Against the flow of traffic

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

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



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


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


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


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



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

The big interview - Felipe Scolari!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Lest we forget. The lost lives & futures.

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


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


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


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




Relax, take it easy.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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

I'll add more in time.


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


Some more great Christopher Reeve quotes:

 â€œA Hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure inspite of overwhelming obstacles.”

 â€œIf I can laugh, I can live.”

 â€œI'm not living the life I thought I would lead, but it does have meaning, purpose. There is love... there is joy... there is laughter.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 â€œHe was like an untied balloon that had been inflated and immediately released.”


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



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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

P.S. the title is taken from William Shakespeare's MacBeth.


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

The trials and tribulations of life: Justin Bieber

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

#201: The 201st post

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


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


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


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


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


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

Devoid of common sense?

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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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

Xiegang Town


Xiègǎng Zhèn Xiegang

Huangjiang Town


Huángjiāng Zhèn Huangjiang


Chang'an Town


Cháng'ān Zhèn Chang'an

Fenggang Town


Fènggǎng Zhèn Fenggang

Machong Town


Máchǒng Zhèn Machong

Shijie Town


Shíjié Zhèn Shijie

Gaobu Town


Gāobù Zhèn Gaobu


Zhōngtáng Zhèn


Qingxi Town


Qīngxī Zhèn Qingxi


Hongmei Town



Qishi Town


Qǐshí Zhèn Qishi

L5B: Guangcheng Culture Square - Yuehui Park

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



The first smile after loss

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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Time to chase the showers away

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


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

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

“Is it still hot outside?”

“Yes. Will you join us?”

“Will there be air-conditioning?”

“No. Will you join us?”

“How hot is it?”

“Around 30 degrees. Will you join us?”

“Is it very humid?”

“Yes. Will you join us?”

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

“Yes. Will you join us?”

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

“No. Will you join us?”

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

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

“I feel too hot right now.”

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

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

“That can wait. Will you join us?”

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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



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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


To Peter, rest well my friend.


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


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


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




I’ll be a man in the shadows

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


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


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


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


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


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

Farewell to Our Pete

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

Bloggered off, blog on

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


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


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


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


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



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

Seismic shifts of stupidity?

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


Today,  1 GBP is around 8RMB, yesterday it was 1GBP to 9.75RMB... and now comes the dark days of uncertainty.


As the votes come in for the European Union referendum of the U.K., it is clear and present to all that see, that Wales has no interest in the E.U., nor do areas with high unemployment and pretty much anyone north of London and not in Scotland.  This shows massive fraction in the U.K.  There is a debate about whether education and knowledge matters.  That again is a fragmented view.  People are fed up with the current U.K. leaders, and they could be using this vote to force a change.  There is so much at play here.  The U.K. has always been disjointed and the state of the union, whilst peaceful, is far from solidified.  People want change, not that they’ll be much change as the value of the pound drops and drops.  With this uncertainty will come a period to reflect and hopefully a rise from the ashes.  In the meantime, anyone in Wales that has directly benefited from E.U. Objective I funding, or those who have enjoyed free university as a result of indirect benefits due to freed up money in the Welsh Assembly, shame on you.  If you are given an apple and choose to eat it, don’t spit out the seeds and expect others to grow a plant for you – and then refuse the rotten trees that grow from them.  A murky analogy?  Everything is grey, not black and white.  Everything.


An independent U.K.?  Or a global U.K.?  Calm and rational look?  Invoke article 50?



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

Crossing the finish line.

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


Wear a smile on your face.  That should be a guideline to life.  I try to live by that philosophy.  Every now and then, I struggle to show a smile.  Today, my last day at Dao Ming, is like that.  I can’t help my feelings.  I’m not worried about leaving or missing the teachers and students.  I’m clouded.  Shrouded by a combination of exhausation and anger.  This last week, I have been made to sing for my supper far too often.  I’m not a businessman and I am certainly not aggressive enough for contract negotiations.  Even just raising my demands, citing loyalty and quoting that others get bonuses hasn’t been enough.  Loyalty dies the moment the unspoken trust is broken.  I should have learnt this many times before, but like an obedient puppy, knowing no better, I persist.  And here I am.  The final day.  1318 classes since I began.


This week, every class has been cancelled to allow for exam preparations, graduation rehearsal and so on.  I’ve been strictly told to “ask the school to ask the company” about next semester.  Nobody knows, this is it.  Miss Jiang asked me some advice for her plans next semester.  She wants phonics and pronunciation to be a focus of classes next semester.  Elocution and articulation is important.  It’d make a good warm-up section of the class for ten minutes or so.  I don’t believe it of great importance to grades 5 upwards.  I’ll miss consulting with Miss Jiang and the other teachers.


Today, Friday, I had been asked to say “farewell” to students in grade 6.  Snowie’s classes, 601 and 602, were free after 2 o’clock.  Summer's classes 607 and 608 had to be seen in period 3 or 4 before lunch.  The other classes (Apple's and Nancy's 603-606) were visited in period 2.  In middle school, Class 701, at 13:30, wanted to say farewell too, after lunch.  Class 702 would have liked to, but there was a clash of availability.  Teacher’s availability of classes, exams and other such importances gave good reason to prevent a farewell to the remainder of middle school’s students.  In some ways, I’d prefer to slip out quietly, unnoticed, on others, I want to be seen to say goodbye.  Maybe, it shouldn’t even be my choice.  Perhaps, the students should choose and not me.  For me to choose is selfish.  On Wednesday, the grade 9 teachers invited me to the graduation ceremony (on a date to be agreed).  Likewise, Grade 6’s Nancy advised I should attend the graduation ceremony of grade 6.  Again, no date has been forthcoming.


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

I have had enough.

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


So, yesterday, contract negotiations, with the company I work for, hit a brick wall.  Splatt.  I’ve had a loose opportunity from GMA primary school (a partnership school to Eton House), a few schools in Guangzhou, an offer of 21,000AED (around £4000) from a school in the UAE… and so on.  So, I asked for a tincy-wincy rise from my company, they said yes, but with no bonus.  I asked for the bonus too.  They said I can retain the current salary and have a bonus (which I worked out would be the same as the tincy-wincy pay rise).  So, I asked for both, they reduced their offers.  Yesterday, we ended talks on the matter, because they want my commitment before the visa is extended.  So, now, I said I wanted to stay, but feel their offer is unfair.  I know this because I know of teachers locally on more.  I was offered a better role at Songshan Lake, which is a tad far from here (where I have a contracted apartment until November), so can’t take that role.  The company I work for know this.  They seem to know everything.  What they don’t know, is that I have packed my bags and apartment away.  I have had enough. 


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

Dreams are there to be earned.

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


Last week, marked the end of the oral English exams in grade 6.  Two students did not complete their exams as they had left school for the remainder of the semester.  In class 608, Peter, 1.71m tall, and easily the tallest male student in his grade, couldn’t answer a question about which student was the tallest in his class.  In the same class, after three attempts, Tody, clammed up, spokne not once, and scored a feable 25%.  His teacher said he never ever tries.  Shame, because, I managed to start to get him trying until she walked in and hovered over him, putting him down with words like, “you never talk English.  You must.  You are so bad.”  I felt so angry at her for that.  Later, I tried again.  No joy.  With less pressure, I’m sure he will try one day.  He has talked a little to me in class.  Class 607’s Peter reminds me of my friend, Peter.  This Peter is 1.4m tall and cheeky.  So, is my friend Peter.  Well maybe 1.42m tall.  I asked a student who is seriously overwight, how heavy he is, he is 1.7m tall and 100kg.  I am 1.94m tall and 110kg.  His response was, “I am fat. Yay.”  I hope this not so poor kid, thinks it is not a good thing!  He needs a salad or two, every day otherwise his health is at major risk.


On of the questions is simpy, “What did you do last weekend?”  Sometimes, the responses are so plain and it requires some digging.  For example, in class 607, Joanna, “I washed my clothes and did my homework.”  To which, I delved further, “What else did you do?”  The meat on the bones reply followed, “We went to the beach and played games in the sea.”  The interesting material is saved for last!  This seemed to be the case throughout the exams.  I had to push and push for something that detracted from the inside-the-box textbook response.  Also, by affirming that the answers were far better this way, it builds a student’s confidence by direct feedback.  From the same class, Bobby, 1.45m tall, small, very smiley, always bright and inquisitive had to be told to stop.  His conversation for the final task was wonderful.  From 606, Emily, in her square nerdy-looking glasses told me how she, “loves fishing with her father.”  A theme throughout the exams.  Even when walking about fishing, the passion is clear, that this is a big thing here, and fishing with fathers around Father’s Day, sounds most pleasant.  Personally, fishing sounds dull.  But good company and a natter with your Dad isn’t a bad thing in any sense. 


The final class over the finishing line, was class 605.  Beadlets of sweat on the students’ noses seemed to occur all the time.  In this class, May, from the province of Henan, personified this extra nose sweat.  She shown no other signs of sweat.  Her awkwardness, 1.76m tall, seemed to be from standing head and shoulders above the rest.  We compared notes on being tall.  It seemed to be a gaucheness, I could relate to.  With blinged pens, working hard throughout all of the exams, students like Harry Potter-glasses wearing Honey, who I taught last year in Grade 5’s VIP classes all scored well.  Her pen had an Eiffel Tower hanging from it.  I do so hope these students get the chance to learn well and travel the world.  Dreams are there to be earned [earnt is acceptable but highly ucommon].


Travelling from Houjie to Xiàmén (厦门), around 620km away, took around 5 hours.  The 15-minute bullet train between Humen Railway Station to Shenzhen North, for the connection of the long distance train (Shenxia Highspeed Rail), was swift.  It hit over 300km/h.  The latter train was less swift but not exactly slow.  On the bullet train, I went faster than any other boy has ever gone.  And my skin was raw, but my soul was ripe.  An amazing piece of engineering.  That was my Friday evening.  Followed by a collection at Xiamen North Railway Station, where we met a man with a sign saying Gulangyu Cup 2016 (by sign it was an A4 piece of paper with barely readable words), and a drop off at the Tangdair Hotel around midnight (睿弘唐代尔酒店(厦门新轮渡码头店)厦门 湖里区 东渡路85号 ,厦鼓轮渡码头旁。).  Santi and Juan went clubbing.  Ideal pre-tournament ideas.  I bunked with Lucho in a twin bed hotel room.


We awoke for breakfast at 6.30am, gathered at the poor breakfast buffet restaurant.  After being handed a boiled egg on entry, we took a look, noticed the lack of carbohydrates then scattered to the coach, hungry.  With a still drunk Santi, and a not so happy looking Juan we set off.  Even before kicking a ball the format of the 2016 GuLangYu Cup stunk of class.  A team photo and blurb appeared online of Murray’s F.C.  The forms of registration and processes were simple and clear.  Assistance was thrown at us in the shape of discount on the train travel.  The total cost was 3800RMB (we paid 1000RMB deposit; and 900RMB on the day).  1900RMB was not charged to us, as we’d paid that to the trainfares.  Effectively it wasn’t a bad weekend on the wallet, because trainfares cost around 384RMB for a return journey.  The hotel costs 200RMB for 2 nights each.  Food and drink on top was met by your own wallet.  That said, on the day of the tournament, things were included.  At the tournament in included a ferry return journey voucher, a voucher for a juice, one for a hamburger, two beers, a Dutch waffle, an ice cream, and a sports massage.   After the game a free beer was available too. 


On departure by ferry, the view was magnificent.  The gentle morning sun caressed the prominent Gulangyu (鼓浪屿) and the bold granite Statue of Koxinga (國姓爺; Guóxìngyé).  Often known as “The Island of Music” (音樂之島), Gulangyu attracts serious numbers of tourists annually.  On stopping at a hole in the wall breakfast place, I had a quick chÅ«njuǎn (春卷; Xiamen Spring Roll) and hǎilì jiān (海蛎煎; an oyster omelet) for breakfast on the island.  Neither filled the hole.  On debarking, we walked from the small port, up the narrow, under renovation streets, passing a few western style eyesores (that golden M) and then seeing a few closed shops (it was too early to trade) before reaching the Gulangyu People’s Stadium.  A sense of peace could have been noted, but for pneumatic drills and construction sounds.  Here, only electric government service vehicles are permitted – these are small and barely evident.


The stadium, set underneath an exquisite looking mansion, and with the backdrop of Mount Lit-kong-giam (日光岩 Sunlight Rock - the highest place on Gulangyu).  After the prompt official opening ceremony, our game was first up.  MFC v Beijing Barbarians.  We lost 2-0.  The first goal was my fault, I was caught between two players, the ball to my left and allowed a man to drift central for a simple goal.  The second was a direct shot which I should have got behind.  I needed a better breakfast.  Next up, last year’s runners up, Xiamen BOBO FC fielded a team against us.  We were the better side, but you could see a team used to cramped fields (the fields were sub-7-a-side conditions) and without offside the found space, twice.  Our final group game was a Guangdong derby, facing off against The Lions FC from Shenzhen.  We romped to a 2-0 victory.


A break in the schedule allowed us to enjoy Shanghai Mint Girls FC face off against the newly formed Xiamen International Women’s FC.  It was a totally once sided affair, leaving me time to read the programme notes.  â€œWe bear our football dreams in mind and ready to carry it from the metropolitan city of Shanghai to that of the GuLangYu, Xiamen City.  You can see the Mint Girls playing football happily everywhere, either on the dusty fields or the wild green sports pitches. Mint Girls.  Go, go, go!”  Yes, that had clearly been translated.  Actually, the standard of their team was ultra-professional.  Their neon green with highlighted sponsors, less so.  Even their crest is vile.


Eliminated from the Gulangyu Cup competition, we entered the Gulangyu Plate competition.  We started with a bang.  Well, Doug did.  A 5-0 hammering of Hong Kong Krauts FC, in a blood and guts game saw the injury list rack up.  I had my foot stamped on, and well Doug, he had a faceful of something.  His nose broke and away he whizzed in an ambulance.  He later had it straightened up in hospital.  Next up, Suzhou Arabian Knights F.C., in the semi-finals.  On their debut season in the highly competitive Suzhou Football League they immediately became champions.  Murray’s FC had a testing game and proved victors.  1-0.  The final proved to be one game too many.  It was always going to be a single goal affair.  A cruel goal in off the woodwork saw Murray’s F.C. come runners-up.  Following the conclusion of proceedings, we departed the GuLangYu People’s Stadium alongside Hong Kong Krauts FC.  The battle remained on the field, but off it, we were all friendly. 


After Lucy, our Japanese assistant helped us on the coach get to Rasa Sayang Restaurant.  The journey was 40 minutes long, and seemed to pass entirely through tunnels and bridges.  On arrival a few problems with wristbands (Juan had forgotten his), Doug too (but he had the excuse of several hours in hospital with a busted nose) and the lack of live football (Belgium were playing Ireland on the TV) caused half our group to flee.  The other hand waited, very patiently, for food.  It was good.  Armed with a few free beers we legged it back for the town.  We met the others by a bar watching the football.  Here on Revolution bar in Xiamen and a couple of bars nearby carried me through to 2am.  Then I went to rest.  Sunburnt and sleepy.  The following late morning-early afternoon under the tiny shadow of the Hulishan Fortress (湖里的堡垒), we joined Beijing Barbarians for a spot of football tennis.  I sat in the shade for the most reading about the local area.  For the future, I want to visit Kinmen (金門).  A ferry can be taken from Xiamen.  The return journey was uneventful (aside from almost going to the wrong return railways station), sleepy and a little smelly.


On Monday, I tried luóhàn guǒ (Monk fruit/罗汉果/ 羅漢果) in my tea, at school.  Beyond that, all classes were cancelled.  Today, Tuesday, all classes are cancelled…


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

[These words are in brackets]

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


As the penultimate week whistles by at an alarming pace, I sit here looking at an ever-reducing pile of oral English exam papers.  Classes 601-604 (less 8 students, no present on Sunday) are complete.  Following last week’s Dragon Boat Festival holiday, school resumed on a Sunday.   The Thursday timetable was applied accordingly.  With it classes 601 to 604 had their oral English exams in the grade 5/6 teachers’ office.  The fourth floor location offered respite from the harshly humid heat of the outside and the noisy classrooms that stretch out along the concrete with tacky tiled corridor-balconies of primary school. 


In class 602, an unhappy and sleepy looking Alice (by far the most advanced student in the school for her degree of spoken English) told me, “yesterday was my birthday.  I spent the day travelling back to school.  Her classroom mate, Young, a stuttering boy with some behavioural traits that can please and scare in equal measure came in next.  He has always been very vocal, uncontrollably so.  He tries hard but is easily fed misinformation by his peers.  His usually reasonably choir boy-like voice, was squeaky and deep in patches, like a rollercoaster screeching around a bend before thumping heavily along a straight track.  I think his voice is breaking.  Soon after, Willson and Bobby, both very unaccented, confident and capable students.  Both scored perfection.  Both, alongside Alice should advance far swifter.  Class 601’s “Little Einstein” Bobby, who loves maths and physics, entered the fray next.  He told me how much he, “hates English classes and P.E.  They stop me from learning science and maths.”  What I am particularly proud of is the fact that Bobby recognises the differences between English (Traditional/U.K.) and English (Simplified/U.S.A.).  He always tries to note the spoken and written differences by either writing with U.K. and U.S.A. in parentheses or brackets.  He once told me, “in Science you must know the difference, it is important.”  I didn’t have the heart to tell him most people don’t know what brackets look like [these words are in brackets]


The afternoon’s exams whistled by like the Orient Express fast-tracked by a pushed French TGV train.  Oscar in class 603 said he was happy, I asked why, “I am happy because I have a new pencil case.”  It’d be a far better world if more kids took joy from something so simple.  I remember being his age and all my classmates wanted the latest Sega Megadrive or Gameboy, Nike Air Max, and all that jazz.  From class 604, Camble (who dropped his Samsung tablet smashing the screen, on the last school trip) exhibited the usual cheerful smile and said politely, “I only want 100 points if I am very good.”  From the same class Anna, a usually quiet student in class, with her small birthmark on her nose, came in with a smile and would not shut up.  The three-minute exam lasted six minutes.  I was amazed at how much she talked.  James, our very own class guitar hero, who can sing many Bon Jovi numbers came in and we skipped the usual exam format in favour of discussing music and who his heroes are.  In fact, members of “John’s team” (that’s what they called us on the recent school trip), Mike, Lucas and Jimmy all answered clearly and we opted to discuss other matters, such as what movie is best at the cinema, where to travel in the world and so on.  Lucas and Jimmy are a pair.  They are inseperable.  I hope they go to middle school together.  Neither knows which school their parents have selected. 


The ever clever Mary, who said she travelled 26-hours to Sichuan after school last Wednesday evening and returned to school on Sunday morning, following another 26-hour journey looked cream-crackered, properly knackered.  She wants to return to Dao Ming but feels, “my parents will take her to a more advanced school.”  Smart kid.  Another smart kid, named Alice, when asked, “Why are you happy?” replied with, “I am happy because maths is very interesting.” Maths!  Not math!  Also, how many kids truly like maths?  I used to until year 9 of secondary school at Reddish Vale High School.  Around then, sets happened and the class pace slowed down for too many assessments.  Comparable to China, we were barely tested back then, and rarely had homework…




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

The writings on the wall

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


Someone asked me yesterday, "Why do you only ever write about football in HubHao?"  To which I felt a little bemused.  I responded that I prefer to write about cultural clashes and historical pieces.  I had a look this morning, I've only written three football reports and two articles about Guangzhou football.  In fact, breaking down the range of articles covered, I am disappointed to this close-minded view.


Two weeks ago, I reviewed an amazing band called The Big Band Theory from the Phillapines.  That article will be published soon.  Tonight, I will go to Qiáotóu (the village in Houjie and not the district in north-eastern Dongguan) to watch the dry dragon boat race/competition.  Then, tomorrow I am going to JiuZhou island (九洲岛) by ZhÅ«hǎi (珠海) to a one day/one night music festival.  I don't know what to expect, but it sounds most interesting.


Sports related articles (6): 


On The Terraces Part I – Blue Dreams

Cycling From Chengdu To Moscow

On The Terraces Part II – Red Screams

Dongguan International Football League – Round 8

Dongguan International Football League – Round 5

Dongguan International Football League – Round 4

The arts (5):

Arts Review – Mark Lotz And A Fula’s Call

Arts Review - Mr Walrus

Atlantic Attraction at Brown Sugar Jar – Arts Review

The Big Band Theory - yet to be published.

Magic Island music festival - yet to be published.

Social culture (2):

Hash Harriers - A drinking club with a running problem

Going For The Bullseye

Shopping (3):

Shopper’s Guide to Shoe Market

Shopper’s Guide To Bike Street

Shoppers’ Guide To Wanjiang Sportswear Street

Teaching (3):

Tips For The Classroom

Tips for the Classroom

Tips For The Classroom

Bars and restaurants (6):

Restaurant Review - Revolving Restaurant

Bar Review - 28 Over Par

Winners Bar - Bar Review

Restaurant Review - Munchalots

Gigg Club (Houjie) - unpublished.

Pioneer chateaux alliance - yet to be published.

Chinese and  Western culture (8):

The Case For And Against Having An Ayi

The Case For And Against Learning Chinese

Badasses Of Chinese History - Yue Fei

The Case For And Against Driving In China

Badasses Of Chinese History – Hua Mulan

How To Survive Going To A Cinema

Badasses of Chinese History: Zhuge Liang

Dragon boat festival - yet to be published.



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


Is life a never ending exam?

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


Last Thursday night, I went to see a band (with Ben, a local musician and English teacher from Reading), Searching for Something, from Sweden at Brown Sugar Jar in Nancheng.  They weren't bad, but not one to shout about.


Last week marked the start of the grade 6 oral English exams.  Classes 601-604 had the honours of the first round of exams.  Tom, 1.37m tall, from class 602 has always been a giddy and happy but shy student.  His spoken English level surprised me and he certainly deserved 100%.  Rex, from the same class, came into the teacher’s office shortly after lunchtime.  Several teachers were still napping, “This is the teacher’s office, we should be quiet.”  Here after we whispered the spoken exam.  Again, 100% was scored.  From the 72 exams, they ranged from 80-100%.  A good day.


A bad day.  Saturday’s game, in Tangxia, against Matteus’s team (he is a local football coach of Brazilian origin) and his Martins Brazilian Football Academy was never going to be easy AND against the elements.  It was too hot for an afternoon kick off - and will remain so until September.  They had to win it to clinch the title and a substantial 10,000RMB prize.  We had to make up for the previous weekend’s 10-0 defeat.  By Friday evening, of the 23 available players, we had 13 available.  In the afternoon as we departed, we had just 11 players.  A huge storm arrived, almost blowing the game away and washing us away.  We were saturated, deflacted and tired losing 7-0 at half time.  With four players, I had never met before, a goalkeeper standing less than 1.5 metres tall, we needed a miracle.  It never came.  We lost 11-2.  A windswept journey back, a bite to eat (fish and chips) at Murray’s Irish Bar in Dongcheng, a swift passage along the subway to Liaoxia and I wrapped myself up and watched The Brothers Grimsby.


An ugly day.  Sunday, was supposed to be spent watching the Wanjiang dragon boat races but with torrential rain and fierce winds, I favoured a morning of reading books.  In the afternoon, I joined Murray’s F.C.’s Sunday league team just as cover but did not play.  Thankfully, everyone turned up!  Afterwards, I had food again at Murray's Irish Bar, opting for an all day breakfast burrito and wedges.


Monday’s classes in grade 8 were halved to just two classes.  The teacher of classes 804 and 802 has taken almost half of my classes this semester.  Tuesday marked a return to the oral English exams in grade six.  A one to one exam for the best part of 350 students certainly takes time.  I’m just touching the half-way point… with some students, it can be funny and most are very clued up.  Some, like Susan, in class 607 are witty and wise.  Having spent the whole semester, greeting me with, “May I have candy?” the exam was little different, “Can you give me 100 points and candy?”  I told her the different name we call sweet tasting sugary confectionary.  She now knows the words sweets and confectionary.  She asks for all three often and upon completing the exam, this was no exception.  Many more exams will follow for all, at every level of school.


I’ve always admired how hard Chinese students work.  From kindergarten through to middle school or high school, senior high school and beyond.  The gāokǎo (高考/higher education exam) is held annually.  It determines your fate.  As a prerequisite for entrance into most higher education institutions at the undergraduate level.  Two days of exams spread over 9 hours.  Your fate.  Your biros, your pencils, your mind.  Subjects usually include Chinese literature, Mathematics, and English language – plus one of either Humanities (文綜)or Natural Sciences (理綜).  The winners of exams, as they should be called after battling these monsters, get the Chinese equivalent of UCAS points.  Since 1952, these exams have hung over every student’s life and developed a way to map and pathway students to their futures, good or bad.  Their 4-6 choices of university or college hang in the balance (chosen before or after the exam – and in some cases after the results, depending on the province).  The BBC article here gives a good account.


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

Making good use of the things that we find.

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


Yesterday. was full of the joys of the message in Happy Children’s Day (儿童节快乐ér tóng jié kuài lè).  Grades 7-9 had classes whilst the children of the school from grades 1-6 had a day off.  As such, so did those teachers.  My grade 7 classes remained.  Was I envious?  Not really.  I enjoy teaching and I enjoy being in the team environment of my close-knit grade 9 office.  The grade 7 classes were good fun, with class 702 high-spirited and eager as ever.  They really are the exception in the school, they have a class full of bright sparks with few kids unwilling to try hard.  Hands are always up.  Screams and shouts are always there, "pick me,"  "her!", "him!", and so on...


On the way to school, sveral grade 6 students stopped me to ask them to join their trip to the cinema.  I declined with thanks, and explained that I must have classes.  They said I work too hard.  I replied, I don’t work nearly as hard as their native teachers.  I could have rattled on that I don’t start at 09:30hrs and depart as late as 21:30hrs some days; I don’t have 90 students’ comprehension, grammar or textbook homework to mark [there are actually two textbooks now]; I don’t have tutor group worries comparative to being a carer, parent and rock to rely on; I don’t have to attend grade, school and training meetings; I don’t have to do many things, but I do have to do other things, inspire, and innovate.  On the last day of May, we held a flea market, I created ten pence mix-ups (sold for 3-5RMB) from sweets purchased at Corners Deli in Nancheng, chocolates and biscuits from Dongcheng’s Walmart, and other smaller imported treats and titbits grabbed here there and everywhere.  Ultimately it cost 1200RMB for everything and it all sold, returning the same amount of money, well kind of… 8RMB shy of breaking even.  Because of the heat ten pence mix ups came in small recyclable plastic cups, as did the chocoloate combinations (After Eights, Dairy Milk, Twix and chocolate raisins) and the biscuit bunch (Hobnobs, Moomin crackers from Japan and some cereal bites).


On the following day (yesterday), the remaining sweets (three pouches from Turkey) became a good prize for my four classes.   That, and I shared some with the teachers of middle school.  As a teacher you muts make use of limited resources.  In grade 6, the resources must stretch over 8 classes.  In grades 7 and 8, they have to span 4 classes each.  Some things take a bashing.  Others stand firm.  Buying props or games does not mean they’ll stand the test.  Making things from shoe boxes (Houjie is famous for shoe production) or using old bottles etc, making giant weather maps, these are things that go down well.  Bright, colourful, interactive – and coupled with the wow factor of Powerpoint presentations featuring interesting imagery (moving GIFs help somewhat) create depth.  Forty minutes well divided (by lesson plans) into previous class review, current class warm-up, introduction of new materials, a midway review, a second introduction and then a finale review.  All this builds up over a semester landing my classes where they are now:  exam time.


The oral English exam is one double-sided sheet of A4 paper.  Here it is…

Grade 6 Oral Lesson Test


1a) Listen.  Circle the words that you hear. [10 points]

1b) Give a sentence for the two words I have marked with an X. [10 points]
































2) Which question(s) did you hear? 

Please answer the question(s). [40 points]

How tall are you?

Did you go to the movies last night?

How old are you?

How heavy are you?

What size are your shoes?

Who is the tallest student in this class?

What’s happening over there?

How was your weekend?

What did you do at the weekend?


3)  Use two sentences to talk about the chosen two pictures. [40 points]          

Picture one


Picture two


Picture three


Picture four






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

We womble by night and we womble by day.

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


"And the seas boiled and the skies fell."


Ghostbusters.  “We got one.”  The original movie was brilliant.  Ghostbusters II was a natural flowing continuation of it’s most innovative predecessor.  And then nothing, for 27 years.  Three of the four previous Ghostbusters cameo, alongside Annie Potts (Janine) and Sigourney Weaver (Dana Barrett), with Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd as producer / production executive and executive producer respectively.  There has to be a touch of the old ghost in there.  With the 1970s Columbia Pictures logo and the the film's first trailer became one of the most "disliked videos in YouTube history” this is a clash of nostalgia and reboots of biblical proportions.  Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!  I can’t imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light, but it could be totally a flop of a movie, or it could be amazing.


“Concentrate... I want you to tell me what you think it is.”


Yesterday, during school, we held Children’s Day activities with a top ten talent contest for singers from primary and middle school.  Following that we converted Dao Ming Foreign Language School into a bazaar – a flea market/car boot sale.  My Dad would have loved it here.  The students had their own stalls whilst us foreign teachers ran a kind of sweet shuop/tuck shop.  I spent 678RMB on sweets, chocolates and biscuits and we sold 670RMBs worth of goods.  That said, I did clear out a box of biscuits (hobnobs and Moomin crackers) for 10RMB just to end it quickly.  I could have charged the extra 8RMB.  Jack sold some basketball goods, Arvid sold some Swedish materials whilst Beth and Tess just helped.  I think asking foreign teachers to sell “international items, things we can’t get here in China” is pretty difficult.  Imported goods carry high prices and are selectively available.  A combination of French, German and English sweets made for a great sweet mix-up, like the old 10p mix-ups I used to have as a kid, except in a plastic cup and not a paper bag (the 32°C would cause the sweets to melt to the bags).


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

Under their noses a Womble may be.

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


After today, just 16 working days remain at Dao Ming Foreign Language School.  As June becomes July, I don’t know what the next step is.  Should I stay or should I go?  If I go there may be trouble, if I stay there will be double.  On Monday, I had my 1291st and 1292nd classes here.  Class 801 and 803 get this joy.  I was tempted to set off a party popper and inflate one balloon to mark the occasion.  At this juncture, my head is an enigma wrapped in a mystery shrouded by a cloud of doubt and uncertainty.  I’m not remotely worried anymore.  I’ve resigned my mind to the future all being a big pile of steaming shit, stacked so high that I no longer worry about disappointment.  Actually, I have a regret in life.  Going to university.  I wish I had never gone so soon.  The student loan debt sits above me.  Being away from the U.K. has caused a rise in the figure I owe.  I will and have paid for it in two and half years, without actually paying anything off.  I wish I had worked after college and found a more financially viable way to pay for my education.  In some ways I am proud to have studied – and in other ways I feel bitter as hell.  Actually, my degree was too low a result to gain a job teaching English in Japan and South Korea.  So, I have a non-universal university degree of varying degrees of value.  At least my credit score won’t be affected if I don’t look after my parents when they grown old…


With respect to the M.C.F.C. seasoncard, I am going to cancel it.  I cannot find anyone to look after it and I fear if I return to the U.K., I won’t be able to afford £600 for a season (plus all that goes with it).  Premier League and even Football League football, a working class game, is pricing out fans left, right and centre with its hyperinflated prices.  Also, no one can reastically look after it.  Sad days, it will be impossible to get a seasoncard in the future.  I had tried to relocate to the £300 seating areas but 7 hours of failed Skype calls and hold music let me down.  I never even had a response from City’s customer services.  A two-day relocation window, whilst I am located in China – and no one was free to call in person…. ah well, all the joy of going to the football is over.


Last week, I fell out of love with football again.  After recording Murray’s F.C. Maine Road’s first win of the Dongguan International Football League campaign (a 4-1 win over Winner’s F.C.) and a win against Poka’s Brazil F.C., I played a game too many on Saturday.  Our depleted team had a hammering.  The kind where everything went wrong.  Two of their goals deflected off me.  We conceded a dubious penalty and we had a player sent off midway through the first half.  At 2-0 down with only ten men, we went in at the break three goals against us.  After this break, we used our only two subs.  The opposition team used 7 subs in the second half.  Within five minutes of the restart my right leg and hamstring tightened to near immobility and our keeper made some terrible errors of judgment.  We lost 10-0 to Guangdong Football Academy and deservedly so.  The Guangdong stage of a national tournament to elect a third flight of football in China may not feature Murray’s F.C.  With one team already on 6 points and just three more games to go for them, we are facing an uphill battle.  Each province has this competition and the top teams will all form a national league.  We cannot field more than 7 international (foreign) players.  We managed 6 on Saturday.  Miguel [Spain], Ruben [Spain], Alex [Spain], Yura [Ukraine (red carded)], Barry [Nigeria], Juan [Colombia] and I [U.K.] joined 6 Chinese players (Dean and Buffon I knew of before) and we did not gel.  The heavy second half rain made play sluggish but we were poorly organised and with one player less, dragged left, right and centre.  It was a teasing game by a team of 16 to 19-year old boys far fitter and sharper.  Hats off to them, they earned their comprehensive win.  The age difference did not balance out against our collective game experience.  步步高昇 (bù bù gāoshēng): Onwards and upwards…

To be continued...


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

Wombling free

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


A regular Tuesday usually involves a meeting of the foreign teachers, four grade 6 classes from class eigtht down to class five, a ten minute English language video viewing and a VIP class in grade 5.  Today has not been the usual smooth flowing day.  I was late to school by ten minutes because of the profligate lashings of morning.  Even in a rainjacket I did not fancy wading to school.  The meeting was sparse as Wendy, our leader, was unavailable, forsook in the primary school building, unwilling to splash her way to her office building at the fair end of the playground.  Tess (freshly returned from the U.S.A.) was a few minutes late, Beth anxious about her day’s open lesson, and Arvid as relaxed as ever.  With a term end date for foreign teachers set to June the 26th, I am trying to find out my finishing date.  That does mean five or six weeks remain… as it stands.  We shall see…  Following the truncated meeting, I sped to an office and attended class 608 as normal, ish.  My VGA to HDMI cable fell out of my pocket as I walked, landed under foot and resembling a crumbled plastic pancake afterwards.  So, class 608 met chalky chalk and good old fashioned blackboard (even though they are green).  We played games and made sentences.  I skipped to the next class to find class 607 was cancelled and replaced by photographs of each student.  No worries, I spent my time on the last blog post.  After lunch, I had photos with several classes before returning to class 606 for the remaining twenty minutes of the lesson.  That was cancelled only two minutes later.  Class 605 would finish the day… the VIP class capitulated to the now heavy afternoon tropical rains.


Following an early evening of unsettled weather, Murray’s F.C. Maine Road kicked off at 9.30pm and drew a game against Red Lions (Dongguan) F.C.  That was our first point in this season’s Dongguan International Football League.  Next up, we have top place Murray’s F.C. ATFC in what we call a “civil war” between our two offspring clubs of Murray’s F.C.  The other offspring Murray’s F.C. Bilbao are also doing very well.  In typical Maine Road spirit, M.F.C. Maine Road are bobbins for results but great on effort and spirit, a little like watching City in the mid to late 1990s.  Murray’s F.C. played at the weekend, and like last Thursday, I took a break.  This week there is the Dongguan International Football League game tomorrow night, a Thursday night game in Liaobu (an exhibition game), and an 11-a-side league game on Saturday in Tángxià (塘厦) also.


Thursday’s school day was swept away for the primary school day trip to Vanilla World in northern Guangzhou.  I accompanied Nancy and some of grade 6’s class 3.  By some, I mean 3 students from 40.  28 were mixed amongst other coaches whilst the remainder remained off school with chicken pox.  As I boarded the coach with Tess, Jack and Arvid, a student Mary plonker herself next to me for the journey.  Amongst my pigeon Chinese, it was actually a pleasant journey with much discussed, as best you can with an 11-year old girl.  On arrival at the gardens/theme park, class 603 reconvened.  Immediately, one student Alan, shown how bored he was, and how bored he would carry on being all day.  The tour guide escorting our class around, looked lost and for the most of it, he was.  I offered assistance with directions every now and then, whilst others just followed without question.  He really was a comedy tour guide.  After hundreds of photos and just as many mosquito bites (despite sunblock and repellent) we stopped for lunch.  At which stage, I was allowed to wander free of my class.  I was immediately stopped by five class 603 students who commandeered me.  Annexed we became an unlikely gang, a tribe lurching from ferris wheel to bumper cars to the ghost house (actually, one third of my band were too afraid to enter; and I just walked around laughing at how much screaming the remaining trio of students could do).  After a hyper afternoon, we reconvened by a museum in the park where the students made the custodian look very nervous as they selectively swarmed over ancient artefacts.  Hands touching where it said “do not touch” and camerasa flashing the “take no photographs” signs, with sugary food being consumed and drinks splashing the odd glass surface.  I had told them to obey the rules.  They said they would.  They did for the most part of the ten minutes, then it was fair game.  That museum custodian had her honeymoon period smashed from her foremind.  Boom.  We soon boarded the coach back and joined the procession of traffic jams all the way back to Dongguan’s sunny Houjie.  The hottest day of the year so far had hit 35°C.  It was stifling, yet not so humid. 


On Friday night, I checked out a band called Deer at 8 Livehouse in Guǎnchéng (莞城).  Pre-music I tried pizza at Zoe’s Tea House.  The pizza was terrible.  The French fries equally so.  The drink was good.  As was the atmosphere with many boardgames and puzzles.  Next door there is a remote control car model shop and racing track.  There is a PADI diving centre nearby and a fake big wheel.  The whole area is filled with upmarket restaurants, cafes and bars.  It feels very plastic, like a movie set.


At the weekend, I visited HuYing Park (虎英公园) in Dōngchéng (东城) via bus 54 (2RMB) from Guantai Lu near Nánchéng (南城) bus station, after taking the L1 bus (3RMB) from Hòujiē (厚街).  The park is cleaner than most other city parks.  There are statues, trails and plenty of places to stroll.  The neighbouring hotel complex of Tangla does not interfere and it connects well to QiFeng Park over a bridge to the west.  The problem I have with the park is the noise from the small theme park, located quite centrally, fills most of the air with the sounds of "Xiao Pingguo" and other such non-works-of-art.  The ponds, streams, small pathways to the pavillion are pretty and there is evidence of some good wildlife in amphibians, insects (preying mantids, caterpillars and butterflies galore) as well as many beautiful sounds of singing birds.  If they turned off the mobile KTV boxes lining one hill, some people could escape the city and enjoy the cicadas gently humming - however, the KTV keeps the cicadas on constant alarm status.  It is a good park for someone with a camera and offers plenty of shade from the relentless sun.  Bring earplugs for true peace.


On the 28th of May 2016, Houjie (at Shanmei 珊美 and the Exhibition Centre 展览中心) and my local area of Liaoxia (寮厦)shall become more connected.  There’s a random stop a little far out called Chenwu (陈屋) which is barely surrounded by anything.  Line 2 of the subway/underground/metro/MTR trainline opens from Shílóng (石龙) in the north of Dongguan (by the Dōngjiāng river 东江) to Hǔmén Railway station (虎门火车站) in the south west by the Pearl River (ZhÅ«jiāng; 珠江).  The townships of Cháshān (茶山), Dōngchéng, Nánchéng become that little bit closer.  I’m familiar with the two latter townships but have not explored Cháshān (茶山).  Nanshe Ming and Qing village (南社明清古村落at 511700茶山镇南社村) is located there.  A short underground ride will get riders to Shílóng (石龙) and such places as Shílóng Golden Bay (东莞石龙金沙湾) – a nature park.  Line 1 of the Dongguan underground hasn’t even been started yet.  For now, I can visit trees older than 100 years old and one tree that is 300 years old in Shílóng.  There might be dragon boat races there too at Jinshawan.


The opening of the underground sees new possibilities for evenings out and gentle walks.  It does mean places like Cháshān will join the growing list of places in this city that I have explored.  Cháshān could offer surprises like Nanshe or something else like Dongyue Temple (东莞东岳庙), you never know!  Now all I need to do is find a way to Yangling Cliff rock carvings (燕岭摩崖石刻)…


With respect to next semester, I have had some good, some bad and some terrible job offers ranging from Shanghai, Dongguan to Taipei and Birmingham, but I might have to devote the weekend to the next ride.  I have been insulted a few times with low job offers, and questioned almost every time if I a native speaker.  What I then don’t get is that when they tell me the offered salary, I tell them how low it is compared to mine, and how they then counter offer with something equally as insulting.  What further narks me off is how many offer an incorrect visa.  I want to do things officially to show my experience and level of education – not to to be a cheap commodity!  That doesn’t show respect!  Without an incey-wincey bit of respect, I won’t be knocking on their doors.  Ultimately, I could remain at Dao Ming Foreign Language School… but I need freshness, and HòuJÄ«e (厚街) has changed so much, it really is a city now compared to the town I entered two and a half years ago.  The village of Liaoxia (寮厦) within is a different place.  A new beginning?  A new adventure?



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

Beyond the wall

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


It has been over a month since I have written on this blog.  In some ways I have been fighting a battle in my brain.  Half of me wishes to mothball the blog, the other half knows my desire to write is so great.  I have been busy scribing my debut novel and emitting words for HubHao of late.


On the HubHao front, a small piece has been compiled based on two weekend trips to Guǎngzhōu.  The first weekend being one to watch Guǎngzhōu Fùlì or R&F, (广州富力).  The latter to watch Guǎngzhōu Héngdà Táobǎo or Evergrande (广州恒大淘宝).  It is set to be published in June, as a kind of comparative piece on watching football in the west and east.  The 3,800 words were selected carefully, with half set for magazine publication and the remainder to be exclusively web-based.  The experience with Guǎngzhōu Fùlì was most welcoming and extremely generous by the blue team’s supporters, involving bountiful amounts of dancing, cheering and drinking afterwards.  After the game, at the red side’s team, which I had to barter for a ticket, it was much more difficult and less-inviting.  “Better dead than red,” is what should be said.


I’ve also discharged some words about a wine bar, between two recent matchday reports for the Dongguan International Football League (gameday five and gameday four) under my pen name Indigo Freeman.  I may change the pen name to Indigo Victor Freeman or I.V. Freeman sooner or later.  Back to football, it is safe to say, my Murray’s FC Maine Road are propping everyone up, after gameday seven (written by new writer Aaron Lowe).


Prior to this an article on Mark Lotz and A Fula’s Calling was published.  Sadly, at the time of publication it was found to us, that Abu Djigo had passed away.  I was quite pleased with the article and now it is a reminder, that life is precious, take all the beauty you can from it.  Good night, god bless Abu Djigo.


Of late open lessons, mid-term exams, prepartions for grade 6 and grade 9 class graduation, an international day and country profile detail have filled my time.  There have been some wonderful moments and the usual lows that remind you teaching is not meant to be easy.  Nor is working as part of a diverse foreign language team.  Culture differences between America, the U.K. and Sweden are just as challenging as that of Chinese-Western differences.  If not, somewhat worse, because you don’t naturally anticipate them or form your own prejudices from previous experiences.  A delayed middle school travel to Dàpéng jiēdào (大鹏街道) in Shenzhen (深圳) happened.  We went to see a museum at dàpéngchéng (Dàpéng Fortress大鹏城), a walled village fortress and have a barbecue at Dàpéng Wan (bay).  There are many people in this area that speak a mixture of Cantonese and Hakka, the Dàpéng dialect (大鵬話).  The area has some of the best coastline in Guangdong, a so called Oriental Hawaii.  The Dàpéng Peninsula (大鹏半岛) sweeps around the east of Hong Kong and looks pretty amazing (The 943.7m tall Wútóng Shān, 梧桐山, is a very distinctive shape in the distance.  Closer by there is the 869m tall Qiniang Shān, 七娘山).  It is a most popular weekend destination.  XiChong (西涌) beach is located there.  You can reach this on foot or by an often cramped bus E11 from Shenzhen North Station to Nan'Ao Terminus 南澳总站; then bus M232 to XiChong village 酉涌沙岗村站).  A famous person who hailed from this region is Jian Ting (简廷)Sadly, we can’t go to the pretty looking offshore island Peng Chau Tung (平洲東), because it is under the jurisdiction of Hong Kong.  At the barbecue, we had to catch our own fish and chickens.  Some students abandoned humane methods of chopping the fish’s head off, for bludgeoning with the smooth flat of the knife’s blade.  It didn’t make sense.  Once I explained the humane ways, they understood and some respected it.  After the wonderful barbecue, in a kind of shanty-village gardens, we explored a geological museum.  A most treasured and bizarre day without shit-sinking and cream-floating like some teachers I have met claim classes can be.


Last week, I had a visitor from Beijing.  Esben, a former foreign teacher (from my first semester in Dao Ming Foreign Language School) called by for a break.  He had visited his friend Jason in Fóshān, so the short journey down on the way to Beijing via Shenzhen airport, wasn’t too much of a detour.  He attended six of my classes and my grade 6 students, who he had taught when they were in grade 4, remembered him.  Well kind of.  His beard and longer hair was a tad confusing for some.  A few prompts helped them say his name.  Several teachers, the few that remained, greeted Esben equally as cordially.  Esben was lucky enough to join class 604, who were at half strength due to an outbreak of chicken pox in said class.  Bizarrely most students are allowed to remain in school, whilst several have spent time at hospital.  Most are thankfully better now.  It was odd going into a class, without being told and seeing desks far apart, with no two students inside within a metre of each other.  My class was based around greetings, high fives, fist bumps, hand shakes… with zero actions taking place.  Better safe, than itchy.


On the scratchy itchy front of life, this last fortnight has seen a drastic increase in the rise of the winged bastards they call mosquitoes.  I am thankful for no longer sharing an office with my heat-loving colleague Mr Yang Wenbo (Maths Teacher).  Bites have been sighted moreso, because Esben, whilst lodging at my apartment, managed to leave the mosquito nets ajar all too often.  So winged warriors of worry have delivered chew marks to by posterior, anterior and limbs alongside a few buzzes past my ear at night.  There is little comfort in being woken up by a mosquito at night and chasing, actually hunting, like a caveman after the terrorsome Daesh adherents.   I get why they exist, mosquitoes, not Daesh, and fully understand their ecological value but they don’t half incense me.  I’ve even been to the cinema and watched the Jungle Book in a kind of extra-dimensional setting with authentic fly nibbles to add to the experience.  Hell, they even shown up at Captain America: Civil War.  They just love the cinema feel!


It is safe to to say that the weather has gone from pleasantly warm to the lower levels of Dante’s Inferno.  The unbearable rung of humidity comes in drips and drabs, literally – as people say.  My apartment’s air conditioning is on for at least 50% of the time I am present.  The sound drowns out the neighbour’s pet hawk sqwarking on the staircase outside.  Yes, the neighbour has been setting their chick loose for a month now, it has grown and is now fearless of me.  The staircase stinks of bird droppings now.  And hawks eat other chicks etc, so it can be pungent at best.  SARS-risk aside, it is quite pleasant to see local people taking on pets such as dogs and cats but to see a hawk is far from unusual – it is practically unheard of!


Esben and I met Bright last week for a reunion and meal at Munchalots in Houjie.  Afterwards we met Bright’s friend, drank good tea and fussed a six-month old crazy border collie dog.  Bright’s friend has students at my school, so hopefully I’ll see more of that energetic four-legged friend. 


On Sunday afternoon, I had my bike fully serviced, a few minor repairs and parts replaced.  A new cycling computer (to replace one recently stolen from my frame) and a bag to fit beneath the handlebars added to a satisfying rebirth of the bike.  The Dutchess of Manchester is as good as new and rolls well.  Far better than last week’s sluggish rides back from football.  I could still race well against electric bikes and motorbikes when my wheels were more strained but it felt like an absolute chore.  The potholes of Houjie and beyond had hammered the bearings and buckled my wheels.  Now my bike seems to float.


Football has been busy with many games being played.  All have been a challenge but I seem to be just cresting my fitness right now.  It isn’t easy with the humidity but I am trying to get fitter and faster.  Eddy is back to shore up our inner sanctum board of players (Weng, Alex, Alain, Reuben, Eddy and I).  He has worked hard on securing a game in Tangxia to be watched by 2,000-20,000 students; games in Xiamen; a new league competition and several one-day cup games around the region.  I don’t know how he managed to get engaged with his commitments to Hubhao and a trip to watch Middlesbrough F.C. clinch promotion.  I give my heart-felt congratulations to Eddy and June on their engagement.  May they have long and happily complete lives saturated with joy and smiles.


I read many publications on wechat, via magazines and the like.  I am shocked at some of them, not because of their efforts to be outwardly controversial or critical of the People’s Republic of China, but purely because how mediocre and feable some of the text reads.  For example, how do the Chinese see foreigners?  Well a website called GUIDEINCHINA tried to generalise and tie them all together.  I hate being labelled.  They labled the type of foreigners found here.  “Foreign language teachers who can be in turn grouped into four sub-categories: A. genuinely professional, passionate teachers. B. older people in retirement willing to trade comfort for a more adventurous life. C. young people, predominantly male (with or without qualifications) who presumably 'couldn't make it back home and thus ended up in China'. D. tourists/stay at home wives-turned language teachers.”  Am I in catergory A or C?  It’d be easy to write a response on their forum and tell them where the horizon is and how to get there using expletives.  However, one statement I could totally relate to: “generally agreed among those surveyed that the attention foreigners get in China is disproportionate.”   Had it have said tall, I would have nominated them for the Chinese equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.  Interestingly, they mentioned the drive to China.  I certainly now have the “love for Chinese language/culture” but I couldn’t say any of the 4 reasons motivated me to come here.  I did like how the fourth question (Source of information to form impressions of foreigners in China) mostly stemmed from media portrayal.  When it comes to the below qualities, I see a few positives from many of my foreign friends here, and many friends who hail from this very nation.  I’d say generally, both foreigners and Chinese are equal here in the below qualities:


Open-minded, friendly, polite, well-educated, humorous, helpful, extroverted, sociable, funny, fun-loving, bar hoppers, party animals, sports lovers, financially secure, good-looking, pretty, athletic, creative, ambitious, egoistic, arrogant, superior-minded, rule-abiding, organised, religious, ambitious, straight-forward, progressive, aggressive, loud, selfish, stubborn.

We’re all individuals.  Don’t believe the truth…









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

A growl with bite

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


Let’s discuss dog meat.  My first instinctive response is to yell, I mean absolutely f**king scream at throat-damaging levels, “Why the f**k do you eat dog meat you lowlife, worthless, valueless anti-moral massaging selfish, insignificant malefactoring, dog theft inducing wrongdoing, villainous egotistical venal turd of a mercenary against nature and all things bright and beautiful, you empty and futile hollow soul of canine crunching canine b*st*rd of a supposed man?”  Then, I cool off in the head.  I ask questions, I think.  Why?  Why, oh why?  Why do people consider dog or cat meat?  How did it become involved in numerous festivals?  See Yulin dog, cat and lychee festival on any search engine. 


On the 21st of June this year, around 10-15,000 dogs and 4,000 cats will be subjected to death by extreme torture at Guangxi’s biggest festival, the 玉林荔枝狗肉节 (Lychee and Dog Meat Festival).  Why?  Who goes there?  How does this even exist?  People in China love festivals.  This festival was primarily a lychee festival but some knobheads in the media said it was “good for the health” in 2010.  Surprisingly, media influence has seen it grow in size and stature.  Dog and cat thefts have risen.  Actors Fan BingbingSun Li and Yang Mi (several Chinese celebrities) have spoken out in opposition.  Even Professors comment freely on this grim event. 




Good for the health?  Cortisol levels are higher in stressed animals.  If consumed by humans it can cause heart problems, impotency and general fatigue.  These are the very same things that eating dog meat was reported to solve.  Well done, so called experts.  They fell from the stupidity tree and smacked their heads off every thicky branch on the descent to the ground of dumbness.  There isn’t even a mention of biomagnification and the accumulation of toxic metals in the eating party.  This shit leads to genetic problems, cancers, prionic disease, current disease and viral resistance.  SARS came from bird consumption (that had reportedly consumed other birds), bat consumption led to Ebola, cows being fed other cows ground-up components led to CJD.  Are we digging our own grave again?  Vietnamese medical expert panels are concerned by gastrointestinal problems caused by dog and cat worms.  There are thousands of worm species, some good, but often in carnivores they do bad or fatal things.  Rabies cases on the region are above the normal levels.  Parasites, toxins and viruses can transfer by bite or other means.  With 10,000 dogs, it only takes one bite and the next pandemic begins…


To the credit of Yulin Government (an autonomous region) they deny it happens.  Covering signage, offering posters to take care when eating meats and asking doctors or food safety staff not to eat dog meat just n June is far from ending this immensely stupid dietary fad.  It is a fad.  With a ban or serious regulation (there are certificates issued for many dogs from dog farms) it could end.  Because of greed for money, dogs are stolen nationally, fake documentation is banded around freely, and smugglers use lesser roads by bike or truck.  Poison darts, crossbows, traps… the more you read, the more it feels totally inhumane and leaves a bilious nauseous swelling of bile in my stomach.  Should you or I ignore it?  Should we protest?  Should we spread the word?  In China, activists (it is legal to protest for conservation matters – but for animal wefare, I am unsure) post information on social media, cry out to the international community, and cause public outrage.  Some travel to the region.  I read Yang Xiaoyun, spent 150,000 RMB to save 360 dogs and in 2015 spent 7,000 RMB to rescue 100 dogs.  What one does with 460 dogs is beyond my imagination?  I’d imagine, euthanasia is the only path in some cases… maybe, euthanasia of dog and cat meat festivals is the ONLY right path.

Activism threatens businesses and trade.  When someone or something rich is pressurised they fight or flight.  Like a cornered angry dog with snarling teeth, fighting to live, they may bite back.


The hype draws people in from all over Guangdong, and even from overseas.  This is the summer solstice afterall, a hot time and an ideal time for a good festival.  As the party commences and before, many cats and dogs battle dehydration, because no one wants a frozen or refrigerated dog/cat dish of the day.  The consumption of dog seems ultimately one of profit.  No care.  Not a thought.  Just cold hard cash.  A thump over the head to end consciousness.  I once witnessed this from a dog here, it squealed a screech so unearthly it made me sick.  They then drain the blood and chuck the dog into a machine.  The fur is plucked and span away.  The dog is boiled.  If it hasn’t died, it is being cooked alive.  Without a machine, this process is done on hooks.  Again, with doomed and barely living dogs.  Each meal should come with a label to say, “All our dog and cat meat is 100% torture guaranteed!”


Wine, lychees, dog and cat meat are considered warming foods, important in culture.  That is to say they promote good health.  I can see how wine and lychees fit in the case, but man’s best friend and Tom, the hunter of Jerry don’t belong on plates.  As the build up to the gathering crowds to network, make friends, or even discuss business over a hot plate of stir-fried Yorkshire terrier, I can’t quite believe I am part of this inhuman race.  The businesses market the festival as one to boost blood flow blood flow (fertility and keeping warm in winter) yet all I imagine is slaughter and an invitation of destruction on our species.  Maybe nature will witness this and end our days.


When will it end?  If enough voices speak out and then someone massive, like global megastar massive, Jackie Chan or Yao Ming speaks out, then more will follow.  #DOGOFFYAOMING #JACKIECHANLOVESCATS #YULINLYCHEESNOTMUTTS #GUANGXICATSPROTECTION – you get the gist.  Coldplay or U2 can do it better than me.  Maybe Apple or XiaoMi can step in, #APPLEBOBBINStoDOGMEAT.  Yulin has a government progressing bit by bit and they listen to other governments, the media and celebrities.  This isn't about preaching or taking a highground.  Spain has bull fights, the UK eradicates badgers to fight TB, there are many other hypocrisies in the west.  But this dog massacre is pure evil.  Then, I think about the thousands of scattered restaurants offering dog meat in China, Vietnam, Mexico, Taiwan (banned in 2001 but still on many menus) and Switzerland.  Take out this one for now.  Let the others follow?  Or ignore it?  Something must be unleashed...




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


"An ongoing poll, published by the Xinhua State News Agency, said 87.9% of the 4,606 Chinese who had responded by Sunday thought China should enact laws to prohibit animal abuse, while 12.1% say such laws were not necessary."



Easter is east.

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


I hope you had a happy Easter time.  This Easter weekend resulted in the investment in some chocolate for my classes.  Kinder, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, and Cadbury’s Fingers have entered the fray.  They are all rewards for Easter themed virtual reality egg hunts on my powerpoint-based classroom games.  I started the theme of Easter in yesterday’s grade 8 classes.  Class 801 were abysmal as ever, they have a complete disrespect for all teachers.  Not just me.  I gain 50% of their collective attention at best.  Five students were asleep on entering the class and refused to be disturbed thereafter.  Of the five desks of five students, one desk failed to have any input.  Infact from the 25 students, only 10 students had any input.  They don’t fear the teachers in all classes.  They don’t look forward to any classes, despite most saying they want my class.  I’m told I get the best response from them out of all their physics, politics, maths, geography, biology, art and other English classes.  Even the P.E. teachers cannot find a way to grasp their enthusiasm.  In some ways, it reminds me of my lesser-spotted younger borther Paul.  He seems totally cut off from me.  This class are the closest thing to that.  If I died today, I doubt he or they’d care.  In stark contrast 803, try, try and try somemore.  Every student.  The rear of the class has been foricibly pushed forth by the class’s absolute commitment to having a laugh and learning at the same time.  They may have spent two years saying, “John, what’s your name?” but amongst their warm humour, they have shown strides of effort.  Class 804 moved from the morning period 4 to period 5 in the afternoon.  Three-in-a-row classes on a Monday certainly make the week easier to tackle.  Class 804 embraced the task well, as did class 802 in the morning.  I just wish I could grasp class 803 and bring them up to speed.  The Chinese English teacher Joyce has her hands full trying.  Her predecessor never had a chance.  Good luck to her!


At the weekend Murray’s FC were winning 8-2, and after some handbags the other team walked off the field shouting things like “shit foot” and “f**k crazy” which made the petulance all the more entertaining.  Our player, Werner, who had been fouled, had stood up angrily, and you could see fire in his eyes, yet he never lashed out.  They did, all their players were around him.  As quick as the heat built up, it went.  They went.  They walked away to another pitch.  We carried on with a training game.  Last night (Tuesday), Murray’s FC Maine Road lost 12-0 to Murray’s FC ATFC.  The damage was done by half time and even though in the second half we made it difficult for the opposition to create chances, we were never in the game.  Brazilian team FC Cavera rolled Dongguan Koreans FC 17-0, whilst Red Lions (Dongguan) FC lost 4-2 to Winners (Hengli) FC.  Murray’s FC Bilbao won 10-4 at XiHu.  I may have to give my achille’s heel a rest, because yet again, that and the tendons on the top of my left foot feel like they are burning and ache very much.  They feel fine whilst cycling and in the game.  When I rest, that is when the pain comes…


I’ve been reading about Xiāngfēi (香妃), following a conversation with Wendy about butterflies.  There are so many accounts and fascinating stories about the so-called Fragrant Concubine.  Xiāng (香) is the same character as in Hong Kong (香港) meaning Fragrant Harbour.  Anyway, Xiāngfēi is a most interesting story indeed.  Now HubHao have paid me up to date, I may try to write about this.  Tonight (Wednesday), I am going to see some jazz with Mark Lotz and A Fula’s Call.  The line up will feature original African and modern jazz music with Mark Alban Lotz (Germany/Holland) playing the Indian flute; Omar Ka (Senegal/Holland) has the vocals and guitar; Afra Mussawisade (Iran/Germany) is on percussion with Abu Djigo (Senegal/Italy) on guitar also.  So, a stiff-assed Brit will walk into a livehouse in China, to watch an eclectic and wide-ranging collective of sound.  Can I get away with eating Turkish food for my dinner tonight?


Today, in HòuJÄ«e (厚街), many fire engines and emergency workers attended a huge evacuation and fire drill at the nearby Wanda Plaza.  Speculation of a huge fire, plants being over-watered was soon doused when an image of several dummies on the road was banded around by WeChat.  I have had two grade 7 classes move this afternoon due to a membership sign up for the students to volunteer locally.  Well, at least that's what I was told... no teacher has explained it too clearly.


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

Football terms in Mandarin

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












diǎn qiú







hóng  pái







huáng pái







fàn ɡuī







shǒu qiú







yuè wèi







jiǎ shuāi



跳水 tiào shuǐ




cái pàn







biān cái














qiú wà







 qiú yÄ«







qiú kù



短裤duǎn kù




zú qiú xié







jǔ qí







jì xù tī







 chuán  qiú







kòng qiú







bié diū qiú







shè  mén







jìn qiú







méi jìn







chǎn qiú







tuÄ«  tā









jìn gōng




cháng chuán qiú







chuán biān lù







fáng shǒu jǐn bī







kàn zhe qiú





















màn diǎn



















jiǎo qiú



























huàn rén














shòu shāng












duì shǒu













qián fēng







hòu wèi







duì zhǎng







rèn yì qiú














bǐ  fēn







zhōng cháng














jiào liàn


























tóu qiú


































 chuán  qiú
























































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

Slippery when...

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


The week before last, I was slipped into, I slipped over numerous times without any assistance and witnessed multiple counts of sliding.  There was a sudden temperature change causing the 100% air humidity to run water down most, if not all, walls exposed to external air for longer than a few minutes.  Even opening my door last weekend, allowed too much damp air into the apartment.  An extractor fan in the bathroom had drawn more water into the bathroom than had originally remained following a shower.  Mould growths seemingly expanded before my eyes last Tuesday as I sat at my desk.  The tiny green specks on my backpack’s pocket grew into thumbsized smudges by the end of the day.  I have since cleaned my backpack thoroughly.


I’ve seen scooters smashed to smitherines by sliding wet roads.  The humidity has turned well-laid roads into skating rinks.  The lesser repaired and maintained roads have been far comfier to cycle along due to extra pothole and debris offering stable traction.  China is busy, so busy that sometimes multiple worlds collide.  And when, you're cycling, it pays to look forwards, sideways and behind you. 


Actually, this spring has seen many more headaches, flus, coughs, colds and viruses than last year.  It had felt significantly cooler and damper compared to my previous two springs in Dongguan.  I’ve had signs of man flu on and off, a mild fever for a good two weeks.  Coupled with my bruised left calf, swollen achille’s heel and hairline foot fractures (related to being a victim of a slip) last week had been a rather sluggish week.  Two games of football during that timeframe resulted in a 10-4 win and a 5-1 defeat, with my team almost unrecognisable between the two ties.  Both were against Red Lions (Dongguan) FC.  Following Manchester City’s defeat in the Manchester Derby, there is no further desire or need to mention football.  Well... just a little... Shenzhen will host Manchester City against Borussia Dortmund on July 23rd followed by a Manchester Derby in Beijing five days later.  Actually, football news here has become more prolific in the last 6 months.  Many clubs and media groups are tapping the Chinese market.  Good to see Chinese City fans get a mention on the official website and for activities to take place around derby day.  The less said about the result, the better.  It is up there with the expected gun shooting massacres in the US of A.  C’mon America, sort it out!  Not that I should say anything because gun crime in China is on the rise.


I now have the tools and materials to fashion my own sushi.  This will be most exciting.  Between the stir fry dishes from my favourite Sichuanese restaurant, it makes sense to try cooking new foods at the apartment.  In fact, I've managed to cook almost every other day for thr first time in ages.  The first batch of sushi was a success.  More will follow.


Yesterday, I went walking from Houjie to Dalingshan through Dalingshan forest park.  Spotting several kingfishers and a dozen golen-black jay-like birds was particularly pleasing.  The evening's meal at Nazaar Turkish restaurant made up for the disappointment of seeing Batman Vs. Superman.  What a cluttered up movie that is!  My Saturday class (in week three) moved from the below par training centre to class 306 in Dao Ming.  The 15 students paid more attention and the facilities were far better.  Going forward the class will split into a class of 8 and a class of 7 students.


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

Magic that slips over boundaries

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


I’ve noticed since I have been in China, how odd the sense of hunour is here.  Mr Bean is a demigod, ranked so highly he is on a par with everyone’s favourite unconvicted paedophile Michael Jackson.  On a side note I don’t band around this vile word paedophile so freely, but in the case of a man so childlike in nature with a disposition for over the top body reworkings, and one too many children staying over, it does worry me that celebrity and great music can prevent legal experts from taking on the once-upon-a-time-or-maybe-now-Adam Johnson of America.  Anyway, now I’ve ripped a few more friends from my Facebook list by condemning the singer of the wonderful Thriller, I’ll crack on.  Bean is immortal here in China, appearing at square dances and even being badly remade in Chinese.  I can see why, I have been told many Chinese jokes, lost in translation and jokes about black people having an abhorrence of cannibalising their own digits, to slurs about the Japanese and besmirches of those who Hitler aimed to wipe off the Earth.  I don’t believe the students who told such tasteless ditties, aimed to offend.  I think they learned them from adults, who learned them from seniors and nobody has ever questioned why such materials are banded around.  Then came a generation of kids, aged nine and upwards who can self-translate whole realms of language.  The bright sparks look bold and pleased with what they have changed into my native tongue.  I slap their achievements out of the air, swatting them aside like a mosquito preying on my arm.  Here I fill their ears with education and soon they listen.


I hate division by stupidity.  Racism and exclusionism I abhor.  It is like being at a meal and several souls inviting each other for a night out to the cinema, without inviting one person sat between them.  We’re all in this together.  Why snipe?  Why overlook?  Even if that person acts silly or brave, they should be included.  Mr Bean never ousts anyone, well he does show his selfishness throughout ther series but we never ever feel hurt by this.  The plot is simple, as life should be.  The only minor confusion arises by his lack of dialogue.


To me my childhood featured great TV shows like Challenge Annika, The Crystal Maze, London's Burning, The Paul Daniels Show (R.I.P. Paul Daniels) and Mr Bean.   Yet, many years later, one show refuses to leave TV screens.  In part because, maybe it was never shown until many years after it was first released and in part due to the comedy genius and timing of the main actor.  Mr Bean prattles on.  A gift from Rowan Atkinson and Britain to the world.  To China it is the Fawlty Towers reruns of Germany.  This is their vent.  Slapstick humour can be wonderful.  Leslie Neilsen and Charlie Chaplin (the other guy with that ‘tache) are my slapstick heroes.  Eric Morecambe added dialogue with a stooge, a fall guy.  But Mr Bean… if you even whisper Mr Bean in a class, the students erupt in laughter.  They haven’t seen anything yet remember everything they have seen.  A tidal wave of euphoria from a teddy-bear carrying brown suited fool.  Mr Bean turned 25 years-old last year, and here in China, his legacy rolls on, with Snickers giving him a recent TV advertisement.  His simple mumblings and bumbings have won him a host of fans.  His symbolism of Great Britain and slow-witted tomfoolery offer escape.  Be that escape from grey industrial lives or homework, I’d rather see my students pander for Mr Bean than reach to jokes about race and gender.  Maybe, just maybe, Mr Bean should be awarded a UN ambassador roll for racial harmony…


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

The virtual private network (That's entertainment!)

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


Spider piss, spider piss, does whatever spider piss can…


I had a coldsore.  Herpes simplex is in town.  HSV-1 sounds like a railway construction project title.  I didn’t want to wait the 7-10 day clear-up time.  It is unsightly and uncomfortable.  On Wednesday (the 2nd of March) morning, I could feel a tingling burning sensation on the left of my lips.  By the afternoon a small blister erupted.  By the evening my lips had dried and become much more sore.  The small blister had multiplied into a cluster of fluid-filled pouches.  I’m fairly certain that on Tuesday (March the 1st) night, somebody at football took a swig or two from my personal drinks bottle.  I am not happy about this.  I have always hated sharing drinks bottles, glasses or anything of the same irk.  That said it could be fatigue from the 60km of cycling slapped around two hours of football… or strong sunlight… or menustration (as if)… or emotional and psychological stress… endless possibilities.  Last Thursday morning I opted to call by the pharmacy (as I had in October 2014).  The cream is the same tiger balm deep heat smelling one as before.  This time they have me something called Sihuang Xiehuo Pian (四黄泻火片).  The tiger balm fragranced cream has soothed the lip symptoms and I hope it’ll swiftly clear up the blemishing.  The new tablets contain 7mg of berberine hydrochloride in their 0.25g tablets.  Take 4, three times daily, said the pharmacist.  The description of the tablet’s uses (from the box label), directly translates as:


“Treatment against heat dampness, purging fire detoxification.  For inner burning filled, red eyes and throat, toothache , sore tongue , scanty dark urine , dry stools and surgical sore embolism.”

So, having survived my pigeon Chinese exchange with a pharmacist, I fled to school via a breakfast stall.  At school, I asked my colleague Wendy about these new mysterious tablets.  She explained in scientific terms that farmyard spiders have moved into the city and taken a leak on my lips.  They came in, cocked many of their eight legs and took a slash on my face.  I was pissed on by spiders, man.  I didn’t argue, as the story was backed up by many tales passed down from generation to generation by ancestrial kin.  I guess there is a reason why a primary school of Chinese whispers gets that name.


Forgive me for going all Sam Smith and saying that the writings on the wall, but right now, I am so far up the creek of crap, I don’t know if I need to wade, dive or kayak away.  Something has reappeared that I thought was long buried.  A storm is coming.  If I am to make it through this storm, I either face it head on and don’t further ignore it, or I won’t be able to breathe.  I can barely breathe thinking about it.  There isn’t much light left at the end of the day, and that is when hope is at its least.  Last week, I was ebbed so far off, I thought deep dark thoughts.  A demon has appeared at the end of my bed, and it wants to pull me in.  I’m afraid and unsure.  I must face it.


On a more positive front HubHao have published two of my latest articles, one is about a local Hash Harrier group.  A second article skirts a little too close to political matters for my liking, so I’ve coined a pen name, Indigo Freeman, to write about taxi driver strikes.  Whilst not entirely political it does talk about workers’ rights, to which I am not willing to tie my name to this increasingly warm fronted debate with China.  China is busy changing a few things at the minute and has been for over a week.  VPNs have been null and void for some time.  The big two meetings (Liang? ) has been attended mainly by party officials but has had guests such as Edmund Phelps (2006 Nobel laureate in economics) and Steve Chu (former U.S. Secretary of Energy who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1997).  China's State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) has been seeking suggestions and insights from overseas to assist China with various matters.  Whether it is economic approaches, financial risk control, clean energy, cooperation on the Belt and Road, the middle income trap or health care reform, China wants to progress.  Tougher bans on tobacco advertisements, the tackling of obesity and many more sensible healthcare decisions have been announced.  As the U.K.’s own government strangles and constricts the National Health Service, China looks over at Britain as a model of aspiration.  When you try to explain that their goal is being destroyed in Britain, they never understand.


Without a VPN, and with increased internet censorship of late, sites such as YouTube has been useless.  I shouldn’t complain because I am a guest of the state.  I’ve relied on the Chinese equivilents but can’t quite get my music fix or communicate with those who don’t use email, WeChat etc.  BBCs websites have been up and down but thankfully has remained unaffected.  City TV beats having a TV channel on cable or satelite TV where every programme is half-thought, dragged out and often repeated.  It is informative, well-produced and broad in content.  There have been moments of humour, something for the kids, deep interviews, past perspectives and far more content targeting a wide and now increasingly global audience.  I feel in touch with the club and at ease with how our club is being ran.  The chairman's reports, Inside City, youth team highlights and general first team footage have been particularly pleasing to see.  I love my club and it feels great to see and hear praise from other team's fans about our website.  They want to be where we're at and when they get there, we've already gone further...  I prefer to use over social media (which can often be restricted in use at offices, social media has no use in China when I am working there, etc).


The last 10 days has seen temperatures drop from 22°C to 7°C.  The previous week’s hot exploration around the Dongguan Botanical Gardens seems a distant memory.  Last Saturday was so cool in comparison.  Yesterday’s heavy rain showers hinted at the spring monsoon deluges that may follow.  That said, the night sky was clear and starry, amongst the glows of light pollution.  Today, the humidity ramped up to a steady 90% and the temperature has risen to 17°C.


Today, I had to perform a presentation to the English teachers within Dao Ming Foreign Language School.  I think it went well.  I was challenged to talk about my Spring Festival vacation, which I feel was rather boring.  I told of the short spell teaching, the multiple problems I faced with regards to travel, my attempts at ten pin bowling (where I hit a strike... on the wrong lane), my bike rides and my ambition to write novels.  With a few props (Spitfire Ale ten pins from a gift set my Mum once gave me), the medal from the Shenzhen football tournament I played in, and a cycling hat, it seemed to go well.  The head of foreign language [They olnly teach English], Miss Jiang, belly-laughed and left her poker-face aside for a wee while.  If she was happy, I think I did an okay job.


I've been offered the chance to interview Boris Becker this weekend at Mission Hills in Shenzhen.  The article and interview will be for a local magazine.  I may have to pass due to prior commitments teaching that morning.  I have a morning class from 8.20am to 10.10am.  After that class, I have my Chinese class.  I'm also not a fan of tennis, so maybe it isn't my cup of tea.  Speaking, or writing of tea, I am drinking a lovely bitter black tea with added lemon to sour any hint of fragrance.  It certainly soothes an aching throat.


This last week's classes have flown by, with many classes affected by coughing and spluttering ill children.  The change in temperature and humidity has allowed a spring colds and flu to move freely.  The foreign teachers here, Tess, Beth, Arvid, and Jack have each had at least one day off with sickness.  I'm the last man standing - and I am doing my best to avoid the dreaded lurgy or man flu.  My fruit intake and recovery from football (this last week my Murray's FC team lost 4-3 and won 7-0 in two fixtures...). 


The school have offered me a football coaching role and extra lessons but my contract with Worlda forbids me from accepting it.  And, also, from working for the school for two years after leaving Worlda... so I'm a tad upset.  What next?


Today, I have uploaded the blog post having typed it long ago.  It has been changed a little to accommodate for the best part of three week's absence.  I'm sure more will follow...


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

Not quite Weetabix.

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



Breakfast is tremendously important to me.  If you were to ask my friends Pete and Dan, both will recall me eating Weetabix from a porcelain mixing bowl.  The 12 Weetabix would soak up the milk, but not fast enough to turn to mush.  I devoured them far quicker.  A sprinkling of sugar on top added sweetness, or a few slices of banana when possible.  Honey may have entered the bowl, but not so often.  Anyway, when not ploughing throught wheat fields, corn flakes of many variaties and tastes would be subjected to a multiple bowl refill treatment.  Without breakfast, I was and remain pretty much non-functional.  Even a bacon barm on its own is inadequate preparation for the day ahead.  Coffee has not been necessary, in fact since I left the U.K., coffee has barely featured on the menu.


Things I’ve had for breakfast:

·As popular as diǎnxÄ«n (dim sum 点心) is, I rarely eat it.  The small moist offerings are okay but not hearty (despite the Chinese meaning “touch the heart”). 

·Zhōu (congeeç²¥) is a weak porridge that the Scottish would label as pish.  It sometimes is pish in taste, sometimes delightful.  I’ve had chrysanthemum flavour, jujube flavour, pineapple and coconut flavours.  If you like soup, this is the breakfast to hit.  Expect odd bits of vegetables, fermented tofu, peanuts, eggs, and meats as toppings or in the mix.  This is no substitute for those who love Shredded Wheat.  It comes in a cup and costs around 3RMB.

·Bāozi (steamed stuffed buns 包子) sounds like the name of a small canine companion but they often have ground pork pastes, aubergines, eggs, spinach and so much more in them… some can be a surprise or a blend of surprises.  The fear of finding one with corn inside doesn’t deter me.  It happened once.  The less said the better.   These cost around 1RMB.

·Guilin rice noodles or various other noodle types.  Upto 8RMB should be expected.

·Fried dumplings (Jaozi) cost around 3RMB. 

·Yóutiáo (油条) are very oily like sticks of dough.  This resembles a bread stick, but softer.  These are often 1RMB each.

·Húntún (馄饨wontons) are dought pouches in an oily broth.  I like the textures, the fragrances and the fillings.  Mushrooms, shrimp and beef make for great fillings.

·Jiānbǐng (煎饼) are almost like crepes.  The wraps can have a filling of almost anything.  I particularly enjoy a beef, carrot, corriander and honey variety.  3-5RMB well spent.  More fillings equal more pennies spent.

·Tāngyuán (汤圆) are round doughy balls.  They are important at the time of the Lantern Festival (the end of the Spring Festival).  They often have white sugar, red bean pastes, walnuts and jujube pastes inside their thick sticky rice flour.  I think if you eat many of these, you will soon resemble a large round ball.

·Dòuhuā (豆花) means bean flower.  It is tofu based and sometimes sweet.  Sometimes it is sour with soy sauce.  Sometimes it is salty like the sea.  Locally, it is served alongside a scrambled egg and ginger.  It isn’t terrible.

·Zòngzi (粽子) are best left to Dragon Boat festivals for me.  They are glutinous, stocky and sticky.  The dumpling of rice, is wrapped in bamboo leaves and then steamed.  It isn’t that bad every now and then, and by every now and then, I mean annually.  It will never replace eating Rice Crispies.  3RMB will almost certainly have been spent.

·Dòujiāng (豆浆) is a standard drink to be had.  It is sometimes sweet or savoury.  Simply made from good old soy.  Great warm. 

·Fanshu (sweet potatoes) are charged on weight.  I usually pay 5-10RMB for a large one.

·Then there is the global basis for a hearty breakfast, boiled eggs!


Breakfasts here are quick, on the go usually.  They are seldom eaten at home.  Most people choose to eat their breakfast in the street.  It may be purchased at stalls, food vendors or to be taken away.  Morning drinks do not include tea or coffee – soy milk is mostly drank, as well as bean juices.  People who skip breakfast are treated like lepers.  Many of the foods are stodgy and heavy, some are not.



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

Add some vim

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


When I’m not busy reading about the banning of bizarre architecture in China, I am busy.  I personally think the Guangzhou Circle between Guangzhou and Foshan is pretty impressive.  Anything that livens up the concrete maze of breezeblocks and cubist steel meshes, is in my mind positive.  That applies to all countries and cultures.  We need more modern artistry and more embracement of natural forms.  Nothing can beat the Nordic houses on the Faroe Islands, the castles of old Europe and the majestic ambition of Blackpool Tower.  Expression in buildings can be symbolistic to those around the creation.  The Great Wall, Eiffel Tower, Palace of Westminster and more modern structures like the London Eye or Sydney Opera House all capture hearts and minds.  Banning a curvy, shapely building stifles my mind.  That’s why I am not the leader of a nation… everything would be blue and based on Maine Road or Manchester.


The return to school has been welcoming.  As always the arms of the teachers are wide open for hugs and cheers of “welcome back!” have been heard.  At least once.  Maybe.  Possibly.  I heard something.  Last Friday, three new teachers arrived to my school.  Arvid is a very tall 19-year old from Sweden.  He seems musically talented and carries a relaxed personality.  He is certainly curious about Chinese customs and teaching.  Then there is John.  Thankfully we can call him by the name of Jack because his father shares his name also.  With his very long moniker, he brings an interest in many sports and has already endeared himself to the local basketball culture.  His talents also include singing.  He has embraced KTV already.  This is good news for the school performances that await us all.  Beth arrived from Kent (U.K.) via Beijing.  Beth has conservative values, a religious background and seems well travelled.  This will certainly assist her in preparing for many classes going forward.  Together with Tess, returning from the U.S.A. (not just U.S.A., add the too!), everyone has been bombarded with requests, procedures, information and much, much more.  Yes, they have had time to adjust to the culture in Beijing but now they swim in the deep end.  There are no sharks here, but buoyancy is key to a good swim.  I’m confident in each and every team member.  They can do it!


On entering my office, on the 5th floor, of middle school, my teaching colleagues were cleaning frantically.  Mice had, and have made the office their new home.  The house of mice has yet to be found.  They’ve nibbled some of my postcards, shredded a textbook and chewed various bits of my desk drawer’s contents.  The little rodentia bastards!  Hopefully they’ll move on without need for any extermination.  I suspect, with teachers present, and food now entering the fray, that they may stay.  After a little catch up over spicy hometown confectionaries (dare I say candies?) and local teas, the ball was rolling.  Into the swing of things with grade eight classes filling Monday.  Tuesday saw the resumption of service in grade 6.  Grade 7 classes stepped into the equation on Wednesday.  On Tuesday we began our foreign language teacher team meetings once again.  This year Wendy, a new teacher, heads and assists us on all things academic and for the interns/Tess, most things domestic.  I met Wendy via the company I work for.  She assisted me at the schools in Baiyun and Nansha throughout those three weeks of teaching biology.  I’m very confident in her ability and her “can do” attitude.  Already, I have seen swifter turnarounds in questions with answers, and action for readiness, for example going into HòuJÄ«e to buy cables to connect a laptop to the overhead projectors.


This last week, I have tried different places for breakfast every day.  This is my new venture, breakfast by chance.  I could happily eat some of the foods I have had for breakfast over that of milk and cereal.  An expensive breakfast has become one of good value, very swiftly.  I think I'll write more about breakfast soon enough.


John Burns, from Murray’s F.C. returned from Blighty this week.  In his bag were two pairs of football boots for me.  Most importantly he also fetched me a bottle of Vimto and some Lancashire cheese.  Said cheese was applied with sardines to a toasted sandwich last night.  A first sup of Vimto since summer is to my left, steaming away in my insulated sky blue sports bottle.  The teachers here are amazed by the fruity herbal smell of one of Manchester’s greatest achievements (supercomputers, mathematicians, scientific advances, sporting endeavours, technological pathways asisde).  I may share it.


On the football front, Murray’s F.C. played two games, as different squads, on Tuesday night.  My team won 11-1 against a Man U****d supporting team of local descent.  I tested my new boots out and the laces are bobbins, they’ll need replacing promptly.  I played left back and right back that day.  It felt more natural than right midfeld and left back in the previous game.  On the cycle ride there, along a cycle road, I listened to some Chinese music.  It was too mellow to ride with.  I will not make that mistake again.  Around 15-20km each way rides are best with music to push your pedalling ability, not slow it up.  The oddity of it all was, the nexy day, I ached like hell.  Sore ankles, knees tired and thighs strained.  Middle school, a student from class 803, invited me to join the morning exercise run.  Whilst tiring it helped me to stretch out and end the strains of the day before.  I may add that to my recovery going forward.


Murray’s F.C. are assisting a local football ground company Bosom, to formulate a larger than usual tournament for foreign teams and Chinese teams alike.  I’m joining Eddy in a meeting with twenty plus captains and representatives of interested parties on Monday night.  Monday the 29th is the closing date for a position with City Football Group.  I have submitted my application for a social media role based in China.  Fingers crossed.



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

Sink or swim. Xià chén huò yóuyǒng / 下沉或游泳

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


That’s the break in my posting to the blog over with.  I have been busy writing a novel, averaging 2000 words a day for 3 weeks.  The core and structure of the novel is in place, with the final dialogue and padded subplots all being woven in.  It won’t be Shakespeare, Dahl or Crichton but it will be above average.  I won’t attempt to publish it otherwise!  Having had two authors read sections of the material and some minor changes, I am quietly confident. 


Way back at the beginning of this blog, there was what I referred to as “Blue Monday.”  On the 17th of February 2014, I first stepped into a classroom at Dao Ming Foreign Language School.  Fast forward two years, and today I am back.  I remember that first ground floor class room experience vividly.  I had class 701, the original class 701, who are now in grade 9, opposite my office.  Whilst then I was worried and extremely out of my comfort zone, today I began on the third floor, as a fish is in water.  In classes 802 and 804 today, we discussed Chinese New Year.  The students have just returned and they've submitted their winter holiday homework books, received their initial homework sheets and look somewhat taller and a little refreshed.  Comfortable, relaxed, contented and fully at ease.  Whilst I have enjoyed the holiday period to embrace my freedoms, I have missed teaching.  I feel revitalised and ready for the new challenge.  My previously developed material has been deleted, not modified.  I am starting this semester from scratch.  New methods, new ideas and innovation.


This morning, I had the pleasure of welcoming students to school at 7am, followed by joining my new-ish colleagues for the opening ceremony of the new school semester.  Tess has returned from the U.S.A. for her second semester here.  We are joined by Arvid of Sweden (Gothenburg), Jack from U.S.A. (Michigan) and Beth from Kent (U.K.).


Last night, I played my first game for Murray’s FC, in what seems like forever.  We were winning 7-2 when I left, and it transpired the scoreline finished 10-7 in our favour.  Such, is the size of our squad, a second game was played simultaneiously at the same time, with a larger than usual scoring win.  The bike ride there was a good slow roll (swinging by the lantern display in central Nánchéng) but the return ride was tiring!


I’m going to submit job applications with Manchester City’s Chinese offshoot.  There a few points I cannot satisfy but I do have an ability to learn, as these last two years have shown.  I don’t sink.  I swim.


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

To Gran and Ernie.

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


Two years have passed.  Nobody wants to say goodbye.  Luckily we don’t have to say goodbye.  Those lives who Granny Ivy touched took a piece of her.  Gran was wonderful, endearing, humble and stronger than an Ox.  Gran pushed me to go to China long before I flew.  On the visits to Gran’s flat in Failsworth, we’d sit and talk, about family, relationships, friends, books and ideas.  Often ideas would be banded around, even if combatting Gran’s hearing aid in later years, and one idea was my desire to travel somewhere new, different and out of the comfort zone.  I said how I’d like to understand a new way of life, maybe Japan, Africa or China.  I’d listen to stories of Gran’s life, what the neighbours had been doing and descriptions of health in later years.  Occasionally they’ll be moments of amazement, at hearing Gran describe how she wrestled a refrigerator around her flat, just to clean some dust or how she’d lifted the sofa up and lost a caster wheel.  Gran was extremely independent.  In her flat she had a book that would describe ow to fix or make anything.  I’m convinced Gran was the author. 


Gran always had an anecdote to break any silence but in truth she was an entertainer as well as a host.  She had ways to describe the view outside, I never thought possible.  Gran’s eyes and vocabulary always struck me as articulate but so, so modest.  I’ll certainly always covet her oven bottom sandwiches with smoked ham and cheese.  Nobody makes food like grandparents.  Those lucky afternoons and evenings spent looking out that window were some of the happiest moments of my life.  Totally contented and supremely comfortable.  I was at ease and the world could not get me.  No feeling of security has matched it since.


Born in Densmore Street in Failsworth, she’d never drift much further than this for home.  Her school was Mathers Street Council School.  On April the 13th 1939, Granny Ivy became a machinist making night clothes for Smith and Nephew (a Hollinwood based company).  By 1943, Granny Ivy swapped stitches for munitions and aircraft pieces at Avro Ltd.  Granny Ivy married in 1949 to John Hitchin, and by May of that year my Aunty Carolyn was born.  At an early age both Ivy and Carolyn suffered the loss of John Hitchin.  He had a fatal heart attack in 1955.  Granny Ivy was a widow, aged just 30 years-old.  The following year brought loss once again, 1956, Ivy’s mother died aged sixty-nine.  In late December 1956, Ivy remarried, to John Roberts.  John came from a long line of North-Wales men.  Susan Ivy Roberts was born upon the 5th of October 1957.  Soon after, Ivy’s third child Elaine June Roberts was born upon the 20th of June 1961.  Gran would marry once again, in spring 2005.  Ernie Freeman sadly passed away weekly after their marriage.  Fairclough Hospital, in Bury provided a cake and wedding ring.  Imagine being so in tune with someone that you decide to marry on your deathbed in hospital.  Gran being who she was obviously gave Ernie happiness right to the last moment.  I’ve always seen Ernie as Gran as inseparable pair.  After my sister was hit by a car, they looked after me.  They protected me from the pain and uncertainty at the time.  I was young and did not understand, yet they helped me through a tough period of my development.  They met in 1989 and shared companionship until 2005.  Many trips to markets, steam museums, museums and even just sat on Levenshulme station watching trains were to be had.  Ernie and Gran both gave me an expensive and intricate steam engine model one year and I treasure it still.  This summer it will whistle once again.  I’ll clean it up and eat another ham ovenbottom in the Failsworth.


In a way, Ernie’s love of steam nostalgia has rubbed off on me.  I have a deep respect for the olden days.  The final piece of music before we left the ceremony of Ernie’s passing was that of a steam engine puffing up and sounding its horn.  I miss Gran and Ernie dearly.  I will always miss him and will always wish that I’d got to know him better.  He was a very interesting man who I do admire greatly.  Ernie was honest, caring and considerate.  He was witty and a true gentleman.  Though he was not my real biological grandfather, I will always call him my granddad.  Even now, when I see something dismantled or in need of repair, I think of Ernie with Gran.


I know, to a degree, and understand, again only a little, the pains of life Gran faced, and she never, not even once complained or felt sorry for herself.  She stood strong and led for others.  In the face of the disease that is cancer that she battled harda against, she joked and laughed, and smiled right to the end.  She may have suffered but she wanted her family to be stronger for it.  I've failed many times in life, made many stupid mistakes and should try harder at everything.  I owe this to the memory of those like Gran, no longer here and to my family here and now.


An environmentally friendly lantern of memory was released here in China, with love and wishes to Gran and all my family.


Similarly, Gran’s love and passion for reading has been passed down the generations.  I’m still working on the novels and one day, one shall be dedicated, “To Gran and Ernie.”



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


新年快乐 / Xīnnián kuàilè / Happy New Year





We interrupt this broadcast to bring you some footballing thoughts…

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


It feels good to be playing Leicester on the rise.  They have good fans, down to earth.  They have ambition, they have resource yet seem to know not to go over the top, probably based on recent ownership troubles.  They are balanced in play, refreshing in their team work and effort levels.  Aside from their obvious glamour name Jamie Vardy , who I seen play at Stocksbridge but he didn't stand out, they have a squad that plays to their strengths.  They don't mess around, they often play simple football.  Mahrez is an engine in their team that gets praise, but for me liek David Silva of old, he barely gets the plaudits he really deserves.  They carried their form over from last season, like City in some ways, but unlike City they've maintained it.  Ranieri is a grand leader, he's like The Engineer, works out a tactic based on what is availabe to him.  He is modest and keeps his mouth speaking the right words without drawing too much or too little attention.  He has wit and class.  His team breaks lines, they read the game but oddly they sacrifice possession to do so.  I think they're one of the best counter-attacking sides who know how to intercept the ball, clip possession from players and hit at pace.  The Foxes aren't here to make up numbers.  It is easy to see why neutrals and even fans of other clubs are rooting for them.  They have points to prove without the pressure of expectation.  If Leicester do get the upper hand and go on t win it, it encourages all 19 teams in the Premier League next season.  Maybe, anyone can do it, their way.  Two league defeats (Liverpool away, Arsenal home) to date shows they're good enough.  Their 8 draws to our 5 suggests they also fight to the end... even their two domestic cup games were close calls.


To beat Leicester, City need to be absolutely at their best.


With regards to learning Chinese, I’m focusing on the subject of “Where are you from?”  Going for purely basic subjects at a newbie level is helping my confidence and helping me to build on what I am listening to.


Lately my HubHao contributions include a shoe market guide; Mr Walrus singing Oasis stylings; some Tips for the Classroom (still not named teaching with tofu!) and one about not having an ayi. 39 of the 41 published articles can be found via this link.  The last articles I wrote, to be published shortly are about Hash Harriers, and taxi drivers (although I may be using a pen name for this).  HubHao have yet again failed to pay me (for a while), so I'm looking for a free transfer to either Delta Bridges, HereDG or That's PRD magazines...



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

At McCawley’s a prize awaited...

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


Last weekend was spent in Shēnzhèn (深圳).  It costs just 45RMB to travel from HòuJÄ«e (厚街) to Luōhú, a district immediately on the border of Hong Kong, with two busy crossings.  My journey after the coachride consisted of a 4RMB Line 1 subway ride to Gǎngxià Zhàn (岗厦站).  As convenient hotels go, the Haitian Hotel was well-located on Caituan Lu (彩田路), however I exited at exit B, did a full 270-degree spin of four major roads before heading the few hundred metres to the hotel.  After arriving for 10.30am, I dashed my bag and belongings into the hotel before departing for McCawley’s Bar in Fútián QÅ« (福田区).  What is with ex-pats and Irish bars?  The first Manchester City Official Supporters Club (OSC) in China have located here, as the Shenzhen Blues.  Katherine Li and Stephen Richardson (of Gorton and the Maine Road generation, who moved to China in 2008) led a building group of expats, Sun Jihai-born fans and founded the local OSC in South China.  Even though, over the border Hong Kong has a growing OSC.  Their focus seems totally aimed at integration of any nationality, upbringing, or when did they start following City.  Together as one.  The reason for my attendance that weekend was to join the McCawley’s Shenzhen 1st International Football Tournament.


After breakfast at McCawley’s where they evidentally have an abudance of hashbrowns, we headed from the bar to the football by luxury people carriers.  McCawley's Cup poster. A fantastic sight to see how clear the Shenzhen badge of Manchester City Supporters stands out. The Red Arrogant Gits of Man Utd crest looks like a GI Joe style airforce badge.  Our team would wear the dark blue away shirt of Manchester City FC.  Pride in Battle indeed.  The XL shorts, shirts and socks were too tight.  I wrecked my socks in the first game.  Torn to shreds.


So here I joined Alex (Dorset), James (Dorset), Dan (Israel), Kenny (Belgium), Vinny (Australia), Ray and Johnson (both China) with Katherine (China) featuring in the first game.  All had valid reasons for following a club, not quite where they lived.  I admire that.  None had started following City after 2008.  I doubly respect that.  Stephen couldn’t play and a few others too.  I didn’t expect to turn up, play straight away and feature in every minute of every game.  As with organising football, 16 responses of yes can soon become 10 maybes… and when we started the 8-a-side tournament we started as 8 players.  Johnson replaced Katherine after the first game.  Katherine played a brave game in goal for the first game.  When Johnson arrived, she opted not to play.  We had no subs for any games!  MCFC OSC Shenzhen beat Old Boys FC (a Celtic clad supporters team) in our first game. 


We were told it'd be tough.  MUFC's Red Devil fans had won their previous game against Tottenham Hotspurs HK fans. After our first game we faced a non-Mancunian team, fans of ManUre - Shenzhen Red devils. Not one could point out where Manchester was on a map, and despite their unclean play, we won 2-0 in the really-mini-teeny-weeny-tiny derby.  The clean sheet was a great achievement too.  Not bad for only our second ever 8-a-side game together [without any substitutes to hand].  So, MCFC Supporters Club of Shenzhen claimed the McCawley's 1st Shenzhen International Football Cup with a penalty shoot-out win.  I’d scored from the spot twice that day and felt like I’d worked damn hard at right back/centreback.  Our team gave 100% and played with a calmness of a team that looked mature and used to each other - odd.  China may have invented the game of football but the standards here are lower than Hong Kong.  So to beat two teams at 8-a-side from there was wonderful.  I’ll certainly be adding them to teams Murray’s F.C. should face in the future.


Post-game we went to a beach, kind of, at Futian Beach (福田沙滩), an urban beach bar.  The sausage roll, chicken pie, baked beans, coleslaw and fries with two Asda real ales went down well.  The cool reclining deckchairs, ambient sounds and soft lighting certainly made my tired body want to rest.  Following this it was planned to head back to McCawley’s.  A shower was needed so, I skipped back to Gǎngxià’s paradise and had a shower. 


At McCawley’s a prize awaited, a 1000RMB prize!  McCawley’s is located 200 metres from the Ping An Finance Centre (平安国际金融中心).  This skyscraper is 600 m (1969 ft) tall and due to open later this year.  With 115 floors, it is the second tallest in China and the fourth tallest in the world.  On Sunday morning, breakfast was had at the same bar.  It was rude not to.  And on arriving back in costa del HòuJÄ«e (厚街), I met Marcelo and Marcelina ahead of their flight back to Brazil… at Murray’s Irish Bar.  Monday passed by slowly, without anything of note other than Manuel Pellegrini announcing he’d leave at the end of his contract and City then saying Pep Guardiola would replace him.  Transfer deadline day had been hijacked wonderfully by City.


So now, I’m sat here looking at world news, beginning to watch series two of True Detective and relaxing in the cold apartment.  It is 4°C in here.  At the weekend I had some sunburn and it hit 20°C in Shenzhen.  What a weird winter this is?!  I didn’t even know Terry Wogan had died until now.  As a kid growing up someone's persona and heartfelt words kept me watching charitable programming despite seeing heartache.  He made you feel what was being shown.  He helped you to face and respect many issues most aspects of the media hide in shadows.  Aside from his humanitarian side, Terry Wogan struck me as a practical person, down to earth and respectful of those around him.  His book Those Were the Days was a sweet affair and on reading it, it becomes impossible not to imagine Terry Wogan reading to you.  Impersonated, loved, styled and replicated by many, he was a man many living rooms welcomed and few could change the channel, even if his pun-telling was off at times.  With more than 50 years on TV and radio, the man knew how to adapt and earned the title of national treasure both in his home country and the UK.  Throughout this time he remained loyal to his family and wife, showing a touch of personal class by not forcing fame, and simply being himself, unflashy and sophisticated in equal measure.


In my quest to get away for Spring Festival, I’m now toying with the idea of local journeys only [maybe to see the 26 minute long Chinese New year fireworks at Hong Kong].  When you see 100,000 stranded folk in the transit city of Guangzhou it desn’t appeal to travel right now.  We’ll see.  Tomorrow, I’ll ride my bike again.  The best form of escape ever.


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

All hail the Monkey King

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


Frustratingly, I’ve been unable to Skype or call my sister back in the U.K. to wish her a happy birthday (back on the 20th…) but I have found a gift (to be taken home in Summer) that I know she’ll more than appreciate.  I can’t say anything in case of the secret being outted but I am in state of pride that would frustrate those who believe in the seven deadly sins.


The office at Baiyun has been the most pleasing aspect of teaching this last few weeks.  Michael as leader has a tight-knit team in the well-travelled and homeless-person-lover that is Channing; the intelligent and wise Yolande who hails from somewhere near South Africa’s Durban; the sweet natured Chloe (who is still studying a course in Western Translation Theories); the pretty smiled Jean who I don’t think I ever saw without a beaming grin and was ever helpful.  They teach subjects as varied as Mathematics, Chinese, History, Litearture and act like a family to their tiny nine student class.  They treated me to a fantastic meal, full of spice and flavour, on the Wednesday night.  With teachers and students as bright as this, there is light in the world.  They’re on the side of the angels.


Last Thurday night, I spent it in the 7 Days Inn hotel, I had a fright.  Thwack!  A gothic butterfly impacted my noggin.  I don’t know why it chose the course of flight into my bonce, but it clearly wanted to be let out.  Since when have moths taken this drastic action?  Don’t they know my sleep patterns are bad enough!  I peeled back the anti-mosquito netting and let the moth slip away into Guangzhou’s night sky.


Since ending the semester’s work at Baiyun, I returned for two games of football with Murray’s FC.  Both had faced cancellation.  The first because of light rain.  The Brazilian team in essence backed out because they knew the weather would level the balance between them and us and them and us.  The Friday night previous we held a barbecue to celebrate Marcelo and Federico leaving to Brazil and Argentina respectively.  A few Guangzhou Strand ales were had.  The midweek game flushed away due to the torrential monsoon-like weather.  It has been cold in the last two weeks.  At the weekend the first recorded snow since 1893 was sighted.  I sighted it too.  It wasn’t much but it was beautiful to see such large snowflakes in a place I associate with steaming unbearable heat. Children, teenagers and adults alike with agasp at the snow.  Phones and cameras were out in force.  The elderly looked amazed.  I think now, they have seen it all.  Shopworkers dashed outside and even the coffee shop I visited was at standstill.  The thermometer also hit 0°C over two days.  This is sub-tropical Dongguan - and some of Hong Kong etc also had icy spells.  Manchester and northern England had seen warmer weather that weekend.  This was a beautiful moment.  I can’t imagine having never seen snow upfront.  I’ll imagine that’ll be my reaction when I finally one day see Everest, or a Whale Shark, or the Steppes of XÄ«njiāng.  I think it is important to remember the feeling of awe.  Wonder and reverence can keep us feeling attached to youth.


Today, has been warmer, 14°C.  The walls and floors outside the apartment are equally slippery.  Two days of torrential rain hasn't helped.  The midnight storm engulfing nearby Wanda Plaza's towers.


A few winter holiday plans have been scuppered by either budget or varied forms of inavailability.  Plan A: no internal flights beyond Kathmandu possible, as all booked solid. Plan B: most parts of Tibet are closed to foreigners. Plan C: landslide has destroyed road to DéqÄ«n 德欽. Plan D: Turpan (吐魯番, Tǔlǔfānin in XÄ«njiāng) is closed. Plan E... watch this space.


IMPORTANT HEALTH WARNING: Don't watch this movie. Even if someone suggests to watch 蒸发太平洋 as a way to relax, feel free to use excessive force. Are you a fan of Brandon Routh? This will destroy that fanaticism faster than a Man U****d fan's love for Louis Van Gaal. This is a movie guilty of mixing too many genres, wooden acting, the concepts of Jaws 3D and splicing something together as bad as dolly the sheep with a bull's dick. Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios needs to stick to Marco Polo efforts and not B-movie relics. If you hear Zhēngfā Tàipíng Yáng being mentioned, back away. Vincent Zhou should be ashamed. I guess a movie with bit-part The Walking Dead actors has no legs to stand on but Zhāng Yǔqǐ (张雨绮) will star in the up-and-coming Stephen Chow (周星馳) movie The Mermaid(美人鱼) and he has made great movies like Kung Fu Hustle Movie and Shaolin Soccer. The movie Lost in the Pacific is so far from great, it deserves to be straight to TV, early hours, and not straight to video. In the meantime, look forward to The Mermaid and The Monkey King 2 (西游记之孙悟空三打白骨精 XÄ« Yóu Jì ZhÄ« SÅ«n Wù Kōng Sān Dǎ Bái Gǔ JÄ«ng) - a sequel to The Monkey King.  Besides The Monkey King reminds me of family...



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

Shining Haven - International Tests!

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


Yet again, I find myself in the Baiyun ShiJing 7 Days Inn hotel (the first week I had room 711; last week room 811; and this week I am in room 611 - next week I want to win a Porche 911, but I know I'll just get the number 211 bus).  This week I was told to go to Baiyun’s campus of the AP programme.  The school is linked to the group, Shining Haven, which sounds a tad James Bond baddie-like.  I thought the school was named the same as the one in Nansha, Guangzhou Foreign Language School (广州外国语学校 Guǎngzhōu wàiguóyǔ xuéxiào) but in fact this school in Baiyun has the title The Experimental School Affiliated to the Guǎngzhōu College (广州市广大附属实验学校).  I went to North Trafford College, Reddish Vale High School, Chapel Street Primary School, Clayton Brook Primary School and New Moston Primary School.  These are all simple names.  Like the typing up and calculating of school scores for the Senior 1-3 classes, the names of these schools are overly complex. 


The Senior 3 papers arrived yesterday, E.T.A. was 9am, and I was told to be at Dao Ming School to collect them from a delivery driver at 10.50am, 11.30am and then on my fourth visit to school they arrived at 1.30pm.  Papers were promptly marked with scores averaging above 70% in Senior 3, class 5 and one student getting 97%!  Oddly, and slyly they dropped in ten extra papers completed by Senior 3, class 6… and the scores ranged from 2% to 87% - with 9/10 papers failing.  I was later informed this class had abandoned Biology classes long ago.  The formality of marking the papers was the purest form of time-wasting tedium.  Senior 2 papers had been marked last week and returned with good grades all round, and only a handful of students failing.  I suspect the multiple changes of teachers failed them, more than they failed themselves.  I argued this point and backed the students recommending a weighting be allowed for this.  Meanwhile, Senior 1 at the Baiyun lair of Shining Haven completed their Biology papers.  I was told, set the work at Senior 2 level.  I did just that.  5 of the 9 passed the paper, with all students eventually passing the course based on their assignment, homework and classwork performances.  Some achieved great scores, some not so.  Again, they have had too any teachers before them.  That and 8 exams over two days do not bode well for fantastic scores.  I wish them well, but I do feel sorry for them.  They've has Ishit from India, Mark from Canada and me amongst many teachers.  Too many styles of teaching, too many methods and too many content gaps.  Too much homework, too many tests and too little freedom.  I’m of course part of the problem, a teacher.  If I wasn’t here, somebody would fill the void.  I like to think on top of the subject, I add character and culture.  If the students here don’t remember Meiosis, Mitosis and Mendelian Genetics, they’ll remember one Mancunian and his love of sky blue.



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


I'm gonna start a revolution from my bed

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


Just as my hometown mighty Manchester has the National Cycling Centre - that has become known to the world as a medal factory, Hong Kong and beyond should have their eyes glued on the Hong Kong Velodrome.  This venue has all the potential for stars to work their way up the ranks.  Attending the UCI Track Cycling World Cup, I could see instantly the presence would only act as a beacon of hope and inspiration.  Those who were there will have taken heart and shall deliver the message beyond the atmosphere-capturing doors.  The young tiny tot Striders may be a few years away from battling for medals and glory but with event like this, there'll be more than enough talent raised in Hong Kong.


The event and venue just needed a proper kiosk/shop (there was a limited selection outside on a table top), canteen area and better provisions for ticket collection on the day (advance tickets could be collected at selected outlets, most of which opened at 10am/11am… Saturday’s doors opened at 9am).  The venue had adequate signage (although the external areas, I'd day there was too much signage!) and very good toilet facilities.  The seating was adequate and comfier than Manchester’s Velodrome with excellent sight lines and two huge screens in perfect balance to one another with respect to contents.  The banister around the outside of the track was replaced with a glass partition, offering temptation to lean upon.  A bannister inset of this would have done the trick better and discouraged trackside leaning.  The PA system did the job, but sadly my Cantonese is non-existent.  Times of races/schedules on a wall board would have been useful to accompany the very sparse programme content (although, I shouldn’t complain – it was free).  The track and venue look brilliant and I'm sure in time more colour will be added to the vibrant feeling ambience already in place.


I had a wonderful time at the 24th UCI Track Cycling World Cup third edition and look forward to possibly seeing other tournaments there.  The venue and organisers should look to the Revolution Cycling series in the UK/Australia... and if you they have that, I'm over the border from China in a split second!  They’ll benefit from regular top-level competitions too.  Races that stood out for me were the semi-final sprint between eventual winner Patrick Constable, a 20-year-old Aussie against Bolton’s Jason Kenny OBE (who is still only 27-years-old.  After already sending out Damian Zielinski (Poland; UCI World Cup leader and overall points winner after the tournament ended) from the running for gold, he beat Shurshin (a very strong rider indeed).  In the Keirin Matthijs Buchli held off Canadian Hugo Barrette crowd favourite to steal away the gold medal.


I remember seeing Jason Kenny in the Revolution cycle series way back as a Future Stars competitor.  I hope defeat here, pushes him on for the World Track Championships (London, March) and Rio 2016.  23-year-old Laura Trott earned an Omnium event Team GB gold, holding off U.S.A.’s experienced 32-year-old Sarah Hammer.  Trott also claimed silver in the Scratch Race.  There was silver in the team sprint for Jess Varnish and Katy Marchant; and silver too in the Team Pursuit for Emily nelson, 21-year-old Cardiff born Elinor Barker (a name I heard often at the Manchester Velodrome), 26-year-old Welsh representative Ciara Horne and 27-year-old Joanna Rowsell-Shand.  There is room in each Team GB’s medal cabinet and their collective Palmarès can only increase in depth and content.


Other stand out races included 33-year-old Simona Krupeckaitė who swept away Stephanie Morton in a whisker of a win to allow Lithuania to claim gold in the women’s Keirin final.  The Canadian team (Laura Brown, Stephanie Roorda, future star 23-year-old Germany born Jasmin Glaesser – who had a rough tumble after the race, ) claimed the Team Pursuit gold (she also claimed silver in the Point Race).  In the men’s Omnium Thomas Boudat claimed gold, but for the final Points Race it was all between him, Lasse Norman Hansen of Denmark and the large-framed Artyom Zakharov of Kazakhstan.  Manx Missile Mark Cavendish claimed fourth spot in the Omnium.  Personal favourite and muscle man Robert Förstemann had a few rides but was beaten by his German junior opponent early on.  The standard of the sprint cyclists has so much depth – with tactical awareness and speed of reaction allowing for no margin of error in this sport!  Robert Förstemann is well known for his 74cm thighs, but few know that he once had a race with a toaster (click and watch the video!).


Closer to home (present home) 25-year-old Chinese powerhouse Lin Junhong pushed aside her opponents in the women’s Sprint honours, followed by 28-year-old local superstar 李慧詩 (Lei5 Wai3 Si1 – more than 4 tones in Cantonese; also known as Sarah Lee, which sounds like a British gateau brand).  李慧詩 also came third in the Keirin and was promptly photographed continuously for by what seemed like half the stadium.  22-year-old Yang Qianyu came third in the women’s Scratch race, allowing Hong Kong once again a bronze medal.  Xu Chao, of China, landed silver.  He is but 21-years-old and lost both final Sprint races to rookie Constable!  Guo Shuang (郭爽) retained her World Cup points winner title from the previous year holding off 李慧詩 by 37 points overall.  There are some wonderful cyclists already in Hong Kong and China - and I can see the Rio 2016 Olympics featuring one or two names on the medal podiums.  Something big is on the horizon...


In amongst the best part of 20 hours of cycling spectating there was little time for anything else.  The Hong Kong Marathon was observed in passing, and not as intention.  The heavy rain and sweeping wind did little to inspire me to join the running masses.  And in Hong Kong, I had a good night's sleep, three times... all be them, expensive ones.  Nothing is cheap there!  Pizza was pricey; food was often expensive; drinks are not so good value for money... but transport was good value.  Just.  I will not make an effort to go to Hong Kong again, unless something catches my eye, like a luxury bed-shaped bicycle (I spotted in one shop on the way out).  I also intended to visit Marks and Spencers (Hong Kong) for Lancashire cheese, but left little time.  Odd, that in the U.K., I'd never seek out M&S (there are some in Shanghai too) for anything, yet here I am and at every opportunity I try to buy a cheese I hold dear to home!



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



The Buddha of Suburbia

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





A new day has come blasted out over the school’s tannoy system, after lunch on Tuesday afternoon.  It seems that every day 2pm, following a nap, students and teachers must suffer at the tones of Celine Dion.  I actually love the song but to be woke by it, would be hell.  Tuesday morning’s first and only class in Senior 2/7 flowed reasonably smoothly.  In the afternoon I had classes in Senior 3 and the quieter students in Senior 2/6 followed up afterwards.  In Senior 2 we finished Mendelian Genetics ahead of Wednesday morning’s examination.  I was tasked with supervising said exam.  I had been briefed on modes of cheating, flying drone alerts and much more.  I wasn’t quite sure if I was supervising school students or Daesh invaders.  So, during the exam I spotted one student intent on looking at another student’s paper far across the desks.  He knew it too.  We played cat and mouse all class and I’m convinced said student actually answered very little overall.  I shall see, as I have been tasked to mark the 49 papers!  They’re sat opposite me giving me the evil eye.


This afternoon, following lunch (and my 0755 class for cell biology in Senior 3), I departed by private driver (arranged by the school) to Baiyun for two classes, where the Senior 1/2/3 combination of 9 students started the topic of Mendelian Genetics.  After school I checked in at the 7 Day’s Inn once again.  It isn’t as swish as the Esplanade in Nansha [南沙区环市西路海宁大街110号 (毛家湾饭店旁边)], but it is sound enough.  It might be slapped in the middle of a very heavily populated and dusty suburb, but there is beauty here too.  The sunset tonight was brilliantly bright.  Tomorrow, I have two classes and one on Friday morning.  Next week, I have to mark the Senior 3 Biology exam papers and run the Baiyun campus examination… then mark the papers too.  The good news is that next week, I have no classes.  I’m not sure I am needed for the three days of work, but we shall see!


Murray’s FC started up again last weekend and on Tuesday night I missed my second game.  This excursion for work phenomenon is disturbing my lack of fitness regime.  I haven’t ridden my bike since last year too. 


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








Is there life on Mars?

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


Am I Professor Snape?  At times it feels like I’m in a perverse anti-Harry Potter World.  Somehow here, yet somehow not here (simultaneously, at the same time).  The school I am in, looks on the surface like the high school I went to (Reddish Vale Technological College), yet somehow feels closer to the mutant baby of Hogwarts and a prison.  There’s the military precision of order – with very little notion of the normal chaotic Chinese time sat behind it.  Every office desk is in a cube, beyond that more order, and far along the corridors, very organised classrooms.  Door handles may be missing here and there, but this high school is ran well.  The captain of this vessel knows their biscuits from their cookies.  The layout of the buildings has structure, uniformity and a pattern.  It has to.  There are more than two thousand developing souls at various stages of puberty roaming around this campus.  They are damn bright too.  The elite of the cream of the crop of the pinnacle of the apex of their generation, is still an understatement.  Most students in the Advanced Placement programme building are on a par with the most fluent of westerner.  They probably have a deeper vocabulary, and have shocked me a few times already with their wide range of understanding.  It is no surprise China is picking and finding the bright sparks to push them forward.  In my biology classes I am teaching Mendelian Genetics to the two Senior 2 classes, spread between 6 classes.  Senior 3 class is learning about animal and plant cells over 6 classes.  Senior 1/2/3 (at Baiyun campus) have to learn Meiosis and Mendelian Genetics across 15 classes.  The level of content is analogous to that of what I learnt at university!


The reason I am teaching biology is because my company needed a cover teacher.  My predecessor (the long-term teacher) fell ill and has returned to Canada.  I hope he is well soon, it did not sound like a good position to be in!  His cover teacher also left.  So, Worlda, knowing that I was free asked me to cover.  I’m not a person who says no.  I also need the money.  I am inexperienced teaching high school and rusty with my biology knowledge (I’ve not studied much since university!).   Alarm bells rang initially.  Then, I faced the challenge head on.  Worlda, eventually put me clear and a previous cover teacher, Ishit from India, helped tremendously.  The jigsaw pieces fell into place.  It transpired each class at the Nansha campus holds around 20 students and in the Baiyun campus, just 9 learners.  With the previous teacher’s PowerPoints, notes and lesson plans to hand, I dug into the challenge.  Professor Google and Doctor Wikipedia met with Chancellor Slideshare and pooled their talents.  The Holt McDougal Biology textbook by Stephen Nowicki landed on my desk on Monday morning, almost shattering it.  I should mention my first class was at 10:40am on that day, and I arrived to school with 20 minutes to spare.  My co-worker just made it!


High school biology in China is like entry level university.  They have textbooks for biology and enviromental sciences, amongst others, I've only ever seen at university and specialist bookshops.  Not only that, the students are the cream of the crop.  All are leaving after summer, aged 15/16, to go to Universities in and around the U.S.A.  The first two classes were surprisingly okay, then the third was just so so.  Oddly, that Monday’s classes mirrored the following Monday’s classes.   The students on the whole seem energetic, buried in school work, textbooks and homework.  I don’t give homework but I do tell them to read up on each subject, and they seem to do it:  I’ve seen notes and they’ve told me so much more!  Being the school swat must be damn hard here.  Each student is so very, very bright.   At their desks they have tools, non-primative ones, like laptops, pens that can scan English and translate into Chinese characters, phones, electronic dictionaries – and so much more.  Whilst some of the boys sit at the latest Alienware laptop (high end sh!t), they don’t play games or surf the web.  They have privileges and clear goals.  I guess the fear of parents knowing that they’re wasting their hard-earned is enough…


The classrooms are small, twenty desks and some peripheral furniture.  Students live nearby in one of the many accommodation blocks but judging by every covered surface, you’d guess they spend 80% of their time in the classroom.  The main projection board has all the latest touchscreen technology, smartboard or something, and a tiny chalkboard sits next door.  The teacher’s desk comes with a PC, music system, secondary monitor and all mod cons.  Luxury.  The only odd thing about this school, is that there are three other foreign teachers in my office – and so far none have said much more than hello.  Even the Chinese teachers in here are extra, extra silent.  If a pin drops, it will be heard.  I guess it is the pre-exam time being hectic or demanding, physically and mentally.


So, on Sunday I returned to Nansha – and thankfully a different hotel.  I slept well at what I think is called the Baishui Esplanade (there isn’t really a walkway nearby) Hotel.  It was odd to be greeted by ten ladies at the door.  It seems there is a massage service.  No, thank you!  I’m happy because my box room has a carpet and a fantastic rainforest shower.  My second night’s sleep was wonderful too.  If I return to Nansha, ever, I’d stay there again.  That’s how confident I am about they final night’s sleep there!  There are two restaurants next door and no signs of anything else – and Wanda Plaza is less than 2km away, offering a selection of western/Chinese dishes – and the big brand restaurants, like Master Potato.  Peace and quiet, after last week!


Hearing the sad news about the passing of the music icon David Bowie, made me think, “How good was he?”  Bowie was better than The Beatles.  His songs, from across 29 albums, span across is 69 years on Earth, or was it Mars?  As a kid, I did not get his music and then over time I matured and grew up listening to his art.  The materials he made were a canvas of imagination, soul, blues and beauty.  Don’t get me wrong, there was darkness, depth and sorrow but overall his music was pure escapism.  Anyone who can create an iconic character and then re-enter music under multiple styles and genres deserves respect.  And he could act, Labyrinth was such an iconic movie.


"Look up here, I'm in heaven, I've got scars that can't be seen, I've got drama, can't be stolen, everybody knows me now."


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

Beware of close relations with the platypus.

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


Don’t fuck a platypus.  That’s what the sign should read as.  I’m stood looking down, dubiously at the do not disturb sign.  I’m angry.  Even if I hang it outside, it means nothing.  The Chinese characters beneath the English state the same: shut up; shhh; hush hush; please be quiet…  I choose not to hang it outside.  It wouldn’t make one iota of a difference to my night’s sleep.  I know I’m in for a rough ride.  Two nights have passed here.  Tonight is the final one here at the 99 Inn, Nánshā.  If heaven’s forbid, it is on Tripadvisor or some such hotel and travel website, I will slate it until it sits within inches of Dante’s Inferno.  Don’t get me wrong, the room is good.  It is spacious, airy and clean.  The raised sleeping area with the near submerged desk and bed give it a Japanese style, although one rushed by Ikea’s flat-packed furniture.  The television faces the bed, offering escape and laziness at the click of a button, from the comfort and warmth of the cradle.  I’ll forgive them for offering two pairs of lounging sandals, with all the key foot massage points elevated.  Even the bathroom mistakes are laughable – but hardly an inconvenience.  A toilet roll holder beneath the shower.   Who does that?  No door.  Privacy at its best.  The hotel is on Jin Tao Da Jie (off Jintao Road, amongst the Jinzhou Plaza) in Nánshā having only recently been rebranded as 99 Inn from Lidong Hotel


The first night, I managed to get to sleep sometime around 3am on Monday morning, having despatched myself under the covers 10.30pm on Sunday.  The neighbouring building and the very same building both had KTV/bar/nightclub combinations.  On Tuesday after school, I did look for another hotel but discerned they all seem to neighbour entertainment complexes.  The reasoning behind my search, was getting to sleep around 2am on Tuesday morning.  Again, I’d fled to bed early the previous night.  With no alternative forthcoming and my company saying they’d fix it next week, I fell asleep at 9.30pm.  By 10.30pm I was awoken, this time by a live band, howling fans and would stay this way until 3am.  In amongst it all the Police and some criminals re-enacted a Benny Hill TV show chase scene, with added sirens.  And knocks on the door.  And tannoy announcements locally.  I had checked every floor of the hotel for possible quieter rooms, but there were none.  So, up at 6.30am I checked out of the hotel (booked by David at my company - which I shall take more interest in, going forward).  I shall never ever return there.  I’d rather chance myself sleeping in the sea (in, not on).  After the slowest check-out from a hotel ever, I managed to make my 7.55am class at Guangzhou Foreign Language School (广州外国语学校 Guǎngzhōu wàiguóyǔ xuéxiào), five minutes late.  That was okay.  Two classes followed and I was whisked by the school’s private driver to Báiyún QÅ« (白云区/Baiyun district). 


Sprawling outwards from beneath the white cloud mountain, the Báiyún suburbs are dense and mostly occupied.  Greenery is present but in patches resembling a decorator’s radio with paint splatter.  Actually, maybe less than that!  In the early evening, following two back to back classes, I was assisted by Wendy from Worlda to check into a new hotel.  All roads in China seem to lead to 7 Days Inn [7tiān Liánsuǒ Jiǔdiàn Jítuán /7天连锁酒店集团].  A peaceful night’s sleep was had, following a very large meal for one.


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

The final frontier

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


Last Thursday was the final day of the year and also my final day at Dao Ming Foreign Language School.  Completing the Grade Six oral English exams that morning amongst three classes wasn’t particularly taxing for me, but some of the students did show an unnecessary level of stresses.  Twitching of the eyes, nervous jolts of the head, eyes shy of direct contact and overall worry.  They needn’t have.  Only three students today scored less than 80%.  None of the three students have been at Dao Ming longer than this semester.  One student retook his exam due to the fact last time he scored 3% - but today he scored 55%.  Some students looked so chilled out, deadened by a continual flow of mock exams, tests and examinations.  Homework related previous papers are not uncommon.  Results had been compiled and sent to the teachers at the end of the day.  Like my first entry into school, I slipped in and out without any drama.


During the final day however the school show was great fun to be involved with.  My peers Tess, Asger, Anna and Albin gave their all and we delivered a good musical/dance number.  Our act featured some Beatles songs and Morecambe and Wise's Bring Me Sunshine.  For 15 acts before and 4 acts following the students from various grades demonstrated acting, comedic and dance talents giving the 2016 Arts’ Festival a real sense of variety.  The initial hundreds-of-balloons launched may cause a few animal deaths and some low level plastic refusing to go away, but it looked good for the camera.  Oddly, students were picking up more biodegradable things like paper and lecturing each other about the possible environmental impacts!  Start small, I guess! 


The teachers and students work damn hard – too hard.  They are driven by the school’s high demand for quality output.  The school has pride – but it works the students above and beyond to achieve their goals.  I hope for the students’ futures, it pays its dues.  And that was that, the day ended alongside a semester and year. 


After a quiet new year (I went to see a movie Mojin - The Last Legend [GuÄ­ ChuÄ« Dēng ZhÄ« Xún Lóng Jué/鬼吹灯之寻龙诀 - starring Yáng Yǐng AKA æ¨é¢–Angelababy,ShÅ« Qí - Lín Lìhuì æž—ç«‹æ…§ ] that finished just after midnight, as if nothing had happened - because to most Chinese people, the Gregorian calendar is not the norm...) and a weekend of rest, I headed to Huánggé Zhèn (黄阁镇) in Nánshā via Guǎngzhōu along the Guǎngzhōu Dìtiě Sì Hào Xiàn (广州地铁4号线/ Line 4 of the Guangzhou Metro).



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





A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

Year MMXVI: A New Challenge

It is a period of hard work. Workbooks and powerpoints, striking from a base in Guangzhou, have won their first victory against a teacher’s chiselled soul.

During the preparation, Worlda agents managed to create plans to deploy a teacher for two weeks at a new basecamp to teach biology [namely Mendelian Genetics and Plant/Animal Cell Biology].  In Baiyun and Nanshan, are large high schools with enough students to populate an entire planet.

Pushed by Worlda’s staffing agents, John races aboard his coach, custodian of the powerpoint and lesson plans that can save his predecessor’s work and restore structure to the school’s lesson flow…

[Everyone is banging on about the latest Star Wars movie - and it doesn't come out until Friday the 9th of January here!]

Up in smoke

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


School may have an idea now to who my replacement will be.   A piece of woof justice, if ever there was one.  As I typed that I just sneezed so powerfully, I could have ripped my diaphragm and groin muscles.  That bloomin’ ‘urt.  The projectiles dispersed thankfully into a tissue and not through my laptop’s screen.   I had a tissue handy because I’m at the exit stage of Man Flu.  Tissues are everywhere, on almost every student’s desk.  There are many colds, viruses, man flu cases etc flying around.  Handerkerchiefs?  Forget that.  Not here.  Not a chance.  When someone sneezes, it is as if Mount Etna herself has spewed volcanic matter over the immediate sky.  Any signs of sneezing should be given a wide pathway around the sneezer.  Otherwise, expect decoration of an unwelcome variety. 


All this being said, we can’t keep throwing antibiotics around like toys, the superbugs are coming… as discovered in China recently.  Everytime I hear of a teacher with a cold, they soon seem to share photographs of intravenous drip-administered fluids and antibiotics on their WeChat moments (like a Facebook wall).  We can’t go on this way.  We need to build our own resistance and stop depending on drugs [they should be a last resort/used for the more vulnerable].


Other things that disgust me are smoking.  Almost every man smokes here in China.  Every boy seems to light up as they show they are now a man.  Very few women smoke, although you do see a few in western bars joining the filthy habit.  Each province in China has its own brand of tobacco.  I’m told there are around 900 brands nationally.  Some have names like 红双喜(Hóngshuāngxǐ or Red Double Happiness), 中华(Zhōnghuá/National smoke – the slogan is Love our Chungwa, or love our China – and 毛泽东Máo Zédōng smoked them, so they are immensely popular!), then there is 红塔山 (Hóngtǎshān/Red Pagoda Hill), brands named after Communist party buildings, Pandas, Pride, good cats, and YuXi has a theme park named after it!  It doesn’t matter what their names or packagaing is, on the mainland they all belong to China National Tobacco Corporation (中国国家烟草公司 Zhōngguó yāncǎo zǒng gōngsÄ«).


I can’t see many people giving up smoking.  Every shop has at least 25 different brands.  Each street and almost all signage often has a brand advertising freely.  Non-smoking bars and restaurants often have signage saying not to do so, next to an ashtray.  The extremely lax enforcement of smoking laws here, taxi drivers sparking up enroute, school bus drivers chugging away in full view of students, teachers bunking off to toilets, P.E. teachers unreservedly lighting up in their ash-filled offices… the list goes on and on.  I often see Chinese footballers smoking as they play.  They have their hands free.  Why not?  I’ve seen basketball games pause every five minutes for a team talk/filthy fag break.   


Cigarette packages globally often contain warning signs and symbols.  Some are devoid of anything other than the bare minimum.  In China, expect artwork, lavish symbols and bold bright colouring.  China has major health problems in most areas.  Smoking is one of them.  It won’t disappear any time soon.  At least four or five teachers I know that arrived started smoking again here.  In fact some of the guys at football only smoke here because it is so cheap.  2.5RMB (or 25 pence) a packet is common, with few being much more than this.  Unless, you want luxury or foreign brands illegally imported.


Who gets rich from the habit?  The government (7% of GDP comes from tobacco - but then someone may have to foot the health bill eventually), the tobacconists, the shops… Sung et al. estimated the economic costs of smoking in China in 2000 at US$5.0 billion (based on the exchange rate of 8.27RMB to US$1), of which US$1.7 billion were direct healthcare costs of smoking and $3.3 billion were indirect morbidity and mortality costs.  There is a relatively large amount of money to be made and lost in relation to the habit of chuffing one and other’s lives away.  That said, with air pollution [it is estimated to kill 4000 people a day here] being so bad in places, does it matter?  Sadly, 33% of young smokers are likely to meet an end prematurely – with disability numbers also expected to shoot upwards.  Whilst Chinese women (less than 1% of the population are believed to be smokers) have deceptively young looking skin, often many many have deceivingly old looking skin.  Although with the inventor of the e-Cig being a dual user of traditional and modern methods, what chance does anyone have of stubbing out this bad habit?


Smoking is a social custom in China.  I’ve been shunned for not accepting cigarettes.  It is a sign of respect and friendliness, but one refusal can end social interactions.  Here news reports have advised smoking as being good for you.  In 2009, the Chinese Ministry of Health issued a decision to totally ban smoking in all health administration offices and medical facilities by the year 2011.  No such enforcement is ever evident.  Concerns about how China is perceived by way of image may one day win over tough enforcement and end promotion of tobacco but until then, good luck in the smoke filled alleys, restaurants, taxis, bars and steeets here.   Whilst secondhand smoke is a major health concern, ability to enforce has not been brought about.  Some even claim it cures mouth ulcers, relieves schizophrenia and so on.  I guess if you have asthma then a dose of Ebola might cure you.


In 2011, 2011, State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, proclaimed that it will forbid “inappropriate smoking scenes” in movies and TV shows.  Few shows feature smoking.  Old movies, the kind watched by many, always seem to show long smoking action shots.  This bad habit won’t disappear like smoke in the wind.


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


A very Mandarin Christmas

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


Firstly, I hope you all had a very joyous and Merry Christmas.


Christmas Day should be an exciting day.  It should be filled with family, close friends, fun and happiness.  My Christmas Day was much more placid than previous years.  I’d already reserved myself to thinking it’d be bobbins.  My Christmas dinner consisted of beef and noodles with some fruit, before watching Mr Walrus at Brown Sugar Jar.  I’d been asked to write an article about the gig already and decided I’d go at the very last minute.  HubHao shall have the article sooner or later.  Undoubtedly a link shall follow in due course.  The way Christmas Day panned out, I wouldn’t change for the world.  As the last of my man flu dissipated, I felt very relaxed indeed.  A day without presents and gifts being received wasn’t all bad.  I’ve grown out of that and prefer to give gifts so much more.  Next Christmas will be spent with family and not in China!


This Christmas, I gave myself a challenge.  I signed up to something tough.  I completed enrolment to study and complete the HSK (XÄ«n Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì 新汉语水平考试).  This is a Chinese Proficiency Test.  This is administered by the Hanban (汉办) - an abbreviation for the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (NOTCFL).  I’ve registered for Hanban already.  I’ll aim for the HSK 1 & HSK 2 as both don’t require writing ability.  It could be a foundation to build upon.  With respects to purely an oral test, I could aim to complete HSKK 1-6 levels ( 汉语水平口语考).  My first test (HSK一级)  and second test (HSK二级 ) will be on 7/5/2016 and 12/6/2016 respectfully at东莞南方科技专修学院(网考).  The main oral Mandarin test is at孔子学院远程教育中心网考(广州)on 21/5/16.  Until then I need to learn and besides online materials like, online dictionaries, personal tutoring (e.g., pronounciation tools, cultural websites like and of course friends here.  Learning Chinese is not easy but I’m determined to feed off a mental challenge in Spring.  Time to immerse…


I need to download Radio Chinese Plus onto my phone; talk and sing to myself in Chinese (singing Little Apple/Teresa Teng/Wang Fei/Zhou Huajian); listen to those around me more; pay more attention to signage and announcements; watch some popular Chinese videos online; maybe pay more attention to the likes of Jackie Chan (Chéng Lóng/成龙) or another famous star; watch some Chinese tele and movies (Shower 洗澡, A World Without Thieves 天下无贼, Eat Drink, Man Woman 饮食男女, and To Live 活着. Good Chinese TV series include Home With Kids 家有儿女,Journey To The West 西游记 and Fen Dou 奋斗.).


Yesterday, a mostly lazy day, involved the watching of many movies including A Very Murray Christmas.  In the evening I ate a turkey sandwich at Irene's Bar whilst watching Manchester City win 4-1 and unveil our new old modern classic crest.  I am just tucking myself in bed and judging by the news online the U.K. is far too wet.  Keep safe everybody!  And, whilst the U.K. floods, let’s look at cheery news:  A bicycle in a tree?


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

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