Friday, 29 August 2008

Frankie goes to Nairobi

Yes it's true! The Boss is taking me to Kenya on Sunday for his regular conference jaunt. You should have seen him recently in Barcelona - snogging every woman in sight! (Steady on Frankie - the Boss) OK Boss, your very important and very busy visit to Nairobi, representing the University, making a big keynote speech, doing an exam board etc (OK, OK, no need to lay it on with a trowel).

The Boss says there is a good chance I can dance with the Maasai warriors dance troupe who usually open the conference - think about it they kind of pogo like Punks should to do! And then imagine hitting the niteclubs in Nairobi... Steady on Frankie! Otherwise you will get grounded. "No Boss".

Yours can't-wait-to-go


Sunday, 24 August 2008

Kenya days

I feel the call of Kenya, I will be travelling out there next Sunday for 6 days. And true to my form I am both already almost completely packed but also feeling very unready and wishing I had a few more days (for what?) before I go!

The run up to my visit this year has not been easy. Plans have been drawn up for some time for me (and other members of my Uni team) to do some actual teaching in Nairobi. I am very excited about this prospect. But the stuff that has needed to be sorted before this can happen has been all but overwhelming, disheartening and certainly energy sapping for all of us involved. For example the online system of my uni is pretty dense and user unfriendly and the Kenyan ways are not British ways!

A couple of weeks ago I emailed a few close friends who I knew would be willing to pray for this project and whilst there was no immediate miracle there was soon a surprisingly helpful response from one of the admin team - interestingly the one who has had most contact with the Kenyan would-be students.

So I will get my usual chance to do a keynote speech to about 300 black Africans and instead of sharing my latest research and writing obsessions - well they have had 4 years of this so far! - I am going to focus instead on what I have gained from visiting and meeting them.

I think it is worth reflecting on what we give value to and thereby what we don't give value to. Africans don't necessary play the Western game although there are many pressures to do so but maybe the 'games' they do play have something to teach us. Maybe if we had not been so keen to give them Christianity, our diseases and weapons we might have been even more enriched by meeting them.

Even though I aim to meet people as people my meeting with Kenyans is in the context of representing a prestigious British University which many of them would, and do, give so much for to have the chance to gain our certificates. So it feels neo or post colonial. Despite this unequality I try and get along side people and talk and listen.

I'll maybe post my keynote speech here after the even.

Meanwhile best to all,


Messing about on the Broads

Spent a week recently on a small yatch with a dingy on the Norfolk Broads. I managed to stupidly fall into the water on our second day when I capsized the dingy as I tried to get into it! It tipped over and Grace my daughter and I were flung into the water! (Of course in the more heroic version which I will be dining out on we were attacked by man and woman eating crocodiles who holed the dingy beneaf the water line and Grace and I fought them off with my bare hands and an oar etc - "Oh Boss that sounds sooo heroic!" - Frankie).

It was rather scary for both of us and my watch stopped and my Pet Shop Boy peaked cap was washed away from me and sank! Well Sheila threw down a coiled up ladder but it was so tricky clambering up the concave side of the yatch. So Grace and I were cold, wet and scared but things gradually looked up.

The peace (most of the time) on the Borads was sublime. The freedom to travel where we wanted to on the Broads and more or less moor our boat where ever we wanted was a delight.

Sailing even in a yatch with a motor is rather physical work and everything has to be packed away because there is so little room and because the yatch sways from side to side. It is rather like camping or skiing and I think I quite like it and we will do it again.

Best to all,


Monday, 4 August 2008

Conversation with Q

"Q I have been thinking about my recent all day bike ride and how it resembles in many ways a retreat"
"Boss that's interesting... tell me more."
"Well, you know people often ask me 'Don't you bored cycling all day?'. I don't. Well sometimes it get boring for a bit when the going is uphill and I am tired but otherwise no. I enjoy it some of the time. I get great ideas and solve my problems some of the time. Some of the time I am pretty mindless, in the moment, in the countryside, on my bike."
"OK some of that can be retreat-like especially if you were on a walking retreat.. but"
"But, how does that make it spiritual?"
"Hmmm good question. It depends on what you mean by spiritual ("Good" - Q). For me the essence of a good retreat is being away from my usual life and worries with time to reflect on my life to remember who I am on a deeper level. That feels like spiritual to me at least with a small 's'.
"And with a large 'S'?"
"Well then I would want to bring in something explicitly spiritual via a prayer or a text."
"That gets interesting"
"Yes what would it be like to do that on my next day long bike trip?"
"Keep us posted"
"But of course!"