Thursday, 30 January 2014

Dancing with Bats

Yesterday I found myself outside in the early evening with some friends.

One had a mobile phone with good speakers, and was playing some music. He started to dance, and one by one, we all got up to join in, waving our arms around generally jigging happily.

Some bats live under the eaves of the house, and they started to dive out, just swooping below head height.  They flashed between us, and sometimes at us, changing course at the last millisecond to avoid collision. It was quite odd, but also quite 'funky' to dance with the blue bats.

The wildlife here in Malawi is astonishing.  Brilliantly coloured birds, with bright scarlet plumes and frogs that look like they would be better suited to life on Mars, with their 'melted alien' faces.  Today I also saw a chameleon, making dainty progress across some plants in a field.

I also saw a maternity unit in a rural village, and met some of the one day old babies - they were very beautiful.

Thursday, 23 January 2014


Malawi is a friendly country.  It's also very green at the moment, as it is the rainy season.

I am staying in a suburban area, which has tarmac roads with wide green verges, mowed so you can walk easily.  The houses have a wide variety of trees in their gardens.  Unfamiliar trees with twisting trunks and feathery leaves.  Huge succulents, giant versions of the ones you can cultivate in the UK, make jagged shapes along some of the walls.  People amble along, some cruise past on bicycles with bundles loosely tied on the back.

The town centre is a hustling, bustling place.  Market stalls, with brightly patterned fabric strewn across them, line the street.  Cars and vans hoot each other and jostle for position on the road.  Some of the broken pavement is covered with wood carvings.  Behind the brick built buildings are avenues of shanty shops, lopsided canopies and tired, plastic chairs.

The weather is clammy.  It starts of pleasantly warm, like a beautiful summer day.  Then it builds in humidity
 until the sweat is running off your forehead and your glasses steam up.  It holds this point until finally, after hours, it cracks and the rain starts.  Lightning flashes across the horizon and there is a blissful draft, and you feel cool again.

Wonderfully cool.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Battle of Agincourt

Archery was going on down at the farm today.  It was great fun shooting at the target, once I realised the sheep in the field behind were going to be OK and not skewered on my arrows.

The target was a bit annoying, it kept moving out of the way, and most of my arrows ended up scattered behind it. They stuck in the ground demonstrating the 'acute angle' as seen in geometry text books.  One wise cracker said it looked like the Battle of Agincourt had just taken place in Surrey.

After a bit more practice and remembering lessons in the past, my arrows started to hit the outer rings of the target, and it was more fun.

Once the rain set in, we had to retire to the hut and console ourselves with bacon butties and lemon drizzle cake.

At least my bruise from the clay pigeon shooting wasn't bothered by the bow.  Arrows are much more fun than noisy shotguns.

My friend taking a shot

Bacon butties on the way.

Not sure which bird these feathers came from, but you wouldn't miss it in the dark.

Old Stuff

The British Museum is full of it!  Old stuff!  Yay to old stuff!

There was a hand axe made by Homohabilis from 1.8 million years ago.  That's a long time ago.  It's so long ago I can't even start to think how long.

There were lots of hoards on display, that made me want to go and start digging outside.  The Sutton Hoo treasure was amazing, some of it looked like it had been made last week - intricately crafted jewels.

The poor bog man from Lindow Moss, lying in such an uncomfortable position for all those years, and his leathery stomach.  I imagined him giving it a scratch in happier times.  It always seems a bit wrong to have dead people in museums.  I think they should be reburied and laid to rest, although being 'exhibit A' in a world famous museum might be considered immortality of sorts.

So many items in each room, a Roman floor found under the Bank of England that feet must have walked on and someone might have scrubbed with a bucket and brush daily.  Combs that would have run through hair belonging to all types of people.  One item that really stood out was a saucepan sieve - so like our own kitchen utensils, but this one would have had a Roman person giving it a shake before tipping out the vegetables for someone's supper.  It is these personal items that really make you think about the hand that held them, the room they were kept in.

Seeing how many things were in the museum, and thinking about the number of lives they represented, was awe inspiring.  How lucky we are that all this stuff is available to see, just by walking off the street and wandering in.

Saturday, 11 January 2014


While waiting to set off on the next stage of my adventure, I have been floating on the love and goodwill of family and friends.  Christmas was wonderful and new year good fun.

This week I have been helping out with a friend's horse and spending a lot of time at a farm.  It's a bit of a treat for a townie like me, I don't even mind collecting horse poo from the field, although pushing a wheelbarrow through thick mud is tiring on the arms.
A satisfying haul!

This morning, my arms were given another going over while clay pigeon shooting.  The recoil from the shotgun is quite bruising if it isn't being held properly.  I got off to a good start, hitting the first clay and feeling very satisfied when it smashed to pieces mid air.  I also took turns in flipping burgers in the catering van.

On Monday we will be participating in a more genteel form of shooting, with bows and arrows.  I think my arms will be pleased about this.  The alfresco eating situation will continue with a gas bottle and burner for bacon butties to keep our energy going.

I am becoming something of an animal lover too, and being surrounded by dogs, cats and horses seems rather wonderful. 

A new friend
I've always been fond of sheep
The clay pigeon shoot from the catering van (apres shoot entertainment)