Tuesday, 12 August 2014

'Early Morning Run in... Hyde Park'

First light: 0538 hrs
Time start: 0820 hrs
Time finish: 0906 hrs
Weather: 15C
Circumstances: Sunday morning, managed a flight out of Freetown yesterday, to Florida tomorrow

Eventful 2 weeks back in Freetown. The turmoil of Ebola has deteriorated still further. The pace of the crisis has been truly remarkable. With a heavy heart I depart and leave my small team to soldier on. Team being my two SL divas.

Reason being a Florida family holiday booked 12 months back. This past week has seen several plans come and go. Plan A crashed early. On Tuesday BA suspended all flights to Freetown and Monrovia, mine included.

Two days of scrambling produces Plan B. Fly to Banjul with Gambia Bird, then to Barcelona with an airline I'd never heard of. A Spanish airline, apparently similar to Monarch and Thomas Cook, a bucket and spade charter. Pay top dollar for a one way ticket. Two things could still go wrong. First, WHO are meeting for 2 days in Europe and could declare a Global Emergency. A pandemic. Might result in a travel ban and the sub region being isolated. Second, the Gambia is run by an egotistical lunatic. Anything could happen.

We survive the WHO meeting. Stopped short of the worst case scenario. Morning of the flight to Banjul? Yep, said loonie bans all travel from Ebola affected countries. Need a Plan C. I seriously consider a hybrid. Boat to Conakry. Local connection in Guinea drives his old Merc from Conakry, through Guinea Bissau, to Dakar. Doable? The romantic in me wants to. What could possibly go wrong?  

Crazy. Don't do it. For a holiday? There's more to it though. Not just about Ebola. When you spend significant amount of time away in far flung outposts the annual family vacation takes on greater meaning.

Right. Got it. Move over the estuary to Lungi. Be available to fly on anything. Kenya Airways to Ghana? Air Chance to Paris? SN Brussels to Belgium? Glen Miller Airways? Anything.

Lucky break time. Seat comes up next to the tail gunner on SN Brussels. The price? Stripy jumper and mask time.

Arrived central London, following some zig zagging aound West Africa,  yesterday afternoon. Deadline was Sunday evening for the Florida RV. Made it.

What have I left behind? A situation spiralling out of control. Death toll rapidly approaching 1,000. Reported cases increasing. Land borders between Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia all closed. Gambia, Zambia, Ivory Coast, and Mauritania also refusing access. Spread has reached Nigeria & now potentially Ghana. Embassies, NGO's, and companies are evacuating non-essential staff. Some taking out everyone. All affected countries have various states of national emergencies. In Sierra Leone hotels are empty. Places of entertainment have been shut. Football season on hold. East of the country is quarantined. Crime is increasing. Economy is bleak. Businesses are suffering. Hospitals are struggling.

Can it get worse? Yes. Commercial flights could cease altogether. Embassies could advise nationals to leave. Importantly, a full State of Emergency could be declared. This would affect mining companies. Iron ore and other commodities could be locked-in. Does this matter? Yes. The lifeblood of the country. This is a country with no safety net. No social. No handouts.

The bright side, if there is such a thing. The affected governments are getting to grips and making the difficult decisions that need to be made. Some should have been made far quicker. International funding and expertise is being ramped up. However, still likely to get worse before things improve. This crisis needs to be kept alive in the global conscious. Please don't forget 'just' because it's Africa. Exposure from the foreign media has been a double edged sword, but on balance positive. In part, it's created hysteria, but of course has also raised awareness. This ultimately results in money and resources.



I hope you've got this far. Trust me. There's a run about to break out. Really. I now have a bonus 24 hours in London. Book into the Victory Services Club (VSC) close to Marble Arch. Founded 1907. A marvelous institution, and registered charity, for serving and ex members of Her Majesty's Forces. Rooms in the Memorial Wing have plaques in memory of an old soldier, sailor, or airman. My room in memory to Lance Corporal W. Houston. A marine from 70 years ago. Wonder what the W stands for. This wing was opened by Winston Churchill in 1957.



Hyde Park run this morning. One of many wonderful things about London is the green space and parks. Set off reasonably early onto Edgeware Road. Turn right onto Bayswater Road. A little chilly compared to yesterday. Hyde Park over to my left. The slight drizzle which makes it refreshing. Hurricane Bertha expected later today.

Cross over into the main park. Head south. Plenty of joggers and bikers out this morning. Boris bikes aplenty. Steady pace to the Serpentine. Lake was the venue for the triathlon and marathon swimming events in the 2012 London Olympics. Every Christmas morning at 0900 hrs the members race 100m for the Peter Pan Cup, first inaugurated by J. M. Barrie. Run along the southern shore past the Lido cafeteria. Plan to come back for brekkie and Sunday papers. Fair few swimmers in the lake. Some in wet suits, the hard core in speedos.



Enjoying this run, but thinking of my team in Freetown. How much do I miss them? Well... must give them a call in a few days time, when I'm in my Don Johnson outfit sipping a margarita along the Florida Keys. Senior Diva (Eagle) wasn't herself last week. First the ginger W.I.G. then Thursday she came to work in a purple suit, complete with shoulder pads. Looked like Barney the Dinosaur. Lack of electricity can often mean getting dressed in the dark... Divas, thinking of you and everyone else there...

Run past the underwhelming Princess Diana memorial on my right. Over the bridge and along the northern bank of the lake. Row boats all parked up. Ahead the grass amphitheatre known as 'The Cockpit'. The legendary Rolling Stones 'Stones in the Park' concert took place here in 1969.



Want to push hard back to Marble Arch. Mind is willing, not so the body. No real zip this morning. Stop and take a quick snap of the 2005 memorial to the victims of the London bombings. Think fleetingly back to that tragic event. Was it really 9 years ago. Heading north, can see Marble Arch coming into view. Run through Speakers' Corner. Anyone, some sane, some otherwise, can stand here and talk or rant, mostly nonsense, about anything. In the past frequented by Karl Marx, Lenin, Orwell, Kwame Nkrumah, amongst many others.



The park has historically been a hotspot for mass demonstrations and remains so today. There's plenty of cast off posters and banners lying around from yesterdays huge Gaza protest. Take a quick snap of the Arch and head back down the Edgeware Road. Not one of my best runs, but a training session all the same. We all have off days...

See you in the States...