Beyond the Wings, December 2022

I have decided to start the OYNB (One Year No Beer) challenge early, so on Christmas Day, when Charles III delivers the King’s Speech for the first time, I am unlikely to carry on like this.


This month, I recorded my first classical guitar piece since the middle of the summer. ‘Cancion de Cuna’ by Cuban maestro Leo Bröuwer was not written specifically for Christmas but sounds like it might as well have been.

I also uploaded covers of ‘The Long and Winding Road’ by The Beatles, and ‘It’s Clichéd to Be Cynical at Christmas’ by Half Man Half Biscuit.

I also finished another between-song skit:

One of my biggest hopes for 2023 is to be able to film some skits with high production values.


For the first time since 2013, I am being paid to write reports about China. Topics include everything from the recent anti-government protests, to Mandopop, to the problems with the healthcare system. Here are some extracts:

The tuition business is thriving, but the different areas of it – writing, music, English, Chinese – continue to ebb and flow.

Wider World

Christmas is a time when refugees are celebrated. Mary and Joseph had to search for a place to give birth before having to flee King Herod. This year has been, among other things, the year of the refugee.

The modern definition of the word refugee was drafted in the UN’s 1951 convention as someone who is outside of their country of nationality and is unable to return because of well-founded fears of being persecuted. In 2022 this phenomenon has happened on a continent that seemed to have moved beyond land war.

With the climate catastrophe manifesting itself in the form of Pakistan’s floods and China’s drought, nobody is in a position to be complacent about their own probability of becoming a refugee. This reminds me of a poem by holocaust survivor Primo Levi:

Shemà – Primo Levi

You who live secure

In your warm houses

Who return at evening to find

Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider whether this is a man,

Who labours in the mud

Who knows no peace

Who fights for a crust of bread

Who dies at a yes or a no.

Consider whether this is a woman,

Without hair or name

With no more strength to remember

Eyes empty and womb cold

As a frog in winter.

Consider that this has been:

I commend these words to you.

Engrave them on your hearts

When you are in your house, when you walk on your way,

When you go to bed, when you rise.

Repeat them to your children.

Or may your house crumble,

Disease render you powerless,

Your offspring avert their faces from you.

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