Saturday, 28 June 2008

PhotoHunter: bright

There is no doubt that at this time of year, bright flowers abound.

The local authorities have every available space filled with bright flowers.

People do the same in their gardens.

The colours of roses can be stunning

especially against the sky

But myself, I prefer the more natural colours of the acacia leaves against the bright blue sky ...

... and the sun filtering through the trees to brighten leaves.

Best of all perhaps are the flowers I find when I walk along the river bank. They can't compete with the cultivated flowers for individual colour, but in their own place amongst the grasses and shrubs they do look bright, and they brighten my day.

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Friday, 27 June 2008

The climber(s)

No, indeed, you are not supposed to be up there!

He pushed the windows apart that you can see behind him, just enough to get out. It was quite interesting to see him go into reverse to get back in.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

A more personal charity

Young children in school. Ghana. Photo: Curt Carnemark /World Bank. From Flickr, Creative Commons licence

Yesterday I had to do some fairly extensive research on the internet, looking at various education-based sites. One had an appeal in the sidebar for teachers and schools to consider sending surplus textbooks to a school in Ghana.

Following the links, as you do, I found Friends of Tafo, which operates in Kwahu-Tafo, the ancestral home of Gyearbuor Asante, who played Matthew in the Channel 4 comedy, Desmond's.

The charity works on a more holistic approach than many. It concentrates all its efforts on this one small town (pop. 5,500) in rural Ghana, where unemployment is about 80%. This means many children can't go to school because they can't afford books or uniforms, and the schools themselves are in poor condition. All of which leads to further unemployment.

The projects undertaken aim to encourage self-development in education, health and infrastructure, and employment.

· Funding teachers for and renovation of the Senior Secondary School
· Enabling training workshops in soap-making, tie-and-dye and textiles
· Starting training courses for the Disabled Association in leatherwork and tailoring
· Establishing an eye care programme
· Setting up bee-keeping cooperatives for income generation
· Founding a music academy for promotion of talent and musical culture
· Establishing school twinning programmes between Tafo and the UK
· Funding school fees for 'needy pupils'
· Repairing wells to improve water quality and safety
· Encouraging Ghana's first Edible Almond Oil project, being developed in Tafo
· Resourcing the town's first computer classroom, for pupils and townspeople
· Rebuilding the Islamic Primary School
· Providing in-service Teacher Training
· Equipping the town's first Science Lab
· Building a Community Library
· Improving sanitation in schools and the community's wells

They are supported in a number of different ways and donors provide not only money but also much-needed equipment, hence the appeal for surplus text books from teachers. They can find uses for many things and will often fund a project that is of particular interest to the donor.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

I really shouldn't laugh

By the time I realised where the sound was coming from, they had nearly passed, but I caught a picture of our local band by leaning out of an upstairs window.

Note the two groupies who appeared to be following them everywhere.

As luck would have it, they returned later so I could get a shot of that drum. I've never seen a drum being wheeled along on pram wheels before.

Not quite in the same league as the band from a neighbouring town, seen at a market last September.

Now, what do you think? Is this a close relative of René Artois frm 'Allo 'Allo? Has to be! He was wonderful, swaggering around town.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

PhotoHunter: water

Like many people we've had more than our fair share of water this year, though not as badly as many others. And not forgetting the people in some countries where they haven't enough.

Just four weeks ago, the river looked like this, with more rain forecast.

Fortunately the floods have subsided and the river is running more placidly, though the water is still muddy and full of debris.

The water is more placid, that is, until it arrives at this weir, where it is churned up once again as it generates electricity for our little town.

But you have to take the rough with the smooth. If you click on this you will see on the far side a tree that has come down river, and a log stuck in the middle of the weir.

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Thursday, 19 June 2008

19 June 1865

Photo by G@ttoGiallo. Creative Commons Licence.

A blog which explores the differences between British and American English, and a photo blog by someone who lives in Paris, don't appear to have much in common. And they don't.

But it was on Britishspeak that I first learnt that 19 June 1865 is the day that slaves in the USA were freed, and it was today that I found the photo above, taken by G@ttoGiallo at the Calabar Museum in Nigeria.

Just looking at that board gives some idea of the enormity of the crime. Those numbers are all people. And we must not forget that, although it takes different forms, slavery and human trafficking still exist in the world today.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

The moon in June

Almost a harvest moon.

Prehistoric Carnac

Around Brittany you come across standing stones quite frequently. They were erected in the Neolithic era which in this area dates from 5000 to 2000 BC. The Carnac alignments are probably the most famous and most impressive, with about 4000 stones spread over a four kilometre site.

scattered megaliths

The word for megalith in Breton is menhir- "men" = stone, "hir" = long or tall. In some places the stones are scattered and incomplete. In the past they were often removed for building materials or to make way for roads.

large megaliths

The stones vary in size and are roughly arranged according to size and volume.

dolmen or tomb

A dolmen - "dol" = table, "men" = stone. The structure of stones protecting the burial chamber would have been covered by earth.

As you continue along the site, the lines of stones become more obvious, though of course it does rather depend on where you start!

People are no longer allowed direct access to the stones during the summer months, hence the fences seen in the photos above. The ground was deteriorating rapidly, the plants trampled and the earth becoming bare. the stability of the menhirs was threatened. Sheep are allowed graze the enclosures and contribute to the ecological maintenance of the plant life.

As you can see, in the past, houses, even villages, were built within the alignments, and roads cross here and there.

Nevertheless, they remain an amazing sight, especially in the places where you can get a glimpse that gives you an idea of what the original extent must have been.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Iness was born with two club feet. They got so bad she eventually could not attend school.

If she had been born with club feet in the UK, as 1 or 2 in 1000 British children are, she would have undergone extensive surgery and possibly been left with scarring and in pain. This sort of surgery and subsequent treatment isn't available in countries such as Malawi, where they just don't have the medical or financial resources to support it. Nor can the patients cope with long drawn out treatments. Iness' mother said, “It was such a burden for me to come every week. I am poor and to find transport money was like struggling for breath.” A different way to treat babies in their first year of life, while it is still possible to avoid complex surgery, was urgently needed.

Photo from Flickr/MikeBlyth
Here in the UK, the BBC is currently showing a series of television programmes (Superdoctors) which looks at various high-tech medical procedures, but one of these programmes is instead looking at the work of Steve Mannion, an orthopaedic surgeon from Blackpool, who spends two out of every four weeks in Malawi in southern Africa. When he first started visiting Malawi, he was one of only two orthopaedic surgeons for a population of about 12 million. He had to find a solution for the children with club feet using the resources available in the area. He found a low-tech method of treating the condition using a type of physiotherapy which would allow non-medical officers, not doctors, to treat patients. The results have been so successful, better than those in the UK, that this low-tech method is being introduced into this country.

The cost of the surgical robots featured in the television programme is about £12 million or roughly $24 million. How many children in the third world could be treated for that sort of money to enable them to walk again, to go to school and earn a living? As opposed to a robot which does work normally performed out by a surgeon. The hospital carrying out this project was built with support from the Beit Trust of the UK, and is managed by the American CURE International, paying the running costs.

I tend to be wary about faith-based charities but this one says it will not turn away a patient due to an inability to pay, ethnic background or religious affiliation. All children are treated free of charge and as a result Iness is now able to attend school again. Chisomo, another patient, and his family are Moslem. His mother said, “I have been encouraged. I think God deserves all the glory. I will leave to testify to people and even tell my son as he grows up that a Christian hospital healed him, a hospital without discrimination.” That warms my heart - a secondary but very important benefit of better trust and understanding.

See also Feet First, a charity set up by Steve Mannion himself in 2004.
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Sunday, 15 June 2008

Washing without water

Recently the University of Leeds announced that one of their spin-off companies, Xeros, is commercialising a process of washing (and dry-cleaning) clothes, first developed by researchers at the university.

Plastic granules are put into the machine with the clothes to remove dirt. Tests have shown that they remove stains as effectively as normal washing methods and clothes are left as fresh. They estimate the new method will use less than 2% of the water and energy of a conventional machine, and of course there is no need for a tumble dryer. They are hoping it will be available in 2009.

Presumably there will be no need for a fabric conditioner, nor will you be hanging the clothes on an outdoor line, so I'm wondering how fresh is "as fresh"? Nevertheless, the saving in water and electricity will make it very, very attractive.

They believe the process can also be used for dry-cleaning, removing the need for harmful solvents which are linked to certain types of cancer, a great step in improving safety.

How will the soap manufacturers react? Will they be offering to supply a bar of soap to the developing world if we buy 10 packets of washing powder?

University of Leeds press release.

Updated with a more recent press release.
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Saturday, 14 June 2008

PhotoHunter: emotion

I return to the Photo Hunt to find one of the hardest yet! I rarely if ever show faces, the cat wouldn't co-operate so I'm showing you some pictures of things that arouse emotions in me.

little boy by the sea

A small boy gazing at the Atlantic Ocean.

a red sky

The sky from our house. I never tire of sky watching.

church interior

The 13th century church at Crozant.

Mediterranean Sea in the evening light

The sea again, this time the Mediterranean.

And finally some words, for a special friend.

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Thursday, 12 June 2008

Lavender's blue, dilly dilly

Different varieties of lavender

Taking the pictures was going very well


What is THAT?! It's HUGE and buzzy.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Beside the seaside, beside the sea


From our recent holiday in Brittany, near Carnac.

oyster boats and beds

Oyster boats with oyster beds in the background.

grounded small boats

Low tide at a small fishing port.

salt pans

Salt pans still in use at Carnac. The winds evaporate the sea water leaving crystals on the surface which can then be gathered.

sandy causeway

Causeway to the small island at Men Du beach. Men means stone and Du means black in the Breton language. It is a Celtic language so not surprising that du is similar to the Irish dubh.

poppies growing by beach

Wild field poppies, Flanders field poppies, growing in sandy soil by the beach.

rocky cove

Lunch stop at a rocky cove.

fort overlooking sea

Penthièvre fort, built in 1747, where 59 members of the Resistance were tortured and shot, July 1944. It is now owned by the Ministry of Defence.



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