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Who Really Needs a Sparkplug?

April 7, 2011

sparkplug290.jpgLast night the prowling African cats kept me awake for a long time. There is nothing to strike fear into your heart quite like the sound of    a mangy cat with a chicken bone stuck in its throat.  Cat in Shrek came to mind with his cough. Kack, kack, kack… I would have thrown a boot at it except the boots were keeping the mozzie net pinned to the floor.  The sound of his hacking cough fades as he drifts away around a tukel but he clearly runs into one of his mates and round of shrieking and yowling ensues. What a zoo.

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Meet the Future of Sudan

April 5, 2011

girl-290.jpgWe suggested (an important word) that our boat crew be on the bank at 5.30 for the return trip. To our surprise they chugged to a stop at 5.35. Not so surprising was the fact that we had some extra passengers. You grab whatever lift you can around here.  A girl about 18 and a boy about 15. And second girl, also about 18 with her two children, a young baby about 3-4 months and a daughter about 3. The wind has dropped, almost completely and the evening is yellow and warm and calm. We head off against the current with the bow down and a three year olds face peering at me from the safety of her mother’s side. I pull faces and wink but nothing happens in that little brown face. At least to start.

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Inquisitiveness or Foolishness?

April 2, 2011

church-faces.jpgHow can I begin to tell you how good today has been. With apologies to the Bard “let me count the ways”. The sun has been gone only twenty minutes or so but that old cliché about darkness falling fast in Africa is true. The arms are click with sweat and mozzie repellant as I sit at a plastic camping table and hope the buzzing of mosquitoes is only just that and not the sound of them landing. I am surrounded by African cats, dark shadows moving around just outside my circle of light, prowling this compound fighting for scraps and having to settle for very slim pickings.

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A Dinka Start to the Day

April 1, 2011

dinka_1_290.jpgI woke from a lucid dream of trying to fit level guttering on curved Dr Suess houses – and laughed. I had spent yesterday putting guttering on a building that had some “level challenges”. There is a hint of blue sky and the breeze is down a little but it is decidedly cool. Armed only with shorts and T-shirt I am hard pressed to stop shivering in the pre dawn light. I am parked down near the Nile which is a noisy river I have decided. The rafts of vegetation slide past at a steady 3-4 knots but the waves make a steady sloshing sound as the water is pushed around by the breeze.

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Would you Like Some Mud in Your Hair? Yes Please.

April 1, 2011

img_1382-version-2.jpgI have forgotten  how stifling a mozzie net is. If there is any puff of air out there it is obliterated by the net. At the end of a windy day there is no breeze and I lie in the open stripped right off (sorry sensitive reader) leaking more sweat than water drunk today, of that I am sure.

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A Drum’s Journey

April 1, 2011

44_290.jpgA 44 gallon drum is manufactured in the USA in a highly automated production process that sees no human involved, from the arrival of the rolls of steel to the packaging of the empty drums onto pallets. Only when the pallets need to be loaded on to trucks does a human appear, in the form of a forklift driver.  Even the plug and bung are inserted by machines.  

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The Workshed

March 31, 2011

workshed290.jpgThe breeze I was looking for last night is here this morning, cool and steady, stirring up the reeds along the riverbank and creating a noisy chop on the river. There is nothing to hint at the 40 degrees to come. There is no one about as I park on the bank and watch the rafts of foliage, mainly hyacinth, float past.  Some sort of wren with a copper blue breast picks around in the dirt at my feet. I should have brought the camera with me as I see waders drifting along, birds I have never seen before.

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Thiangrial

March 29, 2011

(As I tap this out in the back blocks of Sudan from my hand written notes I see it is 4.45pm on Sunday and the Writers Group will be wrapping up their monthly session – writing, worlds apart in so many different ways). Ribbons of black streaks stain the grasslands below, the result of burning off. Stock trails leave faint marks through it, like the light touch of chalk on a blackboard. Heading to 6,000’ and the pilot turns and suggests we buckle up the full harness, its going to get rough. The full harness is already on and nipped up tight alright. At 5,000’ the cabin turns into an oven again. But there it is, creeping out of the distant haze on our left is the Nile, snaggling and stretching across a flat plain. It is an impressive sight. Sandy scribbles a note in my notebook as an island slides past: We are passing the Island of Fashoda where Churchill came down to retrieve the French officer. He and his troops had planted the French flag claiming it for France. But Churchill took the officer back up to Khartoum and then on to France. The Brits and France did a deal. France gave up its claims in Sudan and the Brits gave three Canadian islands to France.  We circle the strip  – the obvious check of the runway for animals or people that might be in the way, and a check of the wind but also to signal our arrival.  The nose points into a mud strip and we make a neat landing despite the buffeting wind, roll to the end, stop. The silence is deafening. I step out into a view of sparse bush in every direction. The aircraft instruments tell us it is 41 degrees. I feel right at home.

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