Monday, 26 September 2011

No news is good news?

It isn't very often that Africa hits the news, unless there is political unrest (Libya, Tunisia, Egypt) or famine (Ethiopia, Somalia, Niger) or violence (Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa).

One of the many reasons we loved living in Zambia was that it was such a peaceful country. It has made the transition from colony to independent state with little in the way of unrest. Black and white live - for the most part - happily side-by-side. And despite being landlocked, and bordering countries such as Angola, Zimbabwe and the DRC (formerly Zaire), has not been involved in international disputes.

Five years ago I was living there on my own with my children when the elections took place. The ruling president at the time, Levy Mwanawasa, was seeking his second term in power and his party, the MMD, won. There were many accusations of electoral malpractice, of fiddling the results, of ballot boxes being rigged with predetermined votes, but the Electoral Commision for Zambia (ECZ) declared the vote true and fair, and President Mwanawasa duly re-elected.

The MMD had been in power since 1991, when multi-party democracy came to Zambia, ending Kenneth Kaunda's long term in power since independence in 1964. Leaders are now only allowed two terms (like American presidents) and - so far! - this has been maintained and upheld, despite some candidates best efforts.

In the 2006 elections there was interest in the Patriotic Front (PF) and its leader, Michael Sata. He had served under Kaunda and Chiluba, but disillusioned set up his own party. It had a growing following. Prior to the election he made wild claims against Chinese investment in the mines (their treatment of their employees' safety was questionable) and in support of Mugabe's attitude to white farmers in Zimbabwe. As a white guest in Zambia it was concerning rhetoric. In a couple of townships in the capital, Lusaka, there was some unrest when it became clear that Sata had lost the elections and for a couple of days we just stayed home, to be on the safe side.

Levy Mwanawasa died in 2008, after we had left Zambia, replaced (after another election) by Rupiah Banda, also of the MMD. He only beat Sata by 35,000 votes.

Levy Mwanawasa              Rupiah Banda

Last week the tables were turned, and Sata was voted in as the fifth President of Zambia for a 5 year term.

Banda gave an emotional but gracious speech of resignation, Sata was sworn in last Friday afternoon, and a new era in Zambian politics will ensue. I cannot tell what he will bring to the country but the handover has been swift, smooth and (for the most part) without violence. (There was some unrest in the Copperbelt towns as they waited for the results, which took over two days.) Indeed, since the declarations, there have been celebrations and partying by PF supporters joyful in victory.

As with every new head of state, Sata is promising much that is good: investment, peace, prosperity, reducing government size, tackling corruption. I hope and pray his actions will live up to his words.

This doesn't hit our UK headlines. There was minimal violence, no great upsets, generosity in defeat, a lack of vitriol, no white or British people were attacked or killed. For us, it is not news.

But on an African scale, a free and fair election with a peaceful handover to an opposition party - surely that is great news?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Writing Wednesday?

Instead of this...

Writing Wednesday

... today consisted of this:

Day 1 done and dusted.

Words will wait: today was spreadsheets.
Scarily enjoyable.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Breast-feeding in church

Yesterday's church service was a little unusual as our minister didn't produce a sermon but arranged us into groups to answer 5 questions instead. He didn't allow much time to answer, which for the first couple (Why do we need to meet with God? and Why do we need to come to church?) was fine. Nevertheless, the idea was that the grown-ups would answer the questions in ways that the children would understand.

My daughter was the sole child in our group and (if we're honest about it) she really wasn't very interested.

As the questions became more difficult to understand (How powerful is Jesus in your life since he was struck down? - I am above average intelligence but really, what does that mean?) ... she was more concerned about her doll.

So while the adults battled to answer the questions, she tended to her baby. He was cuddled, and shared, and talked about, and then breastfed.

I can categorically state that it is hard to have a serious conversation when your daughter has lifted up her T-shirt to feed her doll.

Baby was delicately held in the crook of her arm, maternal eyes gazing down lovingly at him.

And then she switched him to the other breast.

And when all was done, back to normal.

*head in hands*

*die of embarrassment*

**love my daughter more than words can say** 

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Dahl's Den on Dahl Day

Writing Wednesday
Roald Dahl was one of the greatest writers for children ever. His books are classics, books that I loved as a child and my children have loved reading in recent years. We have a set of five of them as talking books read by Roald Dahl himself, who has a glorious voice to listen to. Fantastic Mr Fox got us through some extrememely late and slightly hair-raising driving to our holiday in Wales this summer.

Dahl is a national treasure, a great talent of whom we should be proud. His shed where he did all his writing has not been touched since his death in 1990. Due to a back injury during the war he was unable to write at a desk so all his works were penned (or rather, pencilled) from his armchair with an adapted writing board. All around the small hut are treasures that tell of his writing life - pictures and ornaments, special paper shipped in from the US, the ashtray and cigarette butts.

Can a place ooze creativity? Just looking at the pictures of it make me feel warm, as if any moment there could be another masterpiece emerging from its depths. It feels comfortable, exciting, inspiring. (Although I bet it was terribly cold in winter!)

Yesterday an appeal was announced for £500,000 to cover the costs of moving Roald Dahl's writing shed to the Roald Dahl museum in Great Missenden. This has caused a furore! Why should the public fund the shed's removal in these times of austerity when the Dahl family are so wealthy (and particular attention has been drawn to his granddaughter Sophie, a millionaire in her own right)? Given that Puffin sold one Dahl book every 5 seconds last year these arguments have weight. By my calculations, if each book gave 50p of royalty that amounts to £3,153,600, which ought to cover the preservation costs and still leave enough for his widow to live off. (And that excludes any film or other royalties!)

I am delighted that such a treasure is to be saved for the public. I hope and trust that many children (and adults) will be inspired by the room, just as Dahl was, and that further classics will emerge. The Dahl family's PR may have shot itself in the foot, but we should all enjoy this little piece of our collective history. If we can save the house that John Lennon or Paul McCartney grew up in, then we ought to be able to save Dahl's Den too.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Book art sculpture

Book lovers, you just have to see this: mysterious paper sculptures

These works of art have appeared all over Edinburgh in recent months, and it seems that no-one knows who has made them.

I think my favourite is this one:

Although it may be this one...

(After all - this has tea and cake - what more can a girl ask for?)

Friday, 9 September 2011

No more maternity leave!

This is the big news, alluded to in the last post. After nearly eleven years, my UK maternity leave is about to end.

I have an accountancy job, due to start in about a fortnight.

Eleven years since I walked out of the office in London, so pregnant with my boy that I didn't think I'd make it through another month end. I remember clearly spending the last six weeks BC (before child) watching (a) massive storms and floods across the UK and then (b) Bush being elected, and the tension over the Florida vote and missing chavs. It seems an age ago!

There are several good things about my new job.

  1. It is part-time: two half-days to fit in with school hours. 
  2. I don't have to work any school holidays. 
  3. I'm going to be paid. (This is quite an exciting development after four years of being a SAHM!)

Of course, every upside has a downside. What the heck is corporation tax now? (And other such panicky questions about rusty accountancy knowledge!)

I do know that I have landed on my feet. The offer came completely out of the blue and I feel most grateful to get anything so flexible and appropriate for my family's circumstances when there are many struggling to get - or keep - a job at all. I know my fears will recede after a week or two, when I've got back into the swing of things.

In the meantime ... time to pick up those accountancy magazines ...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Ten thousand thank-yous

I've had a bit of a blog-block this last week. The end of the summer holidays and a phenomenally enjoyable time with my children and the blog just seemed of little importance.

Today they returned to school; and I returned to my routine; and the blog-block is broken.

And why? Principally because I have the time to have a nose around, find out what is happening in the world, discover new things.

Firstly, I found my last post had been highlighted in the Tots100 Best of Mummy Blogs 10 at 10 ten days ago - wow! (There's a lot of tens in that sentence - just wait: there's another ten coming... with more zeros!) Carol's recommendation gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside - someone likes my blog! Even the silly tales of my children, or our family travels, or the tentative dipping of toes into the murky world of writing books.

And I've just found out that this blog has had over ten thousand page views since it started. Ten and lots of zeros! 10,000! How did that happen? Can that many people be interested in my ramblings?

Thank you, thank you, so much! Your viewings and your comments make it all worthwhile.

And just to tease and tantalise you (now that phrase is bound to get me some more page views!) there is news afoot in the Withenay household: major changes ... but nothing definite until the end of this week. Hopefully.

So now you'll have to come back and find out more! How long to twenty thousand?!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...