Nice Times (4)

Continuing my happy mood with more memories that make me feel good.

Taking my mum to The Ritz Hotel in London for the classic High Tea. A birthday treat for her 80th, and something she had never done. She was thrilled by the opulent surroundings, and the quality of the food served. Then some waiters brought a tiny birthday cake to the table, with one lit candle in it. They sung Happy Birthday to her, and the others in the restaurant gave her a round of applause. The look on her face was priceless. She treasured that cake, and kept it in its little box in her fridge for the next seven years. I found it still there, when I was clearing out her fridge after she had died.

Picking Ollie up from the Animal Hospital in Newmarket. He had just had his final eye operation for Entropion, and had been kept in for three nights after. His sheer delight at seeing us arrive to collect him brought happy tears to my eyes.

Standing on a hotel balcony in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Just across the street from that hotel was the splendour of the famous Registan temple complex. I had read about Samarkand and the silk route when I was very young. Now here I was, standing opposite that history. I felt every second of that moment, deep inside.

I was part of the ambulance crew that was first on scene at the Ladbroke Grove train crash in 1999, one of the biggest rail disasters in British history. Acting as incident officer, I had to request every available ambulance in London to attend the scene. As they started to arrive, I recognised one crew, a young man and woman from Fulham Ambulance Station. I asked them to help me triage the injured that were being brought to a central point, and for one of them to set up an aid station for walking wounded in a nearby school. At the debrief over six hours later, they approached me and said, “We were so nervous about going to that job, but when we saw you were there sorting things out, we knew we would be okay”. One of the best things anyone ever said to me, in my entire life.

Sitting in a lounge chair outside our cabin at the Kilimanjaro Safari Lodge, in Kenya. I was drinking a gin and tonic before dinner, looking at the distant mountain as thousands of wildebeest crossed the horizon. My wife was inside showering and getting ready, and I sensed a movement next to me. I was amazed to see a huge male Mandrill had come and sat next to my chair. Not much smaller than me, with its distinctive coloured facial markings, and teeth as big as a wolf. I was really scared, yet fascinated. It watched me closely for a few moments before walking away. It was completely non threatening, and I felt the connection with a wild animal that meant me no harm. A simply unforgettable moment.

Pygmy Music: A Video

My good friend Antony sent me this fascinating clip. Cameroonian musician Francis Bebey is playing a one-note flute, explaining how it served as both entertainment and a form of musical communication for pigmy tribes in Africa.

To bring it up to date, he is accompanied by another musician using a modern drum and bass machine.

It is a magical sound, full of history and culture.

Guest Post: Anthony Eshun

Today I bring you a guest post from Ghanaian blogger, Anthony.
Here is his short bio.

Author’s Bio

Anthony Eshun is a proud Christian inspirational blogger from Ghana. He is the author and the owner of https://africanparadiseworld.com. He has reached out to thousands of people around the world with life-changing messages.

Your Daily Life Inspiration From Nature

Nature is beautiful and amazing. Whether you like it or not you would feel the impact of nature in your life. But it seems some people don’t pay attention to the gestures and language nature speaks to us.

It is only when you pay attention that you would understand nature’s language. I find it very intriguing to share with everyone how nature inspires me to stay positive, happy, and hopeful in life. And I believe after reading this piece of content, you would begin admiring nature and derive the best out of it than ever before.

Sometimes a blogger for instance would be stressed up, uninspired, lack ideas to create content. This applies to almost every worker especially businessmen and entrepreneurs.

Let me share a few inspirational messages nature sends us on daily basis with you. Whenever I see the sunrise in the morning — my hope is renewed. Not just that alone. The scene of sunrise is one of the most beautiful things I have known on this planet.

I have been compelled to take several photographs of sunrise. I love it most when there is a reflection on the sea.

The sun shines from the East every morning to remind me that there is hope for a brighter and a beautiful future. Being alive for another day is even a miracle. I believe God has gifted me that to keep on pursuing my lofty goals. So I say to God “thank you for granting me a new day.”

Beautiful mornings remind me to be grateful because on record; 150, 000 people take their last breath each day. They did not see the beautiful sunrise.

Interestingly I could also hear the beautiful birds chirping in the morning hopping and flying from one tree to the other. Could I understand their melodious songs? I believe they are also showing their gratitude for being alive for another day. Thanks be to God!

When it’s cold, rainy, or stormy it reminds me of unpleasant situations. But I know life is dynamic just like the seasons.

It would never rain forever, it will never be stormy forever. Surely, the sun will rise again with a beautiful smile on my face. Without all these, we wouldn’t know what joy is. Joy is seeing the rain, storm, etc stop and giving way to a bright day. I’m the kind of guy who never lets misfortunes bog me down. Im too positive for the devil himself.

So throughout the day, I will keep myself busy with my daily routines. Then there comes the beautiful scene of sunset. Another awestruck scene that steals my attention for several hours. Oh my God! Where is my camera?…crack, crack, crack?…

What is the inspiration behind that beautiful sunset from nature? The day and its hustling have just ended. With a deep thought, … I am reminded of one Native American Proverb that says that anytime the sun rises from the East and sets in the West it takes part of your life.

I often contemplate on this proverb and question myself at the end of the day if I have been productive. Time is a non-renewable resource and it is very precious. So I am very cautious about how I spend my time.

Nature inspires me to be efficient in every little thing I do. Because within every 24hrs, nature takes part of my life away. And that is irreversible. I would love to be proud in my old age that I never wasted my youthful days. So let the day take part of my life and reward me with a successful future.

Just like how many of us believe that you reap what you sow, so as you will face the results of everything you do today.

Nature itself is a therapy. Imagine the kind of emotional pains the emergence of COVID-19 has brought to our doorsteps. Our mental health is always challenged by fear and panic. Lockdowns, destabilization of both social and economic lives have plunged many of us into depression and a state of hopelessness.

There is a natural way of releasing that stress. And the most important thing is it doesn’t cost a dime. Take a look at your environment. Even if you are in lockdown — gaze at your natural environment through your window and you will surely release some stress.

“Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars, and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers — for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are.”— Osho

Viewing nature alone reduces fear, stress, anger and gives you the best of emotional feelings. Not just that alone —it contributes to your physical wellbeing by reducing blood pressure, heart rate, and the production of stress hormones.

Researchers say even a single plant in your environment can help reduce stress. Even a wall painting depicting nature can help reduce stress by just viewing it.

Knowing all these has personally helped me as an inspirational blogger to maintain a positive mindset in every circumstance I find myself in. Nature supplies me with constant inspiration to keep moving forward in life.

Now, let me quickly take you to the wild. I’m talking about the ecosystem. Some of us have the characters of wild animals, others are the prey.

It is therefore imperative to know the kind of beast you are. This will help you to associate with the right people. What good relationship would the deer, gazelle, or antelope have with the lion?

Haha! What am I insinuating here? Nature has taught me to stay away from toxic people and surround myself with like-minded people. I have no room for naysayers, neither do I entertain unfruitful relationships. There are too many snakes in the grass. Watch your steps!

However, in reality, we can choose to be what we want to be. And it’s all about setting realistic goals. You can be like the eagle, fly higher above the clouds, and view your goals with a powerful vision of the future.

In summation, sometimes you have to find the best ways to inspire yourself when going through difficulties in life. Nature presents to us free therapy. Go out there and enjoy the natural environment to kill some boredom and release stress.

Take a look at the seas, mountains, flowers, trees, sun, moon, etc, and crack some photos. Come home and soak unlimited inspiration from your photographs. Let me seal this with a beach photo I took one early morning.

I believe you have enjoyed reading this post. You may also like to read my post about developing daily inspirational thoughts through this link: http://africanparadiseworld.com/2019/01/13/inspirational-thoughts-of-the-day

Stay positive, stay blessed!

Here is a link to his blog, if you would like to read more.
https://africanparadiseworld.com/

An Alphabet Of Things I Like: G

Gorillas.

Looking into the face of a gorilla is the closest you can get to a human in the animal world, in my opinion. They live in family groups, love and care for their young, and do not hurt anyone or anything, existing on a vegetarian diet.

When I was very young, I was taken to London Zoo to see Guy the Gorilla. He was a famous exhibit there, having arrived in 1946. When I got to his cage, I was overwhelmed with sadness. The huge animal was in a relatively small cage, behind rows of iron bars like a prison cell. This is a photo of him around that time.

He sat close to the bars with his arm extended, and his hand palm up. After more than twelve years in captivity, he had already become used to zoo visitors offering him treats, and he would catch them when they were thrown at him. All were unsuitable of course, and included biscuits, (cookies) chewy sweets, (candy) and even ice cream thrown in paper tubs. The zoo staff made no attempt to stop anyone feeding him, including my mum, who had brought along some iced biscuits especially for him. She was delighted when he caught each one, and ate it immediately. I wanted the staff to let him go, so he could return to living in the jungle again. My mum told me he wouldn’t know what to do in the jungle now.

Guy was kept on his own for over twenty-five years. Eventually, the zoo decided to provide him with a mate. But they never really got on, and never produced any baby gorillas. Guy died in the zoo in 1978, after being little more than a well-fed prisoner there for his entire life.

I was also quite young when I saw the original 1933 film version of King Kong.

Despite the gigantic gorilla being portrayed as violent, including eating people and destroying things, the sympathy of the audience was directed at the poor creature, and his cruel exploitation by showmen and profiteers. When he is mortally wounded, and falls from the top of the Empire State Building, I cried. Later film versions also showed King Kong in a sympathetic light, with the similarity between the emotions of gorillas and humans being remarked upon.

Like many animals, Gorillas suffer at the hands of poachers in the countries where they still live in the wild. Some are killed for food, others for traditional medicine ingredients, and many more to provide grisly ‘trophies’, such as their heads and hands. In recent decades, various indivduals and some organisations have worked hard to establish refuges and safe areas for gorillas in African countries. Wardens have been employed to discourage poachers, and ‘gorilla tourism’ has been established, with people visiting groups of gorillas who have become used to the close proximity of humans.

Let’s hope that this continues, until gorillas are no longer endangered. It would be tragic indeed to see one of our closest relatives become extinct.

Welcome, Burundi

Flag of Burundi. Vector illustration. World flag

I have had 38 views of my blog today, from the country of Burundi. I know the name of course, but very little about the country.

Here is a map showing where it is on that vast continent.

Some countries just tend to get overlooked. If there is no war, no catastrophic disease, and no contentious political issues, they are easily tuned out of our consciousness.
In my case, that has surely happened to Burundi.

I looked up a few snippets of information about the country.

The Twa, Hutu and Tutsi peoples have lived in Burundi for at least 500 years. For more than 200 of those years, Burundi was an independent kingdom, until the beginning of the 20th century, when Germany colonised the region. After the First World War and Germany’s defeat, it ceded the territory to Belgium

Burundi remains primarily a rural society, with just 13.4% of the population living in urban areas in 2019.

One of the smallest countries in Africa, Burundi’s land is used mostly for subsistence agricultural and grazing, which has led to deforestation, soil erosion and habitat loss. As of 2005 the country was almost completely deforested, with less than 6% of its land covered by trees and over half of that being commercial plantations. In addition to poverty, Burundians often have to deal with corruption, weak infrastructure, poor access to health and education services, and hunger. Burundi is densely populated and many young people emigrate in search of opportunities elsewhere. The World Happiness Report 2018 ranked Burundi as the world’s least happy nation with a rank of 156.

Sadly, it doesn’t sound like the greatest place to live, far from it. But it is now back on my radar, thanks to blogging, and a resident who viewed my blog today.

Dream on

I am reblogging this post from Ngozi in my new series of ‘A Reblog Offer’

Doshelles

Author’s Note: Mum was involved in a ghastly motor accident in the year 2000. She was bed ridden for years, and as a result experienced some setbacks in life. This didn’t stop her from achieving her goals. One of her favorite expressions remain “I was unequivocal in expressing my thoughts.”

Mum was (still is) partial to Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door perfume. Its sensuous blend of rich floral and fruity notes always announced her presence. The difference between a runway model and her was height and weight-she moved with grace and poise, the world was her runway. My greatest fantasy as a child was to grow up fast- share her wardrobe of tasteful-colorful-fashionable clothes, shoes, and handbags.

On the day of the accident, I came back from school downcast, hoping that Mum was home to cheer me up. My friends and neighbor, the twins, had lost their dog- Wisdom. I got…

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Electric Car, Anyone?

(This post is about all-electric cars, not petrol/electric hybrids)

We keep hearing a lot about electric cars. They don’t pollute, and they are ‘green’, as far as the environment is concerned. Some countries are insisting that all cars have to be electric by a certain date, though that date varies dramatically.

They have drawbacks of course. Limited range, depending on speed, and using lights or accessories. They are not easy to charge either. Very few charging stations have been built so far, and those that exist don’t have that many spaces. That means you might drive to a place, not be able to charge your vehicle, and then be stuck there.

Even charging them at home is a mission. If I had one, I would have to have a cable running from the car to a power source in the garage. Far from ideal, especially in bad weather, if the car doesn’t fit into the garage, or if like most of us, your garage is full of ‘stuff’, and has no room for a car.

And what if I lived in a smart high-rise apartment in London, with no underground car park? Would I drape my charging lead twenty floors down the side of the building, to the car parked outside? Or in a nice Edwardian house on a street. Would people be prepared to step over or under the cable as they walked along? I doubt that. And nobody will vandalise your unattended car as it charges, by pulling out the plug, or breaking the cable.
Believe that, and you’ll believe anything.

And there are some other much more serious considerations.

It is estimated that the batteries in such cars generally only last about seven years, depending on use, and how many times they are re-charged. If we end up with millions of electric cars on the roads, we will have the problem of having to dispose of millions of worn-out batteries too. And replacements can cost anything from £400 to £1900 each. That replacement cost has to be factored in to a car that has already been hit by age and use depreciation, possibly making the car completely worthless after a relatively short life.

But if it is going to be better for the environment, then it has to be done, right?

Think again.

Cobalt is essential for the manufacture of batteries used in electric cars. A lot of this is obtained from countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo. Child labour is used there in the extraction of Cobalt, as well as poorly-paid and unsafe adult labour. There is no health and safety, and no restrictions on the extraction. Last year, the DRC produced 70% of all the Cobalt used in the West.

COBALT

But even that won’t be enough once electric cars become compulsory. The ‘answer’ is going to be mining the seas for Cobalt. Those seas already choking on plastic pollution, oil pollution, and garbage pollution. Coral degeneration is a hot topic, but once Cobalt mining starts, the current worries will be overwhelmed by a true ecological disaster. The disturbance of the sea bed will cover plants and creatures in sand and silt, also making the water dark, and stifling the breathing of sea life.

Sea Cobalt

Here’s a recent BBC report on that.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-49759626

So when Amsterdam bans all but electric vehicles soon, and stands proud as the first city to do so, I hope they are giving some thought to the small boys hammering rocks in Africa for a pittance, or the sea-life destroyed by Cobalt mining in our oceans. And I also hope that they have worked out what to do with all the spent batteries, less than ten years after that.

I know petrol and diesel is no long-term answer. But it seems all-electric has just as many problems too. And I haven’t even discussed the generation of all that electricity using coal-fired, garbage-fired, and nuclear power stations that will still be in use for a generation.

Perhaps the future has to return to pedal power? And a lot more walking.

Ambulance stories (22)

With the recent conviction for FGM in the news, I thought it appropriate to reblog this post, from 2012.

beetleypete

The Hammersmith Swordsman

In the early 1980’s, female circumcision was not something that I was well acquainted with. In truth, I don’t recall that I had heard of it at that time, though in recent years, it has received a lot of attention in the media. For those of you who are not that intimate with this practice, I will give a very basic version of what is involved. A young girl, sometimes only a baby, has parts of the outer lips of her vagina cut off, usually including her clitoris. The resulting wound is then stitched together, in a somewhat rudimentary fashion, with a small opening left, to allow the flow of bodily fluids. On her wedding night, her husband then cuts the sutures prior to having sex, thus ‘guaranteeing’ that he has wed a virgin. I think this is the process in a nutshell, please forgive me for…

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Just been watching…(25)

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

***Plot spoilers avoided***

download

In 2008, I watched a film about boy soldiers involved in the civil war in Liberia. It was called ‘Johnny Mad Dog’. When I saw the news that there was to be a new film about boy soldiers, this time starring the excellent Idris Elba, I was looking forward to seeing it. I watched it this morning, and decided to review it now, when it was still fresh in my mind.

The film is set in an unnamed country in West Africa. It begins in a small town in the countryside, and with the family of young Agu. He lives a happy enough life, with his parents, older brother, and baby sister. Fetching water from a communal pump, playing with his friends, and getting up to mischief. The town is poor, but they make the best of their lot, and his father has even given family land to help refugees from the war in a nearby country. Their own country is also in turmoil, with various rebel factions fighting for control of regions, and against the government forces that rule the country.

One day, they get the news that the war is coming close, and Agu’s father packs off his wife and baby to live with relatives in the capital city. They boys and men have to stay behind, to look after the stores and property in the town. Government troops arrive, shooting at random, and rounding up all the remaining people, who they accuse of being rebels. When it becomes obvious that they intend to execute everyone who is left, young Agu is told to run away. Lost and alone in the jungle, he stumbles across a rag-tag rebel force, comprised of small boys and young men. They take him to meet the leader, a fearsome man known only as ‘The Commandant’.(Elba) He takes the small boy in, and declares that he will train him to be a soldier.

Agu is initiated into the ways of the unit. He is not given food, and made to carry out menial tasks. For training, he is given a stick to use, and has to attend constant indoctrination lectures too. He makes friends with another small boy, Strika, who never speaks, and when they go off on their first mission, Agu is forced to kill a prisoner by The Commandant. Once he has done this, he is finally given an assault rifle, and hailed as a real soldier. As the battalion moves around the countryside, we see them taking part in old tribal rituals designed to increase their motivation, and to make them fearless of death. They also use a variety of narcotic drugs, to help make them desensitised to the fighting and killing they take part in.

Agu begins to realise that his home has gone, and he is unlikely to ever see his mother again. Under the spell of the charismatic Commandant, he starts to accept his new comrades as his real family. Led by the Commandant to more and more victories, they also attack and murder defenceless civilians, accusing them of helping the government troops. Agu is not only witness to many atrocities, he is involved in them too. When the battalion is summoned to a nearby city to see the Supreme Commander, Agu and Strika are chosen to be in the Commandant’s bodyguard, as trusted soldiers. Not only is the Commandant expecting to be promoted, he is also anticipating a share of riches from all the looting, and recognition of the successful fighting his unit has been involved in.

But their rebel faction has now been recognised by the United Nations, and marauding armies of young boys are bad publicity. The Commandant is unhappy with the news he receives in the city, and takes his forces back into the jungle, leading them to an uncertain fate. With no home to return to, and no cause to support any longer, they become ‘The Beasts of No Nation’ indeed.

This is at times an overwhelming film. It is beautifully shot, and delivers striking images alongside scenes that are frankly unsettling, and sometimes hard to watch. It deals unflinchingly with executions, murders, the brutal killing of women and children, and hints at child sexual abuse too. The battle scenes are reminiscent of news footage we may have seen from Liberia, Rwanda, and other war-torn African nations, with heavily-armed children in the thick of the action.

The group is like the ‘Lost Boys’ in Peter Pan, though armed with AK-47 rifles, and rocket launchers. Their uniforms are a mix of civilian clothes, and any equipment they can take from their dead enemies. Despite fighting a modern guerrilla war, they still carry totems, and engage in tribal dances. During breaks in the fighting, we see them returning to childish games like tag, or blind man’s buff, reminding us that these ruthless killers are still just small children.

Idris Elba is outstanding as the capricious Commandant. Friend one moment, heartless killer the next. Sometimes approaching the edge of madness, other times revealed as a cunning and greedy opportunist. But the most memorable performances come from the child actors. Abraham Attah is a revelation in the role of Agu. He was fourteen at the time of filming, but looks a lot younger. His expressive face can portray every emotion without the need for words to accompany the scene. Emmanuel Quaye as Strika, looking like a little boy lost, then joining in an attack without hesitation. Playing a mute, he manages to convey his feelings with his eyes. This is not a film you are likely to forget in a hurry, I assure you.

It may not be to everyone’s taste, to watch a film that shows such brutality. But it is a stark reminder of events that we usually only see for 90 seconds on the news, before changing channels, or popping out to make a cup of tea. And as a film, it is incredibly well made too.
If you think you can stand it, I recommend it without hesitation.

This is the short trailer.