Beyond the Wings, May 2020

‘TMItastic’ is now available in its entirety as a YouTube playlist.

The initial launch party was scheduled for Easter 2020, the eventual one might not happen until closer to Easter ’21, so I am tentatively working on new material and considering taking a very expensive (but seemingly very good) comedy writing course, to take that next step artistically and professionally.


It’s a douche thing to say considering all the misery that has been caused, but the crisis has had its positive side for those of us who practice solitary artforms. I uploaded my first classical guitar solo in ages, ‘The Magnificent Seven’ theme by Elmer Bernstein:

I finished another light rewrite of my novel, current working title ‘Far from Strangers’, as well as submitting the opening to a competition, the first time I have ever submitted a novel. There is still a lot that needs to be done on it, but I don’t think I can until the Manchester Central Library and other favourite writing locations reopen. This may be an amateur’s excuse, but it’s a true one.


I have another article in ‘LA Review of Books China Channel’, this time a review of a short story collection from the amazing Comma Press. As heartening as it is to get reviews published, I think I prefer reviewing things non-professionally. That way it is not necessary to try to say anything ‘smart’. Recently, I have reviewed an anthology by Orton publishing, a novel by Julian Edge, an album by Robin Mukherjee, and more.

As well as making YouTube videos for several songs from the album, I am also regularly uploading miscellaneous covers, mostly of English-language songs, and also of Mandopop and Spanish.

Wider World

Well, just wow. Relations between the world’s two most powerful countries, which also happen to be two of my favourites, are at their lowest point since before Nixon’s visit. As the excellent Larry Salibra has pointed out, it is dishonest to blame China or the World Health Organization, since countries were given ample warning.

And as always, Trump is taking things to dangerous extremes, including terminating relations with the WHO. In presidential elections, the incumbent almost always wins. George W Bush did despite overseeing poor economic performance and starting two disastrous wars.

There are many reasons why Trump supporters can be confident of a second term. Unlike last time, he has the power of government, and the backing of most of his own party. Also, he has a gaffe-prone opponent who appears to be slurring his speech. But for the love of god, if ever an incumbent needed to be defeated, it is this year.

Beyond the Wings, April 2020

With much of the world being under near-house arrest, I am reminded by a quote from Clive James: “Rilke used to say that no poet would mind going to gaol, since he would at least have time to explore the treasure house of his memory. In many respects Rilke was a prick.”

However, despite being deprived of its big night in Salford, the songwriting has had some heartening feedback. This has given me a boost in all creative activities.


As with the rest of the UK, I have had to drastically change my habits. The gym has been replaced by jogging, the cinema by Netflix, and restaurants and bars by Zoom meetings.

I received excellent feedback from The Literary Consultancy on my work-in-progress novel. There is a hell of a long way to go, but I’m still on course to start submitting it by the end of the year.

Tutoring is also ticking along fine. It of course has all moved online. On the subject of helping others along, I am writing music and book reviews for anybody who asks nicely. Here is an example of a review I wrote.


I have started recording a series of miscellaneous covers. I’ve always liked these songs, but it would be breaking character to perform them live, so this has been the perfect time to get them out there. These include ‘Mis-Shapes’ by Pulp, ‘Basket Case’ by Greenday, and ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ by Guns ‘n’ Roses.

On top of this, I did an interview about my Chinese-language songwriting with John Fleming, who has been described in The Skinny as ‘one of the most influential figures in British comedy’. The write-up for the interview is here, but I think I prefer the unedited audio.

I also received some very kind reviews of TMItastic and had another short story published.

Wider World

Even the most pessimistic predictions for the 2020s being made five months ago (increased climate catastrophe, growing hostility between China and America, another global recession) seem whimsical.

It is particular dishonest to blame China, despite all its social and political problems. Almost all Western governments handled the situation badly in the early stages, particularly the UK and the US, but blame-shifting is everywhere. Increased populism and xenophobic resentment could well be the flavour of  the decade.

John Fleming

I recently did an interview with John Fleming, who has been described in The Skinny as ‘one of the most influential figures in British comedy’. We discussed Chinese-language songwriting, satire, WH Auden, Bjork, Yes Minister, and much more.

The write-up for the interview can be found here and here, but I think I prefer the unedited audio.

Beyond the Wings March 2020

Well, that happened fast. I of course had to cancel my album launch party in April, and it looks highly unlikely that my MBA graduation will happen in June. Many of my favourite activities – including going to the gym, the cinema, the swimming pool, and the pub – will be off for the foreseeable future, but I am trying to keep busy.


Since most of my activities, both paid work and passion projects, are solitary in nature, or can be moved online, I should be able to ride out this crisis as well as most people. I am still teaching online, Mandarin, the guitar, creative writing, and essay writing.

I am also set to get a short story published this week and have been working on some new music videos. I received a 19-page report on my novel, working title ‘In a Lonely Hour’, and have started addressing the many critiques.


Both of my albums have now been released. The English album ‘TMItastic’ is available on all major online platforms, and also on CD if you message me directly. Here is the trailer:

The Chinese-language album 《失败博物馆》 ‘Museum of Failure’  will soon be available online. Here is a trailer for it:

My chances of making money off them have all but evaporated due to the virus, but the early feedback has been heartening. Hopefully there will be more online evidence of this over the coming month.

Wider World

I was seventeen when 9/11 happened, and twenty-four when the Global Financial Crisis toppled the economic superiority of the West, but this is the first time I have been so directly affected by an international upheaval.

The virus originated in China, but that country appears to be over the worst of it while Europe and North America could be six months away from starting to revive their industry. During the inevitable recession, I may consider returning to East Asia to ride out the lean years.

Beyond the Wings, February 2020

After months of false starts and messing around, The Kev’s English-language album ‘TMItastic’ and Chinese-language album 《失败博物馆》should be available by the middle of March, ahead of the launch party on April 18th.


This month I have continued teaching Mandarin, and now have four regular clients. I have also learned my first Spanish-language song and may put the effort online at some point.

In writing, I have had another piece published in LA Review of Books China Channel. I have given the novel a rest for the past three weeks pending another beta reading; however, I have had an acceptance letter for ‘Kobe Bryant and the Freedom Swimmer’, a short story that I started working on in 2015, which is very encouraging.

Screenshot 2020-02-24 at 15.42.15


I have completed some last-minute additions to TMItastic. One of the songs, “Childhood”, had B-side written all over it, so I replaced it with this one

Then I decided “Catholic Love” was not quite right, so I replaced it with this one, about how technology has improved millions of lives in a way that is not often talked about.

Wider World

Bernie Sanders is now clear favourite to be the Democratic nominee to oppose Donald Trump in November. He would be the oldest ever president by some distance and his policies imply massive tax increases, but it is not completely impossible that he will win.

As the Economist has pointed out, if the election is simply a referendum on President Trump, then he will be very vulnerable. However, all of the Democratic contenders have major flaws, Buttigieg is too green, Klobuchar lacks national name recognition, Bloomberg is too compromised, Warren – probably the most viable – is too left wing in most people’s eyes, and Biden is barely medically alive.

One of the possible knock-on effects of the Coronavirus is a recession, which could cause the incumbent problems at the ballot box. Only a fool would predict anything too confidently.

Beyond the Wings January 2020

After what was a great year creatively but a bad year professionally, January 2020 has had plenty of positives.


My tutoring business has had a very encouraging month, particularly of Mandarin (though I also teach creative writing, essay writing, and the guitar).

There have been some reviews:

Screenshot 2020-01-06 at 21.34.59

Screenshot 2020-01-31 at 10.49.19

This was also the month I decided to get strong enough to bench my own weight and reach a higher level in spoken Spanish by the end of the year. Sporadic progress was made on both fronts.


I finished recording both of my albums ahead of the launch party in April. English-language album “TMI-Tastic” and Chinese language album 《失败博物馆》(“Museum of Failure”) should hopefully be available for purchase within six weeks. The latest song to be recorded for the English album is an ode to drinking:


I have also been working on the fourth draft of my millennia-spanning, transcontinental novel (working title “In a Lonely Hour”). After finishing the current draft within the next week, I will leave it for at least another month before tackling the fifth attempt.

I am also halfway through the Comma Press short story course and should have a fresh body of work to show for it afterwards.

Wider World

I had been invited to go to a wedding in Eastern China in Spring, and I was highly tempted, but ultimately the decision has been made for me by the terrifying Coronavirus.

Dan Harris of The China Law Blog had this to say about it:

“I am angry at the Chinese government for initially trying harder to hide it than to stop. I will never forgive it for arresting the first eight people caught writing about it. I am also angry at the Chinese government for refusing to allow Taiwan to participate in the WHO meetings on the coronavirus, cementing for me that it is still more interested in preserving its own power than in saving human lives. I also do not trust the numbers coming from China regarding the virus, nor do I trust its competence or its willingness to get appropriate help to stop it. I am convinced this virus will spread around the world and thousands will die. And that is the saddest part.”

With my experience of the Chinese government, I am not one bit surprised by what has happened. “Out of Mao’s Shadow” by Philip Pan is a great read on the subject.

With Brexit finally becoming irreversible, marked by a graceless farewell from Nigel Farage, and Trump looking certain to survive his impeachment trial in the United States Senate, it has never been so obvious that there are no grownups in charge.