Saturday, 23 May 2020

Flying High... China Southern, Air India & Hainan Airlines!

Flying high with three different airlines during December 2018 had me crossing continents effortlessly, from Beijing to New Delhi via Guangzhou then I flew onto the United Kingdom before returning to Beijing for work. Served by China Southern Airlines, Air India and finally Hainan Airlines allowed me to clock up some serious air miles! Long haul flight are my favourite!

China Southern Airlines was an airline that I had only flown with domestically throughout China before their international fares had me booking up to New Delhi, India! Cruising down from Beijing to Guangzhou with CZ on-time was a blessing, the transfer from the domestic gates to the international departures within Terminal 2 was easy breezy! Beijing's Capital International Airport had me speaking all kinds of Chinese, the airport staff in all areas were not bilingual, once in Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport that all changed! Boarded without any issues, the super-size modern terminal had me looking at something shiny and new! The China Southern Airlines ground staff spoke English fluently with announcements made in both Chinese then English, I didn't need to speak Chinese because I understood the boarding call through the tannoy system! Yes, in Beijing other airlines tend to shout the boarding call! Oh! 

Flying away from the Chinese Mainland with China Southern Airlines switched things up for me, before that point I hadn't flown with a Chinese airline outside of the mainland. The crew were friendly and spoke English with hardly any accent, for that reason I made the effort to speak Chinese with them to order my drinks and when I chose my dining option throughout the flight. The in-flight entertainment boasted much choice, with Chinese and Indian titles to suit the flights origin and destination. The food served to me was edible and had much flavour, I went for the chicken curry option because I was on my way to New Delhi. I found that the crew were quite reserved when I asked them how was remaining until we landed, making up for the lack in conversation made the crew were professional throughout the flight with the company uniform standards being observed. Without any delay, I was impressed with my smooth Guangzhou transfer, CZ sure impressed me! I'll fly again! 

Bridging the gap between New Delhi, India and my British hometown in the West Midlands was made somewhat easy with Air India. Boasting a direct flight from New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport to Birmingham Airport got me home with a stop in Amritsar. Out of nowhere my Brum bound flight was pushed forward one day later without any explanation given. Making the necessary plans I was able to turn that mishap onto its head, I was back on track! Suffering from an epic case of 'Delhi Belly' I boarded my Air India Dreamliner that flew me the short way up to Amritsar to allow for some serious things to unfold. Uzbekistan had started playing games with the airspace, the route from Amritsar to Birmingham needed to be precise because certain warring countries couldn't be in our flight plan! After about two hours at the gate I longed for take-off but the doors remained closed and armed in Amritsar! Jesus! 

The main meal was served during our gate side wait, the curry option was the one to go for! I tried to watch a little bit of a Bollywood film but my mind was all on the moment for when the Dreamliner would start its long haul journey to Birmingham. By hook or by crook the all important flight plan has been handed over, my 787-800 made its accelerations on the runway as it made its way closer to Birmingham. The flight was generally smooth, the crew kept their cool throughout the flight and so did the other passengers. Nobody on the flight knew whether we had to fly over Afghanistan and Iran? It was an experience like no other I had seen on a flight before that Air India experience! Adding the two hours ground delay, also the overall flight time to Birmingham had been extended slightly due to the routing. Like a miracle, my Dreamliner touched down into Birmingham Airport, the relief that I felt was unreal! Air India got me to BHX! I was not impressed with Uzbekistan! B, I was home at last! 

Being my first long haul multi-flight holiday from China, my flight planning skills could have been better because those funds weren't going to allow me to cover the rent, I had to learn! For my Christmas present my parents bought my flight back from Manchester to Beijing, China. Flying direct with Hainan Airlines from Manchester Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport was seamless, I didn't need to make any changes in any connecting airport! Bussed to a remote stand during that early morning hour allowed me to see the Hainan Airlines A330-300 in all of its Manchester raining morning glory! Bound for Beijing I was relaxed onboard my first international flight with Hainan, I had already flown with the airline from Beijing to Shenzhen during the previous Chinese New Year holiday. Yes, I loved my simple in-flight amenity pack! Ooh, the Chinese male cabin crew were looking mighty, mighty fine! 太帅了! Yes!

Breaking boundaries for a Chinese airline, it was great to see non-Chinese cabin crew pass through the cabin who spoke multiple languages. Most western airlines employe Chinese cabin crew due many Chinese passengers not being able to speak English, Hainan flipped that format 360 degrees! My meal was flavoursome, I went for the British option. I enjoyed the varied selection that was available on my in-flight entertainment system, I loved watching Mamma Mia 2! I made my way to the back of the cabin to find some more red wine, the crew that I interacted with in the galley were friendly and attentive. I was impressed with the snack selection that had been set out in the galley, something that China Southern Airlines could introduce, maybe? The ten hour direct flight soon arrived into Beijing Capital International Airport with time to spare. Without any connections I was able to disembark in Beijing, clear immigration and get home quickly. Xmas flights done right!

是, 我会中文!

Joseph Harrison

Friday, 22 May 2020

2020: Europe, Shine A Light... Eurovision's Coronavirus Moment!

2020s Eurovision Song Contest had to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus world pandemic, what would happen without the usual spectacle? With Europe in lockdown with the rest of the world, we need some hope! The Dutch city of Hilversum replaced Rotterdam, broadcasting 'Europe Shine A Light' as a celebration of Eurovision history with the pandemic in mind. Oh!

Broadcasted from Studio 21 at Media Park in Hilversum, The Netherlands, three presenters kickstarted the 'Europe Shine A Light' without any audience due to the Coronavirus world pandemic. Edsilla Rombley, Chantal Janzen and Jan Smit put on their best Eurovision smiles even though Eurovision in recent years has been presented by four people. Blame 'social distancing?' Through the medium catch-up television through BBC iPlayer I tuned in a few days after the original broadcast that was on the 16th of May 2020. For the first time in Eurovision history it was weird and very sobering to see the montage of European and Eurasian cities that were all in lockdown, a sombre mood for such a joyous event felt very weird and not normal for us all to see. The show was all about shining a light over Europe to remember the reasons for the contest, with optimism for the 2021 contest. Nul points to Miss Rona! Go!

Looking for a sign it was amazing to see that the original venue for the 2020 contest had been transformed into a 'field hospital' to help nurse Coronavirus patients who weren't in conventional hospital wards. The complacency that I had put on the Eurovision Song Contest had me feeling shocked, one way or another I have either watched the contest or observed who the winner was since 2003. To not have a contest felt very strange indeed! Rolling back to Eurovision's before my existence had me seeing that this contest had been around for a long time, only now in 2020 it had been forced to cancel its usual order of events! A special Skype like video performance brought back Ireland's winner from 1980, singing 'What's Another Year?' The message was that we needed to keep the faith, we just need to wait for 2021 to roll around. Johnny Logan had won the contest twice, I was learning more about the Eurovision Song Contest. The use of video technology had saved Eurovision 2020. 

The unique thing about 2020s 'Europe Shine A Light' was that all 41 participants would be featured in the commemorative Coronavirus show. During a normal year, at least 15 countries participants wouldn't make it through the semi-finals. Each country had their turn throughout the broadcast to feature a short clip of their song that was paired with a message of positivity, the general theme was to 'wish love', 'to stay safe' and 'to remember' that Eurovision would return the following year in 2021. Country's like Georgia and Belarus had their chance to feature as part of the broadcast, they weren't supposed to be performing in the final due to not making it past the semi's. Sweden's trio even made a song about 'washing their hands', that added some mild hilarity because the main feeling of the show was quite sombre considering the current ongoing situation with the Coronavirus outbreak. COVID-19, be gone! OK!

Portugal's 'Elisa' was one of the acts who hadn't made it past the semi's, she had the opportunity to sing a little bit of her song during her clip. Azerbaijan's 'Efendi' promoted a message of 'love', from a country with questionable LGBT rights, she made her voice heard for a cross-section of Azeri people who might not have the chance. The category was 'mental health awareness' with several of the performers speaking words that resonated with those under quarantine measures, uttering the statement 'It's OK to not be OK'. Each country delivered their little speech with added Eurovision humour and quirk. The celebration of 2020s artists was even more important because it would have been such a great contest, I still cannot believe that I haven't able to see Russia's 'Little Big' perform their Eurovision banger, 'Uno!' 'Little Big' please come back to Rotterdam in 2021 with your hit 'SKIBDI!' One thing I do know is that Israel's 'Eden Alene' will be back in 2021! Feker Libi was great but 2021 will shine! 

Placing focus on the 'key workers' from around the world and more closely in Europe, former Sweden winner 'Måns Zelmerlöw' performed an acoustic version of 'Heroes' from his house in London, England. The lyrics within 'Heroes' fitted perfectly, the key workers are 'the heroes of our time!' Panning across a Jerusalem under lockdown measures, 'Gali Atari' walked through the empty streets singing 'Hallelujah' with a sense of hope. 'Netta' who won the contest in 2018 for Israel took the mood nice and slow with her lockdown recorded single, 'Cuckoo' allowed us to breathe a sense of relief because lockdown life has made us go 'cuckoo! The stripped back performances through the medium of video broadcast gave 'Europe Shine A Light' the chance to give us Eurovision from a chilled and respectful point of view. From the streets of Belgrade, Marija Šerifović belted out her 2007 winning song 'Molitva', just like a 'Prayer!'

The usual political voting didn't matter, it wasn't about tactics or 12 points going to the best neighbour during the latter part of Eurovision's Coronavirus commemorative show. Flashing several locked down views from select locations across the geographical span that Eurovision takes in, seeing the London Eye and the Acropolis in the UK and Greece respectively hammered home how crazy 2020 has become. Going further back it was a great opportunity to remember Eurovision legends who had crafted their careers after their ESC victories. ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus popped up in a small video insert, he expressed his sorrow for the pandemic and the bands successes post-Brighton after the four piece Swedish band won with 'Waterloo'. Concluding the broadcast, all 41 participants performed a line or two from 'Love Shine A Light' with help from 'Katrina' who won with that song during 1997s contest with her 'waves!' Confirming Rotterdam 2021, we all know that the show will go on!

Nul Points To Miss Rona!

Joseph Harrison  

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

My Eurovision Song Celebration: 2017, 2018 & 2020...

2017 and 2018 was missed and 2020 was cancelled, during my year with no mistakes I had climbed back onto the Eurovision Song Contest float, 2019 that was! Rotterdam, The Netherlands was poised to slay but Miss Rona had other plans! The hiatus gave me a chance to take a longer look at my favourite annual event! Europe, Miss Rona won't take the crown! ESC, Open Up!

Isarel's IMRI brought the looks and a lively start to the contests grand final! Poland's blonde 'bombshell', Kasia Moś served a strong vocal with 'Flashlight'. Easy listening by Austria with 'Running On Air', his light pop rhythm impressed me. The Dutch trio OG3NE came through effortlessly with their empowering number, 'Lights and Shadows' was so much and more to me! I lived for the lively saxophone beat from Moldova's 'Sunstroke Project', bizarre but very catchy like a Eurovision bop should be! I was in China during 2017's contest, life was hectic with that Saturday, was I out on the town? There was something really nice about Italy's 'Occidentaili's Karma from Francesco Gabbani, I needed a translation! Topping Poland's blonde 'bombshell', Anja from Denmark gave me life with 'Where I Am!' Kicking myself, what would have driven me to miss her amazing performance? Utter stupidity on my part entirely! Yes!

Portugal lost me, it was a slow song with no movement, the vocals couldn't match the other countries but somehow Salvador Sobral won the contest with 'Amar pelos dois'. Dihaj from Azerbaijan had me transfixed, her production was mesmerising with horse head masks and speaking in tongues. Croatia's plus-size pop-opera wonder impressed me with his switching styles and languages during his entry, Jacques Houdek served Mariah Carey tones in one sense then Pavarotti in the other! 2017 wasn't the strongest contest, with consideration my favourites had to be from Poland, The Netherlands and Denmark. Oh, I have forgotten something! Greece's 'Demy' switched her breathy ballad into a nightclub-like banger! A short half-time performance from the previous years winner, 'Jamala' brought some much needed soul! Having the time during 2020s Coronavirus lockdown has given me the chance to pay attention to 2017s missed contest, I feel better now! 2018, ready? You know I loved Denmark!

I will be honest the period around 2018s contest was no joke, I was in Beijing where I had a lot on my plate with my then teaching job. I paid attention through social media to find out the winner, of course it had to be Israel's Netta with her electronic anthem, 'Toy!' Australia? Yes, since the 60th year of Eurovision, the Oceanic nation had been granted a short-term right to perform. Jessica Muaboy brought nothing but light  and positivity to the stage during her performance! Being of Aboriginal Australian descent, she's a true Indigenous First Nations Australian entrant to represent her country! Commercially known in the United Kingdom since her stint on the X Factor UK, Saara Aalto represented her Finnish nation with 'Monsters'. Led by her fabulously slick dancers, Aalto slayed her performance, the energy brought something to the contest because the previous singers didn't attract my attention. Thanks, Finland!

Greece did not compete during 2018s Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon, Portugal, the usual grecian fire hadn't been served. To tell the truth, I was really missing Turkey, having withdrew since 2012 citing dissatisfaction with the voting system. Their decision not to broadcast the contest from 2013 definitely had tones of distaste for Conchita Wurst's performance, it was bad but in the name of the competition I really miss a certain Turkish flare! Will Turkey ever make their Eurovision comeback? China first started to broadcast the show in 2017, the EBU didn't apologise for Ireland's two male dancers because Eurovision doesn't discriminate. I can only imagine how positive and empowering the LGBT youth in China felt as they watched Ireland! Queue Cyprus! Eleni Foureria served absolute 'Fuego' with her sexy and fiery performance, her dancers were on fire with her dance-worthy Greek Cypriot effort for the competition to be wary of her! Of course, Cyprus whipped her hair back and forth!

The Mamas started the celebration with 'Move', hailing from Sweden the trio served Hercules, Sister Act, Lizzo Realness with their fiery and soulful banger, truly an empowering bop to help us through a tough pandemic time. Moving towards Russia, Belarus entered with 'Da Vidna' that was performed by Val, with their slick black attire and sultry male pianist and semi-vogue serve, the female vocalist gave her Belarusian groove effortlessly, the home language worked. Semi? No, breaking into a synchronised vogue dance routine, the Belarusian trio served sass with a hit of Gay rights! Iceland had me living for its quirky 'Think About Things' geeky groove, I live! Ana Soklič slayed with her gravely tones! Ireland's Leslie McRoy brought human rights freedom into song with her 'Story of My Life'. Coronavirus, the Eurovision tradition shall continue beyond your evil wrath! Russia, go on? Russia, won't you death drop for me again? Go!

Russia was in for the vote, Little Big's 'Uno' served Eurovision gold with a death dropping portly fellow, only singing one to seven in Spanish for the most of the song they quashed any shady business, they were super camp! Malta's 'Destiny' showed Europe that the island nation could truly be a 'Chameleon' with her defiant wind-blowing fabulous banger, with a powerful vocal the message was true! Damir, who? I cannot understand Croatian but hell he was hot! Azeri's Cleopatra broke boundaries! The fire of Cyprus's dance banger had my eyes fixed on that tasty looking 'Sandro!' Come through Israel! 'Eden Alene' gave up all of her Israeli nature with an Ethiopian flare! Ukraine gave us their eccentric selves, 'Go_A' had me lost for words with their bizarre tune. 'Ben Dolic' from Germany served commercial pop! Kamusta Austria! Serbia's 'Hurricane' served post-lockdown me! Sure, Iceland's insane bop gave me life! Coming home, the UK's game was good! Perdóname guapo! Spain!

Here's To Eurovision!

Joseph Harrison 

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Friendships From A Far... My International Loves: Part 3!

The world has been turned on its head, our lives have literally been turned upside down during this world pandemic situation! Amidst the chaos it's given me time to review my previous blog posts from 2013 more specifically, now that the first instalment 'Friendships From A Far...' looks much better, I now want to add another 'international love' blog to celebrate Asia!

From 2010 to 2014 I studied at UCB, I didn't know that I would find such a dear friend of mine in Birmingham! Kelly and I were on the same Hospitality and Tourism degree course, we happened to live in the same 'halls of residence'. Throughout our time spent living in Birmingham we shared many days out, we went to Cadbury World and enjoyed some delicious meals together. With Kelly being from Hong Kong I was delighted to trust her to introduce new foods to me during our foodie outings to Chinatown in Birmingham. We would always find our way down to Caffe Chino for a bubble tea! I valued my time spent with Kelly, we got each other and we stuck together! With graduation on the cards, would we meet in Hong Kong? CNY 2016? Go!

Our graduation day came, dressed in our best gowns and caps it was time for us to accept our degrees. Kelly planned to work in Birmingham for a little while after graduation whilst I started my China job hunt. Fast forward to February 2016, I took the high speed train from Wuhan to Shenzhen North. I was reunited with Kelly a little while after I had crossed the borderline into Hong Kong. It was an amazing trip down to HK, we went for a lovely dim sum breakfast with Kelly's Mom and Maternal Grandparents. Me and Kelly went to the top of HK's Victoria Peak, we saw the best views in town for sure! I went about my business during the second day, hitting the streets together the next day we made our way back to the 'Big Buddha' when thankfully it was sunny! Yay! 很高興見到你! 是!

I'll introduce my Wuhan 'China Bestie' in time, first I would like to introduce the 'Chest Kickers! All brought together in Beijing during February 2018, Chanel and Kelly came into my life. We were embarking on our Montessori teaching course, it was such an intense few months but we kept each other going. Throughout the weekend part of the course we would make each other laugh with our deliriously tired selves making jokes and catchphrases, objection! We stuck together like glue, representing team foreigner we had to hold our own. Away from the classroom we would meet for dinner and drinks. Myself and Chanel met for a few boozy lunches at Q-Mex in Beijing. Above everything else we kept things real, like really real! We all had our struggles, in the here and now its not about where we are going, it's where we have been and the memories that were made. Keeping it 100, kicking chests! It's our saying!

As the spring turned into summer, the workload and schedule changed with our Montessori teaching course, a lot! Yes, it did! Even though I was so tired I would do my best to meet Kelly at our local station to take the subway into the city to meet Chanel, our training during July brought us closer together. Learning things about each other, we became a tight team and when one of us were missing it just didn't feel right. For my own reasons I bowed out of the training course, throughout the next year in Beijing we tried our best to meet up when time permitted with our working schedules and life. Chanel opened up her baking business, I loved the baileys cupcakes! Yes, 'Suga Mama!' Kelly transferred to my previous campus, her presence made my last few weeks so special! As January 2020 concluded our lives were turned upside down, we couldn't say goodbye due to the rapid lockdown in Beijing due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Staying in touch through WeChat has been our saviour!

Keeping it real, my first five months in Wuhan, China had me on a mad one! Kindergarten life allowed me to meet my 'China Bestie', signed to the same teaching agency was how I met Fiona Dade. Our first meeting was interesting, I was not going to be part of any sisterhood, no! After speaking during the CNY 2016 holiday, she was in Australia and I was in Hong Kong. Stepping onto that Xianning bound train, we had a seriously mad weekend out! Fiona made it over to Wuhan a few more times before the summer, she needed to move to Wuhan quick! Like a prayer, Fiona returned to China, both reunited in Wuhan! Even though we were signed to the same agency didn't mean we entertained that basic nature! We were too grown for that, Fiona! No!

I was based in Guanggu and Fiona was in Dongxihu, even though the distance was maddening we made those weekends count for everything! I would mostly visit Fiona in her district, those weekenders saw us hit the town, we stayed in sometimes with a bottle or three! She cooked us a roast dinner on one hob, I made my way across the city all the way to her community! Sangria and BBQ was our gig! We kept one hand each into the agency ish then the other for our own business, Beyonce and Kelly didn't need a Michelle! We realised that our friendship had been solidified because we got each other, Wuhan was our stepping stone. We both loved our lives but wanted much more! In 2017 I flew up to see Fiona in Scotland, the Buckfast was out, it was a weekend to remember! Yes! Bye Feliciaaaaa!

Back to Beijing to bring things to present day motion! I met Cyndi during a training day at my then teaching company in Beijing, China. We lost touch after that event, life got mad for me with the Montessori course and Cyndi had her own things to deal with. During the second training day we reconnected and stayed in touch through WeChat. Things happened, Cyndi found herself in a new place that was super close to my Shunyi location in Beijing's suburbs. She introduced me to 'Steak 'N' Eggs', we lived for that home cooked American comfort food! After work after the extended October work week before the holiday we met for an epic meal and a few well deserved drinks! Cyndi is from Boston, she's got that Northeastern nature that I remembered from my NJ days. With Puerto Rican roots it was great to step away into her culture during our time in Beijing. We didn't know that our lives were about to change drastically!

I had recently arrived back from America and England, my Christmas holiday was amazing and it was equally as great to be reunited with Cyndi! I was making plans to move forwards, ready for my next phase of life in China, we had no idea something was about to rock our expat world! I had moved out of my then Beijing apartment, clocking out for the final time at my previous kindergarten I was full of optimism for the next move that I was working on. Cyndi had just dealt with some serious business, we both realised quick that a certain Miss Rona was about to lockdown our lives! Throughout the early stages of the lockdown in Beijing, we kept each other company by having pasta nights at her place. We couldn't believe how the world around us was changing! One way or another we both made tracks back to our own nations, we had to keep the faith! In the here and now, we wait to return to a place we called our expat home! For now life seems surreal! We'll make it back to Asia!

The Category Is Friendship!

Joseph Harrison 

Monday, 4 May 2020

2020: Coronavirus Has Changed My World: Part 1!

Lockdown has been no joke, receiving the address from the UK government, lockdown was declared. My ambition to return to China hasn't changed, I remain hopeful that international travel will resume soon and that borders will be reopened soon. Clapping for our NHS on Thursday evenings has become our new normal. Stay at home, save lives! NHS加油! Corona, I'm done!

The gravity of the situation didn't feel real, other countries batten down the hatches to prevent the spread of the deadly Coronavirus outbreak. Leaving my Sheffield trip to cease and desist, I had to also cancel my Spanish getaway. My weekend trip to Nottingham had been successful, although I did feel something in the air that didn't feel quite right. I remember being at my Grandparents house as the government made the first briefing to the people of the United Kingdom. In disbelief, the terms 'social distancing' and 'stay at home' automatically meant the following months would place us into lockdown. The cards dealt to us were not the ones that we wanted to see, we all knew something drastic needed to be done to combat the spread of the virus within our island nation. With a war time sentiment the people of the United Kingdom knew we had to listen! I know me and my family listened, other folk were acting the fool!

The daily briefings from the cabinet ministers and health advisors informed the population, the heat was on for the government because we were heading for a potential humanitarian disaster. Questions were asked, some truly were not valid during the earliest stages of our lockdown, all we had to do was stay at home and limit our movement, adopting a China-like lockdown wouldn't have worked in our British society because people just acted the fool by going to the park for a picnic! Boris Johnson surprised the nation by making a taped statement addressing the nation, his tone was sharp and with conviction that demanded the general population heed his words due to the severity of the situation. Our 5pm briefings took over the tea time conversation, when would the virus peak in the United Kingdom? Over the next six weeks, we would see many different faces whilst our Prime Minister faced his very own health battle! Nobody foresaw that the UK PM would contract Coronavirus!

Would we starve? Would everywhere close? It took time for people to realise that a Greggs pasty or sausage roll were not essential items! Buying up all the toilet roll wouldn't make this virus disappear any faster! The supermarket became a battle ground, the queues grew longer and the NHS workers were being denied basic items like milk, chicken and toilet roll! A certain level of outrage started to bubble as selfish shoppers panic bought during a pandemic, the NHS heroes were being denied the most basic of items as the shelves laid bare! Shame on your bad selves! Get out! Supermarkets employed extra security guards and prioritised early shopping hours for the elderly and NHS workers. Budget retailers like B&M, Home Bargains, ALDI and Lidl had their tills ringing like its Christmas week, every week! The category is 'social distancing', either queue up or go home! Miss Rona, we won't let you serve UK devastation!

If 2020 could be exchanged, I would demand a full refund with receipts to boot! If this Corona had a manager, I'd been taking this right to the very top! Miss Rona goes by many alias's, this COVID-19 mess saw me arriving back into the United Kingdom from China during mid-February 2020. I did not foresee a second personal lockdown, I had secured my papers and made some serious moves during a shaky time, I was ready! The COVID-19 Ballroom was serving nothing but shade since the clock struck midnight on New Year's Day! Miss Rona was not serving opulence, she is serving 'world devastation' and 'world pandemic' runway realness! As Miss Rona wanted to open up the door further, the world locked down as a collective, we still need to kick that Coronavirus to the curb! Let us 'social distance' for the gods, come on through United Kingdom, stay at home because there's nothing to it! Come on UK, be kind to the 'essential' supermarket staff, we still need to be able to eat! I need a drink!

We needed a light, even though the season was changing, April was still a very dark month during the UK lockdown. Addressing the nation calmly yet firmly, Queen Elizabeth II thanked those who stayed home subtly making a point others weren't going to get any thanks if they were not listening to the 'social distancing' measures. She outlined the unwavering efforts of the NHS frontline workers, with additional gratitude shown to the essential workers. Her direction towards the future held much optimism, she stressed that normal times would return but we as a nation, the United Kingdom needed to pull together. The Queen included thanks to our Commonwealth Nations, recognising that efforts were being made away from the British mainland. Reiterating that 'clapping for our carers' is the right thing to do, paying a secondary serving of thanks to the nation efforts. The speech felt very correct! Yes, Queen Elizabeth II!

Feeling extremely proud of our Queen, the country needed to pull together even more so, our monarch had spoken! Never in my wildest dreams did I ever envisage being sat at home in England during the first quarter of 2020, I had visited in December 2019 after my seamless week spent in and around New York City, Newark and Philadelphia, USA. The latter part of 2019 flowed effortlessly with my concluding weeks worked at my previous teaching company in Beijing, China the events that would unfold in 2020 would come out of the blue! Little did I know that Miss Rona was plotting her next moves as I enjoyed my problem-free trip, that Miss Rona was about to serve 'COVID-19 Overness!' So yes, the Queen's speech acted as a great leveller, it brought four members of the UK and the Commonwealth Nations together for a few moments during this world pandemic health disaster. As the UK PM had been transferred to ICU, we needed our country to crush that Coronavirus trick!

Clap for the NHS? Each Thursday evening it would be that the people of the United Kingdom stood on their doorsteps to 'clap for our carers'. People made noise with clanging pots and pans, waved flags of the union to give thanks to the tireless efforts of the NHS professional medical workforce. On my street the effort could be a lot more, it's been great to see those like us have clapped each week! Choices! It was one of the UK's main concerns that the NHS wouldn't survive during the height of the Coronavirus peak, our NHS angels have worked hard and then some! Clapping is a good way to show our thanks, government needs to give them a pay-rise, quick time! Florence Nightingale made her posthumous comeback! Named after the field hospitals that have been opened across the UK, the NHS Nightingale Hospitals stand ready to deal with our unpredictable pandemic situation. Come on through, Flo' Nightingale! Go!

Mary Seacole needed her name on a hospital or ten! NHS, we needed to recognise Mary Seacole as the British-Jamaican medical heroine with her 'British Hotel' during the Crimean War! Check your Black history! When will normal service resume? The month of May arrived with some much needed news, the hospital cases have reduced nicely. Hospitals have gained extra control over their wards, as the need for ventilators and ICU beds lessens, is it time to help Miss Rona to pack her things? Yes! She can cease and desist with immediate effect, her lease of terror has been served! I have faith that I will return to China soon, both South Korea and Singapore are slated to reopen international flights to the Chinese Mainland in the next few weeks. The UK and China have retained an amicable relationship with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic both operating PPE cargo only flights from London Heathrow Airport to Shanghai's Pudong International Airport. UK, we will all get through this!

Miss Rona, NO!

Joseph Harrison