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Showing posts from August, 2011

The Bakiga Window: Taufiq Islamic Primary School

The sun is relentless this afternoon. After a typically rainy season morning of mist and showers, the clouds have parted and I can feel my skin beginning to cook under Uganda’s wide blue skies.
It is Wednesday 13th April and I have delegated my group leader responsibilities for a few hours, in order for me to go about following up on something I promised I would last year, namely visiting the Taufiq Islamic Primary School.
When I visited last year, my immediate reaction was use a selection of adjectives, all with negative connotations. This wasn’t as a reflection of the school as an organisation, or of the small, but hard-working, Muslim community who look after it, but more focused on the cramped conditions that the boarding students had to live in.
So it was, that after a short lunchtime meeting with the father of a student from Kigezi High School, I followed the path down to Taufiq: past the ladies selling bananas, weaving my way through the hive of activity that is the taxi rank,…

Coucher de Soleil en Normandie

Whilst London was gripped by fleeting madness, I was fortunate enough to be in Ouistreham, France. It is a small coastal resort in the Calvados département in Basse-Normandie. The weather was extremely good, with the exception of the last day when the rain made a brief appearance.
The above picture was taken on the broad expanse of flat sand that makes up part of Gold Beach, in Ouistreham, at sunset or coucher de soleil.

Moonraker by Ian Fleming

The third novel in the series Moonraker (1955), sees a noticeable shift from the style of the first two. The first noticeable difference is the division of the novel in three parts: 'Monday', 'Tuesday/Wednesday' and 'Thursday/Friday' - in a way reflecting the normality of a working week for many readers. Indeed the first few pages seem to portray a mundane start to an average week at the office for Bond, away from the international jet-setting, dangerous, man of mystery role that we've seen graphically displayed in the previous novels.
The action starts in a low-key manner. M, Bond's boss at the Secret Service, is a member of a Gentlemen's club and has been alerted by the management there about a famous character who insists on cheating at cards, despite his wealth. So it is that Bond is invited to play Sir Hugo Drax at cards, in turn teaching him a lesson and softly putting an end to his unfair winning streak.
Drax's character is one of the mo…

Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming

So, having read and enjoyedCasino Royale, I couldn't really resist reading Live and Let Die (1954). Most people who have seen the films maybe haven't read the books and frankly they're missing out. What has continued to delight me about the novels is the fact that they are a lot darker and more serious than the Bond films. 
In the second novel, James Bond is called into action to take on a Harlem gangster, Mr Big, and his network of criminality that inevitably leads back to SMERSH. The nature of Mr Big's activities revolves around the selling of 17th Century gold coins in order to bankroll Soviet spies' operations in the USA. Meaning that the locus of the tensions moves from British-Soviet relations to US-Soviet relations - the biggest area of tension during the Cold War. 
From Harlem and the jazz clubs, all the way to the Everglades, it seems that Mr Big's network is endless and this claustrophobia is recreated in Fleming's writing. The story eventually l…

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

It was always going to be the case that, after reading a 'new' James Bond novel authored by Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming, I would need to go back to the roots of the story. So, when looking at the vast back-catalogue of Fleming's Bond novels I was surprised to see that Casino Royale (1953), one of the most recent Bond films, was actually the starting point for Bond as a character in the series of novels. 
The first novel follows Bond, a British Secret Service spy, on a mission to a Casino in Royale-Les-Eaux, a (fictional) northern French resort. His aim is to bankrupt Le Chiffre, an operative and paymaster for the Soviet counterintelligence agency SMERSH - a name which means 'death to spies'. Operating undercover as a Jamaican playboy, Bond very nearly comes unstuck at the baccarat table, before getting a little financial help from his CIA friends. 
Job done? Not quite. From here events move quickly as Le Chiffre takes his revenge for the harm that Bond…

The Bakiga Window: Enter Stage Right

A young girl stands nervously biting her nails whilst holding a couple of pompoms. Peering around the corner of the doorframe, into a room darkened by the inclement weather outside, she watches as her teachers perform a number of traditional Kikiga and Rwandese dances. Her turn will be soon.
It is Wednesday 13th April and after spending the first half of the morning at Blessed Academy's out of town nursery, we are now at the main primary school premises in Kabale. It is still raining heavily and the roads have nearly finished their transitions into flowing rivers of red mud.
I feel a tiny bit on edge as the first performances unfold in front of the other class children, the teachers and the small bazungu audience. I guess that the uncertainty comes as a result of watching a show without having any idea of what is going on beyond the obvious aesthetic display.
Questions continually pop into my mind: What does this movement symbolise? Why is that man wearing a straw wig? Is this Ki…

Appointment With Death by Agatha Christie

As a child I was brought up on a cocktail of television adaptations of Agatha Christie’s work. It is only in my adult life that I have realised just how prolific a writer she really was. My favourite of all her characters was undoubtedly the Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. This, combined with my love of Middle Eastern culture, led to choosing Appointment With Death as my first ever Christie novel.
Appointment With Death was published in 1938 and is based in Jerusalem and Petra. It follows the fortunes of a satisfyingly diverse range of characters: the Boynton family and their domineering matriarch; an old friend of the Boynton family; a young female doctor; an internationally renowned psychologist; and a couple of well-to-do English ladies.
We see remarkably little of Poirot at first in this novel, with the exception being when he overhears the words, “you do see, don’t you, she’s got to be killed?” through the walls of his hotel room. To many, this could be throwaway statement, t…

The Bakiga Window: Nursery on the Kisoro Road

It feels like I’m on a bit of an adventure this morning. A group of four of us, upon hearing the rumbling of Mugisha Wycliffe’s car coming along the red dirt track, leapt to our feet, ready to run out into the rain, across the car park, and into his old Toyota.
It is Wednesday 13th April and we’re visiting the nursery of Blessed Academy, to be introduced to the children and some of the staff.
Perhaps the most curious thing about the nursery is that it is some 15km outside of Kabale – away from the location of Blessed Academy’s primary age school. It feels strange to be whizzing along the Kisoro road, leaving the other staff and students behind, but mildly refreshing. I have with me: Helen, a member of staff; Stefan, a former student before I taught at WMSF; and Carmel, a current student.
The rain has been falling heavily for most of the night and as such the electricity in Kabale has stopped. With the noisy generator outside the front of Green Hills, it is a wonder than anyone got an…