Monday, March 29, 2010

Alternative Work

A horrendous day running round town has finally found me in gainful employment through Martine´s recommendation in the Carrefour area of Port au Prince. Rather than a bit of manual labour with HODR, this organization runs an orphanage for some 38 children. This is far more suited to my skills as I have been known to struggle with Lego construction. Many of the children know some Spanish, and some understand a little English too. More details of this organisation can be found by clicking here.

Conditions are severely basic, with much of the home now resembling a building site following the earthquake. Unbelievably, the children were on an excursion on the 12 January and all survived the quake.

Project Leader Jean Luc is a cool laid-back guy and his sidekick Wilkens has been helping out at the orphanage for the last 14 months.

Running water and electricity has now been restored, but that is about all. I am promised shared tent accommodation, basic food, sodas and even cigarettes. Sometimes even Internet too!

The more of Port au Prince I see the more I find the city one complete shit-hole and I am not 100% convinced it was much better before 12th January.

Although my time is limited in Haiti i am delighted to be finally doing something to help, for my frustration levels have been immense.

Looking forward to a final vaguely decent night´s sleep. I am offered an 8am pick-up from the hotel tomorrow.

Trouble at Mill

To say i was bit pissed off yesterday would be the mother of all understatements.

My HODR shuttle-bus completely fails to pick me up from the International Airport. They have my telephone number, but I receive no call from them, and as I have no number for my liaison guy, i am caught in a five hour state of limbo.

To add insult to injury, I have to endure vitriol abuse from a Haitian guide/translator who demands money with menaces. Pepe drops me off at 12pm and I am told the bus will pick up at 2.45pm, so I am kinda expecting a bit of a wait anyway. A large and burly Haitian guide/translator is hanging out and asks what i´m doing, so i explain i´m waiting for my pick-up to Leogane and he follows me into a shaded area where I sit and wait. He disappears off and i just hang out.

After an hour he comes up to me and tells me he is leaving, so I shake his hand and bid him au revoir. He asks for payment, so I ask him what for. He goes completely nuts at me aggressively calling me every swear word under the sun and shouting abuse in English, French and Creole. “You fucking fucker! Get out of my fucking country you mother-fucker”. His eyes are large and wild, and saliva shoots in all directions from his offensive mouth. I continue to passively sit there, pretending i´m not completely shitting bricks.

A group of Haitians gather at this explosion. He tells them in French that he has been working for me and I am refusing him payment. “Non – c ést ne vrai pas” i say in my own defense. He then continues his vitriolic onslaught claiming that I also bought crack cocaine off him. I act all indignant at this as Haitian eyes widen further. “Jai fume cigarette solomento” I say in my best French/Espanyol and waving my half empty packet of JPS. One of the locals asks me in perfect English if there is any truth in this madman´s story, so I explain to him i don´t know who the hell this guy is. He asks me to give the guy two dollars, which i don´t have, so i explain that I can´t give 2 bucks to any madman who approaches me. The madman is bundled away from me whilst my savior tells me i should be real careful who i speak to, to which i agree whole-heartedly and thank him for his assistance.

However my “savior” hasn´t quite finished with me yet. He asks me if I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Now i have learnt the hard way on my travels that in religious countries saying one is an atheist is never a good idea. I could say i´m Jewish, but on this occasion I plump for Buddhist (philosophy rather than religious so it is not a complete lie). My Savior goes ballistic at me. Don´t I understand that Jesus died for me? Didn´t i realize that by not following Jesus I am condemning myself, him and the World population to eternal damnation? “Drink his blood and be baptized!” he squawks at me pointing a violent index finger at my face. Haitians can clearly be very passionate. I can´t be doing with this so hastily make a retreat out into the sun.

Next, i meet the 12 year old Lance. He tells me his story through a combination of English, French and Spanish. He lives at the airport. He loves school, but that also has been demolished in the quake. He has no-one and apart from a small orange pack on his back he has nothing. He is very curious about pretty much everything.

He asks if i know David Beckham and we spend an hour or so talking about the World Cup, being a teacher and life in Britain. He almost wets himself with excitement when I tell him I have come from a British winter where there is snow. He asks me to describe what it´s like. He is determined to visit so I pass him my parents address and telephone number and he is one very happy kid. He remains my companion for the rest of the afternoon. I really do not have any small money, but I willingly hand over 1 of my 2 bottles of water that I have.

I get talking with Martine, a New Yorker born in PaP. She shows great sympathy with my plight and passes on details about an orphanage she has set up. At least this now gives me another option, probably more suitable to me than the HODR construction project in Leogane.

Come 5pm, dehydrated and hungry, i call Frere Pepe to explain what has happened and my bro comes to my aid within 30 minutes and we head back up to the sanctity of the Kinam Hotel. There is now no room at the inn, so he takes me to the cheaper and much less salubrious Doux Sejour Hotel nearby. No swimming pool, no Wi-Fi and no awesome green pepper steaks. I can´t find an Internet café nearby to make contact with HODR but I will send them another email to find out what happened, as well as make contact with Edison about his newly established orphanage here in Port au Prince, and indeed I now have got another orphanage contact here through Martine which i´ll also check out.

Not for the first time on this trip I ask myself what the hell i am doing here. However, Guardian Angel tells me it is part of my path. GA is always right and who am I to argue with such a celestial being?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Work In Progress

in her Easter finery despite atrocious conditions

I have set up a photographic Work in Progress on my Haitian experience. I am selling the full jpegs for US$10 with all proceeds going to fund relief work on the island. Please leave all requests via the comments section below. Payments can be made via PAYPAL on the navigation bar on the right.

The photographs will continue to be published on-line and can be accessed by clicking here.

Off to Leogane

This afternoon i head to Leogane with HODR.

Leogane is some 20 miles west of Port au Prince and prior to the earthquake boasted a population of 50,000 people.

80% of the town was destroyed after the quake and more than 10,000 people died in the immediate aftermath. Most were buried in mass graves. Unlike Port au Prince there was no heavy equipment like cranes, bulldozers or other JCBs and aid has been that much slower getting into this devastated township.

It is often the repercussions of such catastrophes that lead to the real pain. With the demolition of the hospital, those injured were unable to get even the most basic medication like bandages, antibiotics and tetanus vaccinations to stop the spread of infections from open wounds.

It is here that I am to be based for the next couple of weeks. In what capacity as yet I am unclear, but i´m pretty much prepared to do anything possible that will help this impoverished and bereaved community.

For more information on the immediate aftermath of the quake in Leogane there is a short article from the Wall Street Journal you can access by clicking here.

Power and water supplies are very limited, but i´ll twitter and blog when i can

Out and About in Port au Prince

Mon Frere Pepe - very close to the spot where he was when the earthquake struck

Hanging outside the hotel I have a chance meeting with Frere Pepe.

46 years old, father of four, Pepe is both artist and tour guide, and judging by the number of people who meet and greet him around the city, a bit of a celebrity too. He also speaks English and he is clearly the man to take me on a city tour around PaP. After some negotiations on fees, he insists I tell the World what is happening in his city and to take lots of photos. This is something that I really still don´t feel comfortable with, not least because the residents are camera-shy, but i sheepishly take a few snaps as we go round the city.

We start in the adjacent squatter camp. He reckons there is only about 700 people in this one, but it seems impossible to tell. I do find out the surface is concrete rather than grass however.

a boy in the squatter camp - conditions are literally shit

Pepe is keen to take me to the spot where he was at about 5pm on the now infamous 12th January. The devastation around would have been intense judging by the destruction surrounding this area.

We then jump on a bus to go down-town. I wasn´t quite aware just how big and sprawling this city is! What surprises me most is that whilst some buildings were completely devastated, the neighbouring houses look virtually untouched!

devastation, but life goes on

Huge squatter camps can be found, equally as smelly and revolting as the next.

literally in the shit

We check out the remains of the Presidential palace and the cathedral originally built in 1971. The city centre clearly seems to have taken the brunt of the quake.

the Presidential palace has become the archetypal image of the 12 January quake

the remains of the cathedral

Over coffee and a cold energy drink, I ask Pepe how he feels about taking “tourists” around his now devastated home. “My city is dead” and indeed he always uses the past tense when describing it. Ironically he informs me that before the earthquake, town planners had been discussing pulling down the older buildings and modernizing the city.

Lastly Pepe sorts me out with a SIM card for my mobile. You can get direct news from the front-line by calling me on +509 - 831 0282. I still await confirmation from HODR about the shuttle bus to take me across to Leogane. I´m desperate to get stuck in and i take no pleasure playing the “tourist” in PaP.

artists sell their wares on the street

I am grateful to my new brother, for I would not have found all the things out for myself. He invites me to a pop concert tonight, but I graciously decline. Not taking my decline he calls me later, to tell me the concert has been rained off. Could this be the start of the rainy season? It bodes badly for reconstruction work.

cracked but survived

hanging out on the streets

street vendor

parts of the city resemble a building site

a young girl feeds herself on the street

a wacky local bus

evidence of international aid is dotted around the streets

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Failed Afternoon in Port au Prince

I need to go out. I need to sort out a SIM card to be in touch with the outside World and I am curious to see the city, so I think i´ll take a motocyclet and go exploring a bit.

It´s hot out there! Like really hot! Sweltering in at 32 degrees centigrade (or 90 degrees if you prefer the other one), i feel my skin begin to melt like candle-wax, and i soon realize i am not going to get very far.

It´s after 2.30pm and the roads are completed filled with noisy polluting traffic; a myriad of vehicles from battered and broken vans, scooters to deluxe 4WDs with the traffic police orchestrating this weird menagerie – could this be rush-hour? Clearly for some, the earthquake is just a passing moment of history as they move on with their lives. But even more clearly, not so for others.

Outside the Kinam Hotel is a square. The square is completely full of make-shift tents so you cannot see whether there is concrete or grass underneath. There must be more than one thousand people in there in an area less than 100 metres square, with every square millimetre of ground covered. Three outside latrines omit a vile stench of pish and shite. Whilst most of the tents are the basic and simple fabric kind, others use their washing as their only form of shade and shelter.

Faces stare out – many with curiosity, others in resignation, and others in a state of complete disbelief and shock despite the elapse of more than two months. I have my camera with me, but I am unable to shoot a single shot. I wouldn´t know where to start and it certainly isn´t pretty! Yet I do feel it should be documented – maybe i´ll review and reflect on this again.

On the adjacent streets business continues. Artists trying to sell their paintings, flower vendors, snack-sellers, bootleg Marlboro cartons, anything to make a buck. Life carries on in its various forms.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Into Haiti - Port au Prince

my first Haitian sunset - at the border

I have arrived safely in Port au Prince, although since leaving Madrid, everything seems to have been running late.

A sick on-board passenger meant the plane returns from the runway, with the plane eventually arriving more than 2 hours late in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. My rucksack arrives almost 2 hours later than the plane, and despite promises from the school I am to inspect next month, no-one to meet and greet me.

It´s around 11pm local time so i grab a taxi from outside the airport and show him an address in the Old Part of town. US$4 he says – perfect! I sit in the front seat and go to do up my buckle, but cannot find the catch. As I dig around in the dark I pull out the most enormous revolver I have ever seen. I immediately shun the seat-belt and spend the rest of the hour journey hoping that he has no intention of playing with his toy in the near future for my fingerprints are now all over it. The further we drive the more I become skeptical of the price. Sure enough, when we do arrive the price has multiplied 10 fold. He has got a big revolver and all i have is an electric toothbrush so I count my losses.

I get up at sunrise and chat to the Guest House owner. Betty is an American x-pat who has lived in Santo Domingo for 30 years and runs the Plaza Toledos Bettyes Guest House (prices ranging from US22 - 35) at 163 Isabela Catolica, Zona Colonia.She is very helpful and allows me to leave my “work” clothes for collection by the school and calls me a taxi to take me to the shuttle-bus for Haiti. She insists that I use Caribetours for whilst charging a whopping US$40 it is comfortable and a free lunch is served on board.

It takes almost 5 hours to get to the border, through banana, plantain, and pineapple plantations with occasional bougainvilleas and 3 metre high cacti. Most of the land is parched as it is dry season.

Then we hit the border crossing and all chaos and pandemonium breaks loose. The scene is one of complete mayhem with traffic backed up for almost a mile. Seriously bored I take the opportunity for a smoke, wander and take a few photos. I chat to the Spanish truck driver in front carrying essential medical supplies – he has been stuck for 12 hours!

I get chatting also to a New Yorker, Edison, who arrived in Haiti within 24 hours of the Earthquake striking. He reassures me that the improvements have been enormous and his organization has built 5 temporary hospitals, constructing temporary shelters and just opened an orphanage. He passes me his details and tells me to look him up if I fancy helping out. It might offer an alternative if my skills are not fully utilized by HODR.

a bored truck-driver waiting to cross

backed up traffic

a Dominican soldier on the border the dusty border

It takes us 5 hours to clear the border and customs, by which time it is already dark as we enter into Haiti, so there is not much to see out of the window. A further 1 and a half hours see us enter in Port au Prince and it looks like a cross between a squatter camp and a building site. Again there is scene of mayhem outside the bus terminal and punches are being thrown. I quickly grab my bags and hastily “disappear” into the night.

But to where? I walk around a bit, clearly looking like a lost gringo – not a good idea. I call into a restaurant asking for a hotel and pointed to an auberge. All there is are rubble and squatter tents. It transpires that it had an adjoining hospital which had collapsed whilst a few of the disabled patients and staff that survived are now living in tents outside the remnants. A group of missing limbed guys are playing dominoes outside, and they kindly offer me shelter for the night in one of their tents and I sleep erratically for a few hours.

Again I am up at dawn, find a motocyclet who takes to the Kinam Hotel. It ain´t cheap (US$114 standard deluxe room) but boasts a swimming pool and wi-fi. My new home for the next couple of days. I await news from HODR about their shuttle-bus service to Leogane.

Editor´s Addition: Got to remember to eat. Coffee is good but lacks all the nutrients i need.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

An Eye and a Lens - Ma´s Garden

As i make my way across to Haiti, i couldn´t resist taking a photo of the first daffodils blooming in Ma´s garden.

More nature study photos in Ma´s Garden by found by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Help Haiti

I have been touched with the number of people who have wished me well on my trip to Haiti.

For those unable to help in person (of which i know there are many), HODR are always after donations. You can help their cause financially by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Heading to Haiti

Having suffered some seriously bad side-effects (migraines and temperature) from my last series of injections it is with some trepidation that I head for my last shot this morning. Nurse Carol seemed keen to inject my meningitis shot into my thigh, but against my serious protestations she concedes to administer this into my arm – and it transpires it is the least painful of all the shots.

So from cozy bourgeois London suburbs I fly off tomorrow on a 48 hour journey into Haiti where i´ll spend 3 weeks living in a tent on rubble in Leogane with very limited water and electricity supply in the middle of the disaster zone. I´m armed with roll mat, mosquito net, masks and work-gloves for moving rubble and quite possibly dead bodies. Gone are my scrambled eggs and smoked salmon breakfasts and the exquisite Lea Gardens Chinese take-away restaurant. Not to mention the luxury of a proper bath as i return to bucket showers again. Nonetheless, i am looking forward to going back to basics.

Lap-top and camera will accompany me on this journey so there is a possibility of some postings finding their way onto Ketchup With Aubs, but i fear they may be somewhat sporadic. You are welcome to try your chances.

Monday, March 22, 2010


a victim of elephantitus

Meeting up with Discy Dave and Jaq, they both show concern for my well-being in Haiti and remind me all too clearly what awaits in this devastated region.

It sounds inhuman, but one can become desensitized to poverty.

In India alone, I have seen dead babies eaten by dogs, beggars by the cart-load, victims of the horrific elephantitus, polio, and leprosy. Hell! Sometimes I just hang out in slums for the fun of it!

Working as the teacher rep of a school´s charity committee in Bogotá, I got involved in building and developing a school in the shanty town slums in the South of the city – getting to places probably no other gringo has seen and got back alive to say he had got there. Some pics can be found of this project by clicking here.

Jaq asks if I will take some photos. Surely it is my duty to document what I see, and my photography stuff is so much better than my writing skills.

I am predicting the hardest part will be to leave Haiti for a school inspection in the Dominican Republic beginning in mid-April.

Both Ma and Jaq request me to bring a Haitian baby back for them, but, as i told them upfront, the answer is "No!"

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Farewell to my Nephews and Niece

David shows love to his new cousin

As i make my final farewells to friends and family before my brief Caribbean sojourn, i am fortunate to get to say goodbye to my nephews and niece. Perfect!

Daisy aged 13 days

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Following yet another vaccination session with Nurse Carol on Thursday, we get to sorting out the anti-malarial drugs. I am issued with an 18 month prescription of doxycycline – good for both Haiti and Africa.

Wikipedia kindly informs me the most commonly experienced side effects are permanent enamel hypoplasia, transient depression of bone growth (this might eventually stop my continuing growth – another 1cm has been added to my height in 20 months), gastrointestinal disturbances (i think this includes farts!) and some increased levels of photosensitivity. Due to its effect of bone and tooth growth it is not used in children under 8, pregnant or lactating women and those with a known hepatic dysfunction.

The total bill for 18 months is a whopping GBP106, although my pharmacist assures me i´m getting a bargain. I collect on Monday and will have to begin to self-administer immediately. I fear my rucksack is gonna be half-filled with these pills.

This now brings me to a total of GBP252 for Hep A, Rabies, Hep B, Polio, Diphtheria, Meningitis (my final injection to be administered on Tuesday), Tetanus, Typhoid, and Cholera: As Airways points out I should be now indestructible – at that price I expect to be.

Tom – my link man with HODR informs me malaria is now rife in Leogane, my base in Haiti. Great news and just what Haiti needs at the moment! And it is noted that doxycycylin is only 90% effective.

Meanwhile Metro News reported yesterday that scientists in Japan have developed an insect that delivers a vaccine as it bites - a genetically-modified anopheles mosquito. It is believed to be a possible answer to the 1.5 million deaths of malaria around the World. Previous experiments included making male mosquitoes infertile.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Helping Out in Haiti

With my flight tickets now confirmed I fly out from UK next Wednesday for Haiti via the Dominican Republic for a month´s voluntary work.

My new-found friends from HODR offer this rather chilling advise to their Aid Volunteers.

Psychological/Emotional Difficulties

As a first responder or relief worker, you may encounter extremely stressful situations, such as witnessing a tremendous loss of life, serious injuries, missing and separated families, and destruction of whole areas. It is important to recognize that these experiences may cause you psychological or emotional difficulties.

Some Common Normal Reactions to a Disaster

• Profound sadness, grief, and anger.
• Not wanting to leave the scene until the work is finished.
• Trying to override stress and fatigue with dedication and commitment.
• Denying the need for rest and recovery time.

Ways to Help Manage Your Stress

• Limit on-duty work time to no more than 12 hours per day.
• Rotate work assignments between high stress and lower stress functions.
• Drink plenty of water and eat healthy snacks and energy foods.
• Take frequent, brief breaks from the scene when you are able.
• Keep an object of comfort with you such as a family photo, favorite music, or religious material.
• Stay in touch with family and friends.
• Pair up with another responder so that you can monitor one another’s stress.

After You Come Home

If you are not feeling well, you should see your doctor and mention that you have recently returned from response and relief work in Haiti. Also tell your doctor if you were bitten or scratched by an animal while traveling.
Symptoms of malaria can develop up to one year after travel, so be alert for fever or flu-like symptoms.
Approximately one-third of aid workers report depression shortly after returning home, and more than half of returned aid workers have reported feeling predominantly negative emotions on returning home, even though many reported that their time overseas was positive and fulfilling. You might want to see a mental health professional to help you adjust back into your home environment.

A holiday this is not. Fortunately, knowing that all my affairs are in order, i am vaccinated against pretty much everything and i have the love and support of my Guardian Angel, i go with confidence, optimism and enthusiasm.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Eye and a Lens - my Beautiful New Niece

Baby Daisy

Boy and Nic bring my beautiful new niece around this evening. I have plenty of time to do a bit of Uncle / Niece bonding and after holding her for some 20 minutes or so I am rather reluctant to let her go.

Finally named Daisy Ellen Groves, Boy tells me the story of Tim Burton who deliberated for seven months before naming his daughter, Nell. Not really very creative for a creative guy, especially given so much time had elapsed.

Uncle / Niece bonding with a very proud Grandma looking on

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Putting Ones Life in Order

Having completed three of the five vaccination sessions i have been feeling particularly indestructible. However, as I busily sort out my various bits and pieces before I hit the road, it only takes a visit to Lawrence, a friend and solicitor, that I am reminded of my own mortality.

On Pa´s insistence it is time to sort out my first and final Will and Testimony – just in case. Fortunately it is fairly straight-forward, and we complete it in less than 40 minutes. Nonetheless it is still a sobering experience.

Monday, March 15, 2010

World Cup Qualifiers

With the countdown to the World Cup final just a few months away, it is time for me to confess. Despite a host of World Cup qualifiers, I only managed to attend one of the matches; Colombia versus Argentina on 13th October 2007.

Now England might be the home of football, but the love of the beautiful game on the South American continent is second to none.

Richard, my Colombian colleague is put in charge of securing tickets for five gringo teachers including myself. We want the very best and pay out for the most expensive tickets available (about $15) at the Nemesio Camacho "El Campín" Campesa Stadium which holds 44,000 spectators.

Wanting to soak up the atmosphere, we head off in a taxi after school and head into Bogotá´s city centre. As always the roads are packed but arrive shortly before 6pm. It is simply electric as we join the throng to enter the stadium.

We meander slowly up to our seats and the stadium is bursting at the seams. Ticket numbers are completely irrelevant and we scour our block on the upper tiers trying to find a place where we can sit in at least in approximation to each other; no easy feat.

Finally we find a few bench seats close the couple of hundred Argentinean supporters who have made the journey to the Colombian capital. Despite the rivalry (Argies are not popular amongst other South Americans, deemed somewhat big-headed and snooty) there is no form segregation and the banter between the two sets of fans is deeply insulting, but taken in good humour.

We are quickly spotted as gringos, but being well-decked in Colombian shirts, we become swiftly adopted by the other Colombian fans and offered potent aguadiente “fire-water” shots.

Come kick-off and the stadium erupts into a crescendo of noise and a giant Colombian flag is unfolded down. Ticker tape and yellow toilet rolls descend on to the pitch. Riot police endure this barrage around the entire ground.

Colombia make a slow start to the match and find themselves 1 – 0 down after just a few minutes as the Argentinean show off some of their South American fluidity. However after a dirty tackle the ever illustrious Lionel Messi is sent off and the game quickly turns to Colombians favour. The equalizing goal is a stunning free kick curled into the top corner and the crowd sense blood. With just 20 minutes to go, Colombia take the lead and hold the advantage to the final whistle.

It has been one of my best and most memorable nights in Bogotá. Unfortunately Colombia was unable to capitalize on the rare victory against Argentina and dismally fail to qualify for South Africa.

Highlights of the match can be found by clicking here.

More of my photos from the match can be found by clicking here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ignorance is Bliss?

Groombridge sends me this quality article from BBC News, blaming Early Years´ and Primary school teachers for the ignorance of British Youth.

One in 10 children thinks the Queen invented the telephone, a survey of children's science knowledge suggests.

Others gave credit for the invention to Charles Darwin and Noel Edmonds.

One in 20 of the 1,000 pupils polled thought Star Wars character Luke Skywalker or Richard Branson had been the first to set foot on the Moon.

Some 60% of nine- and 10-year-olds thought Sir Isaac Newton discovered fire, the survey for science campaign Birmingham Science City found.

Despite these misconceptions, more children want to win a Nobel prize for science than the X Factor.

The survey of primary and secondary school children in the UK suggests there is some confusion about key scientific achievements.

Just under a half of boys (49%) correctly pinned down gravity as Newton's ground-breaking discovery, compared with 76% of girls.

Just over a third of boys said Newton discovered fire, while the remaining 16% either said he invented the internet, or discovered the solar system or America.

Eight out of 10 boys correctly identified Alexander Graham Bell as the inventor of the telephone, compared with 69% of girls.

Dr Pam Waddell from Birmingham Science City said: "While some of these findings will raise a smile, it suggests that school children aren't tuned into our scientific heroes in the same way that they might be to sporting or music legends."

She suggested it was clear that primary school children had a real interest in science.

"In fact, nearly 70% of nine and 10 year olds would like to be famous for winning a Nobel Prize in science, yet this drops to only 33% among 11 to 15-year-olds.

"It appears children are losing an interest in science at secondary school, so more needs to be done to excite teenagers about the subject and rekindle some of their early childhood aspirations," she added.

The poll was carried out online with a panel of 1,000 UK children in early March by OnePoll.

I take no blame on this - after all i´m an international school teacher. And i presumed everyone knew that Han Solo beat Luke Skywalker to the Moon!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Camden Market

A major part of my misspent youth was wasted hanging out at the very cool Camden Market.

Set in North London, this market is now open 7 days a week although remains at its busiest during the weekends. Set on and around the canal, it is full of trendy stalls with some of the wackier designer clothes, music, hippyesque handicrafts from around the World, antiques, and an excellent array of cheap food stalls reflecting London´s multiculturalism.

I still regularly visit and every time i return, the market-place continues to expand.

There are several traditional pubs and coffeeshops to be found nearby, and the walk along the canals is always a pleasant experience providing the weather is dry.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Total Dromomania

I thought I was kinda well travelled, but my various excursions pale into insignificance to that of Charles Veley.

Over the last 11 years Mr. Veley has travelled some 814 of the 873 countries, islands, federations, republics, war-zones and rebel states of the World, covering some 1,538,686 miles in the process.

Mr. Valey (aged 44) is an ex-pilot who made millions in through a firm has spent some GBP1.5 million in the process, so he clearly has had a major advantage over me. He is now listed at most traveled people dot com.

Now that´s what I call dromomania!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Death for Snoring

It was reported that student Guo Liwei killed his 22 year old room-mate, Zhao Yan for snoring in Jilin Province in China.

He stabbed his room-mate in his chest and back. He was quoted as saying "Zhao verbally abused me several times, prompting me to kill him."

Guo had allegedly posted a video of Zhao Yan snoring on his web-site and their relationship further soured just before the stabbing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Heart Attacks at Football Matches

Watching Watford Football Club matches can often lead to heart-flutters. It´s certainly not always very pretty to watch.

Professor Mats Borjesson from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden has been researching heart attack rates whilst watching football matches.

In this critical study, Prof. Borjesson suggests that the safest grounds are found in Italy and Norway, closely followed by France, Spain and England, due to their medical facilities of including defibrillators at major stadiums. Those countries most at risk include Serbia, Greece and Sweden.

You have been warned!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Expanding Groves Clan

Total congratulations to Boy and Nic on the birth of a new Baby Groves.

I love the role of Uncle and to be Godfather to my nephew Jonathan was the highest honour that has ever been bestowed on me. Great to play with and then returning them to their parents at the end of the day, usually completely hyped up.

Arriving 8 days late, the young couple have been going a bit nuts – most specially Boy who in desperation to induce has been busy preparing red hot curries in the kitchen, and prodding and poking Nic in the bedroom at every possible opportunity.

Clearly worth all the waiting around!

Boy, like my other two brothers, has never been comfortable around children and required special counseling to go ahead with this child. His consternation as well as my reluctantly gentle jibes probably hasn´t helped.

Much to Ma´s amazement, after having 4 boys and 2 grandsons, Boy has won additional brownie points by giving birth to a baby girl.

These photos were taken less than 3 hours after her delivery and she weighs in at a very healthy 7 pounds 13 ounces.

at the weigh-in