Beyond the Wings, November 2022

With the World Cup in Qatar, this month everybody is talking about repressive regimes.

In fact, the tournament was held in fascist Italy in 1934 and in Argentina’s military dictatorship in 1978. If Robert Rensenbrink’s late effort had gone in in the latter final, would the Dutch team have got out of Buenos Aires alive?

Football has never had a conscience, but it’s easy on the eye sometimes. Speaking of trying to entertain, here is some of what I have been up to this month.


This month’s miscellaneous covers were a medley of songs about peculiar encounters. These were ‘Bully Boy’ by Shed Seven, ‘Little Miss Strange’ by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and ‘The Card Cheat’ by The Clash.

I have decided to put the Substack series on hold until next year. The next subject will be education.  I found this interview very informative. In it, I chatted with author Gerry Fialka about education, creativity, professionalism, James Joyce, Alan Watts, slapstick comedy, and more.


In each area, business comes and goes. This year I have gained and lost pupils for both Mandarin and English, but lately, my Creative Writing Master’s has been particularly pulling its weight.

As well as teaching four hours a week of essay writing, I am set to start a gig writing reports about China for a client. I can’t wait.

Wider World

Although China is seeing some of its largest anti-government protests in decades, the government still looks impossible to topple. The same cannot be said of Iran.

The regime’s treatment of women was what started the current protests, but now every aspect of its governance is under fire. The supreme leader’s niece was arrested for condemning the leadership and has since called on foreign nations to cut ties with Iran.

Of course, bringing down the regime is just the beginning. Dictatorships do such a good job of crushing opposition that anything that replaces it is often even worse. The ayatollahs in Iran were preceded by the Shah, a terrible, U.S-backed dictator under whom Tehran lacked a proper sewer system.  

It is important to remain sceptical that anything that replaces the status quo will be much better. I am reminded of two great literary quotes:

Franz Kafka: “Every revolution dissolves into the slime of a new bureaucracy”.

Gustave Flaubert: “Inside every revolutionary is a policeman”.