Archive for September, 2008

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 30-09-2008

We can – because we all have new glasses now!
Hope you noticed! Mind you, with the current fashion in bold, dark-rimmed frames it would be tricky not to notice, I think. We’ll probably look back at photos like this in 10 years’ time and think “Why ever did we wear those?!?” (rather like our parents did 10 years after the 1960’s). Still, one has to try and keep up-to-date with current trends as much as possible (except if it means doing away with those loud shirts, of course).

The best bit is that Lois and I both went to Specsavers, where you get a free second pair. So here we are wearing those – suitable, maybe, for slightly more civilized occasions:

That’s all for now. No takers on the trivia question yet. Come on – you must know this one!!

Filed Under (Trivia Question of the Week) by Rob on 29-09-2008

Q: Which sea has no coastline and is a breeding ground for eels from all over the world?

Answer to last week’s question: South Ealing and Mansion House are the only two London Underground stations to contain all 5 vowels.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 26-09-2008


I LOVE music of all kinds. But when I think of some of my favourite artists and albums, it’s only because of others’ recommendations that I’ve ever got into them.

So here’s a wee tribute to some of the friends who have introduced me to some of my most cherished recordings.

Thanks to:

* Mike Simpson for introducing me to the crazy but musically brilliant music of Meredith Monk.

* Liz Henderson for introducing me to the legendary African Horns album, which I listen to regularly and play at virtually every party I throw.

* Clive Anderson (no relation) for introducing me to the powerful, moving voice of Eva Cassidy.

* Mike Webb for introducing me to Steve Reich, my favourite composer EVER. Fantastic music (if you like that sort of thing – and I do!)

* Dave Robinson for introducing me to the crazy world of Mika. Thanks Dave – my kids love him too!

* Irma Piet for introducing me to the inspiring, contemporary choral music of dutch musician Remco Hakkert

* Nick Worley for introducing me the hypnotic, intriguing music of The Orb (esp. the monumental “Little Fluffy Clouds”)

* Neil Breakey for introducing me (via his blog) to Duke Special and, in particular, his wonderful song “Our love goes deeper than this.”

* Julie Taylor for introducing me to the wonders of Tuvan Throat Singing (after which I rushed out and bought this album).

* And, finally, thanks to Lois for introducing me to the incredible singing and jazz piano of Harry Connick Junior and to the neo-classical delights of Rondo Veneziano.
There you go! My hope would be that, through these recommendations, I am able to introduce YOU to some new music you’ll love and enjoy too!

And finally…

The surreal genius of Meredith Monk – not one you’re likely to rush out and buy, but it might just make you smile!

Filed Under (Ethnomusicology) by Rob on 22-09-2008

Just click on the ‘ethnomusicology’ category near the top of the left-hand column to find out why!

Long-standing visitors to this blog will remember when I did a couple of ethnomusicology courses in Germany. Click here and here for a reminder of those. Over the past three weeks, I’ve been taking Module III of the ethno course, which is entitled:


Wow! There’s a mouthful! Basically, it means we’ve been learning how to analyse a foreign music system in terms of intervals, frequency of pitches etc. For this, we listened to music by the Urubu-Kaapor people of Brazil. We then had to transcribe the music – tricky when the intervals are unlikely to match those of a western scale. To help us do this, we used melograms, courtesy of speech analyser. Here’s what one looks like:


Our final task was to compose a song in the same style as the music we had analysed. Here’s a wee clip of one of the Urubu-Kaapor songs:

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And here (just so you can have a laugh) is my attempt at replicating not only the melody and rhythmic patterns, but also the vocal quality:

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Thanks to Neil for that recording. Unfortunately, my singing sounds more like Louis Armstrong than native Brazilian!!! Here are the motley crew who took the course this time, taken at pie night at the nearby Blue Flag pub:

Finally, here’s the info about the whole ethnomusicology course (I’ve now taken all three modules): ETP Ethnomusicology course. I would recommend anyone interested in the field of ethnomusicology to take these courses – really useful stuff.

Thanks for reading. I’m delighted – at last – to have something happen in the UK which is vaguely interesting to blog about. The only other choice would be the weather!!!

Filed Under (Trivia Question of the Week) by Rob on 22-09-2008

Q: There are only TWO stations on the London Underground network which contain all 5 vowels in their name. Can you name one of them?
(I’ll let you consult an underground map for this one if you have to)

Answer to last week’s question: The only species of bird which is able to fly backwards is the humming bird.

Filed Under (Beninese culture) by Rob on 20-09-2008

* Hot, humid ‘five-shirts-a-day’ weather. (See here)

* The ubiquitous song which goes ‘Yovo yovo bonsoir, ça va bien merci’. (See here)

* Having to sleep under a mosquito net and take malaria prophylaxis. (See here)

* Getting malaria regularly in spite of the above. (See here, here and here)

* Power cuts for up to 30 hours. (See here)

* That it’s not safe to drive at night in most of the country. (see here)

* People following you, asking for money.

* Having your windscreen washed at the traffic lights, whether you want it or not.

* Being constantly aware of the risks of ceiling fans.

* Thick, blue clouds of Cotonou pollution brought on by 1,000’s of zemidjans. (see here)

Filed Under (Trivia Question of the Week) by Rob on 15-09-2008

Q: Which is the only species of bird which is able to fly backwards?

Answer to last week’s question: The Smurfs were from Belgium. And the winner was Phil.

Filed Under (Beninese culture) by Rob on 13-09-2008

(in no particular order)

* Big, fresh, juicy mangos for 30p each.

* Simple, cheap, fun public transport, in the form of the zemidjan.

* Being able to speak Fon and other interesting languages every day.

* Sunshine (what’s that look like again?!) and warm weather in general.

* Having a tough 4×4 and driving it anywhere.

* Friends like Brian Mitton, Matt Price, Bill, Reggy & Mathieu Assogba.

* Being warmly greeted by strangers as you walk down the street.

* Cheap fuel – diesel was 55p a litre there!!

* Bab’s Dock – a wonderfully relaxing resort on the lagoon.

* Bissap juice. Mmmmmmm!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 12-09-2008

If so, you’ll LOVE this:

Amazing! I never realized there were so many possible palindromic sentences! Wierd Al has a number of amusing songs but this – but this one has got to be one of the most ingenious. Enjoy!

In August, the Bakers had a few days break in a static caravan on this site near the picturesque village of Pooley Bridge in the Lake District.

In spite of the typical Lakeland weather (ie cloudy, wet & windy) we had a good time, the caravan was lovely and we had some great experiences, particularly:

* Seeing a red squirrel just outside the caravan on the our very first morning there:


These are very rare in the UK these days, so to have one literally on one’s doorstep is something of a novelty to say the least. Here’s another shot:


* Hay Close Maize Maze – a fun day out for all the family. The mazes were actually shaped like a cow and a tractor – see some aerial views here (NB not this year’s) and directions here.

* Visiting Eden Ostrich World nearby and seeing sheep being milked (!?)

* Having a visit from our friend Joanna, whom we knew from Benin (previously posted here and here). She even stayed a couple of nights in the caravan with us!

* A trip on an Ullswater Steamer after a 7-mile hike.

Here are some more holiday pics:

(TL: The kids on a cannon at Carlisle Castle (click here too), TR: A monumental walk along the banks of Ullswater, BL: Aboard the Ullswater steamer and BR: Outside the caravan with Joanna).

More summer photos on Rob’s Facebook profile which you can find by clicking the new link on the RHS of this blog (thanks for your tips on that one, Eddie A).

Thanks for reading! PS What do you think about the LHC – waste of time and money or fascinating scientific research tool? Leave us a comment!