Thursday, 31 January 2008

Kenya and a poem


I still remain very very troubled about events in Kenya, the word 'failed state' is being used by some comentators as a possible future for Kenya. This is my worse fear or nightmare - that all the beauty and energy of its people will get wasted. It can happen to any of us potentially, we all have our shadow sides. With some good leadership the troubles in Kenya can be turned round. Anyway I received an email from Don Balmer of KAPC this in part follows:

"It seems to be getting to a position where a political resolution might be difficult given the amount of civil unrest. The real position is so complex I suspect nobody has a complete view. Our view will be different from yours and you will think we know more than you, but the reality is you see things that we don't.
KAPC is being asked to provide counsellors for a number of organisations and we are responding. Cecilia is at a meeting with IOM this afternoon which could develop into a intersting partnership. Counsellors perhaps do not feel quite as helpless as others as they have a role to play and can feel of benefit.

"If and when the situation does normalise it is going to take a long time to get back to normal. The VSO volunteer we had to help with marketing has been recalled and is leaving for at least 4 weeks. One of the local trusts has postponed activities that could have provided us with funds for a play therapy programme. So all of these things impact upon us.

"All in all we react on an hourly basis. People in KAPC are supportive of each other so perhaps we are in the best place."

So I am on the way for an occasional lunch with my friend Keith who I have blogged about before and a poem comes to me. No paper, no pen on me. Do I wait until I get to his place and then say, "Ignore me for 5 minutes" No and it might diasppear. (I once in 1973 had to borrow a pen on a cross chanel ferry when 'Some P poems' a sequence of about 5 of them came to me) So I dive into the nearest stationary shop for a pen and paper.

Kenya poem

I had to speak
At a conference
In Bangalore in India
About my research in Kenya

Now I've done this many times before
But this time
I kept thinking
About my friends there
About the shocking tales of violence
And the degradation of that beautiful country

So I wept

This is not ususal
In academic keynote speeches
But my audience hearts went out to me

I've never touched so many people before

Best to all,


Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Biking and Kenya


I am very troubled today by the TV news and newspaper reports on Kenya. Although Kofi Annan is getting both sides together which is a great start there is increasing reports of tribal violence. A UN spokesman on TV last night talked about making the temporary camps for displaced people more organised. Fine but it points to a long drawn out process for the people in the camps.

I have met many fine Kenyans over the past 4 years which is why the news there is especially troubling for me. It is important that we don't see this as typically Africa and distance ourselves from it. We are not so far away from such troubles in Britain. Riots do happen here, as does racial and ethnic violence. Kenyans are not some Other people to us in the West. They are just the same as us, good and bad, loving parents etc.

Biking feels good today I am back in the thick of it after my winter break from cycling. I miss my all day training sessions and dare I say it the preparation and challenge of the LEJOG trip. Maybe I will do a training session soon and who knows one of these days another long trip!

Best to all,

Bill on Bike
PS I have just emailed Don Balmer of KAPC Kenya for some more news which I will post here.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

The heavens open...and bananas


Half way to work and the heavens open and the wind blows too and I am struggling to get into my waterproof gear as it blows out of my hands. Wet feet, trousers, hair but as ever curiously exhilarating.

I tried the frozen banana routine the other might as mentioned in a previous post. My daughter Grace who hates the smell of bananas fled the room (though she loves bananas milk shakes!) The banana was so frozen it was hard to cut but it did taste delicious, so the trick is to let it thaw a bit first for a few minutes. My own preference for bananas who are under ripe is to bake them int he oven cover in some honey and sprinkled with dried coconut. But you might have other ideas.

Best to all,

Bill back on bike but missing the rickshaws!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Snap shots of India

Some impressions or snap shots of India:

1) Being met at 4.30 am at Bangalore airport by a man who had studied in Manchester and who looked after me and my group very well
2) Visiting a huge Hare Krisna temple in Bangalore and realising how devoted people were
3) Seeing cows walking freely in the streets oblivious of the traffic
4) The crazy chaotic way Indians drive, no traffic lights, no lane discipline, no rights of way, much use of horns, but it seems to work - for them
5) Beggars, many of their children tugging at your heart
6) Indian time, everything nearly always late but just occasionally early, rarely on time
7) The dust the pollution from the traffic the noise the colours
8) Feeling safe to walk alone in the evening on the streets
9) The persistent sellers of trinkets and gifts at the temples and other tourist spots
10) Delicious (fast) food Indian style that is freshly made
11) Seeing Indian men greet one another with affectionate hugs and then walking off together with their arm around each other
12) Realising how they live in a religious culture going back thousands of years in which it is naturally to speak spiritually and at best is inclusive of differing faiths
13) Enjoying the apparent emotional directness of the Indians
14) They always seem to say ‘Yes’ but not always act on it!
15) Wanting to visit to again and find out more about this extraordinary country and its culture.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Biking and bananas

So back on the bike for the first time since Xmas and it's wonderful! Cold frosty morning and a sunrise to die for - shades of pink everywhere. Curiously I don't feel that stiff although I get overtaken but that's pretty usual too.

I followed an interesting link (
in the latest CTC newsletter all about the joys of frozen bananas. I quote:

"1) You must use bananas that are over-ripe (the ones you normally throw away). Over-ripe bananas are sweeter, because as the fruit ripens, the complex starches turn to sugars. A mature banana can often taste a bit overpowering, so next time you consider binning it, throw it in the freezer instead.

2) Wrap your banana in tin foil, because nothing else will work. If you’re looking for an explanation I can’t give you one, but it’s just one of those little mysteries of the universe OK. Oh yes, and make sure that you peel your banana before wrapping it."

So I am trying this out and will keep you posted. The same link points out that bananas come from India originally. That's so satisfying having just been there.

What I realised in India was that I was visiting a religious culture. The dominant religion is Hinduism and there are Gods and Goddesses for everything or so it seems. The discourse seemed seeped in spirituality. At best Hinduism is inclusive so the other religions in India - Christianity, Islam, Sikhism etc seem to share in this acceptance of spirituality. This sense of a culture seeped in religion contrasts so strongly with my post modern life in post Christian Britain in which to talk of spirituality may be fashionable in some circles but the dominant discourse is secular - remember how Tony Blair would never discuss his faith whist Prime Minister for fear of being considered a nutter?

Best to all,

Bill no-longer-on-rickshaw - But back on bike!

Friday, 18 January 2008

On meeting a cow in Bangalore

Well, I could do a jet lagged moan with my luggage lost at Heathrow when my plane to Manchester got cancelled after the plane (thankfully not mine)crashed on the runway but I feel too relieved to be safely home.

I was so amazed to discover cows wandering around Bangalore as if they owned the place that I wrote a poem:

You weren't troubled by the traffic
But I was
They see you as sacred
But cars are not respectful of my being
You walked on unhurried
I ran for my life
You remind me of my divinity
My inner light
My need to uphold the best in me
And not the beast in me.

I'm going to lie down now!

Best to all,

Bill no longer on rickshaw!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Blogging from Bangalore

It si very difficult to capture the shock of the impact of India n me on this first ever visit. It is similar in some ways to Africa but different again. The noise, the fumes, the traffic beggars believe, the rickshaws, the cows, the bright colours of the clothes, the tenderness and open displays of affection between the men, the politeness, everyone says Yes to questions but then actions don't always follow, Indian time - every arrangement is approximate in its timing, things takes forever, its frustrating and I have received a high quality of care and attentiveness that I am not used to.

When I broke down and wept in my keynote conference speech to 4 or 500 people I became 'Indian' in that moment and their hearts went out to me. They seem much more direct and their feelings seem closer to the surface than white Brits.

India has called forth the spiritual side of me and I have responded. The deep spiritual culture here has to be experienced to be understood. I now now more and deeper what Pittu Laungani and other Indians I know were telling me.

Bangalore is in many ways like Nairobi - terrible roads, traffic and fumes, similar wretched poverty, even more wealth here I suspect, and labour and life seems cheap. But Bagalore does not (yet) have such a big HIV problem or currently (much) tribal conflict. African men seems more macho than Indian men and less emotional or demonstrative in my presence. Both seem equally polite and willing to be of service. And maybe African time is similar to Indian time.

Best to all,

Bill on rickshaw

Monday, 14 January 2008

News from Kenya


Like many of you I have been horrified to hear the news from Kenya following the disputed election results and the subsequent violence with hundreds dead and many people displaced. It felt worse somehow that some of the worst fighting was up the Rift valley where I went last September.

So back at work last Friday I emailed my friends over there for their news and Don Balmer Director of KAPC replied as follows:

"Things are getting back to normal and hopefully sanity will
prevail, although that is a slim hope when dealing with politicians. We
are busy arranging for counselling sessions for people who require it
and this is on a national wide basis so we are busy."

So I hope the optimistic tone of this email does hold true maybe Kenya has looked over the age into the abyss and pulled back. There has certainly been a strong response internationally encouraging a peaceful resolution.

Meanwhile I am writing this from a hotel in Bangalore where I have been at a International Counselling Conference where I gave a keynote speech and spoke about counselling in Kenya. Well I lost it and wept as I thought about Kenya and my audience of 4 or 500 mostly Indians seemed touched by my concern and many came up to me afterwards.

I'll write more soon but I have decided to continue with this blog rather than start a new one and open it out to cover more than just bikes and Kenya!

Belated best New Year to all,

Namaste (The God is me salutes the God in you)

Bill on rickshaw!