Blog – Giving Thanks

The spring, the unnecessarily verbose ‘16th Parent’s-Also-Appreciate-Teachers Drive’ took place.  (One does have to wonder about the use of the word ‘drive’, which suggests that reluctant parents require some degree of coaxing and persuasion to display gratitude towards their children’s long-suffering educators)

[N.B. The controversial element on the front of the postcard is not the fact that the teacher is clearly a freakin’ owl, but rather that he is accepting a gift over the value of HK$50 from a student, an act which is highly illegal in Hong Kong as per strict civil servant contractual anti-corruption guidelines.]

Despite my apparent popularity in the school (which I measure simply by the number of times a child holler ‘MMISSSTTAAH THHOOM‘ in my general direction), I usually receive surprisingly few cards. Indeed, like on Valentine’s Day, the postman delivers only a world of disappointment and rejection – with just a handful of students brave enough to pen their cards in English. Below are this year’s prime specimens…

Fig 1. – “Thank you for teach me English”, says Cherrie. The bitter irony...

Blog – Accessing iPlayer from Abroad

How to view BBC iPlayer whilst abroad. Last update: March 2011.

Since last November I’ve been testing a free VPN called ‘Expat Shield’ with some scepticism. It has worked perfectly from the outset for unlimited iPlayer viewing, though occasionally it is necessary to pause the video for buffering (just for a minute or two). Otherwise the speed is superb, it’s free, legal and easy to use.

  1. Download the Expat Shield software. It may insist you run a ‘download manager’ beforehand.
  2. Run the installer, select ‘English’ and click through the next pages until you are offered some additional, bundled software. Untick and reject the ‘community toolbar’, and click next to install.
  3. When installed and running, you will see a shield in the bottom-right hand corner of the screen. When the UK connection is live, it will be green – when it’s red, you just have your regular, direct connection. Right-click on the shield and ensure ‘show on restart’ is unticked – we needn’t have the programme permanently running and slowing down your computer.

Blog – Tour of my Workplace


The photos and video below are from the government school I work at here in Hong Kong… but it’s far from typical…

My office is set out like a rainforest, with blue neon lights in the ceiling ‘representing’ sunlight, photographic grass on the floor, a Scandinavian countryside scene on the opposite wall, a wooden mock-up of a windmill and a desk fashioned from a log. Most other rooms in the school are decorated like spaceships – the computer room is set out like the Enterprise with monitors embedded in the desks and the school hall comes complete with twinkling UFOs and rivets on the doors. There’s a full-on TV blue-screen studio on the top floor which broadcasts live to every classroom twice daily, and all the teacher’s desks are pimped with UV lights underneath, microphones and desk video cameras. The multicoloured ‘bad-trip’ which is the library features little green men implanted in the centre of each table.

Fittingly, the school mascot is none other than an oversized flying green horse– a 6-foot version of which dominates the playground. Indeed, the building is not a place you’d want to get lost in whilst on acid.

Blog – Notes to My Mother


The Heritage office has been offering students free postcards to anywhere in the world, so I asked the kids if they’d like to write to Mr Tom’s mother.

Here are some of the responses submitted by my 8-year-olds

Fig.1 – Note how Zoe has posed the eternal question of where exactly one gets one’s gracious good looks…

postcard 1

…Yes indeed, why is he so clever and beautiful?!

Fig.2 – Proof that media-scaremongering can infect the mind of a small Chinese child, Vincent was worried that Britain had been overrun with chicken flu…

postcard 2

Fig 3. Kylie ventured into the random and surreal whilst getting something off her chest – her penchant cows…

postcard 3

Fig. 4. An anonymous writer expressed their concern that their English teacher was unloved in this short-yet-slightly-creepy postcard…

postcard 4

Fig 5. Finally, this eloquent and lovely A+ example from school-wide celebrity, Rosemary Lok Sen (who has her own website! )

postcard 5

And here is the video response from my family…