Thursday, 13 February 2020

On the road with GOES

On the road with GOES ...

Where does your money go with GOES? Fair question. Let's imagine we're going to find out as we travel to some of the villages together.
We're staying at a small hotel on the Atlantic coast near Kotu village. Turn left out of the hotel and a ten minute walk takes you to the centre of the village. There are a few shops, a market, several hotels and that's it! Back to the hotel, keep going to the crossroads and we'll pick a taxi to Bakau, the next village along the coast. It's a good 20 minute jog but it's a hot day ... Bakau is a much larger fishing village with a fish market, a craft market, several hotels, large shops and banks and a crocodile pool! We've helped one of the large families here with housing, education, and health care. We might as well drop in for a brew of attaya (green tea). The children are anxious to show us their school reports and parents smile proudly ... while we're nearby we'll pop along to the Capital city, Banjul, and visit the hospital. We need to drop off supplies you've donated - medicines, bandages, catheters  and a ream of computer paper.
Where next? Another taxi ride to see one of the schools we help in a suburb of Serrekunda. We drive across Denton Bridge which carries us across Oyster Creek, a wonderful place for bird watching, and eventually turn off the blacktop road onto a series of sand tracks which lead us to Bundung, where the school is. Here we have contributed to the running costs, bought paint, supplied school gates - numerous items which you've contributed to. The children greet us and sing! We tell a story but refrain from song!
 Back in the taxi - one of the yellow Mercedes which transport everything from people to goats and chickens and sheets of corrugated iron and ... everything that requires transporting, and mostly at the same time! Off again, back on the main road, past Abuko nature reserve on the right - must find time to visit one day - and Lamin Lodge Hotel on the left, on the bank of the mighty River Gambia, through Lamin village and turn left by the Taxi Centre on the road to Mandinari. We pass the Lower Basic School which has received a couple of dozen dictionaries given by you and carried free by Thomas Cook, plus a locally purchased sack of rice which the head teacher cooks so the children start the day with happy tummies - and stop outside the village clinic. We've had a long and happy relationship with this place. You'll remember helping to provide a clean water supply? See, there's the tap! This time we're bringing supplies for the medicine cupboard - stacks of paracetamol (for treatment of malaria) and rolls of bandages and a blood-pressure monitor.
 We also pay a quick visit to the nursery school next to the clinic and check that funds we donated last trip have been put to good use. More attaya, then a quick round of visits to friends GOES has helped over the years - school fees paid for children and adults (mainly women who missed out on formal education, house repairs funded - if cement is added to the home-made building blocks it can resist water damage for a much longer time.  So many people here want us to stay and chat and drink attaya and share a meal that we promise to return in a couple of days and stay longer.
 Time to head back to the hotel in Kotu. Our driver, a long-time friend, mentions that his wife is preparing the evening meal and perhaps ... and the children would like to read to us? Of course - you don't mind, do you? You'll be welcome!
 It's much later when we return to the hotel and sit by the pool watching the bats chasing mosquitoes across the night sky. Hope you enjoyed the journey? What's that? Mandinari seems very like Malinding in the story books? I couldn't possibly comment!

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

We've come a long way!

How it started - the first post.

"GambiaGOES" is the diary of a couple of oldies trying to set up a charity (Gambian Occasional Emergency Support) and struggling with the unfamiliar work of blogging, registering as a Charity, setting up a special bank account, raising funds, getting publicity, staying sane, fixing the printer, editing the newsletter ... resisting the temptation to pack it all in and buy that new car. Then we think of the pure joy on Lamin's face when he was accepted by the University, or of Ebou's relief when he received the cash to enable him to repair his mum's house before the rainy season, or - so many people who need occasional help.

'How will people know what you're doing if you don't tell them?' Good question. I'm rather shy about anything that says 'Look at me!' or in any way looks like boasting. I believe that the vast percentage of people are busy being kind to anyone who crosses their path and in doing so are probably doing ten times more than I can do. That was true at 09.39 hrs on the morning of the 29th of August 2007, when the first page of the blog took to the air, and it's still true today. Still the same car, still the same reluctance to go into details about what we do. I can justify this latter thought;what we do is very personal not only to us but also to the people we help. These people are very often stressed out by their worries about how to make ends meet, how to balance putting food on the table with paying medical bills or school fees for their children. I'm not going to make capital by identifying them and their problems. 

Saturday, 30 November 2019

November 2019 update

Well, there's a dull title.
First, GOES: still marching on. Slowly - what do you expect - we have a joint age 164 now! We haven't been travelling a great deal due to a problem finding affordable travel insurance, but we have a reliable team in the villages who keep an eye on what needs doing and making sure it gets done properly!
A school has been re-roofed, homemakers have been supplied with bags of cement to weather-proof their walls. School fees and teachers’ wages have been paid. GOES has covered medical expenses for several elderly people and children – and covered the wedding expenses of a couple of friends.
Funding has been sufficient; several friends have made regular contributions, Gift Aid has refunded income  directly to the GS bank account, and we have tithed our income to the charity.
The Malinding Village books bring in a small (tiny?) regular income. The two ‘dark novels’, Chasing Freedom Home, and Story’s End told the story of a dystopian society so for the present work in progress I’ve chosen a more gentle word, populated by good-natured ghosts. I’ll publish a few first-draft pages later.

Here it is - provisional title is Ghost, writing?

I'm on a boat. This friend, Karen, lent m e her boat.
'Call me Nameless' she said. 'It's a basic boat' she said. 'Simple, like me. The less there is means there's less to go wrong. It's a boat. A hull, a cabin roof, furniture from Ikea, and an engine. It's a proper boat engine, strong as a horse, never goes wrong – there's fourteen million of them in boats all over the world – perfect piece of design. Can't go wrong. Send me a postcard from Runcorn. Don't worry, the boat knows the way. Bon voyage.'
What's a postcard, I feel you asking. How should I know? There's something I do know. The perfect engine, as used in zillions of boats all over the world, won't start. Sorry, that's wrong too; it won't start again. It started yesterday. Perfectly. So quiet you couldn't hear it running. You can't hear it not running either. Silence all round. Just like that library my dad bangs on about all the time. You’d think silence would breed silence, wouldn't you?
Swans breed swans. Cygnets. Swans in the future tense. Somebody said my dad disliked swans. They attacked a canoe he was paddling across Hickling Broad, forty years ago. I was about minus fifteen at the time, waiting to be an egg or a cell or a seed. Perm any two of three and you might get me. What's a Hickling anyway?
Anyway, here I am. You might want to know where 'here' is. I'll tell you this for free, you're not half as curious as I am. Let's look around; what can I see? I can see water. The water is about thirty miles long and forty feet wide, and three feet deep. I'm glad we're using Imperial again, that metric stuff was fine for people who like counting on their fingers and toes; there's no variety in it. There are trees, assorted shapes and sizes. One tried to get into the boat yesterday; big ugly thing, branches everywhere, loaded with gazillions of imitation furry caterpillars. I hope they’re imitations. I'm not Thomas a Kempis, what do I know? I know Nameless omitted to tell me about invading trees. Or ignition keys; the sort of ignition keys that get stuck in the lock and won't start the engine because really it's the key to Nameless's house's front door. It's the master key, switches all the computers and the washing machine and the swimming pool filter and, oh, and everything that needs switching in her life. Just not the boat; perhaps because it's broken in half and I don't know where the other half is.
I do know that we’re drifting along the canal. I do know that we’re heading for a bridge hole and I can see that we’re going to miss the hole and hit the bridge. The bridge should be all right, it’s been there for two hundred years. I’m worried about the boat because I’m on it. It’s fragile and I’m even fragiler. Look, don’t worry, I survive. I live to think these thoughts, don’t I?

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Thomas Cook ltd fails.

Thanks, Thomas Cook, for all the flights, more or less on time, for all the help GOES received with generous extra baggage and all the donations from staff at our local travel shop, and for the interest you showed in our work. We'll miss you.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Good Intentions :-)

Greetings :-)

Life has been busy for a few months - celebrating 60 years of marriage takes a while! We will continue to support the excellent clinic at Mandinari village on the south bank of the river, and contributing support for an equally excellent nursery school on the outskirts of Serekunda town. We haven't forgotten GOES but we have decided to modify our attempts to help everyone all the time!
Our celebrations actually raised some very kind donations, which we used to restock the medecine cuboard at the clinic and replace some roofing at the school - you know who you are, thank you.

Another time-occupier has been age-proofing the house and garden. Steps seem steeper these days, and walking can be a wobbly affair. We were refused a Blue Badge, which would have been helpful, but we now have a Rollator walking device and the local bus service is excellent.

We've fitted grab rails at the doors and over the bath, and extra hand rails on the stairs. Next job is the replace the front and back doors - and we'll make some modifications to the back yard. We had fitted some wild flowers and butterfly bushes, and insect hotels --- we can't walk there now and birds have eaten all the apples and butterflies have feasted on the figs. Goblin Market - J loathed that poem long before we became a

The Malinding books, which I enjoyed writing (with the thought that they might help finance GOES) have proved to be unreadable failures (Proof? Nobody bought them), but the friends of GOES rallied round and helped support our tithes.

Life in our eighties is good - we have slowed down, we're listening to the 5th Test Match on R4 as I write this - and I've put my glass of alcohol-free Pinot in some safe place somewhere - it's a small house but I manage to lose lots of things, including most of my socks, the Stone-age flint scraper that inspired part of the Girl on Wheels story, and my fountain pen. Still, I've got time to find them now. Did I celebrate discovering my treasured but mis-placed 1958 copy of The Chatto Book of Modern Poetry? Must find the faux-wine and celebrate ...

Saturday, 20 April 2019


Fourteen days since the public declaration of our diamond wedding. We’ve become hermits, anchorites, even. Well, anti-social plague bearers. Joyce arrived home after our celebrations and declared a state of cold. Coughs, splutters, and sneezes. Oddly, Val was also afflicted. Me? I don’t get colds, I just minister, saint-like, to the sufferers. Val went home. Women. Men don’t get colds; a belief I fostered for another week.
J seemed a little recovered by the following Sunday so we went for a drive and a coffee. By the time we were home I had a slight scratchy feeling at the back of my throat. By next morning I had a streaming, steaming, cold. We boarded up the doors and windows, took to our bed, ordered groceries and medication – well done Ocado and Brown’s Chemist. We lived on just coconuts and fish from the sea (via the freezer), and paracetamols. We planned adventures in weak, rattling voices. We escaped once to post a letter, then stumbled back to bed.
A good neighbour, believing we had gone abroad, cut the grass and put the bins out. The boy delivered the papers and the milk and orange juice. We sneezed on one another but never, not even once, did we sneeze on another human being.
We hope to venture out next week into a better, cleaner, germ and Brexit free world.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

I believe ...

I originally posted this about four years ago. It still represents my beliefs.

 All religions/faiths/beliefs have their share of extremists/fanatics/thugs looking for an excuse to behave violently.
All religions/faiths/beliefs have their share of wonderful, loving, caring people who seek only to help their fellow human beings in any way they can.
Fortunately, the good people outnumber the evil ones ten million to one, or more.
Sadly, the good people rarely appear in the headlines.
I was born into a Christian family and attended a Christian school and college. I was amazed and dismayed when I encountered people who called themselves Christians but were intolerant of people who did not share their extremist views.
Rarely, if ever, is violence prescribed in Sacred Writings. Feed the poor, care for the sick and elderly, help the stranger - respect one another. We can only continue to set an example in our own lives: it can be very difficult. Sadly, it seems impossible to reason with the blinkered folk who believe that they are right, and are willing to murder men, women and children who disagree with them.
Our gentle friends in West Africa have fed us, shared their last cup of rice with us, trusted us with their children, cared for us when we have been sick, chatted to us about their beliefs and questioned us about ours. Never once have we felt threatened. They have earned our love and respect: I hope we have earned theirs.
Je suis Charlie?