Beyond the Wings, March 2022

Well, to quote a character in Alan Bennet’s play ‘The History Boys’: ‘History? It’s just one ****ing thing after another’. When I was a kid, anyone who was old enough to have fought in a world war was already of pensionable age. And I was only seven when the Soviet Union – seemingly the last great opponent of liberal democracy and Western hegemony – collapsed.

It was tempting to buy into the popular misreading of Francis Fukuyama and believe that history was over. But now it is very much back, and unlike our forebears in the first half of the twentieth century, we cannot just go and fight for our chosen cause, since weapons of war have developed to the point that using them is unthinkable.


One pupil has moved from four to eight lessons a week, so business is good. To boost public awareness, I am still holding twice-monthly free lessons via The Mandarin Club. I also did my first freelance work for a gaming company that translates instructions from Chinese. On the downside, I missed out on several freelance gigs that I really wanted and turned down several others that weren’t quite right.

Since writing is a personal passion project, I am generally reluctant to take it on as a paid job. It will be some time before I have much to show for it, but I have some essays, books reviews, and comedy sketches that I have finished writing and should make an appearance this year.

While applying for a tutoring gig, I came across a quote that I once listed as among my all-time favourites. It is by the Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios Mangore: “One cannot be a guitarist without bathing in the fountain of culture”.

Though seemingly elitist, it is true that one cannot get the inspiration to create without standing on the shoulders of giants. Having been off booze for Lent this entire month, I have read on average over a novel a week. The absorption of great literature will hopefully manifest itself in weird and wonderful ways.  


This month’s miscellaneous cover is ‘Angel’ by Jimi Hendrix, a song said to be inspired by a dream vision of his mother, who died when he was a teenager:

The next The Kev album is coming along nicely. I think I have an appropriate song for near the beginning

and the end

There is a line in ‘Empty Your Mind’ part 1 about helping people forget their ‘grey little lives’. But now the unglamorous lives of ordinary people are being affected by global affairs in ways that are impossible to ignore.

Wider World

At the start of this year, the UK, like much of the rich world, was already destined to face a cost-of-living crisis. Now the war in Ukraine is set to wreak havoc on energy prices. This reminds me of an extract from David Lodge’s 1988 novel ‘Nice Work’ which observes how a housewife switching on a kettle is blissfully unaware of many things:

the building and maintenance of the power station that produced the electricity, the mining of coal or pumping of oil to fuel the generators, the laying of miles of cable to carry the current to her house, the digging and smelting and milling of ore or bauxite into sheets of steel or aluminium, the cutting and pressing and welding of the metal into the kettle’s shell, spout and handle, the assembling of these parts with scores of other components – coils, screws, nuts, bolts, washers, rivets, wires, springs, rubber insulation, plastic trimmings; then the packaging of the kettle, the advertising of the kettle, the marketing of the kettle to wholesale and retail outlets, the transportation of the kettle to warehouses and shops, the calculation of its price, and the distribution of its added value between all the myriad people and agencies concerned in its production.

You can read the whole extract here.

As of this week (April 1st), utility bills here are set to skyrocket, as caused by global phenomena. Unlike a century ago, history has decided to put the pandemic ahead of the major war in Europe. Although those times are no longer within living memory, from what we know about humans and history, the world somehow muddles through and learns as little as possible.

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