Tag: <span>Africa</span>

Been meaning to post this for ages.

Our nephew recently spent 6 months at sea, returning home a couple of months ago. He joined the Merchant Navy student programme last year and this was his first time away (I’m sure there is a proper navy term for that mind you…). He spent most of his time shuttling between the UK, the north-east coast of Africa and Brazil, criss-crossing the Atlantic many times. We’re all very proud of him, and very happy that he is loving every minute of it, well almost…

And you know what else I am? Jealous. Very jealous.

I feel bad even admitting it, to be honest, but it’s true. I told him as much and he nodded along politely as, no doubt, I’m not the only person who’ll have said this to him.

He has seen things I will likely never see, been places I’ll likely never be, and has caused me to ponder my own life. Do I want to spend it sat behind a desk? I’ve got another 30 years or so before I retire, and that presumes I’ll retire early, but I can honestly say the thought of sitting at a computer for all that time fills me with dread. There is so much more to life than this.

And so the pendulum swings again. A few months ago I was revved up, career-focussed, and planning on an MA of all things! What folly. Yet, as I sit here looking out over back garden as the rain drizzles down, I find myself daydreaming and plotting. What WOULD I do, what COULD I do?

As ever, reality nags at the back of my head. Bills to pay, the lifestyle we enjoy isn’t the cheapest, and being constantly stretched is now a way of life. We have debt, like most, but it’s controlled and lowering all the time. One distant day we’ll have none but the mortgage, and the car probably, and then what? Is that the time to pursue something new?

But what? I have many skills, I know my capabilities, and I know I’m smart enough to pick up most things. But that only broadens the scope.

I could write for a living perhaps? Go freelance, and pick and choose my jobs to fit round other activites, new hobbies, or perhaps new studies for a new direction.

But that still leaves the what.

And then, after some time, I realise that I’m actually quite happy with my life and my job. Whilst I would love to be in a position to travel more, things aren’t all that bad, and I still have time on my side.

Count your blessings and all that.

But don’t stop dreaming…

Personal Musings

Dunno about you, but our Friday night was spent avoiding Children in Need. It’s just awful. But then I feel the same way about can-shakers on street corners… same thing, different exposure.

Saturday and, after a quick stop off at Costco, we headed through to Dumbarton to help prepare the rest of the buffet for the leaving party that night. My brother-in-law, who really enjoys cooking and is a very good chef, had already prepared enough food to feed about 150 people so we didn’t have that much to do. Especially as we were only expecting somewhere between 50-70 on the night… Needless to say there was a LOT of food leftover, there are only so many chicken and sweet chilli blini a man can eat (37, in case you were wondering).

That aside it was a good night. My nieces both looked gorgeous, our youngest nephew was dragged up to dance and even managed to LOOK like he enjoyed it. and our oldest nephew, the guest of honour, had a great time. Allegedly there are even photos of me dancing with my wife! (shock horror!). It was an emotional night, obviously, as our nephew flies to Amsterdam on Wednesday from where he will sail down the coast of South Africa and then on to South America. Of course in this age of modern communication, we’ll be keeping in touch via email as the ship is equipped with a wireless network (man, there must be some range on THAT!).

We got home at around 2 am (I was driving), and I struggled out of bed on Sunday morning for a long, and very muddy, run. Sunday mornings are always harder than most, probably because I’ve not been up and about for most of the day, but yesterday was even harder. I spent the rest of the day, quite literally, sprawled out on the sofa, dozing in fits and starts. Still a little tired today although Louise is off her work so I hope we both haven’t caught the same bug (or if so, it’s only a 24 hr thing).

Still, I’m glad I struggled out for the run as I’ve signed up to run a 5K in December. My number? 13. Seriously.

It’s a small affair, Louise has entered (she’s number 14) and so have my Mum and Dad. Mum will walk it with Louise, and Dad will be jogging it with me. He used to do a lot of running (several half-marathons, 10Ks and one Scottish marathon under his belt) and has been back in the gym, pounding the treadmill, since his heart attack. He reckons he’s on for a 40 minute time, and I’m aiming for 35 (just under hopefully). Sponsorship still to be sorted out but don’t worry, I’ll be chinning you lot too! (go on, a couple of pound won’t hurt your wallet half as much as my legs are gonna ache after the run!).

I am becoming a little too reliant on parenthesis.

And yes, my hosting company, who also hosts several other blogs you may read, had a few “issues” today. Just in case you were wondering where I’ve been.

Life

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America has been on the receiving end of some harsh criticism recently, and a lot of it has been warranted. But who are we to criticise? What do we really know about America?

For a lot of us, the occasional trip to a big city or a holiday resort, for others you only know what you see or read, filtered through news networks or blogs. What do we REALLY know about America?

How many people live in poverty? What’s the rate of child deaths? How many people die of starvation? Will Brad and Jen get back together?

Then there are the calls for charity, for donations to help the sick and starving in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The images still fresh in the mind, the looting, the violence, the death, are interrupted by another appeal, this time for the starving people in Niger. Drought and locusts killed off last years crops, and the people have no food. They are not in a rich country, they do not have neighbours who can take them in, they have not looted and violated. Who deserves?

The culture in America has created a “winner takes all” society, and the richest country in the world is asking for help. Billions of dollars are required to rebuild houses and lives, and Americans are pitching in, doing their bit, helping their neighbours. But why do they need my help? My charity? Where will my money make a difference? Africa or America?

There is no right or wrong answer of course. Yet the internal conflict remains and I struggle to balance my own thoughts on the matter. America has been treated harshly, yes. Their government has failed to act appropriately, yes. They have the resources they need to solve this themselves, yes. Have they helped out other countries when similar has happened? Yes. The good and bad sides of America are at war, and the country seems to be stretching itself, slowly awaking from its slumber with the realisation that only whilst it is sleeping is it truely the land of dreams.

* Insert deity of choice

News Writing

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The following was posted as a comment but I think it’s deserving of it’s own space – thanks to Hans for pulling together his thoughts, some of which I’d heard in isolation before, into a fascinating little article. Note that Hans wrote this, not me – I’ll pass on any comments about this to him, if you don’t want to post them here.

News

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When I decided I would take part in this year’s Blogathon I spent some time deciding which charity I would support. Do I help fight illness, protect children, help the starving, protect abused animals? How do you choose one charity over another? By it’s very definition, charity relies on goodwill and generosity, so by choosing one charity over others are you somehow implying ill will? Of course not but such is the nature of the beast.

I looked at various charities (you can add self preferences), and kept coming back to one thing. All the other charities that I know of, and found out about where specific and obvious. Cancer is a horrible thing, I know enough about it to know that. Children in Africa dying of starvation is awful, malnutritioned animals abused by their owners is heinous, and the list goes on.

Why Amnesty? Because they cover the uncovered stories, and highlight the atrocities that don’t receive news coverage. That’s about it really. They highlight the stories you don’t hear and every time I visit their website or hear about them in the press I agree.

For more information about Amnesty international, I suggest a quick trip through their history from 1961 to the present day.

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Searching for words
At lunchtime today I will be going shopping. I will be buying a ‘joke’ gift. I should stress that I am buying it for someone else.

Thing is I’m worried about how to phrase my request, which do you think:

  • Can I have a plastic poo please?
  • Can I have a fake turd?
  • Can I have a joke jobbie?
  • [insert other colloquialism for faeces]

What a quandary.

Ohh yes, I should explain why, shouldn’t I… well.. bear with me please…

Seemingly, in South Africa, for a bridal shower it is traditional for the bride to receive kitchen utensils. When she gets the present she has to guess what it is before opening it, if she gets it wrong she has to drink from the potty (filled with wine I hope). The brides mother (who works with Louise) thought it would be funny to put a plastic poo in the potty for a laugh…

Yes I think that’s what I was told… and no, I don’t know if I am being wound up or not.

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Carey gets back to basics, and I must admit I’ve been thinking something similar as I’ve recently been pondering the ‘why’ and ‘who’ of this very website. Of course when Carey does it, it looks good, like a post ironic take on neo-modernism… or something…

Anyway it again brings up the subject of ‘why’. I’ve written about my ‘‘ for a website, and I think that most personal websites serve the same purpose.

The sole requirement for owning a website is because you, the author, designer, fuhrer of your webspace, want one. How you use it is down to you, no-one else. There are no rules, merely suggested guidelines, and they are only softly suggested (count how many bend, break, and completley ignore them).

Do it for you. If you want to post, post, if you want to write a 5000 word dissertation about the fate of tsetse fly in Western Africa, go right ahead. If you want to become a linkwhore, and are only in it for the pseudo celebrity, hey, that’s up to you (but ask anyone who doesn’t surf the blogging/design channels who Zeldman is and watch the blank stares).

Simplification? I don’t care. Well I do care, but about you. It’s your website, do what you want.

The funniest thing has just popped into my head, and ideal April Fool, think I’ll keep it to myself for the moment though (Ohh and I give Carey about a month before he explodes back in a glory of technicolor.. although I’m merely basing that on my own lack of self-will and addiction to this funny little place we call the web).

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