Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Four Miles of Sunshine

Sunshine and the first bike ride of the year. Just a four mile round trip to collect the newspapers and wait while a group of highly intelligent ladies admire the bike. Lucy (the bike) is delighted to hear herself rated as the Daimler Majestic of the cycling world. Her wicker basket and canvas panniers were especially mentioned. She's back in her stable now, sipping elegantly at her 36volt recharger and exchanging small talk with Phil the Flymo, her electric cousin. I should ...take more care of Lucy: give up the pretence of writing books which nobody buys or reads or reviews.
I shall just laze around, waiting for warm sunny days and ride Lucy through the Cheshire lanes, smiling a silly smile as the Daimler of bikes hums gently along, attracting admiring glances as she goes!
There's room in her panniers for wine/biscuits/cake. Should I need a small guide dog one could be accommodated in the basket ...

Apologies to those of you who've already read this on Facebook. Life has been a bit frantic lately - will we be fit enough to travel (yes!) Will we be properly organised? (unlikely!) Can we pack everything we want to take to the hospital and clinic? (fingers crossed!)
There was an irritating delay while the doctors debated the wisdom of mixing some of our necessary medications (resolved!) And there's always the worry about getting to the airport in time without forgetting everything! (We generally do - fingers still crossed!)
So, four miles of sunshine were a great help!
There may well be a break in this blog for the next couple of weeks - Wi-Fi is a scarce commodity at times in West Africa!
Best wishes,
Tom & Joyce.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

We never sleep!

Well, of course we do - mostly! We received a call for help in the very early morning a couple of days ago. The head of a small village school had been let down by her sponsor and the money for staff wages hadn't arrived. I'd visited the school on several occasions and found it to be well run: the teachers were all qualified and the classes fairly small and hard working, with lots of laughter and eagerness to learn.
As it happened, the previous evening Joyce had given a talk about education in our home town. She hadn't expected to be paid but agreed to accept a donation for GOES. The amount gives was almost exactly the sum requested by the teacher who had appealed to us. BAYBA, the exchange agency we use, operates on-line round the clock. I sent the money there and then, the head teacher collected it as soon as the office opened in a nearby town and the staff received their wages and so could feed their families. Job done.
Strange how things work out.
Best wishes,
Tom & Joyce.

PS Joyce hasn't become a vicar! She was giving a talk to Warrington History Society, which meets in Friars Green Church. The subject was the education of poor children in the 18th and 19th centuries. Quite appropriate when you consider the use their kind donation was put to!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Well done Jodie!

Congratulations to young Jodie Sonko for her publicity work for the Malinding village series of Kindle eBooks! Jodie is the first person you meet as you read Empty Bananas. She started off as a short story character, graduated into a short novel, became a trilogy which doubled to a series of six - is it seven - books. I think she'll end up with a fictional autobiography! She never (as yet) has met her father and sadly her mum died when Jodie was five years old. She uses a photo of herself from this time as her identifier. She was in care for a couple of years then had a series of foster parents. She was abused by the partner of one of her foster mothers and, because nobody would believe her, became mute. This same man killed himself and her step-mum in a car crash. Jodie was severely injured and hasn't walked since. Back into care for a couple more years until she ended up fostered by a couple who helped her to see herself in a positive light, sensed she was athletic and encouraged her to try wheelchair sports. She's travelled all over Europe, taking part in competitions and has recently got as far as West Africa, where she visited Malinding village and met Ed and Sira  and Fatou, the Mechanical Girl ... I think she deserves a book of her own!
Not a word of the above is true, unless you believe the stories told in the Malinding books! What is true is that every penny and pound that the sale of those books brings into the GOES charity account is used to help education and health care of Gambians in need.
Jodie is still attached to that image of herself as a happy four year old child. I've love to see her accept herself as the world sees her today - a successful, happy, caring athlete.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Back to the village

With a bit of luck, in a few weeks time, we'll be back in one of our most favourite places in the world. I'd almost come to the conclusion that I'd made my last trip - health problems, the losses of close friends and family, despair - all seemed to be conspiring against me and yelling 'Grow up, be sensible, look, you can't get insurance, stay at home, you've done enough.' The voices were inside my head, none of my family or friends uttered a word!
So, here we are again, on the edge of another adventure. The insurance was settled, TC came up with a generous baggage allowance, donations of cash and kind arrived and there was no reason not to book a flight. So, the flight's booked, the spare bed vanishes again under the mound of things that must go to the hospital and clinic and school.
 So, what can we look forward to? Friendship - sitting and talking with lovely people, eating wonderful food (ladyfish/captain fish/benechin/domoda ...), watching bats catching mozzies, star-gazing, candlelight, laughter, children, problem-solving, warm weather (!), kora music, haggling, renewing friendships and making more friends, learning, teaching, helping, accepting help and advice ... and being of some use on the planet.
People talk about finding their roots (remember the books of that title?). I'm convinced that my roots grow firmly in in African soil and I'm proud and happy to descend from those original people of genius who first inhabited our glorious Earth.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Books about Gambia

Well to be honest not exactly about Gambia. They are works of fiction set mainly in a fictional village (please don't follow the directions to Malinding given in the books - you'll get very very wet and possible eaten by crocodiles if you do!)
However, if you're thinking of going to Gambia you'll learn a little about village life, how to make Ataya, good manners when you visit the Alkalo (chief) and how to eat like a proper Gambian!
If you're not thinking of visiting please change your mind and go - the people are some of the friendliest on Earth, many speak English (plus half a dozen other languages) and the food includes recipes you'll treasure for the rest of you life.
The country is famous throughout the world for bird watching and sunshine and smiling people. Snags? Mosquitoes - make sure you have proper protection such as Malarone, insect repellent and try to get used to sleeping under a mosquito net.
Beware! Advertisement follows!
We run a small charity, (Gambian Occasional Emergency Support - GOES for short) which helps a couple of schools, a clinic and a hospital with emergency funding. We tithe our incomes, collect from friends, and sell the Malinding series of Kindle eBooks on Amazon. Every penny and pound is paid into the charity and we take nothing out for any sort of expense - we pay our own way!
The books are:
Stories for Gambian Children,
Empty Bananas,
The Alkalo,
The Mechanical Girl,
Chasing Freedom Home,
Story's End and
Happy Nest - Malinding Village Archive.

All the books, excepting the first, contain adult material.
All income from the sales of the books goes (!) directly into GOES bank account (and very soon afterwards to help someone in need in Gambia.

Thanks for reading this,
Best wishes to all for 2016,