Monday, 4 August 2014

Great to be back... London

First light: 0521 hrs
Time start: 0625 hrs
Time finish: 0706 hrs
Weather: Balmy 17C 
Circumstances: Monday morning early, business day, fly back to Freetown later this morning

Landmark. 20th post in 'An Early Morning Run In...' series. London has been run previously (post 5, 03rd March, 2014). Could run London 20 times and still keep it fresh.

Run took place last week, but edited in Sierra Leone. In Freetown. A city in turmoil. Ebola. Do I write about it? Do I not?

Ebola is the agenda here. Ebola dominates. Every conversation. Every waking moment. Without being too dramatic, we're in the grip of Ebola.

Sweet Salone has many 'labels'. Most are wrong. Many are completely out of date. Some plain ignorant. The most apt? Probably, economically challenged. Put simply. Poor.

No-one deserves Ebola. Sierra Leone, and its immediate neighbours, least of all. So far 233 Sierra Leoneans have died from this dreadful virus. 729 dead in the wider sub region (Guinea & Liberia). The dead include Dr. Sheik Umar Khan. He was just 39, and one of the country's leading doctors specialising in viral haemorrhagic fever. He passed away a week after contracting the disease. He'd been in the frontline treating patients. His funeral was 4 days ago. The health minister rightly called him a national hero.

Huge turning point. The moment morale visibly sank in our small office, and probably across the country. This was now for real. Thoughts and prayers also accompany the 2 American medical staff being evacuated from Liberia to the States for treatment. 

State of Emergency was announced by President Koroma last Wednesday night. This country, and the others, need assistance from the international community. Positive signs in this respect. Organisations like MSF, Samaritans Purse, WHO, and a host of others are already doing a magnificent job in extremely challenging conditions.

I'm not going to continue with London, there will be other opportunies. I'd like to remain on Ebola. Read on though, some cheery (hopefully) stuff later. Today. Monday 04th August, 2014. A poignant day all round. 100 years ago today Britain entered the First World War. 

Here we are today in virtual lockdown. Declared a 'Stay at Home Day' by the government. No movement. A day of reflection. A day of mourning. A typical wet season day. Gloomy with intermittent rain. The streets are deserted. Eerie. Lengthy silences are interrupted by vehicles patrolling the streets broadcasting advice / sermons through terrible speakers.

In a country where life insecurity is pitifully low, where malaria is normal, where regular cholera outbreaks occur this time of year, Dengue fever, Lassa fever, typhoid, and numerous other tropical diseases and illnesses, there's been little panic. It's just the next thing...

How have I prepared? 24 hours alone in my humble apartment. It's small, even the mice are hunchbacked (Escargot, my landlord, are you listening?). Just a little fresh air and a leg stretch for photos. Preparation? Enjoyed a run to the ocean late yesterday afternoon. Finished at the now deserted Raddison Hotel for a good supper. Took an Okada (motorbike taxi) from there to a Lebanese supermarket in Congo Cross. All bread had gone, some people buying water, but hardly a Waitrose or M&S first thing 24th Dec. However, I topped up with essentials - bottle of wine, choccy hobnobs, & cashew nuts. Jogged through the dusk and drizzle the last mile up King St. It rained all night.

Have everything I need today. Wine for later when editing this post. Porridge and biscuits. Decent coffee from home. Toblerone as emergency rations. Stevie Nicks & Fleetwood Mac on the Bose travel speaker. Good book on Kindle. Doesn't quite do Robert Harris justice - absolutely stunning book ('An Officer and a Spy'), my best read in a long time. Highly recommended.

What don't I have? Escargot? Electricity (generator only today). No Internet. 3G only. No TV (DSTV doesn't perform too well in heavy rains). Apart from these minor things... life's OK, all things considered.

Back to Ebola. Ebola first appeared in central Africa in 1976. Virus is thought tied to bushmeat. In the jungles and forests of the east and southeast of Sierra Leone bushmeat is popular. I've spent time there. Lived on porridge and biscuits. Ebola symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage. Death rate this outbreak 60%. Can reach 90%. Currently no vaccine or cure. Patients have a better chance of survival with early treatment.

You only have to visit the hotels and restaurants of Freetown to witness the economic impact. Companies have and are evacuating their people, business deferred, regional travel impossible. Whilst not the most important thing, when a country is poor with huge unemployment then everything has a knock-on effect. Remainder of 2014 is likley to be tough for many. The immediate priority is to stop further spread of this virus. The emergency measures hopefully address this.

On a lighter note, I'm hearing from the UK that my mother-in-law won't be hugging me until this crisis has passed... every cloud and all that...

Footnote: Shame in some respects to have left out London. Here's what you missed. There was Nietzsche (how many blogs have...). A joke about military justice, which of course as Groucho once said, is to justice what military music is to music. A piece on the 3 things you would save if your apartment caught fire. The run took in Wellington House, with a nod to Napoleon and his famous little willy (weiner for North American readers). Apparently only one inch long. That original post had history, Waterloo (200 years next year), a French joke (a photo of the blue cockerel in Trafalgar Square - who's laughing at who?!), and even with all that, a run broke out... what a post you've missed...

Footnote 2: The 3 things I would save? Easy. My exquisite Trek carbon fibre road bike, my MacBook Air, and of course, one of the twins...

Footnote 3: You know you're upside down when... Senior Diva (remember, who's bald as a badgers bum - West African style) has taken to wearing a curly ginger W. I. G. (never say the word in these parts) this week. Strange times indeed...

Finally. Next post will be Orlando, then Naples in southwest Florida, and finally Miami. Yep, 3 USA posts coming up. Plan B will be Freetown if international airlines pull the plug. There may be no family vacation to the States this year. British Airways, SN Brussels & Air Chance please keep flying here. BA - not to push it, but, please feel free to move me from the tail gunners seat to somewhere closer to the pilot. You are the worlds best airline.

More updates on: @roadrunnertns

Also an occasional second blog on: @taxiridertns

See you in Florida, or not, as the case may be...