Archive for March, 2006

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 31-03-2006

Today has been fun.  Learnt about the classification of instruments (organology they call it) into 4 groups: aerophones, ideophones, membranophones and chordophones.  You don’t really want to know what they all mean (do you???)  But did you know that there’s a dewey decimal system for the classification of all the instruments of the world?  Well, neither did I!

This afternoon, I was totally gobsmacked by Tuvan Throat Singing, with the most amazing harmonics you’ve ever heard.  Have a listen at:

Tomorrow, as a bit of light relief, we’re all off to the Musikmesse, a music exhibition in Frankfurt.  Should be fun, and I hope to find a battery-powered microphone mixer for recording in Benin.  Watch this space!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 30-03-2006

Four Days into the course…

and Rob’s enjoying it, but has probably never read as much in such a short time.  Still, he’s learning loads and has met some very interesting people.  Today the group sang an Arabic song and one from the North American plains, complete with percussion.  The course leader is Dr Julie Taylor, who is doing a great job.  This week is theory of ethnomusicology (including history, culture, fieldwork, ethics and ethnologies) and next week is applied ethnomusicology.

Climate/Culture Shock!!!

Yes, after almost two years in Africa, there are quite a few changes for Rob.  He enjoyed visiting WH Smith in Gatwick and using a phone where you can send e-mails (wow – they don’t have those in Cotonou yet).  Then, he got on the Gatwick Express train and said: “Oops, is this a first class carriage?”  In fact, it was not!!!  Other differences he’s noticed include:

  • There seem to be a lot fewer people about – guess that’s ‘cos they’re all in cars!  
  • It’s also strange that most people don’t talk to you (unlike greeting everyone you pass in Cotonou, and asking how their family are!)
  • I wished “Gute Arbeit” to a cleaning lady this morning (which means “Good work”/”Bon travail”) but nobody says that here.  Don’t think she understood the significance!
  • I tried to teach my mates in London the West African ‘finger clicking’ handshake.  I’m afraid they failed terribly! (sorry, guys!)
  • What happened to that big, hot ball of fire in the sky???
  • Not a mosquito in sight – now that’s a pleasant change!
  • Pine trees everywhere – lovely!
  • Cars are all new-looking, but about half the price!!
  • My shoes seem a size too big here, and my feet have blisters (still, not really sandal weather yet, eh?)
  • Toilet seats are COLD!!!
  • The water from the tap is colder than that from our fridge.
  • I haven’t seen an African face since I got to Holzhausen, which I miss.
  • You have to do your own laundry here!
  • Carpets… funny things, eh?
  • And it’s light until 8:00pm, and will remain light longer every night.  Strange.

That’s enough ramblings from me.  Still trying to get some photos uploaded so you can see what it’s like here.  Visit again soon to see if I’ve succeeded!

Benin News…

Lois and the kids enjoyed watching the solar eclipse yesterday from the roof of a friend’s house in Cotonou.  It was not a total eclipse, but pretty impressive nevertheless.

Madelaine’s tooth fell out this week, too, and the tooth fairy came (eventually!!)

The election winner was Dr Yayi Boni, who should be invested (is that the right term?) in a few days’ time.

Thanks to folk who have left comments – it’s always good to hear from you.  If you want to e-mail Rob, just send to the normal address and Lois will forward it (thanks, darling!)

Bye from a cold, wet, but nice Germany!

Filed Under (Family and Friends, General) by Reggie on 26-03-2006

Here are some of the photos of Rob’s brief visit to London, taken by Reggie.

The bright red British Phone Booth!

Rob and Ed outside Ed’s Diner, Rupert Street

Ordering the Guinness at Waxy O’Conners

Viewing the photos at Waxy O’Conners

Reggie, Clive, Ed, Will and Rob, seen through the mirror

Rob – the Preacher with a lot of Bottle!

Rob on the Gatwick Express, Victoria Station

That’s all for now folks!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 19-03-2006


The second round of the presidential elections is taking place as I write.  It had been announced for this Wednesday (22nd March) but then yesterday they changed it to today – not sure why.


This week we had the first decent rain storm for about 5 months!  The good thing about this is that it cools the weather down – so we’ve had morning and evening temperatures of below 30 degrees Celcius, which is a pleasant change (min. recorded in our front yard was 26 !)  We like warm, sunny weather, but when the midday heat is the same as your own body, you long for a cold, drizzly English winter’s day!!!

G & S

The senior pupils are putting on ‘HMS Pinafore’ by Gilbert and Sullivan this Friday.  Rehearsals Monday and Wednesday (the latter in costume).  It’s going quite well now, which is good.

I like to samba!!!

Samba band.jpg 

Here’s the school samba band, which Rob started this term.  Not quite as good as the Newnham Band yet, but getting there.  Of course, we had to have the drums shipped out here first, which took a while.  So far, they know the ‘London School’ Samba and we are working on ‘Samba Reggae’ if that means anything to any of you!

Cotonou has plenty of interesting monuments – many of them dating from the period when Benin was communist.  Here is Rob at the ‘Place de la Bulgarie,’ trying to look like some Bulgarian bloke!  (He might have tried nodding for ‘no’ and shaking his head for ‘yes’ which, I understand, is a feature of Bulgarian culture!)

Place de Bulgarie & Rob.jpg

Otherwise, we’re all fine and well.  Germany in one week’s time for Rob.  He’s looking forward to meeting up with his mate, Ed and some others in London on his way through.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 15-03-2006

Pianos and stuff…

  • Internet connection back up and running, which is a relief.


  • New inner tube put on bike (yes, the arhaldite didn’t work too well after all).  Mind you, at 80p for an inner tube, you can’t go far wrong!


  • Get together Good Friday evening in Ampthill for those who’d like to come and say ‘Hi.’  Send a message for details of where!


  • Kids all fine.  Mads is learning a bit of piano too now.


  • Rob went and had a go on the Kawai grand piano at the Sheraton lastnight – first time he’d played a decent accoustic piano in over a year!  It felt very strange and he felt very rusty (even on ‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘Satin Doll’!!!)  Still, good fun to keep up the playing!


  • Lois is reading a book called ‘The piano shop on the left bank.’  It’s for her book club and is about a piano shop in Paris.  Here it is:

Rob says he wants to read it after her, but – alas – the book club is just women, so he can’t go along!  Lois says she’ll take J P Williams’ book ‘The Piano’ along to the next gathering, for reference purposes!  That’s a great book, too.  Here it is:

Rob’s Mum & Dad sent it him for Christmas 2004 and he loves the book.  John Paul lives in Ampthill and tunes pianos there!

  • Rob’s irregular hearbeats seem to have cleared up, which is a relief.  It was almost certainly due to the Lariam he was taking.  It was scarey at the time, but he’s glad it’s all over.
  • No more election news yet – watch this space.  Also, if you understand French (or just feel like looking at the pictures!) you can visit:

which is the website of our local daily newspaper.


Dinner’s on the table – beef stew with carrots and yams, lovingly cooked by Rose, bless her.


PS  Here’s that picture of Mike Webb in the auto-rickshaw (much the same as the one of Rob, but a different person and angle!)

Auto-rickshaw - Mike.jpg

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 13-03-2006

Hi folks!  Our internet link isn’t working from the house, so I’m having to sit on our doorstep, looking out at the street, to write this!  Therefore – for once in my life – I’ll be brief!

 Elections: The first round took place peacefully and the results have been announced.  There will be a second round of voting within the next couple of weeks, with only 2 of the 20-odd original candidates going through.  Please pray that peace will continue and that there will not be any complications of any kind.

Ethnomusicology: We had hoped to make a trip up to Azove last weekend, where Rob has been working with a choir, which had 9 songs ready to record.  However, with the announcement of the election results happening, it was thought wise to stay put.

Brief UK visit – if you’re around, I’m in central London on Sunday 26th March, and will also be in and around Ampthill on Good Friday.  Hope to see you then!  I’ll be on my way back from an ethnomusicology course in Germany (yes, it was cheaper to fly to London with Afriqiya, then on to  Germany with Easyjet!)

Otherwise, we’re all in good health and enjoying life.  Must go inside now – there are ants and mosquitoes everywhere!  (I’ve already squashed one mozzie, but another has had at least one bite out of my foot!)

Bye for now,

Rob, Lois et al


Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 05-03-2006

Election Day in Benin…

Yes, today is the day the Beninese vote for the new president as the current president stands down. So far it seems calm, certainly from our house, so we trust things will remain this way. There are over 20 candidates, but only 2 or 3 of these are likely to win. If any one candidate gets over 50% of votes today, he/she will be in. If not, there will be a deuxieme tour (second round) where only 2 or 3 candidates will go through. Watch this space…

Other News…

Germany is ON!!! Yes, Rob’s ethnomusicology course in Germany is taking place after all and he booked his tickets this week. Bizarrely, the cheapest way was to London with Afriqiya, then with Easyjet to Germany. That being the case, I shall have a few hours in London on the way out, then will be in and around Ampthill on Good Friday on my way back. Anyone on for a curry??? The only downside is I’ll miss the solar eclipse over Benin.

Repairs & breakdowns…

No, not us personally! My bike had a punctured inner tube this week and I don’t have a repair kit. So…time for a bit of resourcefulness. Arhaldite and a square of rubber cut from a balloon! Seems to be working so far.

The air conditioning on the Land Rover broke down a couple of weeks ago, and was promptly (but not cheaply) repaired. This week, the thermostat went on it, so had to be replaced. However, because the previous repair was so expensive, the guy charged me just £6- this time. Not bad!

Our main laptop is having rather serious problems so we have reverted to using the old one for the time being, which is quite slow in comparison. We probably need a new keyboard for it but there are also other sortware problems that need sorting out. As far as we know no data has been lost, so that’s a positive!

Finally, our digital camera has ceased to work (hence few photos for you at the moment). The cost to repair it would be almost as much as getting a new one, so that’s what I’ll do (probably in Germany). Meanwhile, we’re using our conventional camera with a film in. The kids were intrigued and kept asking to see the picture after we’d taken it. Then Madelaine pressed the ‘open’ button to have a look inside – oooops! Must be a while since we did conventianal photography! Here, I’ve managed to get a few more pics for you.

Firstly, here’s the ‘auto-rickshaw’ as promised (much safer than a zemidjan but more fun than a conventional taxi!)

Rob on auto-rickshaw.jpg

Next, here we are at the ‘Birthday Curry’ a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to those of you who made it to the Amtphill Birthday Curry last night – hope you enjoyed yours as much!

Rob & Lois at curry.jpg

Finally, here’s me at the Railway Station in Cotonou:

Rob at station.jpg

That’s all for now. Thanks for visiting our blog. Feel free to leave comments, which we always enjoy reading. Also, if this is your first visit, scroll down and see what you’ve been missing!

All the best,

R, L, M, R & M