William Dalrymple, true to form in his latest book “The Anarchy”, reminds us that this is not the first time we have cut ourselves off from our European neighbours.

“At that time England was a relatively impoverished, largely agricultural country, which had spent almost a century at war with itself over the most divisive subject of the time: religion. In the course of this, in what seemed to many of its wisest minds an act of wilful self-harm, the English had unilaterally cut themselves off from the most powerful institution in Europe, so turning themselves in the eyes of many Europeans into something of a pariah nation. As a result, isolated from their baffled neighbours, the English were forced to scour the globe for new markets and commercial openings further afield. This they did with piratical enthusiasm.”


Thanks to my friend Alan Gillard for just summing up on Facebook exactly how I feel whenever I leave France:

“Got back from four weeks away in Italy, and travelled back through France over three days. Walked into Rennes for my last night in Europe as a European, saw people having fun, eating, drinking, laughing, enjoying open air music… Thought back to the town in Italy where I stay, visit bars, walk the beautiful countryside, meet ordinary people going about their daily lives.

At no time did anyone criticise my stumbling attempts at their language, or make me feel unwelcome. In fact the opposite, I received wherever I went a warm reception, an understanding, but more than that, I felt accepted.

Contrast this with the intolerance and isolationism sweeping through the UK. We are fed this myth that Europe is somehow ‘other’, in the throes of economic disaster foisted on them by a federal overseer. We are told that we will be well rid of the interfering bigots and they will no longer be welcome or free to move to our wonderful country. Even more, we are looking to fold inwards and make even British people outsiders, if the independence movements succeed.

For those who don’t go abroad, or those who only go to little Britain on Med, how could they know or understand how much better the quality of life is in Europe. Where street violence is rare, culture is precious and protected, public services embedded. Yes, they have had it tough, but being part of a bigger picture helps spread the load. Yes the EU needs to be flexible and respond to pressures, but being part of the project is far better than being outside it: I am honestly scared of where our government is taking us, and we will have no further checks and balances once we are out.

I have long felt that I don’t really fit into the UK, with its over emphasis on money and economy and failure to realise its the quality of life that matters. I wont be able to walk through the streets of Truro or Falmouth, seeing the failed restaurants and empty streets occasionally crossing the road to avoid groups of drunks, without thinking of my last night of being a British European in Europe.

Goodbye to the wonderful feeling of freedom to live, travel, work, or just be European by right. In future, it will have to be by permit.”

EmmanuelC’est avec le cœur attristé que je me charge de vous annoncer qu’Emmanuel Pidassa, mon fidèle assistant de recherche, est décédé le 23 septembre 2019 à l’âge de 46 ans suite à des blessures subies lors d’un accident de moto le 27 juin.

Je connais Emmanuel depuis plus de vingt ans. J’avais vite remarqué sa connaissance profonde de la langue et de la culture kabiyè et, au fil des années, je l’ai formé en tant qu’écrivain, éditeur, traducteur et enseignant. Ayant suivi une initiation pendant trois mois dans un cybercafé de Kara, il disposait de bases solides en matière d’informatique. Il m’a aidé à vérifier des dizaines de milliers de conjugaisons verbales du kabiyè pour mon livre sur ce sujet. Il s’est occupé efficacement de l’administration de plusieurs expériences en alphabétisation faites dans des salles de classes non seulement au Togo mais aussi en Côte d’Ivoire. Il a traduit et/ou édité pas moins de 398 articles sur le Wikipédia en langue kabiyè, et a fait une communication orale à ce sujet lors d’une assise de l’académie kabiyè. Il a fait la retraduction du kabiyè vers le français de multiples textes de l’ancien testament pour l’équipe de l’APSEK. Il était éditeur d’un roman en kabiyè écrit par feu M. Azoti Songhaï, membre de l’Académie kabiyè, intitulé « Paamala, le grand tambourineur ». Il était mon entraîneur chaque fois que c’était mon tour de lire la Bible en kabiyè à l’église Ste Angèle de Gnikpéyo. Il a enseigné le kabiyè écrit à une nouvelle génération d’enfants au CEG Lama-Soumadè. Il m’a souvent donné de sage conseils sur la culture kabiyè qui ont beaucoup facilité mon insertion sociale en tant qu’étranger.

Le dernier travail que nous avons effectué ensemble était une étude des extensions verbales du kabiyè. Emmanuel était bien dans son assiette dans ce type de projet : ayant une excellente oreille pour les tons de sa langue, et une connaissance affinée des nuances de sens, il était bosseur, flexible, patient, humble, perspicace et capable de parler avec autorité si nécessaire. Il ne s’énervait jamais et réagissait toujours de manière posée et calme. Il était bien disposé à faire des heures supplémentaires si nécessaire et ne faisait jamais des demandes exagérées. Il était fondamentalement disposé à coopérer et à apprendre. Les fruits de cette dernière collaboration seront bientôt publiés en forme d’un article dans la revue internationale Journal of West African Languages.

Emmanuel était également le scribe de notre équipe : Depuis plusieurs années, je n’ai jamais eu à écrire mes propres lettres administratives grâce au talent particulier d’Emmanuel dans ce domaine. Non seulement il maîtrisait parfaitement bien les formules de politesse du français formel, mais aussi il possédait une belle écriture, exquise, floride et raffiné.

Nous avons perdu, donc, un grand lutteur pour le développement de la langue kabiyè. Que dans sa miséricorde infinie, le Seigneur l’accueille dans son royaume.

EmmanuelIt’s with a heavy heart that I have to announce that Emmanuel Pidassa, my faithful Kabiye research assistant, died yesterday, age 46, following head injuries sustained in a serious motorbike accident on 27 June.

I’ve known Emmanuel for over twenty years. He came to me with a deep knowledge of Kabiye language and culture, and over the years I trained him as a writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He helped me check tens of thousands of Kabiye verb conjugations for my book on that subject. He proved to be an efficient administrator for several classroom literacy experiments. He added hundreds of articles to the Kabiye Wikipedia. He was my coach whenever it was my turn to do the Kabiye Bible reading at church, adding tone marks to the text and training me sentence by sentence. He taught written Kabiye to a new generation of teenagers at Lama-Soumadè secondary school.

The last work we did together was a study of Kabiye verbal extensions. Emmanuel was in his element for this kind of project: hard-working, a good ear for tone, a quick learner, patient to a fault, humble, insightful, and gently over-ruling less experienced team members when necessary. The article has just been accepted for publication in the Journal of West African Languages.

Emmanuel was also our team’s scribe: For years, I’ve never had to write my own administrative letters because of Emmanuel’s particular talent for this. He knew exactly the correct politeness formulas to use when writing formal French, and had the most elaborate, florid handwriting this side of the 18th century. Whenever he asked me to add my signature it felt as though I was vandalizing an exquisite work of art.

He leaves his wife, Prudence, and six children, five of whom are still at school.

See my Facebook page for a photo tribute.

PIDASSA Dadja Makiyè Emmanuel, 20 octobre 1973 – 23 September 2019.

Tɛtʊ ɛɛwɛɛ hunjamm – May the earth lay lightly upon him.


“The right to speak is a call to the duty of listening.”

Pierre Lacout, in Quaker Faith and Practice.

Well, I managed to squeeze in two weeks in Africa before getting the news that Dad was in hospital with a broken arm. So now I’m lying low in Cornwall again and to redeem the time I’ve begun on-line Hebrew lessons with Ulpan Or, resurrecting my rusty skills from 30 years ago. This is in preparation for going to do research at Tel Aviv University for a month next year.

The Bradshaw 1860s guide: “Cornwall, from its soil, appearance and climate, is one of the least inviting of the English counties. A ridge of bare and rugged hills, interspersed with bleak moors, runs through the midst of its whole length, and exhibits the appearance of a dreary waste”. Truro is “covered with furnaces, blast houses, potteries and tin works etc”.

IMG_4263Good Israeli food at a restaurant in the German colony while attending a conference at the University of Haifa.

Five million people have now signed the petition to revoke article 50 and remain in the EU.


At the recent SMA annual meetings, we had a picnic at the amazing new Statue of Christ the Redeemer perched on the cliff top in Défalé with stunning views of the valley below. Rio de Janeiro comes to northern Togo.