Category Archives: UK

WeeklyPhoto Challenge: (Water’s) Edge

A submission to this week’s photo challenge taken at the water’s 
edge at Whisby Nature Reserve in the UK this summer. The sharp plants standing out against the blurred water.

Weekly Photo Challenge : (Parabolic) Mirror

Wandering through the streets of Nottingham (England), this summer, we came across this parabolic mirror sculpture. 

Four Become Three

Today we leave the UK and return to Tanzania. We’ve spent a fabulous time in the UK for just about seven weeks. In that time we have travelled the length and breadth of England, visiting friends and relatives along the way, but now our time here is coming to an end. Perhaps because our stay has been fragmented between different locations (our longest stay in any one place was 13 days) time has flown quickly. We have taken a lot in and caught up with most (though sadly not all) of the people we wanted too. Being a visitor in our former homelands has been strange but friends and family have been generous and kind, we have had many meals and shared good times across the land.




One of our purposes here was to prepare our eldest for University. In just over three weeks from now he will start at his favoured University to study a degree in English Literature, History and Drama Studies. The next phase of his life is starting and so will ours. 

Our family has been four for almost 16 years, since our youngest was born. It’s difficult to remember a time when we were three, but even then he was there as a toddler – a part of our family for 18+ years. Now our family must change, readjust, re-balance to reflect the changing dynamic of daily life. It’s going to be wierd, disconcerting, challenging even.

Our son does not cease to be part of the family, but the relationship will change. New experiences for him and for us will undoubtedly separate us a little. This was always going to happen, it’s inevitability established on the timeline from the moment he was born. We have brought our son up from baby to toddler to child to teenager and now to a young adult. We have done our bit and set him up for the next phase of his life. 

The fact we are 4000 miles away rather than 400 miles  or 40 miles (the distance I moved away from my parents) makes this departure more geographically stark, but in truth when you leave home, you never quite return the same person. The next few years are going to be exciting and life changing. We must embrace it and look on the positive side. For today there will be sadness as four become three but we look forward to our reunion in time to come and the stories we will be able to share.

Familiar Haunts: Nottingham University

Our time in England has been a time of reminiscing, firstly back in MK and now in Lincoln. These two places where I lived for 38 years in total are so familiar, but for four years in between these two places I lived in Nottingham so it was good to visit the place I spent my University Years.

Nottingham University

I spent two years living on Campus in Halls and a total of four years studying my degree and PGCE – the place is familiar, yet in 28 years the place has changed a lot.

Once place which has changed little is the University Park

 

 

 


Familiar Haunts: Caldecotte Lake

Our time in England has been a time of reminiscing, firstly back in MK and now in Lincoln. These two places where I lived for 38 years in total, so familiar. As well as visiting old friends it has been a chance to revisit places – familiar haunts.

Caldecotte Lake

Probably the place I visited most often in my time in MK – place of countless runs and walks over the years. We walked it On one of the hottest days of the U.K. this year. A large lake on our old doorstep when we lived there.

 


My First Kingfisher

Throughout our time in Tanzania we have seen hundreds of kingfishers Pied Kingfishers, Grey- Headed Kingfishers, Malachite Kingfishers even a Giant Kingfisher. 


However in Britain I have never seen a (Common) Kingfisher. For years I have looked along river banks hoping to spot that flash of blue and orange, but never a glimpse of this shy bird.

Until today that is… 🙂

It started at 5:30 – I’ve not been sleeping well having pulled a muscle in my shoulder. The sun was shining brightly which for me is taking along time to get used to (having lived with a constant 12 hour day these past two years). So I got up and dressed and headed out with my camera to get some early morning shots of Emberton Park – our home for the week. I headed for the lake and made for the bird hide. As I went I wondered whether it might be possible to see a kingfisher – but I had been to many such lakes and rivers over the years and never even seen flicker. 

I am a Christian  and as I walked I shot up an arrow prayer asking if just once I might be lucky. I don’t believe in a slot-machine God who does things to order, but I do believe in a God who cares and answers our prayers though not always in the way we expect – in the big things and in the little. This was most definitely in the little category. 

I sat there waiting patiently in the early morning light. Self doubt saying to me give up you’ve tried and failed many times, a little voice countering and saying be patient – twenty minutes and movement across my eyeline – in the light it was more black than anything but I followed it and carefully moved to the other side of the hide – there it was on a branch – fleetingly and before my camera could capture it, gone. 

My first kingfisher – amazed and thankful I nonetheless decided to wait on the little voice saying be patient. 

Ten minutes on and two flashes of blue zooming across the lake – still no picture.   I shot another prayer just asking for an opportunity to capture the bird. I positioned my camera towards the branches of a submerged bush and waited. Then finally a squeaky call and another bird flew into view. I got off two shots.  

I didn’t get a perfectly posed bird on a branch but God had answered again. He had answered in abundance but not the way I expected. I had seen no less than four kingfishers, having never seen a UK bird before. He will answer in the little things and in the big – if we ask and if we are patient and if we expect the unexpected.

MK Bound

Today we arrived back in MK my home for 26 years prior to moving out to Mwanza. We are staying on a campsite to the north of the city.  A picturesque landscape of woodland and lakes near Olney.

It’s the first time back in MK and a great opportunity to catch up with old friends. 

We’ve actually been back in the UK a week now. Surprisingly it has not been the culture shock we anticipated – for me I have slipped back into the UK environment with no real surprises, though it has felt a bit cold. Maybe the 40+ years of UK living have made the experience much more ‘normal’ than I expected after two years on the equator. ​

Having initially stayed with family near Abingdon it gave  an opportunity to visit ex-colleagues in Thame and it was good to catch up and see them. Life has changed little, it seems, though perhaps I detect a slightly greater pressure on all as they embrace the challenges of the British Education Reforms – something I am glad to have escaped.

This week a chance for the kids to catch up with school friends and us all to meet church friends and wider MK friends as well as family. It also gives us a chance to sort out things for our son’s impending entry into University. MK’s reassuring familiarity is a real bonus. 

Trick of the Light

One of the strangest things to us about our return to the UK has been the sudden exposure to the extended daylight of the northern hemisphere summer.

Waking up first thing and heading to the bathroom emerging into the light to realise that it’s only 5:30am.

Sitting in the lounge and realising it’s 9pm even though it’s still light.

It’s only two years since this was the norm but you get used to the consistency. If it’s dark it’s either before 7am or after 7pm. The pattern is virtually fixed with limited changes as you move through the year. img_8883

We took the opportunity to go for a walk after our evening meal last night and it was strange to walk through a local nature reserve at 8pm. Twilight here is also significantly longer here than in Mwanza where the sun sets quickly and the transition from daylight to night is less than an hour. It is nice to have the long nights, but I’ve got to get used to sleeping through the early morning light whilst we’re here.

 

Back to ‘Blighty’

I sit here in the lounge of my parents-in law watching Wimbledon – the Ladies Semi-Finals (Kerber vs Williams). It’s almost like we’ve never been away.

It’s our first day back in England (Blighty is an old-fashioned term for Britain / England). It was a long and somewhat stressful trip back with Turkish Air / Fast Jet.

It all started back in Mwanza with a lengthy conversation  with a ‘jobsworth’  Fast Jet official who insisted that although on weight – we were only allowed one bag each on the plane – this was neither on the ticket or clearly described in the small print – we almost missed our flight!

In Dar Es Salaam – we discovered our 3 am flight was delayed by six hours – resulting in a sleepless night in the Airport. The reason for the delay was never fully explained though attributed to technical difficulties. The result of all this delay was that we would miss our connecting flight from Istanbul to London. Thankfully but after a hour long, 1 – 2am wait in the airport we were re-scheduled for a later flight.

The delay was almost 7 hours in the end and got us into Istanbul with a little over an hour to spare before check-in. So a quick taste of European culture (Café Nero) before boarding our Heathrow flight. Arriving back in the UK about 9pm we realised that of our 7 bags, 3 were still in Istanbul. One of the three belonged to Anita who had no clothes, one to me who had no other shoes but sandals, the other to my daughter.
These were subsequently put on another flight – but one bag only has arrived thus far – the others having taken an even later flight back and expected late this evening. Although all these will be couriered across – things are still very frustrating.

I’m told this is the perils of long-haul travel – just hoping our journey back to Mwanza will be less of an ordeal.

 

Out of Africa

By the time this is published we will be Out of Africa on route to Europe, back to Britain.

We return with anticipation and expectation and just a little trepidation. For the first time we will be in the UK as visitors. 

We are of course looking forward to seeing family and friends back in our former home – but Tanzania feels like home two years on. 

How much has Britain changed in these past two years? The events of the past fortnight makes us wonder how much Britain has pulled up the drawbridge and turned it’s back on the world. We are definitely (as most expats here) Internationalists and  have been shocked by the Brexit from Europe. There’s no intent to get political here – just a statement of fact.

The weather is somewhat uninviting to us, the rain and lower temperatures are a challenge. We are hoping for a heatwave in the UK!

Then there’s the cost of living which will be significant as we will need to exist on Tz Wages. An example Is such that a good meal out for 2 here is about the same as a couple of Costa Coffees. 

The pace of life will be faster than we’ve gotten used to here and two years away from most TV means we’re gonna definitely be out of touch.

We are looking forward to 

Cinema – the nearest to here is in Kigali (Rwanda) or possibly Kampala (Uganda).
Cheese – this is expensive here and limited in both variety and quality.

Wholemeal Bread – white is common here and fresh baked bread by our house worker is good – but I miss good brown bread.

Pork / bacon /sausages etc – available in places but very expensive in the main. Good Lincolnshire sausages are definitely on my list. Chorizo sausage is a definite miss – no such thing here. 

Coffee / Coffee Shops – although an expense we miss Costa Coffees and their ilk. Good ground coffee is available in Rwanda and Arusha/Moshi but is quite difficult to pick up in Mwanza. 

Good chocolate – though we have now found panacea that sell reasonable chocolate here – it tends to be the Cadbury’s variety. We used to indulge in the occasional trip to Hotel Chocolat back in the UK and enjoy a higher quality of Chocolate.

Italian Food – not easy to get here – Pizzas bought locally are dreadful (lacking cheese and containing carrot it avocado). There are no Italian Restaurants, probably our favorite food type. 

Last, but not least family – a chance to catch up properly without the vague ties of Skype and FaceTime

The major change coming our way is in our family as we are leaving Tanzania as four and will return here as three. My eldest awaits examination results, but all things well, will be heading to University in the UK in the Autumn as not returning back.

We have spent some of the last few days visiting some favorite haunts in Mwanza. Yesterday we visited Tunza and spent a morning there having breakfast and then playing Mah Jongg. 

Our journey out of Africa has not been smooth – from the FastJet jobsworth in Mwanza who nearly cost us our flight to the six hour delay which meant a 3am flight became a 9am take off.

In Mwanza the issue was that inspire of the fact our bags were the correct combined weight the aforementioned jobsworth insisted that we were allowed only one bag each – this resulted in a lot of discussion before a superior let us through.

In Dar we arrived to see that technical problems caused a 6hr delay and a long, sleepless night in the airport. Just hoping the rest goes more smoothly.