Category Archives: Normality

Why I’m supporting Hungary tonight!

I have no particular affinity to Hungary. I have been lucky enough to visit once back in 1993, spending a great day with some Slovakian friends in the Hungarian capital, Budapest. Beyond that nothing else. I’ve visited Austria more often, four times in fact. Austria are playing Hungary in the Euro 2016 Football Tournament

So I sit here at a local bar in Mwanza, Tanzania supporting Hungary – why?

It all started in the last World Cup. To make things more interesting we took the 32 teams and divided them amongst the four of us. The teams were ranked so that they were distributed fairly but randomly between us. Each of us getting a team from 4 ranked similarly. Each match had one of us playing another and occasion playing ourselves. Points for wins were given rewarding progression in the tournament. Since I had  both Germany and Brazil I had been confident but in the end it was honors even between my son and I.

In the Euros we have done the same with the 24 teams, with the added bonus of extra points if a lower ranked team draws or beats a higher ranked one. More points if you score 3 goals or more.

This time round I have Belgium, Switzerland, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia and of course Hungary. 

So the fact they are 2-0 up against a higher ranked Austria (my daughter’s team) is good for me.

Go Hungary!

My current view! (On a lazy Saturday Afternoon)

Lying on a blanket in the shade of the trees in our garden. It’s a hot afternoon and there’s no where better to be as I listen the multiple bird sounds and the gentle breeze blowing though the branches. 


A Tale of Two Cities

This afternoon we ventured into Kampala. Our purpose to get a SIM for Uganda and to see a bit of Western Civilisation – maybe even go to the Cinema. We took the local taxi (Matatu) equivalent to a Dala Dala in Tanzania and were deposited in Central Kampala. After 7 months in Mwanza it was a bit of a shock. It was so busy, so many people so many cars,  hundreds of Matatu and even more Boda Boda (motorbikes) equivalent to Piki Pikis in Mwanza.       

there were hundreds of little shops and  dozens of Shopping Arcades akin to Agoras in back MK – but not exactly what we were looking for. This was very much the centre for local Ugandans, very crowded. Think about Oxford Street in London on Christmas Eve  and treble it. We sorted out SIMS for the phones, then got directions to the Cinema. This was in a different part of town and might have been a different city, though it wasn’t. It was in the aptly named Oasis Shopping Mal. Here it felt like a drop of the West in the middle of Africa. A modern Supermarket (Nakamat), coffee shops, a multiplex cinema. We had not realised how much we had missed such things.  


We finished the afternoon with a film – Insurgent (from the Divergent series) in 3D and a free Pepsi to boot. We were the only ones in the cinema – if fact the film had just started so they stopped it and started again. We had a great time, then it was back out into the traffic of Kampala and off to our hostel.

Little Things

Little things can mean a lot here and when you lose them you realise how far you are from home. Continue reading


So 2015  has started and tomorrow we return to work/school and normality resumes.

The year ahead will be a strange one – we have no plans to return to the UK during 2015 and so this will be the first year ever that I have not lived, even a single day in the country of my birth.

Exactly what the year holds is to be determined and as yet plans are vague, but we would like to visit Uganda at Easter if possible and in the summer we plan to take a trip south to include Zambia and Malawi which will give us a chance to visit the place Anita called home for two years.

A lot depends on Anita’s situation – she arrived here on a dependents visa and is currently unable to work or volunteer without an upgrade to her visa which will depend on any potential employer making a financial outlay. Working without a suitable visa could lead to deportation or a very large fine so it is not something we are going to risk without proper documentation. Should something come up then we will consider biting the bullet and buying a car – something we have held back on thus far. It’s not so much the purchase price but the running costs which is the off-putting factor as cars  generally sell for the same price as you purchased them for.

Bex has two school trips abroad to look forward to with a journey to Nairobi (Kenya) for a Model United Nations gathering later in the month, followed by a Year 9 trip to Rwanda later in the Spring. She will definitely be the most travelled by the end of the year.East Africa

Deflated – Not Me

T Minus 18

My current view as I lay in my temporary abode. Not the most comfortable of nights. Unfortunately the air bed has a slow puncture – we thought we had found it, but sadly no; and so the floor was our bed for the night.
Nonetheless it’s a beautiful morning and the sound of birds from the nearby copse is soothing.

After arriving here yesterday it was very much a time to chill and so the afternoon chatting led into an after dinner game of Yahtzee played with a bottle or three of wine (between 5!) and an early night.20140804-085021-31821342.jpg



I did manage to catch up by phone with the outgoing Head of Isamilo Secondary (currently in the UK and who is still carrying on as a teacher there) and it was good to get information about the school and life of an expat. I’m definitely looking forward to working there. It’s difficult to believe it’s less than three weeks now! It’s time to start looking forward!

For now – I am looking forward to breakfast!


(Ab)Zorbing Experience for the Unbirthday Bash

T Minus 41

My daughter’a birthday will be in November after we have left England. Whilst we are certain she will make new friends in Mwanza we though it a good idea to have Bex’s early Birthday Bash (an unbirthday bash if you please!). So today we are hosting 11 of her friends for an afternoon of Zorbing on the lake, followed by a movie and a sleepover. What have we let ourselves in for! 12 teenage girls in one conservatory – it’s going to be fun!20140712-154209-56529521.jpg





Empty Corridors, Empty Rooms

T Minus 56

I work on two sites geographically separated by 2 miles. Lower School on one side of town has the first three year groups (Years 7-9) whereas Upper School has older students (Years 10 -13). Upper school is more spacious and green, whereas Lower school is much more compact and concrete.
By it’s nature therefore Lower School is more bustling and noisy. This is especially true in the ‘dog days’ of summer when the Year 11 and 13 students have left. I notice this particularly on Fridays, when I spend the morning at Lower and the afternoon at Upper. Most of the rooms are empty at this time of year- the place is quiet and the greenery provides some tranquility. Lower school remains unchanged, which sharpens the contrast.







My new school is single site but also many fewer than the 2000 plus students on both sites here (with 330 students in each year group). One of the big changes will be working in a much smaller community. The Isamilo Campus looks nice though.
It will be interesting to experience this different world after 11 years here!


Cornwall Mini-Break: Day 2

T Minus 84

Our second day in Cornwall involved a visit inland briefly visiting the Tamar Valley and Launceston and then Lanhydrock a National Trust Property (since our membership runs out tomorrow we wanted to get our money’s worth).

Tamar Valley







These gardens were stunning and contained my favourite Rhododendrons and Azaleas along with many others.














Home Comforts

T Minus 84

Moving to Africa with everything stuffed into 8 cases is a challenge but we do want to take some things from home.
We like watching Movies and have box sets of particularly favourite TV series (Star Trek, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Friends). There is no way we could take then as is and so earlier this week I purchased two DVD carriers from ASDA and we decanted our favourite DVD’s into them. The proper cases will go into storage and the new cases will go into our luggage.



20140530-082006-30006887.jpgThankfully music is digitally stored onto my iPod ( what did we do before MP3 players?). It’s just a pity that there is no video equivalent of iTunes.
Beyond this we are taking a keyboard for my daughter and, my son wants his Play Station.
Why are we squeezing in these peripheries and (in the case of the keyboard) looking to pay for additional luggage?
A good friend who has lived abroad advised us “that we should ensure we bring things that make us feel at home eg: pictures that hang on the wall”. So along with the essentials these home comforts will be squeezed into our cases.
We will be living in a culturally different place and over time we will make the adjustment but these things are part of touching base with our past as we move into the future.


Blue Snow!

T Minus 93

As the blooms begin to fade beneath the Ceanothus there is a deluge of blossom giving the appearance of a light dusting of blue snow. The show has been spectacular but is coming to an end as time marches on.20140521-072015-26415517.jpg












The Winter That Wasn’t

T Minus 99

It’s probably safe to say that we’re not going to get any snow!

Today has been a lovely day. I grabbed some photos of the Wisteria and Ceonothus close up this morning before work. I will miss this annual combo.

The forecast for the week ahead courtesy of Accuweather is predicting warmer temperatures over the next week – so Spring is firmly entrenched.

We never really had a winter. Not a single snowflake fell in this part of the world – let alone settled on the ground. I can’t remember the last time that happened. I love the first snow of winter – even though it becomes tiresome after a few days as it turns to slush and / or black ice. It’s quite nice to have the odd Snow Day too ;-).

This year winter was having none of it. True we had some frosts but I can count on one hand the number of days I had to scrape the ice off the car. In the end we had months and months of rain with some high winds on occasions.






Given this will have been our last UK winter for a few years it was a little disappointing. Other than the top of Kilimanjaro, I imagine I won’t see snow for a few years :-(. So the last Snow as in April 2013.

Having said that – now I’ll probably wake up to 6 inches of the white stuff in June – stranger things have happened. 😀

The photos below were taken between 2010 and 2013.















An Ode to Milton Keynes : Of Concrete Cows and Roundabouts

T Minus 107

Of concrete cows and roundabouts
A life lived here or hereabouts

Do you know what life here means?
Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes

When I declare I’m from MK
I wonder what it is you say?

If I reveal I’m from this city
Do you look on me with pity?

Or do you look upon me down?
If I say I’m from this town.

A place of Tarmac, steel and glazing
Where cows stand still but never grazing

Where roads run straight, past new estates.
To  roundabouts that everyone hates.

These are popular misconceptions.
The myths of Britain’s general perceptions.

When I moved here in ’88
I thought it was a place I’d hate.

But over the years I have grown to enjoy
This city, despised when I was a boy.

What people afar will often mistake
Is a town full of greenery, park and lake.

Here in this city you’ll find if you look
Woodland and meadow and canal and brook.

A modern city, yes it’s true!
But places to rest and relax too.

Fast roads which get you from place to place.
With minimum traffic to slow down your pace.

Yet near to the streets, all hustle and bustle.
You can walk through the woods and hear the leaves rustle.

Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes
Do you know what life here means?

A life lived here or hereabouts
Of concrete cows and roundabouts.

© Graham Long May 2014

This came to me on the road home tonight and I wrote it down in half an hour. It comes from conversations with people who don’t know Milton Keynes.

All pictures below taken in Milton Keynes





Canal Long Walk (9)









Bank Holidays

T Minus 109 Today is a public holiday in the UK. I love Bank Holidays – a little treat when we all get a chance to chill. On a morning like this morning when the skies are blue and the outlook is fine, make it even better.

Ceonothus and Wisteria

Bank Holiday View

It gives a chance to do family things. Today we are meeting up with my brother and his wife for a day out. It will be good to touch base and obviously with the departure date looming it’s important we keep doing things like this – and fun too! We get lots of a Bank a Holidays close together this time of year, Good Friday, Easter Monday, today (first Monday in May) and the last Monday in a May too (though this is absorbed into Half Term for me. It can be a bit disruptive for teaching my exam groups – this year I teach year 11, 12 and 13 on a Monday – I just hope they’re revising! We will be in Tanzania by the August Bank Holiday – and it got me thinking what are the Public Holidays in Tanzania. I have no idea whether all of these are honoured by the school as there seem to be quite a few which could make teaching interesting. Unlike here in the UK there is no day in lieu of a Saturday or Sunday.

These are the Tanzanian Public Holidays in 2014

The dates here are taken from the Bank of Tanzania website

01st Jan New Year’s Day
12th Jan Zanzibar Revolution Day
13th Jan ** Maulid Day
7th Apr Karume Day
18th Apr Good Friday
20th Apr Easter Sunday
21th Apr Easter Monday
26th Apr  Union Day
1st May   Labour Day
7th July Saba Saba Day
28th Jul ** Eid El Fitr
8th Aug Nane Nane (Farmer’s) Day
04th Oct   ** Eid El Haj
14th Oct Mwalimu Nyerere Day
9th Dec  Independence Day
25th Dec Christmas Day
26th Dec Boxing Day

** These dates are dependent on the site of the moon

These dates occur within school holidays. 

Obviously the dates in 2015 will be slightly different where lunar related. However, I am particularly pleased with the fact that Zanzibar Revolution Day falls on by birthday – so hoping this is celebrated countrywide. 🙂

That Friday Feeling!

T Minus 112

Finally Friday. Continue reading

Green and Gold

T Minus 115

I think this is probably the best time of year on my journey to and from work. Spring is in full flood. This morning the scenery was shrouded in mist; shades of grey surrounding the world as I passed by.

This made the journey home this evening all the more impressive as I passed by a patchwork of golden yellow rapeseed infiltrating the vibrant green of conventional crops.

Unfortunately I never really get a chance to photograph it on my journeys to and from work so this is a written memory (photo  below is a Stock Photo).


The journey from Long Crendon to Waddeston via Winchendon Hill gives fantastic views on a sunny day. As well as the fields the verges are in harmony with dandelions peeking through the long grasses. In Whitchurch the palette changes with blue Wisteria and Ceonothus bushes against the walls of the houses. These are slightly ahead of our own which will soon come into bloom. Then it’s back to green and gold as I head down to Swanbourne. On the other side it’s fields full of lambs and on to Drayton Parslow, Bletchley then home.

I will definitely miss this journey in years to come. 🙂

Familiar yet Unknown

T minus 118

Every day I see her. Depending on which time my car reaches Long Crendon, depends on where along the road she is.

Continue reading

Gray’s and Blues

T Minus 123

Today is a Bank Holiday in the UK and so with the weather looking good we headed of with Anita’s family to Gray’s Court a National Trust property near Henley on Thames. Some fabulous gardens built among the ruins of a castle and a fabulous bluebell wood. We had a great time.

























Red Letter Days

T minus 124

Today is a Red Letter Day. These are days of special significance. The term comes from the practice of the church calendars of the Middle Ages where such days were written in Red Ink. Today is Easter Sunday and a special day for all Christians. I have shared in other posts more about this. This post is more about our changes.

Continue reading

Windows on My World

T minus 127

I’m in work today marking coursework, not much fun but it has to done! Here is the view from my office window.


The trees ahead change with seasons and it’s nice to see the Red Kites landing in them and soaring majestically overhead crying as they do from time to time. Elsewhere squirrels and blackbirds scurry about and usually between breaks gulls land to pick up scraps left behind by typical teenagers, though not today as it’s holidays and the school is virtually empty and eerily quiet. It’s a lovely campus to work on and I will miss it, my office too.

Enough distractions I’ve got another sort of Window to open (Microsoft!) and more coursework to assess. 😦