Friday, 13 April 2018

Keep going?

Yes, possibly, with reservations. The illness I mentioned in the last blog took weeks to clear up. We managed to rescue  half the money we'd paid out for travel, and that money we directed to Gambia to help with health and education, our two main interests. I don't think our travel insurance firm viewed our refund very kindly, they just added it on to our renewal premium, which gave us food for thought.
And the thought is: do we have to be in The Gambia to help Gambians?
It's a sad thought; maybe we don't have to be there? For each of the past twenty years we've spent time out there, wet season and dry, coast and inland, in the Capital and up-country. We've met wonderful people, desperate people, not many rich people. We've been met with smiles, invitations to share meals, jokes, stories and to swap views on cultures, politics, religions, gardening and a thousand other things.
The longer we've talked the smaller our differences have seemed and the greater our similarities have proved to be. Our desires for safe, good quality education and healthcare are universal; they life we wished for our daughter is much the same life they desire for their children.
We're not giving up. We will work on a smaller stage, probably just two schools and one village clinic. With modern communications we can receive a request for assistance in the morning, communicate with villagers at lunch time and send financial aid the same day, receive reports of outcomes the next morning, possibly.
Maybe, one day, we'll feel confident to travel again, to share a bowl of rice with Domada sauce, then relax under the shade of a mango tree, sipping ataya tea and watching the lizards chase through the roots of a baobab.
We miss you, my friends, we miss you.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

GOES & 2018

Christmas 2017 didn't quite turn out as planned. We had planned to join Val & Richard on Christmas Day and be spoiled rotten, be lazy, eat cake and mince pies and relax. I hadn't planned to be ill, to stay at home, 130 miles away from that lovely Christmas Dinner, with only a small cheese sandwich for lunch. Still, it made a change, and think of all the petrol we saved. And I broke a tooth when I tried to substitute a biscuit for that far-away Christmas pudding. Still, lots of time for reflection and planning.
One result of the reflecting was the thought that Gambia is no place to be ill. We've been lucky so far, travelled extensively without suffering much worse than a broken finger nail and some interesting variations of Banjul Belly.
But. Joint age of 160 gives a hint that we aren't getting younger and the realisation that a sub-Saharan remote village probably isn't the best place to be poorly. The cost of the travel insurance backs that supposition.
So we cancelled our January visit. Cowardice? Possibly. Probably. And how to manage GOES if we don't go? In the short term we're lucky that our small team of helpers have proved supportive, honest and wise. We certainly can hang on till the end of the financial year when we can claim Gift Aid and feed it back to the schools and clinics we help. Beyond that point we can't yet see.
Again, many thanks to family and friends, and VRWG, for years of encouragement and support. Perhaps time to find another cause to champion?
As a totally inadequate 'thank you' I've arranged that most of the Malinding Village series of ebooks will be on free offer for the next few days.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Sixteen thousand hits on the blog! Thank you, friends from UK, USA, Russia, Africa, Iceland and everywhere else. Very happy to welcome you. I'm a bit too lazy about posting as often as I might, but thanks for staying with me, for taking an interest in GOES - and for buying the Malinding Village series of eBooks and paper-backs.
I'm in one of my favourite places today - no, not in the Gambia - that's a pleasure that must wait till January - this place is across the border and into Wales. Gladstone's Library, where books mix with coffee and very comfortable bed rooms. I'm lucky enough to have been able to introduce some of you to this place and I know that you have enjoyed it. I bring most of my favourite characters from the village here; Sirra and Ed spent their honeymoon here, Jodie met an African chief here and decided to visit her village, others have visited too.
Most of the books they feature in have, at least in part, been written here. I have eaten too much cake, too many biscuits and consumed too much coffee in the dining room and I would possibly have written many more books if I had not been so greedy!
I'm working on the second part of Jodie Sonko's autobiography, Jodie Two, at the moment. She's experiencing a huge change in her life and I'm not sure yet how she's going to deal with it. More coffee and cake needed to fuel the brain, I think. Any excuse ...

Sunday, 15 October 2017

We've booked our next trip to the Gambia. Just a few weeks to wait then we'll be walking down the steps from the plane into that lovely wall of heat and welcome. Our driver, now a longstanding family friend, will be waiting with news of his lovely family, and we'll chat as we drive along familiar roads to our favourite hotel in Kotu.
We'll settle in as quickly as possible then join our friends for a welcome bottle of Julbrew by the pool. Domada of Benechin? Decisions, decisions. We'll chat about our plans, which school to visit first, what does the clinic need, how can we help the hospital, how are our friends and their children going on? Has Fatou passed her exams, is Lamin married yet, how at the babies doing, how is Amadou doing after his operation, all these and ten times more before we settle down to sleep.
And we'll be wondering, not for the first time, if this will be our final visit to this tiny country of wonderful people and terrible problems?
Age is against us as are the insurance premiums which we pay to cover our travels. Last year our premium cost more than our travel and accommodation.
With luck and a bit more publicity the Malinding books will continue to bring in some revenue, but if we cannot continue to visit and see for ourselves the Charity's money is being well spent I don't see how we can go on accepting money from family and friends. Up till now we can say to our supporters "Thank you for you gift; we used it to help Ami with her education and examination fees and we've see her certificates. She sends her thanks." If we can't travel we can't honestly report that donations have been properly used.
And also, being honest with ourselves, we have to acknowledge that we are not as fit as we used to be! We both plod on, coping with annoying medical conditions which are beginning to prove a nuisance.
Hopefully, we'll feel better when we walk off the plane - so far, the magic of Africa has drawn us back to the continent where human life began. Fingers crossed - see you by the pool, or in the market at Bakau, maybe by the crocodile pool, or in the fish market?
As I said before, fingers crossed! I must get on with Jodie Sonko's second book ....

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


Apples: 2 - the rest rot on the branch.
Figs; 1 - wasps got the rest.
Blueberries; 14 - quite pleased!
Carrots; nil.
Olives; nil.

Income from books sold this month; £0.56

Don't think I'm cut out to be a farmer. Or a writer. Maybe I should try politics?

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Second hand stories :-)

Just discovered my self on eBay. Well, not me myself, that would be silly. Some of my books have got to that stage. Just out of curiosity I bought a couple. Quite surprisingly they arrived in perfect condition! Of course they made no contribution to the funds of GOES, which was the reason they'd been written in the first place, but they can be passed on to new readers who, hopefully, will be tempted to but others in the Malinding Village series. Or I could take them with me when we venture out to The Gambia early next year. It would be interesting to know how genuine Gambians react to fictional ones! Some, of course, feature in the books. The Mechanical Girl was based on a real village girl, and a young Gambian friend allowed us to use her picture for the cover.
I also found that some of my books were on offer at silly prices. Who in their right mind would be tempted to spend nearly a hundred dollars on a copy of Empty Bananas? Not even the hero, Mr Ed Edwards would be so daft!
The second book about Jodie Sonko, the Girl on Wheels, rolls along. There's an element of Sci-Fi in this book, and it's possible that Jodie may find herself independent of her wheels, at least for a while. At the moment she's living in a post-Brexit England. The population has grown to 80 million and there's about to be a famine ... hope she survives! Hydroponics and underground farms may help. Time to leap into action, mow the lawn, tidy the spare bedroom, and locate my collection of memory sticks. Somewhere there's a collection of short stories and poems I'd forgotten about ... I need coffee and cake!

Monday, 18 September 2017

Busy doing nothing - well, not much!

We keep a picture of a young Gambian girl on top of the fridge in the kitchen. We caught her on a bad hair day, not a happy bunny. She's an elegant and educated young lady now, and we're proud to know her. The picture, it must be fifteen years out of date by now, serves a purpose. It reminds us, every time we go to the fridge, that GOES works. With your help, friends, this little girl was educated. When she was poorly you, through GOES, cared for her. When her mum's house needed repairs after a dreadful rainy season, you provided the cement and corrugated iron sheets to repair it and make it weather proof again.
And it reassures us that it's worth carrying on. Sometimes it's hard, or it seems so. We're ageing, nearly 160 years between us. We're slower than we used to be, we tire easily, we're forgetful. But when we go to the fridge for a bottle of milk or a couple of eggs, we look at that picture and smile. And we determine to carry on, maybe just a little longer, maybe to help and make friends with another generation of wonderful, intelligent, and caring people.
Before I sat down to write this I had a head full of grumbles and worries but this little story demanded to be written instead. Beware of the picture on the fridge! *

*Young lady in the picture - if you read this you'll know who you are, I think. Thank you.