Spirits on the leaves

Look. Look closer. Amongst the undergrowth. Spotted it? Felt the life within? Can you sense the kingdom of plants?

Shapes cast shadows across the nearby wall. The silhouette is as broad as it is tall. Light flickers its forms to reform, deform and sojourn without call. Edges of leaves curve up and over like a ball. Some so thin and long they hang and fall.

Some plants tower. Others hide and cower. Some they flower. The plant pots here are full of colour. Each colour deep in power. Life-giving health abound this ground. Giving Earth another hour. Shaking with every rain shower. Under threat of no mower.

Fragrant flavours emit to air. Their treasure chest they do bare. Each plant at war together but living side by side as if fair. They share the same soil. Some dare to have green hair. Some tuck away in a tiny lair. Some dominate their fair share.

Rustling with every breath of the breeze, gently tap tap tapping, dancing like fleas. Wishing-washing and zipping around, on the platform above the ground. The scaffolding climbing frame with a green game. The same tame with toxins that maim. A plant is not always a friend.

Tasting the saps and sucking out all the moisture, bugs creep and crawl, feeding on it all. Worms wriggle and jiggle, deep in the soil, without a giggle. They all feed and breed and distribute many a seed. Some die and what not. They rot. Their end of time slot.

HEAR THE RUSTLING! The pitter patter of drops of rain bouncing on each leaf. The scraping and brushing if bending stalks and branches side by side. The air expands Nd contracts. It moves between each plant without care. It lifts a leaf here, and drops one there.

The kingdom of the plants. Come visit us. Watch out for the ants! Bring out your best buzz!

A Tougher Christmas Away From Home

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae,

MERRY CHRISTMAS

圣诞节快乐 (shèng dàn kuài lè)

Here we go, here we go, here we go… Christmas is coming. The turkeys and other winged edibles are getting fat. Not that I can judge, as I’m a tad chubbier than chubby. The festive season isn’t my favourite. Too many selfish and greedy Christmas dreams of the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures or Lego made it so. Actually, I’ve been very lucky at Christmas and maybe when I was young, I never quite appreciated it the same. When you’re a child stuck between divorced parents in a place called limbo, not knowing quite who or where you’d be, it isn’t easy. Some years I didn’t write Christmas cards to family because they’d be wasted. The year after I’d do it again, and they’d be unneeded. I think this shaped my adultlife more than I care to mention. Today, I am toying with electronic messages for all. There are rainforests afterall. Or there were, at the time of writing. Less so, by the end of each sentence. Trees have sentences too. Usually a stark chopping sound. Or do they use chainsaws?

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How, I wonder what you’re at! Up above the world you fly, like a tea tray in the sky. Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How, I wonder what you’re at!

You’re homeless bat. The chainsaws just ripped through the stumps of the tree housing your crevice home. Goodbye bat. Oh, I think I have gone off topic. Back to the tinsel and baubles. I guess living in China and witnessing a very commercial society buy and sell everything Christmas for the sake of it, plus seeing life back home. The haves. The have-nots. The stripping of traditional values and beliefs make me long for family. Just family. Good times and days out. It is far better to enjoy time with those you love – and love you, than to say, buy them an iPhone What-The-Feck or the latest Ex-Box™ (check your recycling bin). Is our quality of life becoming so material that we will develop crab claws like some sort of mutant Lego man?

 Happy Holidays!

佳节快乐 (jiā jié kuài lè)

The humble pillow case at Christmas would often double-up as a Christmas tardis of joy. For Astrid, Paul and I, there’d be treats, mayba a selection box, some fresh fruit and gifts inside. In hindsight I feel sorry for Mum, over the years, probably spending her hard-earned efforts and time on things to make us happy for a moment. The lucky thing is that the memories are there. The fondest moments are of seeing my brother Paul open is latest Dr Who or Harry Potter something-or-other. Christmas away from home is mentally exhausting. To keep busy and free of Christmas regret is the key. In that sense, I want this Christmas to bring my brother Paul closer.

I’m almost certain my brother Paul detests me. I’m tired of chasing a brother that needs to mature, take responsibility for himself and his place of living. I wish him all the luck in the world and offer him love. I hope he realises how lucky he is to have home there by him, at home. I hope he cuddles my sister Astrid and wishes Mum and Mum’s boyfriend Paul a joyous and wonderful Christmastime. Perhaps, he’ll go carol singing or wash the Christmas dishes having spent the morning helping to prepare the main meal. He’ll probably suggest they all watch Morecambe & Wise on television and peruse old family photos. Some reminiscing and pondering are permitted before a game of Scrabble or Monopoly. Paul is just a victim of my frantic typing today. Every Christmas I think about those that I should be closer to, and those I want to do well in life. There are many. I hope Paul and I are at peace. I invite him to China – and try a portion of life free of Almost Everyday Shit™. It’d be nice to get a bit more than a short arse reply. It’d be nice to be there for each other. It is probably my fault, for not being there when he needed me. Brothers and sisters are just like friends following university – we drift apart. The difference being that some brothers never actually got close enough to be good friends. I’ve always admired how Paul and Astrid have been closer than me and them. Shaun and Christina on my Dad’s side of the family are the same.

Believe it or not, I miss my brother – and we haven’t been close. I miss all my siblings, Asa (with Steph) down in cider territory, big little sister Astrid, Christina (the brainbox of the siblings) and Shaun (named after Shaun Goater). Being from a family that has a splatmark rather than a family tree, it has never been easy but now I am finally mature enough to understand. We each lead our own life and walk a different path. It is great to know that brothers or sisters are there for each other in some shape or form. I can’t wait to see them all again. I dream of taking a photo of us all together, and dining well. Maybe I am naïve but at least I am a dreamer – and I know I’m not the only one. Cheers J.L.

So, for Christmas events so far, I’ve managed to dress as Santa Claus at the Shenzhen Blues. That day was long, with a few hours of costume chaos, orchestrated by Kat and Stephen as they paraded us like lambs to the slaughter. Fed on a light turkey lunch, Rebecca (my adoped Christmas wife) and I gave out gift baubles, certificates and smiled for countless photos. Following a swift coffee and natter with a legal friend, we cracked on for the second act. The meal, quiz and raffle seemed to whiz by, then City played at 01:30am local time and coffee would have been more use then. Bed at 4am, with City’s first defeat fresh in mind. Shenzhen Blues raised about 1300rmb for A Heart for China charity. Not bad for 10RMB tickets. Oh, and I met a professional Santa Claus, who was enjoying a drink after a hard day’s work in the hotel industry. He works all year, on photoshoots, promotions, as Santa – and even has a wedding ring with a snowflake on it.

In March 2014, I heard my first Christmas songs in China on loop at a fast food chain. Fast forward to November 2014 and I was told I could have Christmas Day off work with my colleagues.  Soon after I put up my Christmas tree and the happy season followed. I missed family and friends of course. Still, it wasn’t a bad Christmas in 2014. In 2015, I joined Hong Kong Blues for the Santa Stroll, had dinner with Hubhao, had a meal with colleagues on Christmas Eve before watching the musician Mr Walrus on Christmas Day itself. I still need to get round to completing that Chinese Proficiency Test, I set in 2015. In 2016 and 2017, I’d been Father Christmas at the Shenzhen Blues events. The former year involved a strange Christmas meal and the latter none, but Maria did go with me to a Christmas Eve concert. As for 2018, tell you later.

The week before last week saw a day of exams at school. I planned and organised my double science class for the JS2/Grade 8 students. It tanked. The behaviour of students on days with exams, plus their collective lack of interest in science doesn’t help. I should blame myself. I try, but once you get past showing toilet plant clips, the Titan arum plant, and trying to feed their imagination, then the technical terms are of little interest to them. If one boy, named Tony Stark, gets his way, then there will be no class. As friendly as he is, he blocks the rest of the class from concentrating. Sadly, taking out the leader is not possible. Engaging him as the central point of some activites has worked though. Further reading is required.

This week has been filled with pre-Christmas activities, similar to recent dance activities and a seemingly constant-flow of extracurricular… and I’m working Christmas Day, through choice. Wish me luck.

Nadolig Llawen i chi. Feliz Navidad. 愉快な. Lystig jul. Рождеством Христовым. Vrolijke Kerstmis. Natal feliz! Joyeux noël! Fröhliches Weihnachten!

 

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

The Trials of Life

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

Have you ever found your mind to be scattered almost everywhere simultaneously at the same time? Have you ever doubted the ground you stand upon as being this very Earth? Have you ever wondered why some things happen to you and not other people? Did you ever start to believe karma is real because once you threw a crisp packet into a litter bin, but it hit the side and blew away in the wind? Do bad days last forever? Has a music number from the genre of the blues been written just for you? Just exactly, how rainy is the day that never stops raining? If pain is temporary and class is permanent, then why did it hurt for so long? If good luck and bad luck are in a bar, then why does good luck choose to stay there and not visit you? How many instances of terrible fortune does it take to defy a fortune cookie? Did Coldplay write your life story? Anyway, it could be worse. I could support the Red Devils!


 

Today, a Thursday, and the fourth working day of a six-day week. Today and tomorrow are exams across the school. The midterm indicator exams. Nothing too special or worrying but amongst our foreign teacher team we have eradicated the need for oral exams at this time. Continual assessment and encouragement is of much more value. Besides it shows that you have more familiarity to the students and parents. For me, it has much more value. On Monday, Operation Greenblue commenced in class 1F. We have now five small rectangles of mint, lavender, rosemary, thyme, tomatoes and lemongrass in the process of growing. Even after two days, excited students peered upon the first sprouts of life. Marcus, the tallest boy, requested that we grow watermelons soon. We shall do our best. Victorie, the tallest girl, has given us all a huge rosemary plant. I encourage their enthusiasm and in turn their new plants will discourage mosquitoes. Meanwhile. my own small crop in my apartment is emerging well. Bye, bye mosquitoes?

 

In around 3 weeks we must stage a school drama and I am working on a script. I’ll add it after the final signature. I want something original and challenging for my 6-7 year-old tribe of talent. That’s why I am here, right? To be the CHAMPION equivalent of Pep Guardiola in the classroom. Surely, I cannot stop evolving simply because I have taught the words long, short, same, and different, this is not enough. Aim high. Later the job will be more rewarding.

 

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

Act 1: The dawn chorus [Music: Bring Me Sunshine, Ashleigh Wood]

Location: by a tree.

Lewson (narrator): A new day is dawning and all around the tree, sleepy nights are ending with waking yawns.

Sabrina Sunshine: Wow. Today will be a beautiful and bright day. I will make sure of that.

Aaron (bird): Yes, what a delightful day it will be.

CK/Tik (bird): I can’t wait for some yummy worms today.

Hardy (bird): I’m going to sing in my beautiful voice and wake everybody.

Doris (bird): I am a bird – and that means there is no homework!

Angela (Miss Rabbit): I love hopping, shopping and beat box popping.

Kristy Kangaroo: I like hopping too. I hope you get to see me hop all day!

 
Act 2: The Storm steals the sun [Music: Blue Moon]

Location: by another darker tree.

Allen (narrator): A naughty team is being led by Naughty Natalie. She really is very naughty!

Naughty Natalie: I don’t like the sun. It is all shiny and bright, shining in the sky so happily.

Monster Marcus: Yes, I like a dark night with the glow of the moon.

Typhoon Tyler: I like wind. Lots and lots of wind. I don’t mind of it is sunny or dark.

Marline the moon: I shine best at night. I need the sun for my light, but I can reflect with a smaller light if needed.

Tony the Tiger: Naughty Natalie, I have an idea! Let’s steal the sun and give the moon a new home.

Leon the Lion: Oh, you are naughty but I like you!

 
Act 3: The hunt for the sun [Music: Benny Hill theme tune]

Location: a tree by a small bridge.

Alice (narrator): In the U.K. people are always looking for the sun. Today, all around the world, many more animals and people are looking for the sun. Will they find the sun? Will they save the day?

Happy Henry (goat): I’m big Happy Henry, they all know me. I eat grass, whilst you sit on your…

Billy the kid (goat): Stop, I’m Billy the kid, a goat that did, not do homework, for I was chewing some grass, sat upon my…

Jimmy Jams (goat): Stop! I’m Jimmy Jams, a goat who slams, words for fun, out in the sun.

Candy the Caterpillar:  I have too many legs. It takes me an hour to tie my shoe laces. We’ve been walking for hours looking for the sun. It is too dark to find our lovely sun.

Kitty Cat: Don’t worry, I’m a cool cat and we look for food at night. That’s right. We can find anything at night. [Kitty Cat trips over in the dark]

Jumping Jessie Cat: Meeeeeoowwww, sunny, sunny sun, where are you? The sun is far too big to hide!

 
Act 4: Saving the sun [Music: Run Boy Run]

Location: A different tree, that looks like the other trees.

Allen (narrator): Many hours passed. A team of superheroes was called into action. Let’s get ready for action. Action!

Rocket Roselle: We have been flying around schools, parks, hospitals and even Manchester but we cannot find the sun!

Super Soffy: We can look around like the Old McDonald song. We can look here, there, everywhere…

Daring Dongyee: [sings] Old McDonald had a farm… [laughs] We can save the world, one step at a time. Where shall we look now?

Doctor Evan: I have been thinking and the sun is too big to hide. It must be on the other side of the world.

Kind Kelly: Okay, let’s go. Super Soffy and Rocket Roselle, you can fly there. Doctor Evan, Special Sharon and I can take a taxi.

Special Sharon: I might walk there. I don’t like taxis.

Altogether: Off we go, to save the day! We are stronger together!

 
Act 5: Altogether now [Music: Fight for the right to party]

Location: by two trees.

Allen (narrator): Our bold heroes find the other side of the world. After waiting for the taxi to arrive and making a very large payment, our heroes find the sun. The sun is trapped by Naughty Natalie.

Super Soffy: Give us back the sun!

Monster Marcus: You will not stop us. Ha ha ha. You are no Super Baby!

Doctor Evan: A baby can’t be super. I’ve never even seen a baby cook for themselves!

Typhoon Tyler: We will fight to the end!

Sunshine Sabrina: I just want to shine in the day and make everyone happy.

Daring Dongyee: Okay

Naughty Natalie: I will win this fight. Ha ha ha.

Marline the moon: I want to be alone – all by myself. No sun. Just me, the moon!

Tony the Tiger: Grrrrrreat

Leon the Lion: Let’s eat the sun. I bet it tastes lovely and hot.

Kind Kelly: You will do no such thing.

Special Sharon: I don’t want to fight!

 

[breakdancing battle]

 

[rock, paper, scissors fight]

 

[arm-wrestling fight]

 

Justin Time: Wait! Wait! Wait! Stop! Stop! Stop! We all need the sun. We all need the moon. We all need day to play and we all need night to sleep.

Doctor Evan: Yes, Justin Time, you are right. We need to be friends. We must enjoy both the day and the night.

Jumping Jessie Cat: All we need is love.

Altogether: {sings} du du du duhhh

Victoire Violin:

[sings] I love you. You love me. We love each other and we’re family.

Altogether: [sings] I love you. You love me. We love each other and we’re family. [and dancing]

 
Students bow to audience and say, “Thank you kindly for watching our performance. Have a happy day today, tomorrow and keep smiling!”

[Music: Hello Sunshine, Super Furry Animals]