Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Drunken Zebra Crossing

Walking back from Highgate last Friday I stumbled across this peculiar scene. It is, for those more used to photos taken with 12 megapixel cameras, a photo, taken on my phone, of a zebra crossing light looking worse for wear. If it was any other night of the week I would have presumed it to be a genuine accident, but, as it was Friday, one can only presume that the light had been out drinking.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: The Rwandan Genocide Museum, Kigali, Rwanda - 16.30 (Rwandan Time) 08/04/2009

I have just experienced one of the most emotional episodes of my life. Having journeyed to Rwanda with a mix of Kigezi and William Morris students and staff, we arrived in Kigali; Rwanda's capital.


Whilst here, and indeed this was the raison d'être of our visit, we went to the Rwandan Genocide Museum. I was expecting an emotional time, but what got me the most was an area devoted to the deaths of innocent tutsi children.

Upon the wall was the picture of a small, two year old girl who'd been killed by Hutu militia during the genocide of the early-1990s. What affected me the most was my inability to comprehend how youe could harm a child who was only around the age of my beloved Cianan; especially as the death note read "thrown against a wall".

The Rwandan people have thankfully put this behind them; although, as I write, it doesn't help me to understand. My search for answers will no doubt continue.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: The Market, Kabale - 09.01 08/04/2009

We're currently sat on a bus, the bus, waiting. We are bound for Rwanda and have sent Wence off into the market to look for some bananas - he is, though, taking an absolute age to find them. I am comfortable in my seat at the front of the bus listening to the song "Toko" by Momo Wandel from the Last King of Scotland soundtrack.

Peter, the link coordinator for Kigezi, is beginning to get restless over the length of time being taken to find bananas given the nature of the complexities of crossing the Uganda-Rwanda border; filling in a form in Katuna for the Ugandan authorities granting exit, walking across no man's land, crossing the physical border, walking across more of no man's land, filling in a form in Gatuna, on the Rwandan side, getting fleeced for US$60 for being Irish, having my passport taken off me and returned, then stamped before finally being allowed into Rwanda properly.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: The Art Block, Kigezi High School, Kabale - 16.55 07/04/2009

With ten minutes left to go before our bus back to Green Hills, and an evening meal at the Cephi's Inn, I decided to make my way over to the Art Block to see what Grigorios was up to.

When I got there I was astounded with the hustle and bustle that had been created by Greg's decision to hold an art exhibition. There were so many students involved; a great deal I have already met around the school compound. There, in amongst all the other faces, I found an Aston Villa fan called James, a guitarist called Sam Smilz and the fantastic Ruth Namara.

Ruth has a wonderfully happy character and countenance. We were talking and exchanging pleasantries - she has decided upon calling me 'Tommy Tom' - and also swapped contact details, as is the norm on this trip. She, along with Grace and Charlotte, strike me as being people I would love to stay in touch with for the foreseeable future, if not forever.

My mind is already turning to thoughts of sponsorship. I would love to make some monetary contribution towards these three students' futures. I believe it to be a realistic prospect.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Uganda Diaries: Kigezi High School, Kabale - 16.39 07/04/2009

Having just sat through one of the best lessons I have ever been a part of, I am sat in the Ugandan afternoon sunshine.

During this afternoon's lesson, a history led by Nick De Souza, I was fortunate enough to meet and work with four lovely young girls; Tusiime, Immy, Evas and Charlotte. Another girl that I had worked with, Grace, was equally as delightful a person.

Although the lesson itself is still firm in my memory, the most endearing part of the afternoon was getting to talk to the students. Two students, separately, asked me in a very Ugandan way - perhaps overly polite - "if I may speak with you sometime".

I obliged and talked with both Grace and Charlotte about A Levels in England. We exchanged contact details and I resolved to send them a copy of Obama's "Audacity of Hope" and another A Level text from the English Department stock cupboard. A resolution I will endeavour to keep.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Time for Irish Cricket to Stretch Its Legs?

Whenever I look at the Cricinfo website, or flick through the pages of the Wisden Almanack, I find myself wholeheartedly applauding the associate and affiliate structure for the small cricketing nations. You can cast your eyes down the pages and see names such as Jersey, Uganda, The Netherlands, and, of course, Ireland.

Whilst the quality of cricket from the small island of Jersey and the fluorescent-kitted Uganda may seem a million miles away from 'Test' standard, the standard emerging from Ireland is perhaps just the other side of the test-match boundary rope.

Over the past few years, Ireland have consistently performed well, and won, the International Cricket Council's (ICC) leading competition for cricketing minnows in the longer form of the game - the ICC Intercontinental Cup. In addition to this, the team has now qualified for and progressed beyond the group stages of the last two major shorter form competitions - the World Cup in 2007 and the World Twenty20 this year.

It is perhaps inconceivable that Ireland, on the basis of beating other associate nations, should be granted test status, but something should be done to allow them to break through, if momentarily, the glass ceiling that exists between the lower ranked test-playing nations and the top rated associates. Without such a process, we could end up with another disasterous ascent to test-cricket in the vein of Bangladesh's - who lie stone-last in the rankings with zero rating points

My dear friend George Butcher puts it that "I think that if new teams cannot access the higher levels of the game then the game is worse off" and I concur. There needs to be a stepping stone put into place. Warren Deutrom, the Chief Executive of Cricket Ireland writes that "For me, having top Associates playing the bottom-ranked Test teams is pure common sense".

Bangladesh are a team that, on their day, can produce a reasonable match, but that said, so can The Swinging Googlies C.C. Furthermore, Zimbabwe, now under semi-new government, are surely in need of some rehabilitation, so maybe a triangular four- or five-day competition would be the perfect answer to allow Ireland to start to stretch its cricketing legs. 

The unfortunate thing is that, despite a good showing in the World Twenty20, beating Bangladesh and taking Sri Lanka to the wire, the likelihood of Ireland being taken more seriously by the ICC seems somewhat remote.

The Uganda Diaries: Kigezi High School, Kabale - 09.56 07/04/2009

I am writing within the staffroom of Kigezi High School following my first lesson of the day. I taught Senior 3C. The main focus of the lesson was to get the students thinking creatively - a skill seldom toyed with in Ugandan education.

The focus was on free-writing, drama and summary writing. It seemed to go very well - despite the strange resources; a half-brick, a plant, a palm leaf, a pebble and a freshly picked mushroom.

The activity worked well to get their creative juices flowing - some students seemed to struggle when given such free reign in a lesson. They didn't understand that they were allowed to be silly and to "think" for themselves. It is the way of Ugandan education to sit and take notes as a teacher talks, on occasion, endlessly.

Luckily, to assist with the creativity, I had Rebecca and Ruby (a Performing Arts student).

I honestly believe that Penninah could use the model of a lesson designed to stretch her students' higher order skills and thinking skills. Now for tea and a final call to Jeannie before she flies to Saint Lucia.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The First Taste of Victory

Swinging Googlies (165 all out) beat The British Library (164 for 7) by 1 run.
Victoria Recreation Ground, Surbiton.

After a run of defeats and a tie, the Swinging Googlies have finally won their first game of the season. 

Rob Punter (34) and Andy Fairburn (27) were the men sent out to open and started notching up the runs pretty sharpish. Fairburn is beginning to look more and more like a demon with bat and ball, both in the nets and on the field of play. This was, according to all records, the highest opening partnership in Googlies history.

Lawrie Homan came in and put 72 on the board in no time at all. Mike Abel (5) was looking comfortable - that is before I gave him out LBW. Sean O'Connell (8), Steve Fenwick (0), Dave Le Vay (7), Myself (0) and Joe Abel (0). All in all, with 165 as the team's total, things looked comfortable - it is thought that 165 is the highest ever total set by the Googlies in their history.

After the tea break, and in spite of some sharp fielding, the Googlies had a bit of a wobble and the British Library's veterans were both exceptionally stoic and resiliant with the bat - the older members of their team being particularly gracefully with their shots, if somewhat overly defensive.

Breakthroughs were happening and wickets being picked up here and there by the likes of Homan, Fenwick and J. Abel. On the whole, the fielding was looking sharp at the outset, O'Connell and Fenwick taking good catches, but the British Library seemed particularly adept at grabbing singles and doubles.

Ron Googly, the Swinging Googlies official reporter, commented:
But the thought of being defeated by one’s own tea was simply too much to contemplate and with some strict marshalling from Rob and gentle banter from Tommo, the fielders gradually started to turn it round. Steve got third time lucky and made up for putting a couple down and Dave L threw himself around with abandon, again going for grass stain of the week award. Tommo laid down some stylish moves and indeed it was good to see sexy cricket back on the field of play. 
I must admit that it was good to see that my 'gentle banter' - which included winding-up one batsman about the cleanliness of his cricket gear - was acknowledged and the use of an expression I coined, 'sexy cricket', also getting a mention.

After coming down to the last ball of the last over, and the British Library needing three from it for the win, some sharp fielding ensured that they scored only a single. Victory was secured.
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