The End of the Current Era

Achievements 3 – Progress 0.

It’s over three and a half years since this year’s A2s started at school. Quite a lot has changed in that time – two permanent CPs, two temporary ones, further expansion of the centre, and an ever-shifting group of teachers. When I look back, it seems like a long time, and yet, paradoxically, the past two years seem to have flown by with proverbially indecent haste. May and exams have suddenly arrived before we’ve had a chance to blink.

This is the first occasion when I’ve mostly taught the same group of students for three years. In the past, I’ve normally declined to deal with the A2 classes.

[H]im on innan oferhygda dæl
weaxeð ond wridað

as the Beowulf poet wrote. But if this year’s classes have one distinction, it is that they were generally far less obnoxious than students in previous years, although A2(1&3) took it upon themselves to stop bothering with my class some time ago.

Normally by the time we get to the final assembly, I notice that my former students seem to look a little older and a little more mature. Not so this time, apart from one or two. What I started with in PAL or gained in AS still looked pretty much the same.

Certainly, I get little sense that my students matured as people. The immature boys were still behaving like infantile 12-year-olds even after three years; the cipher girls were still ciphers, living in terror that I was going to call on them to answer questions and be articulate. While their results were adequate, neither of my classes really seemed to have much spirit.

We had the final assembly for them yesterday, both A2 and IB2. It was the usual affair, which meant that 96% of the entire ceremony was in Chinese and our alleged role in their education was probably largely forgotten. The speeches lasted an hour, which were then followed by the customary audio-visual cacophony. The IB2s’ efforts were pretty decent, but the A2s’ video paled in comparison. I sat watching and every so often, I’d see the face of a student I’d taught for three years and wonder what their name was. The ciphers had already started vanishing from my memory.

I missed out on the handshaking because it got to a point where I needed to go to the loo, and by the time I got back, it was too late for me to worm my way on stage because the process had already started. I didn’t mind, and didn’t feel I’d missed out. As I also predicted, none of my former students sought me out for photos, or even came to say goodbye; but the year is fizzling out as it always does and I’ve been through so many generations of students over the past twelve years that any sense of nostalgia has long been dead and buried.

No, I’m looking ahead to the future, although quite what I’m going to get landed with I don’t know for certain. The original version of the timetable has been scrapped because of changes to the changes, but I may have fewer teaching hours next year. On the other hand, I’ve said I’d be EE co-ordinator, although I’m not sure how much extra work that entails. I suspect it’ll veer between some periods when there’s a lot to be done, and others when there’s only a little.

Now, where’s the end of the term, and can it arrive a little sooner?

Lovely Dragon Boating Weather

Even the ducks have umbrellas.

Today’s forecast was for rain. The forecast was the icon with the big, blobby raindrops, which never bodes well.

There was a little rain last night, but it was mostly dry and overcast this morning. About mid morning, the rain started falling and alternated between light and heavy showers.

By the time I went out, the rain had eased sufficiently for it to be merely bothersome.

My first port of call was China Mobile to put more money on my phone. By the time I left, the rain had almost ceased and was replaced by another problem.

My next destination was Parkson because I wanted to buy another bottle of wine. Big mistake. The traffic along 人民中路 was completely jammed up and I had to squeeze my way past a long line of cars to find somewhere to park.

The traffic was slowly making its way to the next intersection where it was mostly turning left onto 新生路. It’s now possible to go straight ahead, but I’m not sure whether it’s still possible to traverse the next section or it currently remains a dead end. 新生路 is not only unable to cope with that volume of traffic, but the cars were also barely moving. It’s actually quite a busy side street, but is also an utter bottleneck. There’s a car park along there, which is not exactly the best location for one.

I finally arrived at Carrefour with some rain in attendance. I did my shop­ping and departed. The rain was still relatively light, then heavier, then lighter, and just as I reached 远东百货, it became a monsoon.

Every puddle became a pond, every slope became a babbling brook, and all parts of the road were either one or the other.

Why is it that more often than not, the weather worsens when I get near 远东百货? The occasions when it has improved while I’ve been there are fewer and farther between.

More of the same tomorrow according to the forecast, and thus, the Dragon Boat Festival goes down the drain – or would if the drainage was better.

The Plantagenets

By Dan Jones.

The Plantagenets seemed to veer between extremes, either being extremely good at being medieval kings or extremely bad at it. Edward I beat everyone else up; everyone else beat Edward II up.

The family began as Frenchmen who coincidentally ruled England, but often had more pressing concerns on the Continent or in the Middle East (e.g. Richard I); but with the loss of most of their French possessions, they gradually became more English. They were also in the awkward position of being both kings of England and vassals of the French king, which would never have survived such an inherently antagonistic relationship.

It was also a period during which the foundations of some sort of democracy got laid down even although the Magna Carta and Parliament were all about the rights and privileges of the vested interests, and Simon de Montfort, who for some peculiar reason is seen as some champion of democracy, was a.) French and b.) a piggy-eyed, human-rights abusing thug.

And that was another irony of the age. More than one Plantagenet monarch was deposed only to be replaced by a regime (e.g. Isabella and Mortimer) that was just as bad as its predecessor. It was an age of palace coups and frequent civil wars, albeit ones that generally (with the exception of Stephen and Mathilda) didn’t last long.

Jones’s writing is readable and generally maintains a good pace. His summary chapter at the end needed to be tighter and more focused. It waffled and I skipped to the punchline. Another oddity of Jones’s writing, which makes me wonder whether this is the book of the lecture notes, is his tendency to repeat himself at certain points in the narrative. It doesn’t work as a rhetorical device because I’m expecting a continuation of the topic. The effect kept making me think to myself that I’d already read this bit.

I cannot review The Plantagenets as a professional historian, but it is, I think, an interesting read for us amateurs.