I haven’t been able to access the internet as hoped so reports have been delayed. I took the trip by train to Botswana on the new service, and it appears to be popular with Zimbabweans who wish to replenish stocks of commodities difficult to find in Zimbabwe. Francistown is the second city in Botswana after Gaberone. It has supermarkets and many of the outlets familiar in Europe. Diggers, the hotel is English owned, and the menue would be found in many hotels in the UK. THe reception and restaurant staff are from Botswana and provide a very friendly and efficient service. Africa is evident in road side markets selling a variety of products and providing services such as shoe repair. The town is expanding fast and is evidence of Botswana’s strong economy which has overtaken South Africa.
I’ll be saying more later and adding photos. I have to report on Victoria Falls and the Hwange Game Park.
Hey folks I’m a millionaire – a multi-millionaire in fact in Zimbabwe dollars! I have a fifty thousand dollare note which bought me a post card, so when you receive one from me just remember what it cost.
I arrived yesterday via Frankfurt and Johannesburg. The small aircraft that flew into Bulawayo was met by cousins Juliet and Adrian. I then went on to see my Aunt Kathleen who is now a very sprightly 93. Auntie Kath is my Father’s youngest sister whom I’m hoping to visit a few more times during my two week stay. At the moment there could be trouble fitting this in because tomorrow (21/7/06) I’m going by train to Botswana. Charles, Juliet’s husband, wants to try the new service and in any case shopping promises to be rather less complicated than it is in Zimbabwe. Then there’s a trip to the Hwange Game Park and Victoria Falls, and Great Zimbabwe which I really want to see for myself. Today I visited Chipengai animal sanctuary which has a memorial to Princess Diana. Orphaned and injured and endangered animals are brought here. They are returned to the wild if and when they are fit to do so. There is an excellent schools’ centre.
This is indeed a beautiful country judging from what I’ve seen and it’s people a delight. This was no surprise since I have Zimbabwean friends in the U.K. two of whom helped me set up the Focus on Africa school project in Birmingham in 1986. This incorporated the Commonwealth Institute’s Great Zimbabwe Exhibition.
Since it’s winter the days are a mild 28-30 degrees, a little cooler than the Birmingham I left in summer temperatures.
Letter to the Birmingham Post, 9/7/2006
I was present at the Core Cities Conference when it was held in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 2003-4 as Cabinet Member for Transportation and Street Services. I felt at the time that there was good will towards Birmingham and that people were naturally drawn to it as the hub of the region.
Birmingham is at the centre of the region – and, as I argued at the time, at the heart of the nation. Nobody suggested then that there should be any other association – for the reasons given, that no one would know where a “Heart of England” region would be. It would be disastrous to pretend otherwise. What I did regret at the time was that Coventry had not been properly involved. I don’t know if that to bad feeling and contributed to the determination to go ahead with a separate airport. (Again I argued then that any plans would have to be put together with Birmingham because of shared flight paths and the consequent potential for long-term conflict).
It is deeply saddening that the well-being of the region is put as second to fighting over the name of the region. Manchetsr, Newcastle, Bristol, Liverpool Leeds et al don’t seem to have that problem. For goodness sake let’s get on with the business and pull alongside Britain’s Second City!
It was a truly marvellous experience to see Handsworth Park restored to its former glory. The opening was performed by the Lord Mayor supported by some local councllors. But where were the rest, and where were the M.Ps for Handsworth? Handsworth Park was a priority for me when I represented the former Sandwell Ward as a Labour Councillor, but I didn’t see one of the Handsworth Wood Councillors.
At the opening of Handsworth Park in the 19th Century a hot air balloon was launched. I was hoping for a similar high-profile affair for its renewal. I am disappointed because Handsworth of all places needs to be celebrated, not kept as a secret treasure. Many notable artists and sports personalities have come from Handsworth and it was celebrated in “Handsworth Revolution”, now a classic album from Steel Pulse.
It has been murmered at one point that the Queen would perform the opening ceremony. No offence to Mike Sharpe and otheres present, but it needed someone to draw the crowds. After all the hard work that officers and the Handsworth Park Campaign have put into this, this seemed an anti-climax even. I am not a monarchist, but on this occasion there was a great opportunity to give Handsworth and its great people the recognition it deserves. This was sadly missed. People are pleased to live in and identify with Handsworth because it means a lot. They similarly believe and frequently say that they don’t get the best services “because we’re Handsworth”. Media coverage is frequently negative and associates the area with criminality. On the other hand Sir Edward Boyle, once MP for a constituency called Handsworth, was pleased to take the name as his title when elevated to the House of Lords.
I am proud to live in Handsworth and was delighted to represent a part of it for 9 years. It deserves better.