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Ciao Asmara by Justin Hill

Reading 'Emperor' by Ryszard Kapuscinski not only opened my eyes to some of the contrasting reports on the reign of His Imperial Highness, Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, but also made me realise how little I knew about the tiny nation of Eritrea. Indeed, I have many students who have some Eritrean descent and so I sought a book that would provide me with an outsiders view. After rummaging around Amazon I found 'Ciao Asmara'. 'Ciao Asmara' is an account of a stay by Justin Hill who went to Eritrea a fews years after independence from Ethiopia in order to teach at a school in a town called Keren. Hill charts his eyes being slowly opened to many of the issues existing within the country in the late 1990s: Eritrea's fixation with the glory of independence, the government's neglect of people who were not involved in fighting "in the field", a lack of forward thinking by the government in terms of economic development and the deeper scars of the bl

Asmara: The Frozen City by Stefan Boness

Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, is a city that has captured my imagination to great extent, this is in spite of never having been there. The city itself was once the jewel in the colonial Italian crown and as a result has acquired many aspects of Italian culture into its everyday being. This ranges from the café culture on the wide boulevards to the splendid examples of Italian Art Deco architecture. The years have not been kind since the time of the Italian occupation. His Imperial Highness Haile Selassie and later the military dergue that ruled Eritrea as a province of Ethiopia neglected and repressed the region and years of revolutionary conflict against Ethiopian rule resulted in time, and architectural fashion, passing Asmara by. This book documents the remnants of that Italian Art Deco foray into East Africa in photographic for, with some contextualising words, in order to highlight just how frozen in time many aspects of architecture in Asmara continue to be to this day.

The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuściński

Having read Ryszard Kapuściński's book on the early days of Angolan independence, I saw fit to indulge myself by purchasing his journalistic testimony on the last days of His Imperial Majesty, Haile Selassie I, the last Emperor of Ethiopia. What little I knew I Haile Selassie focused around the Rastafarian movement's reverence of him and their collective perspective on him being a living deity, and also the idea that he was a direct descendant of the biblical King Solomon. Suffice to say, this does not prepare you for the true complexities of life in the Royal Court of Ethiopia: the division of time between various ministries such as the Hour of the Assignments; the feeding of the pet Lions and Flamingos whilst receiving informants' reports; the deep annoyance at Jonathan Dimbleby's reports on hunger in the north of the country; the infighting and corruption between ministers. A lot of the tale is told by former workers at the palace and fittingly ends with the the

A Photo from UNHCR: Refugee Girl

From Carly, a refugee's story , originally uploaded by  UNHCR . This picture was one that I found when looking at the UN's Flickr stream, the main focus of which is refugees. I found that there was something very moving about the distant look in her eyes. Unfortunately, there is little text on the UN site to explain who she is or what the exact nature of her situation is, but perhaps this makes it all the more upsetting.  On the same Flickr photostream page there is a link to a cartoon about a Refugee called Carly - perhaps this is meant to reflect the girl's situation in life. The video can be found on YouTube .

Hammersmith Sunset

Sunset in Hammersmith can be a thing of beauty. The above picture was taken on my iPhone from the roof of my workplace last week. Most of the day there had been a thick blanket of fog, but around 3pm it suddenly lifted to reveal the sun. This is the view from my workplace, looking towards the River Thames and Hammersmith Bridge.

A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche

Cover image © Vintage. I've travelled to Rwanda twice in the past two years and the events of April 1994 are obviously inescapable. People who I now count as my friends survived the Genocide and so I have become not just well-informed about the Genocide, but also quite protective over how the story is treated by the West. The Genocide started two days after my 10th birthday, although, being born and raised in the UK, I didn't know anything about it at the time except a few new reports showing long lines of people leaving a city. It was with some scepticism that I approached A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali (2003), especially having read an extract from the first chapter that made excessive references to ‘asses’. My initial worry was that this would be another westernised narrative that unduly sexualised the suffering of people of colour. I put this to one side and tried to read on. It is not long into the novel that you realise that Gil Courtemanche is in fact

The Gower in May

A very windy day on the Gower, in Wales, in May. I had been there for a camping trip. It was very cold as you may expect and my ears were freezing after a coastal walk to the pub in Rhossili. After a meal there the drinking continued into the night before a drunken stumble home.

Il y a un bidonville...

Il y a un bidonville dans un petit quartier de mon esprit. Ici, je cherche un petit fragment de ma mémoire. I search and I remember. It comes easily to me. Time has passed: Hope is lost... Hope is at hand... Je ne vais pas vous oublier, Haïti. ______________________________ Accept my apologies if my French is poor. I am trying hard to improve it with the help of a Rwandan friend in Kigali. The word 'bidonville' (shantytown - literally 'tin-town') was first taught to me by my mother shortly before I visited Rwanda this year. The poem is really me taking a short walk and expressing, in a veiled way, the frustrating fact that we seldom hear any updates from Haiti following the earthquake there earlier this year.

Underground, Overground.

A picture taken whilst I was fooling around with a camera loaned from my workplace's Art Department. I was playing with the zoom on my way home from work on Friday. The picture was taken out of the window of a moving Underground train en route to Wimbledon. The reason that I have seen fit to post it is because I liked the colours and the contrasts between nature, old buildings and ugly more modern buildings.

First Match of the Season

This weekend saw the first match of the new season for the Swinging Googlies Cricket Club and, as ever, I was looking forward to it. Breaking with Googlies tradition, I had been practicing through the week to try and improve my bowling. The type of bowling I attempt is wrist-spin and I tend to send them down with a fair bit of flight. From a personal perspective, although not taking myself too seriously on the cricket field, I do want to better myself and so it was my ambition to actually be allowed to bowl this season. It was around over 25 that Chris Judd, our captain, called on me to take over the bowling. I was naturally a tad nervous as one doesn't want to make an eejit out of one's self. I'll let Ron Googly's official match report take over from here: And then, just for a short moment, time stopped still and a hush fell upon the park as Chris called up Tommo to send down a few.  Well, the words ‘revelation’ and ‘blimey guv’ come to mind as Tom transfixe

"If—" by Rudyard Kipling

There's no particular reason for me posting this poem, but I often find the opening lines resonating in my mind. I think that often, at work, or perhaps when I am in places like Uganda, or even when the Underground unexpectedly terminates at Parson's Green en route to Wimbledon, those two lines, and the rest of the poem too, can be applied to aspects of my character. If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or, being hated, don't give way to hating, And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise; If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with triumph and disaster And treat those two imposters just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twis

'Another Day of Life' by Ryszard Kapuśiński

It was by chance that I found Ryszard Kapuśiński when looking through Amazon. With football’s African Cup of Nations (CAN) being in Angola , I was intrigued to find out more about the history of the country, especially in light of the Togolese football team being ambushed – my only previous interaction with anything Angolan was a Beyoncé wannabe, rapping in Portugese, on Nigerian TV being broadcast in Uganda. I’ll spare you all of the details of the conflict itself, but understand that it was set against the backdrop of the cold war with three different rebel groups, the MPLA , the FNLA and UNITA , all vying to capture the capital, Luanda, by the time the Portugese officially withdrew on midnight of November 11th 1975. Kapuśiński starts this short text from his hotel in Luanda and it is his focus on how everyday life is affected by the conflict that makes the text endearing. He describes how, in the absence of TV or radio, he uses the ships moored in the bay to tell him the likeli

Welcome to Cape Town

Those inventive little rascals on my childhood estate in Warwick have been trying hard to forge an identity for the area of late. Although part of the Packmore Estate, the area around my parents' house often gets labelled as part of the 'Cape'. The name relates to the estate built near to a part of the Grand Union Canal in Warwick that resembles the shape of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. Well, in an effort to bring a little bit of African exoticism to Warwick, the local gifted and talented students, armed with a tin of blue spray paint have been hard at work. In addition to writing the postcode 'CV34' everywhere, they have sprayed 'Cape Town' on the Packmore side of the Priory Park tunnel. I look forward to July's Warwick Folk Festival perhaps having more of an African influence this year; Ladysmith Black Mambazo could do a number or two?

Down and Out at the Victoria and Albert Pub

Station concourses are, to my generation of semi-nomadic Londoners, an integral part of the fabric of life. We don’t necessarily have cars in London, we have family outside of London and we still pop home regularly to see our mates and families – again, outside of London. We also most likely live in shared houses, listen to iPods and drink and have sex too much. We are at an inter-stage between actually having settled into an ‘adult life’ and lingering in a ‘student life’. I can check one thing off the list – having found the ideal woman – but the house and car will have to wait. Back to the station concourses: I seem to spend half of my life on them. When caught at a station with time to waste and a few quid in the pocket one tends to gravitate towards a bar. I have done this now – as I write I am sat in the majestically named Victoria and Albert at Marylebone Station. In spite of the fact that this place should be alive with tales of travelling bounding from wall to wal

Watercolour Doodling II: Carbis Bay

This was the second of my doodlings . I actually did this around the end of May and it is an imagined view of St Ives in Cornwall. I had just been there on holiday and the view is one that can be seen from the St Ives Branchline. The picture is simple and not really a finished article at all and represents me fiddling around with watercolour pencils and trying to blend colours a little bit. I can't remember whether the band of blue at the top is meant to be the sky or whether it was just me trying to find a good sea colour. I revisited this picture just before painting my imagined view of Saint Lucia  and decided to rub-out some of the pencil sketch-lines. Having done this I realised that, although not technically wonderful, the painting wasn't as bad as I had remembered.

Saint Lucia Imagined

So, this is my first foray into painting with watercolours. I am still an absolute novice when it comes to painting, but I am, I think, getting slightly better. I have a tendency to use too much pencil when sketching out the basic image with the result being a 'muddy' patch - see the bottom left-hand corner. That aside, the picture is based primarily on a scene that I imagined, but, when I came to sketching it, I had trouble with getting the sea in perspective. Luckily, a friend was in possession of a picture amongst her snaps that I was able to use to get the right colours and perspective. Voila! Saint Lucia as imagined by me.

Forgive us Father...

Forgive us Father, For we have sinned. Today we woke up and saw Snow. A sleek layer of pure white, ice cold Cotton wool… And we moaned. And we cussed the heavens. And we threw up our hands with vexation. We waited whilst watching the breakfast news Only to learn of whether The 131 or the District Line were running. Meanwhile, all along, you knew of people Who had spent the night beneath dusty stars Nursing wounds. Nursing chaos On an evening spent praying out of doors Because their tin shacks Are No More. Shame on us. If you want to help with relief effort please visit: www.yele.org .

Paul Collingwood: Underrated.

I am, deep down, a cricket romanticist. I love, above all else, tense Test match cricket. The thrill of not knowing from one moment to the next whether a slender edge is going to found by a bowler directing the ball to the slips; whether, with split-second decision-making, the batsman decides to leave the ball entirely or play a powerful hook to the boundary. Recently, having revisited the end of the Cardiff Ashes test from 2009, I couldn’t help but notice that I had completely allowed Paul Collingwood, and his contribution to that match, pass me by. In that instance, England’s second innings, his stand of 74 laid solid foundation from which the remainder of the tail, most famously Monty Panesar and Jimmy Anderson, were able to survive until time simply ran out for Australia. Collingwood was able to last for a remarkable 344 minutes facing 245 balls – only Simon Katich lasted longer at the crease. It is not this innings alone that has endeared Collingwood to me though. More recently