Beyond the Wings, December 2021

For me, and many others, 2021 is ending as it started, under house arrest. I have just tested positive for COVID for the first time. I’m 37 and fully caught up with vaccines so should be fine but will take things slowly in the coming days. December has been another busy month.


To increase and diversify business, I have joined a new tutoring platform, Music Tutors. It is a sleek and highly reputable organization that I can’t wait to start teaching over.

This month’s main piece of writing is an essay about why I am abandoning a major writing project, for the time being. It contains a bit of literary commentary and mostly memoir. It was cathartic to write.


If I write half as many songs in 2022 as I did in 2021, then it will have been a good year. The final song I wrote this year is another long, experimental one. It is titled ‘Music to Make Love to’

Wider World

This month’s China Book Club was Philip Pan’s ‘Out of Mao’s Shadow’, which was published in 2008. It begins by pointing out that at the time of writing, China was going through the freest and most prosperous period in its long history. But the book covers the battle for the soul of the People’s Republic and the various characters involved:

On one side is the venal party-state, an entrenched elite fighting to preserve the country’s authoritarian political system and its privileged place within it. On the other is a ragtag collection of lawyers, journalists, entrepreneurs, artists, hustlers, and dreamers striving to build a more tolerant, open, and democratic China.

The year after the book was published, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were all blocked in China. Now the entire non-Chinese internet is effectively closed. This month, the behaviour of the authoritarian government has reached new lows.

Police arrested six members of Stand, an independent news organisation, which has also been closed down. This took place in Hong Kong, where the world’s most trusted news outlets had been stationing themselves for many decades, due to the relative lack of corruption or despotism.

Then there is of course the bizarre case of tennis player Peng Shuai, who accused former member of China’s highest ruling council Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. Her re-emergence has somehow managed to be even more disturbing than her initial appearance.

This all supports the conclusion reached in ‘Out of Mao’s Shadow’, that the government of one of the world’s two superpowers is both to be reckoned with and ‘irredeemably corrupt’.

Year-End Roundup

This year has been creatively excellent, professionally passable, and romantically mediocre. Business as usual really.

The first few months of the year, when restrictions were at their tightest, I lived in a rental while trying to push a purchase through. At that time, I:

Overall, I have:

  • Built and consolidated several professional relationships and made some money along the way.
  • Published my first short story collection, ‘The Naked Wedding’, which was the product of years of agonizing toil. Here is a Q&A about the book.
  • Recorded in a studio with an actual producer, plus drummer and bass player for the first time. The result is by some distance the best production quality any of my songs have ever had.
  • Recorded many new Spanish guitar videos, including renditions of ‘The Flower Duet’ and ‘Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
  • The year was bookended by gigs that I consider highlights of my creative life. One was in February, an online showcase of my Chinese-language songwriting
  • The other was in November, the long-delayed triple album launch

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