Monday, February 28, 2011

Interesting times

A quote from a letter published in a UK paper over the weekend –

The invasion of Iraq, the search for WMD, the deaths of British soldiers and the high cost to British taxpayers could probably have been avoided if the Iraqis had been allowed to do what those in Tunisia and Egypt have done.’

The news coverage these last few weeks has centred around the uprising of the people in the Middle East and North Africa. Tunisia and Egypt have seen a regime change that is in short a revolution. Hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated against extreme poverty, human rights violation, government corruption and dictatorships and their voices are being heard. It’s a case of the oppressed finding their voice and speaking as one. We live in interesting times.

Libya is now a player, Gaddafi pledging, ‘to cleanse Libya, house by house.’ Britain and other Western Nations have made vast sums of money backing dictators in the nations now revolting, mainly through the supply of arms and I read, ‘if we want to help end terrorism, then we should stop participating in it.’ All good and well, but when there’s oil, mineral wealth and arms involved I cannot see our inexperienced Prime Minister doing anything other than talking about it.  The next few days will show how much influence the UK and other Western countries have.

Uganda’s recent election results came in and President Museveni, predictably, has taken power for another term 2011 – 2014. His efforts to amend the constitution are a common problem that seems to afflict almost all African Leaders, an unwillingness to follow normal constitutional policy and to give up power....Mugabe of Zimbabwe is a fine example of this appalling trend and there are many who see Museveni holding onto power in very much the same way.  Inevitably this could (will) be to the detriment of his people and their country.

It makes for interesting reading.  The internet, including all the social networking sites, is giving people the power to make themselves heard globally.  This invitation into their lives has the potential to change the way we, on the outside, get to look on the inside and that (I believe) has the power to alter everything from perspective, rose tinted spectacles and opinion.

For a twist on revolution read Gene Sharp, author of, 'From Dictatorship to Democracy'. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cocos batfish

This has to be one of the funniest fish photos I've ever seen.

The Cocos batfish is found at the Cocos Islands in Costa Rica. It's also known as the rosy-lipped batfish and despite being a fish they are known for not being particularly good swimmers.

So there you go!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Journey - 2008

The Journey covers 2008, 2009 and 2010 in three stages. When I began I had no idea what direction my blog would take. Put simply I thought it would give me an outlet to voice my thoughts into cyberspace based on coping with the tragic loss of our baby coupled with living in Africa.  But now with a much longed for baby due to arrive in six weeks I understand there remains a large gap missing…the journey of how Chris and I got from A – B Z, from then to now, intact.

After experiencing the loss of our daughter Ella (born prematurely at 26 weeks in September 2008) Chris and I started on a journey that was to take us deep within ourselves. Placing us at the bottom of a huge and terrifically imposing mountain we were to climb it in only a pair of flip flops and it would take almost two years to bring the monster down.

Sometimes you don’t realise you’re on a journey, you just climb aboard for the sheer hell of it.  To be free. It can be exhilarating and thrilling, whereas the alternative is scary, frightening and full of the unknown. To have control over your destination (when dabbing the breaks brings you juddering to a stop) is a relief. But with a lack of control, loss of control, or zero control as your journey pitches and crashes through the barriers can be terrifying.

Like many women and couples before me I was on that journey - the one full of zero, nada, no control - for two years. The first year I fell, grappled, heaved, crumpled and cried a river of tears. The second year I lurched, rolled, stomped, and attempted to grab at some sort of semblance of a life lived before – which I eventually realised was never going to happen. So I turned my attention to the future and sought to investigate what was going on with my broken body. It was during this time I attempted to make peace with a past I was running from and held out for the arms of hope.

To loose a child once, twice or more is similar to being a boxer. It’s not how many times you get hit, it’s how many times you can pick yourself up and carry on.’ These were the words said to Chris and I when we returned to Ipswich Hospital in November 2008 to meet with the obstetrician (Mr L) whose care I had fallen under when I gave birth to Ella. He invited us to see him at his Tear Drop Clinic, a clinic hosted twice a month for couples and families who have experienced the loss of a child. I hadn’t liked him at the time we slid into our nightmare and I certainly didn’t warm to him two months later.

He went through our file and discussed how there was no known cause for Ella’s premature birth. I’d been on a course of anti-biotics before I arrived in the UK and an infection was high on the list of possible reasons, but couldn’t be confirmed. I remember saying very little just staring at my shoes and then Chris spoke asking if everything was ok with my plumbing?? My neck nearly snapped off, WHHHAT?!?! We were told everything appeared to be fine - my period had returned (shocking me with its bold arrival), my body was repairing itself quickly and although I hadn’t been scanned since the infection I’d befallen one week after having Ella, it was assumed I was ok.

We were advised if I found myself pregnant again to arrange for a cervical stitch at 12 weeks and to make sure that at 20 weeks I had access to medical care either in Europe, South Africa or the UK. JUST GET OUR OF UGANDA. We left the hospital and returned to our car, the afternoon was grey and it was a few days before we were due to fly to Africa and we sat feeling numb waiting for the car heater to work. There were no conclusive details about Ella’s death, no papers to hold or a letter explaining why. We had hoped for an answer, for more, but sometimes there isn’t. It just is what it is.

Chris drew on the positives saying we could still have a family, we hadn’t been told it wasn’t possible we just had to try again when we were strong and had recovered. We returned to Uganda a few days later, it was difficult to leave our families and friends, but we needed to get back to our business and to life as we knew it. We had scattered half of Ella’s ashes on the river at home and had tucked the rest safely away to sprinkle onto the Nile – we just hoped our luggage would arrive safely. I remember waiting behind a mother with her baby at Terminal 5 security and just staring at her and her bags….she was carrying everything we weren’t.

Our great friend Nat collected us from Entebbe airport and Chris drove us through the hub-hub of busy Ugandan streets to our rented house in Jinja. The drive was surreal and it was easy to loose focus. The hardest bit was seeing friends for the first time and going through the details again. I’d made an album of the cards and emails we’d received which made it easier to tell Ella’s story. A couple of girlfriends had had babies in the months we were away and having recently spent time with Grace, our niece, we thought it would be ok.  We quickly realised with family it’s different, so at the beginning we kept babies at arms length.  It was the only way to keep our hearts from folding.

The local people we worked with were wonderful and kind – Africans confront death daily and inspire in their own understated way when it comes to children and loss. Over time we came to appreciate that not everyone is comfortable with the shadow of death that drifts from your shoulders like a tiny cloak and others find it difficult to accept that certain things about you have changed. I realised the friends I truly drew strength from the most were those who had experienced a personal loss of their own and it was with them that I sat and talked to at length.  We spoke about loves lost and how against all the odds you gradually start to grow again - something I was to experience much later - but their words, their wisdom and love helped me no end.

We celebrated what would have been Ella’s birth date, 13th December 2008, with the planting of trees on our land by the river and the scattering of her ashes. Christmas day loomed and we spent it with a small group of friends at a lodge positioned in a rainforest a short drive from town. That night at home Chris and I lay on sofas talking of what should have been, what could have been and what clearly and simply wasn’t. Our first Christmas as a family was null and void and we felt it enormously, so we lit candles and drank Jim Beam. We welcomed in the New Year by attending a wedding and later got confused about whether to stay there or head to another party on the river. Our conscience got the better of us and we stayed with close friends tripping the light fantastic with a huge bottle of vodka as the bride stumbled around like a crazy charlatan!

2008 saw our dreams and our future crash and burn. We were hollow inside and out. Chris dealt with it by holding me close and grabbing the reins with both hands. He busied himself with work - running safaris, the crew, the logistics and our life kept him focused. I tried to hold it together emotionally and physically, but some days our life beat the living hell out of me. To begin with we spent many evenings hanging out, watching movies, eating good food and trying to get a handle on what had happened. We spoke of Ella often and gradually began to heal, just a little. I remember being told that the first year of loosing someone is the hardest, mainly because it’s a year of firsts – 1st birthday, 1st anniversary, 1st Christmas and the 1st of many memories.

Maybe it is the hardest, maybe it isn’t, but I know we looked towards 2009 with a twinkle of hope.  Unbeknown to us then the African drums in the distance began to beat a dark and heavy path to our door.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Grow baby, grow

I see my body changing shape rapidly and feel the baby within grow, wriggle and twist with the effort of moving - like a fish beneath the waves.  My hand instinctively reaches around my stomach to hold, rub and caress the skin that is stretched like a drum. 

In the quiet moments of an afternoon, or late into the night I continue to pinch myself at the miracle growing within my womb with the veins darkening around my abdomen.  A miracle I was told was unlikely to ever happen without medical intervention. 

Grow baby, grow and with it bang go my feet!

32 weeks and 5 days

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Noah and the Whale

You don't even need a Jim Beam and coke to dance to this one, just a nice cuppa tea and a big smile will do!

Wherever you are and whatever it is you're doing play it loud my friend - just click the artist below...

Noah and the Whale

You've got more than money and sense, my friend
You've got heart and you go in your own way

What you don't have now will come back again
You've got heart and you go in your own way


Wednesday, February 16, 2011


32 weeks pregnant today.

T-h-i-r-t-y t-w-o.

It’s a number I dared not mention aloud three, five, 10 weeks ago. Why? Because with it brings the immense possibility that we have just six short weeks left before our baby arrives. I’m suddenly in limbo having spent the last 7 months hanging in the balance of our past and our future. And BOOM, there are too many questions and not enough time. 

A couple of weeks back Chris and I had a 30 week pregnancy growth scan. Tiny bones, limbs, skull, organs all measured within the swooshy curve on the graph paper. I haphazardly weed into a tiny pot and was told that my urine sample was fine. I dragged off my boots as I stepped onto the scales and watched the arrow quickly kick round to 70.8kgs. I’m carrying an extra stone and a half in baby and fluid and boy does my brittle spine feel it. I’m like an old weather-beaten lady of the Himalayas creeping along a goat track unable to lift her head for fear of tripping. 

We asked questions about the c-section and were advised it would be around 38 weeks but no date was set. I wanted to know when the stitch in my cervix would be removed and got told it might not, it might actually be left in. Everyone was kind, everyone was positive and the registra looked at me with eyes that spoke volumes, ‘hang in there’, but still questions remained unanswered and instead I have to go back again at 34 weeks. The sonographer gave us a photo of our busy little boy buzzing around in my tummy and said it was for free, we didn’t argue, and Chris returned to Africa with it safely in his bag.

So it goes...last night during the in-between hours of night and day I lay, desperate to go back to sleep, but with a million questions roaring through my mind. Should I read a book, what about listening to the radio, will someone please shut my brain off, why do I keep rolling onto my back, has baby kicked enough, what’s wrong with my hair, for gods sake turn off the truck engine idling outside the window.  Am I eating enough vegetables, will we want to return to Uganda with a young baby, ironically living at home is great but please can I cook my own dinner, I haven’t joined any pre pregnancy groups and I’m worried I’ll fail on every parenting level possible. Did I really look at my friend’s three year old son earlier and think, ‘is this what I’ve signed up for?'

And still the questions ran on like an unleashed, hysterical hound. Will the Ugandan elections be trouble free, I’ve transferred the last of our money for building materials and we’re over budget, have I made the right decision to stop working – can I survive on bread and water alone, will the cottage we’re due to rent after the birth be good enough, dare I hope for our son to be healthy, am I anticipating getting to 38 weeks too soon?  I haven’t packed a baby bag (I haven’t even brought anything relevant yet) the differences between a natural birth and a c-section are huge and no I don’t have a choice, whose the surgeon holding the knife to my stomach, will Chris be able to cut the cord, my boobs look too small to contemplate breastfeeding and how quickly can my body recover this time?


StOp tHe nOnSenSE.

sToP tHAt NoIsE.

miNd ThE GaP iN mY BrAiN.

Today I’ve been tired, confused, snarky and I’m blaming it all on sleep deprivation. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking, ‘just wait until you have the baby!’

I played, ‘Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day’ by Morcheeba and as I looked out on a grey February morning it’s true, in the grand scheme of things nothing happens overnight, but what's true is that questions do eventually get answered and incredible cities gradually get built.

32 weeks…..I’m gunning for you 38.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Heart Shaped Peg

I've just been on the phone to Chris, he's at a friends wedding on the banks of the river Nile in Uganda and his visit to the UK now seems short and fleeting.  He flew back on Thursday night and by all accounts turned up at the reception this afternoon wearing a shirt and one of my sarongs - I dare not think about what he had on underneath!?! 

It was a day of calls. I spoke with my great friend Nat, she was tipsy and we were shouting down our mobiles at how much we were missing each other.  She described the setting sun and how misty eyed she'd become when the vows were read and that our god-daughter Kya looked gorgeous as a flower girl.  My talented friend Jackie took charge of the catering and spent most of the previous night sending me priceless texts about how stressed she was and that she wished I was there - I was plenty glad about being on a different continent, she'd have got me involved and I would have ruined everything!  Speaking with her earlier she had successfully pulled it out of the bag with rum tortes, pastries and other delicious delicacies and between you and me it's only a matter of time before she's on her way to a cookery book launch in Kampala.   

Chris was stalked by Chloe and Courtney who spoke lovingly down the phone and made my heart gladden.  My friend Trish filled me in on recent news and asked after the baby - she understands, she knows.  I spoke briefly with the the beautiful bride, Bryony, and wished her all the happiness in the world for a wonderful future with her husband Budge (I still can't remember his real name).  Justin called and waffled like a drunk man - funny and incomprehensible he told me how he hoped to pick someone (anyone) up tonight - big, fat chance of that when he can barely walk.  It's times like this, an occasion of happiness and love, when I'm reminded of the vast distance between the UK and Uganda and our friends that I miss there, but especially I miss the father of my baby whose busy little feet are hooked up under my ribcage causing me a moment of wincing pain. 

Before Chris left this week we lay and spoke of the growing baby actively rolling from side to side within my womb.  We spoke of Ella and of the gaping hole she left behind and of the hope we now feel within.....he whispered gently, 'you must believe, we've got another heart shaped peg for the heart shaped hole'.  And he's right, we have.

Weddings, births, death and life.  It's truly a colourful circle and no matter what we do it's one that will forever keep on turning.