Archive for January, 2008

Filed Under (General, Trivia Question of the Week) by Rob on 28-01-2008


Q: In Cotonou, zemidjan drivers wear yellow shirts. In which country of the world do lots of people wear yellow shirts (particularly on Mondays) and why?

Answer to last week’s question: Satchmo is short for ‘Satchel Mouth’ and the winner was Eddie Arthur.
(NB Eddie , you’re not allowed to answer this week’s one, seeing as you gave me the idea in the first place!)

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 28-01-2008

Rob had a useful, enjoyable and thoroughly exhausting time back in the UK last week.

The trip started with me nearly missing my plane from Cotonou, but more on that another time. The main reason for the visit was to meet with tutors at Birmingham University:


My good friend, Mike Webb met me at the airport and kindly offered to be my chauffeur for the whole stay (as he drives funeral hearses for a living, I was in good hands!!!) One of the first visits was to my parents, who had no idea I was even in the country (well, maybe an inkling).


As well as some really constructive meetings about how my research should progress, it was also a chance (briefly) to meet up with old friends. A curry in Ampthill was the order of the day. Here I am with the Wood family (see August ’07 blog posts for more).


It was also great to catch up with the in-laws and with my friends from college days, Bill and Liz. Finally, Thomas, a French bloke who was in Benin for a few months last year and is now at Cranfield University, was able to come to the curry. Here we all are:


(From left to right: Brian, me, Liz, Mike, Billy (with Eleanor), Thomas and Jean)

Other news…

*Rob’s off on another workshop in about 10 minutes time (so apologies for any typos I’ve missed!) This time in northern Togo.

*The Harmattan is stronger than ever, which made the change in climate all the more bearable!

*We all went to a fab place called ‘Bab’s Dock’ on Saturday – on the lagoon near Cotonou. More soon!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 21-01-2008

By the time you read this, Rob will (God willing) already be in the UK!!!

It’s a flying visit in both senses, as he arrives Monday and flies out again Friday. The visit is to discuss his ethnomusicology research with professors at Birmingham University. Thankfully, his good mate, Mike Webb has offered to be his chauffeur for the trip, which should be fun too!

Drop me a line if you’re in Birmingham or Bedfordshire – maybe we can meet up!

Thursday night will be curry time in good ol’ Ampthill so come along and join in the fun!


The weather will probably be like this too – maybe worse! Having not experienced a winter for 4 years, I’m not much looking forward to freezing, but will be grateful for a Guinness or two!!!


Filed Under (Trivia Question of the Week) by Rob on 21-01-2008

Q: The famous jazz trumpeter, Louis Armstrong, was also known as ‘Satchmo’. What was ‘Satchmo’ short for?

Answer to last week’s question: All the cars in ‘The Borrowers’ were Morris Minors.

There was no winner (although VW Beetles was closest…)

Filed Under (Beninese culture, General) by Rob on 19-01-2008

On Friday, Rob went to meet the King of Allada!

Here’s his royal palace:


Not quite Buckingham, but not to worry! We had to wait for a couple of hours before he would grant us an audience, then we were invited into his throne room. Here’s the throne:


Each king of Allada has a symbol which characterizes them. This king’s symbol is the Lion (yes, I know they’re technically leopards or cheetah’s or something, but apparently it’s the same word as lion in Fon!) He is a real king, descended from the first King of Allada in the 1500’s. This one is the 16th King of Allada, although he does not have the same ruling powers as his ancestors (remind you of anyone closer to home?!) Here’s the man himself – you can tell he’s a king because: (i) He has a special king’s stick (left hand), (ii) He sits on a posh chair, (iii) Someone’s holding an umbrella over him, even though he’s indoors.


Although he initially told me off for having lived in Benin for over 3 years before coming to see him, we had a nice chat for about half an hour. I asked him what he thought about traditional song genre usage in church (a spot of research) and he talked about the importance of tolerance between religions and of a cohabitation pacifique between them. Something we all need to remember!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 17-01-2008

Well, not really. But it depends on your definition of fame! Read on…

Last Sunday, we went to eat at Chez Tony, a cheap fast-food joint, which does Lebanese food, burgers etc. (hardly a slap-up Sunday lunch, but there you go). I was about to sit down when this big Belgian bloke shouted: “Rob!” across the room at me. I turned round and looked at the guy – I’d never seen him before in my life!

“It’s Rob, isn’t it?” he said in English.
“Yes, do I know you?”
“No, I saw you on YouTube.”

So, if being recognized by a total stranger counts as fame, I suppose that qualifies! It turns out his son was interested in the Pendjari National Park, so had looked it up on YouTube and found my vids. He’d then browsed other ones of me doing silly things with music or British accents, and therefore recognized me from my cyberspace antics. There you go – it was a good (if slightly surreal) feeling!

My only similar experience was at a party in Bedford, when a total stranger came up to me and said:
“Are you Rob Baker?”
To which I replied affirmatively. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, my friend, Tamsin, told me you’d be here and that you’d be the noisiest person at the party.”

Eeek! How embarrassing!

Back to Africa; we have a few dozen photos of our trips to the Pendjari park – it’s a great place for a safari (elephants, hippos, baboons, lions, but no zebras or giraffes). Have a look at them here.

More soon!


PS Anyone know the Borrowers answer? If not, ask your kids!!!

Filed Under (Trivia Question of the Week) by Rob on 14-01-2008

Q: In the film “The Borrowers”, all the cars in the street scenes are the same make and model – what are they?

Answer to last week’s question: Stockhausen was on the cover of the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album.

The winner was Phil Prior – well done Phil (and he didn’t even cheat and use Google!)

Filed Under (Beninese culture) by Rob on 13-01-2008

Beninese children have a unique way of greeting Western visitors. They ALL seem to know this cheery – but somewhat nauseating – chant, which goes:

“Yovo, yovo, bonsoir. Ca va bien, merci.”

These days, I just join in and sing along merrily, like I haven’t heard it about 3,000 times before! They mean well, and – after all – it’s better than being ignored!!! Have YOU been “Yovo’d”??? Do you like it? Leave us a comment…

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 11-01-2008

The other night, we went for another monumental curry at what we think is the best place in town…


Here we are, last Wednesday evening, with our old friend, Eddie Arthur, at the restaurant. As ever, the food was DELICIOUS. We’ve not seen Eddie in four years, and he was only in town for a couple of nights. So we thought we’d push the boat out and spend three pounds on him! He really enjoyed it, though – see his side of the story here. They don’t often make ’em like Eddie – he’s a sound bloke and great fun to be with. I often say (and it’s true) that I would not be in Africa doing ethnomusicology were it not for him. (I’ll stop now, before you’re shiny head gets too big, mate!)

“Davia” is a Beninese lady who worked as a cook for an Indian family for a number of years, during which she perfected (in our opinion) the art of Indian cuisine. Her tandoori chicken is to die for and she does a mean paneer and divine dall! The building where you eat is the last place in town you’d look for a good ‘ruby’ (explanation on request). Here’s the entrance:

It’s in one of the dodgier parts of town, service is not fast, the interior decor is uninspiring and there’s no written menu to choose from. BUT… there’s always a warm welcome and you get truly delicious food for a great price. You can tell how good it is if you go at lunchtime and see several Indian blokes eating there. It’s one of the places we’ve taken virtually all our friends who’ve visited (I even took Michael Meadowcroft, former Liberal MP for Leeds there a couple of times and he loved it!) Here’s Lois, her mum and our friend Kim Mitton enjoying some of the food at last year’s Birthday Curry:


Mmmm! Now for Benin visitors – a few directions: From the “Mayfair” supermarket, turn right and follow the paved road north. After about 5 roads, you’ll see a big furniture shop to the right. Turn left just before it, and Davia’s is on that corner. Bon appétit!

Filed Under (Trivia Question of the Week) by Rob on 07-01-2008

A new year, and so a new blog feature! Every Monday this year, I shall endeavour to post a new general knowledge question to challenge and amuse you! Here’s the first one:

Q: The composer Karlheinz Stockhausen died last month. On which famous album cover did he appear in the 60’s?

No prizes, but I will mention the winner next week!