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

ERIC CARLE June 25th 1929 – May 23rd 2021

224 words shaped so many bedtime reading sessions. Bedrooms around the world were greeted with a heart-warming tale of growth, albeit through humour and a spot of seemingly obesity. The story has radiated like the light from the moon, from pages in over 60 languages to beaming eyes looking at the colourful intricate nature of the tale.

“That’s something I learned in art school. I studied graphic design in Germany, and my professor emphasized the responsibility that designers and illustrators have towards the people they create things for.” – Eric Carle

Eric Carle didn’t just write that one book of course. His designs, illustrations and words have appeared in numerous texts. Having dropped his first drawings in 1965, Aesop’s Fables for Modern Readers (Peter Pauper Press), the new-to-the-scene and relatively young illustrator was spotted by educator and author Bill Martin Jr. One red lobster in an advertisement led to a lifetime of colour and creation.

“We have eyes, and we’re looking at stuff all the time, all day long. And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.” – Eric Carle

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was an award-winning book collaboration with the late author Bill Martin Jr. Thereafter cardboard editions, die-cut holes, inflatables, plastic pockets and multiple versions of artwork with words began to grow and filter from Eric Carle to the world. Countless children have lived and learned through rhyming picture books and used string in one of his many creations.

“One day I think it’s the greatest idea ever that I’m working on. The next day I think it’s the worst that I’ve ever worked on – and I swing between that a lot. Some days I’m very happy with what I’m doing, and the next day I am desperate – it’s not working out!” – Eric Carle

The story of the story-teller is ever more remarkable. This was a man, who his wife Barbara Morrison, strongly believed had held a form of post traumatic stress disorder. He’d dug trenches on the dreaded Siegfried Line of a World War II battlefield. He’d seen death at first hand, aged only around 15 years of age. But then, darkness turned to light over the years: “One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and – pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.” Okay, it wouldn’t have been that simple, but Eric Carle refused to bow down and give in. Years of toil brought his mind to a place where writing was permitted. An audience was earned. From Germany in World War II, he returned to his country of birth, the U.S.A. and found his way from Syracuse to the New York Times as a graphic artist.

“Let’s put it this way: if you are a novelist, I think you start out with a 20 word idea, and you work at it and you wind up with a 200,000 word novel. We, picture-book people, or at least I, start out with 200,000 words and I reduce it to 20.” – Eric Carle

Via stints back in Germany, for the U.S. Army (during the Korean War) he went on to be an art director at an advertising agency. His collage techniques, rich in hand-painted paper, featured layers and slices of vivid imagination set out as tiny pieces of artwork. Nature and wonder have set tones throughout his simple stories. These stories have been warm and inviting, and give hope to children, especially those new to schooling and education.

Papa, please get the moon for me is a tale of great importance in my opinion. It shows us that imagination is wonderful, even if it is breaking something seen as impossible. Whoever told me that Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny weren’t real, or anybody for that matter, that breaks the dreams of a child, deserves a good long look at themselves. Reality and imagination can sit side by side, otherwise Neil Armstrong, or Elon Musk or Celine Dion would not be around. Ability and knowledge need the company of spark and dream – and that’s where imagination grows.

“They are deceptively simple. I admit that. But for me, all my life I try to simplify things. As a child in school, things were very hard for me to understand often, and I developed a knack, I think. I developed a process to simplify things so I would understand them.” – Eric Carle

As I sit typing words and reading about Eric Carle’s history, I recall flicking through glossy covers of his books, and the joy as my face beamed when I discovered a translated copy in Hengli, Dongguan. That beautiful familiar white cover with a caterpillar and a red apple missing a mouthful, all slightly imbalanced, as if to say, and to appeal, that things aren’t always neat and tidy. One day when COVID-19 passes and the world is a little more tidy, I dream to fly to Amherst, Massachusetts to see the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. That would be as good as finding another Uroballus carlei on a trip to Hong Kong. The Caterpillar Jumping Spider’s Latin name is testament to the reach and pull of a world class picture book writer.

“My father used to take me for walks in the woods. He would peel back the bark of a tree and show me the creatures who lived there. I have very fond memories of these special times with my father and in a way I honor him with my books and my interest in animals and insects.” – Eric Carle

ERIC CARLE June 25th 1929 – May 23rd 2021