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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.
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".

My life journey briefly has taken me far in to the distance from 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 here.

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.


The 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.

Going up in the world!

Street 251 Takhmau - our new concrete road elevated 1 metre above surrounding land
The idea behind this blog had been in my mind for a long time.  Apart from the sad case of the Boeung Kak Lake community who had lost their homes, and Phnom Penh city a wonderful amenity, the way we have been treated in Takhmau illustrates just what keeps going wrong.  There is a dedicated up-to-date blog about our own case.

Going up in the world?  Or from one extreme to the other?

A blog continuing the theme of comparing and contrasting Northumberland (UK) with Cambodia, and how things can be done better, lessons learned, if there is the good will to do so.

Planning permission to build or change land use in the United Kingdom is often a long-winded process, if for good reasons.  In Cambodia it’s the exact opposite and for reasons known only to a select few.

When the cat's away the mouse will play


The Governing Council of a local Cambodian NGO, elected representatives of community self-help groups of disabled people, who pursued a complaint against a UK charity 2008-13 on behalf of their members, 800 families in Tuok Phos District, Kampong Chhnang province, Cambodia. Photograph John Lowrie.
Foreword:

Public life comes under scrutiny and fire whenever someone falls from expected standards. In developed democracies where there is good knowledge of standards, usually people falling well-short - and superiors responsible for them - can be held to account. Those are the advantages of an educated population; a system of checks and balances; rule of law and a free press to try to bring about accountability.
  
When it comes to “#foreignaid” and charities operating abroad, such as OXFAM and Save the Children who were recently caught up in scandals, those advantages don't usually exist.

Fascinating Back Streets and Coal-Shed Doors


Alnwick – one of the backstreets we would use often as children. Today you don't see children playing there. The old tin dustbins are gone, replaced by wheelie-bins but one family is still using the old-fashioned clothes- line instead of the modern  indoor electric clothes-drier.  It was fun to cycle or run through all washing lines pegged with clothes hung out to dry to the shouts of many a woman upset we were soiling her washing.  Quite often soot from chimneys did a better job than us.  This picture was taken from beside the once railway line near Alnwick Station, now housing Barter Books - I write about them and their "Keep Calm and Carry On" fame here.

Despite suffering a pique of jealousy – because a friend got there before me – I want to relate my fascination with back streets. I was pipped at the post to extol the virtues of the “The Run” in Jamestown Saint Helena.  It must, however, be one of the best, possibly the very best of back alleyways in the world.  I have come across a few other candidates for the title.  Some like the ones I talk about here in Alnwick, Northumberland, qualify because of their past glory, hence this blog. Others like our current street in Takhmau, Cambodia, make the list because in many respects they are today like others were in the [good] old days.

"Your mission is over. You go!"

The fine levied on me for overstaying my visa Cambodia
"Your mission is over. You go!"

Those were not the words anyone would want said to them after 20 years of service, half an entire working professional career in Cambodia, but those were the final words in impeccable English delivered by the grim-faced Immigration Official, a senior uniformed and well-decorated Police Chief, at Phnom Penh Airport on 23 February 2018.  I had to pay my fine of US$220 to him for the privilege too.  That is more than a week's of my UK state pension, the source of income that enables me to continue to give voluntary support to causes in Cambodia.