Sunday, 29 November 2015

Plodding on ...

Trying to get back to normality. Starting an ad campaign on Twitter for the Malinding Village eBooks which help to finance GOES. One of the fairly minor characters, Jodie, who features in the opening paragraphs of the first book, Empty Bananas, has volunteered for this task and has selected a photograph of her as a child and is using that to introduce her comments on the stories (and incidentally her own life story). She was too modest to submit a mini-autobiography in Happy Nest, the Malinding village archive - perhaps when it's time for the second edition she'll be brave enough and know that she's made friends with the readers!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Personal sad news

Apologies for neglecting the blog. My sister-in-law, J's kid sister, had died. She was diagnosed, on the day after her birthday, with cancer. She survived a four hour operation, and a second one two weeks later. We we convinced she would pull through but it was not to be. She died a week ago with her family around her bed.
We are devastated.
The day before she died we attended the funeral of the son of a friend of ours. He was 25. His father had died a couple of months before. We thought we couldn't feel worse. We were wrong.
So, sadly the blog has been neglected. The business of the charity carried on, somehow.
Thanks to all who expressed their sympathy. I'll write more when I feel that I can.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Happy Nest

Well, that's the title of the latest eBook in the Malinding Village series: it's also the shortest! It's 13k words long and is a series of short messages, stories and poems written by some of the villagers of, and visitors to, Malinding. Selling steadily here in the UK. All income from the sale of these books goes directly into the account of GOES, and from there, without any deduction, to help people in need in The Gambia.

Read for £0.00
with Kindle Unlimited
Deliver to your Kindle or other device


Try it free

Sample the beginning of this book for free
Deliver to your Kindle or other device
Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Click to open expanded view

Happy Nest: Malinding Village Archive [Kindle Edition]

Tom Ireland

Kindle Price: £0.99 includes VAT* & free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
Kindle Unlimited Read this title for £0.00 and get unlimited access to over 1 million titles. Learn More
* Unlike print books, digital books are subject to VAT.

    • Length: 61 pages (estimated)
    • Similar books to Happy Nest: Malinding Village Archive
    • Prime members can borrow this book and read it on their devices with Kindle Owners Lending Library.

    Free Kindle Reading App Anybody can read Kindle books—even without a Kindle device—with the FREE Kindle app for smartphones, tablets and computers.

    Tuesday, 10 November 2015

    Back to beginnings in Gambia.

    Another day dawned, already hot. It was time to revisit the very first village we saw on our very first visit to The Gambia. We had joined a tour -  Crocodile pool, Craft market, Village school and Clinic. The crocodiles had been very sleepy (probably a good thing, a very good thing!), the craft market spectacular with beautiful tie-dyed materials and hand carved wooden models of every African creature but it was the clinic, busy with patients young and old together with the little school room full of enthusiastic youngsters anxious to shake our hands, practise their English and sing for us that grabbed our hearts. We'd been back many times over the years: children and teachers had come and gone but two at least had remained and become our very good friends.
     Ams was on time and we set off. The smoke from the huge rubbish dump that always seemed to be on fire drifted across the road to the SOS Children's Village where orphaned or abandoned children were given a home and a good education. GOES occasionally contributed to the funding but we were happy in the knowledge that the place was well run so we did not interfere. On through Serekunda, a huge sprawling town with an equally large market. If you couldn't buy an item in that market it probably didn't exist.
     Half an hour later we arrived. We parked in the shade of a large Baobab tree near the school gates and wandered into the school's compound. We were surprised to find that there had been a complete change of staff - teachers, gardeners, cleaners were all strangers. We were greeted by the new head of the school and shown round as if it was our first visit. We made a donation to the school fund and left, wondering what had happened.
     As we walked round the village a number of people with children at the school greeted us and asked if we had ever thought of taking on the management of the school.
     We have realised that there are ways we can help and that there are situations we cannot resolve. We cannot take on the task of running another school. The problems in this case appeared to have arisen due to a dispute between the European sponsor and the village education committee, though even that was not clear. We hope that by our next visit the difficulties will have been resolved.

    Sunday, 8 November 2015

    A day off in The Gambia - or not!

    We decide that we are due a rest day - we haven't stopped dashing around since we arrived. The heat is very tiring so we decide to be sensible. We stay in bed longer than normal, have showers, dress and amble down to the terrace dining room. So far this trip we've not been hit by Banjul Belly - you don't want to know the details, you really don't! Usually one or both of us is struck down so J has developed a 'paranoia kit' - disinfectant, rubber gloves, wipes and disposable cloths with which to clean toilet areas we use before we use them! It seems to be working, fingers crossed. If it fails we have Imodium and re-hydration drinks ready. We stay out of the sun as much as we can and drink lots of bottled water. As I say, it's working, so far!
     We chat with people as we queue up for breakfast. It seems that every European wed meet here is contributing to humanitarian aid in some way, either as an individual or as a member of a small charity. Somebody is helping Gambian ex-servicemen with medical expenses, someone is supporting a group of nurses trying to eradicate the practice of FGM, a woman has given away nearly all her clothes an is worrying about how she will manage when she lands back in Gatwick in the middle of winter wearing only flip-flops, shorts and a skimpy T-shirt.
     As we finish breakfast one of the gate-keepers arrives with news that we have visitors - would I like to come to the hotel entrance and sign them in? This isn't going to be a rest day - tomorrow, may be.
     By the time I reach the gate there are three people waiting for me. First, a student nurse we support, complete with her certificate and exam results. She wants to thank J especially for her support and encouragement. I sign her in and she goes off to find my wife.
     Next, a messenger from a village school: money has been stolen from the school fund: the thief has been caught but the money cannot be found so the teachers will have no wages. I make a 'phone call to check the story, which is confirmed. I agree to visit the school tomorrow and give the messenger a little cash for his return journey.
     Next in line is the lady from the bureau-de-change and her young sister, the one who wants to be a doctor. The youngster has had a long spell of good health and wants to show me her school certificates. Not a single day absent from class, top marks in every subject and a glowing testimonial from her teachers. I sign them both in and we set off to find J and celebrate by the pool. So, it's mainly a good news day (apart from the robbery, but we can deal with that tomorrow). Who wanted a day off any way?

    Saturday, 7 November 2015

    Back to school, Gambian style.

    Just a thought before I embark on a new day: when I say 'we did this or we did that' I mean the charity, GOES, did this or that! True, much of the funding comes from us or from the sales of the eBooks in the Malinding series of Kindle books, or from events staged by Vale Royal Writers' Group, or from donations by family or friends. Anyway, it's all done in the name of Gambian Occasional Emergency Support (GOES). On with the story!
    Ams, on time as usual, collected us after breakfast and took us to visit one of the schools we support.
    Sorry! One of the schools GOES supports! We greet the headteacher in the usual way - Is there peace? How are you? How is/the family? Is everything fine? When the exchange ends we are invited to visit each of the classes. As we enter the room the teacher greets us and the children stand up and say 'Hello.' Sometimes we are invited to sing or tell a story or recite a poem and then the whole class will sing for us. We return to the head's office and are shown inspectors' reports on the progress of the children. The school is doing well; the staff are all qualified, the school compound is securely fenced and there is a good gate to exclude intruders. (Thanks again to GOES) Together with one of the teachers I try to fix the office computer and come to the conclusion that the printer needs a new cartridge. A price is agreed, the head suggests that a repaired printer will require paper - we agree - money is handed over, we are given a receipt, and the teacher departs for the market. Later in the day we are invited to a demonstration of the printer working and given change (which we count carefully) because the teacher haggled a better price than we had expected.
    Why did we count the change so carefully? It was a small amount by our standards - did we not trust the man? Of course we trusted him, but we were required to count the money to demonstrate that he was honest we were not foolish.
    We looked around the outside of the school and noted that beautiful pictures had been painted on the walls by another member of staff - initially at his own expense. We discussed staff wages with the head and agreed to make a contribution every month.
    At one o'clock the school bell rang and all the children (about 100) trooped through the staff room to shake hands and say goodbye. The school seemed a friendly place, the children were happy and proud to demonstrate their knowledge.
    Ams drove us to the head's compound and we greeted the extended family - trying our Mandinka and being gently corrected when we said the wrong thing. The head's sister in law had been cooking - fish Benechin - and we all sat round the bowl to eat as part of the family. We are not skilled at eating rice with our fingers but we tried yet again. We do try, but were quite happy to be given spoons to eat with. We drank Ataya, prepared by the head's oldest son, laughed and joked with the small children, nursed the babies and caught up with the gossip since our previous vist a few months ago. Ams drove us back to the hotel. We agreed to fund a very bright seven year old girl (how many seven year olds do you meet who speak six languages?) through her next year at school. We were too full to eat a full meal so we settled for a sandwich and a Malta. A five piece Jazz band rolled up, and we danced for a while wirh one another, then some of the staff joined in. We slept well that night - we did the accounts next morning before breakfast.

    Friday, 6 November 2015

    Banjul Hospital

    Another day in the 'GOES on Holiday!' saga. We sort medical supplies out on our bed - reduced in quantity because of our donation yesterday to the village clinic. Today we're taking some stainless steel medical implements (I didn't want to know too much about their use), dressings, catheters and drugs to the country's main hospital in the capital, Banjul.
    Ams turns up on time and some of the hotel staff help us to load the heavy boxes and bags into the car. Ams is familiar with the route because his father is an in-patient. We make our way upstairs to the office of Mrs Ceesay, the PPS to the CMO. She thanks us and promises a letter of thanks to the donors. We learn that there is a desperate need for paper rolls which record information from the ECG machine, which appears unobtainable in the Gambia. (When we return home we track down a UK supplier who ships a tear's supply out for us.)
    From the hospital we drive the short distance to Bakau, a market and fishing village, to visit a family we've been helping for a year or two. There's a lovely new baby boy, born to a young woman we've sponsored at school and college. While baby sleeps we feast on Chicken Yassa with both rice and chips, followed by fresh fruit. I'm sent to entertain him while his mother takes a shower. Not a happy chappy, even though I sing to him and dance round the room. The return of his mother and the promise of food calm him down and peace returns. We all snooze until it's time to return to the hotel, where we help an old lady with toothache, refuse a rather dubious young man who wants money to either buy his girlfriend a car/re-roof a shop/or just hand money over and he'll decide what to do with it later!
    Back to the room to do the accounts for the day. We're waiting for some people from a school a distance up-country to visit. We've brought money for equipment - they need paper & pens and blackboard paint and boards to put the paint on - everything, in fact. They have started the school from scratch, 'borrowed' an unfinished house on the outskirts of their village, and admitted as many children as would fin into the one habitable room. They deserved encouragement!  Because of transport difficulties they arrive about 3 hours late, but that gives us time to check that money given last visit to a young mother for the education of her children has been wisely spent - we are present with receipts from the school and copies of the first school reports. We congratulate her and promise another year's support. A young man arrives and reports he has at last secured safe employment but at a considerable distance from his compound. We offer him half the price of a bicycle and he goes away happy. (He really does buy the bike and we receive reports on his work later.)
    The teachers arrive, full of apologies. We do know about the difficulty of travelling in this country. We chat for a while, remind them that we will require receipts for all the money to show how it has been used, treat them to a round of Malta drinks and send them off with money for their fares home.
    Another friend calls with a bottle of Baobab juice (delicious, and said to cure all tummy complaints) and we dine off Butterfish and chips and drink Julbrew and watch the bats hunt mosquitoes across the swimming pool.
    We slept well.

    Thursday, 5 November 2015

    Next day in The Gambia.

    Sunday. I'm up early and ramble round the roads and paths skirting the hotel. Busy pedestrian traffic, crowds of hotel workers hurrying to their jobs, all with time to smile or nod or call a greeting. Breakfast is my usual coffee, cereal, and more coffee. For the rest of the day I'll eat and enjoy West African food but after seventy-odd years my breakfast has evolved into a ritual. We know most of the staff and exchange greetings - 'Good morning, Mala, how is the day? How are your family, are they all well?' I amble down to the Western Union office, forgetting it's closed on Sundays. I'm anxious to talk to the woman who runs the office because we're sponsoring her kid sister, a highly intelligent girl who wants to be a doctor but suffers from sickle-cell anaemia, a condition which gives her great pain and interrupts her education. J has sorted out the medical equipment we've been given. Ams, friend and driver turns up at exactly the time promised. We sit by the pool and discuss our plans for the day. Keluntang, our local agent, will meet us at the village clinic and we will hand over the medical stuff to the nurse in charge and take photographs so we can show our supporters exactly where their help has gone. After that, and a ritual round of Ataya (hot sweet tea, flavoured with mint leaves) we drive the short distance to K's compound. A child is sent to fetch K's wife, N, from her mother's compound. She is staying there till her baby is born, due any day now. We're sponsoring N's education at a craft college: her studies are suspended till the infant arrives. We learn that N has cancelled her pre-natal check at the medical centre in the next village so she could greet us. Ams looks worried and we arrange to take her to the centre the next day. More villagers call into the compound and we begin to wilt under the hot sun. A meal arrives, river fish, bony but delicious, cooked in an onion and tomato sauce, on a bed of rice. We sit round the bowl with the family, and choice morsels of fish are piled onto the rice in front of us, picked clean of bones by loving fingers. N beams with delight as we feast.
    We try to ease ourselves into the African climate by doing as little as possible for a couple of days, usually, as today, unsuccessfully! Early to bed.

    Wednesday, 4 November 2015

    From the Archive - one of last year's visits to The Gambia.

    Saturday morning, alarm goes off at 04.30hrs. Shower, dress, coffee & breakfast Last minute packing & papers. Call taxi which arrives at 06.15hrs. Off we go. Five minutes later back we go - to collect spectacles, watch, earrings and rings. Taxi driver gets us to the airport on time and a good tip for being so calm and helpful. Check in luggage and go to buy papers and coffee. Gate 23 welcomes us - only delay is the alarm set off by J's hip. Ah, and answering questions about why we are carrying so much money. Uneventful flight - crammed seats and cheerful staff. Taxi out on time and straight up and away. Good view of the lakes at Tatton Park as we set off. Ams our driver is waiting for us even though we're 55 minutes early due to a strong tail wind. Exchange of greetings and news with Ams and then off to the hotel, stopping off on the way to buy water, Dettol and Bop (insect spray). Dump bags and join Ams by the pool for a first drink. First drink is Malta, a non-alcoholic energy drink made locally. We listen to Ams as he answers our questions about local property law. We offer him a meal but he wants to get off home, so after arranging a pick-up time for the next morning we settle back to enjoy our omelette and chips (I know, the genuine Gambian cuisine starts tomorrow!) and my choice of drink changes to Julbrew, the local lager brewed for tourists. We chat with the hotel staff still on duty - they have become family friends over the years. Eventually we have to stop talking and go to bed. There is still a slight hint of insecticide in the air but the fan soon disperses that (at least from my side of the bed ...) Twenty hours after the alarm woke us we're sound asleep.