#WIP: Dark Symphony: Heady Mix of #Mystery, #Sex and #Scandal

Hey, I'm writing!

Hey, I’m writing!

As many of you know, I have been in a writing hiatus for a few years (except for my weekly blogs, that is), since the full set of “Journey to the West” trilogy was published on Amazon. A few of my Facebook friends and elsewhere have been asking me about the new book of fiction I started a few months ago, and today I’m giving you a sneak preview.

Sorry to disappoint, but this new venture is not going to be The Same Moon, which I know that many of my readers loved. But the good news is: if you enjoyed Trials of Life and Land of Hope, you will enjoy this new book. Currently I do not have a fixed title yet, but as the title of this blog suggests, it will be an exciting mix of corruption, sex, scandal and a touch of murder mystery. There will be a host of characters, as in Land of Hope, many based on real life friends and foe I have come across in every day life, the stories will be every bit as engaging as my previous offerings.

Life is full of drama and trials. Live it!

Life is full of drama and trials. Live it!

To be or not to be, is in the hands of the author :)

To be or not to be, is in my hands 😉

 

To entice you, take a look at a very brief excerpt from one of my early chapters in the book.

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“Loyalty is the most important,” he said, casting a glance at me, something implied in his look and his tone.

I returned his look. He knew I understood. But, he did not know what I was thinking.

I was thinking: oh yes, you demand complete loyalty from people around you,  those pitiful minions you’ve acquired over time, handing out sweeties here and there, so they do exactly what you tell them to do, without question, without ideas of their own, without a moral compass, only compliance, obedience and a blind faith in you.

I was thinking: you think you are God Almighty, Emperor of the 21 century, King of your own beliefs. The only person you answer to, is your control-freak second wife, a woman of ice cold demeanour, coupled with an utter arrogance of her own intellectual superiority, a face covered in thick layers of Chanel make-up to cover her lack of substance underneath the fake superficiality.

I was thinking: Your wife, basically an Er Nai (Two Tits in colloquial Chinese, how appropriate) who gripped you by your balls ever since she lured you away from your wrinkly first wife pregnant with your twins. She squeezed your balls tighter still when she caught you with your trousers down in front of a younger woman whom she employed to be her assistant, another Er Nai whom you decided to ‘keep’ on the side with your ill-gained money and power. Oh yes, your wife got what she deserved, no doubt about that. Pregnant wives and young Chinese girls had the same effect on you: you stray. Grass always seems greener and younger flesh from the fairer sex are born to serve you, as they have done with the Chinese Emperors in the Imperial Palaces, one corrupt dynasty after another. You extend the Royal dreams into a new century and to a new continent.

You must think that you are a fucking genius!

Yes, I understood you perfectly. But no, not a shred of loyalty from me, that much was certain.

To me, you are simply an egomaniac and a bully, an obsessive pervert and a sex-cum-power addict! As for your Er Nai (Two Tits, second concubine) and San Nai (Three Tits, third concubine), they got what they truly deserved, they got you.

Little did I know then, as I know now, that was the beginning to an end, when life would become very complicated, first for me, then for him and his clan, and especially for him.

Destiny has its own way to reveal its secrets to us, in its own time. The signs may be there all along, but only the truly blessed few, can see it coming.

The rest, sad but true, had no fucking clue what was to come, until it was too late.

Going back to writing now. Ciao!

Going back to writing now. Ciao!

A power struggle between good and evil, corruption and justice - which will win the day?

A power struggle between good and evil, corruption and justice – which will win the day?

 

If you have not read any of my Journey to the West trilogy, pick up one this Christmas. You will enjoy it!

If you have not read any of my Journey to the West trilogy, pick up one this Christmas.

Posted in Author Support, Book Reviews & Excerpts, China & East Asia, Politics & History, Reading & Writing, Short Stories, Social Media & Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#Taiwan to #England: Visiting the Home of #IndustrialRevolution #IronBridge

Nathan, President Yang, Junying & John

Nathan, President Yang, Junying & John

Once upon a time, nearly 240 years ago, the world’s first Arch Bridge fabricated in cast iron was built, in England’s Shropshire, upon River Severn. The village called Coalbrookdale got its Iron Bridge and has attracted millions of tourists ever since, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

So in the beginning of December 2016 when we had visitors from afar, all the way from Tropical Taiwan in the Far East to the heart of cool Britannia, John and I decided to take them there, straight from the airport after a frosty reception by UK immigration staff.

It was our VIP visitors’ first time in the UK, and President Yang from YunTech is a Mechanical Engineer by trade, so what better place for them to get to know this country than the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, which changed the way we lived forever?!

One of the reasons we like living in Birmingham is its central location. In only 45 minutes by car, we reached our destination, the magnificent and singular Iron Bridge, where we were met by Nathan Tromans, our colleague as well as a local resident of that picturesque valley.

On the Iron Bridge on a cold December day!

On the Iron Bridge on a cold December day!

An English Countryside at Dusk

A misty  English Countryside at Dusk

It was the coldest day of the year, but the sun was out. To warm up, we entered a traditional English pub which Nathan had booked. A “half” of local Shropshire beer and a taste of England served as a warm welcome to the visitors who were not used to the cold English weather. Luckily they had had a brief stop in Berlin so they were more or less acclimatised by the time they landed in the English Midlands.

Welcome to an English pub!

Welcome to an English pub!

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Once we were fed, we crunched through the icy leaves to pay homage to the iconic Iron Bridge, which was shrouded in smoke from nearby cottage coal fires , giving it a mystic and mysterious feel. It was incredibly quiet, more so because there were almost no tourists except for us on the day. The place looked peaceful and serene, hard to imagine that not too long ago, it had been the heart of the production of iron, given its natural supply of coal, iron, water and limestone.15318019_10153881589402172_6725859332464220733_n img_3478

The countryside around the Severn Gorge here is rich in everything you need to make iron. All of this was dragged to factories clinging precariously to the steep hillsides to be made into useful products and then transported away by river and canal. The roads were mostly impassable, so the river provided both power and transport. In those days the valley would have been choked with smoke, the sounds and smells of iron making and “metal bashing” would have filled the senses to bursting point.

Here we were using 21st century technology to photograph and record the historic scenes, including the Museum of the Gorge that tells the story of floods and other struggles with Nature to make this a centre for manufacturing. The museum is a Quaker building and as such has a chapel at one end, but for the Victorians church windows were not enough they had to add castle turrets too; making this old warehouse both holy and grand.

Vice Dean Liu, an enthusiastic photographer!

Vice Dean Liu, an enthusiastic photographer!

John, President Yang, Junying and Nathan. Photo credit: Weite Liu

John, President Yang, Junying and Nathan. Photo credit: Weite Liu

Nathan took us his favourite weekend hangout, a lovely coffee corner house on Waterloo Street, with wonderful homemade cakes and hot drinks. A great end to a memorable afternoon’s stroll through industrial and social history. Our visitors were enchanted by what they saw and Nathan’s local knowledge and enthusiasm. I was glad to have gone back to a place I first visited some 12 years ago.

This was a true bridging between nations and cultures.

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Posted in Arts & Culture, China & East Asia, Politics & History, Travel Logs, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My #Thanksgiving Tribute to My #Father in Heaven

My Father in his prime

My Father in his prime

Ten years ago, my dear father passed away in Chengdu, China, thousands of miles away from where I was, in another country on a different Continent. I did not get to say goodbye in person. All I had was a picture of him in hospital on Skype.

I did not find out that he was fatally sick until I called my parents and there was no answer. Eventually I spoke to my brother Brad and learnt that my father was in intensive care and did not have long to live. Just like when he had a stroke and lost some of his faculties some ten years before, I was not informed and found out only much later.

Perhaps this is the Chinese way of thinking: 报喜不报忧 (Report only good news while withholding unpleasant information.) So by the time I received the bad news that my Dad was really dying this time, it was far too late for me to travel home to China.

My family in China knew the difficulties, and told me to stay put. With my British passport, I would have to travel to London and apply for a visa which could take days and then the flight across the oceans and different time zones. I would not have made it in time.

With the help of modern technology, however, I was able to speak with my family members gathered around my father’s side at his last hours. They relayed my love to him. He heard me and with a smile on his face he left this world for the next.

Dad's funeral in China

Dad’s funeral in China

Our family of three built a small shrine in Birmingham to remember him

Our family of three built a small shrine in Birmingham to remember him

John burning incense for my Dad

John burning incense and papers money for my Dad

I miss my Dad, all the years I’ve lived the UK and I miss him still, all the time he was gone. I have his blood, his generosity of spirit, his love for life and travel, his stubbornness, his incorruptible integrity. My Dad was my first role model.

If you read my semi-autographical first book The Same Moon, you will have read that I was, like Pearl Zhang, the first born and and apple of the my Father’s eye. Having gone through a hard life, through some of the worst calamities in modern Chinese history in the 20th century, my father never told me that he loved me, but I knew he did, until his last breath on earth. I know that he loves me still, his spirit in heaven watching over me.

My Parents and me shortly after I was born

My Parents and me shortly after I was born

One of the last few pictures with my parents in Chengdu

One of the last few pictures with my parents in Chengdu

My Dad was the eldest of five children born to a couple of poor peasants. He was involved in the revolutionary Land Reform as a teenager and joined the Community Party at a very young age. He truly believed in the Socialist China and devoted his whole life doing things for the greater good. He had progressed in his career as a civil servant in a County Council in Sichuan, high enough to have power to serve the ordinary people, but not high enough to develop his full potential. For a small county in charge of planning and distribution of local produce, and later in his career as the man who played a significant role in setting up the Auditing Bureaux in the Region and beyond, he had quite a lot of power, a position when he could easily have received bribes and got rich. He didn’t. I knew that many people tried, but he fought them off, standing tall in a culture which the majority of officials use their power to amass fortunes, for themselves and their families.

My Dad with Tao shortly after my son was born

My Dad with Tao shortly after my son was born

I looked up to my father, and I was proud of him.

My father was proud of me too. Everyone who knew my father and I would comment just how much I looked like him, and within my family and extended families, people would comment just how much I took after him in terms of personality and temperament too.

Like my Dad, I have a generous spirit towards fellow human beings. When dealing with people, I never thought of what I would get in return. I am generous and giving to many people I have met and many of them are strangers.

Like my Dad, I love good food and travelling. Luckier than him, I was able to travel much further, covering many more air and land miles than he could ever do.

When I left China for the UK, Dad gave me a calligraphy he wrote especially for me: 积学储宝 (roughly transiting into English: Continuing Studies to Collect Treasure/Wisdom) – this has become my motto in my life so far.

Like my Dad, I have total contempt and intolerance for corrupt individuals, those who use public funds to indulge in their own greed and insatiable needs for a corrupt lifestyle. Throughout my career, I have fought people like that, the cancer that infects organisations and our society at large. I tell my Dad in heaven, I will always carry on this fight you started and I will devote my life battling this deadly disease.

May God be with you up there, and may you continue to watch over me, until the day I join you in Heaven!

I will end today’s blog with a poem which John wrote when Dad passed away.

Paying respect at my Father's grave in 2008

Paying respect at my Father’s grave in 2008

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Dad, Rest in Peace!

Farewell Mr Zeng
A bold glance from 1976 tells us this man was strong.
A smile from 2006 tells us he understood life and death.
His passing is marked in two dwellings 5,000 miles apart
Flowers, candles and incense proclaim his death and
Celebrate his life.
Family and friends gather to remember him
His laughter, his anger, his compassion,
His understanding and endurance.
Above all they celebrate his deep love for his family.
Family gather round computer screens on two continents to join in
Marking the last departure of a great man.
His memory will live on in the minds of many, all the way from
Tongnan to Birmingham.
He went gentle into that last goodnight, but he did
Rage against the dying of the light.

 

24th March 2006
By John Andrew Kirk, Son-in-law

Thank you, Dad, for showing me the right way to live and continuing to guide me as I go through  trials and tribulations in life!

Thank you, Dad, for showing me the right way to live and continuing to guide me as I go through trials and tribulations in life!

Posted in China & East Asia, Politics & History, Social Media & Photography, UK, USA & Europe | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kirks on #KinverEdge: 200 Million Year Old Houses in #England

Going back in time in England

Going back in time in England

by John Kirk

200 Million years ago Kinver was a desert and the caves we were visiting were gouged out by the wind and wuthering before even dinosaurs roamed the Earth. In the early 1800s my Great Grandmother Talbot was born in Kingswinford, not five miles away and its possible that she too would have visited Kinver Edge and the houses under Holy Austin Rock as a local weekend tourist. Her Father took her North to Chesterfield, as he transferred his iron making skills to Derbyshire working for the Duke of Norfolk. The Black Country was the crucible of iron making but the North Midlands also had the requisite mix of iron ore, coal, water  clay and birch trees. He moved for more money as so many have done since.

The houses cut into the caves on Kinver Edge have been restored by locals and members of the National  Trust (Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses) since the early 1980s. New housing laws saw these simple dwellings declared uninhabitable in the early 1960s but people had been living in them since… well, since we lived in caves.

View of the cave houses from a distance

View of the cave houses from a distance

Closer view of the cave houses

Closer view of the cave houses

John and John inside the cave houses

John and John inside the cave houses

The views from the Edge are spectacular , all the way to West Bromwich and across to the Malvern Hills. Its easy to see why people would choose to live there.

Fantastic view from the Kinver Edge

Fantastic view from the Kinver Edge

A massive iron works was built in Kinver in the 1850s and people poured into the area, and some of them lived under the rocks on the Edge. It must have been great to escape the smoke and soot of the works and climb the hill to the dry and cosy houses carved into the sandstone bluffs.

One family, the Fletchers had 10 children in two small rooms which was too cosy even for those days; so Mr. Fletcher tunneled through 10 feet of rock to an empty storeroom at the back and instantly doubled his living space.

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When we visited 100 years later there was a roaring fire burning in a massive iron range made in Tipton. Junying warmed herself by this monument to home baking as our guide explained how the family lived over the years.

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Afterwards we climbed up to the top of Kinver Edge and the site of an Iron Age fort. Views were spectacular in the Autumn sunshine as birch and oak trees showed off their golden clothes to anyone who cared to look. A gentle breeze ran along the ridge as we breathed in the views, ten miles in either direction.

All in all, a grand day out.img_3280 img_1345

Capturing fleeting autumn

Capturing fleeting autumn

Junying’s Note: After living in the UK for 28 years, there are still little surprises, such as interesting places we have not been less than an hour away. John and I have visited cave houses in Gran Canaria but never did I think for one minute that they exist in the UK, until I asked John to locate a place for us to visit on Saturday. What a surprise find!

As the autumn leaves crunched and rustled under our feet, I looked around with my iPhone in hand, catching the last of Autumn, the Nanny’s caves where previous visitors have left their marks – some are more arty than others. I thought of people who lived there and breathed the very air we take now. It was as if time has stopped.

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Carving inside the Nanny's Caves

Carving inside the Nanny’s Caves

Fabulous Autumn Leaves

Fabulous Autumn Leaves

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