Pipe dreams from the Shire…

December 30, 2010 - 3 Responses

This is the final post on the outofafrica2010 blog.

I set up the blog back in March. As the title suggests it was primarily intended to keep interested family and friends up to date with my exploits in Zambia and Rwanda during 2010.

What might have been a chore quickly developed into an enjoyable part of my daily routine.

Outside of my excursions to Africa the blog has gradually morphed into a record of daily life, from the Shire, consisting of random musings on a range of current affairs and sports events.

Along the way I have some how acquired a group of regular followers and have much appreciated their kind comments. The blog could quite easily have fallen by the way but for that encouragement.

I find the following current site data for my daily ramblings quite staggering.

Apparently over the last ten months I have posted 163 times.

At the time of writing there have been a total of 58,748 views (an average of 200 per day) and 218 comments have been left on the site.  

The busiest day was as recently as December 21st when there were 620 hits!

I intend to continue writing in 2011 but as from 1st January you will need to log on to my new blog:

http://pipedreamsfromtheshire@wordpress.com     

I hope you will want to stick with me and I look forward to receiving your comments.

Happy New Year to all my readers!

 30.12.2010   

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Late Christmas Presents…

December 30, 2010 - Leave a Response

David Cameron hasn’t had much to say for himself lately, leaving Cleggy to pick up the pieces of a coalition government in disarray, but he hasn’t taken his eye off the ball and was quickly off the mark yesterday cashing in on England’s Ashes victory by referring to it as a ‘great late Christmas present’.

There is nothing like sporting success to lift the mood of the nation and we certainly need it with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development already predicting unemployment is set to hit a seventeen year high during 2011. But that’s for another day…            

As expected it didn’t take too long for England to wrap up a historic innings victory on the fourth day of the 4th Test at the MCG.

There is no doubt this is not a great Australian team and before the series started, it could have been argued, on paper there was very little between the sides. However the Aussies, playing in their own backyard, have become so accustomed to pummeling the whingeing poms over the last 24 years that there was always an underlying feeling of inevitability about the eventual outcome.    

But not so, England have comprehensively out batted, out bowled and out fielded the Aussies, with the exception of the opening day of the series, in Brisbane, and a couple of sessions at Perth when Mitchell Johnson finally clicked into gear and bowled them briefly back into the series.

England’s preparation and attention to detail has been outstanding and much credit should go to Andy Flower’s coaching team and captain Andrew Strauss. All that now remains is to ensure, that with the Ashes secured, they don’t allow the Aussies any crumbs of comfort in the final Sydney Test.

With the Aussies in such disarray anything less than a 3-1 series victory might be considered disappointing!  How long is it since we have been able to say that?  

It will be interesting to see how the notoriously unsentimental Australian selectors deal with the Ponting question. He is great player at the fag-end of his career.

He could be dropped due to his dismal batting form, where unthinkably he is averaging just 16 for the series. Alternatively he could be omitted due to the hand injury, sustained in Perth, which he struggled with at the MCG.

Punter is nothing if not a battler and deserves a final chance to show that he isn’t quite finished.    

I’m sure celebrity cricket supporter Sir Elton John will have considered England’s victory the icing on his seasonal cake  following the announcement of his own special Christmas gift – a surrogate son born to him and his partner David Furnish.

I’ve always been an Elton fan, both of his music and personality. Let’s be honest he does genuinely fall into that increasingly over used category, national treasures.

However, on this occasion, I’m not at all sure about a 63-year-old pop star, still touring and living a highly publicised superstar lifestyle, arguably acquiring a newborn baby as if he were some sort of fashion accessory.

I hope I am wrong and that the happy couple can provide Zachary Jackson Levon with the start in life that he deserves.

Elton, formerly Reg Dwight, is also well-known, at least in Nottingham, as the nephew of Roy Dwight who scored for Forest in their 1959 FA Cup victory over Luton Town.

Elton’s uncle opened the scoring after 10 minutes. However with 33 minutes gone, and  Forest winning 2-0, Dwight was carried off the Wembley pitch after breaking his leg in a tackle.

These were the days before substitutes were allowed but Forest held on, winning the match 2-1, to become the only team reduced to 10 men by injury to lift the trophy.

Which brings me nicely to last night and the current Forest team who presented their fans with, the best possible late Christmas present, a beautifully gift wrapped 5-2 victory over local rivals Derby County.

The rivalry between the two clubs is as intense as any in the country. Both have seen better days but currently share aspirations of returning to the Premiership.

How often do former players return to haunt their old clubs? Last night was no exception. Marcus Tudgay and Robbie Earnshaw both picked up a brace for the Tricky Trees and Kris Commons withstood a torrent of boos to slot home one of his trademark free kicks for the Rams.    

The following is purloined from the http://www.thisisderbyshire website and will be music to the ears of Forest fans everywhere:

Forest’s pace and attacking play combined with Derby’s wretched defending made it a nightmare night for the Rams.

It was the first time in more than 100 years Derby had conceded five goals to the Reds. The last time was in March 1904.

The Rams are leaking goals at an alarming rate. Seventeen have found their net in the last seven games.”

Happy New Year!

And so this was Christmas…

December 29, 2010 - 3 Responses

And so this was Christmas …

The festive season began with a blanket of snow and the mercury dipping as low as -12˚C over the Christmas weekend. There had been concerns that the weather might cause problems for those travelling to the Shire but thankfully not so.

During the last two days the Wintersmith has released his icy grip and overnight rain has all but erased the Christmas card backdrop against which the Yuletide festivities have been acted out.  

December 2010 may turn out to be the coldest since records began but comparisons with the long hard winters of ’46-’47 and ’62-’63 may have been a trifle premature – all will be revealed over the next few weeks.   

As always, I was pleased to find that Santa had left me a couple of books beneath the Christmas tree:

The Shadow of the Sun, by Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, has been hailed the greatest modern work on Africa and a dazzling literary masterpiece. It contains the correspondent’s work covering a forty-year period, following his first visit to the Dark Continent in 1957, and was first published in English in 2001.

I have already dipped into it. The author has the easy style of an accomplished story-teller coupled with a reporter’s eye for detail.  His evocative writing will resonate with anybody who has spent time in Africa.            

For obvious reasons I was immediately drawn to the piece entitled A Lecture on Rwanda. In seventeen pages Kapuscinski manages to distil the historical complexities of the Rwandan crisis, leading up to and including the genocide, in an account that provides greater clarity than any I have previously read.     

Duncan Hamilton was a Nottingham sports journalist. Last Christmas I received his first book, Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough, an honest, sensitive and extremely personal biography of the great man.

This year I was delighted to get a copy of Hamilton’s authorised biography of another Nottinghamshire legend, and the world’s fastest bowler, Harold Larwood.

I’m already well into it and the author clearly deserved to pick up the 2009 William Hill Sports Book of the Year  award for his moving portrayal of the Nottinghamshire miner who later became synonymous with the controversial Bodyline bowling tactics used by England to nullify Donald Bradman and his Australian team mates in the 1932-3 Ashes series.  

England won the series 4-1 amidst a huge diplomatic row that threatened Anglo-Australian relations. Larwood, a working class national hero who had merely bowled in line with captain Douglas Jardine’s orders, was made the scapegoat. When requested,  by the MCC, to apologise he refused effectively bringing his international career to an end.

Ironically, Larwood later emigrated to Australia where he was welcomed, respected and held in high esteem for the rest of his days.         

I didn’t watch a great deal of TV over the holiday period but couldn’t miss the annual Christmas Day helping from the Royle Family. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with Christmas Specials, material that would have made a good thirty minute show was over stretched to fill an hour slot, compromising its overall quality.

Along with 10 million viewers nationwide, I also tuned in to the latest offering from Mat Lucas and David Walliams, Come Fly With Me. I found this spoof documentary, set in an airport, mildly amusing but probably less so than the antics portrayed in the Airport series about actual day-to-day life at Heathrow.

Lucas and Walliams have been criticised in the media for their use of racial stereotypes. The blacked up faces and accents were certainly a throw back to 1970’s comic offerings such as It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and Mind Your Language.  However I didn’t consider the humour racist, simply a little dated, and I certainly don’t think it warrants a six part series.   

Another Christmas TV highlight had to be the business minister, Vince Cable, temporarily putting his and the coalition government’s problems to one side for a moment, and taking time out to show some nifty footwork dancing a lively Foxtrot with  the lovely Erin Boag, in the Christmas celebrity edition of Strictly Come Dancing.  Well you have to get your priorities right!    

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I crawled out of bed on Boxing Day morning to catch the latter stages of the first day’s play in the 4th Ashes Test in Melbourne.  Australia had been dismissed for a meagre 98 and England were already fifty or so ahead, without loss, in their first innings.

I had been expecting a buoyant Australia, after their recent victory in Perth, to push England really hard for the rest of the series but they have fallen apart. England are now so firmly in the ascendancy again, barring an act of God, they should wrap up a four-day innings victory, and retain the Ashes, some time in the early hours of  tomorrow.   

Jonathon Trott seems to love playing the old enemy, having followed up his match winning century, on debut, at the Oval in 2009 with two more in this series. But, at the highest level, there are fine margins between success and failure.

Trott threw himself full length to avoid being run out, by Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting, when he had scored only 46 of his eventual 168 not out. Another wicket at that stage might have brought Australia right back into the game.

‘Punter’ of course, is having a nightmare series with the bat and is about to become the first ever Aussie captain to lead his side to three Ashes series defeats.

He has been a great player and competitor throughout his career and his current frustration is understandable but his behaviour towards the on field umpires, following an unsuccessful referral, was totally out of order. He was extremely lucky not to receive a ban from the next Test, in Sydney. But then again it’s quite likely to be his final game in the Baggy Green!

Finally, I would like to announce the arrival, at Orchard House, of Christmas Monkey.  He emerged from a seasonal package of PG tea bags  on Christmas morning  and we are now a two monkey family. 

A Monkey is not just for Christmas!

The Wintersmith takes grip in the Shire

December 20, 2010 - Leave a Response

The Wintersmith has well and truly taken a grip in the Shire, with an overnight temperature of minus 19˚C recorded in Pershore during the weekend.

Yesterday, as I trudged across the blanketed  fields down by the river, I half expected to catch sight of the Nac Mac Feegles,  with their  angry blue faces emerging from beneath the big snow, grumbling “Ach crivens!” and  “Oh waily, waily, waily!” .

All of which will mean absolutely nothing to you unless you are au fait with the wonderful Wee Free Men from Terry Pratchett’s stories of Discworld!

As I made my way via the footbridge over the frozen marina and eventually skated along the treacherous footpaths of Upton to pick up a few essential supplies from So Near so Spar, I couldn’t help wondering what my African friends would have made of it all.

I also admit to feeling just a little envious of my VSO Rwanda colleagues, who anytime soon will be setting off for their Christmas break on the spice island of Zanzibar. Even their 36 hour coach journey from Kigali to Dar es Salaam suddenly seems quite appealing!  

Early on Saturday morning I had risen early and watched as England’s bid to wrap up the Ashes, as an early Christmas present for a nation embarking on a winter of discontent, had been derailed down in Perth. It was bizarre watching the players toiling in temperatures of around 30˚C while snow flakes tumbled down outside the window.

It was never likely to happen for England at Perth, given England’s poor track at the WACA, and once a paper like the Guardian (who should have known better) began to indulge in premature gloating, having variously described the leading Aussie fast bowler as shocking, awful, mediocre and a malfunctioning liability, then he was virtually guaranteed to come back with a vengeance!

Mitchell Johnson, in that kind of form, and particularly on that wicket, is capable of dismantling any team in the world. His match winning performance has certainly lifted the Aussies and revitalised the series.

Although there is less between the teams than appeared to be the case in the first two Tests I’m still confident England can do enough at Melbourne and Sydney to retain the urn and I look forward to spending the early hours of Boxing Day morning watching, wrapped up in my dressing gown with a hot water bottle, watching the opening throws of the next instalment.   

On Saturday afternoon I had intended to make my first visit to the City Ground since the end of August but cried off due to the icy road conditions and forecasts of further snow.

The match survived the freezing conditions and Forest, playing their first game in three weeks, secured a comfortable 3-0 win over Crystal Palace, with new signing Marcus Tudgay scoring a brilliant debut goal, lobbing the keeper from 30 yards out. Let’s hope there will be more to come and, weather permitting, that the Tricky Trees can get their promotion push back on track over the Christmas and New Year period.

I did manage to catch the Cherry & Whites on Sky TV last night. Despite sub-zero temperatures at Kingsholm the  Amlin Cup game against La Rochelle went ahead, but Gloucester will wish it hadn’t. I’m still not quite sure how they contrived to lose a game (18-24) where they enjoyed 75% possession and territory.

Unfortunately their lack of precision at key moments lost them the game and  puts paid to any hopes of European success this season. 

It was also a game the players were desperate to win as a tribute to club owner and motor sports legend, Tom Walkinshaw, who sadly lost his battle with cancer last week.

All eyes will now be turning towards the eagerly awaited Boxing Day Aviva League clash with high-flying Northampton Saints. An ideal opportunity to bounce back in front of a sell-out crowd.   

Saturday was also Chris’s birthday. Like me she has reached that stage where she is less than enthusiastic about celebrating the annual reminder that she isn’t getting any younger.

 But she was somewhat cheered to find that she has the same birthday as Brad Pitt. I was more impressed that she shares the date with Christina Aguilera!

The 18th December also marked the 67th birthday of Rolling Stone, Keith Richard. Unfortunately time has not been too kind to the oldest rocker in town, who looks about 87, but then again he’s packed a bit in.

It was also a year to the day of two famous retirements; Sir Terry Wogan’s and mine, both of us having spent a lifetime in the entertainment business!   

The last year has absolutely flown by, particularly with spending five months in Africa, and that old cliché of the newly retired, “I don’t know how I found time to go to work,”  has certainly been true in my case.

Sunday morning with Gauguin

December 16, 2010 - Leave a Response

On a bright Sunday morning Gem and I wandered down to the south bank via Starbucks at St Paul’s, where the cathedral bells were ringing out their pre-Christmas message loud and clear!

As we crossed over the Millennium Bridge I got my first sight of the, under construction, Shard building which, when it is finished, will be the tallest in London and command tremendous views across the city.

We had pre-booked tickets at the Tate Modern for ‘Gauguin: Maker of Myth’, a major exhibition of paintings, sculptures and drawings which explores the myths Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) addressed in his work as well as those he created around himself as a rebel artist.    

I have always been drawn to Gauguin’s vibrant use of colour and his well documented bohemian lifestyle. This first major retrospective, in Britain, for over 50 years contains over 150 pieces (including letters and journals) pulled together from the world’s major galleries to provide a compelling narrative of the artist’s life and work.

The exhibition begins with a room full of self portraits which demonstrate Gauguin’s astute awareness, from a very early stage, that by continually developing and publicising his rebel artist persona in this way people would be drawn to his work.

Thinking about it isn’t that an approach more recently adopted, to great effect, by David Bowie as a 70’s glam- rock musician and Madonna throughout her career?    

Elsewhere in the exhibition is the controversial ‘Christ in the Garden of Olives’, in which Gauguin uses his own facial features to depict a Christ figure with bright orange hair (Bowie comes to mind again!)

Gauguin’s exploration of cultural myths is demonstrated by his use of rustic Breton stereotypes, in the pastoral scenes created during his time at Pont Aven, and later through his better known Tahitian scenes which depict the island as some kind of earthly paradise.

Although his paintings from Tahiti may have promoted outsiders’ perceptions, and the artist’s own dreams of virgin lands and paradise gained, his diary entries were honest enough to admit it did not really exist and was more a case of paradise and innocence lost.

In his 1897, oil on canvas, work entitled ‘Nevermore O Taiti’, which is being used by Tate Modern to promote the exhibition, Gauguin actually concedes this point in pictorial form.    

The exhibition, which I would highly recommend, doesn’t have much longer to run and closes on January 16th before moving on to the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Following our culture fix there was just time for a bit more artistic reflection, over yet another coffee, in the Globe Theatre café bar before heading back on the early afternoon train to the Shire.

Saturday afternoon at ‘the Cottage’

December 15, 2010 - Leave a Response

It has been a busy week or so since returning from Rwanda. Over the last ten days I’ve caught up with family and friends in Bristol, Nottingham, London and Birmingham.

I spent the last weekend in London. This enabled me to visit Gem in Balham and catch up with her journalistic exploits. She has penned the lead article for the bumper Christmas issue of Love It!

It was also an opportunity to attend the annual Book Bus reunion, held at Adulis – an Eritrean restaurant in the Oval area, and meet up with the colleagues I worked with in Zambia during May.

In between morning coffee on the Balham High Road and an evening out on the Brixton Road I spent a chilly winter afternoon in the Johnny Haynes Stand, at Craven Cottage, watching the Premiership game between Fulham and Sunderland.

In truth it was a disappointing game (a nil –nil draw), so much so that the reporter in the Independent on Sunday awarded the man of the match award to referee Neil Swarbrick!

I have to say it did cross my mind that if  the level of play I saw on saw on Saturday was typical of that in the middle to lower reaches of the Premier League then perhaps the current Forest team wouldn’t be out-of-place should they gain promotion.   

I first visited Craven Cottage for the opening game of the 1976-7 season. It was a warm and sunny August day and Fulham were entertaining a Forest side in the old second division. It finished 2-2 and Forest’s scorers were the lively winger Terry Curran and old stager John O’Hare.

Little did I suspect at the time that this would be the first game of an incredible four-year period that would see Cloughie’s Forest team win promotion to the 1st division  followed by the league championship and back to back European Cups!

Craven Cottage is always a  joy to visit, even in the fading light of a grey December day. From Putney Bridge tube station there is a lovely walk through Bishops Park to the riverside stadium which has managed to successfully merge early 20th century architecture with 21st century amenities.

The Johnny Haynes stand, named after ‘the maestro’ – an elegant midfield player for England during the late 1950’s and early 60’s, still sports a classic gable, labelled Fulham Football Club, and my seat was an original of the wooden tip up variety.

The players still enter the pitch from the unique pavilion building, referred to as ‘the cottage,’ which stands in the corner of the ground between the Johnny Haynes Stand and the Putney End.

I have always had a soft spot for Fulham, a homely club in a fashionable part of London. When I first started to follow football they were permanently in the lower reaches of the 1st division. 

Their chairman was music hall comedian Tommy Trinder and the star player was the afore-mentioned Haynes.

There was also a promising attacking full back, George Cohen, who would go on to pick up a World Cup Winners medal.

Bobby Moore and George Best briefly illuminated the Craven Cottage pitch in the twilight of their careers, and Malcolm MacDonald began his goal scoring exploits on the bank of the Thames, but as the years passed by Fulham began a slow descent towards the basement of English football.

Fortunately for them, under the ownership of the Harrods boss Mohammed Al Fayed, they once more returned to the top-level, in 2001, where they have gradually re-established themselves over the last nine years.

Last year, under manager Roy Hodgson (now at Liverpool), Fulham enjoyed a fairy tale run in the Europa Cup reaching the final, in Hamburg, where they eventually lost to Atletico Madrid.  

Al Fayed was at the game on Saturday. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly and too many more performances like the one I witnessed could lead to current manager Mark ‘Sparky’ Hughes being shown the door.

Fulham are perilously close to the relegation places, only goal difference separating them from the bottom three, but I hope they will survive.

50 years of ‘the Street’

December 14, 2010 - Leave a Response

Coronation Street has always been my preferred soap. I even remember, as a seven-year old, watching the very first black and white episode!

It caught the public imagination from the outset. The iconic hair netted dragon Ena Sharples, sipping milk stout and trading gossip with Minnie Caldwell and Martha Longhurst in the Rovers’ snug, and the brassy Elsie Tanner with whom Ena enjoyed many a stand off on the cobbles, soon became the talk of the school playground.

I’ve maintained an interest in Corrie, on and off, ever since but admit to having become a lapsed devotee over the last three years or so.

The main reason being that I thought it had started to take itself too seriously, trying to emulate the depressing storylines and grittiness of its London-based rival Eastenders rather than playing to its own strengths, low-key humour delivered with a sharp northern wit.    

On my return from Rwanda I walked straight back into the 50th year celebrations with all the attendant hype and found myself tuning in to watch this TV landmark unfold.

To be honest I was disappointed to find that Corrie had resorted to the Emmerdale school of script writing, a tragic disaster visited on the whole community resulting in the deaths of a few characters who have out grown their usefulness.

Despite that, there can be no argument that the explosion and subsequent tram crash were very convincingly staged. The tempo of proceedings leading up to the inevitable mayhem was impressive and, as someone who has not watched the show for three years, I have to take my hat off to the script writers because I was able to pick up on all the storylines within a single episode!           

Hopefully as the dust settles and the residents slowly come to terms with events the Street will return to relative normality and hopefully a few more of those light comedy moments that set it apart from all other contenders.

What ever way you look at it 50 years for a TV soap is an amazing achievement.

I’m not sure whether it has done enough to hook me back in. Only time will tell.  Now maybe if the tram had taken out Sally and Gail…

Aussies in a spin!

December 8, 2010 - Leave a Response

It is 23 long years since England last brought back the Ashes from down under. On that occasion Mike Gatting’s team won the series 2-1 and the man of the series was Notts opening batsman Chris Broad who scored centuries in three consecutive tests. His son, current England all-rounder  Stuart, was five months old at the time!

This time around England, who need  only to draw the series to retain the urn, are already within touching distance of emulating the 1987 squad after yesterday’s convincing win at the Adelaide Oval by an innings and 71 runs.

Incidentally this was England’s 100th all time test victory over Australia and the Aussies first defeat at home by an innings in 17 years.

There are still three tests to go but a win in Perth, in ten days time, would wrap it up for England.  

However it will have to be achieved without the services of Stuart Broad who suffered an abdominal muscle tear and will now return home.

Broad will be sorely missed, particularly on the fast Perth track, but his Notts teammate, off spinner Graham Swann, who took the bowling honours with a 5 wicket 2nd innings haul in Adelaide remains a key player for England.

Despite his extraordinary test record over the last two years, taking 5 wickets in an innings ten times in 26 tests, Swann has been consistently dismissed as ‘ordinary’ by Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting, yet at Adelaide he was once again undone by the England spinner.

Interestingly in 1987 England spinners, John Emburey and Phil Edmonds, played a pivotal role in securing the Ashes, taking thirty three series wickets between them.

Australia for so long dependent on their own ‘king of spin,’ and all time leading wicket taker, Shane Warne are missing him so much so that an online campaign is under way to reinstate the 41-year-old (who is currently working in the media) which rather smacks of desperation.

Without wishing to tempt providence, current form suggests the series is now England’s to lose rather than Australia’s win – how long since we have been able to say that?

England need to remain positive and go for the kill in Perth, rather than adopting a safety first approach that might offer the initiative back to the Aussies.

All will be revealed by the team selection for the 3rd  Test. Chris Tremlett  from Surrey, at six-foot seven an out-and-out fast bowler, would be the attacking choice as a replacement for the injured Broad while picking Yorkshire all-rounder Tim Bresnan, who has less pace but is a better batsman, would indicate a more defensive attitude.

Imagine…

December 8, 2010 - One Response

Imagine…… it was 30 years ago today that John Lennon was gunned down, outside the Dakota building in the Manhattan district of New York, by  deranged ‘fan’ Mark Chapman.  

As a 27-year-old teacher at Bosworth Wood School in Chelmsley Wood – a large housing development adjacent to the Birmingham bound M6 – I vividly  remember climbing into my Ford Cortina on the morning of December 8th 1980, switching on the radio and being stunned by the breaking news of Lennon’s murder.

For others it might be Buddy Holly or Elvis but for me and millions more of my generation that really was ‘the day the music died!’    

I had grown up with John Lennon and the Beatles, buying my first pieces of vinyl in 1963 as ten-year old at Spring Street Junior School, and had watched and listened as the ‘mop heads’ from Liverpool  had grown and developed into the most influential quartet in popular music history.

John Lennon, iconic singer/songwriter, poet, artist and political activist, will be remembered by many today. If he were still with us he would be 70 years old and, I dare say, as revolutionary and opinionated as ever.       

It’s interesting to imagine what a septuagenarian Lennon, peering through his trade mark spectacles, might have made of some of this week’s news stories.  

I’m pretty sure I know where he would have stood on the Julian Asssange Wikileaks affair, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, and what his views might have been on the proposed increase in university fees,  but how about Susan Philipsz winning the 2010 Turner Prize for her ‘sound installation’ and then whatever would he have made of the X-Factor finalists?

Hakuna Matata!

December 6, 2010 - One Response

Last Friday evening was my last in Nyakarambi, my home for the last three months. It could only be spent at KMC especially as Msafiri had promised me one final ‘special omelette’ on the house.  

A week or so before I had been chewing the fat with him whilst sipping my Mützig and  somewhere along the way I had suggested a number of marketing strategies that I thought he could usefully introduce at KMC to increase his turn-over. He listened politely and thanked me for my input.

As  Mark, Abdel-Illah and I arrived on Friday I was amazed to find Msafiri had not hung around when it came to implementing the ideas we had recently discussed.

At the entrance my eyes were immediately drawn to a hand written notice proclaiming ‘Happy Hour’ prices! We were then shown to a single table laid up with a red and white gingham tablecloth and finally our drinks were served with a bowl of home roasted peanuts – bless him!

We all ordered special omelette, salad and chips and during the evening drank a couple of beers each. On asking for the bill we were told there was nothing to pay – a generous and much appreciated gesture.  

As promised, Msafiri did not let me down either when it came to my get away on Saturday morning. He turned up as planned with a car belonging to his friend Napoleon (a doctor from the local medical centre who not surprisingly could only speak French!).

Msafiri drove the Toyota saloon while Napoleon fed compilations of dodgy French pop songs into the CD player.  I sat in the back drinking in the passing Rwandan countryside for one last time. Three hours later we arrived at Kigali Airport and over a final coffee Msafiri and I exchanged email addresses.

I shook him warmly by the hand, thanking him for his hospitality at KMC over the last three months, his generosity the previous evening and for organising my airport transfer. Being a Tanzanian he replied as always, in his native Swahili, “Hakuna Matata” and as we parted he thanked me for being such a good customer and friend. I’m sure we will keep in touch.

Twenty eight hours after leaving Nyakarambi, including six hours between flights in Addis Ababa airport (at least I can say I’ve visited Ethiopia!) I touched down at LHR terminal 3. It was 07.30, an hour earlier than the arrival time printed on my e-ticket, which meant I was able to catch the 08.45 National Express coach to Cheltenham.

As I headed north a foggy, grey Sunday morning soon gave way to blue skies and a wintry English landscape bathed in sunshine. It was so different from the Rwanda I had left behind but it was home!

Chris and I were reunited at Cheltenham Spa coach station, thirteen weeks after saying our goodbyes at the same spot. By 11.45 I was back in the Shire and being welcomed home, quite unexpectedly, by Nicci who had travelled across from Oxford.

Sunday afternoon was largely spent catching up, by the warmth of an open fire while savouring the welcome taste of real ale, at our local ‘The Bluebell’. I couldn’t help thinking it was a million miles away from KMC and wondering what Msafiri would have made of it!