Archives for category: England

… you have to turn plugs on before they’ll work.

In the past week, two African friends have made the same comment about Brexit : “Why doesn’t your Queen intervene to stop it?”

If only.

An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king,–
Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
Through public scorn, mud from a muddy spring,–
Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know,
But leech-like to their fainting country cling,
Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow,–

A people starved and stabbed in the untilled field,–
An army which liberticide and prey
Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield,–
Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;
Religion Christless, Godless, a book sealed,–
A Senate—Time’s worst statute unrepealed,–
Are graves from which a glorious Phantom may
Burst to illumine our tempestuous day.
 
Shelley wrote this sonnet at another low point in my country’s history, and some of the sentiments in it express how I feel following Brexit. Shelley was writing in response to the Peterloo massacre of 1819, where the British cavalry charged on citizens demonstrating peacefully for parliamentary reform. Fifteen people were killed including a two year old boy. The massacre was followed by a heavy-handed government crackdown on media and public gatherings. 
 
Let’s be thankful that, two centuries later, if nothing else, we have freedom of speech, and let’s cherish that gift.

Like so many others, I reacted with stunned disbelief at the result of the Brexit vote. I think it’s the stupidest, dumbest political decision I have seen in my lifetime, truly a major disaster for our country. I don’t want to be a citizen of an insular, self-seeking, flag-waving country that postures as a world leader while being out of step with its 27 immediate neighbours and mistrusting anything foreign.
One of the strangest things about this strange week is that I arrived in Lomé on the morning the vote was announced and since then there has only been a minimal internet connection here. So I haven’t been able to access any news on the web, express my anger on Facebook, sign petitions or look up the links friends are sending me. I’m feeling curiously cut off from my home country at such an crucial time. I’m purposely writing this at 2am in the hope that it will post. Can’t wait to get back to the village where the technology is more reliable.

A curious moment as I joined the ‘European Union’ queue at passport control and realised with dismay that it might be the last time I ever do so. I sooooo hope not. I’ve left Dad with clear instructions what to vote as my proxy.

Having fun catching up with old friends Justin and Ali. We go back a long way, we were in London together as students. Sleeping in a caravan in the garden. Cozy. They have a Yamaha upright, so I have been providing some rusty, unconvincing renderings of Chopin Waltzes (B minor, E minor, F minor, Eb major…). Do I miss the piano in Africa? No, but once I am in a room with a piano in it, my fingers are itching to get to it. About to go and eat in the garden…

Just snuck to England for a week to present a paper at a linguistics conference. Just a quick hop across the Sahara, after all. Arrived to find Sussex bathed in late summer sunshine: England at its best.

My last week in Seaton was a fitting end to a memorable and happy year, complete with a surprise barbecue, fish and chips on the beach, and even a swim in the sea. I’m used to the same ocean, but a few thousand miles further south, and many degrees warmer.

BBQ at Debbie and Geoff's

BBQ at Debbie and Geoff’s

Seaton Methodist Church was full for the piano recital I gave on 8 July. We raised £1,179 towards the cost of drilling a borehole in the village where I live in Togo. It’s the first time I’ve played in public for many years, and a great opportunity to reconnect with my musical past. Thanks to all of you who came and supported the event. This was the programme:

Mozart Sonata in D major K. 284 ~ Allegro, Rondeau en Polonaise, Adagio Cantabile, Allegro

Debussy Préludes ~ Les collines d’Anacapri, La fille aux cheveux de lin, La cathédrale engloutie, Minstrels

Arensky ~ Basso ostinato

Brahms ~ Intermezzo in A

Chopin ~ Minute Waltz

Ravel ~ Pavane pour une infante défunte

Chopin ~ Polonaise in A

And this is the piano I practiced on – good memories, John and Joan!

Still learning how to live in a country where half the doors are automatic and half are manual. I mean how do you know which are which? I guess you learn to be quicker off the mark when you live here all the time.

A number of you have asked me about my plans, so here goes. I hope to move to Paris for three months, October to December. The idea is to put aside some more time to translate parts of my PhD thesis from French into English for publication in academic journals. As long as my research remains unpublished and in French, it will only have a limited audience. So this is a way of participating in the debate about how African languages should be written. Then I plan to return to Togo in January.