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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 stories and details than in my website.

Public Service: no way; on its way, or lost its way?

In life things go round in circles, don't they? We keep seeing the same things happen over again. This is a sequel to my blog the “Rise and Fall of Public Service”.  Please also see my website entry - the case for better public service everywhere also published here.

Roll out the Barrel!



What ales you, man? (An Alnwickdote)


When Bob Caldwell told us “You must be one of the boys”, he didn't add that we'd be having our first beer of the day at the unearthly hour of 4.45 am. If you were lucky – unlucky if you're a normal mortal – you'd have two more before going for your greasy-spoon bacon-and-egg breakfast at 6.00am. Some days you'd be off again for two more “turns” and that could mean 6-8 more pints by knocking-off time at noon.

Mekong: Dam, Sand and Blast: Confluence of Calamities

Tonle Sap Bottleneck comparison - Sept 2019 vs 2020
Forward by Brian Eyler Published on Sep 18, 2020

Prior to 2020, the 2019 wet season was one of the driest on record. The annual reversal of the Tonle Sap in Cambodia was severely delayed in 2019 but low rainfall plus upstream dam regulation (mostly from China's 11 mainstream Mekong dams) have totally erased the annual reversal of the Tonle Sap for 2020. This comparative image compares two extremely dry late September images. Remember September 25, 2019 was comparatively very year, so the flooding you see in the 2019 image is at a very low level compared to normal conditions. The September 16, 2020 image shows the Tonle Sap bottleneck at much lower levels - in fact, this is what the Tonle Sap bottleneck looks like for much of the Mekong's dry season which runs from December to May annually.



Geography was always my favourite subject at school. I didn't like other subjects so was delighted with my Grade A at “A” level, the university-entrance examinations in the UK. Human and physical geography have remained of great interest and relevance throughout my overseas career.

Mind how you go!

Toilets and Bathrooms Then and Now or Ancient and Modern in United Kingdom
The "Netty" image comes from a Northumbrian poem you can read here.


(When you've got to go, you've got to go!)

"Wow!” For some strange reason "Wow" is the desired reaction you need to obtain if you're selling your house in the UK. At least that's what is said on one TV show in the UK.  The  Kate Bush-like gasp of amazement that matters most is for first sight of kitchens and bathrooms. Yes, if you get a Wow a deal will surely follow.

In Cambodia you don't see many bathrooms with the Wow-factor. “Errggh!” is more likely, even in salubrious establishments and residences. Cleanliness along with godliness haven't quite taken hold yet.

Doing exactly what it says on the tin: #Foreign Aid amid #Covid19

TV advertisements for charities UK most March 2020
Doing exactly what it says on the tin."* 
Does Foreign Aid do exactly what is said or promised on TV advertisements?