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I’ve mentioned before about my bus journey from Dar es Saalam to Tanga. As we went further north I noticed an increase in plantations of large spiky plants. I actually thought they were pineapples but it seems they weren’t. They are sisal plantations. The sisal market had collapsed a few years ago but apparently is now on the up again (I’ve no idea why!) It is used to make mats, flooring, handbags and of course cat scratching posts.  You can see why I thought it was pineapple.

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Finally Abid Mehboob made a comment on the Battle of Tanga post and he has a site all about Tanga.  In particular I think I’ll find out more about the ‘Lost Hero of Tanga’ the writer Shaaban Robert.  There are loads of photos of Tanga and a large section on the history of the town.

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I was utterly delighted yesterday to discover that I am to get a great nephew or neice in the New Year, so I’ll be a Great Aunt – how grand.  Congratulations Sarah and Paul.  This means my brother Steve will become a Grandad – so he really will be a Babu.   Loads of love to you both and keep well.  Mwa xx

I’ve written before about the First World War in German East Africa and the general Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck.  One of the first actions of the war was the Battle of Tanga starting on the 3 November.  Nowadays Tanga is a vibrant town and the centre of Sisal production on the coast.  As it is only 80Km from the Kenyan (or British East Africa as it was then) border and the terminus of the East Usambara railway from Kilimanjaro to the coast, it was considered to be strategically important.   There was an initial plan to bombard the town but the British managed to extract an agreement from the towns people not to intiate any local agression.   In an astonishing betrayal of trust the British decided that they would in fact launch an attack on the city.  They believed that the harbour was mined so an amphibeous attack was ordered 3 Km south of the town.  There had been no initial reconnaissance.  It was only by chance that the 8,000 ill prepared Indian forces were not wiped out there and then.  The following morning the British Commander, Aitken ordered them to march on the town.  The local German garrison broke up the advancing parties and by the middle of the afternoon they were assisted by a number of swarms of bees, which gave rise to the alternative name for the battle as the ‘Battle of the Bees’.  Despite being outnumbered by over 8 to 1 Von Lettow ordered a counter attach and the British were forced to retreat back to their ships, leavning behind guns, rifles and over 600,000 rounds of ammunition.

In an typical display of gentlemanly behaviour the  German and British commanders met under a white flag and with a bottle of brandy compared notes on the battle and ensured that all the casualties were treated.  It was an early display of the methods that Von Lettow was to use throughout the four years of the war which he finished undefeated.

On Friday I attended the conference for Blackpool and The Fylde College which was held at the Guild Hall in Preston. As we collected our badges, I was astonished to see we were in the ‘corporate guests’ category and as such were treated as VIPs. What a hoot. For the welcome coffee we were sent back stage to a dressing room. Anyway the day was titled ‘ A Grand Day Out’ and I think all the college staff were in attendance. Stephen Heppell did his usual barnstorming, thought provoking stuff as keynote, then I went to workshops on Not School (another Stephen Heppell production), Ellen Lessner from Abingdon and Witney College, did a great job on introducing staff to assistive software.

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However, the highight of the day for me was Tim Rylands who was just so inspiring, creative and funny. He wrote about the day here. He won a Becta teachers award in 2005 for his work in a primary school in the South West using the game Myst. I wish I’d had a teacher like him. So it was after all, A Grand Day Out – well done Blackpool and Fylde College.

When I got home – still no internet connection, now starting to panic.

Well it’s been an odd week. On Tuesday my broadband connection – well just stopped. I’d just ordered an upgrade from my ISP and they had said that the signal would fluctuate for the first week or so. I didn’t bother too much as I was on the road for most of the week, which I was. I was driving to an appointment in Liverpool on Wednesday afternoon and thought it was odd that a lot of the cars had flags on them and photos of Steven Gerrard in the window. gerrard.jpg

Then it dawned on me – it was the European Champions League Final between Liverpool and AC Milan that night in Athens. As I got further into the city centre the atmosphere was amazing. I was due to stay that night and couldn’t have picked a better time for a party. Everybody was wearing red and there were giant screens everywhere. Although they lost it was a fantastic night and they certainly didn’t ‘walk alone’.

Last week I had to go to a meeting in Sefton, north of Liverpool. The meeting had finished by mid afternoon so a colleague and I went down to Crosby beach which is only a couple of miles away. I wanted to see the Antony Gormley’s ‘Iron Men’ Gormley probably most famous for his Angel of the North by the A1 at Gatehead has created 100 life size casts of himself. Called Another Place they have then been exhibited previously in Germany, Norway and Belgium and are now arranged along a 3 kilometer stretch of the beach. They are spread up to one kilometre out to sea and all of them stare expectantly in that direction.

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The ravages of the wind and the tides have made each one individual.

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It is difficult to get the right sort of perspective with a small camera but in this you can see one in the sea over the other’s shoulder.

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And finally, I was trying to protect his modesty, but it seems to look as if I’m doing quite the opposite!

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The men were due to be moved to New York in November last year but after a local protest they are to stay.

I noticed that Steve has put a comment on the Malaria post from back in February.  There is an urban myth that brewers yeast or marmite will act as a deterent for mosquitoes.  While Steve and I both fall into the ‘love it’ camp for marmite, it is a tasty spread not a reliable prophylaxis.   As Steve says ‘As malaria can make you very ill and very dead very quickly I don’t think I would want to sign up for any of them. The last person we had out in Tz who was into alternative prophylaxis spent a long time in hospital with v severe malaria. Would that taking brewers yeast or similar was any good – it would make treating people a whole lot easier, a lot cheaper and a lot less children would die. I eat a lot of Marmite and still get malaria.’  Good point, if it were that easy, Mr Bill Gates wouldn’t be spending some of his billions of dollars in a research facility at the hospital in Tanga.  2,000 children a day die of Malaria in Africa.

I’ve just finished a book that almost made me put on weight.  No really, it is by the front man of the band Franz Ferdinand, Alex Kapranos.  The tag line on the back of it is “tour the world – with odd people – eat odd food – with odd people – write about it”  That pretty much sums it up.  It was Radio 4’s book of the week some time late last year and I got it as a Christmas present and have only just got round to reading it.  It’s only a thin volume and you could imagine that you could get through it in one sitting.  There is one problem though, you can’t read more than about 15 pages without having to get up and eat something.  He is witty and sharp and it is very funny.  He writes about bull’s testes in Beunos Aires, puffer fish in Osaka and gluewein in the Munich Christkindlmarkt and everywhere inbetween.  His revenge on a snooty hotel manager in Singapore was as swift as it was sweet.  A little gem of a book.

I think I’ve mentioned on a couple of occasions that I slept for England while I was away.  This often happens to me, on day four or five of a holiday I suddenly start needing to lie down during the day, not something I do normally.  I even got to taking a comfy chair up to Emau Hill so I could snooze after lunch.  Pia was very wicked one day and pinched my camera – the result is not the most flattering of photos but true nevertheless.

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Note – orange feet!  The dogs are, to the left the originally named Simba and at the front Ngomo.  This is  pronounced with the N at the beginning sort of swallowed almost like a gulp.

If you are ever browsing in a book shop and can’t quite decide whether to buy this one or that, try giving a book the Page99Test. This “test” was inspired by Ford Madox Ford’s observation, “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.”

Hmmm – you can’t really see a pause of 20 minutes while I go and fish out some books to try this out on, but try it, it works.  I suppose it depends on what edition you have but it is far enough into the narrative to have the plot set and the characters introduced and not too far that the book is rattling down to some sort of conclusion.  There is a blog wholly dedicated to this premise and has invited academics commenting on page 99 of mainly American but some English classics , including Wuthering Heights.

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