Archive for April, 2010

Forza Inter!!!
April 21, 2010

Our young, stranded Italian friends, Francesco and Nicoletta, are still with us but the good news, late yesterday, that British aerospace is once again open for business has raised their spirits and they are optimistic about getting a flight home soon.  

Francesco had mixed feelings, though, as we watched Jose, ‘the chosen  one’  Mourinho’s Inter Milan triumph 3-1 in their Champions’ League  semi final, first leg, with  Barcelona – he is a Juventas fan!

Personally, I think this tie is far from over and the return leg at Barca’s Nou Camp should be a cracker. Barcelona travelled 14 hours by coach to Milan, which may be why they were not quite on their game last night. However, with Jose’s luck, his team should now be able to fly out to Spain next week !

Monkey Business!
April 20, 2010

It looks like some planes may be getting off the ground today so things are perhaps looking more hopeful for my flight out to Zambia next week. 

I’m a notorious last-minute packer but think I think I’d better take a more measured approach for this visit,  as I’ve got so much kit to take, including resources for the Book Bus – weight allowance permitting.

I will also be smuggling a travel companion into my luggage!

Monkey usually leads quite an uneventful life out in the conservatory, sitting on top of the Sky+ box and monitoring my viewing habits.

He’s not very well-travelled, but since he heard about the Zambia Book Bus  he’s been pestering me to come along so he can meet the children and hopefully catch up with a few pri-mates!

He’s been doing some research on the  internet and tells me that although the monkeys in Zambia are not from his PG chimp branch of family there are a few distant relatives out there.

Apparently three types of monkey occur in Zambia. The Vervet Monkey (right) is very common in woodland areas. They move in troops of about 20,  feeding on young shoots, seeds,  fruit  and the occasional birds egg.

Maloney’s monkey  and the Blue monkey (left) have occasionally been sighted in the North Luangwa National Park, but their numbers are small. 

The elusive bush  baby, rarely seen in daytime,  and two types of baboon (Chacma and yellow), can be found in the South Luangwa National Park, living in troops of up to fifty. 






Volcanic ash clouds plans!
April 19, 2010

The Eyjafjallajokull (AYA-feeyapla-yurkul) situation rumbles on and its volcanic ash  is now clouding plans at Orchard House.

Today, the eagerly awaited start of the summer term, had been made bearable for Chris on the basis that after just one day in the classroom she was due to jet off for a European education project meeting in Italy!

Unfortunately for her, with flights currently grounded in all the participating countries, the meeting was postponed yesterday and lesson plans had to be hurriedly prepared for the coming week.    

I also have to admit to growing concerns over my forthcoming travel plans for Africa. I’m due to fly out of Heathrow, to join up with the Zambia Book Bus, in nine days time but with each passing day this seem a little less likely – so please keep  fingers crossed!  

Finally, we received an SOS text from an Italian friend yesterday evening; her nephew and his girl friend are stranded in London, following a short break, and fast running out of cash. We’ve managed to book them  a cheap coach fare to Cheltenham and I will be picking them up later today. I guess they will be staying  with us until things blow over – so  it looks  like more of my pasta dishes will be put to the test this week. Ciao! 

Celebrity Chef!
April 17, 2010

Nicci, my eldest, is having a mid-life crisis – she’s 27 today! In order to help her through this traumatic occasion I will be donning my celebrity chef apron later today and knocking up my signature dish, Linguine alla Norma – which admittedly does owe a bit to Jamie Oliver !

Chop 2  large firm aubergines  & fry in a little olive oil (hot pan) until golden. (You may need to do this in 2 batches)

Turn the heat down to medium & add to the aubergines:  4 finely chopped cloves of garlic, a little dried red chilli powder  (if you want  to give it a bit of kick!) , 2 x 400g tins of  chopped tomatoes, a swig of white wine vinegar & a tablespoon of dried oregano.

Simmer for 15 mins, season to taste & then add a handful of fresh basil leaves .

Meanwhile cook the linguine as per packet instructions, until it is al dente! Drain, then add the sauce – making sure the pasta is evenly coated,  garnish with a few more basil leaves &  serve with copious amounts of grated parmesan cheese and a robust red italian wine.

Buon compleanno Nicci  e buon appetito!  xx

PS: Glad I’m not washing up!



Tri-lingual Rwanda Placement Confirmed!
April 17, 2010

Hello, Bonjour, Muraho!

I have  now received confirmation from VSO that my employer in Rwanda has accepted my placement as an education management adviser, which will commence on September 4th.  This is great news but will mean a busy few months preparation  once I’ve returned from the Book Bus in Zambia at the beginning of June.

I’m already  booked in for my final VSO residential training – 3 days at the end of July, and will also need to be diligent in completing a French refresher/improvement course as well as undertaking the VSO’s basic  familiarisation with Kinyarwanda (the local Rwandan  language). 

Although English is now the official language of delivery in the Rwandan education system, until quite recently it was French (Rwanda being a former Belgian colony). Realistically it is quite likely I will need to communicate  in a combination  of all three languages!       

I’ve also had to submit a submit a request for a VSO issue crash helmet , essential for my daily travels, by motorbike taxi, along the dirt roads of Rwanda! 

The Clegg X-Factor!
April 16, 2010

Old ‘Cleggy’  (front left) was, previously best known for his homespun philosophy, as one of three elderly friends tramping around  the Yorkshire town of Holmfirth and its surroundings,  in the whimsical BBC comedy Last of the Summer Wine! 

Last night,  young  ‘Cleggy’ (an adopted son of Yorkshire – MP for Sheffield and leader of the Lib Dems) shot to prominence  in  the first episode of a new X-Factor mini series (sorry live pre-election political debates !)

‘Cleggy’ (on the left) looking remarkably at ease in front of the cameras, succeeded in upstaging his two main challengers . It was intriguing viewing and ‘Cleggy’, admittedly with the least to lose and most to gain, set the standard with his challenging, breath of fresh air rendition which left  Gordon ( much to lose and ill at ease in this format) Brown  and  David ( visibly wilting under the hype and high expectation of the party faithful) Cameron, sounding a bit out of tune! 

Sure, there are two more shows to go & the X-factor audience can be notoriously fickle when it come to the crunch – just look  what happened to Jedward!

Amazingly, I can see the day when elections will be based on a series of televised debates, such as last night,  after which viewers will be invited to vote X-Factor style by keying in their ballot paper pin number and pressing the interactive red, blue, yellow (or green!) button to cast their vote. It might guarantee a better ‘turn out’!     

Unfortunately I will miss out on election day  (being away in Zambia) but have applied for my ‘snail mail’ vote which will hopefully arrive in time to be completed before I leave.

Up Pompeii!
April 15, 2010

Chris and I have just returned from a short break in sunny Sorrento! Unfortunately no free internet access so unable to blog!

We took the opportunity to go ‘Up Pompeii’ , 35 years after first back packing around Italy. A great experience but much busier than the first time around, with loads of school parties!

Vesuvius remains a live volcano, which last erupted in 1944, and apparently could go anytime soon.  It was therefore ironic to return home just before British aerospace was shut down due to volcanic activity in Iceland! 

With the pre-election build up now well under way, tonight  is the live TV debate with the three main party leaders. It would be nice to see some fireworks and the odd eruption but I fear it may be too well rehearsed and stage-managed for all that !   

Gordon could do worse than adopt the Frankie Howard persona, to liven things up a bit , bless him, (ooh, aagh!) After all it is a bit of a ‘carry on’ isn’t it?     

The Beautiful Game!
April 6, 2010

Over the Easter period, the pipe dream of automatic promotion to the Premiership for the Tricky Trees has evaporated into the ether, so we’ll have to settle for 3rd (hopefully) and do it the hard way through the dreaded play-offs. If we make it to Wembley I’ll be relying on texts and emails to reach me in Zambia!

Football is extremely popular in Zambia  and I am building up a stock of  UK football magazines as an additional Book Bus resource!  The Zambian Premier League  (sponsored by Konkola Copper Mines) kicked of a few weeks ago. There are 16 ‘top flight’ teams with the Green Buffaloes, currently leading the way from the Lusaka Dynamos!

My journalist daughter, Gemma, has suggested I “blog more regularly but shorter!” so I’m trying to take that on board. Incidentally, as  a proud father, Gem has had a better Easter than Forest with two centre spread features in the ‘Mirror’ (Friday & Tuesday) and another in the May edition of ‘Essentials’ magazine – go girl!             

Life at Grubby’s Grotto
April 2, 2010

The rain is lashing down and the daffodils are being buffeted by the wind – so it must be the Easter bank holiday! Yesterday, of course was the last day of the Spring Term and April Fools’ Day – a double whammy for teachers! I still can’t get away from measuring out my life , not as T.S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock did, ‘with coffee spoons’, but by the school calendar, especially with my wife giving regular updates on  how many days there are until the end of term. Teachers are always on holiday aren’t they?   

Talking of April fools, I felt as if I had fallen victim yesterday. In preparation for a month under canvas  at Grubby’s Grotto I’ve  invested in so much kit from the Nomad Travel Company, I feel like a share holder. I’ve been shopping, on-line, for everything from a light weight sleeping bag, to a Nite ize headband so I can strap a torch to my head (pretty essential for stumbling my way towards the toilet block, during the night, after a few Zambian lagers!). Having charged all of this to my credit card, last week, I was informed, yesterday, that as a subscriber to the Wanderlust magazine I can  now get 15% discount with Nomad until the end of May – rather annoying to say the least!

So what will life be like at the Grotto Campsite? I can’t wait to meet ‘Grubby’, he sounds quite a character, like he’s wandered out of one of  Alexander McCall Smith’s, Ladies’ Detective Agency books!

So to does the address:

Grubby’s Grotto, 2 Mambo Way (corner of Obote Avenue), Livingstone.

It is situated at the north end of Livingstone , a 15 minute walk  into town or a 10,000 kw taxi ride . (There are approximately 7000 Zambian Kwacha to a pound – so that will make shopping interesting ! )

Apparently the site is in the grounds of Grubby’s old colonial home. I’ll be sharing a tent with another unfortunate volunteer.  I hope he’s packed ear plugs – I can snore for England, so my wife tells me! There is, what is referred to as, a basic but clean shower/toilet block (no guarantee of hot water though!), a small pool to relax around and  a shady verandah with an honesty bar. There is also a small laundry area and limited facilities for charging electrical equipment.

We’ll be sharing the campsite with long distance lorry drivers and Grubby’s Rhodesian ridgeback, Cuzzie

A typical day in the life of the Book Bus crew member will go something like this:

  • 06.30 Time to get up, stretch your legs and make your way to the wash block . Those on breakfast duty boil the kettle and arrange the food.  
  • 07.00: Breakfast followed by washing up!
  • 07.30: Prep time for the day’s lessons
  • 08.30: Climb on board the bus and head for school (usually a 30 minute drive)
  • 09.00: 4 x 1 hour reading and associated activity sessions , each with a different group.

  • 13.30: Return to Grubby’s Grotto
  • 14.00: A late lunch , prepared by crew members
  • 14.30: Washing up and then tidy the bus
  • 15.00: Free time to walk into town, take in  local attractions, do some shopping, visit a coffee shop or use the internet
  • 18.00: Those on dinner duty get cooking
  • 19.30: Dinner by candlelight under the African skies

  • 20.00: Washing up – by candle or torchlight!
  • 20.30: Time to socialize over a beer or get an early night
  • because it all begins again bright and  early tomorrow!

Today’s Top Tip for volunteers: Timetables are one thing but patience, remaining flexible,  smiling and going with the flow are vital if you are going to make the most of your time in Zambia. It’s an amazing country but always remember T.I.A. (This IS Africa!!)