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Showing posts from 2015

The Tinder Box by Hans Christian Andersen

Last year in Copenhagen, sat outside a restaurant on Ryesgade in the cold, I asked a local literature graduate what the Danish version of Charles Dickens might be. The one name that came up, after a few minutes deliberation, was Hans Christian Andersen. The whole group of Danes agreed.
To me, the idea of someone who writes fairy stories, being comparable with someone like Charles Dickens, seemed ludicrous. One year later, upon returning to Copenhagen, I decided to bring a copy of Andersen’s The Tinder Box,released by Penguin as part of the recent 80th anniversary collection of short texts.
In the eponymous tale, a soldier, on his way back from war, meets a witch who asks him to go into a tree to find a magic tinderbox. Whilst in there, he enters three rooms all guarded by dogs of increasing size; the final dog having “eyes the size of the rundetaarn”, a famous landmark in Copenhagen. Each dog is guards coins of increasing value and so, eventually, the Soldier fills his pockets with a…

Sunrise on Dawes Road, Fulham

Since leaving my last place of work, I've missed being able to go onto the roof in the morning and taking occasional pictures of the sunrise. Now that I'm half a mile down the road, and the roof here is out of bounds to staff and students, I have to rely on more fleeting moments to capture my favourite time of day.
On Friday 9th October I headed into work a little earlier as we were taking the Year 7 girls on a visit to Walton Firs for team building. As I was heading past the end of Dawes Road, the sunrise illuminated the practically traffic-free street a vibrant orange. The sunrise was a sign of the crisp and chilly morning ahead. 
As I don't teach a Year 7 class this academic year, it was interesting to meet the new intake of characters at the start of their secondary school journey.

Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie

The good thing about Agatha Christie is that there seems to be a book for every possible season, location or eventuality. With the sudden coming on of autumn in the UK, with the yellowing leaves falling and a crispy chill rising in the air, one of her later novels, Hallowe'en Party (1969), seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
This isn't your normal Halloween story though. Instead it seems like quite a typical Agatha Christie mystery, but with the simple fact that it all begins with what should be an innocuous game of bobbing for apples on Halloween. In fact, there is nothing more supernatural than the presence of a local woman who plays the part of the witch at the party.
The novel starts when crime novelist Ariadne Oliver, one time friend of Hercule Poirot, is staying with her friend, Judith Butler, in Woodleigh Common and is twittering away whilst all of the others are preparing for a children’s Halloween party.
During the preparation, a slightly annoying and arrogant teen, Jo…

Enkuto Eratukura #12: Progress and Paint Marks

Thursday 9th April 2015 - 9.30pm
Today was the day for me take the lead in a teaching and learning project. 
During Monday’s meeting, I had planned to try and work with Jonan, the head teacher at New Foundation Primary School on the Katuna Road in Kabale. The focus was to be on the coaching model that I had been using since moving to Fulham Cross, all with the aim of trying to improve the quality of teaching.
I had also arranged for Suweyda to run an Art session with a different class whilst I was with Jonan. 
Along with Huda, Molly and Sina, we headed over in a special hire to be greeted by a tidal wave of children chanting “abazungu” rhythmically at us through the gaps in the wooden fence.
New Foundation has a sprawling site set back from the recently re-laid road to the border with Rwanda. At regular intervals, large trucks, flanked by boda-bodas, would cough and splutter their way along, mingling their urban fumes with the early morning whisps of soft eucalyptus wood smoke from sm…

Like a Wilting Flamboyant

On Thursday 17th September 2015 I took a group of girls from Year 9 to the First Story Young Writers' Festival at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. The First Story project partners schools with a published writer who then leads a group of students in creating an anthology.
The event saw poetry performances from Caroline Bird, Anthony Anaxagorou and Andy Craven-Griffiths (who all instantly gained new fans), a lunchtime Q&A with Sally Green and an afternoon workshop to develop their creativity.
Alongside this, the teachers are also given the opportunity to attend a workshop to get new inspiration for teaching creative writing. The session I attended was led by Dan Powell, who introduced a technique of free-writing whereby a word is called out, every thirty seconds or so, and has to be woven into whatever you're writing.
Here is my attempt, evoking memories of Saint Lucia. The shack stood alone Like a wilting flamboyant Braced against the Atlantic winds, As they pushe…

Enkuto Eratukura #11: Conversations in Bugongi

Wednesday 8th April 2015 - 5pm
When lunch at Kigezi High School was over, I led the group down the precipitous hillside path, across the playing fields between the cows, and into the Bugongi area of Kabale. 
This area is still one that I know very little about, yet, every morning, it is the part of Kabale that I see emerging first from the mist as I look over my balcony at Green Hills Hotel. 
Its relatively enigmatic status, to your average mzungu at least, means that as an area I had no real judgement of the place, just the general assumption that this quater may be less well off than other areas of the town. Indeed, this was my first observation of the place in 2009 when William Blake’s mind came to my mind. 
I sent the group off towards the town in order to visit Royal Supermarket and I departed in a different direction to rendezvous with Liz to head to Phionah’s house along the Bugongi Road.
There are many small traders along the side of the road: ‘pork joints’, small bars and sho…

Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

With the occasional shadows of the clouds moving up the hillside from the Atlantic Ocean, my James Bond summer holiday reading continued this year in Blanchard, Saint Lucia. Sheltering from the occasional downpour, I settled down on the loggia to read Goldfinger (1959) by Ian Fleming – the seventh novel in the Bond series.
The novel opens with James Bond in the departure lounge at Miami Airport having just successfully dispatched with a Mexican heroine smuggling operation. Whilst musing on the dirty nature of his job, as Bond does so with increasing frequency through the first six books, he is approached by Junius Du Pont, a fellow gambler he’d met briefly in Casino Royale, to look into the Canasta playing of his playing partner. 
Auric Goldfinger seems to be on an inconceivably long winning streak and Bond, taking on this bit of private non-Secret Service work, soon discovers that, along with his assistant, Goldfinger is cheating Du Pont during each of their card games. It also does…

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie

I’m definitely a fan of Agatha Christie. There’s something about her work that makes me think of Sunday afternoons and Christmas. That said, I’m much more of a Poirot fan than I am of the Marple stories, but, being in the Caribbean, and needing a ‘small island’ mystery, I turned to A Caribbean Mystery (1964).
Set on the fictional island of St. Honoré, Miss Marple has been bought a holiday in the Caribbean by her nephew to help her recuperate from some recent ill health. At first she seems distinctly unimpressed with her location where there is nothing to engage her interest; “Lovely and warm, yes — and so good for her rheumatism — and beautiful scenery, though perhaps — a little monotonous?”
To pass the time, as one could expect at an exclusive resort like the Golden Palm Hotel, gossip is an easy method. When retired Major Palgrave starts spinning one of his yarns about a murder, he stops abruptly, just as he is about to produce a photo of a murderer from his wallet to show Miss Marp…

Enkuto Eratukura #10: A Rugarama Mini-­­­­­Drama

Wednesday 8th April 2015 ­­— 11.30am
Shortly after breakfast I was returning to my room when I was intercepted by Tamera on the stairs. It transpired that Jas wasn’t feeling too great.
“He says he was calling out all night, has a fever and has cramps all over his body,” Tamera reported with wide eyes and without breathing mid­-sentence.
I visited his room and found him looking a rather ashy colour and decide that he had to seek some attention. 
After a conversation with the hotelier Deborah and her daughter Hope, we decided that best option was for him to attend Rugarama Hospital in town. Deborah also kindly offered to act as an ambulance and drive him to the hospital with Tamera escorting him.
Jas’ behaviour was so uncharacteristic that both Tamera and I are worried. Gone were the jokes and wisecracks. He was suddenly acting like an old man who could barely walk. Indeed, I was later told, that upon arrival at Rugarama, he was put into a wheelchair and wheeled into the building.
Whils…

Enkuto Eratukura #9: Back to School

Tuesday 7th April 2015 – 6pm
This is a curtailed version of the entry that appears in the original journal, but, for the sake of continuity, it has been included in this series.
Today was our first full day at the high school. Our group were received, along with the Coombeshead Academy staff and students, by the new head teacher, Steven; a friendly and jovial character who insisted on trying to learn everyone's names by the time we had left his office. This was the first time I had signed a visitor’s book with the name of my new school; a strange experience in itself, but one that puts Fulham Cross on the map in southwestern Uganda.
We had a tour of the school and I could see a number of improvements. The most striking change was the completed main gate to the campus that parents, amongst others, had helped to raise the money for.
Further along on our tour there were also changes to Elizabeth Hall, the girls’ dormitory named after Liz Walton, the All Our Children charity’s chair. O…

Enkuto Eratukura #8: Unbeaten Bike

Monday 6th April 2015 - 5.00pm
In terms of my health, today was a real low-point. I’d never really felt as poorly as I did on this day on any occasion I’d visited Uganda. I was feeling tired and struggling to hold a meaningful conversation.
Call it paranoia, but having read about Fausto Coppi’s demise at the hands of Malaria, and all of the health checks we had been subjected to in association with the Ebola outbreak, I was feeling a little worried.
I had been drinking a tonic water a day just in case I had malaria and had been taking a heady cocktail of pills and locally-sourced throat sweets too. I was living in the hope that whatever it was would clear soon before the paranoia became as intolerable as my raw throat.
I drifted down with the group into Kabale town, feeling pretty ropey, and opted to wear my kaffiyeh again, today in order to protect my neck from the intensity of the midday heat. As we passed Dave from Coombeshead and saw the colour he had rapidly turned, I was happy w…

Enkuto Eratukura #7: A Sunday with Fast Eddie

Sunday 5th April 2015 - 10.30pm
Easter Sunday was a pretty quiet day. With the programme clear due to being a few days ahead of schedule, it meant the morning was a dull affair.
After a while of loitering around the hotel, I decided that I needed to do something and, along with Jas, we walked a less direct route past the hospital and down into the town to change some money at the Royal Supermarket.
The roads were quiet save for the occasional boda-boda labouring up the hill or freewheeling down it. One such boda, with an attractive female passenger on the back, passed us by and she waved – I thought I detected a faint blush in Jas’ cheek.
At Royal Supermarket, we undertook a quick exchange of around £2000 into an inordinate amount of Shillings and walked back up towards the hotel to see if anyone had snapped into action. En route, Jas took a moment to point out that my idea of walking through Bugongi, with a load of money in a backpack, might not be the best idea.
It felt like we’ve b…

Living for the Weekend: Arsenal

It’s been a while since I’d really taken much interest in football – at least enough interest to start watching matches at the grounds themselves. Ireland don’t really get up to much these days and my childhood team linger aimlessly in mid-table, or, in a good year, might become embroiled in a relegation dogfight.
After dragging Jonesy along to watch Leyton Orient whilst I was still living in Walthamstow, he decided to more than repay the favour by offering to take me along to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday 1st February 2015; there to watch Arsenal (his team) play against Aston Villa (my team). This all coincided, in a timely fashion, with moving house to Islington. 
Most of the build-up to the match, for us at least, revolved around Jonesy’s anxiety about the distance between my new flat and the stadium itself; he simply wouldn’t believe me that it was a ten-minute walk.
As it was, we managed to get from his place in Leigh-on-Sea to Islington in such a small amount of time that, bef…

Enkuto Eratukura #6: Travellers' Paradox

Saturday 4th April 2015 - 5.00pm 

Liz, not assuming that we’d be delayed by so long, had arranged a meeting between teachers from the ominously named ‘Committee’ to take place with teachers from WMSF, Coombeshead Academy and me from Fulham Cross Girls’ School.
The Coombeshead guys had had a late night on Thursday for similar reasons to us, but, after a good night’s sleep sharing with a donkey down in the middle of Kabale, they looked distinctly fresher than us. The meeting was essential and thus unavoidable in order to establish a programme for the next few days, but my health was at a low ebb.
What started as a bit of a sore throat during Wednesday’s parents’ evening had turned into an all-singing, all-dancing cold; in the heart of Africa.
As I was reading William Fotheringham’s biography of Fausto Coppi, who died of malaria after visiting Burkina Faso, I was struck by a bout of paranoia about my cold. Thinking of Evelyn’s advice concerning tonic water, I robbed Raman of a cold and f…

Enkuto Eratukura #5: When The Road Rises To Meet You

Friday 3rd April 2015 - 11.45pm
This was the day of the big road journey. After some careful consideration involving an emergency meeting with Kevin and Raj at WMSF, it was decided that that we should push on to Kabale as soon as possible due to the terror threat warning issued by the US Embassy in Kampala and the subsequent assassination of Judge Kagezi. 
Despite arranging for breakfast at 7.45am, we only managed to depart Entebbe Backpackers at 9.30am. Some expert faffing around was one of the principle reasons for our tardiness, but the cooking and eating seeming to be a slow process exacerbated this.
Whilst the final faffing was going on, Jas organised the repacking of the back two rows of Brian’s Coaster bus with our luggage and we headed off in the direction of Kabale via Kampala.
As always on the Entebbe-Kampala road, wherever there was the most minute confluence of roads the traffic ground to a halt. Larger traffic and more patient drivers waited in line whilst matatu buses tr…

Matchsticks on the Shore

On a field trip to Bognor Regis with Year 9 I was tasked with the job of leading a session on coastal poetry. After reading the poem 'The Sea' by James Reeves, we embarked on seeking inspiration by walking over the shingle and out into the sea.

Here's the sum total of my efforts, written into my red Uganda Moleskine, whilst standing in the cold English Channel under grey skies. [This poem has been removed whilst it is entered into a competition]

Enkuto Eratukura #4: On The Beach

Thursday 2nd April 2015 - 8pm

After we’d settled into Entebbe Backpackers Hostel, Tash and I went off to change money – not a simple process when the bank clerks don’t seem to like explaining the procedure.
Upon returning to the hostel there was just enough time for a shower before getting back on board Brian’s bus and setting off for Lake Victoria.
Once en route, I told Brian to head to ‘Imperial Beach’ and so he drove us the short distance to Imperial Beach Resort. When we arrived, something wasn’t quite right. If you ever ask me to remember something useful like a phone number I cannot do it; ask me to recall something visual and I usually can.
After a brief chat with an unimpressed female security guard we performed a rapid u-turn, trying to avoid letting anyone know about the mix-up, and proceeded to the different, yet remarkably similarly named Imperial Resort Beach. As soon as we arrived we knew we were where we should be. Brian and I looked at each other and laughed. We were s…

Enkuto Eratukura #3: Hurry Up and Wait

Thursday 2nd April 2015 - 3pm

For the second year running the connecting Ethiopian Airlines plane was late leaving Addis Ababa. This year the delay occurred as a result of Yemeni airspace being closed because of Saudi Arabian airstrikes against Houthi rebel positions.
Having been lured into a false sense of security, sat around drinking buna with Jas in a haze of frankincense smoke, a call went out: “could all passengers for flight ET330 to Entebbe please board the plane.”
Gripped by a sudden sense of panic, we rushed to get through security and onto the plane, gathering students as we went, only to find we were not the last to reach the plane. After around fifteen minutes sat on the tarmac, a swathe of Ugandan passengers boarded. 
I was sat writing in my journal, all the time being rhythmically elbowed by the woman in the seat next to me, when the man the other side of me started shouting, “Why haven’t you taken that man’s walking stick? It is a potential weapon!”
The old man in ques…