Archive for October, 2008

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 31-10-2008

As you can see, I’ve still got plenty of copies of my solo piano album “Take my Hands” left, so why not do your Christmas shopping now and buy a few copies for your friends?!

Click here, for the newly-updated ‘Take my Hands’ page, where you can listen to decent quality exerpts of each track to see if you like them. Here are a couple of my favourite tracks now, to save you doing as much clicking:

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(There is hope)

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(Justice for all Nations)

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(Eternity starts here)

The album has been reviewed by Cross Rhythms magazine – click here to read their review and here for their review of ‘Creation’ (previous album).

Buy your copies of “Take my Hands” here for a mere £13 (inc. P&P worldwide), or contact me directly and I may be able to offer you a ‘credit crunch special’!!

Thanks for listening! Bye for now.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 28-10-2008

I got home from Africa last night and – somehow – managed to bring back THIS extra passenger with me:

It’s rather a mystery, and I’ve no idea how it happened, but after I’d unpacked, I left one of my empty bags in the hallway for a while, then put it away. An hour or two later, Lois went downstairs and saw what she presumed to be a plastic, ‘trick’ cockroach. However, upon closer examination, it proved not only to be a REAL cockroach, but also to still be ALIVE (if a tad stunned)! Here he is on our staircase (probably wondering what carpet is!)

I guess this kind of thing can happen easily, but it was a little scary – I’m just glad it wasn’t a poisonous spider or snake than snuck into my bag when I wasn’t looking! You’ll remember how much I ‘love’ cockroaches from this previous blog post, which has a particularly revolting photo of them.

Finally, I was in a village in Benin in June and went out to use the ‘loo’ at night (a basic, long-drop style toilet) only to find the walls literally COVERED in cockroaches!! I didn’t hang around to count them (or even take a photo for the blog) but there must’ve been at least 50 of them. Needless to say, I figured my ‘business’ was not so urgent that it couldn’t wait until the morning…

Thanks for reading. More on my EPIC trip back home soon!

Filed Under (Trivia Question of the Week) by Rob on 27-10-2008

Q:What was the name of the Belgian guitarist who only used two fingers on his left hand when he played?

The material which means ‘inextinguishable’ in Greek is asbestos.
And the winner was: Paul Morriss. Well done, Paul (we will meet one of these days!)

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 23-10-2008

(this post is especially dedicated to Edith & Marv)

Kara is my second favourite place in Togo, just behind Tsiko, which has even nicer mountains.

Here I am heading up Kara Mountain on Sunday, with some impressive baobabs in the background:

The view from the top is very nice indeed. Here’s one of our ATP students, Job, on his way up the mountain:

We made it to the top just in time to catch the end of the service at the lovely little church up there, then went to pay ‘homage’ to my mate Dave’s house. Unfortunately, we took a somewhat ‘alternative route’ back down, and ended up forging our way through 10 foot high grass with rocks underfoot. Oops! Meanwhile, we were almost out of water and midday was approaching. Thankfully, we made it back to the original path, by the famous ‘breakfast rock’. In fact, it was the large cross there which showed us the way to go (there’s a sermon in there somewhere!)

Togo is a very pretty country (much more so than Benin, I think). Click here to see my album of Togo shots. Well, only one more day in Kara, then the course is over and it’s time to leave. I’ll miss Africa and all it’s nice trees and mountains!

(Thanks to Kember for taking these fab photos).

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 22-10-2008

…until I came back!

It’s strange how one’s mind tends to block out certain good things when you leave a place – I guess it’s partly because you just don’t see, taste or hear of them, but maybe it’s also the brain’s way of coping with the transition. Here are a few things I’ve been delighted to experience since coming back to Africa, even though I wasn’t missing them in England:

* The lush greenery of the place, especially as it’s rainy season – palm trees, mango trees, banana plants, papaya plants, bougainvillea bushes, frangipani trees etc.

* Being able to go out in just a t-shirt and not feel cold, day or night.

* Fan Milk ice-creams – cheap but delicious!

* The intensity of the sunshine – both in terms of light and heat. Although you can’t stay in it long, a few seconds is enough to bathe you in warmth and make you feel better!

* The openness, smiles and warmth of African people (sorry Brits, but they out-do us big-time on this one!)

* Fulani cheese in sauce, served with rice. Mmmmmm! (known locally as Fromage Peuhl)

* The constant sound of insects from nightfall onwards. In fact, here are a couple of interesting (and very beautiful) specimens I’ve seen since arriving here:

(Some kind of dragon-fly thingy)

(A praying mantis)

The praying mantis is, of course, famous for the somewhat unusual practice of the female eating the male just after mating. However, according to Wikipedia, this kind behaviour is not limited to the mantis, but also occurs amongst other insects and arachnids.

Don’t forget this post, where you can hear the amazing sounds of an African night and also this one about an interesting looking moth.

Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy a few more days of Africa, then it’s back to drizzle, cold, dark nights and frost!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 20-10-2008

As promised, here is some more info about the amazingly un-African coach I caught in Benin last week…

What a beauty! A BRAND NEW bus – in Africa?!? It just doesn’t seem right! And air-conditioned with reclining leather seats and a TV on board. I almost had to pinch myself. The coach is made by Wuzhouling, a chinese company. Have a look at the interior upholstry – nicer than many I’ve travelled on in England:

The coach can be caught from the Etoile Rouge roundabout, Cotonou at 7:00 each morning (along with about 10 other buses of varying quality!) I was fortunate enough to get one of the last available seats on board, so it may be advisable to book ahead.

Here’s the Intercity Lines website, with all the info you need, if you’re travelling north in Benin. The journey from Cotonou to Djougou (461km and 7 hours) cost a mere 8,000cfa – that’s less than nine pounds! (I can’t even get from Flitwick to London that cheap!!)

So, what are you waiting for – book your journey today!

Filed Under (General, Trivia Question of the Week) by Rob on 20-10-2008

Which hazardous and fibrous material derives its name from the Greek word meaning ‘inextinguishable’?

Answer to last week’s question: Tiger Woods’ real first name is Eldrick (not Tiger!)
And the winner was the inimitable Tim Robinson.

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 18-10-2008

As you know, I’m teaching the ATP ‘Music and the Arts’ course in Kara at the moment. Look, here I am:

Well, the other day we got talking about tongue-twisters, which also exist in Africa. Here’s an amazing Hausa tongue-twister which one of our students taught us:

Kato ya yi koto
Kwado ya yi koto
Kato zai kwace koton kwado koko
Kwado zai kwace koton kato

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It means:

The strong man has pillaged
The toad has pillaged (or pecked!?)
Will the toad grab what the strong man has pillaged
Or will the big man grab what the toad has pillaged.

So, it makes about as much sense as most tongue-twisters then! Here’s another one, this time in the Peulh (Fulani) language. Go on – try saying it:

Nyaamo nyaanya nano
Nano nyaanya nyaamo

It means:

The right scratches the left
The left scratches the right.

Fair enough! I found this great website which has over 2,000 tongue-twisters from all around the globe. There’s also this YouTube video of tongue-twisters spoken by people all over the world. Enjoy!

Whilst we’re on the subject, my favourite French tongue-twister is:
Le chasseur sachant chasser sans son chien est un bon chasseur.

And my favourite German one is:
Blaukraut bleibt Blaukraut und Brautkleid bleibt Brautkleid.
(translations upon request!)

Now get those false teeth into gear and see how you do!

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 13-10-2008

…I just wish my family could be here with me!

Hey, nothing against good old England, but to see all those smiling black faces again literally brought tears to my eyes. There’s just something about Africa – once you’ve been there once, it just keeps on calling you back. The wierdest thing was that arriving in Cotonou felt more like ‘coming home’ than arriving back in the UK did. How strange is that?! Unfortunately (and somewhat ironically) it poured with rain all day in Cotonou on Saturday, whilst back in the UK Lois and the kids sat out in the sunshine in a friend’s garden! That can’t be right!!

Here’s a brief low-down of the trip so far:

Fly from Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle and stay the night with my friend Tom in Paris, but arriving very late at night. Hence, very little time in Paris the next morning – just long enough for a coffee and croissant and to take this rather atmospheric photo:

Check in around midday and fly to Cotonou, arriving early evening. Meal with my mate Bill, then we watch the excellent and moving film Goodbye Lenin together before hitting the sack. (I’m glad Bill has a/c in his house!)


Here’s what the weather was like all day. I had various little jobs to do – picking up some transcriptions for the thesis, sorting out our shipping goods, visiting friends and giving them chocolate/mince pies etc, and all in the pouring rain! In the evening, it’s time for a curry with friends:

Up at the crack of dawn to catch this bus at 7:00am to Djougou in the north:

It’s a new coach company, and this was an amazingly comfortable, spanking brand new bus. In fact, it was such an uncharacteristically African experience, that I think it warrants a separate post at a later date (watch this space…)
Arriving in Djougou, I was taken to where the taxi’s leave for the border, when suddently an amazing thing happened – who should drive past in a car but BONI YAYI (formally known as Yayi Boni) the president of Benin!!! Of course, he wasn’t driving, and there was a whole convoy of vehicles, but did give us a wave out of his window. Wow!

Finally, I had a very bumpy 90 minute journey westwards on a dirt road to the Togolese border in this rather clapped-out taxi:

TWELVE people on board, bald tyres, no interior upholstry whatsoever (apart from seats) and a windscreen with so many cracks it looked like a map of the Nile Delta. Also, they had to tie my door shut with string so that I didn’t fall out en route! The weather up here was much warmer (maybe 34 degrees C) and the sun was shining at last! Across the border with ease, then a nicer taxi on a decent road, all the way to Kara, arriving at 4pm Togo time (5pm in Benin and England). Out for a meal at the ‘Centre Grill’ – the best place to eat in Kara (and very cheap too!)

Meetings with my two ethnomusicology colleagues to decide who’s teaching what from tomorrow. Lunch with students who’ve already arrived, then a much needed siesta. Finally, getting this laptop ‘internet-worthy’ so that I can write this blog post.

Thanks for reading. More soon!

Filed Under (General, Trivia Question of the Week) by Rob on 13-10-2008

Q: What is the real first name of golfing champion Tiger Woods?
Answer to last week’s question: Octopuses’ blood is blue (read about it here).