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.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Gift Aid!

Thank you, supporters! Family, friends, kind strangers. Thanks to all of you for your help, donations and encouragement during the past year (and many years before for most of you :-) )
HMRC have paid out again, accepting this time my handwritten and rather tatty claim form, having failed to master the on-line procedure yet again.
As before, money doesn't linger long in the GOES account. Most is already in The Gambia, working away in hospitals, clinics, and schools. A fair proportion has gone directly ti people who needed urgent medical treatment, fees for exams, and other emergency help. Using Smallworld Financial Services, GOES can receive an appeal for help in the early morning, have the case verified by our local representative and have the money ready for collection in a local bank the same day. And we'll check on the result during one of our visits to the country, later this year, all being well.
Again, thanks - and to those of you who can make the journey  (six hours on a plane ...) you'll be made welcome by the people of this lovely, tiny, poor country.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Free holiday reading!

Hello: while you laze on the beach basking under the warmth and glow of a British holiday sun I offer you four free ebooks set under a hotter, sub-Saharan sun. They will introduce you to the imaginary Gambian village of Malinding, where cultures meet and romance might just possible blossom.
Empty Bananas sets the scene and introduces some of the characters,
Mussukunda explores the strengths and capabilities of a group of women,
Girl on Wheels introduces Jodie, a mixed-race young woman coping with social and physical difficulties,
and Stories for Gambian Children is just that!
Read, then Go - and explore this wonderful tiny country for yourself :-)
Oh, and take some pencils and books for the schools you'll be invited to visit!

The four ebooks mentioned above are on free offer till 04/07/2017, Google Empty Bananas on Amazon.


DIAPORA—Since last Wednesday, we’ve been learning the stories behind the lives lost in the devastating fire that burned down Grenfell Tower in West London. Among the 79 victims that are dead or presumed dead was Khadija Saye—a 24-year-old British-Gambian photographer whose career was on the cusp of flourishing.
Saye was trapped on the 20th floor, in the apartment she shares with her mother when the fire started. As it progressed, she posted heartbreaking Facebook statuses asking her friends and families for their prayers.
In a cruel twist of fate, the artist died as she was beginning to reap the fruits of her hard work. Her latest collection, Dwelling: in this space we breathe,” a series of photographs exploring traditional Gambian spiritual practices, was on display at the 57th Venice Bienniale.
“In the last few weeks she had been invited to show in all kinds of serious galleries, her dreams were actually beginning to manifest themselves in the most exciting way,” her mentor Nicola Green told the Guardian.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

More peop[le die in London

Sad news again, At least 6 more deaths of people killed indiscriminately as they went about their business. Men, women, regardless of age, belief or ethnicity, mown down, and dozens more, wounded, crippled, lives changed, robbed of happiness and health.
Sad news, which has prompted lots of our Gambian Muslim friends to worry about our safety and the well-being of our friends here in England. They seek to comfort us, to say over and over again that this atrocity is not committed in their name, and not in the name of their religion. They ask the same question as we do - 'Why do these people do this thing?'
We remind them that they are our friends, we know they care for us and that we love them and feel safe in their company. We know they are good people and we do not hold them in any way responsible for such atrocities.
May there be peace, good health, long life, and happiness.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Charity books!

Felt a little shocked today - looking round a local charity shop I found a couple of the Malinding Village books on sale :-) Granted that they won't contribute to GOES but if their new readers happen to enjoy them and are tempted buy the rest of the series from Amazon African children can benefit. The charity shop these particular books are in supports English children who need help so that's a good outcome anyway.
GOES is plodding on - we've sent money to a couple of Gambian village clinics and paid the school fees of several young students

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Fingers crossed again for Gift Aid!

We've celebrated another birthday each, had a bit of a rest, eaten some great meals (Domoda not available here though - more's the pity :-( )
We've kept GOES ticking over: you're helping students young and old continue their education, from student midwives to first year nursery children, We've ensured that Mandinari Village Clinic is supplied with medical necessities and Banjul Hospital with paper for printing patient records. We've helped repair damaged house (weather damage not riotous mobs!) and coasted along for a while.
We are aware that we're not getting younger. Can't see us as 'old' but some days it's a close thing! Obviously, sooner or later, we'll have to wind GOES down. We've seen the country grow from a dictatorship to a democracy. It will take a while for changes to come, remembering that the outgoing President is alleged to have taken a liberal amount of cash with him. The new man aims to have universal free education for all, clean water for the population, and decent sanitation. It all costs money but we trust good things will start to happen. I guess we can hang around for another year, another visit, another chance to see for ourselves how things are going.
We have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in The Gambia. We have met wonderful people, funny, beautiful children and we have been privileged to see many of them complete their studies and gain qualifications. We have also seen others who, tragically did not survive. Today's paper foretells that Malaria will be wiped from Africa in the next few years. I wish we could do more.
The cheering thought is that every tourist charter plane that lands at Banjul Airport carries a hundred, maybe more, passengers bringing pencils for schools, blackboard paint, paracetamol tablets for clinics, old reading glasses, money, water filters, clothing - all for distribution. And they, like us, will carry home memories of chatting with friends, drinking Ataya and feasting on Benechin and Domada.
Yes, another year, I hope. 

Monday, 20 February 2017

Kindle Paperbacks

I'm in trouble again! My attempts to convert 'Girl on Wheels' and 'Empty Bananas' into paperbacks seems to have come unstuck - no fault of the very kind people who have been helping me, all my own fault. I managed to obtain 5 copies of Girl before it vanished but Bananas seems to have sunk without trace! Fingers crossed some angel will wave an electronic wand (e-wand?) and all will be well. I'm 81, so I'd like something to happen fairly soon .... something good!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Life goes on.

I hope life is calming down for all my friends after the change of president. The new man seems to have the interests of the Gambian people at heart, and that must be good. The communication systems seem to be functioning again, and the transfer of money is back to normal. Schools are open and education and health care appear to be carrying on effectively.
The students we support have returned to their studies and we have stopped worrying about the welfare of our friends for a while.
GOES is creaking back into action. The bank balance is growing, slowly buy certainly. In another month we'll be putting in our annual claim for Gift Aid - that's the return of tax paid on money which has been donated to us. True, we're a small charity but we are registered for Gift Aid and that money makes a tremendous contribution to the work we do.
Another volume has been added to the Malinding village saga. 'Girl on Wheels' was published in e-book form on Kindle and will soon be available as a paperback. Empty Bananas is almost converted to paperback and in time all the village books will be available as either e-books or paperbacks. Many thanks to Nicholas who set me on the path to publication and sorted out a host of problems with patience.
It really is time I sorted out some photographs for this blog. My skill set has a long way to go!
Belated best wishes to you all, live long and proper.

Monday, 23 January 2017

I don't know what it's like ...

When I was three years old war started. I didn't notice, at first. When shrapnel started to fall through the roof I did. Shrapnel? Jagged bits of twisted metal. about the size of a mobile 'phone. I collected them and stored them in a metal biscuit box. I kept it for years in case the Army wanted the bits back. When I was a bit older I watched the fighter and bomber planes high overhead, heading for Liverpool docks. We saw the flashes in the sky across Pex Hill at the back of our house.
Mr Churchill was our hero, struggling to defend us. Then came peace, with church bells and oranges, shortly to be followed by chocolate and bananas.
Mr Atlee was our hero, making sure that everyone who needed medical treatment got it.
By then I started school. It never occurred to me that going to school, and later, to college, cost money. My dad paid his taxes and the taxes paid the bills.
I learned you could grumble about the government and anything else you might want to grumble about. It was called 'Free Speech'. I joined in, at Speaker's Corner, in London. I got booed but nobody arrested me or shot at me. I stood for election to the Parish Council. I got five votes. Free speech and Democracy. I still didn't get arrested.
I suppose my parents worried a bit about me; it's what parents do.
Then I discovered Africa. Well, not quite true; Africa had never been lost. Come to think of it, it's where human life started. If you're reading this you'll guess the bit of Africa I discovered.
Over the years I came to know some of the people quite well. I like to think that they trusted me, and as the years went by some of them started to grumble. They grumbled about a government which 'disappeared' people, imprisoned them, executed them. I learned to know why a conversation might suddenly change from politics to weather or the price of rice. I learned to look away when a convoy of military vehicles roared past, ferrying 'that man' from the State House to the airport.
And yesterday, when 'that man' had flown into exile, I wept as a young friend said
'I am happy because my son will not be growing up in a dictatorship.'
I hadn't properly understood till that moment just how fortunate I've been during my 80 years.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Free book!

Jodie has decided that her autobiography, Girl on Wheels, available from Amazon Kindle books, should go on free offer from 13/01/2017 for five days. She thought that with her luck the 13th might be a good starting point!
We are impressed by her generosity but would like to remind you that the charity, GOES (Gambian Occasional Emergency Support) does depend for much of its income on the sales of this and other books in the Malinding Village series.
Perhaps when you have enjoyed Jodie's first book you could post friendly reviews? It might just encourage her to write volume two!
Of course, if you don't want to wait until the 13th you might perhaps just feel reckless and buy the book? (Don't tell her I suggested this, you know what she's like when annoyed! Well, you will if you read the book. Hank still trembles!)