Tag Archives: Fela Kuti

If you’ve got it, flaunt it

Aurore, Auruare The Northern Lights

The lightening here is quite incredible. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It can be going for a long, long time before any rain comes.

Sometimes it lights up the entire sky especially when it’s behind some clouds and sometimes you get some amazing horizontal lightening that really does look like the classic bolt from Zeus’ thumb. That’s my favourite.


Scousers, making Jocks seem sensible

Catriona suffered from the lack of water, she had pins and needles in her arms and she lost her vision for ten seconds at the end of the race.

I sent her a text the next day to see how she was faring.

“Yeah, fine. You up for football at 7 tonight?”

Really?! Oh, go on then.


I guess it would be called something different now…

I really like the London Trilogy, obviously Absolute Beginners is the famous one but Ace Of Spades is really good as well. It’s about a young guy who moves from Africa to London in the late fifties, or maybe, very, early sixties. Anyway, the colloquialism that they use for white people is ‘jumbles’ which derives from John Bull.

This is a very long winded way of saying that I got called John Bull last night when I was walking down the street.

And it made me laugh.


I thought that it was just a film

Got a lift from Freetown to Bo, use the ex-pat grapevine sometimes ‘is anyone heading to Bo?’ better than the bus. Anyway, I was sitting in the car just outside my house wondering internal debating the pros and cons of an evening run. Stepped outside and the world just started spinning around me. Felt awful, just completely disorientated. Luckily I was meeting my doctor friend in the pub in an hour so I just sent him a text (if you’re not well should we meet in the hospital instead of the pub? No, pub’s fine!) saying what was wrong.

You, really worry when you feel unwell here. At home there’s very few times, that you feel unwell, even really unwell and become instantly concerned, I guess it becomes slightly different as you get older but I’ve never really been so unwell at home that I didn’t think that bed was the best cure.

So, I met Niall and he immediately diagnosed vertigo, it’s amazing how much doctor’s know exactly the right questions to ask ‘is the world spinning, or are you spinning?’ I didn’t even know that was an illness. Thought that it was a phobia, you’ve caught arachnophobia, take these pills and stay away from spiders for a week. But it’s not, it’s an inner ear infection. Whatever it is I was glad to have it and glad to be told that I didn’t have any of the symptoms of malaria or typhoid- although I still had the test you don’t want to be the idiot ex-pat that doesn’t take the test and doesn’t get the treatment. Just takes to bed.

And then dies.


The idiot ex-pat

Lad called Jesse (nae luck, mate) was staying at the Briggs Bo Boarding House he met Niall and I down at TOT. He looked awful, really awful. Niall said he had all of the symptoms of malaria. Niall’s a doctor in Africa, he’s pretty au fait with the symptoms of malaria. He said Jesse should go to bed and then Niall would take him to hospital in the morning.

Malaria comes and goes, that’s one of the symptoms of malaria. Jesse woke up in the morning feeling better and couldn’t be bothered going to the hospital, or even to the pharmacy, to take the test. Which, to be fair, is 3 dollars saved.

My dad says when you do stupid things, stupid things happen.


If you’ve got it, flaunt it

It’s blisteringly hot today, which is why young Daniel has come to work in a red ski jacket.


Can you just pick up a sample from Carpet World?

Bob Martins

Sierra Leone, West Africa

Niall’s also worried about my blasé approach to street food he’s prescribing me some worming tablets as a going away present.

Which I’m taking as a green light to continue buying the delicious ‘meat’ on a stick.


Can you just pick up a sample from Carpet World?

Saw a Moslem brother with an honest to goodness, just went into Gaucho Grill with a Stanley knife, cow hide prayer mat. Is this allowed? Are there no particular rules?


Any interest?

There’s a Miracle & Deliverance Explosion at the Flaming Bible Church.

Don’t think that we had those at the Johnstone High Parish.


Religion makes you fat

I wouldn’t say that Bob was fat but he could definitely stand to lose a little weight.

He fasts in the morning to feel closer to God and then has lunch, then an absolutely massive dinner. I’ve been trying to persuade him to have some breakfast but he’s not up for it at all.


Fingers in pies


I sometimes go to Obama’s to watch the football, I also sometimes buy fruit at one of his stalls, he has a surprisingly heavily diversified portfolio of businesses in this part of the world.


There’s a tremendous sense of pride in Sierra Leona and I’m sure in all of Africa that a black man is President of the United States Of America. You see his books widely sold- there’s three books sold in St Mary’s Supermarket and two are his- and you see his face on magazines, t-shirts, bags, umbrellas, medallions. Everything really.

You make your money in merch.

You make your money in merch.

Hopefully having such a positive role model in the world’s most high profile job will inspire the next generation of Africans to believe in themselves

Hopefully having such a positive role model in the world’s most high profile job will inspire the next generation of Africans leaders to believe in working for others.


The politics of tribes

One of the problems with politics in Sierra Leone is that it’s often more tribal than political. For example Bo is SLPP country, if you’re Mende you probably vote SLPP.  Not because you believe in their policies as much as the fact that you believe that they represent you.

These are your guys.

So you win or you lose, either the people in power represent you or they don’t. At the very least you don’t completely believe that they do.

I don’t know if this is the same in every African country but I know that when Kenyatta said that he was going to do the best that he could for ‘his people’ it’s stretching credulity to believe that he meant all Kenyans.


So how many ‘people’ get to vote?

You get tremendously varying estimates on the population of Sierra Leone. According to the CIA Factbook the population is 6,440,052 with 1,070,200 living in Freetown. I live in the second biggest city which I’ve been told has 300,000 people living there but I find that difficult to believe. People live cheek to jowl but 300,000 of them? In Bo? Nah, just don’t believe it.

But even if you accept it that’s a long way down 1.4million of 6.4million live in the biggest two cities. Where are the rest?

And when you count up the most recent census data for each of the 14 districts that make up the country you only get to 4.6million in total.

There’s a little bit of Salone ‘reckoning’ going into these numbers.


Is that a bacon tree? No it’s a ham bush

Still time to sponsor/donate at: http://www.justgiving.com/Gareth-Briggs There’s gold in tham ther’ hills You live in Makeni, you think that all white people have money, in a comparative ex-pats in Sierra Leone sense you’re not wrong. You have 700 ex-pats coming to Makeni for the marathon, you know this, it happened last year and there’s loads of posters all round town. So this is an opportunity to make money, right? Surely, there’s one enterprising individual that will try to sell drinks, or sweets or something near the finish line. Surely there’s one person in this town of a few hundred thousand who will realise that this is an annual opportunity to make some money. Surely?! Nought from two from the free throw line Marathon - ernest-koroma_008 President Koroma opened the race, he made a speech and ran the 5k. It was good to see how little security that a President felt that he needed, Makeni is his home town, these are his people but, even so, there was no obvious protection required. In his speech he had to remember two things, the name of the founder of the charity: Thank you Mr, erm, founder and director. And the amount that was raised last year. Last year they raised….a lot of money.   Offence is the best form of defence The Minister Of Defence ran the 5k, he made a speech after the race he said that it was ‘fucking hard’.   Out of my world The story goes that when Captain Cook landed in Australia the indigenous Aboriginal people didn’t even look up, the entire event of a massive ship full of white people landing was just completely ignored. If I close my eyes you can’t see me either. We were trying to find a place called The Club House. It’s a bar restaurant operated by the Street Child charity. It’s quite a good idea, they have a lot of people in the mining industry passing through and a lot of ex-pats. They have money to spend and want some western food, a few beers, the football, maybe a game of pool. So you set up a non-profit making venture to capture some of this money, put it back into the community and help the pikins. It’s quite expensive, say 60,000 Leones for a plate of food, that’s a lot for Salone and way out of reach for most locals but less than a tenner converted. There’s not lots of places in Makeni, it’s not that big a place, the Club House isn’t that small and it’s not that new. There’s even a massive billboard advert for it beside the main street. We were asking around where it was, we were only a few streets away. Everyone, was really nice, chatty, friendly but as to where the Club House was; they didn’t have a clue.   Lazy English Marathon I was quite prepared for the run, had completed the distance a few times on my own and had a wee time in my head that I wanted to hit. That said, I hadn’t done anything like this before and I found it slightly daunting both at the time that everyone turned up to register and at the start line. Everyone looked like a runner, to me anyway. It’s all a bit congested at the start so I kind of let most people go in front and then, as it spaced out, I passed most of them so it was quite clear and I wasn’t being bothered. Just behind me some American Peace Corps guy started chatting Catriona up which was pretty funny as I could tell by her tone of voice she thought that he was a bit of a dick. Or that it was neither the time nor the place. Anyway, I was keen to run away from such nonsense, so I picked up the pace a little I was running along happily; after a time, I fell in running with this Irish chap, he was running at a similar pace to me and that helped a lot. At about 11k on my (Gill’s) watch we see a few people running back towards us. That’s a bit odd, I think, they don’t look injured. The idiots (English idiots btw) had forgot to put the sign up saying where the half and full marathon split. So we had to run quite a distance back the way we came to rejoin the half marathon course more importantly I had no idea, quite how much extra we had covered. Predictably, I was furious especially passing loads of people that I was, previously, miles in front of, the righteous indignation helped a little and I specifically sped up when I was told that Catriona was now in front of me! She said she was happy to have provided the extra incentive and when I passed her she said it was time for me to kick on so I left her with the Irish fella to see what was still in the tank. It did make it hard and I am still annoyed, OK I’m no athlete but I had done a fair bit of training from an incredibly low base.  I had a wee plan to do the first 15km comfortably and then see what I had left, but I now had no idea how long I was actually running for and it meant I couldn’t see if I could further speed up for the last 1 or 2k as I didn’t even know when that was. Marathon (1) Anyway, scores on the doors, I did exactly 1km too much (in my head it was going to be more) and was just under 2 hours but I did find motivating myself hard towards the end as I didn’t know what I had left and in my mind I was already finished. So, not as well as I had hoped but better than anyone that I know, which I guess is something of a win. Basking in reflected glory Time wise my mate John would have won the full marathon quite comfortably so I’ve been getting quite a lot of mileage out of a fairly idiotic world weary that was such a slow marathon my mate would have won easily patter. As runners collapsed over the line having done a sub three hours marathon in the heat of Africa. Is that a bacon tree? No it’s a ham bush The marathon was incredibly badly organised, dangerously so. I’m not quite sure why, they had many people working on it full time- paid for and voluntary- for months and it’s not the first time that it’s been run. I think that they had prioritised the extras and completely forgot about the basics. So they made a big deal about having free WiFi at the finish line (I was going to run with my Kindle to download The Week) but they didn’t have any water. They also made us sit through a painfully long do’s and don’t safety chat the night before but they didn’t have any water. That’s water, there was no water. Or rather no water points. I’m no expert but a half marathon is 21km so 7 water points every 3km, that seems reasonable. And not fucking difficult to arrange. It’s also a great way to get the community involved everyone lined the streets why not give them water to give out, as I say there were loads of volunteers, I even know people that asked if they could help out to be told there was nothing for them to do. What they actually did (I think) was to move water points from the full course to the half so I passed a water point that was being set up, but had no water yet. Basically, the front half-marathon group just weren’t catered for. I didn’t pass a water point from, maybe, 10km to 19km. This is an ‘organised’ distance race. In Africa. I thought burdz could multi-task The day before the race they were casting around for medics because, as I understand it, the race medics that had came over from the UK wanted to distance themselves from it immediately as they were not being given the equipment that they would expect. I know several doctors that were asked to help the day before, despite having already signed up to run. They asked a doctor called Holly if she could do it and she said no on the basis that she was running the full marathon. They said, well if someone collapses beside you, would you please help them out… Timing‘s everything. People train hard for a marathon so their time is important, especially for the serious runners, 70 had flown in just for the race. So, it’s a good idea to put a girl on time keeping duty for six hours who had only offered to volunteer that morning.   I’ve already cracked the ‘we’re not allowed to have colonies joke’, right? I stayed in a leper colony the night before, run by some Nigerian nuns, it was very nice. I’ve not stayed in a leper colony before but, from my one experience, I’d heartily recommend it. Sister Perpetua was particularly nice but she did insist on us buying her CD on the way out, I passed the buck on that one making Catriona buy one and saying we could happily share it. I’m going to let her keep it. I’m nice like that. Never off the clock Sister Perpetua’s not a very modest name, is it?

Titty ye not

Emerging markets

For big corporates the markets in the more established ecomomies are basically flat or flatlining, there will be some ups and downs some new products that do well but, broadly, if you’ve been hawking your wares in France, or Germany or Japan or the US for the past fifty years your probably selling less. You’re definitely looking to sell more. You’re most definitely looking to sell or sell more in Africa.

I’m not saying that this is good or bad, as a middle class emerges they want iPods and tablets, Nike trainers all the things that the see on the TV really. Just like everybody else.  That’s just human nature,

But there’s what people want, what people think that they want and what people are told that they want that they really, really don’t.

Formula is the obvious one, Save The Children estimate that 1.45 million babies die globally by having powdered milk instead of ‘titty water’ in the first hour of life. That’s quite well known, maybe not the specifics but certainly the concept.

One of the worst I’ve seen out here is the quite aggressive marketing of sanitary towels by giving them away. I think that’s quite aggressive, that’s trying to create a market by giving things away to people that clearly don’t need them and telling them that they do.

I don’t know (or want to know) exactly what has been done here for the last millennia (I don’t really know what goes on at home- what the fuck is a moon cup?) but the point is that you’re trying to make money by fixing a problem that doesn’t exist without caring about the massive problem that gets created.

People are struggling to feed their children properly and you’re telling them they now need sanitary towels. Rubbish get’s taken away once a month, people here don’t buy many packaged goods, a bottle will be reused and recycled because a bottle is useful and valuable. Up country sanitary towels would end up on the street, on the coast they would end up in the sea. It’s totally amoral but totally understandable multinationals in a capitalist society will be amoral- it’s basically their job to take things to the edge of the law to increase shareholder value. To blame them is like blaming Jimmy Carr for the UK tax legislation being shit.

It’s not his job any more than it’s the job of BP to protect the Amazonian Rainforest and it’s preposterous to think that they will care unless you provide incentive for them to care.

Corporate Social Responsibility for multinationals, most specifically, in the, less protected, developing world needs to start to affect share price or they will be fixated on increased sales at the expense of everything else and to blame them would be to misunderstand the nature of capitalism. Governments and the major NGOs need to start insisting on a better environmental audit of a more onerous code of conduct but it just doesn’t seem to be the case that this is taken seriously in any way, shape or form.

It might let you down

Hassling the Hoff.

Hassling the Hoff.

Mitcham need to have some country exclusions on their 48 hour claim.

The Beach ‘Road’

When you head out west from Freetown you hit Lakka Beach and then after that, as you go down the Beach Road, it’s just stunning beach after stunning beach after stunning beach. People here argue over which beach is better or worse but it’s at the pedantic level of ‘the sand is too fine at that beach’ or some other ridiculous observation. They’re all amazing. Burrah is better for surf, John Obey has the lagoon, Tokeh is slightly more developed but they’re all completely, completely amazing.

Occasionally you even find yourself on a completely deserted beach, four of us went to Baw Baw (yeah, Baw Baw) one Sunday and didn’t see another living soul for the entire day.

But this won’t last. And shouldn’t.

One of the main issues is the fact that the Beach Road isn’t actually a road, not all the way anyway. A taxi driver will charge you around 20,000 per hour in Freetown but treble or more to go to the beach as, eventually, it will break the suspension his car. You actually think that the beaches are much further away because it takes so long to get there going at 5 or 10mph.

It’s quite clear that this road project won’t get completed this year as the rains are almost upon us but it must be high on the agenda. Equally important is controlling the tourist industry along the peninsula to try and protect what is there within the bounds of helping more people to earn a good living. It’s going to be incredibly difficult to balance.

Good Advice

Good advice

I got two pieces of advice before I came out here- three if you count ‘what the fuck are you doing’ as advice.

The first was to bring plenty of light. It’s great advice. You can’t quite believe how dark it is in a city where electricity is scarce until you are in one as you forget how many lights there are around at all times.  Street lights, shop lights, bar lights, car lights, lights from offices, lights from houses, lights from restaurants. It’s, literally, never actually dark.

Even now after seven or so weeks here I’m taken by surprise when seven o’clock hits and it turns from light to dark like someone has just hit a switch.

The second piece of advice (well intended as it was) was bring nice soap.

Over here I use Dettol Soap, so if you catch me at the right time I smell of Dettol and if you catch me at the wrong time…

Big in Salone

If the CD hawkers are any kind of guide the following acts are top of the hit parade in Sierra Leone. Billy Ocean, Tracy Chapman, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye and Westlife.

They do not know Fela.



A nice south facing garden

There was some talk of whether the house was good enough for us to live in- doesn’t affect me so much as it’s assumed that I’ll only be doing this project for six months but for the other chaps it’s their home for the foreseeable.

The discussion was ended when someone pointed out that it would be foolish to move as we had a particularly good well.

It’s certainly what I look for first…

The well

I’ve never used a well before so I asked Bob for some instruction as I kind of assumed that there might be some kind of technicalities involved.

The well is a hole in the ground and there’s a bucket with a rope tied to it that you throw down and pull up when full. Bob insisted on demonstrating half a dozen times with me shouting “I’ve got it Bob, Bob I’ve got it!” over and over again.

I really don’t know exactly what I was expecting.


I really hope this is true

Lot of controversy last night as a lot of people were claiming that if Kevin Prince Boateng had played for Ghana they would have won the ACN further they were claiming that he, of all people, should have played as it was his performances for Ghana that put him in the ‘shop window’ and got him his big move in the first place.

Prince Boateng, I’ve been told, has cited medical reasons for not playing as he nearly had a stroke at one point and, therefore, says that he doesn’t want to put pressure on his heart by playing too much football.

However, according to my sources (and his girlfriend), his problems were not brought on by too much football but were brought on by a little too much of the old mami en dadi bizness.

Eh, Bo!