Sunday, 22 February 2015

'Early Morning Run in... Worst Cities in the World'

I recently discovered a report from the Economist global “liveability” study. The report listed the world's top 10 cities to live, and the ten worst. Apparently, they base the survey on how 'tolerable' it is to live in a particular place given crime levels, the threat of conflict, quality of medical care, levels of censorship, temperature, schools and transport links.

I always approach the ‘worst list’ with a little apprehension. Will Freetown be included? Shouldn't be. Not against this criteria. We all moan about Freetown. Every single day. We feel entitled. The Economist? They probably popped over for a couple of days, the sort of folk who’d moan there was no Wi-Fi in the Garden of Eden.

Freetown was omitted from the list. However, five African cities do fly the flag. Three from West Africa. Abidjan, Doula & Lagos. The worst city overall? Port Moresby. Been there a few times, pretty awful. 

Come on though… how on earth can Damascus not be included? What about Juba? Kabul? Tripoli? Milton Keynes? Mogadishu? What about Basingstoke? Karachi?

How is Abidjan on the list? I like the city a lot...

The best cities? Unsurprisingly, most are in Canada & Australia. How can London not be near the top? Paris? What about Norwich?

I moved apartment last week. Only two miles away but to another world on Spur Loop. No setting mousetraps every evening. No more cockroaches. Fewer electricity/generator problems. No more, ‘the water bowser hasn’t turned up'. Rigsby, as bad as you were, I'm going to miss you. I’ve now inherited joint landlords. Perhaps not the most charismatic of fellows; but hey, let’s give the Chuckle Brothers a chance.

Spur Loop is an excellent road surface, smooth as a baby’s bottom, relatively speaking when compared to elsewhere in Freetown. Many are as rough as my Mother-in-Laws bum, probably. I have to be careful with the wording; the previous post remains with her solicitor.

I’ve also received ‘fan mail’ from my neighbour, who pointed out that the ‘tight-arsed Scottish neighbour’ quip in the last post, should have been hyphenated when used as an offensive adjective. Sorted. Taggart also mentioned possible defamation of character and his solicitor and the potential impact on his career as a ‘Meals on Wheels’ driver within our local community.

I’ve mentioned Graham Greene before. His most acclaimed book featured Sierra Leone, ‘The Heart of the Matter’. He first came to Sierra Leone in 1933 with his cousin, Barbara Greene. He set off from Freetown for his travelogue to Liberia, ‘Journeys Without Maps’. Greene made a return visit in 1968. He said Freetown was a place for failures. Harsh? True? He wrote, “A home from home for men who had not encountered success at any turn of the long road and who no longer expected.” Greene was considered a great writer. ‘The Honorary Consul’ & ‘Our Man in Havana’ were among his other books...

Many British Army officers were inspired by Greene and wrote versions of his classic book. Memorable efforts such as, 'Clueless with a Map', 'Which Way Round is the Map', and the unforgettable 'Journeys with no Idea'.  

… to more serious matters. The Ebola gains continue. Cases are down nearly 90%. It was always likely the last 10% would be the most difficult. Sierra Leone remains the most affected, but improvement is everywhere. Strange how 11 new cases in a day and six dead is positive? Life in Africa is sadly cheap. Was it Lenin who said, one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.

Remember the hysteria in the US last year after a couple of reported cases. Remember WHO & CDC competing for the worse case scenario award. The people who made those dire predictions should be accountable. Businesses folded. Economies devastated. Many expatriates and foreign investors fled. Most airlines stopped flying entirely unnecessarily. Why? Fear of fear itself and crisis management by social media. We now have only one direct flight remaining to Europe. And, let’s face it, who wants to fly to Belgium? Steady on; I do in early April… home to the UK for Easter.

Here’s a sobering stat, 5,692 children in Sierra Leone have lost one parent, and 2,276 both parents. The devastation left behind is incredible. Recovery in so many aspects will be uneven. I hope the international community remains fully committed.

With this in mind, the Food Basket Appeal is shifting focus. Schools closed since last July. They are scheduled to begin reopening in the third week of March. A lovely lady, who once temped for me, helps in a registered organisation, ‘Save the Needy'. The FBA will donate Le 5m (~$1,000) of the remaining fund. We'll help schools along the peninsula, southeast of Freetown.

The money will help towards textbooks, exercise books, school supplies (pens, pencils etc.) & uniforms. There will be eight schools involved.