Our three parents, Mrs Jamie, Mrs Nem and myself as a grandparent or guardian placed questions to a duo of teachers, Ms Hamida and and Mr Jason. Their job was to sell the course of T.O.K. to prospective parents with an explanation using objectivity, perspective, responsibility, culture and values.

A further role play allowed us to choose a question, expand on it, make it better and counter it. From that we presented it, shared it and questioned other teams. The subjects covered history (Cold War origins), Mathematics (big data), science (vaccine ethics), and the arts (Haute couture).

Essay question examples include: Can there be knowledge that is independent of culture? / Does it matter that your personal circumstances influence how seriously your knowledge is taken? The crux of these questions imply that the answers are debatable and contestable. The explanations must be questionable. They can be broad brought down to a shorter interpretation.

Coca-Cola Clear featured in one learning engagement convinced me that now I not only misunderstand knowledge but also have problems understanding what coke is as a drink. Perspective changes of brands, deepfake in ethics and scope, and methods and tools of technology throughout through fake and legitimate advertising create a bucketful of questioning and theory of knowledge.

In conclusion, I feel more aware of how the nature of knowledge can be construed. These can be personal whether remaining the same, adjusted or cast aside. On reflection, T.o.K. is an opportunity to create a project-style learning to prepare students for the university environment and demands. It gives independent learning a scope to flex its hypothetical muscle through query. There are even Walt Whitman poems used as examples to evoke T.O.K.

Who owns knowledge?

The owner of knowledge remains the informed and the adaptive consumer of knowledge who chooses to share this knowledge for a greater good. Or not.
Source.

What makes a good explanation?

Alignment of relevant themes allows conceptual questions to be given satisfactory answer pairings. The question may be loaded with variables like the word ‘good’ or ‘explanation’ or even ‘makes’ – each can be interpreted quite openly. The original message or information should be conveyed and interpreted with clarity. However, bias must be removed to allow an explanation to be heard. Many questions can be loaded with biased emotional and political themes, e.g. “to what extent does the Palestinian wall affect Palestine and Israel in international relations, social and economic ways?” It isn’t a straightforward question to ask, “What makes a good explanation?” The image selected below could equally be shared or discounted as an explanation of the question above. There’s normalisation, legal disagreement, acceptance of fertile land being grabbed by a dominative nation, ghettoisation, and numerous other matters on the negative flank of the wall. On the flip side, walls stop people and things being a threat and also can hold back perceived dangers. They could create labour opportunities and force dialogue about why a wall is there in the first place.

West Bank graffiti mocks Donald Trumps love of walls, Israel Times

How to create a T.o.K. question – the perfect recipe:

Add a spoonful of “to what extent does” or “how far can we”. Stir in a sprig of theory.

Blend with words such as expert, belief, certainty, justification, culture or faith. Alternatively you can add generalisation, authority or bias.

A pinch of evidence, truth, experience can also be dropped in when you whisk in a helping of indigenous knowledge for added flavour.

Cook on gas mark BLOODY HOT°C and ensure reliability is stirred in gently.

Fry imagination in a deep and boil romanticism in a milk pan until sense bubbles lightly.

To reveal the baked realism, we must ask ourselves, “How far can we reason with empathy?” Following that stewing, perception shall become fragrant and surrealism will be present when dipping a spoon into a broth of abstraction.

When beating an egg to allow empathy, question how do you separate apathy without a spatula? The answer of course is to use reason like a knife.

Go to the oven shelves and slide faith and illusion from the originality of memory to create a jelly for the icebox within your refrigerator. Use emotive language to confirm that ethics is piping hot throughout.

When stir-frying natural sciences with human sciences it is important to allow history to swell and trickle into oral memory.

With religious knowledge slice and crack communication as sensations for later, adding to inference into a salad spinner. Use a grater to weed out confirmation bias and allow adequate translation from culture to vested interests.

The concept of cooking is dependent on the use of one’s intuition to use emotion, theory and objectivity to deliver a product of stereotype straight from the passatutto food mill to a casserole pot. It is counter intuitive to chop by pepper pot when global thinking dictates a potato masher can apply adequate subjectivity.

Of course, of the above cooking instructions are subject to fallibility of interpretation, which can be found in the cookbook located by the paradigms of authority. From oral memory, exclaim pleasure at the explanation of rationalism. The steam of verification will rise with introspection. How trustworthy is the classification in intuition when it is laid out on a platter for the visitors of the buffet systems.

Following this, a few questions can be raised, , perhaps in mathematics (or not) such as:
How much do…? Does the…? Who determines…? Is it…? What contributes…?
How important to…? If you feel…? What relation…? Can we…? What is…? How does…? What role…? Should…? Are values…? How certain…? How reliable…? Does the…?

TRUST MY VALIDITY. I may remember more by talking gibberish! I have methods. I have values.


Further stuff to cram in your bonce for explaining the game:

Thank you kindly for your time.

Stuck in a Sigh

It seems never ending. I’m trapped. I’m surrounded by a bubble. Happiness and joy have no way in. I’ve been stuck in this sigh for far too long.

I used to be active and mobile, and all the things I wanted to do, I did. Not now. I look on and see them pass by. I’m stuck in this sigh. A seemingly continual throng.

At times I see the sunrise and the sunsets. I feel it like before but it’s as if I’m outside, looking in. The great rays cast no heat my way. The sigh sits on my tongue.

I smell flowers and sense nothing. I watch butterflies dance and flutter and I sense them crash into the ground with no sound. The sigh begins but fails to fade like an endless song.

I pick up pens and they slide from my hands. The words they could and should write gather no sight. They never exist. This sigh is drowning my wish to cry out louder than King Kong.

How long can this sigh go on? I long for those sigh to fade to black. I wish this hollow pocket in the sigh would leave my tongue. I dance and smile outside but inside the sigh strangles me. It feels all so wrong.

Sigh. Silent sigh.

Life.

Life is for living; it’s for seeing; it’s for feeling; it’s for playing;

it’s for kicking a football in a field; it’s for stumbling on stones and slipping and breaking some bones;

it’s for smiling; it’s for crying; it’s for…

…missing home; it’s for feeling that tear. That tear building in your eye; and that moment you look at something so stunning, you’re overwhelmed with feelings.

You try to find the words, but the words aren’t there. They’re out there. They’re in here. In your head. But. You just can’t pick them up and place them in the right position.

Life. Life is beautiful. It’s pretty, it’s witty, it’s exciting, it’s frightening…

It’s staring into the abyss and not knowing where you’re going.

When you want to go somewhere, you go somewhere. Having a plan is all fair enough. Having no plan: just as good.

Just live the way you want to live.

There’s only one way of life.

And that’s your own.

Poem and tattoo inspired and influenced by The Levellers and their song One Way
The original recording made at Abuji Cuo in Yunnan (29/7/2021)
Details of Abuji Cuo (29/7/2021)

Last Tuesday.

Hindsight is a gift.

It’s less than fifty stairs. I’ve moved up just one floor. My head is pounding. Is a gorilla crushing my temple? I feel my legs heavy and weighted down. Am I walking through deep clay?

There are stars dancing around my eyes. Something is shaking the ground beneath my feet. The view I see is bending and reshaping. It’s coming and going from shapes I know to blurred distortions in colours I know but I can’t place.

I feel I’m going to tumble and fall. I stumble. My knees are folding and refuse to work with me. My feet are rooted to the ground but they feel like they’re sliding away. There’s ice under me and the clouds over head are dancing, except it’s a ceiling. I try to focus but my pulse is in both ears and drumming so loud. I can’t concentrate.

This shortness of breath is terrifying. It is horrid to suddenly feel so debilitated. I’m gasping the fiery air and it is raking my pipes on its way down. It tears shreds of my windpipe and leaves my mouth tasting bitter and vile. The little moisture in my mouth has an acidic taste. I have and choke on a lack of air.

For a moment, I feel my heart speed up. It’s struggling. I try to slow myself down and understand these moments. I panic. I imagine my coffin and I try to say out loud, “Your number’s up.” I feel my eyes heavily close and I nod my head forwards. That brief moment of consciousness loss wakes me sharply. Not now. I breath in with all my might. Not today. I force air inward. After what seems like a lifetime, I stand.

Use the gift of hindsight.

The Parton and Moresby Memorial

Today’s writing is from a guest. My best friend Danny Rudyard had been asked to write a speech for one of many forthcoming memorial services for Remembrance Day. So, here it goes, the passionate words and writing of my best mate (written in the picturesque Copeland Borough village of Parton):

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am Danny Ridyard, I am a Soldier and adopted Partonian. Here’s a little history on me, so you know where I’m coming from. I served 12 years in the British Army starting as a tank driver, aged 17. I progressed through the ranks to command my own Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank. I gained numerous instructor level qualifications and completed 4 combat tours across 2 war zones. I fought in Operation Telic and Op telic 7 in Iraq And Operation Heric 16 and 17 In Afghanistan.

And I have a question for you: What is a War Memorial?

In our case it is an Ornamental gothic Cross, Made of Rubislaw grey granite. So, is it just stone and mortar stacked in a corner of a field that will remain forever England?

Absolutely not. I would argue that like many things in life, a memorial is much more than the sum of its parts. First and foremost, it is a symbol. A symbol of the tremendous sacrifice made by the community that was and honoured by the community that is Parton and Moresby.

It is a focal point for us all to honour those that came before us, those that answered our nations call to stand up to oppression and tyranny. The miners, the green grocers and the educators that became soldiers. Became the defenders of what so many of us now take for granted.

These 51 names you see before you belong to 51 husbands, fathers and sons of Parton and Moresby and like the monument that bears their names they are more than the sum of their parts they are their deeds; they are their courage, and they are rightly remembered by their nation on monuments across the length and breath of the country.

But more personably they are remembered by their successors in the community in which they lived and loved. This monument is not just a monument – it is our monument and it is every ounce the symbol it was built to be 100 years ago.

When you join the British Army you swear an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty The Queen, her heirs and successors. And in principle agree to live by a set of values these are known as ‘The Values and Standards Of The British Army’. They are remembered by the mnemonic ‘CDRILS’. They are:

Courage

Discipline

Respect for Others

Integrity

Loyalty

Selfless Commitment

These soldiers raised from our community that are remembered on our memorial will have sworn identical oaths, albeit to The King, they would have lived and ultimately died by these values and standards. I believe that we, as a community, can lay claim to these values, we have for 100 years, shown the Courage and the Discipline to maintain our monument, demonstrated the Respect for Others and shown the Integrity of our community by attending annual vigils and I know we will strive to continue the Loyalty to our forebears and through the sacrifice of our time and treasure we can show our Selfless Commitment.

By ensuring our monument is maintained and rejuvenated so that the sacrifices of our communities’ past can continue to be honoured by our present community and though our actions, the generations that follow us can be inspired to live up to the same, hard won, values and standards.

Our monument Reads: ‘This stone was erected by the inhabitants of PARTON & MORESBY’ Lets take a moment to digest that. It wasn’t a ‘mandated’ subscription organised by government that raised our memorial up. It was the ‘us’ of Parton and Moresby. It was the literal occupiers of, in some cases, the houses we now call home, they were the men and women that lived in Parton and Moresby, men and women like you and me that no doubt had a personal connection to the men that bore the names listed on our monument and keenly felt their absence. And they showed the strength of their character by handing down this legacy of memorial not for themselves but for those that gave their today for our tomorrow.

For our monument also reads:

They went to their duty; Young, strong & brave; They gave their lives for others; Themselves they could not save. FOR FREEDOM’S CAUSE.

That last bit is wrote in capitols and is surely an indication of how strongly our community holds the virtue of freedom. Thank you.

Lest we forget.

Happy Pokey Holes

你好~ S’mae! Hello! How Do!

Sunday, 7th November 2021

Here we go again. Another evening in a hospital bed. The sixth such sleepover. Unlike the former I’m unattached to monitoring equipment. Just a feed of oxygen. That should make sleeping easier providing the girls don’t accompany me again. Those sucking evil females visited me at night. I struggled to get to sleep. I awoke with itchy ankles, a track mark line worthy if Trainspotting and sores on my knuckles. The only plus was City beat U****d at Old Trafford in the previous evening. Watching that in a hospital bed wasn’t all bad. Bloody mosquitoes.

This evening I became a golf course. The 18th needle went in and out almost as fast as the grade 5 student making a video. Kim (Baozi) snuck in fresh from having her fractured and dislocated hand injuries operated on. At first she spoke with my nurse about this injection and then craftily video recorded the jab. She sent the video to her phone. That’ll teach me for leaving my phone unlocked. To be honest, it was funny and she’s in good spirits following her surgery, and I’m sure her mother will be pleased and proud of her resilience. The nurse performing my injection certainly enjoyed the chit chat of Kim. It’s good to see professionals beam with radiant smiles. That way I don’t have to worry about the needle.

Today has been filled with Guilt. A BBC production filmed around Edinburgh. The short four episode series whizzing by in atmospheric slowness between my 3200 steps to recovery. The short corridor walks and nattering with visitors really lifted my spirits. That and savouring City’s emphatic win at The Theatre of Dreams™ yesterday. John Stones had five times winner of the Ballon d’Or Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Avery in his back pocket.

Miss Spring delivered hearty hope – filled pumpkin soup. Mr D brought his wit with him, gifting a milk tea ice cream and some balloons. I did consider the implicit of the inflation of such things on a cardiovascular ward. Probably not a good idea. Dr Xie and Dr Like will not be happy. Nor the great nursing team. Miss Laura tried to deliver corn. That was rejected and now our friendship faces a review. Mr Jason helped me get mosquito spray. Sunday was 30°C and with the windows open the bloodsuckers found me.

Also Benny from grade 7 delivered fruit and kind support. As did Kim from grade 5, but she’s resident to the hospital whilst undergoing a hand operation. Although after the operation she was typically bubbly and positive. She certainly made Nurse Xiao Yue smile and laugh. Kim wasn’t the best visitor to have as your stomach gets jabbed. I tried to shoo her away but it wasn’t successful. I was an immobile Patch Adams providing entertainment, I guess. A bit like Man Utd’s midfield on Saturday.

Monday, 8th November 2021

What a difference a day makes. There’s a song there. Today it is just 16°C. It feels fresh and crisp. I like it. This morning my blood was removed by arterial stick from my left wrist (radial/ulnar region). It was swift and left an incredibly uncomfortable ache afterwards for ten minutes. Not the best 6am wake up call. After breakfast my pin cushion experience carried on with Nurse Xiao Yue kindly injecting anticoagulant into my tummy. I won’t complain. Kindness by cruelty. No pain, no gain. Dr Xie had visited prior and said Thursday is the target for my release. She told me to go and walk, including some stairs. My oxygen levels are fast approaching pre-condition fitness. The harder we fall, the more cliches we use, and then climb again.

After a night if unsettled dreams, anxiety and discomfort, today’s news has been most welcomed. You can’t keep a Mancunian down.

Hope Street.

再见~ Hwyl Fawr! Goodbye! Ta’ra!

Live, breathe, hope (Draft #1)

Muck in your eyes, surging cries, looking at then falling skies.

Pain straining your train of thought, hate free world sought, avoiding a day of distraught.

Stress says take a rest, your chest days you’re not your best, can’t even get dressed.

Stumbled upstairs, fairs not so fair for your cares, time to go get some stares.

Off we went, full consent, not worried about the rent, feeling less than elegant.

While I live, I breathe, I hope. Those hospital superheroes got me off a bad slope. Those hospital heroes helped me cope. While I live, I breathe, I hope. Up once again looking down life’s telescope. While I live, I breathe, I hope. Those hospital heroes helped me cope.

Knees a quivering, head all shivering, doctors and nurses delivering.

The news was confusing, my listening cruising and choosing, what it’s using, musing and infusing.

Shook by the broken heart, given a start, by way of observation chart.

Rating the flurry of worry, compared to a filling of slurry, bitter taste exiting in no hurry.

Human resources steadying, off for further readying, yet in a place unsteadying.

While I live, I breathe, I hope. No need to duck, dive and mope. While I live, I breathe, I hope. I cling on to the shipping towrope. While I live, I breathe, I hope. Walking together on every tightrope.

After the manic half hours, the room drained of flowers, friends turned away after hours.

Left with my thoughts, my personal dreadnoughts, gunshots casting lots and lots.

The demon at the foot of the bed, fear felt instead, I could have been brown bread.

Jabbed and prodded until sleep, a peak that weeped in heaped seep, knee-deep in thoughts that go deep.

Slipped in and out of shut eye, thoughts indivisible by, unable to oversimplify.

While I live, I breathe, I hope. Reach out for the good bathroom soap. While I live, I breathe, I hope. Thankful for the stethoscope. While I live, I breathe, I hope. Knowing today is just a kaleidoscope.

Subcutaneous Optimism.

How do! Nihao! 你好~

Yesterday evening I received my 11th pokey hole. Subcutaneous injection to the stomach number 6 went smoothly. The spectacled nurse grabbed some belly flab, didn’t hesitate and squirted the Heparin into the belly muscle and fat. This new nurse to me did not mess around. From arrival at the bee’s foot to departure was comparable to that of an F1 car having its wheels changed in a race.

Following breakfast, Doctor (Hu?) and Dean (Wang?) did their rounds. I feel much better today. Optimism has been manufactured well. The Dean and the Doctor said my lung is subtotal (not at full capacity) and the right leg trauma was recent (but I’ve not experienced anything bad). I did mention the calf tear two years ago. He said it’s possible but unlikely, unless there are recent micro tears.

The Dean also suggested I was drunk and fell over but truth be told I’ve only drank at the craft beer festival (and that was small glasses but not too numerous. Maybe 7 glasses). The medical professionals must have seen similar to suggest such a thing, but aside from a few drinks at Katherine and Stephen’s in early October, and the Here! Dongguan craft beer festival, I’ve avoided booze. Just not been my thing lately. I prefer a casual chilled out beer from time to time, like watching the Revolution band at Irene’s Bar before the October holidays.

The Dean mentioned two weeks here and to be patient. Those three to five days became seven and now it could be a fortnight. It is what it is. Just like the 12th pokey which was another belly injection. Yet another nurse arrived. I could see air in the top of the fluid. Must be safe though. It wasn’t the calmest or the most comfortable injection. It is what it is.

All of this on Guy Fawkes Night. It’s enough to make you put a mask on and go crazy. The masks featured in V for Vendetta (graphic novel and movie) are based on Guido Fawkes. He fought for the Spanish too. His group’s plan to reinstall a Catholic monarch didn’t work. The protagonists of the Gunpowder Plot were provisional terrorists of their time. Your man Guy was snitched on by anonymous note and captured. Tortured. Convicted. Sentenced. He didn’t get hung (as duch), he did get drawn and quartered (postmortem) because he conveniently fell off the scaffolding. The agony of losing bits like genitals didn’t happen as that slip or jump gave Guy a merciful end. Nevertheless his body parts were scattered to four corners of the kingdom, both as “prey for the fowls of the air” (Fraser, Antonia (2005) [1996], The Gunpowder Plot, Phoenix, ISBN) and to warn off other treasonous swines.

These days British celebration of failure involves toffee apples, parkin cake, bonfires, effigy burning (like in Lewes), and processions. The Observance of 5th November Act 1605 means to celebrate this failed treason was law but by the 25th March 1859 it was repealed. A fairer world. However, Bonfire Night carried on. I recall many damp autumn nights filled with sickening smoke from too many fireworks and bonfires killing the dreams of the unborn Greta Thurnburg. In later years I tired of the bonfire and funfair commercialism and sought to see the artistic firework displays. Still, they’re special days. It’s just a shame they’re mostly so commercial. It is what it is.

Guy Fawkes 13 April 1570 – 31 January 1606. He was what he was.

Ta’ra! Zai jian! 再见~

The End of Time.

Hello! How do! 你好~

The notion of time need to go. That’s how author Paulo Coelho answered Laura Sheahan for a Beliefnet.com interview. Everything is eternal and there is no time. He said that “time is another of these things that help us go through life”. Professor Stephen Hawking would have been proud. This was the closest I’d got to understanding anything written by the great professor, and it wasn’t through deep science.

Instead the vessel of discovering enlightenment came through a multifaceted faith-crossover text, The Alchemist. Since Qiezi (茄子) gifted me this novel, I’ve had to read it twice. Time on a hospital bed granted me a third visit to the pages. Actually, visiting this book again was like embracing an old friend. A welcome return to the familiar. And like all good friends, there’s always something new to encounter together.

Whoever is the Fatima of my Personal Legend and wherever the pyramids are that I seek, perhaps today in this hospital I’m encountering my own crystal glass shop. The cliche-heavy book is relatable in many senses and my biggest take home is change. We must always adapt and accept that very few things remain constant. If one day you can’t breathe easily, then the next you may improve (or not).

The simplicity of the book, through protagonist Santiago, tells a sweet take about keeping faith and discovering your destiny, despite the challenges set before you. Now Santiago’s visions set him on a journey that teaches more and gives plenty whilst indulging you and I as a reader in the do more, see more, be more mantra of life. If it was a Coldplay song it’d be about opening up your eyes.

The short read delves deep into fate and manifestations with a strong sense that the universe is pushing your path in front of you. Rich in symbolism, folklore and spirituality, Paulo Coelho has made me want to explore every other text he’s written since the Brazilian started publishing in 1974 (in his late twenties). His Portuguese books have spread globally and been aided by translation. Popularity has been earned. Now, which students can I put the Chinese and English editions into their hands? I’ve been gifted these words. It’s time to share this world.

Goodbye. Ta’ra! 再见~

Vimto Underdose.

How do! Hello! 你好~

I’m up to 4 subcutaneous injections and 6 other blood extraction or CT Scan related pricks. That’s ten holes more than my nod started with on Tuesday morning. It’s been a funny old brace of days. The red notice behind me is still red. I’m still on oxygen. I’m checking my urine and stools for blood. The fantastic attentive nursing team are keeping me on my toes whilst keeping me firmly off them. The bed complete with side bars feels like an oversized cot. I haven’t breast fed but the toilet methods are dangerously close to nappies (diapers). Something to catch the manure for salad farming is always necessary.

It seems that today’s ultrasound from feet to neck, missing nowhere, is key. It missed nowhere. Nowhere. Everywhere accountable. Shyness wasn’t an option. Anyway, this full body check aged 39 and week isn’t a bad idea. We all need a check these days. Men’s health. Women’s health. All need it. So much to watch out for. Best to catch everything sooner or we’ll be customers of the Grim Reaper.

The love and care shown by colleagues has been overwhelming. Betty in Human Resources has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Her peer Maggie has called by once too. They’re a lovely team within our TWIS (Tungwah Wenzel International School 东华文泽国际学校). When the first doctor suspected myocardial infections and heart troubles, Betty supported me and calmed me when I worried that’d be the end of my job here. It could still turn that way. Maktub (it is written).

My first day in was not only scary, it was terrifying. I’ve never really been in hospitals. I still cry every time I go to Crumpsall hospital in Manchester. I was born there. My Nana and Granddad passed away there. I hold fear for these unknown wards and uniformed peacemakers. It’s a mixture of illogical and emotional over – thought. They’re so often the keepers of our destiny.

Jamie and Jaime delivered some essentials like positivity and snacks on my first day. The comedy duo born in different lands were well welcomed by a nervous and worrisome patient in bed number 9. We nattered about owt and nowt for a wee while before they left putting wood in t’ hole.

Miss Ann, our esteemed principal and leader, swung by with Miss Nicole and Miss Junny from her office. It was like a Royal visit. I couldn’t get up and bow. A deeply touching visit. They brought a huge basket of fruits and enough water to fill a swimming pool. Very caring indeed. I’ve heard many, including Miss Ann, are covering my classes. I’m thankful. Also, Betty called by again.

Yesterday, the doctor in perfect English explained everything about pulmonary embolism. She said they’d investigate my veins. All of them. Neck to feet. There’d be particular attention given to my right calf and thigh. Today’s ultrasound definitely lived up to her words. I’ve never needed to pee so much! Ultrasounds mean nil by mouth and no toilets in the preceding four hours. Since then I’ve been told I should be out in a week’s time and under a three month medicine recovery programme. Accepted.

I miss my Dad’s salads. Dad is my no means a chef. Michelin stars were not meant for him. He’s an artist trapped in a body that was formerly a painter and decorator. And he should be a gardener. Dad does gardening well. He’s a clever man but his calling seems unanswered these days. Age is not an excuse. I love my Dad and I miss eating his salads. They’re rich in cucumber, fresh tomatoes (locally grown ones, always), seasonal greens and mushrooms. Never a bad salad at Dad’s house. Our kid, Ace, with his Mrs Stephanie do good salads but Dad’s is best. Simple and hearty. Sorry to Mum’s Paul who also makes a fantastic salad. Too much thought goes into these artisanal salads. They taste delicious. No doubt. They’re in my top five salads. Sorry, but Dad wins. I say all this because the Lauren’s Pizza salad I had for a late breakfast/lunch wasn’t bad.

My homeroom in Grade 8 have been busy planting my mint outside my classroom. They’ve also prepared a card. I do like Lisa’s little steamed bun-pooh shaped character on the bottom right. I hope this unfortunate hospitalisation gives students the motivation to create and do things because time is precious. They’re young and have the chances to do anything with a bit of hard work. They shouldn’t be anywhere near a hospital. Even though I’m here, I’m wishing their studies well. All of them. I can’t wait to hear poetry and Shakespearean arguments from the Language and Literature classes. That’ll be when I’m out. Soon.

Ta’ra! Goodbye! 再见~