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"Smarter Aid, not more Aid!"

The Northumbrian Abroad

Well, here we are! I succumbed.  Rather than blogging on other people's sites, I have decided to have my own.  Why?  Well like most of us, I think I have something to say and some folks out there may be interested.  I quite often find especially with larger media, that they tend to want things expressed in their own way, imposing a kind of censorship.  Well this is the pure unadultered me!  As a person who comes from a distinct part of the world, betwixt the warring English and Scots, I think we have our special characteristics.  Those stand us in good stead when plodding around the world.  So I like to compare and contrast situations at home or in the past but within living memory, with those encountered in the developing world.  My blogs delve in to some intricate details as does my website.         
My "Alnwickdotes" are of course anecdotes, usually lighter stories of things that have happened over the years.  Please go to the link below for a quick-list. Most still have a development connection.  Over time, I will write up more of them, as well as blog on any subject in my areas of interest trending on social media.  I explain the term Alnwickdote in No 1 in the series. One clue is Alnwick may be the "most mispronounced place-name in the UK".
Alnwick Castle and the Lion Bridge                         
My life journey briefly has taken me far in to the distance from Alnwick Northumberland (and back)  to Leicester; Kingston-upon-Thames, Exeter, Dorchester, Saint Helena Island, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Malawi, Rwanda and Cambodia plus many stops on the way. You can access my latest CV hereI m I must warn you, and maybe apologize in advance? I do tend to rant; rave, groan and moan, perhaps a North-Eastern attribute, but then who would not want to associate with the High Level Ranters?  (For the uninitiated, this great band was called after one of the 5 Bridges now 7 that grace the River Tyne in Newcastle, made famous by the Nice.) Their equally talented and humorous peers, the band Lindisfarne, are more famous - lads I met in Kingston before they were rich and famous! (The Fog on the Thames was all wors!).

Actually, as my blogs show, there is not so much difference between life in cities like Newcastle and Phnom Penh, despite the passage of time and distance.  Listen to my chum Chris Minko and his great Cambodian girl singers in Sin City. Just like Eric Burdon and the Animals "We gotta get out of this place"?



You can go to my Google Drive for some of my Classic Photographs - this is a work-in-progress that I started in August 2017. Takhmau, Cambodia is now the place I have lived in longest, as you can see by the "Takhmau Girls" who have served my beer or over the years.


My background picture is of Longhoughton Quarry Pond.  I see it every day when I crank up the computer!  When we grew up, the pond was small but a constant source of fascination with the fishes, frogs, and newts. Apart from a few fishermen, few people seem to go to enjoy its beauty*.  Maybe that is because one thing has not changed.  There may be still explosive charges to extract the stone.  Many years later when in Malawi, Africa, I recalled instantly those days.  Young Pioneers.......





* PS - Well that was until Vera visited! (A TV detective show set in and around #northumberland Great Tweet of her in Amble here 15 June 2018.  I've taken the liberty of borrowing the photograph too.

About Me

The inaugural AGM of the new local NGO for indigenous people in Mondulkiri, Cambodia. I am a bit too centre-stage for my liking, but they like it!

I am of course a long-time worker in international community development and human rights, but have come a long way from my Northumbrian origins. In this blog, you'll find more details than in my website.

Best years of my life 1969


Image of Kingston 1969.  The arcade is just like the one where Eric Clapton once strummed his guitar and where we bought our secondhand LP records. The guy passing by hiding his face has more than a passing resemblance to one who used to lurk for hours in the Kingston Penrhyn Road refectory. He hasn’t changed much since but these days Ashby de la Zouch pubs are more his haunts (and feline rather than female company!)

Almost without fail on a Saturday night in the Fleece Inn Alnwick, the very familiar tones of Bryan Adams and “Best Days of Your Life” – or “Summer of 69” will be performed and rapturously received, by what can only be described as a dwindling grey-haired audience.

Scents and sensibility


The ‘Golden Champa” Chanel’s secret ingredient or Ladakh’s secret to keep? 

My ears pricked up immediately on hearing about India’s decision last week for direct rule of Kashmir.  I once had some remote (very remote of course) involvement with Ladakh and some good people there.  There are mixed views as ever on India’s move but one thing I do recall is how honourable and ethical were our erstwhile Ladakhi colleagues. That’s something very rare in Cambodia.

St Helena - Free Yourself from Mental Slavery



The BBC World Service airs some brilliant shows. One today (8 August 2019) surrounds the topic of Bob Marley’s “Songs of Redemption”.

It gave me “Emancipate Yourself from Mental Slavery” the final hook needed to complete my long-held contention about why the UK constantly fails in its efforts to make Saint Helena Island self-sufficient.

The Rise and Fall of Public Service


Ealing Town Hall.  My UK public service career began here in 1970 as a pre-graduate experience placement. In 1974 I joined Surrey County Council, moving on to Devon County Council in 1975 and to Dorset County Council in 1978 where dealing with “Social Services” was the biggest challenge.  I left for overseas life and work in 1985, going to St Helena; Saudi Arabia, Malawi and Rwanda before settling in SE Asia working mainly in Cambodia. My profession and training is in “organisational development” and “human resources” - how to obtain the best performances from people.  I retired from full-time work in June 2016.

Mr Ricketts couldn’t believe his luck.  He’d asked for a pay rise and got twice as much as he’d asked for.  His trade union representative Mr Watson beamed approvingly: “Never” he said  ”Never has his union won a pay upgrade by two whole grades”.  Mrs Bicknell chairing the Appeals Committee addressed all three of us. “We don’t care what the rules are supposed to be.  We are correcting an injustice and that is our job as elected Councillors.”

The Unlikely Foreign Aid Worker

A follow-up to my most popular Blog “Smarter Aid, not More Aid”.

Play on words. Cambodia is known as the Kingdom of Wonder but because of corruption this is changed to Kingdom of Plunder. This is the default position in human resources management where seldom does the best person get the job.

Life can be strange.  Although things can work out as expected for people, often they don’t.  We see that there are some born to follow family traditions. Sometimes we also see children who harbour very early keen ambitions for what they want to do in life, and they adopt clear study and career paths.  For others opportunism matters more than a concerted plan.  Then there are a few of us – Lally Brown is one - who have discarded sensible plans to let fate take its course.