Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Greetings to One and All...

A Christmas special to bring 2015 to a close. Departed Sierra Leone early Dec to spend some time in London on business. I’m often asked of the challenges of running a small company in Africa. Are you making a living? Are you busy? Not quite as busy as a one armed painter and decorator, but surviving...













Can’t beat a hatchback for London...

The Christmas idea was to jog around the capital's landmarks, with a guest runner, to best capture London at Christmas. Handy Andy was keen, perhaps with Francesca. Evil Eva also showed interest. However, plans were scuppered by a calf injury the first night in London. Needed a new theme. Got it... rent a Boris Bike and ride around the sights? Position bike in photos, someone hold it perhaps? Great idea, more later...



















First, I need accommodation. Let’s try AirBNB. All the rave I’m told. This blog moves with the times? Uber last time out. Now AirBNB. Check the website. Yep, find what I’m looking for. The host describes himself as gay, a veggie, and politically left wing. Have an inkling this fellow was never in the army. Can’t remember too many veggies. Hang on, his profile also mentions he likes to take guests for a beer to show them the local area. This is the place. A few beers in the Punch & Judy, in nearby Covent Garden, and I’ll be telling Gordon my best veggie story… want to hear it...

… a bitterly cold windswept day in the Brecon Beacons. 0600 hrs. A young officer stands in-line. The gruff Staff Sergeant slops a ladel of something resembling breakfast into each expectant mess tin. He works like a metronome. Kippers Sir? Eggs Benedict? Sausages? The young officer politely informs the Staff Sergeant he’s a vegetarian. Slop. Well, pick the f*#@*#g beans out of that, came the sharp response. Move along… next… kippers? That’s the Army. Same ‘jokes’ over and over, you still laugh.

Fresh kippers sir? Sorry, where was I? Ah yes… Gordon… AirBNB… Good experience all round. Always have a little trouble sleeping in London. My sister advised reading my blog, that'd help. Family...

Rent the Boris Bike. Do a wonderful 2 hour ride. Some snaps with local help…
























Mr Khan, originally from Pakistan. A VIP driver outside The Dorchester...








Thanks to Gemma outside The Ritz, from the East End...


Boris at Buckingham Palace with loads of Santa's...



Thanks to Donny, from Santiago...


Boris at the London Eye...

Thanks to all my helpers. Back to Sierra Leone.

Do you remember the Freetown Christmas hampers from last year? Turns out some ’white guy’ who departed Sierra Leone recently, gave the Chairman a thousand dollars. Help sort his life out you’d think? When you apply any sort of logic? Did he set a little aside for a guilty pleasure? Did he invest in a small business opportunity? Did he share some of his good fortune? 

The Chairman you might remember is an amputee who ‘works' a Freetown beach. I’ve mentioned some of these fellows before, some featured in the Christmas Hamper donation last Dec. I had a meeting recently, near the Chairmans 'patch'. Want to know what happened to his windfall?

Well, he certainly covered the bases. The erstwhile Chairman married 2 more lucky brides. He had a party for his crew. Business? He invested, in what most might say is a recreational drug, beginning with M. Probably wasted the rest. The Chairman looked happy, maybe a little tired. Any wonder? I’ve long since stopped judging. However, he glanced at me, and said he might be dead tomorrow. An explanation not sought. I left smiling, gave him a little something, maybe shaking my head, as always… 

Another recent ‘event' from Freetown to finish off, a special request from Baby Diva...

Late November. Friday evening. 2230 hrs. Hop on an okada, a motorbike taxi. Spur of the moment thing. Madness. Decide to head to the Chinese casino for a few hands of blackjack. My rider says he's 7 years experience and no accidents. Bike has most of the things it needs, including mirrors. Due diligence & background checks complete. What can possibly go wrong? Let's go... I'm feeling lucky...

There's something strangely romantic zipping around Freetown on a motorbike late at night, especially along the coast road. Wind whistling through your hair in the absence of a helmet. I tell Emmanuel I'll pay him double on top of the double he's charging me. Just ride safely. 

We arrive. The warm comforting glow of the multi coloured Chinese lanterns swaying gently in the breeze. High tide. Sound of the waves. Christmas decorations, last years, the 2 dwarves on the door. Everything as it should be. Ask the rider if he wants the return ride. 45 mins later, I've folded quicker than an Italian tank unit. Home time. The 2 undersized doormen look up at me in hope. A win... we low five, I look after them. Sorry guys, not tonight. Outside now. Emmanuel seems less confident. 

He says there's police checkpoints along the beach road. We'll take a different route. If stopped, tell the police the bike is mine he says. That he rides for me. The roly poly police lady is fine. Says the rider should bring his license over. Following my brief, he opens up the throttle, does a U turn and speeds off.

Great. Midnight, I'm 5 kms from my apartment. Start walking. Pitch black. 20 mins later, a new okada comes alongside. Tell him of my abandonment. Don't bother with due diligence. Just one question. Any problems with checkpoints? No, came the reply. Good. What can possibly go wrong? Let's go...

Approach the police checkpoint near Congo Cross. The rider slows, makes eye contact with the Police. Much better. I'm relaxed. He then opens up full throttle. We crash straight through the checkpoint. A burley policeman swings a large cane stick. Barely misses my left shoulder and takes the mirror clean off. The rider is laughing in a hunched position. He turns, no problem with checkpoints he says. We speed off. He bemoans the loss of his mirror. I'm contemplating what could have happened... told you I was feeling lucky... 

Emmanuel asks to be my regular Okada rider. Tell him I'll think about it… 

Well, that’s the blog for 2015. Here in the north of England it’s Christmas Eve and nearly time to play Santa. The stages of life are closely linked to Santa. You believe in him, you are him, and finally, like my tight-fisted Scottish neighbour, Taggart, you look like him… 

Wherever you are, and in closing, may I wish everyone a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year. See you in 2016...