Screen time.

How do.

Twenty classes a week of forty minutes each time. That’s 1600 minutes of screen time. A further week of online teaching to follow. That’ll be another 13 and a third in hours. That’s 40 hours looking into a camera before adding marking time, writing comments, preparation time and other activities needed to perform online classes. There are 360 available hours across 15 working days. Upto 120 of them should accommodate sleep (based on 8 hours sleep). At least 2 hours a day should be spent on reading, writing by hand and keeping the brain sharp.

The above discounts relaxing watching a TV series to switch off a little. That further screen time is an optional necessity. Hobbies and pass times make us who we are. A further 15-30 hours slips like a victim of Ozark onto the screen time tally. The addictive nature of the American drama-thriller Ozark drives further screen time. Marty Byrde’s predicament and the twists in the tale place that screen time closer to the full 30 hours. You need to know how series one concludes. Six and two thirds of an hour fills that first week of our daily post-online teaching.

Putting aside the Mexican drug cartels for walking Panda the dog takes up at least two hours a day. His little black and white legs need the pavement pounding. That’s a minimum of 30 hours gone. Happily gone, in fresh Dongguan air and winds with rain. Songshan Lake town’s reopening greeted our walking routes well. The township has treelined paths and gardens with roots. a the North-eastern end of Dalingshan does not quite match it. This town has its own long-lasting industrial revolution.

120 hours of sleep. 40 hours online. 30 hours dog walking. 30 hours of TV. 30 hours of reading, writing and puzzles. 360 hours over 15 working days. Too much screen time. My eyes have suffered. Coupled with the need for air conditioning at times, the dehumidifier for external 98% air humidity sweeping through the doors and now I’m feeling an opticians maybe a good shout. Apparently, after enquiry, I was told I must book one via my phone. Screen time.

Tonight is Earth Hour between 8.30pm and 9.30pm. It shouldn’t be difficult to switch all devices off. The desire to disconnect has been rampant this last two weeks. I suspect the next week shall be no different. The tomb-sweeping festival follows the week after this. Qīngmíng Jié (清明节) means ‘pure bright festival’ and this brightness or clearness celebrates ancestors. Around March and April, spring arrives bringing warm air, clearer skies and a more jovial atmosphere. It gets warmer, although in South China’s Guangdong it could be argued that the climate here hasn’t really been cool for some time, despite occasional cool snaps.

Qingming festival has a Cold Food Day, the day before the festival. No fire or heat should be used. Think of it as an old-fashioned Earth Hour dating back to around 1046-221BC. The Zhou Dynasty’s festival has origins in celebrating emperors and the wealthy. Even today some celebrations are extremely extraordinarily extravagant. Most people simply upkeep and repair tombs. They use their big brushes go sweep away the many fallen leaves of spring in Guangdong. Food, wine and incense are placed accordingly. Joss paper is set alight and a few thousand plastic plants are distributed regionally. Families often go on spring outings too. Although in Dongguan, following a smattering of COVID-19 cases, gatherings and tomb visits are banned this year. Bloody coronaviruses. I’m sure Dongguan did the same last year and the year before. Bloody COVID-19.

Screen time has also given me chance to communicate with home. It’s good to see Mum up and about on her road to recovery, accompanied by Paul and their adventures of pottery and gardens. Tomorrow is Mothering Sunday (or Mother’s Day) in the U.K. Every day should be Mother’s Day. Happy Mum’s Day. I would send flowers but that means more screen time ordering them online.

That’s that for now. Tally ho. Toodle pip.

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.

Notes [From a Small Island]

Good morning/afternoon/evening/night / How do!

“I finished the last half of Lord of the Flies in a single afternoon, my eyes wide, my heart pounding, not thinking, just inhaling….My rule of thumb as a writer and reader–largely formed by Lord of the Flies–is feel it first, think about it later.” – Stephen King, author (It, The Mist)

  • William Golding’s Lord of The Flies is a text visited by GCSE students both at home in the UK and their iGCSE counterparts around the globe. The striking cover of the Deluxe Edition released in 2016 by Penguin Classics really stands out. In fact, looking at the numerous editions of this novel, and there are a good span of releases, all the covers tell their own story and draw you as a reader to the opening of the covers. Not that you should treat a book by its cover. I guess the students of grades 6-8 selected this cover because of the visual. It pictures a character looking like a watermelon had exploded during his evening snack time. The introduction by Stephen King and foreword by Lois Lowry were too modestly placed to catch the eye.

I must confess that during my secondary school days of Reddish Vale High School, that our English classes did not visit the works of William Golding. However, I was vaguely aware from friends at other schools of the works. In fact, I made a point of reading it within the confines of the old Levenshulme Library. Because, it was a time when The Lost Boys movie was talk of the town, I’d often muddle the two tales but oddly I had never watched the vampire teenage horror movie.

Luna displayed detailed writing and explained her views accordingly. The introduction was relayed in a clear presentation. This allowed future teaching to be differentiated to her specific needs. Understanding the significance of phrases and descriptions, Luna has explained her answers clearly. Students were given the chance to collaborate and exchange views. During this opportunity Luna listened both carefully and gave her views in response using text-appropriate examples. Luna’s interpretation of the island from the Lord of The Flies was detailed, annotated accordingly and she could orally relay the symbolic locations within. When creating timelines of the story’s events Luna used a clear format, added comments and kept the work clear. Luna worked tirelessly to complete the revision activities in a way befitting the final unit exam. Luna displayed a sound understanding of the questions presented to her. She gave her efforts to the challenge and now needs to check the marks available and how to details the answers accordingly. If six marks are made available then three sentences with appropriate details and conjunctions is likely the minimum expected.

May used strong vocabulary and detailed writing with reference to the text Lord of The Flies. Her understanding was clear and set out in an organised fashion. May was able to orally discuss her following of the work with her classroom peers. May discussed many questions and possible answers in a small group before expanding her confident findings to the entire class. She went further in asking questions of her answers that led her to a deeper reflection of the novel, Lord of The Flies. From May’s interpretation of the island from the Lord of The Flies it was clear that she takes pride in her artwork. The neat and carefully set-out work allowed little room for misunderstanding. May’s use of timelines was varied and detailed, often using quotes and key points. May completed the revision tasks to a high standard ahead of the unit examination. For May to give suitable chances to gaining fuller marks, she must look at the point weighting and try to suitably apply points to each mark available. Overall her written answers are well structured and feature good levels of reference to the key text and her experience.

Nathan covered the key points of the early chapters and was unafraid to voice his opinion. He often placed questions about the predicament the characters within the story faced. He formed a good hypothesis about where he believed the plot would lead. Nathan could at times show his distaste towards the novel but he would also justify this well. The vocabulary-heavy text of a book written in a different land and time gave him opportunity to cast his answers, heavily coated in his thoughts. Nathan created a clear outline with finite detail throughout his map of William Golding’s imagined island. He explained the symbolism throughout and discussed his reasoning with peers. Nathan used timelines to good effect and displayed the relevant information accordingly. Nathan displayed an impassioned view within his review of the unit. Nathan must pay attention to the marks available and decide how to weight his answers accordingly. Extra paper had been made available. Not double checking the meaning and rereading a question cost Nathan 6 marks, which was highly unlike his previous work. He completed a clear and well organised exam paper with reasoning, opinion and clarity throughout.

Gabriel selected appropriate vocabulary and details for his initial analysis of Lord of The Flies. He confidently organised and produced text to support his views. Talking to write has helped him to set out his work well. Gabriel’s focus on the text fluctuated from a passionate advocate of the writing to that of someone who dislikes the descriptive content. His answers attributed the base points and did not shy from opinion. Firstly Gabriel made a draft of the island taken from William Golding’s novel Lord of The Flies. From this he neatened up and slotted his work together into a pleasing final output, full or relevant detail. Gabriel favoured an expanded format of timeline, rich in detail with appropriate quotations from the novel’s dialogue. Gabriel’s revision work was clearly drawn together and his use of comic illustrations was welcomed by the teacher. Gabriel must give all his attention to the marks available. This will allow him to decide how to weight his answers appropriately. Extra paper had been made available but was not requested.

Henry used a calm and steady tone to relay his outline of the early chapters within William Golding’s Lord of The Flies. He set his work out clearly and asked appropriate questions to his peers. Henry reflected the answers to match the questions using simplistic formats and clarity. He would benefit in the future from adding a little more passion and widening his vocabulary usage. Henry explained the symbolism of the island and went further by logging the symbolism within his notebook. He created a key to his work and could orally explain his positioning of the island’s features, referring to the novel throughout. Henry created numerous timelines at several stages of the novel and worked well to explain this to his peers. He led by example, sharing an exemplar of what was expected. Henry’s linear and concise writing in preparation for the final unit assessment was both careful and considerate to the need. To allow Henry to give attention to the marks available he must decide how to weight his answers appropriately. Extra paper had been made available but was not requested. Large gaps will cost marks.

Benny used his inquiring nature, his confidence and his collaboration skills in ways to support his early understanding of the novel Lord of The Flies. He has utilised his enthusiasm and curiosity to good effect, often displayed within his writing style. Benny’s timing at writing answers needs a little more urgency, however his spoken preparation work has been second-to-none. He articulates his thoughts with clarity and even questions them appropriately to refine his final work. Now, he needs to take more care in presenting those words on paper. Benny created an island with aid from researching the internet for other interpretations of the island’s shapes and features. He extracted and explained his choices, and noted several common representations led to a pattern. A little neatness goes a long way and Benny’s strive to turn cluttered work to tidy output was noted as a sign of his progression throughout this unit. Benny’s writing preparation for the final unit assessment was a little light in volume but his work to date has been adequate to show his overall understanding. Benny should give all his attention to the marks available. This will allow him to decide how to weight his answers accordingly. Extra paper had been made available but was not requested. Unlike other formative assessments Benny did not detail as in depth as before. He can do so much more. Next time he will deliver with more gusto.

Chael is laid back in character but hit his understanding. With a little more effort and careful checking he could develop clearer written interpretations of The Lord of The Flies. He is often highly enthusiastic and energetic, but requires a little more focus. Chael could deliver more. He must take more care in writing and checking his output. At times he can orally present a fantastic set of findings, but the material delivery of such words is mostly absent. More differentiated writing practice will allow him to develop. Chael researched island shapes, land features and attached them to his understanding of William Golding’s island. He noted the features mentioned in passing, as well as the central landmarks of the story. After some encouragement Chael set out a clear and detailed timeline of events. To the teacher it seems that Chael can fire out words like a machine gun, however, it is also apparent that he needs encouragement in checking, checking again and reviewing. This will reduce Chael’s potential final reflection content. Chael must pay attention to the marks available and decide how to weight his answers accordingly. Extra paper had been made available but was not used. The strength of his answers is smooth and clear, but he would benefit from using quotes or reference points.

Kingston has a very relaxed attitude to classwork and must understand that production of work is completely different to oral relaying of a text such as The Lord of The Flies. Whilst he said this was his second visiting to the text, he must understand that reading for pleasure and reading for deeper analysis and understanding are far removed from one another. Kingston sometimes is shy and unassuming. His opportunity to talk and prepare is frequent amongst the classes, yet silence stunts his chance. He must engage fully and find those word in his soul that are crying to get out. He is more than capable. Pick up a pen! Kingston needed pushing to complete this task. Finally at his own pace he completed a basic outline. He could explain the features and common landmarks of the island but did not write these down in his notebook. With encouragement he is capable of a good output. Kingston needed pushing to create and explain his chosen chapter of events. He produced the work after the deadline and needed support from classmates and the teacher to finalise his work. Kingston did some revision work but he is certainly capable of much more. Between not completing homework, some choice comments within his answers and a distinct feeling of idleness, Kingston has given less than all his efforts to this summative test. The teacher shall be setting targets and goals with Kingston to allow him to reach his full potential. 

The Lord of The Flies has since penetrated culture in innumerable ways. It’s even been reflected back at us through real-life situations such as Tongan boys trapped on a remote island. Historian Rutger Bregman documented this remarkable story in his book Humankind. These six boys

“Lord of the Flies is one of my favorite books. I still read it every couple of years.” – Suzanne Collins, author (The Hunger Games)

Thank you kindly for your time.

Goodbye! Ta’ra!

Fuck You COVID-19!

Bad morning. Bad evening. Bad day.

Actually, I want to greet you all positively and wish peace and love. It just doesn’t seem suitable. The title of the writing seems like bad language, but it reflects my mood for an approaching date. My Mum always said that words like fuck, bastard and arse, amongst the plethora of curses are just ways of expression. I agree. When we say that piss and twat are bad words, we empower their misuse. Some words like cunt are extremely terrible. I try my best to avoid usage of all these fecking shite words but some days they are just so appropriate.

I am writing this on September the 4th. It’s fast dawned on me that September the 12th is on the horizon. I want to vomit out the words that are rattling around my head now.

September the 12th hasn’t always represented a bad day in September, and for many there have been far worse. For me personally, it isn’t the absolute disaster of a day. Far from it. I’m sure it’ll be a pleasant and wonderful day indeed. It just marks an unwanted anniversary. It represents exactly two years since I left Mancunian soil for China (via Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region etc). The day after the Vincent Kompany testimonial, Uncle Ed delivered me to a flight, alongside my friend Maria and a shedload of luggage. Who’d have thought that the world would go tits up?!

The summers of 2015 to 2019 have all been enjoyed in Great Britain. In fact 2014, marked the longest I’ve gone without summer at home. It being shortly after the February of moving to China. 2020 and 2021 have not given chance to see family or friends back on British soil. Nor has there been a chance to meet half way or for overseas visitors to call by.

I understand that for many, it is the same. For a many people, losses and tragedies have been their visitors over this pandemic of annoyance and continued uncertainty. It’s the uncertainty that this winter or next summer, mobility to see family and my best friend may or not be possible. I’m optimistic but these days it is better to be realistic as more sensible. Right?

Concluding the writing should not involve a message of peace and love. I’ll always wish you all, friend or for, family, flamingo doing flamenco or fungi, peace and love. Today’s scribbling will partake in a list of fuck you messages. It’s only appropriate.

Fuck you to COVID-19. With all due respect to viruses and diseases globally, you’ve really got on many people’s nerves. Enough is enough.

Fuck you to the origins of COVID-19. Tut. Tut.

Fuck you to the conspiring conspiracies. Don’t believe the truth?

Fuck you to the bullies of Wuhan. It’s a city. It has people. People have feelings. Spread love, not hate.

Fuck you Donald Trump. Profits high? Definitely.

Fuck you to those who divide. See above.

Fuck you to those who profited at the detriment of others during this hugely annoying era. There’s a huge increase in billionaires and millionaires, and wealth shares.

Fuck you Man Utd. Always appropriate.

Fuck you to all nations who have politicised this pandemic. You know who you are.

Fuck you those who failed to act and swept away those who wished to speak. Also applicable to the Afghanistan situation. And Rwanda. And countless other events, mostly involving Team America: World Police.

Fuck you to the silencers of the voices. Opinions may be like arseholes, in that everyone has one, but words are powerful and beautiful things. As Mel Gibson said, in Braveheart, “FREEDOM!” before he got in trouble. Terms and conditions apply.

Fuck you Boris Johnson, the budget Donald Trump. Sniveling little inhumane turd of a shriveled up scrotum of a man.

Fuck you to the dismantling parties of the NHS (a bonafide British treasure). See above.

Fuck you to the sneaky laws and regulations that exploited the pandemic conditions. UK included. The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) could be fined for saving the lives of migrants? Those laws as are fitting for the 1930’s Nazi Party.

Fuck you to anyone who doesn’t believe this pandemic is real and that COVID-19 is a lie. Wake up! Tackle it. Don’t deny it.

Of course, using the phrase fuck you is negative and wrong. I rescind all of the above. Stay positive.

Until the next time, when I see family and friends, peace and love!

John