Tag Archives: holidays



It was so bright and clear in the morning that it was impossible to lie in. In fact, there should’ve been no lying-in at all because Linda and I needed to have been at the station about an hour ahead of the departure of the train.

Fortunately, when we got to the station, some nice person let Linda push in at the front of the queue, and we got to the gate as the train was being boarded. There were stops in Suzhou and Kunshan, and about an hour later, we arrived in Shanghai.

It was quite easy to get to Sichuan Beilu Station via Hailun Lu, although we had to get the Line 4 train that was going in the right direction before switching to Line 10. (Line 4 is Shanghai’s equivalent of the Circle Line.) When we got out of Sichuan Beilu, we got in a taxi, but the driver explained that because Zhapu Lu was behind us and the hotel was not that far away, there was no need for him to ferry us there.

We walked down the street to Zhapu Lu, went across the first main intersection, and arrived at the Hanting Hotel soon afterwards. There was a wedding in progress, and shiny confetti was being blown along the street. Our room had a view of the building next door, which was separated from the hotel by a narrow alley.

Young Allen Building, Zhapu Lu, Shanghai (2013)Zhapu Lu is a lively, old and somewhat dirty street with plenty of relics from the time the city was mostly run by foreigners. On the opposite corner from the hotel was the Young Allen building, which was built in 1923, and there was a Hindu temple at the northern end of the street. (A lot of the buildings in Shanghai have plaques on them, explaining what they used to be.) The south end of Zhapu Lu was dominated by restaurants (and the street is marked in the Lonely Planet guide as a food street). There was a very popular Hong Kong-style place which did pre-cooked meat outside of which there was almost always a (long) queue. (Even yesterday morning [06.10.13] as we passed it, there was a small group of people waiting for it to open.) We went to one particular restaurant several times, although I’ve forgotten its name.

Our search for the Bund took us on a wild goose chase because when we got to the Russian embassy, it appeared that we should’ve gone straight ahead. In fact, it was to the right across the bridge beside the embassy, and we walked some way before eventually asking a security guard at the entrance to a passenger terminal for directions. I suppose we ought to have followed the hordes across the bridge; or the city council could’ve erected a sign. (I note that the signs for tourists are unrelentingly in Chinese, which is a minor bother for me, but doesn’t help foreigners find their way about.) We got back to the embassy just as the guard was being changed.

The weather was a real nuisance. It was very clear in Shanghai, but windy and cloudy at the same time. When the sun was hidden by the clouds, the temperature dropped; when the sun blazed down, the temperature shot up. Half the time, I wished I had been wearing something a little more substantial, and half the time, I was fine.

Nanjing Donglu, Shanghai (2013)We crossed the bridge where we, and everyone else, took photos of the buildings on the far side of the Huangpu. We then made our way along the Bund until the sun drove us to seek some shade closer to Zhongshan Lu. At Nanjing Donglu, we saw huge numbers of shoppers flowing (literally) along the street in both directions. The ones from the street streamed across, and up the steps onto the Bund. The sensible thing would have been to close the street to cars, but sense will forever remain in short supply here. After going a little further, we went back and joined the masses on Nanjing Donglu, turning aside when we reached Sichuan Beilu and making our way back to the hotel.

We had a much-needed snooze in the afternoon because we’d done a lot of walking not only in Shanghai, but also in Wuxi the previous day when we’d been on a long walk through the park and over to the island, which provided us with some brilliant shots as the sun set.

We roamed around for tea, eventually finding a branch of KFC where the service was less than competent. In addition to that, Linda burnt her mouth on the soup she ordered. We then went back to our favourite Chinese restaurant down Zhapu Lu where we had soup dumplings while the local bore banged on at a couple of people sitting at the table beside ours. I’m sure he would’ve started on us, but we left.


Oh, lordy, he’s heading for the microphone

And he’s going to make a speech.

Yes, it’s that time of the year once again when back in 1949, Chairman Mao stepped up to the microphone and announced the opening of the People’s Republic of China, and the audience departed from Tiananmen Square in a sea of lively chatter: “Who was he? What was he talking about? Did I vote for him? What about the workers? I hope they remember that violence doesn’t legitimise them. Oh, bugger, I left the gas on.”

The week leading up to this year’s National Day Holiday really was a week, fraught with anxieties about the contrary weather and the maddeningly transitory forecast for Sunday which veered from heavy cloud to light to moderate rain and back to heavy cloud again – and then ended up being sunny spells. If the weather had been bad, we might’ve had a nine-day week.

The centre of the city gets worse with one of the busiest sections of 人民路 being narrower than ever and now congested by cars, electric scooters, and pedestrians. Motorised traffic really needs to be directed away from the centre of Wuxi while all the work is being done on the Metro, but that would be sensible.

That section was especially bad yesterday because the mall beyond Parkson was having some sort of grand opening, and there were a lot of people around there. The bike park outside Parkson was completely packed. I could see somewhere to park my bike, but it was a row in, and I had to carry my bike over my head to get in and out.

I still haven’t been into Centre 66 yet to see this fabled supermarket with its Western goods. I need to reconnoitre the area to find somewhere to leave my bike, but there seems to be nowhere to do that along 人民中路. I might just have to park outside the Xinhua Bookshop instead.

The Ferrari-Maserati shop is under wraps at the moment while they no doubt make it look pretty for the arrival of all its odiously wealthy customers. In fact, the whole complex looks to be yet another paean to the massive wealth disparity in the Empire. The poor may be less poor, but the rich are vastly richer.

Anyway, Linda is arriving tomorrow to spend a few days with me. Hurrah!

Autumn is in summer

Spring is in winter.

The Mid Autumn Festival is upon us again. This will be my twelfth, although it’s only in recent years that this has been a long weekend. (I.e., we get one day off, and the other is stolen from the nearest available weekend; why not give us the Friday or Monday and be done with it? [You do realise that that would be sensible. Not something in great evidence in China. –ed.])

I forget what the weather has been like in previous years on this occasion,  but it remains rather summery. I believe the high today is 31°; certainly the sky is blue and the air is reasonably clear. There’s a small scattering of fluffy clouds to the east. In truth, today could be yesterday; today could be a year ago.

Although the weather today bears a greater resemblance to summer than autumn, the weather is feeling autumnal. It might be hot during the day, but the heat is less intense than it was a few weeks ago when it pervaded everything. So long as the humidity is kept at bay, it’s tolerable outside.

At the moment, the weather is not something to be too worried about, but with sports days coming up next, we will be anxiously watching the skies. In all my time in China, I cannot remember a single sunny sports day. It is quite possible that I’ve forgotten, but I typically associate sports days with heavy cloud and the imminent threat of rain. But just as I cannot recall a sunny sports day, I cannot recall the entire thing being cancelled because of the weather. Last year the little darlings had a temper tantrum even although the weather was quite ghastly.

In all likelihood we’ll go through the same thing again, but with the added bonus that if we do have to teach, the week before the National Day Holiday will be very, very long.


I recently learnt that Wuxi is the fifth most affluent city in China. We’re behind Suzhou at No. 3 and ahead of Changzhou, which also makes the top twenty list. [Really? Changzhou? One of the dullest cities imaginable. –ed.] Chengdu may be a good deal more affluent than most of Sichuan, but it’s not in the top twenty.

Meanwhile, the posh new (but unfinished) mall opposite the Xinhua Bookshop on 人民中路 is supposed to have a supermarket exclusively selling foreign products (at more than foreign prices, I expect). I know that the same mall has a Ferrari-Maserati shop, although I don’t know whether this will be ridiculously unaffordable cars or ridiculously expensive trinkets.

In fact, the whole place is a Ferrari-Maserati mall with all the posh designer brands there flogging their outrageously priced designer kit to vulgar conspicuous con­sumers.

Time for topical trivia


I’ve been coming here quite a bit, but mainly to see who’s been reading what and then either editing the formatting of old entries or deleting the entry because it should’ve been posted on Facebook because it was topical and trivial.

It is with this in mind that I’ve been dithering over this entry because it will be topical and trivial.

Holiday in Chengdu.

I meant to write something about the holiday in Chengdu much sooner because I knew that much of what happened would quickly fade from my mind.

The weather was generally grey and dry, which was in contrast to the heavy rain and flooding from which Sichuan had been suffering. There was one nice day when we saw blue sky and sunshine, and it started raining again on the day of my departure.

Global CentreLinda and I went to see the Global Centre (环球中心), the largest building in the world, which is on the south side of Chengdu (get off on the second-to-last stop on line 1 of the Metro). The building is vast, and also vastly un­finished. There were some shops, but like Raffle’s last year, so many premises were unoccupied, and the cinema was still being built. The artificial beach was also unfinished. But it seems to be standard practice in China to open some building long before it’s actually finished.

The picture above was taken with my new camera, which I bought because I knew I’d be going to the Global Centre and didn’t want to rely on the paltry camera on my phone. The new camera is a Sony HX 200, which is something like the great grandson (possibly great-great grandson) of my old camera. The only problem is that I can’t get pictures off it at the moment. I accidentally gave Linda the USB cable instead of the USB cable for her Walkman. It’ll have to wait till I’m at school before I can get the right cable back.

We mostly pottered around. Went out to Raffle’s a couple of times; went to the computer centre next door because Linda needs a new computer; went shopping for sunglasses from the camping shops on the other side of the road; and bought a new pair of sandals to wear inside so that I can wear the old ones outside.

I did notice an odd trend, though. One day when we were on the bus, I saw that some girl had gauze pads on her knees, and when she alighted, it was done very awkwardly. I then saw at least two more girls with sores on their knees as well.

I can only guess that this is a result of them tripping over in their stripper shoes. When we were in the Global Centre, I saw a girl with pea-stick legs clinging to her grandma on the escalator for fear of toppling over.

Merlin, the whole thing.

I’ve had a small pile of DVDs sitting on my bed for months, but because I mostly listen to music these days, I don’t bother watching them. I did, though, plough through the entirety of Merlin after I got back from Chengdu.

The story is roughly based on Arthurian legend, but in this version, Uther is mostly alive and fierce opponent of magic. Merlin is Arthur’s servant, and Gwenevere is the blacksmith’s daughter. Morgana, Arthur’s half sister, camps it up as an evil Goth chick with Helena Bonham Carter’s insane hair.

The tone of the series changed over time from being fairly light to being much darker. Evil Morgana was joined by evil Queen Gwenevere, and there was a cameo from the ghost of evil Uther.

The relationships between the characters also fluctuated. It seemed odd that Merlin and various other underlings were quite familiar with Arthur, addressing him by name. In a later episode, the writer seems to have decided that Arthur should be addressed formally throughout, and then in subsequent episodes, there was a mixture of formal and familiar.1

In the end there was a battle at Camlann where Merlin in the guise of Emrys hurled bolts of lightning at the Saxons. Mordred, who had gone over to Morgana’s side after Arthur had hanged his fanatical girlfriend, mortally wounded the king, but was killed himself.

Merlin tried to get Arthur to the Isle of the Blessed, but the series had already been axed, which meant that Arthur would never make it in time to be healed. He did remain alive just long enough for Merlin to inform him that he was a wizard.

The series ended without ever fulfilling the prophecy which the dragon (voiced by John Hurt) kept mentioning, viz. Arthur will unite the kingdoms of Britain to establish Albion.

The weather. I just had to mention it, didn’t I?

Last year the finally two weeks of July were clear, hot and sunny. This year we’ve had less clear and sunny, but more hot. I cannot recall the last time the high wasn’t 37°, and yesterday, it was 39°.

While the weather in Britain has been “scorchio”, it can’t really compare with the searing temperatures which we’ve been “enjoying”.

Is this going to last into August or, like last year, is some ruddy great typhoon going to slam into us?

The new chair.

I got back from Chengdu determined to do something about going to Ikea here. I had learnt a thing or two since my first failed attempt to get there.

The 328, which is really the bus for Metro, only runs from 6.40pm and would only reach Ikea in time for the place to close. The correct stop was the first one on the far side of 县前街, although I was beginning to have my doubts until I saw the Ikea bus going in the opposite direction and turn right onto 县前街. In other words, it doesn’t even go past the Far Eastern.

But the bus did eventually arrive and I travelled all the way to Ikea (about 10km, I estimate) for ¥2. Since it was a weekday, the bus was lightly populated, and Ikea was also quiet, which is in marked contrast to either in Chengdu.

I found the chair I wanted (the Markus) and arranged for it to be delivered to me the next day, which it was after some sort of hiccup. I think the deliverymen possibly went to the wrong building.

Anyway, it’s nice to have a decent chair to sit on, one which I can lean back when I want to watch something.

Speaking of watching something…

I watched Warm Bodies last night. Basically, girl meets zombie and he turns into a real boy. It’s a bit Pinocchio and a bit ugly duckling.

I assume that there’s a message here, but the question is what the zombies and skeletons (extreme zombies) represent exactly. Some sort of underclass in the US? The proletariat is not entirely irredeemable?

If you’ll forgive the irony of such a comment, the film had promise, but never quite seemed to come to life.

When in Rome?

I’ve been keeping half an eye on the GlaxoSmithKlein case, wondering exactly what is going on. Whenever some foreign company gets criticised for dubious practices, I suspect that it’s the Chinese people running the show here who are responsible. In this case, it appears to be the foreigners who are at fault and yet I also suspect that they were just doing what everyone else does here. (Long-term readers, if there are any such, may recall advertisements for “Brain Boost” at the school in Benniu, which were passed off as safety warnings.)

Why aren’t Chinese pharmaceutical companies being targeted? Why a foreign company? One suggestion I’ve seen is that this has something to do with the previous emperor’s relatives.

When red songs become the blues.

Bo Xilai is finally going to be tried. This provoked some rather robotic pro-government tweets on Weibo. As for the trial itself, I assume the outcome has already been decided. I suspect Bo will survive to spend the rest of his days in the same comfy prison as his wife.

I assume that the decision about his fate has already been made, and that the rest of the trial will be stage-managed.

Georgie Pordgie. Pordgy?

The new future king of England has been born and has been named George Alexander Louis.

At a rough guess, I think I will’ve been long dead by the time he’s king. If QEII lives to be 100, Charles won’t be king before he’s about 80, which means that William may not be king much before he’s 50, and by the time George VII gets his go on the big chair, most of the century will probably be over. I might just live long enough to learn who George’s successor will be.


  1. This has me wondering how Dark Age underlings addressed their superiors before Celtic Britain became Englalond. We see Arthur through the lens of how we see the Middle Ages when the servants would not, presumably, have dared to address their masters by name and English got saddled with that ridiculous and artificial Continental custom of tu vs. vous.

But last week it was February

I’m sure it was.

And so the 2012-13 academic year comes to an end. Although the final two weeks dragged on, the rest of this term seemed to whizz by, mostly in a shower of rain. I know that in other years, spring and early summer have been grey and wet, but this one seems to have been greyer and wetter.

The PAL classes this year contrasted starkly with each other. Normally by the end of the year, any difference between them is very slight (and vanished entirely last year). This year, the gap between them had increased by the time of the mocks back in March.

To make things worse, in spite of me explaining to them how they could choose an appropriate class for IB English next year (A and B → HL; everyone else → SL), most opted to do HL. When I surveyed the classes, I thought a roughly 50-50 split was more realistic.

The AS SL classes also contrasted with each other, although not to the same extent as the PAL classes. AS 1&3 seemed to be inhabited by students who were, with a few exceptions, lazy and indifferent. AS 2, on the other hand, was inhabited by students who should’ve been in the HL class. As a consequence, the flattering benignity of Paper 1 (reading) resulted in unrealistically good marks, although Paper 2 (writing) tended to throw some cold water on that.

We were given next year’s timetable yesterday. I’m continuing to A2 with my cur­rent AS classes. I’ve also inherited Fred’s HL IB English class, and will be teaching one of the AS HL classes, although I don’t know what the composition will be. I assume that it may be a mixture of this year’s PAL 1 and 2, but there may also be some new students. As far as I’m currently aware, we’re not going to have a third AS class, although considering how full the PAL classes were, a few extra students would stretch them to breaking point.

Things are going to be busy because of all the internal assessment that we’re going to have to do, and unlike a lot of schools with IB programmes, we don’t just have a few students to deal with.

Not everyone is returning, of course. Daniel got his marching orders and is off to an international school in Shanghai. (“I want to go to Xiamen,” said Daniel. “Here’s some money,” said some people with money. “I love Shanghai,” said Daniel.) Luca, Kam, Ken, and Fred are all going elsewhere. Fred’s off to be the CP at Tianyi, which leaves the spot for English HOD open. Eduardo announced that he wouldn’t be returning.

So what am I going to do now? I do have books to read and DVDs to watch. I thought I might have a go at learning (about) Old Persian. I’m off to see Linda (natch), but the cost of getting to Chengdu is putting me off thinking about Hong Kong.

It’s Sunday… It’s Tuesday…

It’s Sunday and Tuesday.

Finally, this awful week (weeek?) is over. I supposed it could’ve been worse because today might have been Friday. Instead, it was Tuesday, which lasts till period 10 and ends with the pre-IB speaking classes, which have even less point to them than a sphere. (I suppose someone will probably tell me that a sphere has an infinite number of points; since it’s Tuesday or Sunday or something, don’t expect me to be coherent.)

This morning I felt jet-lagged. If I hadn’t made myself put my shoes on, I’d probably still be sitting here saying to myself that I should put my shoes on. (Although you won’t see it, I just repeated myself in that sentence without noticing until I re-read it, which just goes to show that Mr Bamboo’s brain is somewhere beyond out-to-lunch.) I did go so far as to insist on class since the exams are too close for them to be slacking off.

With that in mind, Daniel and I looked at what time we have left before the English exam. Even if there are no exams to interrupt our classes, the answer is “precious little”. Besides, it’s too late in the day for any further improvement. At best the little things such as topic sentences and paragraphing, or the final sentence in Ex. 3 might stick.

And so the week ends. I might have had hopes to do something productive during the May Day Bank Holiday, but I think I’ll probably end up wasting most of it.

Tomorrow is some other day

Normal happens in other countries, Part LXXVII.

In the normal world, tomorrow will be Saturday and the day after will be Sunday – in the normal world.

In 梦国, Monday and Tuesday will be arriving this weekend as the tyrants ruin another holiday weekend and steal time off us.

Because I needed to prepare something for class while I was dealing with speaking exams, last Sunday was a work-at-home day.

I’m seriously knackered (had snooze when I got home after school, and had to give myself a kick to stop doing that and deal with other things) and we still have another two days of fun and games. In addition, another week has passed and I haven’t been able to leave school early as I’d normally be permitted to do on Wednesdays.

“Work, work, not dare to shirk…” as the goblins sang in The Hobbit.

Thursday, Saturday, some day

It’s a day of the week.

It’s Qingming (清明) when the Chinese go and tidy up the tombs of their ancestors unless corrupt developers have sunk the lot beneath a new Party HQ while the locals struggle in grinding poverty. Ah, cynicism in springtime. You just can’t beat it.

I know it’s meant to be Thursday and everyone’s wondering whether this new version of bird flu is going to turn out to be SARS again (though worse), but just to compound that Saturday feeling, I did some washing this morning. It’s going to be Friday on Sunday because (yes) we’re have our free time stolen from us as usual.

Once again, I wish we’d just get the official time off so that we wouldn’t end up with weeks that are six or seven days long after the event; and even before the event is intolerable. But ever doth common sense get lost or forgotten at the back of the imperial cupboard along with humanity.

I also did some marking today, but not a lot. You don’t go “to everywhere”. Pluralise “car” when you’re writing about them as a class of things. Excuse me while I quote directly:

[W]e can driver a car to everywhere which place we can do and car is very faster than the business.

Apparently “Tax is fast” as well. This is seriously painful (and rather extreme even by the appallingly low standard of English prose I have to tolerate) and yet even this level of brainless drivel will often result in a fairly respectable mark. (Actually, not on this occasion.)

It’s also that time of the year when I’m always reminded of how pitifully small this desk is (because I need to be marking here and not while I’m sitting on the bed), which then reminds me that I want to go to Ikea and buy a nice chair, but need to find the bus that goes there. (To Ikea, that is, and not to some chair.)

This is also the time when I move back into the bedroom even although it’s still winter in the morning and spring in the afternoon.

A ripping holiday

Get ’em before they rot.

I had meant to keep the blog updated with my antics in New Zealand, but I just never got round to it.

The trip went smoothly, although I noted that instead of heading south from Shanghai, we headed east towards Korea and Japan and were obviously skirting the Diaoyu Islands. I had no problems being on time for the 9.00am flight to Christchurch, which was delayed because some Chinese person had missed the flight and they had to remove their bags.

The weather for the first week was brilliant once any morning cloud had dissipated. The skies were blue, the air was clear, and there was none of that carcinogenic haze which plagues China.

I got on with re-ripping all of my CDs at 320Kbps, which also meant editing them yet again, and in the end, to speed things up, I scanned album art where it was missing and track information where it was wrong or wanting. I could probably have scanned the CDs at the higher rate the first time, but I was unaware of such things.

I learnt that The Genteel Companion by Richard Harvey has now deteriorated so much that the final track can no longer be ripped, and even on my Dad’s CD player, the flaws are now audible. After some research on the matter, I find that the flaws in the CD are a consequence of ageing, although my oldest CD, which is about 30 years old, is still fine. Nonetheless, there may come a day when the CDs can neither be ripped nor played.

We went to Blenheim for a few days, where the weather remained clement. We stopped off at a seal colony near Kaikoura and watched the pups lolling around on the rocks.

In Blenheim, we went to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. At the moment, this covers machines from World War I, but will be expanding into the period between the wars and World War II. The museum contains some original planes (a 1913 Caproni CA 22) as well as working replicas such as a flight of Fokker Dr.1s (the triplane flown by Baron von Richthofen). Sir Peter “Hobbit” Jackson and companies he is involved with are responsible for the outstanding displays, which include a plane which has crashed in a tree, and the aftermath of the death of the Red Baron as souvenir hunters swarmed around the plane.

We also had a trip from Havelock out on the Greenshell Mussel Cruise. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to sea (if you count trips across Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong), and we had a very pleasant afternoon sailing out to a mussel farm. We got a lecture on mussel farming from the master of the boat, who explained the whole process of keeping the mussel gene pool chlorinated and getting them to grow on the lines which hang from the floats, each of which carries a tonne of mussels. After that, we ate mussels and drank wine before returning to Havelock.

The start of the following week saw autumn getting in some early practice. The weather turned grey, wet, and cold – colder than Chengdu, and only marginally better than Wuxi. It did eventually improve, and was turning rather nice again by the time I had to leave.

My Mum and Dad have acquired some monarch butterfly caterpillars from an unknown source. Monarchs have been quite rare, and the swan plants had about thirteen caterpillars altogether. The biggest of them have just started pupating, and the smaller ones should be ready to start in the next week or so.

This ended up being a clothes buying holiday with the acquisition of new shirts, a new pair of pyjamas, and a couple of new singlets. I looked for shoes, but couldn’t find anything quite right and think that I need to leave such matters for Hong Kong.

I did buy the 6th series of Dr Who, and the first part of the 7th. On my next visit to a DVD shop here, I’ll probably find both, but it’s too much of a lottery.

I’ve also managed to solve the speaker dock problem by chance. Mum has a Sony speaker dock which she can use to recharge and listen to music on her Walkman. I’ve had my Walkman connected to speakers via a cable, but have had to resort to charging the device every so often (typically at awkward moments). I bought a USB plug so that I wouldn’t lose one of the ports of my USB hub (and I’ve never been keen on using my laptop as a source of power for other devices). I’ve found that while I’m recharging my Walkman, I can still use it, which means that I’ve got the equivalent of a speaker dock without enjoying the expense of one.

The flight back to China was sufficiently empty for me to have a whole row to myself, although the arm rests didn’t go all the way up and the attachments for the seatbelts jammed into me at times.

Back here, I took the offer of a private car or would’ve been stuck at Pudong till 11.20am, and not home much before 2.00pm. It’s bad enough having to wait until around 10.00am, but would’ve been a nightmare after a twelve-hour flight to have been stuck at Pudong for about 5½ hours. I had thought the week of the Spring Festival was the second week of the holiday. If I’d known that New Year’s Day was Sunday, I perhaps would’ve returned home today instead.

Divine smiles

The benevolent face of the gods of pedagogy.

It seems that the gods have smiled on us suffering mortals, whose term has dragged on beyond its tolerate-by date. We have Friday off. Why? Don’t know, but in one respect we’re lucky because we subsequently heard that the main school was going to be back on Sunday. It was noted that we, on the other hand, would be unavailable to hate the main school for stealing time from us again.

But the gods decided to gild the lily because next term doesn’t start till the 20th, which is now two days on from the original date.

This has been a tryingly long term overall, which was made worse by the eight-day week following New Year. Even two weekends later, I’m not sure we’ve recovered at all.

The term has also been trying because it seems to have been characterised by one thing giving way to another. Thus, for instance, it took me a month to mark some writing because every week there was something else which demanded my more immediate attention. I don’t seem to have done quite as much as I was hoping, but perhaps that’s an illusion. Possibly, I’ve done as much as ever, but I don’t feel I’ve  done a sufficient amount of it.

Perhaps part of that feeling stems from groping our way through the first term of actual IB teaching. Perhaps part stems from PAL 2, whose academic performance is a concern, which is not helped by changes to the exam which mean that students will probably have to do that little bit better to achieve the same sort of marks as previous years. (I don’t know how the grade thresholds will affect things.)

I also signed the new contract today. Quite a jump in my pay on this occasion, and there’s now a new package which includes the cost of two flights a year. None­the­less, the amount I’m being paid is going a mere step below the top of my scale while being somewhat south of the scale for teachers. While I’m not greedy, this continues to be an insult to how long I’ve been doing EFL teaching and the higher level of my academic qualifications.

After some improvement in recent days, the smog worsened. It started out clear, but the cloud came over, the smog built up, and the day turned chilly. I won’t be sorry to see the back of this dirty and disgusting place for a couple of weeks. Like many of the other reprehensible things about China, the government will make a lot of noise, but achieve nothing because there are too many indifferent, pyjama-wearing barbarians to contend with.