Notes from a Small Island – by Bill Bryson

22 07 2014

From the outset this book had me cracking up audibly.

Bryson is an American writer and journalist, but lived over here for several years. This is written just before he and his wife take his family back to America so that his children can experience life there too, and so he takes one final lap of the UK using public transport. He visits both places he’s been to before and loved, and places he’s heard of and wanted to see before he leaves.

He started in the south, so I loved reading about places I know, and then gradually works northwards. He often goes off on tangents, either old anecdotes, or just thinks he loves, or finds peculiar (or both) about the British. These were probably the bits that made me laugh the most!

I really enjoyed the book, although the last few chapters did get a bit repetitive. He’d arrive in a new city by train, book into a hotel/guesthouse, try and find somewhere for dinner, and comment that all British high streets have the same shops, and some are ruining the original buildings with modern exteriors. But for the most of the book there was so much interest and humour I really did like it!

the complete notes

I’m going to take a break and read something else before reading the Big Country half of the book – but I’ll come back with that soon enough!





North, South, East and West

14 04 2014

For a long time I’d never left NW Europe, then a year or so ago, I started to go a bit further….

This time 2 years ago

Furthest North: Groningen, The Netherlands
Furthest South: Saint Jean de Monts, France
Furthest East: Berlin, Germany
Furthest West: Lands End, England

In a year’s time

Furthest North: North Queensferry, Scotland
Furthest South: Kampala, Uganda
Furthest East: Kampala, Uganda
Furthest West: Lands End, England

…Looks like I need to stretch west next!





America Unchained – by Dave Gorman

8 01 2014

I have utterly loved joining in on the journey in this book.

The basic premise is that he buys an old second hand car, and tries to drive coast to coast across the USA without giving any money to chain stores. This means finding independent motels, restaurants, and petrol stations! I don’t think they even exist in the UK, and it turns out that in America they’re pretty few and far between as well!

The thing I love about Dave Gorman’s books is that they never end up being about what they’re meant to be about. His books always end up being about the people he meets on the way through his various adventures/challenges/whatever you want to call them (at least one or two fall under the heading “bets made whilst drunk”!). Plus the whole way through I had utterly no idea if he’d even manage to complete it (and I won’t spoil it for you) – I was definitely kept guessing.

One of the most fascinating sections for me, oddly, was when he visited a town with a high population of Mormons. He looked into it a bit and thoroughly explained (far beyond any level of knowledge I had previously) what they were about, what they believed, where Mormonism originates from – anything you’d ever want to know. I’ll be honest, he doesn’t portray them positively, but then from what I’ve now learnt, I do understand why! I won’t say any more as I don’t want to offend, but it’s definitely interesting, and I’m more educated than I was.

A highly recommended book. I started it in Uganda because the book I was reading at the time was too heavy to take with me, and then picked it up again last month when I finished the large book. Since then I barely put it down. It had me picking it up whenever I could, which I think is always a strong recommendation 🙂

america unchained





Uganda – Church & Markets

27 12 2013

On our final day I had one more experience of washing my hair over the sink, packed up as much as I could and headed down for breakfast. Just in time for the last day I discovered that they made fresh pancakes, so after a week of beans on toast, I had pancakes with syrup, and a croissant, a continental!

We headed off to a church in Kampala, and only arrived 45min late – not bad for African time! This did mean we missed all the worship time, we arrived during the last verse of the final song, I was gutted to miss that part of the service as I’d been told there was nothing like it, but fortunately we’d been able to experience a few times of worship with the LDP students earlier in the week.

We were there in time for the commissioning of their women’s ministry team, and to hear testimony from one of their current LDP students. It’s amazing, through the week, how many of the testimonies we heard mentioned how they had gained social skills from the project. It’s not something that instantly comes to mind as something they may be lacking in, but it’s definitely something Compassion is there to do!

The sermon was on Genesis 26vv1-33, and was on keeping the promise (v4) alive. In the UK you sometimes get people clapping at the end of songs (which I tend not to do) but here they gave the sermon a good hand clap! My only concern was that it felt ever so slightly prosperity-gospel-y, or at least expressing a need for people to be wealthy so that they can do things, but maybe I misunderstood.

This church also ran a Compassion project, and so after the service we went upstairs to the project office. We met the project director who himself was a formerly sponsored child and an LDP graduate – it’s great to see the circle of sponsorship complete! They gave us mini fresh bananas to snack on and we also had their pastor join us, which was very generous as he was actually on sabbatical!

We headed off for lunch at the Good Africa Coffee Place. This was in a retail park, and because the terror alert was on maximum (and potentially they would have done this anyway) as we entered the car park we had to vacate the bus to have it searched, and also have our person and bags searched and checked too. We were used to lots of metal detectors and bag searches by now, but it was less common for the whole bus to be searched. It did make the place feel a little safer though.

I ordered bolognaise, which was a little odd but fine, and a strawberry ice tea. I took a sip of the drink before someone pointed out it had ice in it. Of course, ice could be made with tap water, and so you can’t consume it. Such a shame, I was so looking forward to that drink! I only took a sip from the bottom with a straw where the liquid was still warm, so wasn’t too worried, but it would have been silly to drink any more.

Several of us bought coffee there to take home as presents for family and friends, but they didn’t have enough in, so they first said they would bring it to our table when it was delivered (we had already paid), and then promised to bring it to us in the market in the afternoon. In the end Lillian had to collect it for us – it all worked out in the end!

I didn’t really enjoy the trip round the markets as much as I expected to. There were so many lovely things, but you weren’t able to stop and think. There were repeatedly ladies asking you to come into their stall, to see what they had, offering good prices. Even when I went in they kept talking and showing me things so I couldn’t just pause to work out what I wanted to get for the people on my list, or how many shillings I had left. In the end I just got a few things and sat down later to work out what to give to who, but for myself I did get some extremely colourful trousers with elasticated waist and trousers!

We went back to the hotel to change into more comfortable travelling clothes, collect our luggage and check out, and then as we realised there may be no time for dinner, a few of us got something to eat at the restaurant. A couple of us just had brownie and ice cream as it was a bit early for a meal, but we needed something to keep us going!

On arrival at the airport not only was our bus searched, but they even sent sniffer dogs aboard! We were all searched too, and then when we entered the building, even before we could get to check in desks our bags were put through security scanners and we all had to walk shoeless through the metal detectors, and then finally there was another security check at the gate.

While we were waiting to get on the plane a few of us had fun trying to do accents – I was taught some American over the week, and some of them did their best English accents for me which I managed to get on camera, lots of fun!

The flight left around 11pm I think, and once we were up and cruising we were served chicken and rice for dinner. I then managed about 3 hours sleep before breakfast. So given a late dinner, very little sleep, it’s unlikely anyway that you’d want breakfast within 4 hours of your previous meal. Not least when breakfast is broccoli, potato and quiche! I left it all and just had a roll.

We got off the plane at Amsterdam, and after a tearful goodbye with my new American friends, I headed back to London.

The End! I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my trip, please don’t hesitate to ask me more about it, most particularly if you’re interested in finding out more about Compassion, or sponsoring a child! I’m very happy to talk!





Uganda – words and phrases

5 11 2013

I learnt some new words and phrases in Uganda, some from the Ugandans, some from the Americans I was travelling with, and some we just made up! Enjoy!

“Check our tyres”
To stop on a road trip to go to the bathroom, eg: “Is there anywhere we can stop soon to check our tyres?”

“Fire”
Tasty, eg: “This doughnut is fire!”

“That is factual”/”That is a factual statement”
That’s true, eg: “Hey the sun is really bright today”, “That’s factual”

“Hand clap”
Round of applause, eg: “Let’s all give him a big hand clap!”

“Zero minutes”
No time, eg: “You guys need to get on the bus, you have zero minutes!” (Though in Africa, you could still be there 20 minutes later!)

“Praise the Lord”
“Amen”

A greeting, eg: Someone comes to the front to speak and says this before saying hello or introducing themselves – the congregation or group responds with the Amen.

“God is good”
“All the time”
“And all the time”
“God is good, and that is His nature”
“Wow!”

Says it all!

We also had a greeting within the group where whenever Lillian said “Hello” we said “Uhuh” and whenever she said “Uhuh” we said “Hello”, but without the tone of voice it’s just not the same!

Those of you on the trip, do let me know if you think of anything I’ve missed off!





Uganda – testimony

30 10 2013

I just wanted to share a little bit of testimony from the week

I have problems with anxiety disorder, have done for years, and last year got bad enough to go on anti depressants. Sometimes panic attacks are triggered by nothing particular, but high pressure situations are often tricky. E.g. last month I went to the theatre and in the interval I had my worst panic attack in 6 years.

So I never expected to get through a week in a new country, new continent, new food, new people, new all sorts – it was going to be difficult. I thought that even if I managed to remain in control all week I’d at least be fighting it and it’d be hard work.

I was fine ALL WEEK. Other than a slight issue with breakfast on the first day which didn’t even feel that anxiety like, I didn’t even feel a slight hint of it. I had many friends and colleagues praying for me over the week and God massively exceeded my expectations!!!

Praise God!!





Uganda – shop names!

28 10 2013

Uganda is an amazing place, but one thing of many that was so different to the UK was the pattern of so many shops that had Christian names! There were also some pretty good general ones too. Here’s some of the ones I spotted from the bus window!

Jesus Saves Newsagent

Praise Supermarket

Hosanna Restaurant

Grace of God Milk Centre

God is Good Mini Mart
IMGP0764

Divine Brothers Defensive Driving (and that’s what you need on the roads of Kampala!)
driving

Merry Supermarket

Cinderella Supermarket

Lucky Supermarket

I feel like Chicken Tonight
IMGP0196

In the UK you tend to get 7/11s, not in Uganda!
seventen

Nile Water!
nilewater

Teletubbies Daycare
daycare